Friday, April 10
Yesterday, vandals in California chopped fiber-optic cables, essentially cutting off thousands of AT&T customers from not just their Internet service, but landline and cell phone services as well. The San Francisco Chronicle reports:
The sabotage essentially froze operations in parts of the three counties at hospitals, stores, banks and police and fire departments that rely on 911 calls, computerized medical records, ATMs and credit and debit cards.
The full extent of the havoc might not be known for days, emergency officials said as they finished repairing the damage late Thursday.
Whatever the final toll, one thing is certain: Whoever did this is in a world of trouble if he, she or they get caught.
To help initiate that “world of trouble,” AT&T is offering a $100,000 reward for information on the vandals. As for communicating with customers during the outage, the company embraced the latest rage in social networking. From CNet:
It seems that Twitter was one of the main ways that phone company AT&T has been communicating with customers and updating the public about the fiber cut that caused thousands of people in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area to go without broadband, phone, and wireless service for most of Thursday.
Janine Popick, CEO of VerticalResponse, whose company has been affected by the outage, said the only way she has stayed on top of the situation has been through Twitter.
“All of my real time updates have been coming from the AT&T Twitter feed,” she said.
Indeed, she isn’t alone. Nearly 2,400 people have been keeping tabs on the situation via AT&T’s Twitter feed.
Facing a major shortfall in its budget, Washington State is soliciting questions on the budget from state citizens. The project is being called Open for Questions:
Washington’s families and businesses are feeling the strain from the national recession. The economic slowdown has reduced revenues, and left Washington with a $9 billion budget short fall.
The Senate Democrats have introduced a balanced budget, and as the 2009 budget is finalized, every program is being considered for cuts.
Now we want to hear from you. Ask your questions here, and next week Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, will answer the questions that you the public vote to the top of the list.
The Obama administration has announced a major project to digitize all military records. From the Wall Street Journal:
The Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs will collaborate on building an electronic database of administrative and medical information for U.S. servicemen and women, President Barack Obama announced Thursday.
Mr. Obama said the electronic records will provide a “seamless system” to facilitate information sharing and cut red tape, ending the need for veterans to transfer military records to receive benefits.
This is good news—especially since the digital overhaul could also help guide the digitizing of medical records in the U.S. health care industry.
Thursday, April 09
With the FCC calling for input on a national broadband plan, and the federal broadband stimulus still waiting to be distributed, Telephony Online asked IIA co-chairman Larry Irving for his thoughts on both. From the resulting article:
“There are two different things going on here, that are all of a piece,” Irving said in an interview this morning. “The stimulus is a timely, targeted and temporary effort to stimulate the American economy, and this administration has always realized that broadband is a part of that.”
At the same time, every agency of the federal government is exploring ways to “use technology to make the lives of the American people better, and part of that is the national broadband policy,” Irving said. “The FCC has a big job ahead of it.”
Check out the full interview.
Recently, Time Warner Cable announced it would be expanding its so-called metered billing trials, which sets caps on the amount of broadband users can use. In the plan, subscribers pay for a certain amount of monthly GBs, then pay more if they consume more than their allotment.
Many users, as expected, decried the idea, but now resistance is coming from more powerful voices—namely, New York Congressman Eric Massa, who has come out against the plan. From the announcement on Massa’s website:
Today Congressman Eric Massa announced his opposition to Time Warner’s monopolistic plan to charge customers for broadband internet based on the amount of information they download. Time Warner’s decision to make this move is part of an ill-conceived test marketing plan which will charge customers for internet usage much like cell phones. The problem is that by doing so, broadband internet users’ usage will obviously take a steep decline or else middle income families will see outrageous internet bills.
“Just at a time when access to information is driving our economic recovery, Time Warner is moving to stagnate the 21st Century technology needed to rebuild America,” said Congressman Eric Massa.
Time Warner isn’t the first service provider to dabble in metered billing, but with average Internet users gobbling up more and more bandwidth—be it from a computer, a video game console, or watching streaming movies on their TV—more fights for and against such pricing plans are on the horizon.
In an effort to curb piracy, the French Parliament passed a new law last week that required Internet service providers to yank the Internet access of copyright offenders. According to polls, the majority of the French public didn’t like the law, but it was nonetheless expected to sail through the Senate and National Assembly. Then, as TorrentFreak reports, the unexpected happened:
As expected the law was indeed ratified by the senate this morning, but to everyone’s surprise it didn’t make it through the National Assembly.
After a two hour discussion, the law was rejected by the National Assembly with 21 votes against and 15 votes in favor. According to early reports, the Socialist party changed their initial position and decided to vote against the law after witnessing the mass opposition from the French public.
Looks like it’s back to le drawing board.
Wednesday, April 08
According to a blog post from Facebook founder Mark Zuckeberg, the social networking behemoth is expected to land its 200 millionth user sometime today.
Today’s Washington Post has a report on the agency’s project, and how the process may be a bit pokey for the flurry of broadband action spurred by stimulus funds:
[B]y the time the FCC creates its plan for broadband, it is likely that Internet service providers will have claimed much of the $7.2 billion in stimulus funds set aside to build high-speed networks without major input from the agency. And that has some worried that the Obama administration’s call to wire the nation risks having taxpayer money going toward projects that are not needed and have been created without clear guidelines.
Later in the story, IIA co-founder Larry Irving is quoted on the need for the stimulus funds to be put into action quickly:
Ideally, the FCC’s plan would have been in place before stimulus funds were granted, say tech advisers who helped craft President Obama’s broadband strategy. But the urgency of the economic crisis called for quick ways to create jobs, including through broadband deployment, they said.
“We need the stimulus to create jobs that are timely, targeted and temporary,” said Larry Irving, a former head of the NTIA and an adviser to Obama’s transition team. “That was the first stage of a multistage effort to get our arms around national broadband strategy.”
As the FCC begins work on drafting a national broadband plan, the agency is taking comments from the public for the next 60 days, along with an additional 30 days for reply comments. From the agency’s press release (available on its website):
In the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 – known as the stimulus package – Congress charged the Commission with creating a national broadband plan. In a Notice of Inquiry adopted today, the Commission begins a proceeding to create that national broadband plan, seeking input from all stakeholders: consumers, industry, large and small businesses, non-profits, the disabilities community, governments at the federal, state, local and tribal levels, and all other interested parties.
The Commission must deliver the plan to Congress by Feb. 17, 2010. It will provide a roadmap toward achieving the goal of ensuring that all Americans reap the benefits of broadband
Hot on the heels of the Obama administration creating a national cybersecurity czar comes word that the U.S. electrical grid has been hacked. From the Wall Street Journal:
Cyberspies have penetrated the U.S. electrical grid and left behind software programs that could be used to disrupt the system, according to current and former national-security officials.
The spies came from China, Russia and other countries, these officials said, and were believed to be on a mission to navigate the U.S. electrical system and its controls. The intruders haven’t sought to damage the power grid or other key infrastructure, but officials warned they could try during a crisis or war.
“The Chinese have attempted to map our infrastructure, such as the electrical grid,” said a senior intelligence official. “So have the Russians.”
The espionage appeared pervasive across the U.S. and doesn’t target a particular company or region, said a former Department of Homeland Security official. “There are intrusions, and they are growing,” the former official said, referring to electrical systems. “There were a lot last year.”