Sunday, August 31, 2008

McCain on Technology and Innovation

A few days ago I wrote about Barack Obama's policy for technology and innovation and take a look at John McCain's policy today. I got a lot of hits and a lot of feedback (I have not posted any of it) on the Obama piece with many asking who I was supporting. My intentions here are not to support or endorse a single candidate - my goal is to outline the plans of each candidate and keep my political preferences to myself - this is a technology blog not a political one!

In mid-August, about 8 months after Obama released his technology and innovation policy paper, John McCain released his 3000 word paper titled Technology. McCain's policy was drafted in-part by
Michael Powell, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. In a format similar to Obama, McCain's policy lists 6 key points (Obama lists 5) with detail:

1. Encourage investment in innovation:
  • Supports risk capital for investment in American innovation
  • Will not tax innovation by keeping capital gains taxes low
  • Will reform and make permanent the R&D tax credit
  • Will lower the corporate tax rate to 25% to retain investment in U.S. technologies
  • Will allow first-year expensing of new equipment and technology
  • Will ensure technology and innovation is not hampered by taxes on Internet users
  • Opposes higher taxes on wireless services
2. Develop a skilled work force:
  • America must educate its workforce for the innovation age
  • Fill critical shortages of skilled workers to remain competitive
3. Champion open and fair trade:
  • Has been a long and ardent supporter of fair and open world trade
  • Offering opportunity, low prices, and increased choice for our citizens
  • Will protect the creative industries from piracy
4. Reform intellectual property protection:
  • Will push for greater resources for the patent office
  • Will pursue protection of intellectual property around the globe
  • Provide alternative approaches to resolving patent challenges
5. Keep the Internet and entrepreneurs free of unnecessary regulation:
  • Will preserve consumer freedoms
  • When regulation is warranted, McCain will continue to act
6. Ensure a fully connected citizenry:
  • Will pursue high-speed Internet access for all Americans
  • Would place a priority on science and technology experience
  • Would ensure that the federal government led by example
  • Would support the federal government as an innovator
  • Would make sure that all citizens can participate in the technology revolution
In my Obama post I included detail on how Obama would encourage the deployment of a modern communications infrastructure. Here's some detail from John McCain:

John McCain has long believed that all Americans, no matter if rich or poor, rural or urban, old or young, should have access to high-speed Internet services and receive the economic opportunities derived from technology. Access to high-speed Internet services facilitates interstate commerce, drives innovation, promotes educational achievements, and literally has the potential to change lives. As President, John McCain would continue to encourage private investment to facilitate the build-out of infrastructure to provide high-speed Internet connectivity all over America. However, where private industry does not answer the call because of market failures or other obstacles, John McCain believes that people acting through their local governments should be able to invest in their own future by building out infrastructure to provide high-speed Internet services. For this reason, Senator McCain introduced the “Community Broadband Bill,” which would allow local governments to offer such services, particularly when private industry fails to do so.

John McCain has fought special interests in Washington to force the Federal government to auction inefficiently-used wireless spectrum to companies that will instead use the spectrum to provide high-speed Internet service options to millions of Americans, especially in rural areas. As President, John McCain would continue to encourage research and development in technologies that could bring affordable alternatives to Americans, especially in rural areas.

John McCain would seek to accurately identify un-served or under-served areas where the market is not working and provide companies willing to build the infrastructure to serve these areas with high speed Internet services incentives to do so. He also supports private/public partnerships to devise creative solutions and help rural area and towns and cities in their efforts to build-out broadband infrastructure through government-backed loans or low-interest bonds.

John McCain will establish a “People Connect Program” that rewards companies that offer high-speed Internet access services to low income customers by allowing these companies offset their tax liability for the cost of this service.

Ubiquitous connectivity can allow employees to telecommute, or better yet, open up job possibilities to millions of Americans who wish to work from their home. As President, John McCain would pursue an agenda that includes encouragement of telecommuting in the federal government and private companies.

Comparing the two policies I see a few differences of opinion with the biggest being

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Conversation with MATEC Executive Director Mike Lesiecki

I'm still picking apart John McCain's technology policy and will have my summary posted before the end of this long weekend.

Earlier this month I wrote about how the National Center for Telecommunications Technologies (NCTT, focusing on information and communications technologies) collaborated with sister NSF Advanced Technology Education Centers of Excellence Maricopa Advanced Technology Education Center (MATEC, focusing on semi-conductor, automated manufacturing and electronics) and OP-TEC (focusing on optics and photonics) to sponsor the SAME-TEC 2008 Conference in Austin, Texas.

SAME-TEC has a long history, starting in 1994 with the vision of David Hata at
Portland Community College and continuing to grow and evolve under the leadership and direction of Mike Lesiecki and his team at MATEC. This year the conference had over 350 attendees.

At the conference we did a number of video interviews and John Reynolds, our multimedia specialist, has been hard at work editing them. We've now got the first one posted - an interview with Mike

There will be many more posted and you can get them different ways:

YouTube: Watch our YouTube Channel at:

and Downloading: View streaming videos and download content using your web browser at:

: If you have iTunes installed you can watch and listen to this one, watch and listen to others, and subscribe to our video and audio podcasts by following this link.

We're planning and looking forward to next years conference. Watch here, our center websites and SAME-TEC.ORG for 2009 Conference information and updates.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Afternoon Before A Long Weekend And Still In The Office......

It's the Friday before Labor Day and I'm still here..... need a laugh and this does the trick.

Enjoy your long weekend!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Obama on Technology and Innovation

The Democratic National Convention starts today so I thought it would be interesting to take a look at Barack Obama's communications and Internet policies. Obama has a comprehensive technology and innovation plan posted on his website -the nine page document is titled BARACK OBAMA: CONNECTING AND EMPOWERING ALL AMERICANS THROUGH TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION. He lists 5 key points with detail:

1. Ensure the full and free exchange of information among Americans through an open Internet and diverse media outlets:
  • Protect the Openness of the Internet.
  • Encourage Diversity in Media Ownership
  • Protect Our Children While Preserving the First Amendment
  • Safeguard our Right to Privacy
2. Create a transparent and connected democracy:
  • Open Up Government to its Citizens
  • Bring Government into the 21st Century
3. Encourage the deployment of a modern communications infrastructure:
  • Deploy Next-Generation Broadband
4. Employ technology and innovation to solve our nation’s most pressing problems, including reducing the costs of health care, encouraging the development of new clean energy sources, and improving public safety.
  • Lower Health Care Costs by Investing in Electronic Information Technology Systems
  • Invest in Climate-Friendly Energy Development and Deployment
  • Upgrade Education to Meet the Needs of the 21st Century
  • Create New Jobs
  • Modernize Public Safety Networks
5. Improve America’s competitiveness.
  • Invest in the Sciences
  • Make the R&D Tax Credit Permanent
  • Reform Immigration
  • Promote American Businesses Abroad
  • Ensure Competitive Markets
  • Protect American Intellectual Property Abroad
  • Protect Intellectual Property at Home
  • Reform the Patent System
I found parts and pieces of the last three especially interesting. Let's look at some detail for #3 - Encouraging the deployment of a modern communications infrastructure. Specifically, Obama proposes the following policies to restore America’s world leadership in this arena:

Redefine “broadband:” Current Federal Communications Commission broadband definitions distort federal policy and hamstrings efforts to broaden broadband access. Obama will define “broadband” for purposes of national policy at speeds demanded by 21st century business and communications.

Universal Service Reform: Obama will establish a multi-year plan with a date certain to change the Universal Service Fund program from one that supports voice communications to one that supports affordable broadband, with a specific focus on reaching previously un-served communities.

Unleashing the Wireless Spectrum: Obama will confront the entrenched Washington interests that have kept our public airwaves from being maximized for the public’s interest. Obama will demand a review of existing uses of our wireless spectrum. He will create incentives for smarter, more efficient and more imaginative use of government spectrum and new standards for commercial spectrum to bring affordable broadband to rural communities that previously lacked it. He will ensure that we have enough spectrum for police, ambulances and other public safety purposes.

Bringing Broadband to our Schools, Libraries, Households and Hospitals: Obama will recommit America to ensuring that our schools, libraries, households and hospitals have access to next generation broadband networks. He will also make sure that there are adequate training and other supplementary resources to allow every school, library and hospital to take full advantage of the broadband connectivity.

Encourage Public/Private Partnerships: Obama will encourage innovation at the local level through federal support of public/private partnerships that deliver real broadband to communities that currently lack it.

C-SPAN recently ran an interview with Barack Obama policy advisor and former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Bill Kennard who discusses Obama's telecommunications policy. You can watch the 31 minute interview here.

Last week John McCain issued his own 3,000 word technology policy statement - I'll take a look it in my next post.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Obama's VP Text Message - How Much Money Was Made?

The Silicon Alley Insider posted an interesting piece yesterday titled Barack Obama's Million-Dollar Text Message?*. The author, Dan Frommer, attempts to calculate how much Obama spent and how much the U.S. mobile business received when Obama announced Joe Biden as his Vice Presidential running mate using a combination of email and text messaging.

The cost of sending bulk email was probably minimal but texting is different and it looks like some pretty big money was made by the wireless companies. Here's some assumptions used by Frommer to calculate the money made:

The Wall Street Journal estimates "over three million" people were signed up to receive the Obama VP text message. Frommer used $0.03 for Obama's sent/received messages.

Frommer assumes that Obama's campaign will pay a text message aggregator between 5 cents and 10 cents per person for each message it sends.

Frommer assumes that 50% of Obama's recipients will have to spend $0.20 to send/receive the text messages, or an average $0.10 per person.

Frommer assumes that the entire transaction generates a minimum of 6 charges: 3 for Obama, 3 for the recipient.

The six charges was a little confusing at first to me but Frommer makes it pretty clear. In order to receive the Obama message, supporters have to send his campaign a message (VP to 62262 or OBAMA). Then he will send a confirmation message back. Then he'll send out the actual update. Each one of those messages generates a charge for both sides. We're assuming it costs Obama the same amount to send and receive a message.

Here's a YouTube video of the text message posted by Watch Free TV.

Frommer estimates about $900,000 was spent by Obama's supporters and the wireless industry made as much as $1.17 million to $1.35 million from the VP text message. He's has been updating his post as new information becomes available - you can watch it here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Maybe WiMAX Is Not Dead

I've written here frequently about WiMAX - a couple of weeks ago I even asked if it was dead! However, I have not forgotten about the efforts of Clearwire and Sprint NexTel to build out a national WiMAX network. Yesterday, Clearwire told Unstrung the company is expecting to close the deal, securing a $3.2 billion Sprint Nextel investment ((with $3 billion from Intel, Google, Comcast and Time Warner). The deal has met resistance from AT&T with the company complaining to the FCC about the combined spectrum that would be held by the the two companies.

Clearwire is currently running a "pre-WiMAX" fixed wireless network using proprietary technology from NextNet. The company has plans to go live with its first WiMAX (802.16e) service in Portland, Oregon in the fourth quarter of this year and follow that with Atlanta, Grand Rapids, and Las Vegas. Unstrung quotes a Clearwire spokeswoman:

While we are in a great position to launch mobile WiMAX in our Portland market by the end of the year, the timing of the commercial launch is based on a timely close of the Sprint transaction and whether we choose to secure additional financing in the interim.

I can see a place for WiMAX in rural areas - parts of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont could certainly benefit. Earlier this year I heard rumors (just rumors!) Fairpoint Communications was considering building their own WiMAX network after the Verizon territory purchase. I certainly scratched my head doubting Fairpoint would consider the cost of building something like that on their own. Now..... a Fairpoint partnership with Clearwire / Sprint Nextel building out rural areas with WiMAX...... that could be very interesting.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Pokemon 2008 World Championships

I’m at the 2008 Pokemon World Championships today in Orlando with my daughter. Right now there is a Video Game Showdown going on featuring the top 64 players from the U.S. and Japan - 32 American players and 32 Japanese players divided into two age brackets competing. First place winners of the video game showdown will each receive a grand prize that includes a six-day vacation package to New York City, Honolulu or Tokyo.

The Pokemon Trading Card Game (TCG) World Championship is also going on and is much bigger with over 350 players (divided into three age brackets) from 30 countries competing to be named the ultimate World Champions of the Pokemon Trading Card Game. Top TCG winners will get prizes and merchandise, including scholarship awards totaling $100,000.

Maybe you’ve only been exposed to the animated Pokemon television show or maybe you’ve got siblings or kids or grand kids who have collected Pokemon cards or played the Pokemon video games. These tournaments are intense – both the video and card games require a high level of skill, strategy and creativity. Games also stress fairness, honesty, respect and learning. All qualities we want to see in our kids - especially our science, math, engineering and technology students.

In total there are over 490 players here from 30 countries – three times as many as when we were last here in 2004. I'll be posting pics on my Flickr page at

This is a very impressive bunch of kids!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Alloy Media 2008 College Student Study

Alloy Media just published their 8th annual College Explorer study with some interesting results. The study was conducted online for Alloy within the United States by Harris Interactive. This September 13.6 million college students (ages 18-30) are predicted to arrive on campuses and bring $237 billion in spending (a 20% increase from last year) with them. Here's some detail on some of the mobility gadgets students will be bringing back to school with them next month:

7 in 10 students now own a laptop (a 67% increase in three years), with desktop ownership dropping 34% over the last three years.

Ownership of MP3 players has increased, with 67% of students now owning one and using it for more than just music. 23% are now watching downloadable videos on the “small” screen.

The cell phone, once a utility for getting in touch with friends and family, is now favored by a growing number of students who use it as their all-in-one device for communication, entertainment and web access.

The way television is viewed on campus is changing too:

62% of students report watching TV online.

26% are choosing to visit the various major networks websites 34% are opting for YouTube.

Others emerging platforms on campuses include Veoh, Hulu, and Joost.

I also found the politics portion of the study interesting:

90% are planning to cast their presidential vote in November. 43% state that they’re “Pro-Obama.”

Candidates’ presence on social networking sites became just as vital as a campus town hall with 88% of students (up from 73% just last year) reporting engagement with social media, including visiting social networking websites, video websites like YouTube, and blogs.

Also with regards to social networking - 81% of students have created a social networking profile - popular activities reported include posting web applications, with 39% doing so, and almost one-third posting videos.

You can read more about the study here.

Monday, August 11, 2008

CWA, IBEW and Verizon Settle

The Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers have tentatively settled on a three year contract, avoiding the 12:01 AM August 11 strike deadline. Here's some details on the agreement from the CWA website:

Verizon will extend union recognition to 600 former MCI technicians at Verizon Business who have been seeking representation for nearly two years.

New opportunities for union workers to provide customer support and service at Verizon Business are also included.

The tentative settlement also eliminates subcontracting of work in a number of job areas, converts many temporary jobs to permanent and brings additional jobs associated with Verizon's cutting edge FiOS technology into the union bargaining units.

Overall, the settlement should create 2,500 new union jobs.

Verizon and the unions have agreed to meet regularly during the course of the new agreement to review technological and business developments affecting employment, which will allow the company to stay current with business opportunities while also insuring that the unions are able to continue to represent employees as the business environment changes.

The settlement preserves fully-paid health care premiums for all active and retired employees.

Future hires will have a defined contribution formula for retirement health care with the amount of Verizon's contributions subject to negotiation in each subsequent contract.

Verizon agreed to work with the unions in a joint effort to achieve meaningful health care reform. The company will provide funding of $2 million per year to the project.

The settlement calls for wage increases totaling 10.87 percent compounded over the three-year contract term.

COLA (cost of living adjustment) language remains in the contract.

Pension bands will be increased by 10.87 percent compounded over the term of the agreement.

The settlement also provides for a streamlined grievance dispute resolution system which will speed up a process that has been taking as long as three years to complete.

Good news for all - workers, Verizon, the unions and most importantly...... Verizon customers.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Will They Strike? Deadline Monday, August 11, 12:01 AM

Negotiations continue at this time between the IBEW, CWA and Verizon. From the CWA website yesterday: the CWA/IBEW Unified Bargaining Committees set a bargaining deadline of Monday, Aug. 11, 12:01 AM for completing contract negotiations with Verizon. At that time, the existing contract that was extended last weekend will expire. Strike action then becomes possible if a fair settlement is not reached.

Been some rumors flying around but I'm not going to tell. It has not been settled yet - will they get it done? I'm still guessing yes!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Is WiMAX Dead?

International telecom advisors Analysys Mason, headquartered in London with offices in over 80 countries, released an interesting report last week on worldwide wireless opportunities for revenue growth. The report predicts cellular technologies will take the largest revenue share between now and 2015. Globally, the study predicts 2.1 billion wireless broadband customers will generate USD784 billion in service revenue by 2015.

Here's some detail from the report:

The revenue increase of about 2400% will be underpinned by continued developments in wireless technologies, improvements in devices and more flexible pricing options.

Because W-CDMA to HSPA to HSPA+ is the natural evolution path for GSM operators, the number of HSPA and HSPA+ customers worldwide will increase from 61 million at the end of 2008 to 1.1 billion at the end of 2015.

Cellular technologies will dominate wireless broadband services, with twenty times as many users as WiMAX by the end of 2015.

LTE will take off relatively slowly, but its customer base will reach 440 million by 2015, with associated revenue of USD194 billion.

WiMAX will be squeezed from developed markets by fixed and cellular broadband services and by 2015 will serve just 98 million customers worldwide, of which 92% will be in developing regions.

The report continues:

WiMAX will fail to achieve a significant share of the rapidly developing wireless broadband market, contributing only 2% of global revenue. “By 2015, there will be twenty times as many customers for cellular broadband services as for WiMAX,” according to Dr Alastair Brydon, co-author of the report, “The vast majority of MNOs will not break ranks to WiMAX, but will upgrade to LTE, resulting in over four times more LTE users by the end of 2015.”

It looks like WiMAX may not fit predicted migration paths according to Analysys Mason. You can get details from the report here.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Will Verizon, the CWA and the IBEW Avoid a Strike?

My Dad worked for AT&T as a lineman/installer repairman and one of my strongest memories growing up is of my Dad on strike in 1968. I was 11 and thought having my Dad home all summer was the greatest thing in the world. He'd go picket a few hours and the rest of the day my two brothers, sister and Mom had him at home. Looking back it was probably a pretty rough summer financially for my parents - when you are on strike you do not get paid. I remember doing a lot of fishing which, to us kids, was a lot of fun but the more I think about it we were probably fishing to put food on our table! We also had a large vegetable garden - fresh fish, tomatoes, corn, peas, beans, peppers, my father home almost all the time and the Red Sox the year after 1967 - it was a great summer.

The four of us kids also learned some valuable lessons about dedication, teamwork, commitment and holding to our beliefs that summer - my Dad could have decided to work and let his union brothers and sisters take the hit but he did not. We also learned a few new words including what a scab and a strikebreaker were.

Fast forward to last Saturday, a little before midnight, when the latest contract expired - Verizon, the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) agreed to stop the contract clock and continue to negotiate. Issues on the table include job security, health care and what kind of work the unionized workers are doing - fundamentally the same issues my Dad struck for 40 years ago.

A strike this summer would be significant for the workers, the company and for all of us that live and work in Verizon country. The timing is never right for a strike but, with the massive roll-out of optical services and the convergence of voice, video and data over IP (Internet Protocol), the stakes are probably higher this round than they have ever been. Negotiations have continued over the past two days in an attempt to finalize a new contract and there has been little news. Talks continue right at the minute I'm writing this. Continued focused discussion with no media leaks.... I see this as good news and am thinking this one may just get settled without a strike.

Monday, August 4, 2008

A Great 2008 Summer Conference

Last week, doing something a little different than we’ve done in the past, the National Center for Telecommunications Technologies (NCTT, focusing on information and communications technologies) collaborated with sister NSF Advanced Technology Education Centers of Excellence Maricopa Advanced Technology Education Center (MATEC, focusing on semi-conductor, automated manufacturing and electronics) and OP-TEC (focusing on optics and photonics) to sponsor the SAME-TEC conference in Austin, Texas. Additional sponsors included Austin Community College, AT&T, Intel, National Instruments, MATEC Networks, the National Science Foundation, the Southwest Center for Microsystems Education (SCME), SEMI, the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), the Texas Business & Education Coalition (TBEC), Texas Instruments, and the Texas State Technical Colleges (TSTC).

SAME-TEC has a long history, starting in 1994 with the vision of David Hata at Portland Community College and continuing to grow and evolve under the leadership and direction of Mike Lesiecki and his team at MATEC.

Last year, while attending SAME-TEC 2007, Dan Hull proposed our three centers collaborate in the 2008 conference and we jumped at the opportunity. The results were greater than I certainly expected. Last week each center focused on it’s own high tech pieces and over 350 attendees had the opportunity to “mix it up” and go to sessions in other disciplines. As the SAME-TEC website notes ~ faculty connected with each other to share practices, knowledge, and new approaches to help students succeed. Industry members connected with educators to ultimately help ensure students emerge into the workforce with the knowledge and skills desired by themselves and employers. Exhibitors connected with existing and potential clients to help determine current and future needs.

Mike’s leadership, Dan’s experience and the work of each center’s team really pulled the conference together nicely. I feel incredibly fortunate to work with such talented and dedicated people.

Of course we had a few hiccups along the way and will learn from them. Next year will be even better – we’ll do it again in collaboration with a number of additional NSF Centers. Watch, and for details.