Taiwan plans whole country wireless broadband

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 10/26/2005 - 10:43

Taiwan joins the growing list of countries that have nationwide strategies for providing some kind of broadband everywhere. The government has inked a $209 million dollar agreement with Intel to build an island-wide WiMax network.

Taiwan is much smaller than many U.S. states, but nonetheless, can you point to a single U.S. state that has put any significant funds behind a statewide broadband initiative?

Neither can I.

The odd thing is that states continue to dump tens and hundreds of millions of dollars into traditional economic development recruitment strategies to bring (typically) Manufacturing Economy businesses into a state, rather than attending to basic infrastructure improvements that would boost the opportunities of thousands or tens of thousands of smaller businesses. And keep in mind that all the job growth is in those small businesses (25 employees or less).

So state leaders dump millions into a single business and ignore all the businesses already in the state. And in Virginia, the state has had to sue some companies that took millions in incentives and then did not create jobs or move.

There are no technology problems. We have a lot of leadership problems, though, and the only thing that will fix that is an ongoing program to better educate our leaders on the issues and what we expect them to do.

American companies supress freedom

Submitted by acohill on Sat, 10/15/2005 - 07:23

There is something both wierdly ironic and deeply depressing when American companies happily work with repressive regimes like China and now Myanmar, selling them Internet hardware and software for the express purpose of suppressing free speech (hat tip to Instapundit)

This report in the NY Times covers a deal between Myanmar (Burma) and Fortinet. Fortinet products are used by the Myanmar regime to block all sorts of topics related to freedom and democracy.

American companies have flourished precisely because this country has always supported free enterprise and free speech. To then build a business based on repressing those bedrock principles that led to the success of your company is wrong. The stockholders should be outraged, and the managers of the firm apparently have no principles at all.

15 megabit mobile VoIP in Japan

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 10/14/2005 - 14:50

Japan has announced a plan to roll out mobile Voice over IP services nationwide in less than two years, leaving the U.S. in dust. The new system will handle data speeds of 15 megabits/second, or 15-25 times faster than typical wired DSL and cable servie in the United States and nearly a thousand times faster than typical 3G cellphone data services.

Why are so many other countries so far ahead of the United States, and why are our local leaders so willing to let their communities languish without competitive technology?

The $100 dollar computer

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 09/29/2005 - 09:02

MIT's $100 dollar computer is beginning to take shape. The idea is to create a computer that is affordable for virtually everyone in the world, and does not have the power-hogging and environmental requirements that work fine in air conditioned homes and businesses but that are entirely unsuitable for use in rural villages without reliable electric power.

What baffles me is why this was not developed years ago by a major computer manufacturer. Those companies, with the exception of Apple, don't seem capable of thinking beyond the ends of their noses. They have decided consistently to ignore a market of several billion computer users to chase after a much smaller market of just a few hundred million users.

The $100 computer will unleash tremendous creativity, and will create incredible opportunities for developing and marketing software. Users of $100 computers will jump on Open Source software, but there will be plenty of room for commercial software as well, but priced quite differently than software is now. Instead of trying to sell, say, 50,000 copies of a piece of software for $100 (grossing $5,000,000), imagine selling 300 million copies of software for twenty-five cents (do the math). If there are, say, 3 billion computer users, going after 10% market share is not unreasonable.

One more thing....I wrote out the specs for this $100 computer almost eight years ago, and published it in the BEV Briefing Book. MIT's computer is eerily similar; perhaps great minds think alike. The original article is below as a PDF.

Is Yahoo! Communist?

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 09/07/2005 - 08:46

In a disturbing development, Yahoo! provided information to the communist Chinese government that was used to convict and imprison a journalist.

The Chinese government was angry because the journalist had merely expressed views about restrictions on the press in China that the government disliked.

This is so egregiously wrong that little needs to be said, other than it is clear that Yahoo! has absolutely no sense of right or wrong, and has decided that there is nothing more important than making money. Yahoo! cannot operate in China without the permission of the communist government, and so the company has decided to deal with the devil.

It also illustrates, unfortunately, my longstanding recommendation NOT to use free email and Web hosting services like Hotmail, Yahoo!, and Google. Your email becomes the property of someone else, and it can be used without your permission in legal proceedings.

If you need a personal or secondary email account, use a paid POP-based service where the mail is NOT stored on the service provider server after it has been downloaded. That is the only safe way to do it.

New Zealand phones go all IP

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 08/31/2005 - 06:42

New Zealand Telecom has announced it will switch every phone in the country to the Internet-based VoIP system, starting in 2007. The company estimates it will take approximately five years to get every phone changed.

Voice over IP is moving rapidly, and the biggest benefit is reduced cost. A typical incumbent package of local and long distance calling in the U.S., using the old, 19th century phone system we currently have, cost between $40 and $50 on average. An equivalent VoIP package averages between $20 and $25. Savings are substantial for businesses with multiple phones. Another benefit is an increased set of services, like call forwarding and simultaneous ring, which are often included as part of the base package with VoIP offerings, but cost extra or are not available at all with the old 19th century phones.

Simultaneous ring is especially valuable for businesspeople who travel and/or have to be out of the office frequently. To set up the service, you enter two or more phone numbers (e.g. cellphone, home phone, etc.). Once the service is activated, when the primary phone number receives a call--typically your business phone number--all the phones you have listed will ring at the same time. The call is transferred to the first phone you pick up. It's a much more efficient version of call forwarding.

U.S. Communities: Almost as good as Ethiopia

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 08/15/2005 - 11:58

This article on Ethiopia's countrywide broadband project, which is four years old and beginning to deliver results, puts U.S. states to shame. Impoverished Ethiopia gets what many rural states and communities in the U.S. are still trying to understand. Here is the money quote from the Ethiopian prime minister:

Because we are poor, we can’t afford not to use ICT.

Exactly. Distressed rural and urban communities in the United States can't afford not to invest in IT. What is important about the Ethiopan effort is not what they did (the technology choices they made are tied to other infrastructure issues), but the fact that they recognized a problem, created a plan, funded a plan, and followed through.

Singapore mainstreams VoIP

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 08/04/2005 - 08:57

While our FCC dithers about the best way to preserve legacy telephone and cable services, Singapore has pushed VoIP into the mainstream by creating a system for managing telephone numbers assigned to VoIP service providers. Singapore is not requiring VoIP providers to give subscribers access to emergency systems (911 services), but is offering incentives to those companies that do make the effort. This is much more sensible than the confusing and potentially punitive policy the FCC is trying to enforce.

And the FCC is not really the main problem. Our Congress just passed a huge roads appropriation bill, which is terrific. We're trying to fix our twentieth century highway system, while other countries are building twenty-first century highway systems.

U.K. arrest for wireless theft

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 07/25/2005 - 09:59

Here is the second case of a person being arrested and charged for using someone else's wireless access. The perpetrator was caught deliberating cruising a residential neighborhood in the U.K. looking for open wireless access points (called wardriving).

Cisco aids Chinese "Public Security"

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 07/22/2005 - 08:54

Cisco is beginning to draw attention on the 'net for its practice of selling network equipment to the Chinese Bureau of Public Security. This is the organization that beats up peaceful protesters, routinely engages in brutal physical torture, and is turning China's node of the Internet into a highly controlled state network, where typing a word like "freedom" on your personal Web site might get you a visit from the Bureau of Public Security.

Cisco is claiming they have not broken any laws, and that if they don't sell the equipment, someone else will.

Fiber to the home in Asia

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 07/14/2005 - 14:40

A private report by Informa Telecoms & Media shows that Asian countries are deploying fiber to the home faster than ever. In Japan, there are now about 2.5 million homes and businesses with fiber connections, and 10 million are expected by 2010. FTTH connections in the U.S total probably well under half a million, and that may be wildly optimistic. NTT, just one of several Japanese fiber providers, charges about $60 a month for a 100 megabit fiber connection, compared to around $45 a month in the United States for a copper-based "broadband" connection with an average speed of 1-2 megabits.

In South Korea, Korea Telecom (KT) has stated that copper "lacked the stability" for Internet-based television broadcasting, and has chosen to provide "guaranteed" 100 megabit fiber connections to customers. KT has also stated they are replacing DSL with fiber.

Here in the United States, we are fiddling with trying to shove a few megabits of data over copper electric lines and hailing it as "broadband." How much longer are we going to remain asleep as a country before we realize that broadband is a critical economic development issue, and that we can't afford to keep investing in twenty year old copper technology?

New Zealand builds MSAPs

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 07/13/2005 - 11:44

The city of Wellington, New Zealand has created an MSAP service they call CityLink. It is exactly the MSAP concept, and like Blacksburg, which began offering MSAP service in 1999, ISPs have flocked to it because it lowers costs and enables them to provide better services.

British Columbia builds MSAPs

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 07/13/2005 - 11:29

BC.NET, a project of the British Columbia provincial government, is deploying what they call Transit Exchange Hubs in communities throughout the province.

The Transit Exchange Hub is similar in concept to the MSAP (Multimedia Services Access Point), which I designed and implemented in 1999 as part of the Blacksburg Electronic Village. Both the Hubs and the MSAP build on a standard piece of Internet systems architecture called a NAP, or Network Access Point. What NAPs do is allow different networks (remember that the Internet is a network of networks, not a single contiguous thing) to exchange data.

What is different about the MSAP/Transit Exchange approach is that it pushes the NAP down into communities and regions. The benefits can be dramatic--network performance can increase substantially and the cost of intracommunity network traffic can go down significantly. So MSAPs reduce costs and improve network performance. For local applications that are sensitive to time delays like videoconferencing, voice telephone calls, or gaming, the MSAP can be critical to performance and usability by keeping local data local and not requiring Internet Service Providers to haul large amounts of data across their very expensive Internet backbone connections.

Spain says yes to fiber

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 07/05/2005 - 13:12

The province of Catalonia, in Spain, along with a consortium of 782 towns and cities located in the province, have agreed to invest $542 million in a province-wide, redundant fiber network that will connect all the partner towns and cities.

Meanwhile, in the United States, many of our elected leaders are trying to pass laws making this kind of investment illegal.

Motto for the week: Our state--not really as good as Catalonia, but we have great dial-up.

Are phone companies wrecking America?

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 06/23/2005 - 10:54

Are the phone companies wrecking the U.S. economy by spending hundreds of millions of dollars to buy legislation that prevents America's businesses from competing in the global marketplace?

James Carlini, writing in ePrairie, says yes. He wonders why the phone companies are putting millions into the pockets of lobbyists while simultaneously claiming they can't afford to upgrade their networks. He also points out that is not just the phone companies. The cable companies have also been pouring millions into the pockets of politicians to try to get laws passed that force businesses and communities to use only the old, copper-based telephone and cable systems, while the rest of the world is going straight to fiber.

Carlini says there is something wrong when twice as many South Koreans have broadband than U.S. citizens. Worse yet, Americans are paying, on average, about twice as much as South Koreans, and getting inferior connections that are slower. So we pay more and get less.

South Korea builds a Digital Media City

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 06/20/2005 - 09:59

I write a lot about what is happening in other countries, but some of my citations are just statistics--useful to a point, but sometimes you want more detail. Here is some great information about a single project in South Korea that probably dwarfs many other technology park efforts in the United States, and an indicator of how serious some other countries are about passing the U.S. in technology.

This Digital Media City project appears to be well-focused and well-financed, and is not just a local effort--read down the page to see the "Rental Housing for Foreigners." The project is planning from the ground up to attract overseas investment, and to make sure the right kind of housing is available. How about business parks in your area? Does your plan address the needs of international firms to this degree?

This is the competition.

America still has an edge in the Global Economy

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 06/16/2005 - 10:15

Although I think U.S. communities have to work much harder on their economic development because of overseas competition that simply did not exist even fifteen years ago, we still have a valuable edge. This blog reprints an op-ed piece on some of the problems businesspeople in India face. Red tape, bureaucratic foot-dragging, costly permits, intrusive rent control, and antiquated labor laws make it very difficult to start a business in India.

By contrast, it is dead simple in the United States, and usually just involves paying a small fee to register your business with the local government. I don't think it is coincidental that the low barriers to starting a business track nicely with the fact that as many as 90% of new jobs in the U.S. are created by small businesses.

Afgahnistan beats the US in TV

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 06/07/2005 - 08:44

Afghanistan has converted successfuly to a new countrywide all digital television system, while the FCC dithers in the U.S. with a myriad of mostly irrelevant and/or conflicting regulations on the U.S. television industry.

I wrote recently that Ethiopia has a countrywide plan for broadband, unlike the United States. Not only do we NOT have enough elected and appointed leaders taking this seriously, we actually have politicians introducing laws forbidding states and communities from dealing sensibly with this new public infrastructure. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) has introduced a bill in Congress that would give the telcos the ability to shut down municipal projects nationwide. This would be exactly the same as introducing a bill in 1950 forbidding communities from investing in public water and sewer projects, with exactly the same devastating effect on economic development.

While the rest of the world, even places like Afghanistan and Ethiopia, "get" that technology investments are critical to their future, some of our leaders seem determined to cripple the future of communities.

New Zealand invests in broadband

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 05/17/2005 - 09:16

New Zealand, which is a country smaller than most U.S. states, is investing heavily in broadband, with a budget in the tens of millions of dollars. While too many state legislators (14 states at last count) are trying to limit broadband, we've got countries that are going in the opposite direction.

We don't really have a broadband problem in the United States, we have a leadership problem. When our elected leaders are more interested in maintaining a Manufacturing Economy status quo, rather than helping their own communities and states compete in the global Knowledge Economy, that's not a technology problem, it is an education problem. We need to be helping our leaders understand the issues affecting economic development, and in particular, why we need to be looking at what is happening in other countries. It's not sufficient just to complain that they are not doing their job--we need to roll up our sleeves and help them understand what our communities need, and why.

Holland and the iPod tax

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 04/29/2005 - 08:56

The Register reports on a new law enacted in Holland that can charitably only be described as "stupid." In a misguided effort to prop up the ailing music industry, the Netherlands has decided to impose a per megabyte tax on all hard drive-based music players, with the proceeds going to the music industry.

This means, according to the article, that the 60 gigabyte model of the iPod would have a tax of $235! According to the Register, Germany also has a tax on computer hard drives, and as they get bigger, the hard drive tax could exceed the base cost of the computer (that is, the tax will be several thousand dollars).

There are so many things wrong with this approach that it is hard to know where to begin. In the first place, the Holland law assumes that all music stored on portable music players is stolen, when in fact only a very small percentage is. So music lovers have to pay royalties twice--once when they buy the music, and again when they buy the music player. It's a windfall for the music industry, since only a small part of royalties actually go to the artist. It forces the music player retailers to become tax collectors, which is always a bad idea. And it will simply drive the purchase of music players out of the country. Holland is an easy drive from a half dozen other countries, and it's barely an afternoon trip to take the train to France, pick up an iPod, and go home.

The music industry does not have a "right" to make money. As markets and technologies change, businesses have to change too. This business of using laws to protect monopolies hurts communities and whole countries, as innovation and new products are simply driven elsewhere. It's a global economy, and Dutch lawmakers are naive in extreme to believe this law will work. It will only hurt the country's economic development as businesses see their customers go elsewhere, and not just for iPods. While they are across the border, they are likely to shop for other items as well.

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