Tuesday, February 23
In advance of its deadline to present a national broadband plan to Congress on March 17, the FCC conducted a consumer survey on Internet usage. The commission will be presenting the results at the Brookings Institute today, but via Multichannel News here are some highlights:
The survey, a random phone survey conducted in October and November, found that 80 million adults (and 13 million kids) do not have high-speed Internet at home.
More than one-third of the non-adopters (28 million adults) indicated that they don’t have broadband because either the price of service is too high (15%); they can’t afford a computer; installation costs are too high (10%); or they don’t want a long-term service contract (9%). According to the survey, the average monthly broadband bill is $41.
The full FCC survey results are available via the Wall Street Journal.
Via the New York Times, Tufts University has changed its admission policy to allow would-be students to include YouTube videos about themselves as part of their application:
Lee Coffin, the dean of undergraduate admissions, said the idea came to him last spring, when watching a YouTube video someone had sent him. “I thought, ‘If this kid applied to Tufts, I’d admit him in a minute, without anything else,’” Mr. Coffin said.
For their videos, some students sat in their bedroom and talked earnestly into the camera, while others made day-in-the-life montages, featuring buddies, burgers and lacrosse practice. A budding D.J. sent clips from one of his raves, with a suggestion that such parties might be welcome at Tufts.
Monday, February 22
Geoff Daily of App Rising, who has been keeping a watchful eye on how and when federal broadband grants are doled out, has handed out grades for the first year of the effort. The overall grade: D+.
Despite the bad grade, however, Daily is still hopeful:
Just because the stimulus is failing now on almost all fronts doesn’t mean that it can’t recover and post solid even spectacular marks. Ultimately the grade that matters most is that the best projects are funded and on that they’re not failing. They’re also learning from at least some of their mistakes. So I for one am still hopeful that the broadband stimulus will be more than just another government folly.
The Telegraph reports that Apple’s massively successful “App Store” appears to be getting more kid-friendly:
Apple has removed around 5,000 apps from its App Store, including some that it claims feature “overtly sexual” content.
Dozens of developers received a message from Apple stating that the company was refining the guidelines under which the App Store operates, and that content that it had “originally believed to be suitable for distribution” were now no longer deemed appropriate, following “numerous complaints from customers about this type of content”.
While “sexually explicit” apps require an age warning before they’re downloaded, Apple outright removing apps for sexual content is a change in direction. One theory: Apple’s new iPad, which is being heavily geared towards students and schools, is a reason for the change.
CNN looks at the role the U.S. government accidentally played in the recent Google hack from China:
The news here isn’t that Chinese hackers engage in these activities or that their attempts are technically sophisticated—we knew that already—it’s that the U.S. government inadvertently aided the hackers.
In order to comply with government search warrants on user data, Google created a backdoor access system into Gmail accounts. This feature is what the Chinese hackers exploited to gain access.
The Big Money examines the effect micro-blogging service Twitter has had on Toyota and the carmaker’s recent problems:
Toyota never had much of a chance of controlling this story. But what’s been truly disruptive about the recall controversy is that it happened in the new era of social media. Boilerplate crisis-management stipulates that the company execute a variety of strategies, ranging from laying low and handling the recall problems piecemeal, anticipating that public interest would wane, to offering a public mea culpa, which Toyota’s president did on Feb. 9 in the Washington Post. (A resignation could still be in the offing.)
None of this, though, can contend with the breakneck, crowdsourced, unmediated reputation-wrecker that is the 140 characters of a tweet. As the recall story exploded last week and I pondered the collapse of the vaunted Toyota Way, I checked the #Toyota Twitter tag frequently. The tweet-rate was blistering: Dozens of new tweets every 30 seconds. Give it half an hour and you had a thousand more. Even the most hardened PR warrior would have looked at that and wet his pants.
In the U.S., the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) projects that high-speed connections to the home would increase the number of telecommuters to 19 million by 2012. That would save 1.5 billion hours of commute time—and reduce gasoline consumption by 5 percent.
John T. Chambers, “Broadband Speeds Our Economy,” Gigaom [blog], March 3, 2009.
More facts about broadband.
Friday, February 19
Last month, Google announced it would be ending its business efforts in China following an apparent cyberattack on the company and others from the nation. Now, the New York Times reports, an investigation conducted in part by the National Security Agency has traced the attacks to two schools in China:
If supported by further investigation, the findings raise as many questions as they answer, including the possibility that some of the attacks came from China but not necessarily from the Chinese government, or even from Chinese sources.
Tracing the attacks further back, to an elite Chinese university and a vocational school, is a breakthrough in a difficult task. Evidence acquired by a United States military contractor that faced the same attacks as Google has even led investigators to suspect a link to a specific computer science class, taught by a Ukrainian professor at the vocational school.
From a Huffington Post op-ed by Julius H. Hollis of the Alliance for Digital Equality on the national broadband plan:
More than $100 billion has already been spent to deploy high-speed systems across America. But the FCC has estimated that $350 billion is necessary to achieve universal broadband access. As such, the focus of the FCC should be on speeding this process, either through federal programs or by incentivizing the investment of private companies.
Throughout this process, we must also strive to ensure that access remains affordable. To achieve this, I see one logical solution - to have the build-out in these communities financed in part by agreements between the companies paying to lay the wires and the companies that will use those links to sell services.
Largely missing the point, proposals for new “neutrality” rules do nothing to help us realize these important goals. Instead, it is widely thought that new net neutrality regulations will reduce much needed investment in infrastructure, thus causing broadband to become less affordable and accessible to underserved and un-served populations.
From Ars Technica comes the troubling story of a Pennsylvania high school, school-issued laptops, and school officials allegedly spying on kids at home via webcam.