Posts tagged ‘Internet’

Smart Phone Skeptic

America’s National Broadband plan seems predicated on the idea that smartphones can serve poor people. The cellcos are telling Wall Street’s financial analysts and the policy makers in Washington that there are more cell phone-based internet connections in the world than fixed wireless or wireline connections. But skeptics are starting to show that those cellphones may be underused, overpriced, and come with caps. Meanwhile, cellcos’ core businesses are threatened. Prices will rise and service caps will fall. Washington — and policymakers around the world — should allocate more resources and spectrum to services that deliver true internet, not the restricted walled garden of the cellcos.

This debate was central to the fascinating discussion at the State of Telecom event at Columbia’s Instititue of Tele-Information, held in mid-October. I attended the afternoon sessions.

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Fiber News from the Telecom Exchange

Major fiber industry players gathered on Wall Street at the Telecom Exchange to do business at the very elegant Cipriani. Wall Street is demanding faster speeds and lower latencies than any other industry in the world as companies build their notorious high frequency trading platforms. If the internet is a railroad, Wall Street is becoming a test bed for the newest and fastest trains.

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Time Management for System Adminstrators at NYLUG

Thomas Limoncelli is the author of the O’Reilly book Time Management for System Administrators and his talk at the New York Linux Users Group was less technical than most but no less important.

Every system administrator lacks the time to do everything that needs to be done. “I’m not good at time management,” Limoncelli said, “but I’ve created many coping mechanisms to deal with the problem.”

“It’s not your fault,” he added.

Part of the problem is evolution. The human brain may be suited to surviving in the wild, but it is not suited to time management. For example, one key time management skill is memorizing long lists, a skill not suited to the neocortex, which is roughly the most recently evolved part of the human brain. However, the neocortex is good at making tools. So use them: paper, pencils, smartphones.

Another part of the problem is infrastructure.

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Updated: Diaspora at NYLUG

Daniel Grippi and Raphael Sofaer, two of the four founders of the Diaspora open source social networking project, spoke at NYU this week. They said that the project was started by members of the ACM club at NYU and was inspired by a speech by Professor Eben Moglen called Freedom in the Cloud.

In an earlier interview, Grippi said, “it was the first time it made us think of the violence of those that use your data, and of how, behind the scenes of someone who offers you something for free, there’s always someone that uses the data you exchange with your friends. We deleted ourselves from Facebook and we started to think about an alternative. People don’t really understand the risks they’re taking, but even those that understand them don’t know where else to go to.”

Before starting Diaspora, the club had built a MakerBot and had completed other projects together, such as having the door to the club room tweet every time it was used.

The group decided to build a decent social network for nerds. They went to Kickstarter, whose founder is also a graduate of NYU. Kickstarter allows anyone to raise money for any project through very small donations, as little as $5 per person. The group posted what Grippi called “a pretty terrible video.” The goal was to raise $10,000. In fact, they raised $200,000, which at the time was a record for Kickstarter.

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Privacy in Context: A Speech at Fordham Law School

Professor Helen Nissenbaum has made a career out of putting philosophy to work. In a CV replete with honors (and also filled with impressive grants), she has turned a doctorate in Philosophy from Stanford University into a career researching the privacy implications of the internet. She is currently professor of “Media, Culture, and Communication & Computer Science” at NYU. I heard her speak at the Fordham University Law School, where her talk focused on her latest book, Privacy in Context; Technology, Policy, and the Integrity of Social Life.

Nissenbaum said that she thought this would be the easiest book she’s ever written, because it was simply synthesizing many papers, but that in fact it was the hardest, and it took two years. In the book (and in her current work) she is building an analytical framework that would identify the aspect of an online transaction or interaction that causes social anxiety.

The miracle of the internet is about the rapid dissemination of information. This has delivered powerful economic benefits, and it has delivered freedom.

The internet has also enabled massive data repositories that have caused concern. Nissenbaum mentioned Choicepoint and you can see the concerns of the Electronic Privacy Information Center here. Nissenbaum also mentioned the Total Information Awareness (TIA) program of the federal government. Of TIA, EPIC wrote, “TSA has failed to meet its legal obligations for openness and transparency under the Freedom of Information Act and has violated the spirit of the Privacy Act for the protection of privacy rights.”

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Wikileaks Shows: They Should Have Feared The End of Journalism

Corporations and politicians have been assaulting journalists and journalism with the full force of their political and financial fury during the past two decades. For a time, a prostitute was invited to pose as a journalist in the sanctum sanctorum of U.S. journalism, the White House press room.

And so journalism declined.

The Federal Trade Commission, worried about the decline, considered trying to stop it by subsidizing newspapers, a move that many on both the left and right said confused “newspapers with journalism.”

In fact, there are journalists, but they no longer work for newspapers, and news is no longer broken by newspapers. News breaks on the internet.

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The Internet’s Three Principles

This is the text of the speech I gave at NYU on OneWebDay. I want to thank OneWebDay and the Internet Society of New York for their support. Streaming video includes the Q&A session, which was excellent. The Q&A starts at 25:28.

Thanks to Joly MacFie for the video.

Text of the speech:

 

Today, on OneWebDay, we want to urge the FCC to assert its right to protect the three key principles of the internet, principles that have made it friendly to innovation and competition. We want the FCC to insist that the internet be open, that computers be connectible from end to end without interference, and that internet management be open and transparent — not secret and in the service of the companies who pay for it to be the way it is.

OneWebDay was founded in 2006 to celebrate the internet, a uniquely organized piece of infrastructure that has become critical to all of our lives, directly for those who use it, and indirectly for those who use the services that now depend on it, such as education and banking and healthcare.

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The ISP Market Has Changed Since 2002 — Does the FCC Recognize This?

Bruce Kushnick recently pointed out to me that the FCC is using data from a period between 1997 and 2002.

The key difference between then and now is that through 2002, the ISPs still had control of the market, but today, the phone and cable companies rule.

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David Isenberg’s FCC Fiber Panel

David Isenberg has convened those concerned with infrastructure at meetings called Freedom To Connect for many years. This year, he’s Senior Advisor to the FCC’s National Broadband Taskforce and instead of Freedom to Connect, he convened a group of eminent speakers for a panel called Workshop: Future Fiber Architectures and Local Deployment Choices.

While much FCC policy has been inward looking, refusing to treat the world as a laboratory in which alternate polcies are tested, some failing and some succeeding. Both failures and successes provide useful lessons.

Two representatives of successes were present, Herman Wagter of citynet.nl in Amsterdam and Johan Henæs Norwegian equipment maker INS Communications.

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NYPIRG Demands Accountability in Stimulus Mapping

Art Brodsky at Public Knowledge first sounded the alarm about Connected Nation at the start of 2009, saying the organization was connected to Kentucky’s Republican governor and to telephone company lobbyists, enabling it to charge the state $400,000 and then make the state do the work.

More recently, Brodsky claimed that bids were rigged in Connected Nation’s favor in the state of Florida, arguing that there was no other explanation why the highest bidder won a broadband mapping contract.

Maps are important. They show where the government should invest money. They say who has broadband and who does not. If the maps are drawn by the phone companies, they could direct stimulus money only to the areas they don’t care about, bypassing wealthy areas they would like to deliver service to but have not yet built out.

Today, NYPIRG is calling out such policies. In its report (available in .pdf format here), NYPIRG says, “Contracts or grants to map data … must include requirements
that the mapping entity disclose any financial or other relationships to broadband providers. If data are self reported by a broadband provider and not independently verified, that should be disclosed and the data should not be considered accurate until independently verified.”

The report does not specifically name Connected Nation, but readers understand that’s the problem that’s addressed by this recommendation — a recommendation that is so obvious that it should not have to be said.

The report contains a massive number of other good ideas, endorsing structural separation, better data collection, an internet literacy curriculum and more.

NYPIRG’s report is a masterpiece.