FCC Votes Net Neutrality Order

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A small camp braves brutal DC weather to support net neutrality. They and others inside the building showed a determined, if not defiant, face to the three inches of snow that fell on the Nation’s capital.


As would have been expected, the line awaiting admission to the FCC for the net neutrality vote featured many backpacks, multiple piercings, and hip haircuts. I moderated the impact with my plain paper journal, necktie, and Blackberry. Yes, a Blackberry.


Ah, the irony: the FCC creates “fast” and “slow” lanes . . .

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) this morning voted an historic order on net neutrality. The FCC also voted a controversial order on Federal preemption of local laws affecting the ability of municipal governments to provide broadband. Both items were approved on party lines, with Republican Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O’Reilly offering lengthy oral and written dissents. Unlike many other FCC matters, such as network power back-up requirements, CPNI rules, Part 64 allocations, and radio licensing, the open internet item attracted a packed house to the FCC. The main meeting room was standing room, only, and two overflow rooms down the hall were mostly filled. Security guards enforced strictly the capacity limits in the main room; my two attempts to slip in were thwarted. A small cadre of demonstrators supporting net neutrality set up shop in a vacant lot next door to the FCC; I am not sure whether the numbers seemed low because (a) the vote was a foregone conclusion, anyway, or (b) Washington was hobbled by about three inches of snow this morning. Inside, the crowd was at times raucous. Several times, applause spilled from both the main meeting room and the overflow room across the hall from the room in which I was sitting; I can only surmise that attendees gravitated somewhat mysteriously to the room in which like-minded people were sitting, since no one where I was sitting expressed any sort of animated reaction to what was occurring at the podium. It was, except for the absence of a red carpet fashion review, the agency’s Academy Awards.

Study Quantifies Rural Education Data

A recurring element of advocacy for rural broadband is the positive impact on education. Although the primary arguments are logical, sensible and understandable, the discussion can be improved by adding data that illustrates the empirical facts underlying the debate. The Carsey School of Public Policy, University of New Hampshire, issued a report this month addressing access to Advanced Placement (AP) courses in rural areas. Although the study notes the role of broadband in overcoming identified shortfalls in rural AP availability, certain of the more compelling aspects of the report include descriptions of negative impacts encountered when AP course are not available.

The Carsey School of Public Policy has published numerous reports, many of which address rural-specific issues. Since this is a blog, I will deviate toward the “first person” and note that I have found several of their reports, including those addressing population trends in rural areas, to be particularly helpful in framing research and as sources of data sets. Read more

Product Review: A Cloud-Connected GPS

Magellan SmartGPS 5390

When friends saw the Magellan SmartGPS 5390 that I have been testing, more than one asked, “Don’t you have a phone?” And, indeed, my test of the device evolved to be less a confined examination than a comparison as I drove routes with both my phone and the Magellan running (I will suppress the urge to reach for a joke about two voices giving driving instructions, except to say that it reminded me of certain family trips where various passengers have demonstrated their apparent need to argue with Waze).

What It Is

The Magellan SmartGPS is “cloud connected,” and can be linked via Bluetooth to Apple or Android devices; the Bluetooth link will also connect to a Blackberry, but only for the phone, rather than a dedicated app. The 5390 is a slim device that looks a bit like an iPhone 5, only slightly larger and without the circular home button on the bezel, and in its native configuration provides Yelp and Foursquare reviews.


The screen real estate is great; for those who ask why a phone could not replace it, the short answer is that unless you are using a “phablet,” you probably will not obtain the easy visual read the Magellan’s five-inch screen provides. The maps can be displayed in a variety of formats (3D and variant 2Ds), and the maps can be rotated and manipulated via the touch screen. The longer answer is that the big screen enables users to vary the amount of space dedicated, respectively, to the driving map and supplemental information, such as nearby eateries, attractions, gas stations (including the current price) and traffic alerts. A virtual dial at the top of the screen enables users to adjust the layout of the screen and the relative space given to maps and other information. Read more

I’ll Have Two Large Videos, Hold the Ads, Please

In a widely anticipated move, Google announced plans to launch a YouTube subscription service that would spare viewers from the advertising that appears both before and during selected videos.

(Google purchased YouTube in 2006 in a transaction valued at $1.65 billion.)

Dubbed “YouTube Music Key,” the service is designed to compete with companies such as NetFlix.

Pricing for YouTube Music Key will start at $7.99 per month, and, in addition to removing advertising, will also allow viewers to watch videos offline and listen to music while using other applications. Read more

Desalination Technology

California is in the midst of a serious drought. A NASA report found that the state needs 11 trillion gallons of rain to make up for its dry spell that has now lasted three years.

I lived in California during another drought (the 80’s) and I remember that we were told to stop washing our cars and watering our lawns. I also took a California state focused political science class in college, and the politics of water in that state were interesting. In terms of the state’s massive need for water (the state has approximately 38 million people and has millions of acres of agriculture), I always wondered why technology had not made it possible to affordably tap into the Pacific Ocean.

As is probably obvious to anyone, sea water has too much salt to be fit for human consumption or agricultural use. Desalination is the answer, and it’s an expensive answer at that.

This MIT Technology Review article provides some great background on the desalination process. Sea water is desalinized through a process called “Reverse Osmosis.” This process pushes the seawater through membranes at extremely high pressure and removes approximately 99% of the salts and inorganic matter. The high cost comes from the energy costs of pushing that water through those membranes. There are also environmental concerns with the process, including killing fish eggs, using harsh chemicals to clean the membranes and the salty liquid brine that is pumped back into the sea when the process is completed. Read more

Mars and Electric Cars

If Elon Musk ever reads The New Edge, then he might think that I have a man-crush on him given all the coverage of his endeavors in this space. I doubt he has time to read it, though. He’s probably too busy as CEO of Tesla and SpaceX.

SpaceX is, among other things, an attempt to make colonization of Mars more likely by making space travel more affordable. One of the ways Musk hopes to do that is to drive down the cost of space travel by developing a rocket that can be utilized multiple times.

I admittedly dismissed Musk and his mission to Mars ideas as kind of nutty. Articles on SpaceX conjured up thoughts of some of the cheesy Hollywood movies about trips to Mars. But, whatever the chances are that humans – whether though private companies or the government-funded National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) – ever make it to Mars, SpaceX has compiled a very impressive track record since the company was founded in 2001. I’m still skeptical about the mission to Mars idea, but SpaceX is worth watching.

As background, right now, NASA’s share of the federal budget is about 1% each year. There is currently no U.S. space vehicle capable of delivering a person to the International Space Station (ISS). NASA is working on a replacement for the space shuttle.

As for SpaceX, in 2010, the company became the first private company to launch and return a space vehicle (named Dragon) safely to Earth. In 2012, Dragon also became the first privately funded space vehicle to dock with the ISS. Read more

The Snowball Keeps Rolling Downhill: IPTV Market Up 14% Worldwide in 2014

The worldwide pay-TV market is estimated to have grown by 5% in 2014, encompassing more than 924 million subscribers, according to technology market intelligence company ABI Research.

“IPTV is expected to grow a market-leading 14% in 2014, followed by satellite TV platform at 7%,” said ABI Research vice president and practice director of core forecasting Jake Saunders. “The growth rates of cable and terrestrial TV platforms are expected to slow to around 3%.”

Much of the worldwide growth is driven by countries in the Asian-Pacific and Latin American regions, combining to add 13 million subscribers in 2014. By contrast, the North American cable TV market is expected to shrink by 1% in 2014. Cable TV operators in North America lost 400,000 customers in the third quarter of 2014 alone, ABI Research reports.

In the increasingly competitive marketplace, providers are trying to grow revenues by offering high definition (HD) channels, advance services and premium content. “The worldwide HD subscriber base is growing on all pay-TV platforms,” said Khin Sandi Lynn, ABI Research industry analyst. “Approximately 57% of total pay-TV subscribers will be HD subscribers by 2019. ABI Research forecasts the global pay-TV market will generate US$324 billion in service revenues by 2019.”

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