We’re Number Deux! We’re Number Deux!

What does the average U.S. Netflix streaming speed in July have in common with the 2014 U.S. women’s Olympic hockey team?

Give up? Both came in second place to Canada.

2014 canada

Netflix’s recently released July ISP speed index shows that the average prime time streaming speed in the U.S. was 3.2 Mbps, slightly below the 3.29 Mbps speed north of the border.

The Netflix index measures average Netflix streaming speeds across all devices during prime time.

In the U.S., Cox finished atop the standings, with an average speed of 3.62 Mbps. Cablevision-Optimum was second at 3.59 Mbps, and Verizon FiOs third at 3.54 Mbps. The positions of these three were unchanged from June.

Charter moved up two places from June, averaging 3.46 Mbps in July. Comcast dropped one spot to fifth (3.45 Mbps), Bright House was up one spot to sixth (3.42 Mbps), and Suddenlink dropped two positions to 7th (3.42 Mbps.)

The top half of the Netflix ISP speed index was dominated by cable providers, while DSL carriers tended to be lower down in the standings. All of the DSL carriers came in below the U.S. average. Read more

The Godfather and Smart Ag

newspaper-insertsI started this post in Wyoming, and on the way to editing it wove in material from an article that would appear in the Wall Street Journal several days later. So, while I hit “publish” in DC, this post had it origins about 2,000 miles away. 

(Teton County, WY) Periodically, I remind my children that there was a time before the Internet, before cell phones, before iPads. But, their perceptions can be understood, since all of the technological advantages they take for granted preexisted their entry into the world. By contrast, my mental hiccup the other evening cannot be excused.

If you’ve seen “The Godfather,” you might remember the scene in which Michael Corleone learns from a newspaper of the attempt on his father Vito’s life. My first mental reaction was to remember (academically, really, not personally) how late-breaking news was dispatched through late editions before we received updates on our phones; my second, clearly disassociated reaction was, “Why didn’t anyone call him?”

Yes, I asked myself why no one called Michael Corleone on his cell phone in 1945. Read more

A Portrait of Non-Adopters

Despite extensive efforts to increase broadband use among non-adopters, a stubborn 15% of the population remains off-line—a number that has remained virtually unchanged for the past three years.

Pew Research Center has released results of a new study that looks at the composition of this 15%. Some of the results are surprising, others not so much.

Among the genders, Pew finds that men and women are equal—15% of each are not Internet users. Along racial/ethnic lines, 20% of blacks are non-users, as are 18% of Hispanics, 14% of whites and 5% of Asians.

In the “knock me over with a feather” department, a substantially greater percentage of older Americans are non-Internet users than younger Americans. Only 3% of those between the ages of 18 and 29 do not use the Internet, compared with 6% of those 30 to 49, 19% of those 50 to 64, and 39% of those 65 and older.

In terms of average income levels, 25% of households earning less than $30,000 annually are non-users, as are 14% of those earning $30,000 to $49,999, 5% of those between $50,000 and $74,999, and 3% of those at $75,000 and higher. Similarly, with respect to educational attainment, 33% of those with less than a high school education are non-Internet users, compared to 23% of those with a high school diploma, 9% of those with some college, and 4% of those with a college degree. Read more

Rural Values Highlighted at White House Conference


Lisa Mensah, Under Secretary for Rural Development, USDA (far left), moderates, “Attracting Institutional Capital to Rural and Agricultural Assets.” From left: Ashley Allen, i2 Capital; Robert Engel, CoBank; Bruce Schlein, Citi; Greg Williamson, American Red Cross.

Yesterday, the White House Rural Council hosted the Second Annual Rural Opportunity Investment Conference. I am still kicking myself for not having brought a proper camera and instead relying on my phone, but hopefully the images attached to this post will convince you that I was actually there, in the Old Executive Office Building on the White House grounds.

The attendance list featured various Federal offices, including USDA, Treasury, and the EPA; private capital such as Citi and Rembrandt, Inc.; and academic interests including Georgetown University and the Rural Policy Research Institute. The goal of the program was to encourage private capital to invest in rural areas, and the perspectives of various panelists and other speakers was informative. Representatives of the private investment community acknowledged opportunities, and lower default rates, in rural areas, but supposed that investors would “give up yield for familiarity.” They explained reluctance to invest where the opportunities lack “institutionalized markets” and are fragmented. In his closing remarks, US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack responded to reluctance by observing, “Where I come from, a million bucks is a lot of money,” and noted that (and more) can be earned by investing in rural areas.  Read more

My Brain’s Weakness for Plainness

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Tom Hulce as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in Milos Forman’s 1984 film adaptation of Peter Shaffer’s play “Amadeus.”

A recent article in the Washington Post highlighted findings published this year in the Journal of Consumer Psychology which may explain why certain pop music is, well, popular. Citing such lyrical compositions as Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance.” George Harrison’s 1987 “Got My Mind Set on You,” and Megan Trainor’s “All About the Bass,” the Post pinpoints the repetition in each song and links the practice to psychological theories that roughly propose that “people are more likely to engage in a given behavior the less effort it requires.” And, if listening to music is effort (recall the film Amadeus, in which the Emperor observes that Mozart’s composition has “simply too many notes”), then the “less effort” that makes people more likely to engage can be translated to the number of times a phrase repeats (“Shut Up and Dance,” 12 times; “Got My Mind Set on You,” 20 times; “All About the Bass,” “bass” is repeated 40 times).

This sort of topic might be considered in the tech space, too, where making tough things simple might make things better. Conversely, introducing complexity, even where intended to promote additional consumer engagement, may have an opposite effect. Read more

“Best….Amazon Prime Day….Ever!”

red hots 2Unless you’ve been lucky enough to vacation someplace far away from the Internet and social media, you are all too aware that Wednesday, July 15, was the inaugural “Amazon Prime Day” across the globe. The retail behemoth created the day to celebrate its Prime service, which offers users free two-day shipping on all items, as well as access to a wide variety of audio and video content, for a $99 annual subscription fee.

On Prime Day, customers were promised access to dramatic one-day only sales on thousands of in-demand items. Amazon’s primary goal, however, was to have the day serve as a massive recruitment drive for their Prime service.

Within hours, the company was quick to tout the promotion’s success. “Amazon sold more units on Prime Day than Black Friday 2014, the biggest Black Friday ever,” a corporate press release boasted. “Worldwide order growth increased 266% over the same day last year and 18% more than Black Friday 2014.”

Amazon succeeded in significantly increasing the number of Prime subscribers, as well. “Thank you to the hundreds of thousands of new members who signed up on Prime Day, and our tens of millions of existing members for making our first ever Prime Day a huge success,” said Amazon Prime vice president Greg Greeley. “Customers worldwide ordered an astonishing 398 items per second and saved millions on Prime Day deals.”

Many in cyberspace were less than impressed, however. Twitter users took particular delight in skewering some of the more esoteric offerings, such as a 5 pound bag of red hots candy for only $13.59 (with free shipping!) or a 24” extra-long handled shoehorn for only $11.99.

Amazon moved 14,000 iRobot Roomba Pet Vacuum Cleaning Robots, at just under $300 apiece. “[I] bought two Roombas,” one particularly snarky Twitter user wrote, “and now I’m going to have them battle it out in my living room for my approval.” Read more

Amazon, Self-Driving Cars, Ride-Hail Service and the Franchise Four

mSSUtqe7OWRMI6imT7HmQ5AOn a shelf in my basement is a Hudepohl beer can from 1976 commemorating the Cincinnati Reds’ World Series victory that year over the New York Yankees. Somewhere else in the house (I hope) is a similar can that was issued when the Reds beat the Red Sox in 1975. In my basement, time remains somewhat frozen – the can on the shelf, a picture of Pete Rose being held at first in Crosley Field by Ed Kranepool of the Mets, a Wheaties box featuring Johnny Bench (the Reds would not win another series until 1990, when they went wire-to-wire in first place from the start of the season until the four-game sweep of the heavily-favored Oakland Athletics). And so it was somewhat jarring during last night’s All Star game to see Joe Morgan, one of Cincinnati’s “Franchise Four,” walk onto the field with cane.

This morning’s trade press offers additional images of how time marches on. First, Happy Birthday, Amazon! Amazon is celebrating its 20th anniversary by offering deals that are fancied to compete with Black Friday pricing. The “catch” is that buyers must sign up for Amazon Prime, but there is loophole there, too, that a user could invoke to avoid certain fees. Nevertheless . . . I have not purchased anything today, nor have I shopped for anything. What struck me, however, was how much Amazon has evolved from a bookseller to an electronics emporium to a place to buy Clorox wipes and camera chargers. And car parts. Of course, not everything for sale on Amazon is useful, or tasteful, and in this article from Wired, readers share some of the either more unusual, exotic, or simply useless things they have ordered on Amazon.

The other (second) news item that caught my eye was a concern that driverless cars will have a negative impact on municipal budgets that rely on traffic offenses revenues. Presumably, driverless cars won’t speed; hence, no speeding tickets (or, apparently, fabulous excuses for speeding). Some wonder whether this will affect the politics of driverless cars (or, more accurately, the politics of regulating them).

And, finally, a ride-hail service for the visually impaired. News.com reports,

Most ride-hailing services, which connect passengers with drivers via a smartphone app, don’t have a feature for blind users. The world’s largest ride-hailing company Uber, which is in 250 cities in 57 countries, is currently being sued for allegedly denying rides to blind passengers with service animals. Gett, which is small compared to Uber — it operates in 50 cities worldwide — aims to distinguish itself by making its app accessible to visually impaired passengers.

Although phones themselves offer voice-activation controls, not all apps feature similar functions. Therefore, ride-hail services that rely solely on touchscreen interactions are often inaccessible to the visually impaired.

The new Gett app was launched last week in New York, the UK, Russia and Israel.


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