Apple Watch, Gila River, and Veblen Goods


Map at Gila River Telecommunications (GRTI) office. The Gila River Indian Community is embarking on a program to irrigate more than 146,000 acres. GRTI General Manager Derek White characterized broadband as “digital irrigation.”

At last month’s meeting of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC), a good friend of mine wondered aloud why his money should be spent to enable rural kids to game. He did not mean “to game” in the sense of, “to take unfair advantage” (as in, “gaming the system”) or even a strike at creating a new euphemism for deer hunting. Rather, his statement reflected his corporate worldview that someone was spending other people’s money so that rural youth can MMO or MMOG (multi-player on-line games). I get it – if I were on that side of the aisle, I might also (for the sake of rhetoric) ignore the fact that broadband supports inter-dependent applications that benefit both rural and urban areas simultaneously, such as agriculture or health care. And, in defense of my colleague, he “gets” the rural issue, so I do not begrudge the corporate mantra he articulated. Read more

Google Announces Plans to Dip its Toes Deeper into Wireless

Google this week indicated its plans to enter the wireless service market, but hedged expectations that its foray would be limited, emphasizing that the company has no current plans to take powerhouse wireless service providers on in a head-to-head competition.

Google has wireless experience in its line of Nexus devices, which are billed as pure Android: they bear little, if any, manufacturer or carrier modification, including changes to the GUI. In return, Google manages design and development of the products, as well as marketing and post-purchase support.

In remarks at the 2015 Mobile World Congress, Google was coy about its plans, leading to speculation in trade press that it will aim to use both cell and WiFi. U.S. variants of the service are expected to rely upon existing networks, but overseas iterations may utilize Google use of balloons and drones. A launch is expected in several months. Read more

FCC Votes Net Neutrality Order

outside 2

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

Apple Watch; An Ironic Morning at NARUC; Revisiting Radio Shack


Maybe the “R” should stand for “Rugged” – this hardy group met despite the walloping of Washington by about four inches of snow that closed Federal offices for the day.

(Washington) Since The New Edge ordinarily publishes out of NTCA headquarters in Virginia, I feel justified adding the “Washington” dateline to this post since I am writing from a bunker-like ballroom of the Renaissance Washington Hotel in D.C. Yes, it is officially a “snow day” for Feds (whose D.C. offices were closed in anticipation of a major storm that was ultimately much less than expected) and yes, yesterday was Presidents Day. But, NARUC (the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners) Winter Committee Meetings motor on.

# # #

Apple announced that April will see the release of its much anticipated Watch (not “iWatch,” just “Watch”). Somewhat surprisingly, Apple has downplayed the inclusion of health/fitness related sensors; media reports describe interference between hairy wrists and the new state-of-the-art device. Initial views of the watch, which are reportedly already being sported by Apple employees, reveal typical Apple cues in both the case design and user interface. The base Sport model is expected to retail at $349, and trade press anticipate initial manufacturing orders of between five and six million units. Apple stock value ticked upward again this morning, indicating the interest in Apple’s foray into wearable tech. Read more

NYSE to Delist RadioShack; Robot Vacuum Eats Woman’s Hair

IMG_20150209_132244 (2)If you ever told me during the days I biked to RadioShack that I would ever write a headline about a robot vacuum eating a sleeping woman’s hair, I probably would have fallen off my bike. Or pedaled away as quickly as possible. But, both pieces of news this week, including the financial status of RadioShack and why one should never sleep on the floor with a Roomba in the house, illustrate the changing times.

Wired posted a paean to RadioShack last week, and I felt a bit left out not having included my own mawkish recollections. So, to satisfy that need, here they are: the Town & Country RadioShack was exactly 1.7 miles from my house (I Google mapped it this morning). I took the back streets and alleys since riding a bike as a 12 year old on the main drag would have been unthinkable. RadioShack was where I went for all the “gear” that a kid just getting into stereo equipment would need; I still have a shoe box in my basement filled with extension cables, splitters, 1/4″-to-1/8″ headphone plug converters, and all manner of materials ending in an RCA phono jack that I accumulated through high school and probably well into college. It was also the place where I roamed the aisles looking at sound chips and other components of early-computing (TRS-80), and from which I received a free flashlight every December (one of which prompted a phone call from my friend’s neighbor’s mother complaining that Courtney couldn’t sleep because “those boys” were shining their flashlights at her window . . . to be bored middle school students on a Saturday night . . .).

The Wall Street Journal does a great job suggesting that the craft electronics hobbyists served by RadioShack simply have less free time now than they did 30 years ago, since a strict 40-hour work week is disappearing. But, I am not sure how that stacks up against the burgeoning success of stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s, which seem to capitalize on spare weekend hours in which they encourage customers to build everything from a birdhouse to a DIY fallout shelter. Read more

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