Independence and Aging in Place

(Memphis) Aging in place is a topic that is making the rounds at NTCA, notably in a white paper by the Foundation for Rural Service, but also in conversations with organizations that represent older Americans as well as those that investigate demographic changes in rural areas, in certain of which the average age is rising.

There are many things we study and about which we learn, but which we do not understand fully until we experience them. These can be cultural experiences: it is one thing to read a play, but quite another to see it performed. Or, history: it is one thing to learn about the Battle of Gettysburg, but quite another to see the endless line of fence that defines the scope of the battlefield. Or, science: learning the definition of torque, or feeling it in action as tires bite into turf.

If you would visit my house, you would see some curious, but not altogether unusual, elements. Many light switches are only 36” from the floor, rather than an older design standard that would have placed them higher; door knobs and faucets are easy to grasp paddles; there are strategically placed grab bars in the shower. One could, through acquired knowledge, deduce that these features are intended to assist those whose grasp might be weaker, or whose balance may be unsteady, or whose ability to reach high might be compromised.

But deduction is not understanding. Understanding in its full, raw, emotional impact is more than the intellectual deduction. Read more

If at First You Don’t Succeed…..


1958 Edsel Corvair

While hardly a fiasco on the scale of the Edsel or New Coke, “success” is not the first word you’d associate with Amazon’s Fire Phone. Launched in late July 2014, Amazon has subsequently announced the write down of $170 million in Fire Phone-associated costs, including more than $80 million in unsold inventory.

Yet give the online retailer points for persistence—rather than walking away from the product, Amazon last week announced a series of improvements to the first generation Fire Phone.

In addition to an updated version of its operating system (Fire OS 4.6.1), users will now have the capability of printing from their phone, changing their home screen wallpaper, and choosing from a number of full-color emojis directly from the keyboard.

That’s the good news. The bad? These features have been available on other phones for quite some time. Read more

Washington as the Minivan

84-86_Plymouth_VoyagerWashington, DC, is a bit like a minivan filled with noisy kids and a dad who wants to listen to the radio: dad increases the volume in order to hear over the din of the kids, and the kids raise their voices to make themselves heard over the radio, and the cycle continues until the cacophony borders on unbearable. Also, minivans, despite common perceptions of boredom, possess impressive utility.

Welcome to Infrastructure Week in Washington. Organizers of private programming will likely, if the past is informative, take shots at a byzantine process of obtaining authority to deploy facilities on Federally-administered lands while government agencies will host events intended to elucidate concerns and agency efforts to balance varying interests. I plan to shuttle between two of these tomorrow: a privately-hosted program in the morning followed by a late slip-in to a full-day workshop at the FCC; the latter will focus on environmental compliance and historical preservation. Read more

FCC Workshop on Broadband Privacy Begs for Clever Headline

Last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) hosted a public workshop on consumer privacy in the broadband marketplace. The event featured panels moderated by FCC and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) staff, as well as introductory remarks by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and a keynote address by Matt Blaze of the University of Pennsylvania. The day-long event revealed deep yet predictable schisms in viewpoints regarding how consumer data should be managed. (In the interest of full disclosure, I sat on one the panels.)

The issue has emerged because the FCC (re)classified broadband Internet access service (BIAS) as a Title II offering. As such, BIAS is subject to Section 222 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, which governs privacy of telecommunications customers’ data. The statute is the basis for rules that address Customer Proprietary Network Information (CPNI). But, certain of the particular elements covered by CPNI rules do not exist in the BIAS world. And, the sort of consumer data that may be viewed as ripe for regulation under Section 222 may also be held by entities such as Facebook or Google, which would not be subject to common carrier regulation. In that result, an ISP holding certain data could be charged with protecting it, while another non-ISP holding the same data would be subject to FTC, rather than FCC requirements. Read more

“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

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