The Kindle review

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 05/27/2013 - 08:55

My kids gave me a Kindle a year ago for Father's Day. It was not a gadget I had lusted after, and it was a bit of a surprise. It's the cheapest one, with ads. After using it for a year, you'd have to fight me to take it away from me.

What I really like is the ability to walk around with twenty or thirty books in my reading queue, without the weight or the bulk. I've always been a voracious reader, and the Kindle lets me stack up what I want to read at less cost and with much greater convenience. My one gripe is not really about the Kindle itself, but that the airlines won't let us use it (or any other small device) during take off and landing. That is the one big advantage retained by paper books.

I'm skeptical about the whole interference thing. Somebody is pulling our legs on this, as I read these hair-raising reports that the plane's instruments all went haywire but stopped when the person in row 4 turned off their iPhone. Meanwhile, the airlines have replaced many pounds of paper flight documents that the pilots always had to lug around with iPads. Huh? Are our planes really so fragile that the tiny amount of RF energy emitted by a phone or a Kindle can cause a plane to crash? Really? Really?

Laptops are another matter, and there is a different safety issue with them, as they are heavy enough to become a missile if there was severe turbulence or a sudden stop during take off or landing. But it peeves me that I can't read with my Kindle during a large part of many short flights.

The Balkanization of telecom

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 05/24/2013 - 12:46

In a discussion on LinkedIn, Michael Elling wrote, "Supply follows demand not the other way around." Exactly. I've been making this argument for years. Too many communities get tied up debating how to improve backhaul in and out of the community when they should be pumping intra-community demand by adding shared infrastructure and driving up demand. That local demand will attract investment to build more capacity to the community. It's not a guaranteed strategy in all cases, but it's already happening all over the country--but not in a good way.

The problem right now, and Blacksburg is an excellent example, is that we are seeing micro-monopolies developing as fiber providers target low hanging fruit in a community, sign up unsuspecting businesses and institutions onto long term contracts, then use the contracts to finance a fiber build. Presto...wherever that fiber goes, the odds of any other fiber provider adding more fiber is driven close to zero. So instead of having the community under the thumb of one monopoly provider, we now have portions of the community divided up, each under the thumb of smaller providers, each provider fat and happy in their own little monopoly zone.

Shared infrastructure mitigates this once and for all.

Frontier signs on the City of Eagan open access network

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 05/23/2013 - 13:14

Frontier Communications has signed a master network agreement with the City of Eagan, making Frontier the first service provider on the City's AccessEagan fiber network. Design Nine has worked closely with the City over the past several years to help plan, design, build, and manage the high performance network. Eagan is now a "Gigabit City," with a Gigabit standard fiber connection on the network. The nearly seventeen miles of Metro Ethernet, carrier class fiber passes thousands of businesses, including companies like Blue Cross and Delta.

The Creative Class is flunking out

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 05/22/2013 - 12:46

Robert Bell of the Intelligent Community Foundation has a must read article on how the Creative Class (Richard Florida's brainchild) is not delivering the results many cities were expecting. To the extent that a city is able to recruit Creative Class residents and workers, those upscale residents tend to displace blue collar workers and raise the cost of living in the area, which cancels out some or all of the positive effects. Bell points out that technology can make cities more efficient, but that the real potential for technology to have transformational effects is in rural areas. I agree, and the digital divide in the U.S. has been and still is largely between urban/suburban areas with generally available moderate broadband speeds, and rural areas with no or grossly inadequate broadband.

FCC can enforce cell tower site approvals

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 05/22/2013 - 09:04

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the FCC can enforce "reasonable" approval times for cell tower site applications, meaning that local governments can't stall applications. The FCC has wanted 90 day and 150 day deadlines for approval of cell tower site applications. As I read the article, it does not mean all tower site applications have to be approved by local government, but the local government has to approve or reject the application within the FCC "reasonable time" definition.

Google+ fixes and misses

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 05/21/2013 - 13:06

Google+ was recently updated with an improved interface, but this article points out that Google+ still has a big problem with the way it handles your identify. Currently, Google ties your Google+ account to a single Google email account, which is not the way most of the other big social network sites do it--they typically let you assign a primary email account, have secondary accounts, and don't force you to sign in or use your email address as your userid.

As Facebook has slowly ruined what little interface consistency it had, I'd really like to see Google+ become a viable alternative, particularly for business use--Facebook is wretched in that regard. But Google+ still has some growing up to do.

"Now is no time to claim we can't get real Internet...."

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 04/29/2013 - 12:48

Chris Mitchell at MuniNetworks has a great point, and one I've argued for a long time: If most houses in America already have two cables (electric and phone), how is it that it is just too darn hard to run a third tiny cable, much smaller than an electric cable, to most homes? And from the business side, if the phone company and the electric company can make money from providing one service on their respective cables, how is it that the incumbents claim they can't make money from a cable that can deliver several services to a home or business? Something is not quite right with that argument--and we know, as we do financial and business plans for multi-service networks all the time...there is plenty of money for broadband. It's just a matter of knowing how to put the business plan together....and picking the right business plan.

Death of TV: Part XXXVIII: The Zero TV households

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 04/09/2013 - 08:00

All is coming to pass as I have predicted...this is my 38th posting about the Death of TV, and the mainstream media is finally beginning to notice. The San Francisco Chronicle has an article about what is being called "Zero TV" households, meaning that there is neither a cable TV nor a satellite TV subscription at that address. Instead, as I've been writing about for years, people are watching "TV" on their Internet feed instead, using services like Hulu and Netflix to get access to far more content than is available on the traditional cable/satellite feeds, and in a much more convenient fashion.

For communities stuck with "little broadband," the math is pretty grim. With several computers, tablets, and smartphones in the average home, every single device is now a "TV," and so you have to think about the aggregate bandwidth needed to deliver good quality video to several devices in the home at the same time. This eliminates DSL completely, despite the every present claims that DSL/copper twisted pair will get faster "Real Soon Now." It is possible to push 20 or 30 megabits over copper twisted pair, but the unspoken assumption is that you are a relatively short distance from the DSLAM and you have brand new, very high quality copper cable connecting you to that switch. But that's not the case in most rural areas of the U.S. still stuck with DSL. Their copper cable is often decades old.

Wireless broadband is also problematic. Despite the grand claims for 4G/5G/6G/UmpteenG cellular data, the bandwidth caps make it prohibitively expensive to sit at home and watch TV over your cellular data connection. Fixed point broadband wireless (i.w. WiFi, WiMax, etc.) requires line of site, which is difficult and/or expensive in most areas of the country. While fixed point wireless is going to be a very important bridge technology in many rural areas, fiber is and will remain the goal for the U.S.

Skeptics who claim it is too expensive to run fiber to most homes and businesses forget that A) it was possible to run telephone and electric service to homes and businesses decades ago and that was the old One Service--One Cable business model; B) the new fiber cable can deliver many services simultaneously, which changes the business model and makes it financially viable.

The cable and telephone companies have chosen not to compete; instead they are going to state legislatures to get laws passed forbidding municipal and county networks from getting started.

But don't paraphrase Yoda from Star Wars..."There is...another way." Restrictive legislation is nothing but a speed bump, and it's nothing to worry about....even in North Carolina.

What Good are Libraries?

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 04/04/2013 - 12:38

An interesting article reporting on Lou Zacharilla's comments from his attendance at a conference on the future of libraries. Zacharilla is the co-founder of the Intelligent Community Forum. Zacharilla noted that....

a 2012 survey of more than 7,000 libraries in the U.S. revealed that key library services now include computer training, electronic job search skills, how to access online databases and how to deal with e-government. In addition, in more than 60 percent of communities, libraries are the only source of free public access to computers, according to the survey.

Still time to register for Broadband Communities Summit 2013

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 04/04/2013 - 10:13

Broadband Communities Summit ’13 covers the top broadband issues – with outstanding content and top-notch speakers.

There is a new track on Revenue Opportunities that includes a session on Telemedicine, and one on Revenue Opportunities for Networks that will demonstrate how generate the cash flow needed to make networks financially successful.

Design Nine will be there as an exhibitor--stop by and say hello, and I am speaking in a couple of sessions. Last year's conference was terrific--the Broadband Communities folks really work hard to deliver solid content at every session; this is not just a lot of corporate sales presentations.

Hotel rooms are still available at the conference price until Friday--don't wait.

More privacy concerns with Google Glass

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 03/19/2013 - 10:49

The Telegraph has another article on the privacy issues surrounding Google Glass. The problem is that Google Glass will be sending every single interaction that the wearer has to Google, and that data will be added to the massive dossiers that Google already maintains on Internet users. Google has been very quiet about what they intend to do with the massive data streams that will be generated by Google Glass wearers.

Google Glass: pushback on privacy issues

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 03/18/2013 - 09:34

The U.K. MailOnline has an excellent article about privacy concerns swirling around Google's new spectacles with a built in camera and screen. While the ability to get information in real time about where you and what you are doing is interesting and possibly quite useful, the problem many see with Google Glass is the fact that you cannot tell if someone is taking pictures of you and/or recording you on video. So you never know if someone is silently making a record of your statements or activities.

There is no avoiding this new technology. The glasses are expected to cost about $1,500 when they become available for sale later this year, but as the price comes down, they will become more popular. Expect to see jamming devices offered to try to thwart unauthorized recording with these devices and other small, portable recording devices. In related news, try doing a search on "drone jamming" or "drone jammers." There are already companies claiming that they will offer devices that will prevent drones from spying on you in your backyard. I am reminded of Hunter S. Thompson's prophetic statement: "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." We are living in very weird times indeed, and when companies begin to see business opportunities created by this weirdness, they are indeed "going pro."

Google Glass: Cage match with the Apple Watch?

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 02/22/2013 - 13:36

Google Glass is the new wearable computer from Google that can be used with smartphones. The video shows some of the things it can do via voice command, and it's certainly interesting, but it is not clear to me that the heads up display adds a lot to the experience. Most of the video examples show using the gadget to record POV (point of view) video. One problem I see right away: I already wear glasses....will there be something for me that clips onto my existing frames?

I'm inclined to think that the widely rumored Apple Watch will be more functional, less obtrusive, and easier to use. But it's nice to see that there is a lot more disruptive stuff in the technology pipeline.

Can we wait 20 years?

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 02/19/2013 - 09:54

Here is a great article from an analyst in Australia. He correctly identifies that high speed broadband needs to be both available and affordable. Exactly. The incumbents are fond of playing a game of "Look,there's a squirrel!" with legislators by telling them that they (the incumbents) can provide high speed broadband anywhere. But what they always leave out is that the cost of those connections is usually prohibitive, and only large corporate and institutional customers can afford the cost of such fiber circuits.

Who needs Gigabit Nationwide?

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 01/29/2013 - 11:13

The FCC has just released a new challenge to create Gigabit Cities throughout the nation. One might wonder why do we really need Gigabit fiber connections at our homes and businesses.

Here's a very specific example. On Sunday morning, I started to back up a measly 7 Gig of photos from my phone to my Dropbox account in the cloud. Forty-eight hours later, the upload is still going, and it's barely half finished. When the average home upload speed is often 1 megabit/second or even much less, it becomes a monumental task to back up our music, pictures, videos, and files to a remote back up service.

Death of TV: Part XXXVII: Apple TV still in the game

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 01/29/2013 - 08:44

Apple has announced a modest upgrade to its underrated Apple TV box. The thing that caught my interest is that Apple TV now supports wireless Bluetooth keyboards. Why is this important? With the proliferation of special purpose boxes like the Apple TV, users are stuck entering things like userids, passwords, and other information using the extremely tedious and clumsy right/left/up/down arrows on the remote control. That gets old quickly. Being able to enter that information with a keyboard is a major change for the better in user experience. Despite that fact that I really like my Logitech Skype cam, I use it less than I would otherwise just to avoid the data entry. And once you attach a keyboard and mouse to something like Apple TV, well, you have a computer, as we once called them. Suddenly you can handle email, correspondence, light bookkeeping, and other "PC" chores on a box that costs $99 instead of $599. And you can watch what we used to call "TV" on the same $99 box.

Who loses? The cable companies, despite the fact that they have crushed the telephone companies' feeble DSL offerings, are about to collapse. IPTV via inexpensive boxes like Apple TV are about to destroy the cable TV industry.

The spammers have beaten me

Submitted by admin on Thu, 01/24/2013 - 10:10

I have turned off comments on this site. I'm being deluged with spammer requests for userids, and I simply don't have the time to even delete them, much less try to identify the occasional legitimate reader who really wants to post something. Commenting has always been light, so I don't think the quality of the site will suffer much. For those of you that have contributed in the past, my thanks.

Utopia network success story

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 01/24/2013 - 09:52

Here is a short news item on how Utopia, the community-owned fiber network in Utah, helped one business cut costs.

U.S. Broadband: Someday it will be as good as China is now....

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 01/11/2013 - 14:44

The China Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has said that all new residences will be connected to fiber if an existing network is available, starting this spring, and the fiber will be operated on an open access basis, with residents able to choose from several providers.

The death of telephone: Part II

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 01/04/2013 - 09:20

Facebook is about to roll out voice calling between Facebook users, directly from its smartphone apps. Hmmm...lemme see...back of the envelope calculations here.....Facebook has, roughly, one BILLION users. If Facebook enables voice calling, Facebook is about to become the largest phone company in the world.

What does this mean for communities? It means that one more service is moving very quickly to an all-IP platform and away from the antiquated landline network. Telephone is dying, and dying perhaps even faster than TV. Fast, cheap broadband is going to be the community economic development engine, and communities that can't support the emerging array of thousands of new IP-enabled niche services are going to wither. It's a replay of the interstate build out, except that every community can have an exist on the interstate, because broadband is cheaper than roads. It's cheaper than water lines. It's cheaper than sewer systems. And there is plenty of money for broadband; it's just that in communities today, all that money is being stuffed in envelopes every month as payments to the cable and telephone companies, and the money is being carried by the Postal Service out of the community and typically out of the state.


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