Déjà Vu All Over Again; or, There’s a Computer Gunning for Your Job

Charlie Chaplin in his 1936 film “Modern Times.”

In his 1936 film “Modern Times,” Charlie Chaplin used his well-loved Little Tramp character to warn audiences of the dangers of the (then new) mechanical age. These timesaving machines could easily turn on their masters, Chaplin felt. Though a comedy, “Modern Times” delivered an undeniably ominous message.

Fast forward nearly 80 years, and there’s another mechanical menace afoot: This time it’s computers that could take jobs away from human workers. Authors Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne evaluated the chances of computers taking over various professions in their recent paper entitled “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerization?” In the paper, the authors quantify the risks imposed by automation, and then rank occupations (from 1 to 702) according to the chances they may be taken over by computers. They conclude that some 47% of all jobs in the United States are vulnerable within the next two decades.

Among the jobs Frey and Osborne find to be at greatest risk are tax preparers, insurance underwriters and library technicians. The single most vulnerable position? Telemarketer.

The most secure positions are those which require critical judgment and face-to-face interaction, such as physicians, social workers and elementary school teachers.

The takeway: workers who wish to keep their jobs in the computer age will need to be able to complement, rather than compete with, software applications. Head-to-head it’s no contest.

How Disney Made it into a New Edge Post (It’s Really About the Rural Broadband Experiments)

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Olaf, the Disney snowman whose lack of experience with heat is evidenced by his dreams of summer. (Illustration courtesy Disney.wikia).

Last week I mentioned the catalogue of Rural Broadband Experiments Expressions of Interest (RBOE) that NTCA & friends created. If I thought the task of entering my assigned stack of filings was numbing, then enter the dragon of summing the value of all the requests. You’re probably thinking, “Quit complaining, it’s a single click on Excel and you’re done.” Except that the “cost” columns were anything but a uniform set of data that would permit that sort of single button execution. In the first instance, it seems that each of the half-dozen or so people who worked on the catalogue had a different way of expressing dollars and integers. So, a project valued at $2.7 million could be logged variously as “2.7M” or “$2.7M” or “$2,700,000” or some other variant – understandable to human readers but, in aggregate, unintelligible to Excel.

While taking the opportunity to revisit all 970+ entries and revise them to uniform manner, I enjoyed a fresh opportunity to notice a few things. First, many filers (325, by my count) did not specify an amount. Many claimed they were unable to predict the costs. One explained that it was actually legally barred from providing communications services, but was interested in doing so, anyway, and so it filed an expression of interest. For those who have seen Disney’s “Frozen,” it reminded me of Olaf the snowman: “Oh, I don’t know why, but I’ve always loved the idea of summer, and sun, and all things hot . . .” Read more

FSBC (the Flat Stanley Broadband Challenge)

It’s been a while, but here is another entry in our Flat Stanley Broadband Challenge:

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The best part about being pregnant is the free Wi-Fi (caption and photo shared by Melanie Jore).

How to Crowdfund Broadband

I obtained a new BlackBerry last week, which I instantly dubbed my “2015 Crown Vic.” But, I didn’t select the BlackBerry when I entered a new wireless contract because I am old-fashioned (more on that later).

First of all, I’m not old enough to be “old fashioned.” And, second, even as I eschew use of the word “impact” as a verb (and I shudder every time I hear someone say “impactful”) and “invite” as a noun, those reactions have more to do with my proclivities toward the traditional use of the English language than my disdain for trendiness.

Which, I suppose, renders me “old fashioned.” Read more

Two Electric Utilities to Offer Gigabit Broadband Service

Two electric utilities, Missouri-based Co-Mo Comm and Georgia’s Habersham EMC (HEMC), are the latest to announce plans to offer 1 Gbps broadband service.

Co-Mo expects to make the service available beginning in August of this year, and it will be priced at $99 per month. Customers currently subscribing to 20 mbps, 50 mbps or 100 mbps service will be given a free speed upgrade to 35 mbps, 100 mbps, or 1 Gbps, respectively.

“This is the gold standard of Internet,” said Ken Johnson, Co-Mo Connect’s president and General Manager/CEO for Co-Mo Electric Cooperative. “There is nothing faster in the world for residents and businesses than what we’re offering right here in our little slice of rural Missouri.” Read more

HD Voice To Launch Nationwide In July, Says Sprint

Sprint’s CEO Dan Hesse announced last week that high definition (HD) wireless voice service will expand beyond limited markets and be available nationwide this July. In order to function, HD voice must be supported from one end of a call to another, and at all points in between. With other wireless carriers working on their own HD voice and Voice over LTE (VoLTE) services, the underlying network support (in addition to compatible handsets) needed to deliver HD voice in the marketplace appear to be on the verge of materializing.

For many years, it has been widely accepted that wireless consumers are willing to sacrifice voice quality in exchange for mobility, and that landline calls were generally clearer and more reliable. However, if wireless HD voice does become commonplace, that notion could be turned on its head. Properly executed, and depending on the path a call takes, HD voice calls can be of such high quality that it can nearly sound as if the person you are speaking with is in the same room. Consumers, who today are accustomed to a generally lower quality experience from wireless calls, may soon find that wireless HD voice service can sound better than traditional landline calls.

As mentioned last fall, landline HD voice also is feasible. Landline HD voice faces the same barriers as wireless HD voice in terms of the need for consistent quality and end-to-end support. Depending on how well the nationwide rollout of wireless HD voice goes this summer, it could be another competitive factor facing terrestrial voice providers.

Cox Media Testing ‘Addressable Advertising’

The advertising division of Cox Communications announced this week an “addressable advertising” trial to be conducted in partnership with Invidi Technologies (self-described as the “world’s only truly addressable targeted television advertising and marketing solution for cable, satellite and IPTV service providers”).

The goal of the Cox/Invidi trial is to measure the effectiveness of so-called “addressable advertising,” where marketers pinpoint targeted audiences based on viewer specific criteria. In its most advanced form, a household profile is created using data such as income, ethnicity, presence or number of children in the household, and even very specific information such as whether someone in the house may have a car lease set to expire. The advertising agencies are then able to work with cable providers to determine the number of households that fit their target and serve commercials to just those individual homes. Read more

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