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.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 05/11/2011 - 09:27
So Microsoft has purchased Skype and will integrate voice communications into various MS hardware and software products. The company paid an enormous amount of money for Skype ($8.5 billion), which is a projected future value of the voice communications firm. Microsoft obviously hopes to monetize what they bought, but what did they really get? VoIP technology is hardly cutting edge, and Microsoft has plenty of smart software folks that could cough up equivalent software in short order. What Microsoft really bought is the Skype customer list (hundreds of millions of people) and a brand name.
The problem Microsoft faces is a lousy track record of overpaying for technology and then running it right into the ground. Anyone remember WebTV? I do. It was doing extremely well when Microsoft bought it, then the whole product line disappeared rather quickly--Microsoft lost the entire investment. During the heyday of the dot-com era, Microsoft bought dozens of firms and then failed to execute.
What Microsoft has never been able to understand is that not everyone wants to use Windows, for a whole variety of reasons. Instead of trying to create great products, Microsoft has stubbornly tried to create scheme after scheme to force everyone to use Windows. How's that working out for them? Not so well.
If Microsoft is smart, they will maintain Skype as a completely separate unit within the company, keep the Skype brand, and avoid spamming current Skype users with forced efforts to drive them to Internet Explorer and/or Windows. If they don't do that and use heavy-handed marketing strategies that annoy Skype users, that will be a market opportunity for some other VoIP company to grow very rapidly--now that hundreds of millions of people are comfortable using VoIP instead of the phone, it won't be hard for all those folks to switch to some other service.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 05/04/2011 - 07:46
I'm not even going to bother including a link, as the Web is full of commentary on this sad state of affairs, whereby the NC Senate has voted to hand future economic development and jobs growth in the state over to a handful of private sector telecom incumbents. If the bill passes, these incumbents will decide where businesses can locate in North Carolina and where people can work.
You might think, "Too bad for North Carolina," but if the bill gets through the legislature and the governor signs it, expect a full out, nationwide assault on broadband, state by state. It's not too early to start educating your local legislators on the importance of this issue.
And as I have noted in previous blog articles, this is not about "free markets" versus "government control." It's about state legislators being bought and paid for by crony capitalists. What communities want is free markets, and the incumbents are furiously trying to protect their grossly inadequate de facto monopolies.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 04/27/2011 - 09:26
Broadband Properties has published its March/April 2011 in parallel with the Broadband Properties 2011 conference in Dallas. My article on "worst practice" in community broadband networks can be found on page 122 of the magazine, and is available online in the electronic edition.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 04/27/2011 - 08:36
I have waited a bit to write about the hoo-ha surrounding the accusation that Apple and Google were tracking user locations via GPS information stored in iPhones and Android phones. I suspected there was more to the story than was being cited in the news. And I was right. Apple has released a Q&A that explains what is going on, and it is indeed benign. Note that this applies only to Apple--I have not seen a similar statement from Google, although it is likely to appear soon.
Apple collects the location of WiFi hotspots and cell towers near an iPhone user so that applications that want to do things like tag photos taken with the cameraphone can work quickly, as opposed to having to wait as much as a minute or two to get data from a GPS satellite. There is a file that is transmitted to Apple, but data is encrypted and anonymized so that individual user cannot be identified. It is true that if you take that file from your iPhone, you could develop a rough map of where you have been, but only the owner of the phone or someone who knows the owner of the phone would be able to say, "Okay, I know where you have been." Apple cannot do the same thing because of the anonymity.
Having said that, the existence of the file on your phone could be used by law enforcement and/or become the subject of a sub poena and that data could be used to incriminate you rightly or wrongly in some legal proceeding. Apple intends to provide an update for the iPhone that will give users more control over this data. And that's the right thing to do.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 04/27/2011 - 08:25
Just last night, at the opening of the Broadband Properties conference in Dallas, I had a discussion about cloud computing with a gentleman who assured me in soothing tones that from a security perspective, there was "nothing to worry about" because IT folks would be very careful and make sure cloud-based data was secure from hackers.
So this morning I read via the InnerTubes that Sony's online Playstation database has been hacked. The hackers managed to swipe the personal information and credit card data of 77 million users, which is probably the entire Playstation user community.
I'm not really opposed to cloud computing; it's a great convenience and I already make use of several "cloud" services, but the industry hype about cloud computing is naive and dangerous to those who don't understand the risks. And as I've noted previously, mainly for the benefit of twenty-something "IT experts," cloud computing is nothing but a mainframe with a longer cord to the user. And many of the security problems that we will continue to see with poorly designed cloud applications and services will be the direct result of programmers who either did not pay attention in class or were poorly taught. Those who fail to understand history are doomed to repeat it.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 04/20/2011 - 10:31
Here is another excellent piece from The Daily Yonder about the sad state of rural broadband. The article has a short, well illustrated analysis of the gap between rural broadband speeds and the rest of the country, taken from new data released by the federal government. Here is a summary of the very bad news:
From an economic development perspective, this is a slow motion catastrophe, as young people will leave rural areas without adequate broadband, and entrepreneurs and the self-employed will NOT move to rural areas with inadequate "little broadband."
Meanwhile, legislators in North Carolina are throwing their rural constituents under the bus of broadband crony capitalism, with incumbents determined to protect their monopoly position in the marketplace at all costs.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 04/20/2011 - 10:24
The Daily Yonder has an excellent first person description of the awful state of "broadband" in rural Kentucky. Living just twenty minutes from the state capitol, Frank Povah is stuck with expensive, very slow satellite "little broadband." And as Povah rightly points out, no one seems to car--that is, no one that could have some positive effect on the problem.
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 04/14/2011 - 08:09
The usually excellent Stop the Cap! has a report on the truly awful anti-broadband bill making its way through the North Carolina legislature, but they lost me when they started blaming "free markets" as the problem. Uh, no, the problem is crony capitalism, where the incumbents spread campaign donations liberally to representatives of both parties, to obtain the best laws money can buy. That's not free markets.
When Stop the Cap! indicts "free markets" as the problem, the incumbents win, because that's the line the incumbents use to confuse the issue. Most incumbent telecom providers are, in fact, utterly opposed to free markets, because they lose their de facto monopoly status in a free market.
This distinction is absolutely critical to winning the debate. Community broadband efforts are going to lose every time if the community broadband pitch is "we don't like free markets." Community broadband is all about free markets and competition, real competition, of the kind we see in open access projects like Utopia with seventeen (17) providers on the network--that's an open market, and that's what communities want and need.
The proper response to "It's important to let the free market prevail..." in a discussion about telecom is to agree. "Yes, we agree completely. We fully support free markets. We want buyers of telecom services to be able to buy from a wide variety of telecom providers, not just one or two acting as a local cartel."
The "free markets" argument is a red herring. Community broadband advocates need to vigorously applaud free markets, then point out where they don't exist.
Submitted by acohill on Fri, 04/08/2011 - 12:34
WiredWest, the consortium of 47 towns in western Massachusetts that has been developing an ambitious plan to take fiber to every home and business that requests service in the WiredWest region, has released a powerful and superbly produced and edited video that makes a strong case that "little broadband" is not adequate today and will not be adequate in the future, and that the lack of big broadband is already affecting the region's ability to attract jobs and maintain adequate levels of economic growth. Watch the whole thing, and the entire North Carolina legislature should be locked in a room and made to watch it. Disclosure: WiredWest is a client of Design Nine.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 04/06/2011 - 13:47
Google, Intel, the Fiber to the Home Council, the Telecommunications Industry Association, the American Public Power Association, and the Utilities Telecom Council have all jointly signed a letter addressed to the North Carolina Speaker of the House and the North Carolina Senate President. The letter strongly protests the anti-community broadband bill currently being considered by the legislature. Like several other groups protesting this dog of a bill, the signatories indicate the jobs-killing nature of the legislation.
"...it will harm both the public and private sectors, stifle economic growth, prevent the creation or retention of thousands of jobs, hamper work force development and diminish the quality of life in North Carolina."
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