Submitted by acohill on Thu, 07/14/2011 - 09:54
Netflix has raised prices. I got my notice via email yesterday. They have unbundled streaming from the traditional DVD via mail, and you now can buy one service, the other, or both. The DVD service is still more expensive than streaming, which suggests that the cost of mailing DVDs remains significant compared to the cost of buying bandwidth to drag streaming content across the Internet. The pricing change also suggests that many customers have largely transitioned away from DVDs to streaming content, and Netflix is giving those customers, that don't care about getting DVDs, a break on price.
Services like Netflix, Roku, and Hulu are going to continue to put tremendous pressure on the providers of "little broadband:" the DSL, cable, and wireless providers. These old systems are running out capacity, and it's a race to the bottom for these firms. They can keep trying to upgrade the old systems, but the more they spend, the faster their customers use up the bandwidth.
Don't believe that? Take a look at the cellular data services market. AT&T and Verizon have abandoned their unlimited data plans and have put bandwidth caps on their services because they can't keep up with customer bandwidth usage otherwise. This makes the concept that rural communities will all get their broadband via the cellular providers rather silly, unless you subscribe to the notion that rural folks should be relegated to what amounts to the 21st century version of dial-up.
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 07/14/2011 - 08:32
I just got an invite to Google+, the new Facebook-like offering from Google. So I created an account, and at first glance, I would say Facebook and LinkedIn have a lot to worry about. Note, however, that Google has a very mixed track record of success outside search and mapping. Anyone remember Orkut? It never caught on the U.S., although it has been successful in some other countries like India. If Google can do a better job of supporting business-oriented uses of Google+, both Facebook and LinkedIn will have to work very hard to keep their customer base.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 07/11/2011 - 12:39
User satisfaction with most gadgets tends to decrease after about 13 weeks of use, but a new study by a University of Missouri researcher shows that people like their iPads MORE after that period of time--more than when they first bought it.
iPad use patterns are also different from traditional laptop and desktop computers, with use of iPads peaking in the evening, unlike other computers. The iPad and similar tablet devices are going to create additional strains on existing antiquated copper-based broadband infrastructure as users use the devices to watch movies, play interactive games, and browse bandwidth-heavy multimedia news sites.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 07/11/2011 - 08:30
Found on the Internet...I nearly spit out my coffee when I saw this....
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 06/21/2011 - 08:51
I spent twelve years working at a major research university, so I have a pretty good idea how some kinds of research works: Identify an area no one knows much about (so no one can refute anything you say), like "Internet addiction." Then run some inexpensive study that turns up some really scarifying outcome ("Too much Internet causes brain shrinkage!!"). Hedge your bets by indicating "we don't really know what this means." Then announce that you really need a lot more money for a really big study that will take years and scads of grad students.
And no, I'm not making this up.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 06/20/2011 - 13:47
Take a look at this blood pressure cuff that connects directly to an iPod Touch, an iPhone, or an iPad. The data is stored and displayed on your own device, but the data is also sent to the manufacturer (Withings), where it can be shared with a health care professional. I'm not too excited about sharing my health information with a software firm, but what is important is that many of the standard diagnostic tools available to health care professionals are about to make managing your own health much easier, as well as giving you the tools to give your doctor much better information about your health. Doctors may be subscribing high blood pressure medicine based on just a few BP readings taken days apart, in the office, where the "white coat" effect on blood pressure is well known (your blood pressure is typically higher in the doctor's office, where you may be nervous about negative results). Compare that approach to health care to being able to easily take daily BP readings over a period of weeks or months to give a much better look at overall blood pressure. Couple this cuff with devices that reads blood sugar, heart rate, blood oxygen levels, and some other blood tests, and it will be possible to spend much less on doctor visits while actually getting better diagnoses.
Submitted by acohill on Fri, 06/17/2011 - 09:44
Here is an article about the City of Danville open access network (called nDanville). nDanville started as an open access network in late 2007, so it is in its fourth year. It was the first municipal open access effort in the United States, and has been quietly cutting costs for Internet and VoIP phone service by as much 80% for businesses and institutions using providers on the nDanville fiber network. It has also been bringing jobs and businesses to the community. One of the major economic developments in which nDanville played a key role was the re-purposing of the "White Mill" building. Just a couple of blocks from downtown, the White Mill building was once one of the largest textile plants in the country. But it was closed years ago, and the multi-story building sat empty until it was purchased last year. It is undergoing a complete renovation as a high tech data center, and access to nDanville fiber was crucial to closing the deal. nDanville has also helped attract a specialty PC manufacturer to the community, and more broadly, just about every business using providers on the nDanville network have enjoyed substantially lower costs for VPNs, Internet access, and voice services. The local hospital recently switched to an IP TV provider on nDanville and is enjoying substantial monthly savings from the switch.
nDanville is operated with a staff of two people as part of the City Utilities department. All services to businesses and residents are provided by private sector providers that use nDanville to transport those services over a high performance active Ethernet fiber network. nDanville offers standard 100 megabit, Gigabit, and 10Gigabit connections. Design Nine provided the City with the original business, financial, and technical planning with the network, and continues to assist the City with the project.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 06/15/2011 - 09:19
With the price for copper hitting $4/pound, the biggest copper mine in the world is hanging on poles in the U.S. Copper thieves are actually knocking over poles to steal the copper cable in Antioch, California, but copper theft is a problem all over the U.S. The high price of copper and the steadily decreasing price of fiber makes fiber less expensive in new construction, and of course, with fiber, you have the added benefit of being able to expand capacity as needed.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 06/14/2011 - 15:50
Facebook growth has fallen dramatically, signaling that nearly everyone who is likely to have a Facebook account has one. The U.S., Canada, Russia, Britain, Norway, and Russia all posted lower numbers of new users and higher numbers of closed accounts. Like the blogging bubble of a few years ago, a lot of people have tried Facebook and have found they don't have much use for it. That's not meant as a criticism--I use Facebook for family stuff and like it--but it is a reality of online services going all the way back to the early growth of email. No online service can sustain double digit growth forever, and AOL learned this the hard way. What will be interesting to watch is if Facebook can institute internal cost and staff controls that keep the company in the black as their subscriber base stabilizes.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 06/13/2011 - 08:33
Art Brodsky has an interesting article about the T-Mobile/AT&T wireless merger. Brodsky illuminates a wide range of interlocking business relationships that are helping to push the merger forward, even though it would create what amounts to a duopoly in the cellular business, with AT&T and Verizon having about 80% of the U.S. market locked up.
What's next? Why, expect that in about two years, Verizon and AT&T will begin discussing a merger, because it will be so much better for their customers if they don't have to shop around and have to deal with the time-consuming research required when you have choice. And don't forget that in the landline business, AT&T and Verizon also own a majority of the U.S. market for phone and leased lines.
I was working for AT&T both before and after the 1984 break up, and there was nothing efficient about a company with a million employees. Prices for services were artificially high and there was no incentive to innovate. Even a duopoly is bad for customers, as whoever the two firms that own the duopoly market are, once they have driven out any competition, what's left is simply making it uninteresting to switch to the other provider. And this is best done by keeping prices at both firms high and relatively equal. Lots of profit and low customer churn.
The biggest loser is rural America, which needs high performance, affordable broadband to keep rural communities economically viable. What is troubling is the willingness of rural legislators to vote for laws and mergers that go against the interests of their own constituents.
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 06/09/2011 - 09:00
Tennessee legislators just passed a law making it illegal to transmit an image that could "..frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress" to someone who sees it." And the person who suffers "emotional distress" does not have to be the person you sent it to. Suppose you send out a picture of a cat hanging desperately from the branch of tree to a friend. That friend forwards it on. Twenty forwards later, some cat lover sees it and is emotionally distressed that the poor cat is in danger. They look at the original sender of the email, report it to Tennessee law enforcement, and bingo, you are put in jail for a year and fined $2500 (you would have to be a resident of Tennessee).
Who writes comes up with these laws? Did they even think to ask a lawyer who specializes in constitutional law for an opinion?
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 06/09/2011 - 08:46
PCWorld calls what Facebook is doing with facial recognition "creepy." The social networking site has rolled out facial recognition software that tries to tag photos with your face in them without asking permission.
How many times do we have to keep going through this? I think I'm going to start a list of "Nerds Gone Wild" where time and again, some nerd at one of these companies decides it is really cool to violate everyone's privacy just because they stayed up late, drank a lot of Red Bull, and whipped up some crappy code. If you are interested, here is how to turn the, uh, "feature" off.
Submitted by acohill on Fri, 06/03/2011 - 08:45
Cisco, the world's largest manufacturer of active Ethernet equipment, says that the historical trend of broadband data demand doubling every two years is continuing. The company expects the typical bandwidth need for fixed point broadband access (e.g. DSL, fiber, cable) to increase from 7 megabits now to 28 megabits by 2015. This paints a grim future for PON networks, which typically are designed to provide about 30 megabits of bandwidth to the home, meaning most PON networks will be obsolete in just three years. I think this is one of the reasons Verizon put a moratorium on extending their FiOS (PON) networks: they realized they were painting themselves into a corner with respect to bandwidth.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 05/31/2011 - 16:58
Apple's annual WorldWide Developer's Conference (WWDC) starts on June 6th, just a few days from now, and speculation is building that Apple will finally tell the world just what it plans to do with the million square foot data center it has built in rural North Carolina. Among the fevered discussion is the idea that Apple intends to announce a TV and movie on demand service. If they do, it could change the whole playing field for on demand video streaming, which is largely owned by Netflix. TV shows and movies that are tightly integrated with the wildly popular iPad could very quickly cut into Netflix's business, and make Amazon's toehold in this area more tenuous.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 05/23/2011 - 14:44
That sound you hear is of the cash register business drying up. Square, a company that has developed a "soft" cash register for the iPad, is very likely to capture a big chunk of the traditional cash register market, which has been dominated by mostly small and medium-sized firms that customize mostly Windows-based computers. Part of Square's innovation is a small dongle that attaches to the iPad and reads credit cards. The market that is most likely to embrace this approach is the food industry; waitstaff can carry and iPad directly to the table and enter orders on the fly, reducing wait time and errors. This won't work for all stores, as you can see from the comments (grocery stores are not likely to find this useful, among others).
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 05/23/2011 - 08:29
Governor Perdue of North Carolina has indicated that she will not veto the anti-community, anti-economic development, anti-jobs, anti-rural anti-broadband bill recently passed by the North Carolina legislature. Instead, she will signal her "displeasure" by allowing it to become law without signing it.
This may not be the end of the world, but it is certainly a catastrophe, first and foremost for rural communities in North Carolina, who have been thrown under the bus by their own representatives, and second for other states and rural communities in the U.S. Expect that the incumbents, emboldened by this success in North Carolina, will try to purchase more laws in other states.
For those that remain unconvinced this is a problem, read this letter from a major North Carolina high tech software firm (the hugely successful Red Hat Linux). Here is the bottom line from the article:
"...One of the most difficult and expensive line-items in this multi-million dollar project was securing a broadband link to the site in rural Chatham County. I spent more than two years begging Time Warner to sell me a service that costs 50x more than it should, and that's after I agreed to pay 100% of the installation costs for more than a mile of fiber. .... Community broadband initiatives reach more people faster, at lower costs, leading to better economic development. Take it from me: had I been able to spend the time and money on community broadband that I spent in my commercial negotiations, there would be more jobs in Chatham County today."
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 05/19/2011 - 13:07
The nDanville Medical Network has won the Intelligent Community Forum Founders Award. The Medical Network is part of the larger nDanville fiber initiative, which was the first municipal open access network in the United States; the network began adding its first customers in 2007. Medical customers on the network have averaged 30% less cost for connections while being able to double the amount bandwidth, for a total overall cost reduction of more than 50%. The high performance fiber has enabled transmission of CT and other medical imaging scans between the hospital and the medical imaging center in another part of the city.nDanville is a client of Design Nine.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 05/18/2011 - 08:23
If it seems like I am writing a lot about the situation in North Carolina, it is because the broadband fight there has national implications. This short article from DSLReports does a good job a summarizing just how awful the situation is. Right now, only the Governor can stop it, as the legislature (both houses) has passed this monstrosity.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 05/17/2011 - 11:14
Via Stop the Cap!, some Lithuanian broadband customers are getting bandwidth increases that can range has high as 300 megabits, up from the current 100/40 bandwidth for the Premium plan. There is no price increase for the improved performance.
Since the U.S. Broadband Plan targets 4 meg as entirely adequate, we can imagine a catchy slogan: American broadband! 1/75 as good as Lithuania!
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 05/17/2011 - 10:10
The dire situation in North Carolina with H129 (effectively bans community investments in broadband infrastructure) continues to attract national attention. Well known legal expert Lawrence Lessig has issued a plea to petition the governor to veto the bill.
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