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Amazon Launches Local Register, A Square Competitor With Lower Transaction Rates | TechCrunch.com

Amazon Launches Local Register, A Square Competitor With Lower Transaction Rates | TechCrunch.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Amazon has launched a Square and PayPal Here competitor called Local Register, which provides users with a free app and a $10 card reader, and charges merchants and anyone selling services who use it just 1.75 percent per swipe on both credit and debit transactions, so long as users sign up before October 31. That’s a special rate, and is a full percentage point lower than Square’s 2.75 percent per swiped transaction (3.5 percent plus 15 cents for manual entry), and will last until January 1, 2016, at which point it will return to the standard 2.5 percent per transaction Amazon is charging (or 2.75 percent for manually entered transactions).


The $10 fee Amazon is charging for people to buy its reader is also essentially erased since Amazon grants users of its payment system $10 in transaction credit right off the bat. Amazon is clearly hoping it can lure real-world sellers away from the established competition with more attractive rates, but it’s also boasting that Local Register is backed by Amazon’s customer support, a secure card reader design that “limits swivel” during swiping, and their existing secure infrastructure for accepting payments which is backed by all the experience of their online storefront.


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Researchers show a machine learning network for connected devices | Stacey Higginbotham | GigaOM Tech News

Researchers show a machine learning network for connected devices | Stacey Higginbotham | GigaOM Tech News | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Researchers at Ohio State University have developed a method for building a machine learning algorithm from data gathered from a variety of connected devices. There are two cool things about their model worth noting. The first is that the model is distributed and second, it can keep data private.

The researchers call their model Crowd-ML and the idea is pretty basic. Each device runs a version of a necessary app, much like one might run a version of SETI@home or other distributed computing application, and grabs samples of data to send to a central server. The server can tell when enough of the right data has been gathered to “teach” the computer and only grabs the data it needs, ensuring a relative amount of privacy.

The model uses a variant of stochastic (sub)gradient descent instead of batch processing, to grab data for machine learning, which is what makes the Crowd-ML effort different. Stochastic gradient descent is the basis for a lot of machine learning and deep learning efforts. It uses knowledge gleaned from previous computations to inform the next computations, making it iterative, as opposed to something processed all at once.

The paper goes on to describe how one can tweak the Crowd-ML model to ensure more or less privacy and process information faster or in greater amounts. It tries to achieve the happy medium between protecting privacy and gathering the right amount of data to generate a decent sample size to train the machine learning algorithm.


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Cable Pushes to Exclude Netflix From Net Neutrality Protections | Advertising Age

Cable Pushes to Exclude Netflix From Net Neutrality Protections | Advertising Age | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Internet service providers led by Comcast are pushing to protect from federal regulations their ability to demand fees from high-volume data users such as Netflix.

Netflix, the world's largest subscription video streaming service, and middlemen such as Level 3 Communications and Cogent Communications Holdings have asked regulators to prevent internet providers from charging for connections.

The issue is one of many the Federal Communications Commission will resolve in a vote set for Feb. 26 on rules to ensure all internet traffic is treated equally, a policy called net neutrality. The FCC also will decide whether to include mobile service under the rules, a step Chairman Tom Wheeler has indicated he favors.

Mr. Wheeler already said paid "fast lanes" would be prohibited under the rules he will propose. He hasn't said publicly if traffic exchanges are to be included.

"For the last two decades all of this has been done by contractual arrangements, all throughout the internet," Steven Morris, a lawyer with the National Cable & Telecommunications Association trade group, said in an interview. "We have lots of concerns about this, which is why we're encouraging the commission not to" include connection agreements in its net neutrality rules.

Republican lawmakers today called for Mr. Wheeler to release his proposal for public review as he gives the draft to fellow commissioners Feb. 5. FCC orders traditionally aren't published until the agency votes to adopt them.


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Ad-Supported TV Tops Online Video | Wayne Friedman | Media Post

Ad-Supported TV Tops Online Video | Wayne Friedman | Media Post | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Recent research shows that traditional TV still dominates overall video media -- in usage and program investment. Of the total average monthly time spent in October by users, 80% -- 139 hours and 45 minutes -- goes to advertising-supported TV brands, according to the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau.

Facebook is next, at 17 hours and 32 minutes (17:32); YouTube, 6:24; and for four other portals, a total of 11:51. This data comes from Nielsen Npower Live plus seven days of time-shifting for October 2014, persons 2+ and comScore.


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BroadbandUSA effort to assist communities with broadband plans | Larry Strickling, NTIA | WRAL TechWire

BroadbandUSA effort to assist communities with broadband plans | Larry Strickling, NTIA | WRAL TechWire | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Over the past five years, we at NTIA have seen first-hand through our broadband grant program the power of broadband to transform lives and impact communities. Broadband has become a cornerstone of economic growth, providing Americans the tools they need to participate in the rapidly growing digital economy.

NTIA invested more than $4 billion in grants through the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program to build network infrastructure, establish public computer centers, and develop digital literacy training to expand broadband adoption. Through those projects, we’ve made significant progress.

Our grantees have built or upgraded more than 113,000 miles of fiber and connected nearly 25,000 community anchor institutions, such as schools and libraries. Our grantees also have established or upgraded 3,000 public computer centers, trained more than four million people and helped roughly 735,000 households sign up for broadband.

An independent study released by NTIA last week shows that these grants are projected to increase economic output by as much as $21 billion annually.

But, there’s more work to be done. Investing in broadband is a matter of basic equity.

Americans who do not have access to the Internet are increasingly cut off from job opportunities, educational resources, health care information and even government services. Communities that do not have high-speed infrastructure are increasingly at a disadvantage in attracting new businesses and new jobs and competing in today’s knowledge-based economy.

Since 2009, broadband adoption has increased more than 12 percent in the United States and stands at 72 percent, according to our latest reported data. That is a healthy growth rate, but it still means that almost a quarter of U.S. households are not online at home.


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Did Congress, the media and the FCC all misunderstand what Verizon said on net neutrality? Verizon thinks so. | Brian Fung | WashPost.com

Did Congress, the media and the FCC all misunderstand what Verizon said on net neutrality? Verizon thinks so. | Brian Fung | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

In December, Verizon chief financial officer Fran Shammo told a group of investors that if regulators adopted aggressive open Internet rules, they wouldn't stop the company from upgrading its network to provide faster, better service.

Now Shammo says he was misunderstood.

The new net neutrality rules being considered by the Federal Communications Commission represent "an extreme and risky path," Shammo said on a conference call Thursday.

Whether Internet service providers would stop investing in their networks if regulators adopted strict rules to prevent the blocking and throttling of Internet traffic has become a flashpoint in the wider debate over net neutrality — the idea that broadband providers shouldn't speed up or slow down some Web sites over others.

Last month, an industry analyst asked Shammo about the prospect of more aggressive rules and their potential affect on Verizon's investment strategy in the United States.

"I mean to be real clear: I mean this does not influence the way we invest," Shammo said. "I mean we're going to continue to invest in our networks and our platforms, both in wireless and wireline FiOS and where we need to. So nothing will influence that." (Here's the full transcript.)

This week, however, Shammo gave another response.


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PA: 'Clicks' bring change to Philly airwaves | Aaron Moselle | NewsWorks.org

PA: 'Clicks' bring change to Philly airwaves | Aaron Moselle | NewsWorks.org | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

A small, empty room on Ranstead Street has Gretjen Clausing gushing with excitement.

In the coming year, the second-floor space will be transformed into a radio studio that'll broadcast community-driven programming on 106.6 FM, a brand new frequency on Philadelphia's dial.

It'll be one of three "low-power", neighborhood-based stations to launch thanks to more than a decade of activism and the Federal Communications Commission.

"It's amazing," said Clausing, executive director of PhillyCam, a Center City nonprofit that produces public access programming.

"There's a tremendous amount of room for additional programming. There isn't that kind of dedicated place that is coming directly from people that live here in the city."

More than a year ago, the FCC invited groups from across the country to apply for what are known as "construction permits."

If awarded, organizations can set up antennas and – after getting a license – operate their very own radio stations.

The call for applications was made possible by the Local Radio Community Act, a law President Obama quietly signed in 2011 after years of pushing by community radio advocates including the city's Prometheus Radio Project.

The measure expanded the available airspace and with it the number of LPFM licenses the FCC could award.

Under legislation passed in 2000, low-power stations were defined — and continue to be — as noncommercial, independent stations powered by less than 100 watts, enough to broadcast throughout a roughly 3.5-mile area.

Stations, however, also had to be at least three "clicks" away from full-power stations to avoid overlapping and interference. Now, following new regulatory protections, the gap is down to two.

While seemingly insignificant, that one-click reduction meant everything to advocates of the legislation as it opened up for the first time the possibility of having more LPFM stations in urban areas with jam-packed spectrums.

In Philadelphia, that meant that WPEB – short for West Philadelphia Educational Broadcasters – would no longer be the city's only community radio station.

For people such as Germantown resident Jim Bear, it specifically meant that Gtown Radio will, for the first time, be heard beyond the Internet.


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AT&T to acquire Nextel Mexico assets for $1.9 billion | Grant Gross | NetworkWorld.com

AT&T to acquire Nextel Mexico assets for $1.9 billion | Grant Gross | NetworkWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

AT&T has agreed to acquire mobile carrier Nextel Mexico for UDS$1.9 billion from parent company NII Holdings, in an effort by AT&T to win a larger slice of the Mexican mobile market, the company announced Monday.

The deal includes all NII’s mobile assets in Mexico, including spectrum licenses, network facilities, retail stores and 3 million customers, AT&T said in a press release.

NII, based in Reston, Virginia, filed for bankruptcy in U.S. court in September. The company also operates mobile networks in Argentina and Brazil.

The deal with AT&T, subject to approval by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York and regulatory approvals in Mexico, is expected to close by mid-2015, NII said in a press release.

The deal will allow AT&T to combine Nextel Mexico with Iusacell, another Mexican mobile provider that AT&T acquired in November for $2.5 billion. Iusacell, with about 9 million customers, was the third largest mobile carrier in Mexico at the time.


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IL Senator Durbin & Representative Schock criticize online sales tax 'loophole' | Julian Hattem | The Hill

A bipartisan pair of lawmakers is putting the pressure on Congress to pass an online sales tax bill.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep. Aaron Schok (R-Ill.) wrote an op-ed in the Spring, Ill., State Journal-Register on Monday deriding a “loophole” that prevents people from paying sales tax at many online stores, which they say gives them a price advantage over brick-and-mortar shops.

“[I]t needlessly is putting people out of business in Illinois and across the country,” they wrote.

“Main Street businesses have a hard time surviving when their stores become showrooms, where people come in, look around, even try out merchandise, and then leave to buy the product online to avoid paying state taxes.”

Currently, people shopping at online stores do not have to pay sales tax on purchases made from stores located in other states.


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2014 MN Broadband Task Force is out: recommends $200 million for infrastructure grants | Ann Treacy | Blandin on Broadband

2014 MN Broadband Task Force is out: recommends $200 million for infrastructure grants | Ann Treacy | Blandin on Broadband | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The 2014 Minnesota Broabdand Task Force report is out. The highlights are:

  • Minnesota will not meet the 2015 goals of 10-20 Mbps down and 5-10 Mbps up. Right now 78.16 percent of Minnesota households have such broadband speeds available via wireline providers and 88.90 percent when mobile wireless service is included.
  • They are recommending funding for the Office of Broadband Development ($2.9 million) and for more Border to Border Infrastructure Grants ($200 million)


The focus on further funding from a group that has been successful in recommending it in the past is very exciting! The proposed $200 million doesn’t touch the estimated $900 million to $3.2 billion to build ubiquitous broadband but funding gets people to the table to discuss solutions!


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Verizon’s Mobile ‘Supercookies’ Seen as Threat to Privacy | Natasha Singer & Brian Chen | NYTimes.com

Verizon’s Mobile ‘Supercookies’ Seen as Threat to Privacy | Natasha Singer & Brian Chen | NYTimes.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

For the last several months, cybersecurity experts have been warning Verizon Wireless that it was putting the privacy of its customers at risk. The computer codes the company uses to tag and follow its mobile subscribers around the web, they said, could make those consumers vulnerable to covert tracking and profiling.

It looks as if there was reason to worry.

This month Jonathan Mayer, a lawyer and computer science graduate student at Stanford University, reported on his blog that Turn, an advertising software company, was using Verizon’s unique customer codes to regenerate its own tracking tags after consumers had chosen to delete what is called a cookie — a little bit of code that can stick with your web browser after you have visited a site. In effect, Turn found a way to keep tracking visitors even after they tried to delete their digital footprints.

The episode shined a spotlight on a privacy issue that is particularly pronounced at Verizon. The company’s customer codes, called unique ID headers, have troubled some data security and privacy experts who say Verizon has introduced a persistent, hidden tracking mechanism into apps and browsers that third parties could easily exploit.

While Internet users can choose to delete their regular cookies, Verizon Wireless users cannot delete the company’s so-called supercookies.

“Verizon is not in a position to control how others use its header,” Mr. Mayer said. “There’s no doubt that this particular approach does introduce new privacy problems.”


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Why You Should Care That The FCC Is Trying To Redefine Broadband | Chris Miller | Gizmodo.com

Why You Should Care That The FCC Is Trying To Redefine Broadband | Chris Miller | Gizmodo.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

According to current FCC policy, 'broadband' means 4Mbps down/1Mbps up. That's been the definition since 2010, when it was upgraded from a (hilariously slow) 200Kbps. However, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler recently outlined a plan to update that definition, to 25Mbps down/3 up. It's a position supported by a number of companies, including Netflix; but unsurprisingly, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) is dead against the plan.

As arbitrary as the 25/3 numbers sound, they're not picked totally out of thin air: they're based on a clause in the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which states that broadband must "enable users to originate and receive high-quality voice, data, graphics, and video telecommunications using any technology".

Based on that criteria, broadband should be fairly easy to define. Netflix publishes a handy little chart of how fast your internet has to be in order to stream video from its servers. To get any kind of buffer-free service, they recommend a 1.5Mbps connection, with 5Mbps recommended for HD, and 25 for 4K content.

Going by those numbers, saying that 25Mbps is the minimum standard for broadband seems a little excessive. 4K content is a rare beast on the internet, and the necessary equipment for watching it — a 4K TV — is rarer still (although, give it five years and we'll see how things change).

But an alternative argument for a 25Mbps standard, put forward by policy group Public Knowledge, is that a single internet connection is commonly shared between several individuals. If, say, three members of a five-person household are streaming Netflix at the same time, you'd need a minimum of 15Mbps in order for everything to work seamlessly — and that's assuming that the Wi-Fi network isn't causing any slowdown.


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Sad state of U.S. broadband: Cable industry balks at FCC's definition | Ms. Smith | NetworkWorld.com

Sad state of U.S. broadband: Cable industry balks at FCC's definition | Ms. Smith | NetworkWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Right now, the FCC defines broadband as 4Mbps down and 1Mbps up. Since FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler called those speeds “yesterday’s broadband” and proposed that, in the FCC's Section 706 report, broadband should be defined as 25Mbps down and 3Mbps up, interested parties have been submitting comments on that proposal.

It’s no surprise that cable companies are among those parties interested in keeping the slow status quo. Ars Technica reported that the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) told the FCC that normal folks don’t need speeds of 25Mbps.

During President Obama’s State of the Union address, he promised “to protect a free and open internet,” but the U.S. needs much more than a promise as our connectivity speeds and costs are pathetic when compared to much of the rest of the world. For example, in Seoul, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Zurich, Bucharest and Paris, people pay as little as $30 per month for speeds that allow an HD movie to be downloaded in about seven seconds, according to The Cost of Connectivity report published by the Open Technology Institute in October. The New York Times added that downloading the same HD movie takes 1.4 minutes and costs an average of about $300 a month for the fastest Internet speeds via fiber in the U.S.

As it stands right now, even if a town is unsatisfied with an ISP’s service or rates, there are legal obstacles and red tape in 19 states that could stop a town from offering its own public broadband. Do you think the Internet, like electricity or water, is a public utility that Americans “cannot live without”? Sen. Cory Booker just proposed a bill that would “let cities build and operate their own Internet service.”

If regulations were removed, more cities could become like Chattanooga, Tennessee, which has the “fastest Internet in the Western Hemisphere.” Chattanooga “offers public broadband plans at speeds of 1 gigabit per second for $70” per month. Salon reported, “Downloading a two-hour movie takes the average high-speed broadband customer in the U.S. half an hour. In Chattanooga, it takes 30 seconds.”

The FCC’s Wheeler believes 25Mbps is “table stakes” for modern communications, even though only 25% of American homes “have a choice of at least two providers at the 25Mbps/3Mbps threshold.” Ars pointed out that “changing the definition doesn't create any immediate impact other than lowering the percentage of Americans who have ‘broadband’ and shaming Internet providers that don't offer broadband speeds.” It could go a long way, however, toward admitting the U.S. has a serious problem when it comes to competitive broadband.


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FCC's Pai Supports Publicizing Open Internet Order Draft | John Eggerton | Multichannel

FCC's Pai Supports Publicizing Open Internet Order Draft | John Eggerton | Multichannel | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

FCC commissioner Ajit Pai supports making the chairman's draft Open Internet order available to the public on the same day that it is circulated to the commissioners for their input and edits, a spokesman for the commissioner confirmed to B&C/MultiChannel News.

Republican leaders of the FCC oversight committees and subcommittees--Pai is also a Republican--wrote FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler this week asking him to let stakeholders and other interested parties see the proposal at the same time the commissioners do. The chairman has scheduled a Feb. 26 vote, and Feb. 5 for the draft, the customary three weeks before a vote.

Pai told C-SPAN this week that he would prefer the FCC hold off on the vote and allow a legislative effort, spearheaded by those same Republicans, time to play out, since its purpose is to give the FCC direction on its authority over Internet access.

But Democrats are telling the FCC not to wait, whether or not a bill emerges. So far, no Democrats are signed on.

The chairman's office had no comment on the Republican legislators' request. A spokesperson would say only that the letter had been received and was being reviewed.

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Taking the risk to offer broadband should be a local call | The Editorial Board | LATimes.com

Taking the risk to offer broadband should be a local call | The Editorial Board | LATimes.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

When President Obama urged in his State of the Union address that broadband Internet service be made available to all Americans, it was the 21st century equivalent of calling for a chicken in every pot. So much commerce, information, education and entertainment has moved online that communities can't afford to be left without high-speed connections. Nevertheless, many Republicans oppose one of the means Obama has proposed for expanding broadband: preempting the roughly 20 state laws that make it hard, if not impossible, for local governments to offer Internet services. There may be good reasons a municipal utility or local agency shouldn't try its hand at broadband service, a market that's prohibitively expensive to enter. But that decision should be made by local officials, not state lawmakers.


According to the White House, 99% of Americans can obtain some version of broadband, whether through a phone line, a cable modem or a mobile network. But almost half of rural America has no access to connections that offer at least 25 mbps — the kind of capacity needed for data-heavy online businesses and multiple high-quality video streams. And although such connections are more widely available in cities and suburbs, they typically come from only one provider per community.


Just as advances in microchip speed and hard drive capacity have led to more powerful software programs, faster broadband networks lead to more data-intensive applications and services. But the shortage of broadband competitors and the high cost of building networks in the United States have slowed the spread of the kind of ultra-high-speed services such as the ones found in much of Asia and northern Europe. The most notable exceptions have been in the handful of cities where Google has built ultra-high-speed networks, prompting the local phone and cable operators to upgrade.


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CTIA Spins Network Neutrality For Super Bowl Audience | John Eggerton | Multichannel.com

CTIA Spins Network Neutrality For Super Bowl Audience | John Eggerton | Multichannel.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

CTIA: The Wireless Association has posted a YouTube video in advance of the Super Bowl arguing that the FCC can win the "big game" -- that being a free and open Internet -- by using Sec. 706 authority rather than Title II reclassification of Internet access service.

Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler is planning a Feb. 26 vote on new open-Internet rules that are widely believed to be based on some variant of the Title II common-carrier regulations.

The CTIA's video features a hand-drawn animation illustrating what the organization has said would be the right play, and how the courts, Congress and the FCC itself have previously stopped short of reclassification.

Driving home its points with rampant football analogies, the CTIA said the FCC has the ball in the net-neutrality debate, and on fourth down, it should kick the field goal of Sec. 706 rather than risk the "turnover or sack" of Title II.


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Colorado makerspaces: Where technological innovation meets entrepreneurship | Vince Winkel | TimesCall.com

Colorado makerspaces: Where technological innovation meets entrepreneurship | Vince Winkel | TimesCall.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

At the end of Delaware Place in Longmont, just a few feet from the Boulder County Fairgrounds, you'll find TinkerMill, the largest makerspace in Colorado.


It's a place where people interested in art, technology, science, business, music and more can collaborate on creative projects and share tools. They go there to learn, teach, make things, and prototype new ideas, products and services. They go there to start ventures, meet new people and share knowledge.


Anyone can go there.


"It grew crazy fast. We did not expect this at all," explained the heart and soul of TinkerMill, Scott Converse. He bounces around the large space with the energy of a teenager and a twinkle in his eye.

"People came out of the woodwork when we started TinkerMill."

Around the country and the world, makerspaces — also know as a hackerspaces — have become hubs of innovation and entrepreneurship. Longmont's makerspace is one of those leading the charge.

"It's a community organization; we have about 160 paying members today and nearly 700 members on MeetUp that come here to share their talents and skills and expertise," said Ron Thomas, who just became TinkerMill's first executive director. "It's a great place to meet a wide variety of people with differing sets of expertise and skills."


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Better broadband for us all | Todd O'Boyle Blog | The Hill

Nearly a year after a federal court effectively dismantled longstanding Open Internet (“net neutrality”) rules and after President Obama’s recent call for a new action to protect the free flow of information online, the Federal Communications Commission is on the verge of deciding whether it will regulate broadband access -- and if so, how.

The commission, the courts and most likely the new Congress will wrestle over net neutrality for, unfortunately, years to come. But there is a simple, vital step the FCC can take now to make affordable, dependable, high-speed Internet available to millions more Americans.

A petition filed by local governments in Wilson, N.C. and Chattanooga, Tenn. invites the FCC to set aside state laws that prevent municipally-owned broadband networks from expanding to serve willing customers in neighboring areas. By granting the localities’ request, the commission would introduce competition -- along with pressure to lower rates and improve services – into markets now controlled by a single Internet Service Provider.

Communities like Powell, Wyo. and Kutztown, Pa. got into the broadband arena after recognizing that the private sector might never wire their small towns with the state-of-the-art fiber optics that bring the highest speeds. They see broadband as a vital tool for economic development; a publicly-owned network in Chattanooga has transformed the city into a regional technology hub.

But spurred on by online giants like Verizon and Comcast, legislatures in 20 states have erected barriers to the development of such publicly-owned broadband networks. The companies want no part of competition with municipal networks, which are chartered to operate for community benefit and deliver affordable rates and quality customer service. In North Carolina alone, the communications industry lobby gave friendly legislators over $90,000 in 2011 to effectively ban municipal competition.

The same court decision last January that set aside the FCC’s previous (admittedly anemic) net neutrality rules made clear that the Commission has the power to “promote competition in the local telecommunications market, or other regulating methods that remove barriers to infrastructure investment.” The language amounts to a green-light for commission action to boost the ability of communities to determine their own broadband futures.


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Where high hopes of fiber telecom infrastructure collide with weak federal funding | Fred Pilot | Eldo Telecom

Where high hopes of fiber telecom infrastructure collide with weak federal funding | Fred Pilot | Eldo Telecom | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Changes to RUS Broadband Loan Program Include Rural Gigabit Pilot - Telecompetitor: When President Obama spoke last week about reforms to the USDA Rural Utilities Service broadband loan program, he was referencing changes adopted in the 2014 Farm Bill, a USDA official advised in an email to Telecompetitor.

Joan Engebretson's report illustrates the wide gulf between the Obama's administration's aspirations for fiber telecommunications infrastructure America needs for the 21st century and the stark paucity of available funding under current federal programs to help finance this high cost endeavor.

Casey Peck, General Manager of the Kalona Cooperative Telephone Co. of Kalona, Iowa pointed up the gap in this opinion piece appearing in the Kalona News:

It seems the President’s objective is to encourage municipal construction of broadband networks, which would compete with existing providers. The push to allow municipalities to construct broadband networks, which is prohibited by state law in 19 states but not in Iowa, will do little or nothing for the actual rural customers for which Obama claims to be concerned.

The fact is that most companies want nothing more than to roll out the next generation of broadband services, but simply do not have the cash flow to do so. The biggest hurdle facing those consumers without high-speed internet services is provider’s lack of funding to get these services to the most remote customer in their areas.


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Cop cameras take hold thanks to the cloud | Brandon Butler | NetworkWorld.com

Cop cameras take hold thanks to the cloud | Brandon Butler | NetworkWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Ever since the tragedy in Ferguson, Missouri, Vievu has seen a lot more interest in its product.

A police officer wears a Veivu body camera - data from the camera can be stored in Microsoft's government cloud.

The Seattle-based company makes a custom video camera that is meant to be worn by police officers to capture video of exactly what cops are doing. With this technology, if an incident like what happened in Ferguson occurred again then judges, juries and the general public would have video evidence.

But videotaping the movements of busy police officers produces a lot of data. And where better to store it than the cloud. Vievu recently signed a partnership with Microsoft to create a platform in the Azure Government cloud specifically for storing, managing and analyzing the data produced by the Vievu cameras.

Vievu started in 2007 and is now used by 4,000 police departments around the world. The firm has seen a 70% uptick in requests for information on Vievu since the Ferguson incident.

Only about 10% of its customers use the company’s cloud-based data management system, which is backed by Azure, but Vievu President Steve Lovell is hoping more of his customers realize the advantages of using the cloud for storing this data. “We’re seeing a definite shift,” Lovell says. “There’s a trend toward the cloud-based storage.” From an operational and scalability perspective, he says it makes a lot of sense.


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FL: Broward County rolls out its own fiber ring, shifts to VoIP | Pat Simes, Assistant CIO | NetworkWorld.com

FL: Broward County rolls out its own fiber ring, shifts to VoIP | Pat Simes, Assistant CIO | NetworkWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

“TOO SLOW!” “It takes me over 5 minutes just to log in!”

In 2009 Broward County customer complaints regarding the slowness of accessing and using Broward County’s services triggered the Enterprise Technology Services’ (ETS) Communications group to review the County’s network architecture and determine ways to advance it.

The ultimate outcome? Broward County's ETS Communications Group implemented an underground fiber optic ring and associated equipment owned and maintained by Broward County which vastly improves performance, saves $780,000 per year and made it possible to embrace IP telephony, a move that saved an additional $28,000 per year.

While the initial need was recognized in 2009, the resulting multi-year upgrade plan didn’t get going in earnest until 2010, and the finishing touches were just put in place in 2014. Here’s the story.

Our timing at the beginning of the exercise was fortuitous because the ETS’ Desktop and Server group had just begun a server virtualization migration and, recognizing how the network upgrade could benefit their effort, offered to join forces.

Working together the teams developed a 3-year strategic initiative to upgrade Broward County to a 10 GigE core network infrastructure. Part of the plan called for reducing complexity and duplication of infrastructure, so the County also decided to converge the voice and data networks and, with voice and data traversing the same circuits, network redundancy would have to be increased because a single line outage could cause a location outage for both critical services.

Of course sound project management is critical when it comes to technology upgrades of this magnitude, so the ETS group created a project team to help identify tasks and resources required to successfully accomplish the goal. The team wrote a project charter and broke the work into manageable chunks to make it easier to proceed.


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CA: Schools to get help with broadband infrastructure | Doane Yawger | Merced Sun-Star

CA: Schools to get help with broadband infrastructure | Doane Yawger | Merced Sun-Star | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Four area schools will benefit from part of $27 million awarded to 227 California campuses to help enhance their broadband infrastructure, according to the state Department of Education.

El Nido and Plainsburg elementary schools, Romero Elementary School in Santa Nella and Lake Don Pedro Elementary School in Mariposa County are getting Broadband Infrastructure Improvement Grants from the state. They are intended to help isolated schools administer the new Smarter Balance state achievement tests.

Rae Ann Jimenez, El Nido superintendent-principal, called the state grant a huge step in the right direction for her district 15 miles south of Merced. They applied for funding last fall.

“Our students deserve to be connected to the outside world,” Jimenez said. “We will get better connectivity to the outside through fiber optics and internal hardware connections so eventually we can move to one-to-one computer learning. It’s expensive to advance. We are taking it one step at a time.”

The El Nido district has 173 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Jimenez hopes El Nido students will have access to high school and college opportunities.

Kristi Kingston, Plainsburg School superintendent-principal, said her district’s goal is to have all students learning by computer at the end of this school year. The state money will help with necessary cabling and other infrastructure along with computer devices.

“Our infrastructure is out of date and we lean on the Merced County Office of Education a lot,” Kingston said. “With new Common Core standards, we want kids to be involved and so they can be connected to the outside world. That’s always a blessing when we get some funding.”


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Almost Human: The Surreal, Cyborg Future of Telemarketing | Alexis Madrigal | The Atlantic

Almost Human: The Surreal, Cyborg Future of Telemarketing | Alexis Madrigal | The Atlantic | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

This is a story about how the future gets weird.

It's about how humans interact with each other, and machines, and systems that can only properly be called cyborg.

Let's start, though, with a man sitting on a couch. His phone rings. It's a telemarketer for a home security service.

"This is Richard, how are you today?" asks the telemarketer. His voice is confident and happy. His accent is classic American. Perhaps he grew up in Nebraska.

Richard continues, "I'm just calling you with a very special offer. My company, the Home Security Company, is giving away a free wireless home security system and in-home installation."

The man on the couch tries to claim he's busy, but the telemarketer parries, "I know you're busy, but this'll just take a few minutes," then soldiers on.

They go back and forth for several minutes before the telemarketer successfully pushes him down the sales funnel to a specialist who will set up an in-home visit.

Such conversations happen millions of times a year, but they are not what they appear. Because while a human is picking up the phone, and a human is dialing the phone, this is not, strictly speaking, a conversation between two humans.

Instead, a call-center worker in Utah or the Philippines is pressing buttons on a computer, playing through a marketing pitch without actually speaking. Some people who market these services sometimes call this "voice conversion" technology. Another company says it's "agent-assisted automation technology."


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The TSA Wants To Read Your Facebook Posts And Check Out Your Purchases Before It Will Approve You For PreCheck | Tim Cushing | Techdirt

The TSA Wants To Read Your Facebook Posts And Check Out Your Purchases Before It Will Approve You For PreCheck | Tim Cushing | Techdirt | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The TSA is disappointed that so few Americans have opted out of its bottle-tossing, package-groping screenings by signing up for its PreCheck program. For a few years now, the TSA has been selling travelers' civil liberties back to them, most recently for $85 a head, but it's now making a serious push to increase participation. The TSA can't do it alone, so it's accepting bids on its PreCheck expansion proposal. (h/t to Amy Alkon)

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is seeking vendors for TSA Pre√® Application Expansion initiative to develop, deliver, and deploy private sector application capabilities expanding the public's enrollment opportunities for TSA Pre✓® through an Other Transactional Agreement (OTA) awarded by TSA. The Government plans to award an OTA to multiple vendors. The Government will evaluate the proposed ready-to-market solutions' application capabilities against this TSA Pre√® Expansion Initiative Solicitation and Statement of Work.

This will involve a new pre-screening process to weed out terrorists by looking through a variety of "commercial data" sources. The proposal [pdf link] is very vague on the details of what "commercial data" will be used by these third parties.

Contractors may use commercial data to conduct an eligibility evaluation (also known as pre-screening) of potential applicants. The eligibility evaluation shall include, at a minimum, validating identity and performing a criminal history records check to ensure that applicants do not have disqualifying convictions in conjunction with the TSA Pre✓® disqualifying offenses…

The proposal goes on to say something that sounds like the TSA safeguarding PreCheck applicants' privacy by standing between them and any crazy ideas third party contractors might have about "commercial data."


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The fight for smartphone owners is netting us all some pretty good deals | Hayley Tsukayama | WashPost.com

The fight for smartphone owners is netting us all some pretty good deals | Hayley Tsukayama | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

There's a lot of poaching going on in the wireless industry right now. And that makes it a pretty fun time to be a consumer.

T-Mobile has been a on a tear for the past several months, offering one maverick move after the other, from agreeing to pay the termination fees customers incur if they leave other carriers to an announcement this week that bad credit will no longer bar loyal customers from getting good smartphone deals. That program starts next month.

And its competitors are taking notice, and offering some similar programs. On Friday, Sprint announced Friday that it's running a promotion that will give T-Mobile customers a minimum of $200 to trade-in a T-Mobile phone, plus up to $350 to cover "switching costs." The offer runs through April 9.

Sprint and T-Mobile are in pretty close running to be the nation's third-largest wireless carrier -- a title Sprint currently carries, though both significantly trail Verizon and AT&T in terms of size. That may explain why they're going after each other with such gusto. Ultimately, that's a good thing for customers, who reap the benefits of the competition.

But stealing customers from each other isn't the only avenue for growth.


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The battle for America’s broadband: The Internet debate taking the country by storm | Henry Grabar | Salon.com

The battle for America’s broadband: The Internet debate taking the country by storm | Henry Grabar | Salon.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

In 1932, presidential candidate Franklin Roosevelt delivered a message of civic empowerment to the citizens of Portland, Oregon.

“Where a community – city or county or a district – is not satisfied with the service rendered or the rates charged by the private utility,” the New York governor told the crowd, “it has the undeniable basic right, as one of its functions of government, one of its functions of home rule, to set up … its own governmentally owned and operated service.”

Roosevelt was talking about electricity, whose provision and regulation was the hot issue of the day. But 80 years on, his words fit right into the debate about the Internet in American cities. Should a city, county or district dissatisfied with lousy corporate service have the authority to construct and offer its own Internet?

Portland says yes. Along with some of the nation’s largest cities, like Los Angeles, Boston and San Antonio, the Oregon city has joined Next Century Cities, a group that advocates for municipal ”self-determination” on the issue.

President Obama thinks so too, and will host a community broadband summit at the White House this June.

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, the former mayor of Newark, proposed a law this week that would clear the way for localities to build, operate and expand their own broadband networks.

But in 19 states, the provision of public broadband is plagued by legal obstacles. Not surprisingly, telecom companies believe state legislators are right to regulate and restrict the practice. And some advocates for the open Internet say the problem isn’t recalcitrant, monopolistic corporations — but regulation-ridden cities themselves.

Hovering over all this is a larger question: Is the Internet today, like electricity a century ago, a utility that — as a group of Democratic senators opined last year — Americans “cannot live without”?


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