Submitted by acohill on Mon, 11/28/2011 - 14:27
Fred Pilot of Eldo Telecom writes about the proposed changes to the Universal Service Fund, which would now be called the "Connect America Fund." At first glance, this does not appear to make it easy for community-owned broadband projects to tap this money.
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 11/17/2011 - 11:45
David Strom does a good job of describing the awful Tower of Babel mess we are in with the myriad of ways to supposedly "contact" someone. It's a good read, and describes what most of us struggle with on a daily basis.
To Strom's complaints, I'd add one more: the utter worthlessness of the old-fashioned phone book. We get two or three different versions of a telephone directory book at home and at the office. Each one comes from a different local phone providers, and each one has a different set of listings for the white pages. To find someone's number, you might, if you are lucky, have to look in three different directories. If the person for whom you are trying to locate a number has gone to a VoIP provider, they won't be in any of them. Or if they only have a cell phone, they won't be in any of them.
Read Strom's whole article, and then weep.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 11/15/2011 - 12:09
A new study suggests that a slight majority of adults think social media is harmful to the social development of today's youth. With the ever-increasing use of social media by young people, Poll Position wanted to know if Americans think social media is helpful or harmful to the social development of today’s youth.
In a national telephone survey of registered voters, 53% said it is harmful, 20% said it is helpful in the social development of youth, 17% said it is not making a difference either way and 11% did not offer an opinion.
Men and women shared similar views on the question with 53% saying social media is harmful to the social development of young people.
Among men, 22% said it is helpful, 17% said it is not making a difference and 9% had no opinion.
Among women, 18% found social media helpful in the social development of young people, 17% said it is not making a difference, 13% did not have an opinion.
By a smaller margin than the national average, young people in the 18-29 year old age group found social media more harmful than helpful with 47% choosing harmful versus 35% who thought it was helpful to the social development of today’s youth. Sixteen percent said social media is not making a difference and 3% did not offer an opinion.
Anecdotally, I see a problem constantly with young people in the workforce who do not know how to communicate in an appropriate way. Many of the younger people I interact with simply won't pick up the phone to discuss a business issue, and instead rely on email, which is often a time-consuming way to identify a problem and propose a solution. I also see an over-reliance on texting and email for urgent information requests. Neither email nor texting is a synchronous communications medium. And when I'm in a business meeting, my attention is on the meeting, not on incoming texts and email. I rarely ever check email or texts during a meeting--if I'm with customers, it is just plain rude.
I have lost count of the number of times someone has emailed me for information that they need within an hour or two, and instead of calling me or talking to our receptionist to determine if I am available, they start sending ever more frantic emails--three or four in the space of an hour, demanding to know where I am and why I have not answered them.
There is a broader issue afoot here than arrested development of social skills, and that is our technology makes it more difficult to escape work. We are expected to read email, respond to texts, and answer phone calls in the evening and on weekends, just because we can. Our ubiquitous connectivity adds stress and strain to our lives. Let's all take a deep breath and slow down a bit.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 11/08/2011 - 09:01
The Atlantic Cities has a very well researched article on the recent vote for muni broadband in Longmont, Colorado and the broader push by some of the incumbents to lobby for state laws that effectively outlaw community broadband projects and indirectly grant the incumbents a monopoly on telecom. Read the whole thing.
Submitted by acohill on Sun, 11/06/2011 - 11:00
Twitter messages are turning out to be useful for all sorts of real time data collection needs.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 11/02/2011 - 08:49
Muni Networks has an excellent weekly email that summarizes their coverage of community broadband issues during the week. There is a link up on the right hand top of the home page to subscribe.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 11/02/2011 - 08:46
The citizens and the City of Longmont, Colorado have been engaged in a long running battle with the incumbent providers over the right of the City to build its own broadband infrastructure. In a referendum held on Tuesday, it appears that by a two to one margin, the referendum has passed. Chris Mitchell at Muni Networks has an excellent summary of the effort.
Submitted by acohill on Fri, 10/28/2011 - 08:38
Danville, Virginia is a Smart21 Intelligent Community for 2012. The Intelligent Community Forum announced the top 21 communities this week, and next year seven of those communities will be selected for the Smart7 category. Design Nine has been assisting Danville with the design and development of their City-owned open access fiber network since 2006. nDanville subscribers have access to 100 meg, Gigabit, and 10Gig transport and a choice of private sector services. nDanville is beginning construction of Fiber To The Home (FTTH), which will include a triple-play voice/TV/Internet offering.
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 10/27/2011 - 13:29
A cryptic reference in the wildly popular biography of Steve Jobs suggests that Apple has something up its sleeve with respect to the TV set. MacRumors reports on a NY Times story that suggests Apple's intelligent agent technology, called Siri, may show up in an Apple-branded TV set. Instead of complicated remotes, we will just talk to our TV and tell it what we want to watch. As someone who never has liked all the effort it takes to program a VCR or DVR to record a few shows, the idea is very appealing. And presumably, the Apple TV would also know how to access other programming, like Netflix and Hulu.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 10/24/2011 - 08:06
The iPod is ten years old today. The iPod was the brainchild of Steve Jobs. There were plenty of other MP3 music players at the time; most of them were much less expensive and smaller than the iPod, but the iPod was easy to use, both from the interface of the iPod itself, but key to the music player's success was the way the iPod synced with iTunes on your computer--a layer of complexity was completely eliminated, and that made all the difference.
The emergence of the iPod was also the death of the music store, but it was neither Jobs nor Apple that was the death of that anachronism, it was the inevitable march of history, or as Schumpeter calls it, "creative destruction." Ancient Greeks decried written language as the ruination of memorization. In the Middle Ages, the printing press was seen by some as a loss of control over knowledge. Time and technology move on. As we speak, tablet-based devices like the iPad are completing the creative destruction of most paper-based materials, especially magazines and newspapers. I think there will always be a place for some paper-based books, but really, paying less than ten bucks for the latest best seller in ebook format is much better than chopping down trees, making energy-intensive paper, and then engaging in the energy-intensive process of printing and hauling millions of tons of those books around. That's also true of music--music used to require enormous amounts of energy to deliver to the buyer, because music was heavy; it had weight. Today, we buy music as a stream of weightless photons.
What else has changed? In the old days, ten years ago, when music was still heavy, you needed a well-designed road system for the trucks and cars that hauled music around. Today, you need a well-designed digital road system to haul music, books, magazines, movies, TV, health care, business services, and hundreds of other emerging services. Is your community building those digital roads?
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 10/19/2011 - 08:39
The Daily Yonder has a great piece on the challenges rural communities face in getting adequate broadband services. It is a fairly long article, but worth a complete read because there are really two stories in it. The first is how a locally owned service provider was forced out of business by an incumbent, to the detriment of the community and local economic development. The second part of the story is the proposed new rules for the Universal Service Fund (USF). The USF money can be tapped by incumbent phone companies to expand service, but many of them are writing off, selling off, or limiting investment in rural parts of their service territories. The USF money ought to be available to both incumbents and communities that want to make broadband infrastructure investments. Citizens and businesses pay, via taxes, for the USF, and to deny communities the right to use their own money to improve their economic circumstances is troubling. Let's hope the new rules level the playing field for access to those funds.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 10/17/2011 - 19:36
The pundits wailed and moaned that the iPhone 4S was a big disappointment, that it did not have enough new features to interest users, that Apple had a flop on its hands, and that perhaps the company was losing its ability to execute since it was not able to deliver an iPhone 5.
Apple announced that it sold 4 million iPhone 4S models in the first three days of sales. That is more than double the 1.7 million iPhone 4 sales in the same time period. In other news, Apple stock hit an all time high.
Submitted by acohill on Sun, 10/16/2011 - 16:48
I had a chance to try out an iPhone 4S over the weekend, and I think Siri, the voice recognition service built into the phone, is potentially another Apple game changer, just as the touch interface on the original iPhone was a game changer.
While playing around with the iPhone, I discovered that the little pop up keyboard used to input text in virtually every application on the iPhone has a Siri button. If you tap it, the phone goes into voice dictation mode. Instead of laboriously tapping away on the virtual keyboard, you can just talk. I was able to try only a few sentences, but some of them were quite long, and the transcription was perfect--no mistakes.
Oddly, even Apple is not highlighting this feature. Instead, the ads for the iPhone 4S show the ability of Siri to answer queries like, "What time is it?" or "What is the weather in New York City?" This feature worked, but I was underwhelmed by it, as there is a slight lag while Siri goes to look for the information, and for things like the time or the weather, you can get it faster with a couple of taps. But the dictation is magical, and I can't wait to see Siri available on Macs.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 10/10/2011 - 09:12
Netflix has announced that it has abandoned plans to split its business in two and make customers to two different sites, depending on whether they want to rent a DVD or watch something instantly via the Internet. It was actually much worse than that, as they were also going to make customers have two different and separate billing accounts. The invisible hand of the market, when left alone, usually fixes stupidity like this, and it did. The aborted Netflix split will be the fodder of business school case studies for a long time, ranking right behind the "New Coke" introduction as one of the dumbest business decisions ever.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 10/10/2011 - 09:07
CNet reports that the new iPhone 4S has broken sales records again, with more than a million pre-orders on the first day. The previous best was 600,000 iPhone 4 orders on day one. This is a bit amusing, because when Apple unveiled the new phone last week, a lot of pundits panned the device, complaining that Apple had fumbled, that it should have been an iPhone 5, that the 4S model did not have enough new features, and basically, that Apple had screwed up. Uh huh. No company has ever sold one million phones in one day. Ever. Some screw up.
Submitted by acohill on Fri, 10/07/2011 - 08:12
If you look at the jobs report released today, it underscores what I have been saying for a decade: neighborhoods are the new business district. CNBC summarizes the September jobs data; the manufacturing sector LOST jobs, but if you go to the household survey, job creation was in the black (modestly).
What does this mean? It means more people are working from home, and that means they need business class broadband, not an "entertainment service," as my cable company quaintly calls our home Internet service.
Rinse and repeat as needed until elected officials get the message:
Neighborhoods are business districts, and business districts need competitive and affordable telecom service options.
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 10/06/2011 - 12:32
True story. I discussed the possibility of eliminating our family cable TV subscription and just sticking with Internet. The response was, and I quote exactly, "Okay. Can we get Hulu Plus?" That's the state of cable TV today. It doesn't even merit a 30 second discussion of its value.
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 10/06/2011 - 07:58
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 10/05/2011 - 08:09
Now that the broadband stimulus money has been distributed, and the Google fiber initiative has taken root in the two Kansas Cities, a lot of communities seem to have lost interest in broadband initiatives. The cable companies have done a fairly good job of keeping up with demand, and the telephone companies continue to cling to their share of the broadband market by competing on price rather than on bandwidth.
But this apparent "Remain calm! All is well" approach is the calm before the storm. And the storm is coming to us in a huge cloud. In the past week, Amazon and Apple have rolled out new cloud-based initiatives that will stream content everywhere, all the time. If cloud storage seems like a gimmick, it is not. It is the answer to the utter uselessness of trying to keep all our media content, personal and business, on local hard drives. Music, pictures, movies, and what we used to quaintly call "TV" are driving this problem. Even though you can buy a two terabyte hard drive for $150, you can fill it faster than lickety-split with purchased video. And then you have to figure out how to back it up. Backing it up with a second drive is a good start, but suppose your house or business burns down? Both drives are gone, as is all your data.
Add to that the fact that everyone now wants everything available on every computing device they own, which typically comprises, for many people, FOUR devices: a smartphone, a laptop, a tablet, and a desktop computer. And the portable devices will never have enough storage to keep everything on the device itself. So the cloud is not a typical IT solution in search of a question. We know what the question is, and the cloud is the answer. But streaming everything to everyone all the time is going to create, over the next several years, exponential increases in demand for bandwidth. And that's when the copper-based DSL and cable modem networks will run out of steam.
Communities that have not made plans to ensure a modern fiber-based infrastructure that also supports ubiquitous wireless mobility access will be at a severe disadvantage from an economic development perspective.
Oh, and one more thing. There is another sleeper in the battle for streaming content....Rhapsody (the music service) just bought Napster to try to fight Spotify. Spotify is a streaming music service that is huge in Europe but only recently began operations in the U.S. So the music industry is still undergoing a massive reorganization that is focused on streaming any song ever recorded to anyone, at any time, anywhere. And it is going to be a battle of Titans, with Apple, Amazon, Rhapsody, Spotify, and even tiny Microsoft with its Zune music service all going head to head.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 09/28/2011 - 13:20
Amazon has just announced the Kindle Fire. You won't be able to get your hands on one until November 15th, but you can order one now. If Apple was planning to release an upgraded iPad before the holidays, Amazon just stole all of Apple's thunder.
The Kindle Fire gets rid of the ridiculous chiclet keyboard, adds a color display, and sells for just $199. Can you spell "Christmas present?" The low price is surely going to steal market share from the iPad, as the Fire offers books, magazines, movies, TV shows, Web browsing, email, and some games. Unlike some of the earlier Kindles, this is a WiFi only device, which is not likely to be an issue for most people. You can download your books, videos, and magazines at home, and then read them while you are away from a wireless network.
Amazon also offers free cloud storage for everything you buy. This is another place where Amazon has gotten the jump on Apple. Apple's cloud service is still in beta, and so it is hard to evaluate what it means for the average Apple user.
This will likely force Apple to lower prices on the iPad. The iPad is a much more capable device, but the Kindle Fire is going to be judged as "good enough" by millions. Amazon has a winner. The only thing that could hurt sales is if the early units have technical or usability problems--remember the roll out of the Apple Newton? The Newton was widely ridiculed for some early software issues, which were quickly corrected, but the bad PR sunk the device and it never really recovered.
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