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Charter Prices Inspires Washington City to Consider its Own Network | community broadband networks

Charter Prices Inspires Washington City to Consider its Own Network | community broadband networks | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Ellensburg, located in central Washington, is considering the pros and cons of a municipal fiber network. A big pro for the community of 18,000 is the ability to predict costs rather than depend on Charter Communications. Charter wants to begin charging $10,300 per month for municipal connectivity it previously supplied at no cost in return for access to the public rights-of-way.


The Ellensburg Daily Record recently reported that the City Council unanimously passed the first reading of an ordinance that will allow the city to establish a telecommunications utility. The city began using Charter's fiber optic network in 1997 as part of the city's franchise agreement. Educational institutions, public safety, and the county public utilities district also use the network. Ellensburg owns and operates its own electric and natural gas utilities. Energy Services Director Larry Dunbar was quoted:


“It’s clearly in the city’s best interest to just build it on its own and own it, compared to leasing it,” he said.


The community needs approximately 15 miles of fiber optic network to replace Charter's institutional network. The two parties are still negotiating and may still reach an agreement for a new contract although the article reports:


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Bitcoin a platform for brazen scams | CapeCodOnline.com

The call went out on Twitter: "For insane profits come and join the pump."


It was an invitation to a penny stock-style pump-and-dump scheme — only this one involved Bitcoin, the soaring, slightly scary virtual currency that has beckoned and bewildered people around the world.


While such bid 'em up, sell 'em off scams are shut down in the financial markets all the time, this one and other frauds involving digital money have gone unchecked. The reason: Government authorities do not agree on which laws apply to Bitcoin — or even on what Bitcoin is.


The person behind the recent scheme, a trader known on Twitter as Fontas, said in a secure Internet chat that he operated with little fear of a crackdown.


"For now, the lack of regulations allows everything to happen," Fontas said in the chat, where he verified his control of the Twitter account, which has thousands of followers, but did not give his identity. He added that Bitcoin and its users would benefit when someone stepped in to police this financial wild west, and that he would stop his schemes when they do.


Chinese authorities drew attention to the issue Thursday when they announced that they were barring Chinese banks from making Bitcoin transactions. The same day, the Bank of France issued its own warning about the potential risks. The news sent the price of Bitcoin tumbling, but it quickly bounced back to near its all-time high of around $1,200.


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Shortage of rare materials said holding back technology development | SpaceMart.com

Shortage of rare materials said holding back technology development | SpaceMart.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

A shortage of "rare earth" metals, used in high-tech electronic devices, is hampering the growth of a number of technologies, U.S. experts say.

With the proliferation of technology, supplies of key elements -- particularly metals -- will be strained, they say.


Researchers at Yale University said they analyzed the usage of 62 metals or metalloids commonly found in popular technology such as smartphones. None of the 62 had alternatives that performed equally well, while 12 had no alternatives at all, researcher leader Thomas Graedel said.


Rare earth metals are expensive to mine and purify, and the processes often present serious environmental consequences, the researchers said.


Politics can be a factor, they said, citing China's decision in 2010 to restrict the export of many rare earth materials.


"As wealth and population increase worldwide in the next few decades, scientists will be increasingly challenged to maintain and improve product utility by designing new and better materials, but doing so under potential constraints in resource availability," the Yale researchers wrote in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


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Here's a first look at the Tesla statue in Palo Alto | VentureBeat.com

Here's a first look at the Tesla statue in Palo Alto | VentureBeat.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

A statue of famed scientists Nikola Tesla is being unveiled today in Palo Alto after the successful completion of a six-figure Kickstarter campaign.


Here’s a first look at the seven-foot-tall monument, which is equipped with free Wi-Fi and a time capsule to be opened in 2043:


“This unique project pays respect to a great inventor who never had the historical recognition he deserved,” says project organizer Dorrian Porter in a statement on the news.


“But it also is intended to inspire the entrepreneurs who come to the Silicon Valley to think big and selflessly — as Tesla did — on important opportunities like energy and wirelessly. The free exchange of information and affordable access to sustainable energy have the potential to solve the critical issues of poverty and education and inspire peace.”


Tesla memorial statues also have been erected in Croatia, the inventor’s birthplace; Long Island, the site of his laboratory; and Niagara Falls.


Here’s a slideshow of Tesla monuments around the world:


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AT&T Says It Doesn't Need To Disclose All NSA Data Requests | HuffPost.com

AT&T Says It Doesn't Need To Disclose All NSA Data Requests | HuffPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

AT&T, under fire for ongoing revelations that it shares and sells customers' communications records to the National Security Agency and other U.S. intelligence offices, says it isn't required to disclose to shareholders what it does with customers' data.


In a letter sent Thursday to the Securities and Exchange Commission, AT&T said it protects customer information and complies with government requests for call records "only to the extent required by law."


The telecom giant's letter was a response to a shareholder revolt sparked on Nov. 20 by the New York State Common Retirement Fund, the ACLU of Northern California and others. The groups are demanding that AT&T and Verizon be more transparent about their dealings with the NSA.


In the letter, AT&T said information about assisting foreign intelligence surveillance activities is almost certainly classified. The company said it should not have to address the issue at its annual shareholders meeting this spring.


Nicole Ozer, technology and civil liberties policy director at the ACLU of Northern California said AT&T has overstepped its bounds.


"It's outrageous that AT&T is trying to block the shareholder proposal," she said. "Customers have a right to know how often their private information is ending up in the government's hands."


After the Sept. 11 terror attacks, U.S agencies established a warrantless program to monitor phone calls and e-mail between individuals in the United States and other countries who are suspected of having links to terrorism. But disclosures in recent weeks from former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden have exposed the breadth and depth of U.S. government surveillance programs on the Internet and over other telecommunications networks. The Washington Post reported this week that the NSA tracks locations of nearly 5 billion cellphones every day overseas, including those of Americans.


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OH: Training for the Future: Schools implement technology to keep ahead | The Morning Journal

OH: Training for the Future: Schools implement technology to keep ahead | The Morning Journal | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Computer technology changes faster than a pop star’s latest hairdo and schools have to keep up or lag behind.


The Sheffield-Sheffield Lake City School District has been able to stay on top of changes, keeping students and staff ahead of the game. Doug Cogdell, technology coordinator for the district, said the district purchased eight Smartboards in 1999, something teachers initially were unsure of.


“We literally had to knock on doors at the high school asking if teachers wanted to use them,” he recalled.


Today every classroom has a Smartboard, which teachers couldn’t imagine working without, and technology has permeated the district. Exposing students to technology is important for their future growth, Cogdell said, noting that Sheffield believes in a well-rounded approach.


“The focus is on giving them a wide variety of access to technology, rather than one certain platform or area,” he said.


Students in Sheffield have access to technology teachers from kindergarten to 12th Grade, Cogdell said. Students also have access to Google Chrome Books, or single-focused web computers, and the district plans to have one for every student in the future.


“It is very collaborative, very simple, and there’s not a huge learning curve to get the students or staff started,” Cogdell said of the Chrome Books.


But with more technology comes the need for more people to troubleshoot problems. Sheffield Schools havn’t been in a position to hire many new employees, so they got creative and started a student tech team. This group not only helps the district with maintenance needs, but also is intended to help students develop skills for use in a technologically advanced world.


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It's Becoming Clear That The NSA's Nightmare Has Just Begun | BizInsider.com

It's Becoming Clear That The NSA's Nightmare Has Just Begun | BizInsider.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The National Security Agency and its allies face a long, painful drip of classified documents relating to their intelligence operations.


The quantity and range of leaks facilitated by Edward Snowden have become clear in recent news stories.


First, The Australian reports that Edward Snowden stole as many as 20,000 Aussie signals intelligence files from the NSA's systems. Australia's attorney general called the disclosures the most damaging in the country's history.


That, combined with 58,000 documents from Britain's GCHQ intelligence agency and an unknown but substantial number of NSA files, means the claim Snowden took as many as 200,000 files is not far-fetched. 


Second, on Thursday Swedish television reported that Sweden's signals intelligence agency, the FRA, has been a key partner for the United States in spying on Russia and its leadership. A previous report said that Sweden is also a key partner of the GCHQ.


Glenn Greenwald, who provided the documents for at least the Swedish TV report, tweeted: 'The closeness of the US/Sweden relationship cannot be overstated - this is just the first of many stories that will show this."


The Swedish TV report is especially striking because the disclosures seem to fly in the face of something Greenwald told the Daily Beast in June: "We won’t publish things that might ruin ongoing operations from the U.S. government that very few people would object to the United States doing.” 


Russia is one of America's top five priority spying targets and the NSA's primary mission is foreign signals intelligence. It's hard to fathom that many people object to the U.S. spying on the Kremlin.


No matter the editorial parameters, there is clearly more material to report: As of November 27, about 552 pages of Snowden's documents have been published in a variety of media outlets. This week Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger testified that the paper published 1% of the 58,000 files it had received from Snowden.


Given that the leaks appear to be exposing not only government spying on citizens but also basic functions of the NSA and that the documents provided to Greenwald spurred the creation of a new media organization, this could theoretically go on for years.


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Want to reduce your cloud costs 70 percent? Here's how | GigaOM Tech News

Want to reduce your cloud costs 70 percent? Here's how | GigaOM Tech News | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Colocation, which means buying your own hardware up front and running and managing it in a third-party site,  is not usually seen as a cheaper alternative to cloud. But, oddly enough, it can be.


Last week I compared cloud instances against dedicated servers showing that for long running uses such as databases, it’s significantly cheaper if you go with dedicated servers, but that’s not the end of it. Since you are still paying for those server resources every month, if you project the costs out 1 or 3 years, you end up paying much more than if you had just bought the hardware outright. This is where buying your own hardware and colocating it becomes a better option.


Continuing the comparison with the same specs for a long running database instance, If we price a basic Dell R415 with x2 processors each with 8 cores, 32GB RAM, a 500GB SATA system drive and a 400GB SSD, then the one-time list price is around $4000 – more than half the price of the SoftLayer server at $9,468/year we came up with in our previous analysis.


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Why The USTR Is Working So Hard To Kill American Innovation And The Economy | Techdirt.com

Why The USTR Is Working So Hard To Kill American Innovation And The Economy | Techdirt.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The person who was going to do this week's Techdirt "favorites of the week" post was unable to complete it in time, so instead, with the latest TPP negotiations starting up, I figured I'd post some thoughts on the USTR's view of the world.

Over the last few weeks, since the draft of the TPP IP chapter leaked, I've been puzzling over just why the USTR appears to be actively working against the interests of the American people, jobs, innovation and the economy with the proposal. Frankly, the USTR's extreme position makes no sense at all. Yes, the USTR is heavily influenced by patent and copyright maximalists that it placed on the Industry Trade Advisory Committees (ITACs) it relies on for input on its negotiating position. Yes, there's a tremendous revolving door between maximalist lobbyists and the USTR. Yes, the main guy negotiating this part of the agreement is a long term maximalist extremist who can't even comprehend the idea that locking up information and knowledge might be a bad thing.


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Black Author wins Copyright Case for Matrix movie | JasonSkywalker's Blog

Black Author wins Copyright Case for Matrix movie | JasonSkywalker's Blog | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

This little known story has met a just conclusion, as Sophia Stewart, African American author of The Matrix will finally receive her just due from the copyright infringement of her original work!!!


A six-year dispute has ended involving Sophia Stewart, the Wachowski Brothers, Joel Silver and Warner Brothers. Stewart’s allegations, involving copyright infringement and racketeering, were received and acknowledged by the Central District of California, Judge Margaret Morrow presiding.


Stewart, a New Yorker who has resided in Salt Lake City for the past five years, will recover damages from the films, The Matrix I, II and III, as well as The Terminator and its sequels. She will soon receive one of the biggest payoffs in the history of Hollywood , as the gross receipts of both films and their sequels total over 2.5 billion dollars.


Stewart filed her case in 1999, after viewing the Matrix, which she felt had been based on her manuscript, ‘The Third Eye,’ copyrighted in 1981. In the mid-eighties Stewart had submitted her manuscript to an ad placed by the Wachowski Brothers, requesting new sci-fi works.


According to court documentation, a FBI investigation discovered that more than thirty minutes had been edited from the original film, in an attempt to avoid penalties for copyright infringement. The investigation also stated that ‘credible witnesses employed at Warner Brothers came forward, claiming that the executives and lawyers had full knowledge that the work in question did not belong to the Wachowski Brothers.’ These witnesses claimed to have seen Stewart’s original work and that it had been ‘often used during preparation of the motion pictures.’ The defendants tried, on several occasions, to have Stewart’s case dismissed, without success.


Stewart has confronted skepticism on all sides, much of which comes from Matrix fans, who are strangely loyal to the Wachowski Brothers. One on-line forum, entitled Matrix Explained has an entire section devoted to Stewart. Some who have researched her history and writings are open to her story.


Others are suspicious and mocking. ‘It doesn’t bother me,’ said Stewart in a phone interview last week, ‘I always knew what was true.’


Some fans, are unaware of the case or they question its legitimacy, due to the fact that it has received little to no media coverage. Though the case was not made public until October of 2003, Stewart has her own explanation, as quoted at aghettotymz.com:


‘The reason you have not seen any of this in the media is because Warner Brothers parent company is AOL-Time Warner…. this GIANT owns 95 percent of the media… let me give you a clue as to what they own in the media business… New York Times papers/magazines, LA Times papers/magazines, People Magazine, CNN news, Extra, Celebrity Justice, Entertainment Tonight, HBO, New Line Cinema, DreamWorks, Newsweek, Village Roadshow and many, many more! They are not going to report on themselves. They have been suppressing my case for years.’


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Sophia Stewart:

- African-American Author 

- wins the case on the Matrix copyright after six years

- involoved the Wachowski Brothers, Joel Silver, and the Warner Brothers

- She will get the biggest payoffs in Hollywood History of 2.5 million dollars for The Matrix I, II, & III and the Terminator and it's sequals.

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Ridiculous: Why Is Any Country Supporting Locking In Life + 70 Copyright Term Protection? | Techdirt.com

Ridiculous: Why Is Any Country Supporting Locking In Life + 70 Copyright Term Protection? | Techdirt.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

One of the key issues raised by the head of the US Copyright Office, Maria Pallante, was that it was time to perhaps rethink our current copyright term of life plus 70 and lower it.


There had even been some indications that even the maximalists at the MPAA and RIAA were actually (for the first time) open to the idea in her proposal to officially roll back the term to life plus 50 with the ability to "renew" for that last 20 years. When even the maximalists are making noises about reducing copyright terms, and Congress seems open to exploring the issue, you'd think that the folks over at the USTR wouldn't be out there trying to lock us into international agreements that require life plus 70 as a minimum. But you'd be wrong.

The folks over at KEI are putting together a letter to TPP delegates as they go through the latest negotiation, asking them to reject the life plus 70 requirement, noting that many countries that have it today (including the US) have shown indications that they regret such a long copyright term:


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AK: Seattle spur could bring fast Internet to Dutch Harbor | Dutch Harbor Fisherman

AK: Seattle spur could bring fast Internet to Dutch Harbor | Dutch Harbor Fisherman | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

A cable across the deep-ocean abyss could mean an end to Internet service that can accurately be called "abysmal" because of insufficient bandwidth in the Aleutians.


Prospects for high-speed Internet are looking brighter for Unalaska/Dutch Harbor, thanks to a Seattle spur from a proposed trans-Arctic and Pacific cable. Now that the Seattle spur has received corporate commitment, a Dutch Harbor link is being carefully studied, according to Elizabeth Pearce of Quintillion Networks, of Anchorage.


If the economics work out, Unalaska could be connected with a hard wire by 2016, said Pearce. The addition of the Seattle spur is what makes a connection to Unalaska possible, she said. The Seattle spur will connect to the main line south of Shemya, in the western Aleutians, she said.


A decision on an Unalaska spur should be reached by June, Pearce said. While Quintillion has only five people on staff, it employs many others as contractors depending on need, to hold down costs, she said.


Unalaska city officials have been "very supportive", said Pearce, who met with Mayor Shirley Marquardt and city manager Chris Hladick during the recent Alaska Municipal League meeting in Anchorage.


The Internet presently arrives via satellite, a modern technology with an increasingly primitive feeling when it comes to pointing and clicking in Unalaska, when what should take less than a second seems like eternity.


"It's slow. It's frustrating. It doesn't lend itself to positive thoughts. It's terrible," Marquardt said. Fast Internet, she said, "would be phenomenal for us." She said the city could provide a small piece of land if needed, for an onshore cable landing point.


While other prospects have come and gone, Marquardt said this one could finally be the real deal, if it pencils out for a place way out in the middle of the ocean.


"I really hope their numbers work out. These folks really seem to have their act together," Marquardt said.


Quintillion is partnering with the larger Canadian company, Arctic Fibre, in what started as plan to connect Europe and Asia via an over-the-top route through the Arctic Ocean, an area less prone to political turmoil than a land route across Asia.


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A la carte TV pricing would cost industry billions, report says | LATimes.com

A la carte TV pricing would cost industry billions, report says | LATimes.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Consumers want to choose the channels they get from their pay-TV providers but such a move would not only undermine the business model for media companies, it could also lead to higher prices for customers, according to a new report by Needham & Co.


Few have been able to put a price tag on the cost to the industry of a la carte programming, but Needham & Co. media analyst Laura Martin took a stab at it in her study.


"Our calculations conclude that $80 billion to $113 billion of U.S. consumer value would be destroyed by this shrinking channel choice," Martin wrote in her report, released Wednesday.


She determined that the economic costs would be enormous because so many smaller channels would disappear -- at least 124 channels -- wiping out an estimated 1.4 million jobs in media.


Martin figured that at least $45 billion in TV advertising would be at risk. 


The Needham report estimates that it costs media companies an average of $280 million annually to run an entertainment cable channel. (The costs to program a sports channel -- with big-ticket sports -- are much higher). 


That means a channel requires at least 165,000 viewers over the course of a year to break even. 


"By implication, about 56 channels would survive, and 124 channels would disappear, based on 2012 viewing levels," Martin wrote.


Families typically watch only about 16 to 20 channels even though they have access to an average of 180 different channels -- which is why so many consumers are eager to be able to pick and choose which channels they receive rather than being forced to buy packages with dozens of channels they may not want.


Calls for a la carte programming in the U.S. are expected to increase as the Canadian government demands a la carte packages in Canada.


In October, top Canadian officials said that TV companies should begin unbundling TV channel packages offered to consumers by next year.


Martin believes the current system in the U.S. benefits consumers not only because of the level of choice but because the industry provides so many jobs and pays billions of dollars each year in taxes.


What's more, advertisers shoulder a higher proportion of the cost of programming than do consumers.


"Americans derive enormous value through diverse channel choices, as evidenced by 4,400 hours of TV viewing per year, virtually all of it funded by public capital markets," Martin wrote. "Because consumers lose so much value through unbundling, we recommend no changes in the U.S."


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Tech Companies Seeking Surveillance Reform Spent $35 Million Lobbying Last Year | Forbes.com

Tech Companies Seeking Surveillance Reform Spent $35 Million Lobbying Last Year | Forbes.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Eight of America’s biggest and best-known consumer technology companies are making headlines with a unified public call for new limits on government surveillance.


Making headlines is exactly the point, or a major part of it, anyway. The big eight — Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo, LinkedIn and AOL – want the world to know they’re doing what they can to safeguard their customers’ privacy in the face of increasingly aggressive data collection by the NSA and other agencies, even if they have been unwilling (and sometimes unwitting) tools in that effort.


But the demand for reform isn’t just a PR stunt. The companies involved have considerable clout with policymakers thanks to a collective lobbying budget of eight figures. In 2012, their lobbying expenditures totaled $35.3 million, according to figures compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.


More than half of that, $18.22 million, came from Google. Spending nearly twice as much on lobbying in 2012 as it did in 2011, Google vaulted onto the list of the 10 biggest corporate lobbyists. Among companies (ie. setting aside trade associations), it trailed only General Electric, which spent $21.1 million.


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FBI can secretly turn on laptop cameras without the indicator light | GizModo.com

FBI can secretly turn on laptop cameras without the indicator light | GizModo.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Scary. Insane. Ridiculous. Invasive. Wrong. The Washington Post reports that the FBI has had the ability to secretly activate a computer's camera "without triggering the light that lets users know it is recording" for years now. What in the hell is going on? What kind of world do we live in?


Marcus Thomas, the former assistant director of the FBI's Operational Technology Division, told the Post that that sort of creepy spy laptop recording is "mainly" used in terrorism cases or the "most serious" of criminal investigations. That doesn't really make it less crazy (or any better) since the very idea of the FBI being able to watch you through your computer is absolutely disturbing.


The whole Post piece about the FBI's search for a bomb threat suspect is worth reading. It shows how far the FBI will go with its use of malware to spy on people and reveals the occasional brain dead mistakes the FBI makes to screw themselves over (like a typo of an e-mail address that the FBI wanted to keep tabs on). Good to know these completely competent folks are watching over us by any means necessary.

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Minnesota telecom sales tax –exemption – looking more likely | Blandin on Broadband

The telecom sales tax for a big issue at the Connect Minnesota Broadband Summit last week. In short, the Legislature removed a longstanding sales tax exemption for telecom equipment. The industry, as you can imagine, was not happy. The sales tax exemption had figured into their business case scenarios and planning broadband deployment without it was restrciting expansion. During the State and Federal Policy panel someone asked about the chances of a return of the exemption. Representative Sheldon Johnson said no chance. Senator Matt Schmit said well maybe.


Well is turns out that at least right now, more people are leaning toward Senator Schmit’s option – although at the conference more people seemed to lean with Representative Johnson. The difference was that the day after the conference The State announced a 1.1 billion Minnesota budget surplus.


The Associated Press reported…


"Dayton told reporters that if the surplus holds up when the estimate is updated in February, he’ll recommend that more than half go to tax cuts, including the repeal of some new sales taxes adopted just this spring."


The article went on to mention the telecommunications tax specifically…


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U.S. Spy Rocket Has Octopus-Themed 'Nothing Is Beyond Our Reach' Logo. Seriously. | Forbes Tech

U.S. Spy Rocket Has Octopus-Themed 'Nothing Is Beyond Our Reach' Logo. Seriously. | Forbes Tech | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The Office of National Intelligence was very excited about sending a rocket into space Thursday with a bunch of new satellites and live tweeted its launch. This would usually be a cute display of social media, along the lines of NASA getting the world excited about its Mars Curiosity Rover, except these are spy satellites that will likely be used to gather communications flotsam and who knows what else from people around the world.


Dragnet surveillance is a touchy subject these days what with the Snowden leaks and constant new revelations about cell phones being turned into location trackers, listening in on foreign leaders’ phone calls and the vacuuming up of any information sent digitally that’s not encrypted. Given that, I was a little surprised that ODNI was bragging about the launch on Twitter and putting the mission patch for the rocket on prominent display as it looks like it was drawn by a writer for The Simpsons with his tongue firmly in his cheek.


“Ready for launch? An Atlas 5 will blast off at just past 11PM, PST carrying an classified NRO payload (also cubesats),” tweeted the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, including a pic of the logo for the satellite: a cartoon octopus wrapping its arms around the world, emblazoned, “Nothing is beyond our reach.” It’s maybe a little bit tone-deaf given the current controversy about just how much is within the reach of the NSA and other intel agencies. Or maybe it’s an attempt to embrace its new image.


“NROL-39 is represented by the octopus, a versatile, adaptable, and highly intelligent creature. Emblematically, enemies of the United States can be reached no matter where they choose to hide,” says Karen Furgerson, a spokesperson for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). “‘Nothing is beyond our reach’ defines this mission and the value it brings to our nation and the warfighters it supports, who serve valiently all over the globe, protecting our nation.”


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MI: Senate votes to ease ability to drop land lines | HollandSentinel.com

MI: Senate votes to ease ability to drop land lines | HollandSentinel.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Phone companies would have an easier time discontinuing traditional land lines in Michigan under legislation approved Thursday that supporters say recognizes technological change but critics contend could leave customers with less reliable service.


Starting in 2017, the bill, which passed 31-4, would remove state regulators from the front end of a process by which phone providers can ask to end wire line service. They would still need clearance from federal regulators.


AT&T and other companies ultimately want to transition to Internet-based land lines or wireless home phones.


The legislation headed to the House would allow customers losing traditional service to ask the Michigan Public Service Commission to investigate whether "comparable voice service with reliable access to 911" is still available. If the commission decides that such service is not available, it would force the current company to provide service until another "willing" provider is available.


"I as much as anyone understand the anxiety that comes with change and changing technology," said the bill's sponsor, Republican Sen. Mike Nofs of Battle Creek, who cited the transition to digital TV. "While no transition is perfect, I am confident that we have addressed as many of the concerns as we can anticipate and provide our citizens with the important consumer protections that will ensure that when they pick up their home phone, regardless of where they are in this great state, the call will get through just like it always has."


The number of traditional land lines in Michigan dropped from 6.7 million in 2000 to 2.6 million last year, according to the Federal Communications Commission. In the same period, the number of wireless lines increased from 3.5 million to 9.3 million.


Another 1.4 million land line users were served with online technology called "voice over Internet protocol," or VoIP.


Phone companies and business groups generally support the legislation as a way to streamline regulations and free up money to spend on more cell towers and updated fiber optic networks instead of a dying service. But AARP Michigan, while acknowledging the bill has been improved, remains concerned that too much authority would be left solely to the FCC instead of state regulators and it would be up to customers losing wire line service to complain to the PSC instead of letting the PSC launch its own probe.


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UK man tries to retrieve $7.5 million in bitcoins from dump

UK man tries to retrieve $7.5 million in bitcoins from dump | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

A man from Newport, Wales, is searching the dump for a hard drive he threw away despite it having $7.5 million worth of bitcoins.


Bitcoins are a digital currency whose value has benefited from intense attention and speculative investing. They can be stored as data in digital wallets using online services, mobile phones, or computer hard drives.


James Howells chose the latter approach when he stored 7,500 bitcoins away in 2009, when they were worth a trifling fraction of Bitcoins' current value of more that $1,000 apiece. But he threw the old hard drive away, and now it's likely buried several feet deep in trash in a landfill the size of a football field, according to a BBC report.


He's searching the landfill, but lacks the funds for a serious hunt.

"The truth is I haven't got the funds or ability to make that happen at the moment without a definite pay cheque at the end of it," he told the BBC.


Those who want to give Howells a hand might be interested in an Indiegogo effort to fund a recovery effort.


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ALEC stands its ground | WashPost.com

ALEC stands its ground | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

It was like going into the belly of the beast.


This week in Washington is the annual “policy summit” of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a powerful, secretive organization funded by the Koch brothers and other corporate interests that is famous for drafting conservative legislation that Republican state legislatures adopt down to the last semicolon. And the news media were invited to attend!


I descended the escalators at the Grand Hyatt downtown, two floors below street level, excited by the possibilities listed on the ALEC agenda:


The environment and energy task force, led by private-sector American Electric Power. The tax and fiscal policy task force, headed by Altria. The international relations task force, run by Philip Morris. The commerce and insurance task force, by State Farm. And the health and human services task force, by Guarantee Trust Life Insurance.


Alas, I was quickly regurgitated from the belly of the beast. Outside the meeting rooms, a D.C. police officer, stationed to keep out the riffraff, turned me away.


“Our business meetings are not open, and so the subcommittee meetings and task force meetings are not open,” explained Bill Meierling, an ALEC spokesman. I could wait a few hours and then attend a luncheon and some workshops, as long as I promised not to record them.


But Meierling wanted to assure me that there was nothing untoward about this arrangement, and that it was absolutely not true that the corporations that fund ALEC were behind closed doors, handing their legislative wish lists to the conservative state legislators who then pass them, rubber-stamp style, from coast to coast.


“What you fundamentally need to know about this organization is it’s completely legislator driven,” he said.


Uh-huh. And ALEC is proving that by keeping reporters from the rooms where the legislators are or are not receiving their marching orders from corporate patrons.


This probably won’t fly much longer. ALEC has been a major force behind the conservative swing in state capitals, and it claims 82 alumni in the House — including Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) — and 11 in the Senate. Its advisory council includes Exxon Mobil, Pfizer, Diageo, AT&T, Peabody Energy, Koch Industries and UPS, and exhibitors at its conference this week include the Charles Koch Institute, the Family Research Council and the Heritage Foundation. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) are addressing the conference.


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Australians warn Canadians about $88M economic fallout from caving into U.S. pressure on digital policy | OpenMedia.ca

Australians warn Canadians about $88M economic fallout from caving into U.S. pressure on digital policy | OpenMedia.ca | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Australian experts are warning Canada about the damaging economic fallout of adopting U.S.-driven Internet censorship rules under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The warning comes as Trade Ministers, including Canada’s Ed Fast, prepare to gather in Singapore for a crucial round of TPP talks this weekend, with U.S. negotiators aiming to strong-arm Canada into adopting extreme rules that would make the Internet more expensive, censored, and policed.


Australia was forced to adopt similar rules under the Australia-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) with deeply damaging results. Australia’s Productivity Commission estimated that extensions to copyright terms alone cost the Australian economy $88 million in revenue flowing overseas. The U.S. is trying to force the 12 TPP countries to agree to extended copyright terms, along with many other economically damaging Internet censorship measures in the TPP.


“‘A net loss’ is how the Productivity Commission labelled the copyright obligations,” says Trish Hepworth, Executive Director at the Australian Digital Alliance. “The copyright extension alone was estimated to cost up to $88 million per year in revenue flowing overseas.”


Hepworth continued: “Provisions in the TPP have the potential to bring the Internet to a grinding halt, through the extension of reproduction rights into the digital context. Australia is now an unattractive place to locate facilities that deliver, in particular, data analysis and search services over the internet. Telcos and universities are concerned that cloud computing isn’t supported, putting Australia in a technological backwater.”


Hepworth went on to highlight that: “Alarmingly, the TPP proposals being discussed this weekend in Singapore go further than those of AUSTFA. The increasing move towards criminalisation, provisions on ISP liability, formalities and parallel imports could all have long-lasting consequences for Australia and other countries. A secretly negotiated trade deal is not the right place for overly controlling and technical copyright provisions. Australia’s experience under AUSTFA should stand as a warning to other countries considering their position in the TPP.”


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Chinese firm paid US gov't intelligence adviser | PHYS.org

Chinese firm paid US gov't intelligence adviser | PHYS.org | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it
A longtime adviser to the U.S. Director of National Intelligence has resigned after the government learned he has worked since 2010 as a paid consultant for Huawei Technologies Ltd., the Chinese technology company the U.S. has condemned as an espionage threat, The Associated Press has learned.
Theodore H. Moran, a respected expert on China's international investment and professor at Georgetown University, had served since 2007 as adviser to the intelligence director's advisory panel on foreign investment in the United States. Moran also was an adviser to the National Intelligence Council, a group of 18 senior analysts and policy experts who provide U.S. spy agencies with judgments on important international issu

Moran, who had a security clearance granting him access to sensitive materials, was forced to withdraw from those roles after Rep. Frank Wolf complained in September to the intelligence director, James Clapper, that Moran's work on an international advisory council for Huawei "compromises his ability to advise your office."


"It is inconceivable how someone serving on Huawei's board would also be allowed to advise the intelligence community on foreign investments in the U.S.," Wolf wrote.


A spokesman for Clapper's office confirmed Friday that Moran was no longer associated with the intelligence council "effective September 2013" but declined to answer further questions, citing the U.S. Privacy Act. Moran declined to discuss the matter with the AP.


His resignation also was confirmed by Wolf and two federal officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case publicly.


"If he wants to make a lot of money advising Huawei, that's his prerogative," Wolf told the AP. "But he shouldn't be on a critical advisory board that provides intelligence advice on foreign investments in our country."


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Why Cognition-as-a-Service is the next operating system battlefield | GigaOM Tech News

Why Cognition-as-a-Service is the next operating system battlefield | GigaOM Tech News | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The Semantic Web may have failed, but higher intelligence is coming to applications anyway, in another form: Cognition-as-a-Service (CaaS). And this may just be the next evolution of the operating system.


CaaS will enable every app to become as smart as Siri in its own niche. CaaS powered apps will be able to think and interact with consumers like intelligent virtual assistants — they will be “cognitive apps.” You will be able to converse with cognitive apps, ask them questions, give them commands — and they will be able to help you complete tasks and manage your work more efficiently.


For example your calendar will become a cognitive app — it will be able to intelligently interact with you to help you manage your time and scheduling like a personal assistant would — but the actual artificial intelligence that powers it will come from a third-party cloud based cognitive platform.


Cognitive apps will not be as intelligent as humans anytime soon, and they probably will not be anything like the 20th century ideas of humanoid robots. But they’re going to be a lot smarter than the software of today.


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Big Data Pipeline Comes to Small Town | Inside Indiana Business

Big Data Pipeline Comes to Small Town | Inside Indiana Business | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Gigabit connectivity powered by Smithville Communications continues to expand in Indiana, with the city of Gosport now being totally converted to all-new fiber optic capacity, according to Darby McCarty, President and CEO of Smithville. "Many industry professionals have noted that the year 2014 will be the year of high-speed fiber gigabit connectivity for some larger cities in America," said Ms. McCarty. "Ironically, the year 2009 was actually the time when Smithville brought gigabit fiber connectivity to southern Indiana, so we welcome other companies who are finally bringing Google-level Internet speed to the communities they serve."


"High-speed fiber connectivity is critical in re-establishing rural as 'cool,' and we positively recognize Smithville's long-term commitment to providing state-of-the-art fiber technology and gigabit capacity to Hoosier businesses and people in small town and rural areas," said Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann. "Smithville truly is the state champion for Hoosier-based high-speed gigabit fiber connectivity."


Smithville's conversion of Gosport to fiber began in 2012, and the new service will completely replace old technology copper lines in the city, according to Ms. McCarty. "This new capacity opens the doors for the higher quality of life for residents and serious business advantages that fiber brings to a community, including access to Indiana's fastest Internet, HD IPTV and crystal-clear digital voice services," she noted. "Rural businesses, and Indianapolis and Bloomington companies who have employees working from home in virtual offices will now have a significant advantage with the new fiber services in Gosport."


Internet protocol (IP) platforms represent the new standard that the FCC is advocating.


"Smithville is already well into the process of converting our service areas to fiber-based IP, which probably won’t come to other communities and areas for some time to come," Ms. McCarty added.


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Senator Landrieu: Louisiana gets $2.16M for rural broadband from Feds | Bayoubuzz

Senator Landrieu: Louisiana gets $2.16M for rural broadband from Feds | Bayoubuzz | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

As Internet broadband is becoming even more critical to commercial growth in Louisiana and throughout the world, the state has just received some funding for broadband access for certain rural areas. 

 

According to the FCC, "Broadband has gone from being a luxury to a necessity for full participation in our economy and society – for all Americans. For that reason, the FCC has adopted comprehensive reforms of its Universal Service Fund (USF) and Intercarrier Compensation (ICC) systems to accelerate broadband build-out to the 18 million (in 2011) Americans living in rural areas who currently have no access to robust broadband infrastructure. This reform will expand the benefits of high-speed Internet to millions of consumers in every part of the country by transforming the existing USF into a new Connect America Fund (CAF) focused on broadband.


 U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., today announced $2.16 million to expand and build broadband access in 2,792 locations across East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Iberville, St. Helena, Pointe Coupee, West Baton Rouge and West Feliciana parishes.


The funding comes from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Connect America Fund (CAF). This is phase 2 of round one CAF awards. 


“I commend AT&T and the FCC for their continued commitment to promoting investments in high-speed Internet throughout Louisiana,” Sen. Landrieu said.  “These funds will upgrade the digital infrastructure in rural communities, provide our small businesses the tools they need to sell their goods and services along mains streets across the country and globe and further improve quality of life for residents. I will continue my work and partnership with these companies and other providers to help rural communities in the capital region bridge the technology gap with their urban counterparts.” 


AT&T accepted $6,869,000 in CAF funds to serve 8,864 locations in 11 Louisiana parishes.


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