Monday, February 01
Today’s New York Times looks at the expansion of broadband on language education services:
With the growth of broadband connectivity and social networks, companies have introduced a wide range of Internet-based language learning products, both free and fee-based, that allow students to interact in real time with instructors in other countries, gain access to their lesson plans wherever they are in the world, and communicate with like-minded virtual pen pals who are also trying to remember if bambino means baby.
Last week, James Rucker of the group Color of Change penned an op-ed for the Huffington Post taking aim at the position of some civil rights groups when it comes to net neutrality:
Net Neutrality is the principle that prevents Internet Service Providers from controlling what kind of content or applications you can access online. It sounds wonky, but for Black and other communities, an open Internet offers a transformative opportunity to truly control our own voice and image, while reaching the largest number of people possible. This dynamic is one major reason why Barack Obama was elected president and why organizations like ColorOfChange.org exist.
So I was troubled to learn that several Congressional Black Caucus members were among 72 Democrats to write the FCC last fall questioning the need for Net Neutrality rules. I was further troubled that a number of our nation’s leading civil rights groups had also taken positions questioning or against Net Neutrality, using arguments that were in step with those of the big phone and cable companies like AT&T and Comcast, which are determined to water down any new FCC rules.
Most unsettling about their position is the argument that maintaining Net Neutrality could widen the digital divide.
Today, Maximum Leverage Solutions President Navarrow Wright offered a rebuttal to Rucker’s op-ed, also on the Huffington Post:
We all know the fight today is between Google and the ISPs. And just because the arguments you make sound just like those made by Google and Public Knowledge, it doesn’t make you a bad guy. What I don’t understand though is why you are criticizing people who are looking for answers. You seem surprised that the CBC and civil right leaders are concerned that when the big companies fight each other the under served may lose?
Don’t you think the FCC should answer the questions raised by the civil rights leaders and CBC? Why is it wrong to ask the FCC to make sure the rules they are proposing will not widen the digital divide? Why is it wrong to ask the FCC to make sure the rules they develop will not lead to regressive pricing which would shackle poor people? Why is it wrong to ask that the costs be borne by the people that cause them and not by the underserved? Why are you so afraid of the answers to these questions?
Via Government Tech, last week the NTIA sent out 1,400 rejection letters to broadband grant hopefuls. Those who have been rejected are being encouraged to closely study the grant proposals that have been approved so far before re-applying.
The runaway success of Apple’s iPhone has not gone unnoticed by the other major tech players. First Palm released its own smartphone, the Pre. Then Google got in on the act with first its Android operating system, then its own smart phone the Nexus One. Now, Gizmodo reports, there are rumors that Microsoft is set to throw its considerable weight into the market with a Zune phone.
Friday, January 29
Investor’s Business Daily explores a possible effect the recent Google-China dispute could have on the Internet as a whole:
China, which has imposed censorship on its Internet users and used filtering software to block Web sites, is determined to have a role in shaping next-generation Internet standards, analysts say. China wants rules governing cyberspace to be compatible with its political aims. In any event, analysts say China probably has the tools to create and manage its own cyberspace, if it so chooses.
“We are seeing the world moving away from the global Internet to a series of national networks,” warned Columbia Law School Professor Tim Wu at the New America Foundation on Wednesday.
The UK site Scam Detectives has a fascinating interview with a convicted Nigerian email scammer:
Scam-Detective: How did you find victims for your scams?
John: First you need to understand how the gangs work. At the bottom are the “foot soldiers”, kids who spend all of their time online to find email addresses and send out the first emails to get people interested. When they receive a reply, the victim is passed up the chain, to someone who has better English to get copies of ID from them like copies of their passport and driving licenses and build up trust. Then when they are ready to ask for money, they are passed further up again to someone who will pretend to be a barrister or shipping agent who will tell the victim that they need to pay charges or even a bribe to get the big cash amount out of the country. When they pay up, the gang master will collect the money from the Western Union office, using fake ID that they have taken from other scam victims.
The full interview is worth checking out.
How many people watched President Obama’s State of the Union address online? According to the official White House Blog, close to 1,300,000.
Thursday, January 28
A new study from Larry F. Darby, Joseph P. Fuhr, and Stephen B. Pociask of the American Consumer Institute helps shed light on the effect the FCC’s proposed net neutrality regulations could have on investment and job creation. The study, titled “The Internet Ecosystem: Employment Impacts of National Broadband Policy,” calls for “regulatory forbearance toward broadband networks” in order to stimulate investment and the creation of new jobs. From the executive summary:
• By eliminating business options successfully practiced by proponents of more regulation, the Commission’s proposal would dramatically increase market risk, lower expected growth, suppress network investment, and dampen opportunities for network providers to maintain and create jobs.
• The proposed change from Ex Post to Ex Ante regulation would create lengthy regulatory delays and increase regulatory risk for investors, while dampening prospects for new job creation in the Internet sector and in others it supports.
• These and other threats to investment incentives and job creation opportunities are out of line with both the emerging national broadband policy and the growing imperative to create more good, permanent jobs.
The study also warns that the proposed regulations would “shift risk, returns, growth and opportunity away from ‘core’ network providers and in favor of ‘edge’ applications and content providers.” Given that core companies (such as providers) historically invest more and create more jobs compared to “edge” companies (such as content providers), new regulation would have a chilling effect on both a national broadband plan and the creation of much-needed jobs.
The full study is available in a PDF on the American Consumer Institute website. It ends with an important message recently delivered from the Communications Workers of America to the FCC:
Put network investment and associated job creation at the center of the discussion, acknowledging that the telecommunications sector is essential to recovery in the current downturn and to our nation’s long-term economic competitiveness.
Wednesday, January 27
Recently, the New York Times announced it would experiment with charging for content online. Before they take the leap, however, they should check out what’s happened to their fellow New York paper Newsday. From the Observer:
In late October, Newsday, the Long Island daily that the Dolans bought for $650 million, put its web site, newsday.com, behind a pay wall. The paper was one of the first non-business newspapers to take the plunge by putting up a pay wall, so in media circles it has been followed with interest. Could its fate be a sign of what others, including The New York Times, might expect?
So, three months later, how many people have signed up to pay $5 a week, or $260 a year, to get unfettered access to newsday.com?
The answer: 35 people. As in fewer than three dozen. As in a decent-sized elementary-school class.
The Rural Utilities Service has announced the latest round of broadband stimulus funds, with 11 states receiving grants this time around: Alaska, Alabama, California, Iowa, Kansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Oregon, and Virginia.
All told, 14 projects are receiving funding, totaling $310 million.
(Via Broadband Breakfast.)