“Start Spreading the Wi-Fi…”

If you can get coverage there, you can get coverage anywhere: New York City mayor Bill de Blasio recently unveiled plans to provide affordable, high speed broadband to every resident and business in the Big Apple within 10 years.

Nationwide, 17% of American households lack broadband access, according to the FCC. In New York City, the gulf is even greater: 36% of households below the poverty line, and 18% of those above it, currently lack broadband access, for an overall total of 27% of New York City’s 8.4 million residents.

As part of his “One New York” equity initiative, Mayor de Blasio has proposed taking some dramatic steps to bring ubiquitous broadband to the city by 2025. For example, some 10,000 payphones across the city will be converted to gigabit Wi-Fi hotspots. The New York Public Library allows patrons to check out a Wi-Fi connection. The mayor is tapping into residents’ creativity, as well: a “Calls for Innovations” contest is accepting input through June 30, providing New Yorkers a means of submitting Project Proposals or Policy Ideas for expanding broadband coverage. The city’s Broadband Task Force will oversee the initiative. Read more

Uber vs. the Airport Shuttle

When I was in law school, there seemed to be a point during the time running up to exams where everything fell into place – it was moment at which the process of simply ingesting information transformed to actually understanding the theory and process. I experienced another such sense last week at NTCA’s IP Possibilities (IPP, but soon to be IP Vision) conference.

IPP is my favorite NTCA conference (no offense intended to PR & Marketing, Finance & Accounting, or even Legal Seminar, which I appreciate greatly). Whereas most of the meetings in which I participate focus on the political or regulatory aspects of telecom, IPP pulls together the people who design, develop and deploy networks. So, it is the meeting where one hundred people pack a room to learn more about the IPv4 to IPv6 transition or cyber-security. But, it was not the expo floor, or the keynotes, or the break-out sessions where things fell into place. Rather, it was the Uber to the airport.

Initially unable to find anyone to share a cab, I made a reservation with a popular airport shuttle service; the price was projected to be approximately half of what a cab would cost. Several hours before leaving, however, I bumped into Ken Pyle from Viodi, and we determined that our flights left close enough in time to each other that we could share a ride. I cancelled my shuttle, and when it was time to leave, Ken called for Uber.

Within several minutes we were informed that we would be picked up by a blue Lexus. The shuttle I intended to take was blue, too. And that is where the similarities ended. Read more

“Green Acres….We are There!”

Another successful call completion in Hooterville.

Another successful call completion in Hooterville.

Today, my NTCA colleague (and fellow pop culture buff) Christian Hamaker alerted me to the fact that long-time television director Richard L. Bare had passed away on March 28 at the age of 101. Bare’s greatest accomplishment was directing 166 of the 170 episodes of “Green Acres,” a sitcom that ran on CBS from 1965 to 1971.

Rural America was extremely popular on 1960s television. A number of rural-based programs—including, in addition to “Green Acres,” “The Andy Griffith Show,” “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Petticoat Junction,” “Mister Ed,” and “Hee Haw”—all enjoyed successful runs during that time. In fact, CBS aired so many rural programs that it was joked the network’s name actually stood for “the Country Broadcasting System.”

“Green Acres” centered on a married couple, Oliver Wendall Douglas and his wife, Lisa (portrayed by Eddie Arnold and Eva Gabor), who left their city life behind to live on a farm in the small rural town of Hooterville. These two fishes-out-of-water were forced to deal with Hooterville’s eccentric residents, including a pig named Arnold, who was treated as a human by the town’s denizens. (In a bit of Hollywood typecasting, Arnold was indeed portrayed by an actual pig, leading Mr. Bare to observe that “for a long time I was the best pig director in Hollywood. There was nobody who could direct a pig like I could.”)

The town’s phone service was provided by the Hooterville Telephone Company, which employed an operator named Sarah to manually connect calls by plugging wires into a switchboard—and who often listened in on the resulting call in order to catch up on the town’s latest gossip. Most Hootervillians didn’t have a phone in their home, and the only public telephone was located atop a pole, requiring those placing or receiving an important call to shimmy to the top and hold on for dear life as they talked. Read more

Study Confirms: Whole Lotta Teens Using Cell Phones

A recent Pew Research Center study finds that 91 percent of teens go online from a mobile device. The report divulges differences among varying demographics, but regardless of race or economic standing, one truth remains: mobile Internet access is planted squarely among today’s youth.

The results may be encouraging, or sobering. The prevalence of on-line activities should be attractive to service providers, device vendors and on-line advertisers. Potential employers, however, may be wondering how to deal with an emerging workforce in which 56 percent characterize their mobile online access as “several times a day” and 24 percent acknowledge they have their nose in a screen “almost constantly.” The numbers are not wholly surprising – only 12 percent of teens 13 to 17 say they do not have a mobile device.

The character of usage among the sexes is similarly consistent with common portrayals of social interaction in popular film or literature: 37 percent of teen girls use messaging apps such as WhatsApp, while only 29 percent of boys claim to use them. The image of the young lady dragging the Western Electric phone into her room, or at least as long the as cord will stretch, endures. On average, girls text 79 times a day, while boys text 56 times per day. Surprises, however, lurk in the report.

It should come as no shock that 84 percent of boys play games on-line or on their phones, a substantially higher amount than the 59 percent of girls who play video games. The, “what did you say,” however, emanates from the fact that 59 percent of girls are playing on-line games.

Facebook is virtually equally attractive to both boys and girls. Or, more specifically, equally very attractive to boys and girls, with 72 percent of boys using Facebook as compared to 70 percent of girls.

The study lays to rest any doubts (if there were any) that mobile device usage is cemented into teen life.

A conversation I have been hearing recently goes somewhat like this: “When can I get a phone?”

“When you take yourself to school by yourself.”

“So, high school?”

“Not necessarily – you’ll still be either on a bus or in a carpool then.”

That’s about where the conversation ends. Sometimes, the subject who wants the phone leaves the room. It is a scene repeated in several houses across my neighborhood.

Data is everywhere. The questions are, how is any set interpreted, and what does one do with the results?

Maybe the Pew research indicates that the social threshold for having one’s own mobile device has changed from something extravagant (or, at least not wholly necessary for school kids who are really never alone) to something little different than the graduation to one’s own set of house keys.

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It may also indicate social trends that outline how parents approach their children’s independence.

Separately, but not wholly unrelatedly, if you follow local DC news, then chances are you know by now that the so-called “free range” children are back in the headlines. For those unfamiliar with the on-going saga, Maryland law provides that children under eight may not be left alone at home or in car. The law says nothing about “outside,” which is why a somewhat murky result arose when Montgomery County (Maryland) Child Protective Services intervened in the case of a family whose parents permitted their children, six and 10, to walk unaccompanied in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland. And, for those unfamiliar with “downtown Silver Spring,” it boasts a movie theater, a handful of office buildings, some shopping, and an old JC Penny that has been converted into a concert venue. It is “downtown,” but mostly only in comparison to the suburban streets that surround it.

The case has stirred predictable debate on parenting, government intervention and either actual changing social norms or perceived social norms. I remember how old I was when I went downtown or out and about by myself in the Midwest. One commenter to a news story remembered wandering the neighborhood at a young age before cell phones.I don’t remember how old I was when I was allowed to the take the bus to my Midwest downtown “by myself.” It was only about three miles away, and I am guessing it was probably fifth or sixth grade that I was headed there with a friend during school vacation days. If I remembered to take a quarter for a payphone, then it was evidence that I had thought ahead before venturing out.

And, so, in light of the Pew data, I wonder whether outcome with the Silver Spring children would have been different if they would have been able to produce a phone. Which might then beg the social question of, is the phone intended to enable the child to reach the parent – or the parent to reach the child?

Graphene Light Bulbs

Researchers at Manchester University have announced the impending release of the first commercially viable (more on that concept below) product using Graphene, a material dubbed a “wonder material” by the American Chemical Society.  According to the BBC, the Graphene light bulb will be available on British store shelves within months.  While it’s only about 10 percent more energy efficient than other light bulbs, the material itself is the key here.

Graphene (again, according to the American Chemical Society) is a carbon-based material (as are diamonds and coal).  However, unlike the latter, Graphene is made up of carbon atoms that are arranged in two-dimensional sheets.  This makes it incredibly strong.  How strong?  About 100 times stronger than steel.  It also conducts electricity to the same extent as copper, can conduct heat as well as any other material, and is incredibly thin. Read more

New Owner May Leave Home for Lack of Broadband (This is Not an April Fool’s Joke)

Trying to explain what I do for a living is difficult, sometimes. In our bubble, talk of things like CPNI or DE credits is common; to the outside observer, however, our universe is peppered with incomprehensible acronyms that describe spheres of regulation the average person does not consider. Sometimes, however, a confluence of issues manifests in a single event to illustrate, understandably, what we do (or, more accurately, what RLECs do not do, since the described circumstances would not occur in an RLEC service territory).

This article from Consumerist describes the plight of a man who purchased a house with the understanding that he would be able to obtain broadband at the location. The cable company, after several site visits, declined to extend service; the incumbent telco described the location as being in “permanent exhaust,” meaning that no new customers would be added. The story embraces numerous issues – broadband mapping; competition; universal service; telework; muni broadband. There is not much I can add to the article, so use the link above and simply count this post as a “news aggregator”/”in case you missed it” feature. I do not agree with all of the editorial conclusions in the article, but it is worth a good read. And, no, it is not an April Fool’s post.


Smart Tech Aimed at Drivers Distracted by Technology

The AAA recently reported results of a study it conducted regarding distracted teen driving. Although many states recognize the confluence of inexperience and distraction and accordingly place limit on teen drivers (such as curfews or limits on the number of passengers they may carry), the AAA study reviewed 1,700 videos of teen drivers and found that 12 percent of accidents resulted from drivers using phones while driving (15 percent of accidents occurred as drivers were interacting with other passengers, and 10 percent occurred while drivers were looking elsewhere inside the vehicle). Of note is that all of the filmed drivers were aware that a camera had been placed inside the vehicle. Read more

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