The Washington Post reports on an innovative idea to help rebuild Haiti’s infrastructure following the country’s devastating earthquake in January:
John Stanton, founder of Voice Stream and former chief executive of T-Mobile USA, wants the Haitian government to forget about rebuilding its copper wire communications network. Instead, he thinks Haiti should go mobile.
“Necessity is the mother of invention,” Stanton said.
Stanton pitched the idea at the CTIA trade show in Las Vegas, and announced that his company Trilogy would be willing to contribute as much as $100 million to the effort.
Later in the Post article, a familiar name offers some insight:
Experts say any project to rebuild infrastructure in the nation should be open to competition. That would include laying down fiber for a stronger backbone to connect calls. Dozens of new cellphone towers would be raised to support traffic that will grow as Internet use takes off.
“It can be a fantastic opportunity, but all over the world there is also a push to have a mix of wireless and fixed-wire networks supporting broadband and communications,” said Bruce Mehlman, co-president of the Internet Innovation Alliance and former assistant secretary of commerce for technology policy. “And you must make sure that this doesn’t preclude any competition.”
Panelists like David Sutphen, co-chair of the Internet Innovation Alliance, asked that government focus on adoption first, especially among minorities and lower-income groups. “The National Broadband Plan is most important,” said Sutphen. “If we could get everyone who has been worried about open Internet principles focused on the digital literacy and value proposition gap, we’d go a long way towards solving the problem.”
The American Consumer Institute has released a new study, “Innovation and National Broadband Policies: Facts, Fiction and Unanswered Questions.” From the Executive Summary:
“Innovation” has emerged as a pivotal element in the debate over whether the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should impose new constraints on managers and providers of broadband network infrastructures. This study brings to bear facts and analysis emerging from a review of much of the literature on innovation and especially that bearing on claims by advocates of “net neutrality,” “open networks” and related notions.
We find that innovation is thriving at both the core and the edge of the network in the current policy environment, which has fundamentally allowed the Internet to evolve with little government involvement. Further, we find no evidence that greater FCC involvement in markets for broadband services would protect or promote innovation in the Internet Ecosystem. Indeed, we believe that such intervention is more likely to discourage innovation than stimulate it.
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.
Via MSNBC comes the amazing story of a man buried beneath rubble for 65 hours following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, his ability to use an iPhone to examine himself, and the handy first aid iPhone app that helped him treat his wounds.
Sphere has an interesting debate today on the FCC’s proposed net neutrality rules. In the pro camp, Timothy Karr writes:
Because of net neutrality, consumers have had unfettered access to new content and ideas online; our preferences and choices have determined which new ideas succeed and which don’t. Net neutrality simply means “no discrimination,” and this user-powered architecture is the reason the Internet has become such a powerful engine for consumer choice and democratic empowerment.
These protections have worked brilliantly. For two decades, the Internet thrived. It became a competitive market in the truest sense. Under net neutrality, doctoral students working out of their dorm room created Google; college students started Facebook; a Pez hobbyist invented eBay; an Israeli teenager wrote the code for instant messaging.
These innovators started small and used the Internet’s level playing field to become major forces in the new media marketplace. Their ideas have disrupted the status quo of information gatekeepers to usher in an era where content and consumers are king.
The fact is that different services have different requirements in order to work properly. Activities like online videos or remote medical monitoring are easily disrupted by tiny delays—often measured in milliseconds—that keep them from working properly. Others, like e-mail, tolerate delays with little problem.
To ensure the best performance possible, network operators need the flexibility to work with the providers of content, software developers, creators of online games, and other Internet-related businesses and services. But proposed Internet regulations under consideration at the FCC would greatly limit such collaboration.
Supporters of Internet regulations, typically advocated to ensure “network neutrality,” say regulations are needed to make sure that consumers can go to whatever Web site they want. But when was the last time that your Internet provider blocked you from any activity you wanted to perform online? Chances are you’ve never had that problem. And if it occurred, the FCC already has the authority to step in quickly and clear things up.
The Hill reports that the idea of tiered pricing for broadband has gained at least some support with the FCC:
FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, a Republican, said companies should be able to experiment with different pricing models, especially if private carriers are expected to finance the building of faster, bigger networks to expand wireless broadband services. If people pay for the bandwidth they use, it could reduce congestion on the networks as well.
“Pricing freedom has to be essential,” he said on a panel today.
With more and more devices relying on the Internet, the long-standing “all you can eat” pricing structure for high-speed Internet is becoming increasingly unrealistic. The question is, how will consumers react to any sort of pricing change?
At CES yesterday, Ford Motor Co. unveiled a new feature for its vehicles: the Internet. From the LA Times:
At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Ford Chief Executive Alan Mulally showed off how consumers could soon catch up on Twitter, listen to Internet radio, check movie times and get free maps with turn-by-turn directions, using Sync’s voice commands or 8-inch color touch-screen in the dashboard, in Ford’s spring lineup of cars.
Not content with dominating the downloadable music market, Apple is rumored to be exploring a subscription-based service for TV content. From the New York Times:
Apple is eliciting tentative interest from some networks in its proposal to offer a TV subscription package via the Internet.
Theoretically, customers would be able to tune in online, allowing them to cancel their cable or satellite subscriptions.
ABC and CBS are among the networks that are considering joining the Apple venture, people close to the talks said Monday night. The people requested anonymity because they were not authorized by their companies to comment on confidential talks. They said that the talks were at a very early stage.
Ford has become the latest car company to dabble in broadband-enabled vehicles. From an official press release:
Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) will turn vehicles into rolling WiFi hot spots when it introduces the second generation of its popular SYNC(®) in-car connectivity system next year.
Inserting an owner’s compatible USB mobile broadband modem - sometimes called an “air card” - into SYNC’s USB port will produce a secure wireless connection that will be broadcast throughout the vehicle, allowing passengers with WiFi-enabled mobile devices to access the Internet anywhere the broadband modem receives connectivity.
“While you’re driving to grandma’s house, your spouse can be finishing the holiday shopping and the kids can be chatting with friends and updating their Facebook profiles,” said Mark Fields, Ford president of The Americas. “And you’re not paying for yet another mobile subscription or piece of hardware because Ford will let you use technology you already have.”
At last month’s Grid Week event, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra spoke about broadband and making America’s grid “smart,” the need to encourage private investment to make the change happen, and the Obama administration’s “innovation strategy.”
One idea is to turn the automobiles themselves into conduits for the Internet, giving drivers and passengers access to navigational help, streaming movies, video games and other online services via touch screens embedded into the dashboard and seats. The ng Connect Program (led by telecommunications provider Alcatel–Lucent) presented its vision of the so-called “connected car” on Tuesday in New York City—a white Toyota Prius hybrid tricked out with access to a 4G (“fourth generation”) broadband wireless network.
Social networking site Facebook is flirting with the macabre by allowing the pages of deceased members to remain active. Reports PC Pro:
The company says it will give previously confirmed friends of the deceased access to their “memorialised” Facebook page, which will continue to display photos and wall posts, but remove “sensitive information” such as status updates and contact information.
“When an account is memorialised, we set privacy so that only confirmed friends can see the profile or locate it in search,” the company’s Max Kelly writes on the Facebook blog. “Memorialising an account also prevents anyone from logging into it in the future, while still enabling friends and family to leave posts on the profile Wall in remembrance.”
In one of its first related activities following Chairman’s Julius Genachowski’s proposed new regulations on the Internet, the Federal Communications Commission will hold a workshop on October. 9 to examine the economic issues in broadband competition.
According to the FCC’s preliminary agenda, the workshop will address questions that include:
• Do broadband providers currently exercise market power? How does the answer vary by type of customer and geographic region?
• What are the prospects for new broadband competition from wireless and electricity providers? Are any other types of entry on the horizon?
• What regulatory strategies would protect competition and consumers in broadband markets not performing competitively? What conduct by broadband monopolists of duopolists would be particularly troublesome? Can that conduct be prohibited at low cost in production efficiency and without discouraging investment and innovation or distorting competition in unregulated markets?
While these are not bad questions (although there is a heavy tilt in them), we must ask if these are the most important questions. In fact, when I first saw these questions listed under the title “Economic Issues in Broadband Competition,” I had to double check that my eyes had not deceived me. But yes, after a double-take, there they were. What about economic growth? What about innovation and investment? What about the effects on worker productivity? These are the economic questions I would have expected.
Fundamentally, we should ask: Would a regulated Internet improve upon our highly successful open, market-based, unregulated model?
As I wrote recently at Forbes.com, “The rise of the Net is a story of scientists and engineers cooperating on technical challenges, and of private companies deploying hundreds of billions of dollars worth of network infrastructure. Yes, the embryonic Net dawned as a Pentagon ARPA project, and many government scientists have contributed along the way. But the framework and function of the Internet’s logical layer remained almost totally free of politics. The Internet was built and is now operated by private companies.”
In the past decade the world economy grew by approximately 50 percent, while Internet traffic grew by 100,000 percent.
Cisco recently said it expects total global IP traffic to grow five-fold in the next fire years, with wireless traffic growing 66-fold over the same period. Previous bandwidth and Internet traffic growth has only been possible due to the investment of hundreds of billions of dollars by private companies in the U.S. communications infrastructure.
We need to ask whether such investment would continue – to the extent needed to support the projected growth in Internet traffic – under a heavy hand of government regulation.
With newspapers failing and revenue plummeting across the industry, ideas are being tossed out on how to right the sinking journalism ship. The latest idea: Charging a fee for breaking news. Via Read Write Web:
After a summer of establishing blogger guidelines and fair use, the Associated Press is considering charging online customers for a 20-30 minute head start on breaking news stories. According to a report by the AP’s Jeremiah Marquez, the AP’s chief executive Tom Curley made the announcement at the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club. Curley suggested that because the AP licenses stories to major hubs like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft’s MSN, these outlets would be willing to pay for scoops.
The Nobel Foundation today awarded its prize for physics to Charles Kao, who is often known as the “father of fiber-optic communications.” He shares the award with William Boyle and George Smith of Bell Labs (now a part of AT&T).
Online gaming is big — and getting bigger all the time. And now a new startup is hoping to make a splash in the lucrative gaming market by doing away with pesky discs and taking everything online. Reports Ars Technica:
MIT is playing host to Technology Review’s EmTech conference, which focuses on up-and-coming companies and the new technology they’re bringing to market. Steve Perlman, the founder and CEO of the OnLive gaming service, was given the chance to demonstrate his company’s cloud gaming service, and took some time to explain the technology backing it. OnLive is gaming’s answer to cloud computing: the applications run on hardware in a server farm, while users only need low-end hardware (including OnLive’s own mini-console) and broadband Internet to connect in and play.
While the service certainly has the potential to revolutionize the gaming industry, streaming games over broadband isn’t without it pitfalls — namely, pipes capacious enough to make the experience smooth and, well, playable.
Geoff Daily at App Rising has an interesting post on how the FCC should be re-imagined in the wake of new technologies:
The FCC has spent decades building up these stove-piped regulations that apply certain rules to certain technologies.
And yet the core challenge the FCC faces in this day and age is the fact that these communications technologies are now merging. The distinctions between phone and TV providers has already disappeared, and increasingly the technologies themselves are combining into new forms that don’t really exist in any one silo.
The FCC is operating in a world now that’s completely different from that of the 20th century. But so far it has not adapted to this new paradigm other than to open up a catchall category of “information services” that has fewer regulations and therefore is the category every service provider wants to fall under. The problem with this is that means the regulations that were in other silos to protect the public’s interests are now becoming marginalized.
According to Daily, the FCC is currently in the midst of an undertaking that can re-define how it operates. The national broadband plan, he believes, provides…
...the perfect opportunity for the FCC to stick a stake in the ground and claim ownership over this issue. Over making sure that plenty of high quality, reliable, and affordable bandwidth is available to all Americans. To get everyone online consuming bandwidth. And to encourage the incorporation of using bandwidth to improve all facets of society.
Following in Apple’s footsteps, the U.S. government has created its own “app store.” Reports the New York Times:
On Tuesday, Vivek Kundra, the federal chief information officer, unveiled Apps.Gov, a Web site where federal agencies will able to buy so-called cloud computing applications and services that have been approved by the government to replace more costly and cumbersome computing services at their own locations.
The push to promote cloud computing is part of the Obama administration’s effort to modernize the government’s information technology systems and to help reduce the $75 billion annual budget for federal I.T. in the process.
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