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Ryan Lizza: Why Won’t Obama Rein in the N.S.A.? | NewYorker.com

Ryan Lizza: Why Won’t Obama Rein in the N.S.A.? | NewYorker.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

On March 12, 2013, James R. Clapper appeared before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to discuss the threats facing America. Clapper, who is seventy-two, is a retired Air Force general and Barack Obama’s director of National Intelligence, in charge of overseeing the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, and fourteen other U.S. spy agencies.


Clapper is bald, with a gray goatee and rimless spectacles, and his affect is intimidatingly bureaucratic. The fifteen-member Intelligence Committee was created in the nineteen-seventies, after a series of investigations revealed that the N.S.A. and the C.I.A. had, for years, been illegally spying on Americans. The panel’s mission is to conduct “vigilant legislative oversight” of the intelligence community, but more often it treats senior intelligence officials like matinée idols. As the senators took turns at the microphone, greeting Clapper with anodyne statements and inquiries, he obligingly led them on a tour of the dangers posed by homegrown extremists, far-flung terrorist groups, and emerging nuclear powers.


“This hearing is really a unique opportunity to inform the American public to the extent we can about the threats we face as a nation, and worldwide,” Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat and the committee’s chairman, said at one point. She asked committee members to “refrain from asking questions here that have classified answers.” Saxby Chambliss, a Georgia Republican, asked about the lessons of the terrorist attack in Benghazi. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, asked about the dangers of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.


Toward the end of the hearing, Feinstein turned to Senator Ron Wyden, of Oregon, also a Democrat, who had a final question. The two senators have been friends. Feinstein held a baby shower for Wyden and his wife, Nancy Bass, before the birth of twins, in 2007. But, since then, their increasingly divergent views on intelligence policy have strained the relationship. “This is an issue where we just have a difference of opinion,” Wyden told me. Feinstein often uses the committee to bolster the tools that spy agencies say they need to protect the country, and Wyden has been increasingly concerned about privacy rights. For almost a decade, he has been trying to force intelligence officials like Clapper to be more forthcoming about spy programs that gather information about Americans who have no connection to terrorism.


Wyden had an uneasy kind of vindication in June, three months after Clapper’s appearance, when Edward Snowden, a former contractor at the N.S.A., leaked pages and pages of classified N.S.A. documents. They showed that, for the past twelve years, the agency has been running programs that secretly collect detailed information about the phone and Internet usage of Americans. The programs have been plagued by compliance issues, and the legal arguments justifying the surveillance regime have been kept from view. Wyden has long been aware of the programs and of the agency’s appalling compliance record, and has tried everything short of disclosing classified information to warn the public. At the March panel, he looked down at Clapper as if he were about to eat a long-delayed meal.


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Five easy ways to keep your business secure that you might not have considered | GigaOM Tech News

Five easy ways to keep your business secure that you might not have considered | GigaOM Tech News | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Another day, another massive security breach, this time courtesy of hackers who somehow gained entrance into the systems of J.P. Morgan Chase, the biggest bank in the U.S. But if you’re thinking, “I don’t need to worry about my own business getting hacked, because I’m a small fish in a huge pond and there’s no reason hackers would ever target me,” that’s probably not the best line of reasoning to take.


According to statistics from the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a non-profit advocacy group that logs data breaches, 206 security breaches have been recorded so far in 2014 alone, afflicting organizations as varied as Dairy Queen, the U.S. Investigations Services (USIS), a UPS Store in Atlanta, Georgia and online retailer Backcountry Gear. As you can tell, you don’t have to be a massive financial institution or a government agency to be at risk.


That being said, there are some steps you can take to protect your business, and while these tips may seem pretty obvious, sometimes you just need a nagging reminder that security is a process.


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Murfreesboro, TN: Aviation corridor proposed for city | Scott Borden | The Daily News Journal

Murfreesboro, TN: Aviation corridor proposed for city | Scott Borden | The Daily News Journal | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Economic-development goals in a 2035 Comprehensive Plan should include the vision of an aviation corridor to tie in with other cities in the region, City Manager Rob Lyons said.


"This project will give us the opportunity to do that," Lyons told officials wanting to come up with plans for a fast-growing city that reached a U.S. Census estimated population of 117,044 in 2013.


"Let's think big. It may be aviation. We are well positioned to do extremely well for a long time."


Lyons shared his ideas during a recent joint meeting with the Murfreesboro City Council, the city's Planning Commission and Bret Keast, the owner of the Kendig Keast Collaborative consulting firm that's working with government officials and the community in crafting a comprehensive plan for a city expected to approach a population of 200,000 in the next 20 years.


The city manager mentioned several reasons why the aviation industry could be a key to Murfreesboro's future economic development, including how Middle Tennessee State University has one of the top aerospace colleges in the country with students training at Murfreesboro Airport.


Lyons said the aviation corridor includes Smyrna Airport with its large corporate park available for economic development, Nashville International Airport, the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell in the Clarksville area, the U.S. Air Force Arnold Engineering Development Center in Tullahoma where wind tunnels are located for research and NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.


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South Dakota: A jobless future? | Jodi Schwan, Editor | Sioux Falls Biz Journal

South Dakota: A jobless future? | Jodi Schwan, Editor | Sioux Falls Biz Journal | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

It looked like Jim Schmidt, a Lincoln County commissioner and head of the Sioux Empire Housing Partnership, had copied half of the Sioux Falls business community and local politicians on an email I received one Monday morning a few weeks ago.


"Food for thought on a Monday morning — a futurist view of a jobless market," the subject line read.


A link took me and dozens of executives and elected officials included on the email to a Washington Post piece by Vivek Wadhwa, an academic, writer, researcher and entrepreneur.


Are you worried about robots taking your job in 20 years?


The column focused on how technology might be leading us into a jobless future, as automation produces more output and requires fewer people.


"Within two decades, we will have almost unlimited energy, food and clean water; advances in medicine will allow us to live longer and healthier lives; robots will drive our cars, manufacture our goods, and do our chores," Wadhwa wrote.


Self-driving cars will be available by the end of this decade and eventually replace truck, bus and taxi drivers, he predicted. We will debate whether humans should be allowed to drive on public roads at all.


Robots already are replacing manufacturing workers, Wadhwa wrote, working 24 hours a day and requiring little maintenance. Farmers, pharmacists and retail clerks also are threatened by robotic replacements.


True to the prediction, not long after reading that article I stumbled on one about the "Burger bot." The creation of a San Francisco startup, it custom grinds patties, cooks them, slices toppings, places the items on a bun and bags the burgers.


"The writing is clearly on the wall about what lies ahead," Wadhwa wrote. "Yet even the most brilliant economists — and futurists — don't know what to do about it."


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Documents: Tacoma, WA police using surveillance device to sweep up cellphone data | The News Tribune

Documents: Tacoma, WA police using surveillance device to sweep up cellphone data | The News Tribune | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The Tacoma Police Department apparently has bought — and quietly used for six years — controversial surveillance equipment that can sweep up records of every cellphone call, text message and data transfer up to a half a mile away.


You don’t have to be a criminal to be caught in this law enforcement snare. You just have to be near one and use a cellphone.

Known as Stingray, the device — small enough to be carried in a car — tricks cellphones into thinking it’s a cell tower and draws in their information.


News that the city was using the surveillance equipment surprised City Council members, who approved an update for a device last year, and prosecutors, defense attorneys and even judges, who in court deal with evidence gathered using the surveillance equipment.


“If they use it wisely and within limits, that’s one thing,” said Ronald Culpepper, the presiding judge of Pierce County Superior Court, when informed of the device Tuesday. “I would certainly personally have some concerns about just sweeping up information from non-involved and innocent parties — and to do it with a whole neighborhood? That’s concerning.”


For years, a growing number of local law enforcement agencies have used the surveillance devices to track a cell signal to deduce a subject’s location, who he communicates with, for how long and how often.


Law enforcement investigators can use the technology to find drug dealers and violent criminals. Civil libertarians charge police also are secretly scooping up data from innocent people during these broad searches for suspects.


No state or local law enforcement agency in Washington state has acknowledged possessing the required surveillance devices. Tacoma Police Department has not confirmed that it has a Stingray, but Pierce County sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said Tuesday that the Police Department sometimes assists the sheriff’s office with the device.


Documents — including purchase orders, invoices, contracts and even a police newsletter — further make the case that Tacoma officials will not.


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US: Growth Ahead for Wireline Services | USTelecom.org

US: Growth Ahead for Wireline Services | USTelecom.org | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Both the wireline services and telecom equipment markets are experiencing significant growth in the U.S. and abroad. Several factors are propelling this expansion — from increased consumer use of broadband and data-rich devices — to a wide area of applications and utilization within other industries.


According to a new report from Transparency Market Research, the global wireline services market is projected to grow from $19 billion this year to almost $35 billion by 2020, representing a compound annual growth rate of almost 10.4 percent. The increase in exploration and production activities of oil and natural gas companies is largely responsible for fueling the growth, since wireline services are required throughout the lifecycle of these activities.


Additionally, broadband services are increasing wireline revenue for America’s telecommunications providers. An article in Market Realist noted that Verizon’s Consumer business revenue rose by more than 5 percent last quarter — driven predominantly by the company’s wireline FiOS products (broadband and TV). New subscribers also increased FiOS consumer revenues by more than 14 percent over the quarter.


AT&T is experiencing a similar uptick in wireline revenue related to U-verse, the company’s fiber-based service, offering digital TV, voice, and high-speed Internet.


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14th Annual Digital Cities Survey Extends Deadline | DigitalCommunities.com

14th Annual Digital Cities Survey Extends Deadline | DigitalCommunities.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The Center for Digital Government's Digital Cities Survey is conducted annually in the summer: July - August.


All United States cities, towns, villages and consolidated city/county governments with populations of 30,000 or greater are invited to participate in this survey. The awards are presented concurrently with the National League of Cities (NLC) conference held each November.


The Center for Digital Government and Digital Communities Program invite cities to participate in the 14th Annual Digital Cities Survey!

EXTENDED SUBMISSION DEADLINE: TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 2014.

CLICK HERE for more information and the survey, or visit www.govtech.com/cdg/digitalcities2014


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NM: Researchers launch smart grid epicenter at NMSU | Isabel Rodriguez | ScienceBlog.com

NM: Researchers launch smart grid epicenter at NMSU | Isabel Rodriguez | ScienceBlog.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Professor Enrico Pontelli has received a $5 million, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation’s Center for Research Excellence in Science and Technology (CREST) to launch research that will focus on intelligent technologies for smart grids and develop a broad culture of smart grids at New Mexico State University.


Pontelli and his colleagues were recognized for their efforts at a Research Rally held Friday, April 11, on the NMSU campus. There, Executive Vice President and Provost Dan Howard commended Pontelli for his tenacity and dedication.

“Getting any NSF grant is an achievement,” Howard said. “Workforce development is very important and I see this as a great opportunity for NMSU students.”

A computer science professor and department head in the College of Arts and Sciences, Pontelli is partnering with Satish Ranade, electrical and computer engineering department head, and other colleagues in disciplines across the university to study the development and use of smart grids. Like solar panels, smart grids allow consumers to be producers of energy as well as users. They utilize digital data and communications technology to predict patterns and operate automatically – thus promoting sustainability. 

“Smart grids represent the future of the electrical generation and distribution infrastructure, and present a number of challenges that the research community is trying to address,” Pontelli said, adding that he hopes to create a broad culture of smart grids at NMSU. “Smart grids try to make a directional relationship between power plants and customers by predicting when customers need electricity. If they had that information, production would be more efficient.”


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Chattanooga's Gig: how one city's super-fast internet is driving a tech boom | Dominic Rushe | TheGuardian.com

Chattanooga's Gig: how one city's super-fast internet is driving a tech boom | Dominic Rushe | TheGuardian.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Loveman’s department store on Market Street in Chattanooga closed its doors in 1993 after almost a century in business, another victim of a nationwide decline in downtowns that hollowed out so many US towns. Now the opulent building is buzzing again, this time with tech entrepreneurs taking advantage of the fastest internet in the western hemisphere.


Financed by the cash raised from the sale of logistics group Access America, a group of thirty-something local entrepreneurs have set up Lamp Post, an incubator for a new generation of tech companies, in the building. A dozen startups are currently working out of the glitzy downtown office.


“We’re not Silicon Valley. No one will ever replicate that,” says Allan Davis, one of Lamp Post’s partners. “But we don’t need to be and not everyone wants that. The expense, the hassle. You don’t need to be there to create great technology. You can do it here.”


He’s not alone in thinking so. Lamp Post is one of several tech incubators in this mid-sized Tennessee city. Money is flowing in. Chattanooga has gone from close to zero venture capital in 2009 to more than five organized funds with investable capital over $50m in 2014 – not bad for a city of 171,000 people.


The city’s go-getting mayor Andy Berke, a Democrat tipped for higher office, is currently reviewing plans for a city center tech zone specifically designed to meet the needs of its new workforce.


In large part the success is being driven by The Gig. Thanks to an ambitious roll-out by the city’s municipally owned electricity company, EPB, Chattanooga is one of the only places on Earth with internet at speeds as fast as 1 gigabit per second – about 50 times faster than the US average.


The tech buildup comes after more than a decade of reconstruction in Chattanooga that has regenerated the city with a world-class aquarium, 12 miles of river walks along the Tennessee River, an arts district built around the Hunter Museum of American Arts, high-end restaurants and outdoor activities.


But it’s the city’s tech boom has sparked interest from other municipalities across the world. It also comes as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) prepares to address some of the biggest questions the internet has faced when it returns from the summer break.


And while the FCC discusses whether Comcast, the world’s biggest cable company, should take over Time Warner, the US’s second largest cable operator, and whether to allow those companies to set up fast lanes (and therefore slow lanes) for internet traffic, Chattanooga is proof that another path is possible.


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Why Russian hackers are beating us | Antone Gonsalves | NetworkWorld.com

Why Russian hackers are beating us | Antone Gonsalves | NetworkWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Russian hackers like the ones who breached the computer systems of JP Morgan Chase and at least four other banks win because they think strategically like the best chess players, an expert says.


"Russians are more intelligent than Americans," Tom Kellermann, chief cyber-security officer for Trend Micro, said. "They're more intelligent because they think through every action they take to a point where it's incredibly strategic.


"They're operating at eight to 12 steps ahead on both the offensive and defensive side of the (chess) board."


The attacks that occurred this month resulted in the loss of gigabytes of customer data. One of the banks has linked the breach to state-sponsored hackers in Russia, Bloomberg reported Thursday.


The FBI is investigating whether the attacks are in retaliation to U.S.-imposed sanctions for Russia's involvement in the battle between the Ukranian government and Kremlin-supported separatists.


Trend Micro has studied Russian hackers for years. In 2012, the company released a research paper called "Russian Underground 101" that described in details the tools and services available in online marketplaces.


Russian hackers operate within a grey area in which cybercrime is ignored as long as it occurs outside the country and the hackers are willing to conduct government-sponsored campaigns when asked, Kellermann said.


"The regime essentially sees the underground of hacking as a national resource, as long as the hackers in Russia abide by the rules," he said.


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MIT algorithm lets delivery drones monitor their health in real-time | GizMag.com

MIT algorithm lets delivery drones monitor their health in real-time | GizMag.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The prospect of delivery drones brings with it a few notable issues. Beyond visions of colliding rotor blades and unsolicited package drops lies another problem: the huge amount of computational power needed to take into account real world uncertainties, such as strong winds, limited battery life and navigational errors, in order to provide a reliable delivery service. This has been the focus of new study from MIT, with a team of researchers devising a new algorithm said to massively reduce the level of computation required, enabling the drone to monitor its "health" in real time.


There was no shortage of skepticism when Amazon announced its plans for Prime Air last year. Ambitious though it may be, research efforts from MIT and others indicate that the world's largest e-tailer is not exactly flying solo in its bid to establish drones as the basis for a viable courier service.


"With something like package delivery, which needs to be done persistently over hours, you need to take into account the health of the system," says Ali-akbar Agha-mohammadi, a postdoc in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. "Interestingly, in our simulations, we found that, even in harsh environments, out of 100 drones, we only had a few failures."


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Meet the computer scientist trying to digitize, analyze and visualize our past | Derrick Harris | GigaOM Structure

Meet the computer scientist trying to digitize, analyze and visualize our past | Derrick Harris | GigaOM Structure | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

We have written many times over the years about the potential benefits of easy access to data and computing, but we’ve probably never done it this well.


The guest on this week’s Structure Show podcast was Kalev Leetaru (pictured above), the Georgetown researcher behind the Global Database of Events, Language and Tones (GDELT), which we have covered before, and who also helped the Internet Archive with the book-digitization project it unveiled this week. Leetaru, who has spent time programming supercomputers, talks all about the amazing shifts currently underway in information technology that let people gather, store and analyze data with no physical gear and just a few lines (or a single line) of SQL code.


There are no highlights this week because, frankly, it wasn’t easy to find any in what’s essentially a 30-minute TED talk about the promise of cloud computing and big data. Listen, learn something and, if you’re new to these areas or to computer science, maybe be inspired by the pace of progress.


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Google exec is finalist for nation's techie-in-chief job | Fortune.com

Google exec is finalist for nation's techie-in-chief job | Fortune.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

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Megan Smith, a longtime Google executive, is a finalist for the job as the nation’s top technologist, according to sources familiar with the matter.


U.S. chief technology officer, as the role is informally known, oversees the federal government’s use of technology to create jobs, reduce costs and spur economic growth. Some refer to it as the White House’s geek-in-residence.


Smith is currently vice president at Google X, a skunk works of futuristic projects including self-driving cars, Internet-connected eye glasses and high altitude balloons that provide wireless Internet access to people below who otherwise lack online access. She previously led business development for Google, including negotiating a number of high-profile acquisitions, and oversaw Google.org, the company’s philanthropic arm.


She would make for a high-profile choice following the recent resignation of Todd Park, who is leaving after two years to help the White House recruit more technology savvy workers from Silicon Valley. He was preceded by Aneesh Chopra, the nation’s first chief technology officer, a role created by President Barak Obama.


In addition to Smith, the White House is considering Alex Macgillvray, a former executive at Twitter and Google, according to sources familiar with the matter. A third finalist is also on the shortlist.


Before her tenure at Google, Smith served as chief executive of Planet Out, a site focused on gays and lesbians. She earned bachelor and Masters degrees at the the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Google declined to comment about Smith’s candidacy. Bloomberg first reported that she was being considered for the job.

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No conspiracy theory needed. Google is taking over the world. That's all, folks :)

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A former FCC chair is now advising Obama on intelligence | Brian Fung | WashPost.com

A former FCC chair is now advising Obama on intelligence | Brian Fung | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Just months after he left the Obama administration, former Federal Communications Commission chair Julius Genachowski is heading back into it.


This time, Genachowski will be taking up a post on President Obama's intelligence advisory board, a small panel that provides counsel on America's spy agencies. Genachowski is among Obama's longest-serving advisers; a classmate of Obama's at Harvard Law School, he was tapped in 2008 to lead the then-senator's tech policy working group during the 2008 presidential campaign.


As head of the FCC, Genachowski made a number of policy decisions that we're still grappling with today: a push to implement net neutrality rules on Internet providers, an effort to convince broadcasters to sell off wireless airwaves to cellular companies and approval of a big merger between Comcast and NBC Universal. Industry insiders have said that while Genachowski was a consensus-builder at the agency, the tendency to compromise sometimes came at the expense of meaningful progress.


But ultimately, none of that is likely to matter on Obama's intelligence board. It's Genachowski's groundwork on cybersecurity issues at the FCC that Obama is likely interested in, according to Adm. James Barnett, a former head of the FCC's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau.


"In a lot of ways, he started the FCC on its cybersecurity path. Some of the things Chairman Wheeler's doing now [on cybersecurity] is based on work that was done" by Genachowski," said Barnett. "With all of the stuff going on in cybersecurity and how that affects intelligence — that makes a lot of sense to me."

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$10 million loan fund for North Country businesses established through NY Power Authority & Alcoa | North Country Now

Businesses in St. Lawrence County looking to expand and create new jobs or retain existing ones might be eligible for loans through a new $10 million fund created with commitments between the New York Power Authority and Alcoa.


The fund for low-cost loans has been established through a long-term contract between NYPA, which operates the Moses-Saunders hydropower dam on the St. Lawrence River, and the giant aluminum company, which has smelting plants in Massena that require large amounts of electric power.


“This fund will give local businesses access to the capital they need to invest in land, equipment and technology that will enable them to remain competitive in the 21st Century,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo as quoted in a news release from the New York Power Authority. “Supporting these efforts in turn will help strengthen the region’s economy and create jobs in the North Country.”


At a meeting Thursday, the Development Authority of the North Country Board of Directors approved the protocol needed to administer the loan fund jointly with the New York Power Authority and to receive applications from businesses looking to expand in St. Lawrence, Clinton, Franklin, Essex, Jefferson, Lewis, Hamilton or Herkimer counties. Expanding enterprises within the New York boundaries of the Akwesasne Mohawk Reservation are also eligible.


Applications will be reviewed regularly by the North Country Economic Development Fund Board, which consists of representatives from the New York Power Authority, the Development Authority of the North Country, the North Country Alliance and Empire State Development.


According to the agreement, for every $25,000 loaned from the fund at least one job must be created or retained.


Businesses are eligible to apply for loans of up to 30 percent of a project’s planned cost, with a ceiling for the loans set at $300,000. Businesses interested in applying for funding can visit the Development Authority of the North Country’s website at www.danc.org for more information.


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Iowa: New tech group chief puts high priority on outreach | Marco Santana | The DesMoines Register

Iowa: New tech group chief puts high priority on outreach | Marco Santana | The DesMoines Register | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Brian Waller says Iowa's technology industry must draw interest from minority groups and people outside traditional population centers such as Des Moines for its growth to continue.


The first step toward achieving that, he said, is reaching out, identifying and meeting with the leaders of those communities. Waller takes over as president of the Technology Association of Iowa on Sept. 29 and says the organization's growth depends on prioritizing diversity.


"The future of Iowa's technology community relies on how we can integrate a diverse population to get a really rich environment of different views," Waller told The Des Moines Register. "I have spent three years traveling the state. I've also spent three years representing Iowa outside of the state. The communities that get it have a melting pot of diversity. The communities that will be left in history's wake are the ones that do not want to integrate or diversify from a population standpoint."


His effort comes just as some of the nation's most prominent tech firms, such as Apple, Facebook and Google, shared diversity numbers with the public this month.


The overall picture shows an industry disproportionately dominated by white and Asian males when compared with the overall population. But officials in Iowa say a program aimed at students has shown promise, with the percentage of those participating closely aligning with Iowa's ethnic makeup.


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Canada: How Uber Explains Our Economic Moment | HilaryHenegar.com

"My driver said he’d been with Uber ever since he’d graduated from his master’s program in IT project management last year. This profession was, according to him, going through hard times. In the wake of the great recession steady jobs had been replaced by short-term contracts, and there weren’t even a lot of these to be had. As a result he was now competing against much more experienced people for each new gig that came up, and he hadn’t had a lot of success since graduating.


So to cover his monthly fixed costs of student loan payments (on more than $100k in debt), rent, and health care he was driving for Uber. A lot. He estimated that he spent more than 60 hours a week behind the wheel. This allowed him to pay his bills, but not to build up any real savings.


To which I say good for him, and for Uber. This is a guy who could be sitting around waiting for the dream job he’d gone to school for, collecting unemployment, defaulting on his loans, and/or dropping out of the labor force for good. Instead, he was working hard at a job that was available.


The days when high-paying factory jobs were available to anyone willing to work hard are long gone. My driver’s job existed because a small group of venture-backed entrepreneurs created a technology platform that matched up cars and drivers with people who were willing to pay for a ride. Most cars are chronically underutilized and in a time of high unemployment, so are too many people. Uber’s founders came up with a clever way to put them to work, and to do so while maintaining an enviable service and safety record."


I feel a deep urge to call bullshit on the author’s neoliberal perspective on how Uber supports our unemployed brothers and sisters during this time of economic transition. 


I have often been one to tout the collaborative economy as an opportunity for cities to build micro-entrepreneurship and expanded employment opportunities, but I feel uncomfortable by the way he’s framed it. And am wondering how to reconcile.

 

I agree that the “peer economy,” as he calls it, has many benefits in terms of temporary employment for those saddled with enormous student loan debt and no hope of securing work in their field of expertise. But in celebrating the collaborative economy as a gift to those folks by the venture capital system, he loses me. 


It’s hard not to reflect on the Robber barons or the d’Medicis and their contributions to the arts - on the backs of all those exploited by the systems that created their wealth, including the earth. Art = good. Means to patronizing, collecting and preserving art = bad. 


It’s hard not to wonder what’s to become of the more vulnerable class of folks who’ve been driving taxis to solve very similar challenges. 


I’m really starting to feel a sense of urgency for those of us in the business of supporting/fostering/developing the collaborative economy (holla, Share Vancouver!) to push harder to elevate public discourse beyond the novelty of Airbnb, Uber and the monster capital being raised to exploit the opportunities presented by collaborative consumption.


More democratic models of generating startup capitol and revenue are the future of the collaborative economy space. Co-ops, crowdfunding and community investment funding – when we talk about the collaborative economy and its potential to better our lives, and the future of our world, these are the models that will propel us forward. 


Of course there’s a place for the big guys – and their deep pockets. They’re mainstreaming the concept of sharing, borrowing and connecting peer-to-peer. But we can’t let them win the battle to define the space. 


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New York Flaunts Clout in Review of Comcast Deal/TWC | Shields & Klopoff | Bloomberg.com

New York Flaunts Clout in Review of Comcast Deal/TWC | Shields & Klopoff | Bloomberg.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

In a test of state clout over megamergers, New York regulators are threatening to disrupt Comcast Corp.’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable Inc. unless the companies agree to costly concessions.


From Albany to Sacramento, the nation’s two biggest cable providers are trying to appease state officials reviewing the $42.5 billion deal.


While the U.S. government is reviewing the alliance on antitrust grounds, states have authority over cable service on their soil. New York regulators have additional power due to a state law passed this year that requires cable mergers to benefit the public.


If a key state such as New York rejects the acquisition, it could lead the companies to abandon the plan.


“They definitely have leverage,” said Brad Ramsay, general counsel at the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, a Washington-based group that represents state regulators. “They can definitely extract concessions.”


The deal has become part of the New York gubernatorial campaign. Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has received more than $200,000 in combined campaign contributions from the companies, hasn’t taken a stance, while a rival for the Democratic nomination says she would reject the consolidation.


The New York State Public Service Commission is scheduled to vote on Oct. 2, and its staff has recommended the acquisition be approved only if concessions are included that it says would cost Philadelphia-based Comcast $300 million. The proposals would require a post-merger Comcast to keep jobs in New York, offer faster broadband, improve customer service, expand in rural areas, and ease enrollment standards for a program that offers cheap broadband to poor families.


Some are pressing for even more. This week, Cuomo said he would make sure the state’s merger review takes into account a nationwide loss of Internet service for Time Warner customers that lasted several hours on Aug. 27.


The state can set conditions so stringent the companies would forgo the merger, said Richard Brodsky, a former state lawmaker and senior fellow at Demos, a New York-based policy group. “This is not a garden-variety PSC decision.”


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The race for your files continues, as Amazon Zocalo comes online | Barb Darrow | GigaOM Structure

The race for your files continues, as Amazon Zocalo comes online | Barb Darrow | GigaOM Structure | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Th cloud giants continued their race to get as much user data in their respective clouds as possible. Last week, for example:



All of this action shows  just how addictive storage can be. Vendors figure if they can get your files into their cloud,  they can sell you all sorts of other, pricier, stuff.


Sooooo …. don’t be storage smart and cloud silly. As Gigaom guest contributor Praveen Asthana pointed out, storage price cuts are widely trumpeted, but the same vendors that are making all that noise are also hiking prices on other services, just without the fanfare.


This week’s Structure Show guest Kalev Leetaru, Yahoo Fellow in Residence at Georgetown University blew us away with his discussion of the Global Database of Events, Languages, and Tones. The GDELT project ingests hundreds of millions of historical data points from the past 35 years to try to figure out how what’s happening today may be mirroring similar events in the past. But more broadly, he talks about how the advent of cloud computing and the availability of big data tools bring all that information to mere mortals, not just ivory tower academicians or government statisticians. This, he says, is a very good thing.


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Tech Lessons From The 'Dark Ages' | Bruce Dorminey | Forbes.com

Tech Lessons From The 'Dark Ages' | Bruce Dorminey | Forbes.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The “Dark Ages” in what is now Western Europe sometimes conjure images of a very low-tech society — replete with outright barbarism and boiling vats of gruel. But the early Middle Ages (or “Dark Ages”) — a longtime historical pejorative — were actually a time of great technological progress, medieval scholars now say.


A scarcity of written records has given rise to the misconception that the early Middle Ages — roughly correlating with the end of the Roman Empire in the West (around 476 A.D.)  to about 1000 A.D. — were unrelentingly primitive, says Benjamin Hudson, a professor of history and medieval studies at Penn State University.


Yet in many ways medievalists were centuries ahead of their time; intrinsically-linked to their landscape and intent on looking for alternative means to harness the power of nature. Part of the Dark Ages’ image problems, says Hudson, is tied to the nature of scientific development, which in the case of technology was incremental.


“The people making the discoveries often could not read or write,” said Hudson. “The literate class was the clergy, who had limited interest in science.”


The water-powered blast furnace is seen by some as the greatest technological development of the epoch; since it enabled iron to smelt at higher temperatures and much faster and more cheaply than any previous technology.


High-quality horse stirrups were a byproduct of such improved smelting techniques which; as Paolo Squatriti, a medieval historian at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, points out, enabled a mounted rider to whack his opponents over the head without falling out of the saddle. “This made the ‘knight in shining armor’ possible,” he said.


Although the Classical world that preceded the Dark Ages was aware of basic engineering techniques and energy sources, it depended on slave labor, says Hudson.


“Among the Roman [aristocracy] there was an overweening disdain for the mechanical arts, to such an extent that even reading was considered manual labor,” said Squatriti. “So, you sat back and listened while a slave read to you.”


The idea that manual work was “bad,” says Squatriti, spread with the result that an aristocratic Roman who had the time and resources to devote to the pursuit of technology would never have done such research because he considered it “way below his status.”


As Squatriti asks: Why invent a machine to do labor when you had all your defeated enemies to do it?


To be sure, one major driver for tech development in the Dark Ages was simply the dismantlement of the Roman Empire and the fact that there were no longer enormous amounts of slave labor. Starting in 200 A.D., says Squatriti, there’s also a massive decline in population; especially in the former Roman Western provinces.


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How 21st-Century Cities Can Avoid the Fate of 20th-Century Detroit | Carl Benedikt Frey | ScientificAmerican.com

How 21st-Century Cities Can Avoid the Fate of 20th-Century Detroit | Carl Benedikt Frey | ScientificAmerican.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

SA Forum is an invited essay from experts on topical issues in science and technology.


In Coningsby, a Benjamin Disraeli novel published in 1844, a character impressed with the technological spirit of the age remarks, “I see cities peopled with machines. Certainly Manchester is the most wonderful city of modern times.”


Today, of course, Manchester is mainly associated with urban decline. There is a simple economic explanation for this, and one that can help guide cities and nations as they prepare for another technological revolution.


Although new technologies have become available everywhere, only some cities have prospered as a result. As the late economist and historian David Landes famously noted, “Prosperity and success are their own worst enemies.” Prosperous places may indeed become self-satisfied and less interested in progress. But manufacturing cities such as Manchester and Detroit did not decline because of a slowdown in technology adoption. On the contrary, they consistently embraced new technologies and increased the efficiency and output of their industries. Yet they declined. Why?


The reason is that they failed to produce new employment opportunities to replace those that are being eroded by technological change. Instead of taking advantage of technological opportunities to create new occupations and industries, they adopted technologies to increase productivity by automating their factories and displacing labor.


The fate of manufacturing cities such as Manchester and Detroit illustrates an important point: long-run economic growth is not simply about increasing productivity or output—it is about incorporating technologies into new work.


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Broadcom wants to let 1,000 IoT devices bloom with $19.99 development kit | Stephen Lawson | NetworkWorld.com

Broadcom wants to let 1,000 IoT devices bloom with $19.99 development kit | Stephen Lawson | NetworkWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The Internet of Things may have been the talk of the tech industry for months now, but communications chip maker Broadcom thinks it’s just getting started.


“It’s a totally new space. It offers ... a massive number of projects and efforts and new ideas,” said Brian Bedrosian, senior director of Broadcom’s embedded wireless business, at a media event in San Francisco on Tuesday night. “There’s no monopoly in any particular market.”


Broadcom has a big stake in IoT because it makes the kinds of chips that will connect many home devices, wearables and industrial sensors to wireless networks. On Wednesday, the company introduced the latest tool it hopes will expand that market, a US$19.99 development kit built around its BCM20737 Bluetooth Smart chip with five built-in sensors and a free Apple iOS app. An Android app is coming Oct. 1.


The WICED Sense Tag, the latest in a line of WICED (Wireless Internet Connectivity for Embedded Devices) kits that launched about two years ago, is designed for app coders and non-technical product developers rather than just engineers, Bedrosian said. It costs less than earlier kits, which have been priced around $80 to $100, and includes software for Bluetooth Smart and the sensors, saving developers hours of work, according to the company.


The tag is the size of a large key fob and includes a gyroscope, an accelerometer, a compass, a barometer and a humidity and temperature sensor. It also includes iBeacon technology, wireless charging support and secure over-the-air download capability for firmware updates. It took just a couple of taps to pair the tag with an iPhone via Bluetooth Smart and start viewing readings from the sensors.


Once users get the tag started, they can start to look at the range and throughput of the signals coming from it and evaluate whether Bluetooth Smart, the low-energy version of the short-range wireless protocol, is right for their application, said Sid Shaw, a senior product line manager at Bluetooth,


Broadcom envisions the kit being used as the basis of prototypes and products in a wide range of areas, including fitness, home and building automation and health care. The company wants to help speed up product development and initial prototyping is the most common step to hold up IoT development, often taking a month or two, Shaw said.


Broadcom gave the new sensor to students before launch; in less than two days, one group of students developed an initial prototype of a temperature and humidity monitor for a baby’s crib. That kind of turnaround is what the company wants to see, Shah said.


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NV: Construction begins on hospital broadband network between Reno, Las Vegas | RGJ.com

NV: Construction begins on hospital broadband network between Reno, Las Vegas | RGJ.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The Nevada Hospital Association recently completed the first phase of the Nevada Broadband Telemedicine Initiative, which focused on construction of the fiber network segment between Reno and Silver Springs, the network's northern anchor.


The completed segment runs from downtown Reno through Carson City and ends in Silver Springs. Future segments will continue along the U.S. 95 corridor from Silver Springs through Yerington, Schurz, Hawthorne, Tonopah, Goldfield, Beatty and Pahrump before terminating in Las Vegas.


"The invaluable support of Gov. (Brian) Sandoval and his team has allowed this project to become a reality," NHA president Bill Welch said. "The project, funded by a $19 million federal grant, encountered a number of obstacles over the last three years that called its viability into question. Thanks to the governor and his staff, we have completed 140 miles of construction of the 530-mile network and can now anticipate connecting all of Nevada's rural hospitals for the first time with fiber optic cable within the next 12 months. The federal grant funds will also be used to improve last mile connections to hospitals in Lovelock, Elko and Ely."


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Evidence Grows That Online Social Networks Have Insidious Negative Effects | MIT Technology Review

Evidence Grows That Online Social Networks Have Insidious Negative Effects | MIT Technology Review | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Online social networks have permeated our lives with far-reaching consequences. Many people have used them to connect with friends and family in distant parts of the world, to make connections that have advanced their careers in leaps and bounds and to explore and visualize not only their own network of friends but the networks of their friends, family, and colleagues.


But there is growing evidence that the impact of online social networks is not all good or even benign. A number of studies have begun found evidence that online networks can have significant detrimental effects. This question is hotly debated, often with conflicting results and usually using limited varieties of subjects, such as undergraduate students.


Today, Fabio Sabatini at Sapienza University of Rome in Italy and Francesco Sarracino at STATEC in Luxembourg attempt to tease apart the factors involved in this thorny issue by number crunching the data from a survey of around 50,000 people in Italy gathered during 2010 and 2011. The survey specifically measures subjective well-being and also gathers detailed information about the way each person uses the Internet.


The question Sabatini and Sarracino set out to answer is whether the use of online networks reduces subjective well-being and if so, how.


Sabatini and Sarracino’s database is called the “Multipurpose Survey on Households,” a survey of around 24,000 Italian households corresponding to 50,000 individuals carried out by the Italian National Institute of Statistics every year. These guys use the data drawn from 2010 and 2011. What’s important about the survey as that it is large and nationally representative (as opposed to a self-selecting group of undergraduates).


The survey specifically asks the question “How satisfied are you with your life as a whole nowadays?” requiring an answer from extremely dissatisfied (0) to extremely satisfied (10). This provides a well-established measure of subjective well-being.


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US cable giants call on FCC to block cities' expansion of high-speed internet | Dominic Rushe | TheGuardian.com

US cable giants call on FCC to block cities' expansion of high-speed internet | Dominic Rushe | TheGuardian.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The US cable industry called on the Federal Communications Commission on Friday to block two cities’ plans to expand high-speed internet services to their residents.


USTelecom, which represents cable giants Comcast, Time Warner and others, wants the FCC to block expansion of two popular municipally owned high speed internet networks, one in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and the other in Wilson, North Carolina.


“The success of public broadband is a mixed record, with numerous examples of failures,” USTelecom said in a blog post. “With state taxpayers on the financial hook when a municipal broadband network goes under, it is entirely reasonable for state legislatures to be cautious in limiting or even prohibiting that activity.”


Chattanooga has the largest high-speed internet service in the US, offering customers access to speeds of 1 gigabit per second – about 50 times faster than the US average. The service, provided by municipally owned EPB, has sparked a tech boom in the city and attracted international attention. EPB is now petitioning the FCC to expand its territory. Comcast and others have previously sued unsuccessfully to stop EPB’s fibre optic roll out.


Wilson, a town of a little more than 49,000 people, launched Greenlight, its own service offering high speed internet, after complaints about the cost and quality of Time Warner cable’s service. Time Warner lobbied the North Carolina senate to outlaw the service and similar municipal efforts.


USTelecom claims the FCC has no legal standing over the proposed expansions and does not have the power to preempt the North Carolina and Tennessee statutes that would prevent them.


“States have adopted a wide range of legislative approaches on how much authority they give local governments to build, own and operate broadband networks. Some states require an election or public hearings before a public project can move forward. Others ask for competitive bids, and still others put restrictions on the terms of service so the public entities bear the same regulatory burdens as private service providers,” said USTelecom.


“States are well within their rights to impose these restrictions, given the potential impact on taxpayers if public projects are not carefully planned and weighed against existing private investment.”


In January this year, the FCC issued the “Gigabit City Challenge” calling on providers to offer gigabit service in at least one community in each state by 2015. The challenge has come amid intense lobbying from cable firms to stop municipal rivals and new competitors including Google from building and expanding high speed networks.


In a statement EPB said: “Communities should have the right – at the local level – to determine their broadband futures.


“The private sector didn’t want to serve everyone, but public power companies like EPB were established to make sure that everyone had access to this critical infrastructure. “

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Special Report: Big Phone and Cable Companies Are Losing Your Calls to Rural America | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap!

Special Report: Big Phone and Cable Companies Are Losing Your Calls to Rural America | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap! | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Big cable and telephone companies have opened a new digital divide by losing your long distance calls to rural America to save a buck.


The problems have grown so pervasive, a FCC investigation found some of America’s biggest providers are sending some of their long distance calls destined for rural communities across the U.S. through shady, fly-by-night third-party operators in Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Japan, Bulgaria and Romania before the phone ever starts ringing on the other end. If it ever starts ringing on the other end.


In Addison County, Vt., State Representative Will Stevens knows all about it. When not representing the people of rural Shoreham, he is running Golden Russet Farm, highly dependent on his landline to deal with customers.


“Phone calls here get cut off,” he told the Addison County Independent. “Or they don’t go through at all. So many times I’ve called elsewhere and you just don’t know if the call is going through, it goes dead. It rings then goes dead. You can’t tell how many times it’s rung on the other end if at all.”


It’s even worse when callers get a recording stating the number is no longer in service.


That is what happened to Pat Plautz who runs a small map store in the town of Reedsburg, Wis. A caller from Milwaukee trying to place an order first got a recording stating her number had been disconnected. Lucky for her the caller tried again, this time connecting.


“My main concern is that people think we’re out of business,” Plautz said.

As many as one in five long-distance calls to rural communities either aren’t connected to the intended number or are corrupted by issues such as static or garbled sound, according to Communications Data Group, a telephone billing company based in Champaign, Ill.


In rural upstate New York, some callers report nearly 100% of their call attempts to certain rural customers fail.


Nationally, users of Google Voice, MagicJack, and other discount long distance services have probably observed at least one of these, all because the companies involved are looking for the cheapest ways possible to route your call.


But the problems have grown well beyond the deep discount providers and affect Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and other phone and cable company telephone customers. Evidence suggests unregulated cable and wireless phone calls are much more likely to encounter Least Cost Routing (LCR) than traditional regulated landlines.


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