Monday, September 13, 2010

Chattanooga TN will have fastest broadband in US but it is pricey; FCC will licensed unused airwave wireless frequencies for MiFi

Chattanooga TN’s city owned utility EPB has announced the nation’s fastest broadband Internet service, at 1 gigabit per second, 200 times faster than the average broadband in the US, with news story from the utility here.  The plan is pricey, about $170 a month. In the meantime, Google is pledging to supply similar service to about 500000 people among communities that apply. Other companies like Verizon are planning to offer services 30 to 50 times what is available now on average. Only a few places on Earth, like some of Hong Kong, have 1 gigabit per second.

I last visited Chattanooga myself in 2004, and drove up Lookout Mountain. There's an interesting underpass-tunnel on US 441; I don't have a picture.

And Edward Wyatt, in the Business Section of the Sept 13 New York Times, reports that the F.C.C. is considering offering unlicensed wireless frequencies to entrepreneurs. They’re actually used, for example, for baby monitors (also used in eldercare). These could develop more mid-level MIFI hotspot services (like Virgin’s) with improving security, and essentially guarantee “reasonable” service almost everywhere. The link is here. I talked about MiFi on my IT blog Sept. 2.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

"The Economist" gives us a course in net neutrality concepts; but the issues are bigger, still; Check "Free Press" notes

The British mass-market periodical “Economist”, in the Sept. 4-10 issue (I could call it “The September Issue”) has a critical op-ed on p. 11, “The Web’s New Walls: How the threat to the Internet’s openness can be averted”, link here.

The editorial is developed in several detailed stories in the issue. “Untangling the social web” (p. 16), “The Virtual Curmudgeon” (p. 25, about music composer and existential social critic Jaron Lanier – I reviewed his “You Are Not a Gadget” on my books blog Feb. 10, 2010) and, most important, “A Cyber-House Divided” on p 61.

The general concern focuses on two or three areas. One is foreign governments intercepting and censoring content that their citizens see – most of all, China – and the “technology” of getting around these efforts. (These may include Tor Bridges, explained by EFF, as I discussed on my International Issues blog Aug 13, 2009.) But the biggest concern is their spin on the network neutrality debate: the idea that companies want to wall off certain areas and charge more for it, a process that economically seems natural and part of innovation.

Personally, I disagree that there is a lot of practical threat that the average user is going to find the Internet of the future a mishmash of “walled gardens” (the analogy to AOL, Prodigy and Compuserv is a bit misplaced; the Internet in early days wasn’t developed enough to get beyond proprietary content models; I remember back in 1994 how people watched for news about corporate merger negotiations on CompuServ while waiting for employee meetings.) Some walling off (to protect a smart energy grid or health care information and real time diagnosis and treatment grid) really is appropriate. And some consumer technologies (high def video) require special attention when used in great bulk (if we really are going to go to the movies on the Internet). I think that largely market incentives work. A bigger issue is the idea of “Natural Law”, the idea that citizens need to follow some principles of “common good” that will limit what they can do on their own. That gets back to the debate on media perils insurance (could it become mandatory some day), and whether ISPs and content forum hosts (or advertising hosts like Craigslist) should continue to enjoy Section 230 (and DMCA Safe Harbor) protections.

The Sept. 6, 2010 issue of Time Magazine, p 68, has an article ("The awesome column") by Joel Stein, "Net wit: Forget neutrality. Here's why we should make the Internet less fair and less balanced", link for article abstract here  (subscription). Stein is "volunteering" for a lobbying association, the CTIA, the "wireless association."  He thinks lobbyists are legit and "call back fast".  He also thinks that unlimited consumer broadband for low-quality stuff interferes with stability for everyone and for more essential aps like medicine and smart energy. (I would say that Internet modem stability can be affected by something as simple as the stability of your household's electricity voltage.)

Here is a video from the Berkman Center where Chris Riley, Policy Counsel of Free Press (link) the non-profit org, not the book publisher), discusses Comcast, BitTorrent and Network Neutrality, Feb 2009.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

"Separate Peace" among telecomms would leave wireless unregulated

The “separate peace” strategy among some major Internet and telecomm companies, allowing some kinds of specialized premium services to be offered for extra fees, would also include leaving wireless largely exempt from network neutrality regulation, a story in the New York Times business section today Sept 3, “F.C.C. seeks more input on wireless Internet rules,” by Edward Wyatt says, with link (website url) here.

The concept is significant as wireless may become a more important part of rural access broadband strategy. For example, the innovation of portable “MiFi” devices may make portable Internet access available to all, but not of as good a quality for some applications (see IT blog today).

The FCC plans no action during a comment period, which would last until the November elections.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

"Free response" final exam for net neutrality policy makers

Selena Frye, in the Network Administrator blog for Tech Republic, has a post “Seven questions for the new Internet rule makers,” link (website url) here.

It reads like a college essay exam, or maybe an AP “free response” problem set. Teachers and professors should love this piece.

The biggest overall question seems to be whether average end users can really tell what is going on in matters that can affect them. For example, Cisco is claiming we can make the environment rich enough for everybody so the issue goes away. But what about rural areas? Will greater dependency on wireless (because it is cheaper in the long run) mean bigger security problems for average users, especially in rural areas?