Archive for the 'Digital Divisions' Category

Internet companies say not enough bandwidth, no to net neutrality

Jun 02 2008 Published by Ryan under Digital Divisions

The Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) Council, a coalition of 160 Internet companies, met on capitol hill two weeks ago to discuss net neutrality.

The meeting hosted input from BitTorrent and other large network operators. Members of the coalition came down against any kind of regulation of their networks.

According to an article on, members are saying that BitTorrent and video downloads are beginning to consume a lot of bandwidth, and that the network operators need not be burdened by regulation when they manage their networks.

From the press release on the FTTH Council’s website:

“There is a continuing need to monitor and manage the networks to ensure available bandwidth for all subscribers,” said John Andrews, President of US Sonet [a major network operator]. “Network management is crucial and necessary for the success of new broadband applications and services. And, changing network threats require constantly changing network management practices.”

Network operators know better how to manage their network than politicians do. However customers get mad when they buy an Internet connection and can’t use it the way they expect.

Customer protection through simplicity. This is what network neutrality has to be about. Right now I pay for a 5 megabit Internet connection, and I can use that connection as much as I want whenever I want. Special exceptions to these rules will cause confusion and frustration. The Internet is complicated enough as it is.


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The Internet's impact in Chicago

Jun 02 2008 Published by Ryan under Digital Divisions

The Chicago Tribune published an article this weekend about the impact that the Internet can have on the lives of people who are trying to make ends meet. The article mentions the WiMax rollout in Chicago, and the Lt. Governor of Illinois’ recently introduced ordinance to provide 15,000 low-cost laptops to Chicago Public School kids.

But the article is really about how the Internet gives people access to a whole new world. From the article:

Michael Bailey, who helps provide computer training for Chicago Housing Authority
residents, said that once people develop computer skills “they start to see that they can succeed. When they have the motivation, you begin to see lifestyle changes.”

The article quotes one woman who has a computer but cannot afford Internet service. She has a paying job, but other things are more important. But it started me thinking, for those who have a modest income, for whom a high-speed Internet connection might just be a little too expensive, could Internet access actually pay for itself?

With a little motivation, the Internet opens up a boat load of opportunity. Just getting the tools to apply to one job a day, or using online resources to education oneself, Internet access could result in a higher paying job. For those with time, who are willing to put some effort, everything a person would need to make money from the Internet is freely available online.

Is the Internet worth springing for, even if it might put a family outside their means? How long would it take for Internet access in a household to pay for itself?

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FCC ponders free wireless Internet access for all

Jun 01 2008 Published by Ryan under Digital Divisions

The FCC’s chairman Kevin Martin has decided that they should auction off part of the 25 megahertz spectrum with the provision that the winner should provide free Internet access. 

Don’t get too excited yet, the FCC’s commissioners have to vote on it at their next meeting on June 13.

It appears companies are willing to try the ad-supported Internet model again. From Wired’s Epicenter blog:

“We’ve been pushing for [free internet access] as a matter of policy for two years,” says John Muleta, founder and CEO of M2Z Networks, a company that aims to provide free ad-supported broadband access.

So is Muleta talking to Google, Yahoo or Microsoft about a partnership for the free access?

“We’re a Silicon Valley company and we’re always talking to potential partners,” Muleta says.

I do wonder if Google is going to get involved in another spectrum auction. I hope the last one didn’t take to much out of them. The open-access provisions that Google proposed for the last auction would be great to have applied here, but it’s not clear that the FCC will do that without pressure. Requiring the winner to allow any device and service over their airwaves in addition to free access is going to make this spectrum even less attractive.

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Intel partners with micro-credit organization

May 28 2008 Published by Ryan under Digital Divisions

Intel has announced a partnership with the Grameen Trust, the organization that offers micro-credit loans in developing countries. The Grameen Trust founder Muhammad Yunis and his organization were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for their groundbreaking work with micro-credit in Bangladesh.

I should mention that Grameen Bank is not all unicorns and rainbows, Bangladeshis have complained of the bank’s rough collection practices.

Intel wants to make use of Grameen’s social business model, micro-credit and in-roads into communities to reach the developing world with information technology. Already many Grameen Bank patrons use their loans to invest in information technology.

This does not look like charity on Intel’s part, they are putting venture capital into the new joint-venture, but hopefully the move will help spur economic development in poverty-stricken countries.

Video of Intel’s announcement, promo video from Yunis after the bump.

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Web standards body gets involved in social development

May 27 2008 Published by Ryan under Digital Divisions

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the international body charged with managing the standard file formats and protocols that make the web work, has formed a group to look into connecting people with mobile phones. The Mobile Web for Social Development interest group (or MW4D, they really like acronyms) will be looking in how to better utilize mobile phone networks to provide services to rural and under-privileged communities in developing countries.

Mobile phones are increasingly touted as the key to issues from how to provide content to people to how to get rural communities online. Wireless cell networks are cheaper and easier to setup and phones have become inexpensive. The MW4D will bring together industry leaders in mobile technology and hopefully come up with some good ideas on how to make use of these networks.

Although the mobile device is hailed as by content producers looking for the next revolution, it has a way to go before it can be use for more than the simple communications it’s designed for.

I have a Windows smart phone right now, and it was the top-of-the-line when I bought it from AT&T last summer. Let me tell you, I really don’t like using for anything other than making calls, sending texts and sending emails. The screen is too small, the software is not well designed and the Internet connection is slow in most places. In the past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to use an iPhone and I have been impressed by how it seems to finally fix most of the problems with using a mobile phone to access Internet services. Most mobile web pages are added as an afterthought, but the iPhone gets around this by doing a great job of displaying full size web pages.

It’s good to see W3C paying attention to the problem of using Internet services on mobile phones. We shouldn’t all have to buy iPhones to be able to make use of services on the web, mobile device designers and content creators need to focus on the big opportunity on the small screen.

via Businesswire and Cellular News

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Share your Internet Connection Safely with DD-WRT

May 27 2008 Published by Ryan under Digital Divisions

There are many ways you can share your Internet connection to neighbors over WiFi. Disable security on your wireless network, or check out one of these organizations: Open-Mesh, Meraki or FON.

One of my favorite open source projects is DD-WRT. It is a software package that can be installed on many off-the-shelf wireless routers that you can find at Best Buy and the like. It turns your $50 router into a $500 one. I’ve run this software on my home wireless router for about a year now and I’ve always wanted to figure out how to share my Internet connection without allowing people full access to my network and all the computers on it. I found a great article about this.

The steps on how to set this up is in the last half of the video. The copy and paste settings that I reference in the video are after the jump.

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Broadband in rural Pennsylvania

May 24 2008 Published by Ryan under Digital Divisions

A report was released this week by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania about the state broadband access in Pennsylvania’s less populated areas. With data collected in 2005 and 2006, the project looks at how healthcare, local government, education and business in rural Pennsylvania are using high-speed Internet.

Some quotes from the report about local governments with websites:

Among the counties analyzed, Internet use for transactional purposes varied considerably. It appears, for example, that being close to an urban county makes a difference in the quality of Internet interaction possible in counties.

And if if you didn’t see that coming, here is another quote:

In analyzing the quality of e-government services among municipal governments (including boroughs, townships and cities), the most striking finding was how little local governments in rural Pennsylvania use the Internet at all, as measured by the availability of a website. The exception, a county with a strong tourism economy, had a high-level Internet presence.

The report says that the Internet was most noted for it’s “transactional use” and far less for it’s “transformative use.” The document breaks these two uses down. Transactional use of the Internet replaces the need to travel for face-to-face interaction and makes finding information easier. Transformative use means applications: creating products and services that are only possible with the Internet and information technology.

As far as getting more people connected, the report makes this comment:

Proactive governments are critical to the successful uptake of broadband technologies. Government is often a key enabling factor in the availability and use of broadband, primarily through legislative action that creates opportunities and, in some cases, constructs constraints through mandates, which dictate that technology and services be provided.

I’m interested to see the recognition of the “transformative use” of the Internet. How can the Internet transform rural America?

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In depth look at a mobile device in the classroom

May 24 2008 Published by Ryan under Digital Divisions

The teachermate is a handheld computer, like a Nintendo Gameboy or a Sony PSP, and they have been in use in Chicago public school classrooms for the past school year. The Teachers’ Podcast did a review of the device last month.

A couple weeks ago I got the opportunity to see the teachermate in action at Jungman Elementary school on the South Side of Chicago.

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Got e-learning? How about m-learning?

May 24 2008 Published by Ryan under Digital Divisions

I wrote a month ago about a school district in North Carolina that is using smart phones in class as a platform for learning.

Mobile devices could be a great way to integrate technology into the classroom. They are inexpensive, ubiquitous, and are designed for communication. A lot of kids have them already, so teachers could harness their power instead of telling the kids to turn them off.

Read Write Web has a piece up about mobile learning and the integration of mobile devices in the classroom, a response to a recent book called Augmented Learning by MIT Professor Eric Klopfer.

Klopfer call this idea m-learning. E-learning is so 2005.

Small mobile game devices are already making strides in classrooms, although they may not all be mobile phones. I’ve talked about the importance of the educational software. The mobile phone could hypothetically be a great platform, but with all the different kinds of phones and different capabilities, can you create good software that won’t require all students to by an iPhone for class?

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Not everybody has the latest Macbook Pro

May 24 2008 Published by Ryan under Digital Divisions

In response to the recent Parks Associates study that said that around one fifth of American heads-of-households had never used email, the Next Web Blog put up a post with some comments from Amazon’s CTO Werner Vogels.

Amazon focuses on keeping prices low, and so naturally attracts lower income individuals. Vogels said Amazon designs their site so that it’s accessible from slow connections, old computers and small monitors. For Vogels it’s important to make sure as many customers can use the site as possible.

As a web developer, I get excited about the newest tech, gadgets, and the best looking websites. It’s difficult to build software and web sites that both harness the best parts of interactive javascript and aesthetics and not disenfranchise the web surfers that are not up to date with their hardware and software.

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