Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Telco TV Subscribers Predicted To Double by 2011

Here's some interesting numbers from a new ABI Research report:

  • Global pay-TV subscribers will number more than 730 million by the end of 2011.
  • North America has the highest subscriber penetration and should reach 115.4 million by the end of 2011.
  • Western Europe has the highest Telco TV penetration rate and continues to increase in subscriber numbers, especially in France, Italy and Germany.
  • North America and Asia-Pacific regions are the second and third highest in Telco TV penetration. The numbers of subscribers in those regions are forecast to exceed 9 million and 15 million respectively by the end of 2011.
  • In the Asia-Pacific region South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan are the leading countries in Telco TV adoption.
  • Telco TV subscribers will number 47 million by the end of 2011, with a CAGR of 22.5% over the next five years (2009-2014).
Traditional Telco providers (like AT&T and Verizon in the U.S.) should continue to push hard and try and lock customers into broadband-based voice, video and data (triple play) contract offerings. What about the other providers? ABI Research associate Khin Sandi Lynn is quoted - Other type of pay-TV platforms, satellite, cable and terrestrial are also found to be increasing, although at a slower rate.

Wireless providers are not specifically mentioned in the summary but I'm guessing they will be next year as higher-bandwidth fourth-generation (4G), LTE and WiMAX service offerings grow in 2010.

You can get more information on this ABI Research report here.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

First Impressions: Barnes and Noble's Nook

Yesterday I finally got over to the Barnes and Noble (B&N) store in Hadley, MA to check out the new Nook e-book reader. I have not purchased a Nook and only had about ten minutes with it. Not a lot of hands-on time but since I've owned a first generation Kindle (Kindle 1) for a couple of years now I think I can at least compare the devices. I also had a chance to watch my thirteen year old daughter use the device for the first time. Here's my first impression pros and cons:

Nook Pros:

  • SD card slot - my Kindle 1 has a slot but the subsequent Kindle 2 and Kindle DX versions do not.
  • The Nook battery is user replaceable. Users can't replace Kindle (2 and DX) batteries - these devices need to be sent to Amazon for battery replacement. Kindle 1 batteries can be removed and replaced by the user. [Thanks Pierre T. for making this clear - see below comment]
  • The color touchscreen below the e-ink screen. It is very sluggish (see cons) but it's programmable.
  • Integrated WiFi radio - the Nook has it and the Kindle never has. There's a couple of reasons why I like this option:
    • My Kindle 1 connects over Sprint's 2G network, the Kindle 2 and DX use Sprint's 3G network. 2G is slow, 3G is not bad. WiFi is faster.
    • Also, by not providing a WiFi connection option for the Kindle, Amazon has likely had to keep the Kindle price a little higher to pay for provider connectivity.
  • The Nook has a LendMe feature that allows you to share books with your friends. It is limited to only one 14-day period per book, if the publisher gives permission. You also cannot read the book yourself if it is lended it to another Nook friend. LendMe seems like a good idea but needs some work.
  • The Nook has a touchscreen keyboard. Many will argue this point with me but I'm not a big fan of mechanical keyboards on mobile devices. They add weight, take up space, collect dust and (because they are mechanical) are more prone to breaking.
  • The Nook Operating System is Google Android based.
  • Google Books access.
  • Hackability - some users have already got Pandora, Tweet (Twiiter client), Facebook, Google Reader and web browser running on the Nook.
  • Just like the Kindle, users can also read Nook books on iPhones and iPod touches using a Nook app (users can also read on a Blackberry using a Blackberry Nook app).
  • Compared to the Kindle, Nook controls are much better positioned on the device for left-handers like me.
Nook Cons:
  • The interface is sluggish - New York Times tech writer David Pogue wrote that the Nook is slower than an anesthetized slug in winter. You need to navigate slowly or you will get ahead of the device and end up lost. But you know, my Kindle interface is sluggish too. I really did not notice much difference. They both use the same e-ink screens and this is likely the source of many of these sluggish criticisms.
    • David Pogue actually got out the stopwatch and found... It takes four seconds for the Settings panel to open, 18 seconds for the bookstore to appear (over Wi-Fi), and 8 to 15 seconds to open a book or newspaper for the first time, during which you stare at a message that says “Formatting.” Too slow!!!!
  • The interface is not intuitive (I consider the iPhone interface to be intuitive as a comparison). Pouge refers to the interface as balky and non-responsive. But.... comparing - the Kindle interface is probably just as unintuitive.
  • The LendMe feature is both a pro and a con - only one 14-day period per book and only one loan for the life of the book. LendMe is just in beta now .......
Overall the Nook looks like a strong piece of hardware that needs some operating system and software upgrades/work. These should be relatively easy fixes. I'm also hoping (and predicting) we'll see a custom Nook Android Software Development Kit (SDK) soon.

I've got a few more pics of the Nook posted here.


To access Mike Q and my 22 minute and 50 second podcast titled First Impressions: Barnes and Noble's Nook, click here.

Listen to it directly in your web browser by clicking here.

If you have iTunes installed you can subscribe to our podcasts by clicking here.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Reader Question: Is Someone Jamming My WiFi?

I recently received the following email message from a reader:


I read some of the information you provided regarding Internet signals getting jammed intentionally and otherwise. Perhaps you can shed light on an issue. When our neighbors are NOT home, I can use a PC with wireless internet (set up in a room of my home facing their home) without ever getting knocked off the internet. When they ARE home, the signal repeatedly is lost. However, A laptop in another part of the home is rarely affected.

So I set up the laptop in the PC room and lost signals (when neighbor was home) on both machines (Provider rep. suggested I do this). Neighbor walks dog or otherwise is not on their property and there is no issue with signals. AND it is random. Usually neighbor comes in for lunch break and the Inet signal is lost.

Home from work and it is lost. I unplug wireless and it comes back. On and off. This is a new development (maybe two months. After the local police informed said neighbors to stop calling 911 to report bogus complaints on us, the signals began to drop. So we believe after police warned them to stop wasting 911 resources, they got a jammer and jam our signals at every opportunity to harass us. (Honestly, this is our first and hopefully last neighbor war. We don't know why they hate us so much but have been informed they hate everyone so we try not to feel too special.)

Question 1 - How can we test or otherwise determine the signals are being jammed (we are sure they are but need proof) and pin point the source? Prove or show great reason why the source is illegal.

Question 2 - How can we protect the signal from getting jammed?

Thanks for your insight.

I've written here in the past about the jamming of cell phone, GPS and Wi-Fi signals. Here's some ideas and possible answers to the reader's two questions.

Question 1 - How can we test or otherwise determine the signals are being jammed (we are sure they are but need proof) and pin point the source? Prove or show great reason why the source is illegal.

The best way to confirm someone is jamming is to use something called a spectrum analyzer. Wireless frequency spectrum analyzers are commonly used measure signals and interference. You could spend thousands of dollars on a full blown analyzer from a company like Agilent or use a 2.4 GHz USB spectrum analyzer from a company like MetaGeek. The company sells a 2.4 GHz analyzer for $99 that comes with software that will run on both PCs and Macs. According to MetaGeek, this analyzer will track all radio activity from any 2.4GHz device including WiFi, cordless phones, microwave ovens, Zigbee and Bluetooth. The software that comes with the device also graphically shows which channels to use and which ones to avoid. Here's more of when you would want to use a device like this from the MetaGeek website:
  • If you install, maintain, or troubleshoot access points, find the open channel and minimize the interference.
  • If you work with consumers, avoid a revisit by using a Wi-Spy in case they own a microwave or cordless phone.
  • If you experience WiFi interference on a regular basis, discover competing access points.
  • Conduct site surveys.
You could purchase one of these and, attached to your laptop running on battery, walk around your home looking for jamming/interference signals. If you want to get up unto the higher frequencies where the 802.11n devices have the option of operating (802.11n can use both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies.), it will cost you quite a bit more money to measure interference. MetaGeek sells something called the Wi-Spy DBx, a 5GHz analyzer, for $599 that also comes with software.

You may also want to first try KisMac or iStumbler on an Apple machine or NetStumbler on a PC. These applications run on the computer and give you access point information including channels being used. Sometimes just swapping a channel can fix interference problems. For example, if your neighbor is using channel 6 you may want to change your access point to use channel 11.

Question 2 - How can we protect the signal from getting jammed?

If your neighbors are jamming your signal with a well designed jamming device, determining and using an open channel on your wireless access point won't work. If the jamming has been going on for a while chances are the jammer they are using functions only at 2.4 GHz. I'm I think the best thing to try (if you are currently running a 802.11g network) initially would be to switch over to an 802.11n access point and upgrade to 802.11n on your computers. If you have newer computers that may have 802.11n support built in.

You could run the 802.11n network at the higher 5GHz frequency which would be immune to the lower 2.4GHz jamming signals. This would be an inexpensive attempt that would also give you the bonus of much better network bandwidth and immunity from other interference sources (e.g some cordless phones, microwave ovens, etc) in you home.

I'm looking forward to hearing if this works.

Friday, December 4, 2009

What's DNS And Why is Google Doing It?

Yesterday, Google announced a public Domain Name Service (DNS) resolver called Google Public DNS. What's DNS? You may not be familar it but it is something you use every time you use the Internet. I like to describe DNS as a telephone book look-up service (sort of like directory service) provided typically by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Here's an example of how it works.

At home, my ISP is Comcast and I pay them every month for Internet access. I get a broadband connection (cable modem), an Internet Protocol (IP) address (think of an IP address like a telephone number - it uniquely identifies you on the web and allows you to send and receive information), a gateway connection to the World Wide Web and access to Comcast DNS servers. All pieces are important in my every day use of the web:

  • If I don't have a physical connection I can't access the web.
  • If I don't have an IP address I can't access the web.
  • If I don't have a connection (or gateway) into the World Wide Web I can't access any content outside of my own home network.
  • If I don't have DNS I can't use names or URLs to access web content.
Let's take a closer look at how DNS works. Let's say I launch my web browser and in the address bar type the URL (or name) of our Center website How does the site end up appearing on my screen? Our URL is registered which means we've paid a sponsoring registrar (in our case it is to create a domain name registration record. Included in the record is our URL ( and the IP address of the server our website is loaded at. This URL and IP address information gets distributed across the World Wide Web to DNS servers. Now, when I'm home on my Comcast connection and I type in my browser address bar, here's what happens:

A query is made from my computer to the Comcast DNS server my connection is assigned to. The DNS server looks up the IP address of the server hosting and that IP address is returned to my browser. My browser is directed to the IP address and it accesses the server, pulling down the site content. On an average day a user will access DNS servers hundreds of times, all transparently. It's a service that makes the web a lot more convenient - users only need to remember domain names and not much harder to remember IP addresses.

So, what is Google doing? Basically they are offering a competing DNS service. Users can access Google servers for DNS information and bypass ISP DNS servers if they want. It's free from Google and there are instructions on how to make the DNS server swap on the Google Code Blog.

So, why is Google launching this service? According to their announcement page it's to make make users' web-surfing experiences faster, safer and more reliable. Now, in the past ISPs have had some major DNS server meltdown problems. In defense of the ISPs things have gotten a lot better over the past few years.

Sounds great another option and maybe even a backup. Now - is bypassing ISP DNS servers something new? Not really - there are other competing DNS options similar to what Google is doing - on of the more popular ones is OpenDNS.

What's the deal here - If I'm an ISP and Google (or someone else) wants to handle DNS for my customers it sounds pretty good. I don't have to worry about maintaining DNS server hardware and keeping them updated - Google can do it for me.

But - is it really a pretty good deal for the ISPs? No - not really.

Why? Have you ever typed in an incorrect or non-existent URL? A year or so ago you would likely get some kind of server not found message in your browser. Today, depending on your ISP, you may get something called DNS redirection advertising and end up seeing a bunch of linked ads. These ads provide a new revenue stream to the ISPs so most of them are doing it. As an example, try clicking this non-existent URL Most ISPs and OpenDNS will end up taking you to a page of linked ads.

Now to be fair to the ISPs - with Comcast it's real easy to opt-out of redirection advertising by logging in to your customer portal and clicking a single option to immediately turn it off. Most ISPs do provide a similar opt-out option.

Will Google (fundamentally an ad company) eventually turn bad typing skills into revenue with their Publc DNS service? Maybe and maybe not. It will be interesting to watch.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

NTCA 2009 Broadband/Internet Availability Survey Report

Over the last 11 years the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA) has run a broadband/Internet availability survey of member companies that measures deployment rates of advanced connectivity services. The NTCA refers to itself as "the voice of rural telecommunications," and, according to their website, is the premiere non-profit association representing more than 580 small and rural telephone cooperatives and commercial companies.

The 2009 survey was run in the late spring/early summer and 156 member companies (31%) responded. Here's some of the survey results:

  • 98% of respondents offer broadband to some part of their customer base, compared to the 58% in 2000
  • 98% of those who offer broadband utilize digital subscriber line (DSL)
  • 59% utilize fiber to the home (FTTH) or fiber to the curb (FTTC) (up from 44% last year and 32% the year before that)
  • 25% utilize licensed wireless
  • 22% utilize unlicensed wireless
  • 15% utilize satellite
  • 10% utilize cable modem
  • 78% of respondents’ customers can receive 200 to 768 kilobits per second (kbps) service.
  • 73% of respondents’ customers can receive 768 kbps to 1.5 megabits per second (Mbps)
  • 77% of respondents’ customers can receive 1.5 Mbps to 3 Mbps
  • 53% of respondents’ customers can receive 3 Mbps to 6 Mbps
  • 39% of respondents’ customers can receive greater than 6 Mbps.
Among the companies surveyed, the overall take rate for broadband service was 37%.

The full report is linked here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"Scientists Standing Side By Side With Athletes and Entertainers"

These are words from President Obama yesterday in his announcement of a new Educate to Innovate Campaign to improve the participation and performance of America’s students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Most of us know excelling in STEM, when compared to the rest of the world, has not been something we've been very good at recently in the United States. Our kids currently rank 21st in science and 25th in math compared with students in other countries. The new campaign will include:

  • A two-year Sesame Street math and science push;
  • An after-school robotics program;
  • A national hands-on scientific learning "lab" day, and
  • An annual White House science fair that will publicize top scientists and their achievements.
The President said so far the private sector has committed $260 million to the campaign, and corporate giants, including Intel, Xerox, Kodak and Time Warner Cable, have signed on.

I'm not a big golf fan but am impressed with golfer Phil Mickelson's ExxonMobil Teachers Academy where, each summer, 600 third- through fifth-grade teachers from school districts across the country attend Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academies. The Academies offer a five-day program, with camps in New Jersey, Texas and Louisiana, designed to provide third- through fifth-grade teachers with the knowledge and skills necessary to motivate students to pursue careers in science and math.

President Obama's initiative looks like it will provide an opportunity for more professional athletes and also entertainers to get involved. It would be nice to see some of them sign on.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Technology Trends for Small to Medium Businesses

The New Media Consortium (NMC) has a new report out called the Horizon Report: 2009 Economic Development Edition that is a short, consise and very imformative read. The report explores the landscape of emerging technologies as it pertains to small to medium-sized businesses which account for a large part of the private-sector employment and revenue growth in our economy.

For the report, the NMC Advisory Board reviewed key trends, examining current articles, papers, interviews, and published research for the report and discovered some interesting patterns that are affecting business and industry. The five trends listed (in priority order) here as those the board believes will have a significant impact on small to medium businesses over the next five years.

  1. Employees increasingly expect to be able to work flexible hours and to work from locations other than an office building.
  2. Modern consumers expect that the content in which they are interested will be available in a variety of different forms.
  3. Gaming is an increasingly universal phenomenon among those entering the workforce.
  4. Increasing globalization continues to affect the way we work, collaborate, and communicate.
  5. Technology is increasingly a means for empowering employees, a method for communication and socializing, and a ubiquitous, transparent part of their lives.
You can read/download the full report linked here.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

21-28 Mbps In Your Pocket Soon

Martin Sauter has a nice post titled HSPA About to Overtake Wi-Fi 802.11g. He points out 802.11g, with a theoretical data rate of 54 Mega bits per second (Mbps) but a practical throughput of only about 20 Mbps, will soon be obsolete when compared to coming to HSPA+ data rates of between 21 and 28 M bps.

If you are not familiar - HSPA+ is also referred to as Evolved High-Speed Packet Access and is basically an enhanced 3G wireless broadband standard formally known as 3GPP release 7. It's just starting to take off - according to GSM World, there are currently 20 HSPA+ networks running at 21 Mbps and two running at 28 Mbps in the world today.

I think I'm already finding myself making the transition on my iPhone 3GS. When I'm away from my home I usually don't have the WiFi radio turned on, running off the 3G network connection. I do this to save battery and also have some concerns about security on open WiFi networks that I may end up attaching to. I usually don't notice a difference in performance and sometimes find myself checking the top of my screen to see if WiFi is turned on by mistake. What kind of bandwidth am I getting? Here's an iPhone screen shot that seems pretty typical - 1.265 Mbps downstream and 348 Kbps upstream. Not bad for a device I carry around in my shirt pocket (as a comparison a T1 connection runs at 1.544 Mbps) and.... it's going to get a lot better.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Green High Performance Computing: Ping, Power and Pipe

On October 21 I was at our National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education annual conference in Washington, DC. Green was the theme of of this year's conference with sessions on everything from bio-fuels, wind power, photovoltaics, computer virtualization and storage. Back at home there was another green event happening in Holyoke, MA that I had to miss. Governor Deval Patrick came out to Holyoke Community College to discuss his continued support and announce the go ahead for the planned construction of the regions first high performance computer center in a new "innovation" district located in Holyoke, MA. Partners in the project include Cisco, EMC (both companies also in attendance at our NSF conference in Washington, DC), MIT, Boston University and the University of Massachusetts.

If you are not from Massachusetts maybe you haven't heard of Holyoke. If you are from the area you probably think of Holyoke as an old New England mill town. What you may not know is 160 years ago Holyoke was the first planned industrial city in America. Here's a brief historical overview summarized from the city website:
  • In 1847, taking advantage of the broad plain and the 57 foot drop in the Connecticut River at South Hadley Falls, work began on a planned industrial City. Construction of Holyoke's first wooden dam began in 1847 under the Hadley Falls Company.
  • As Holyoke matured, it began to diversify industrially. Four and a half miles of canals were dug by pick and shovel through the lower wards, and all types of products were manufactured along their banks.
  • Textiles were the first major product of the City, quickly followed by paper. Within 30 years, Holyoke would become known as the "Paper City of the World".
  • From its highs of the 1920's industry showed a gradual decline in overall employment. Many labor and energy intensive firms followed the national pattern, and moved to the South and West, to be nearer raw materials and cheaper labor. The remaining industries took advantage of Holyoke's unique resources, especially her highly skilled labor force and plentiful water for power and process uses.
  • Although many of the paper mills left, many specialty paper producers have remained.
Manufacturing, textiles, speciality paper,,,,, what does that have to do with a green high performance computing center? A recent post at referred the attraction to Holyoke as ping, power and pipe - the city has a high-speed network in place with fiber connections to major research universities, low cost water-power generated electricity and the required cooling infrastructure.

There is still considerable work to be done with the next step over the next couple of months an executed purchase and sale agreement. According to the piece, 80 different sites in the Holyoke canal district are being considered for the center.

I live across the Connecticut River in South Hadley and drive through the canal district every day back and forth to work at Springfield Technical Community College. The canals and old buildings are beautiful and I love the ride - I'm looking forward to the watching the center, innovation district and area transition and grow.

Friday, October 16, 2009

What's a Green Mobile Device?

A recent survey of 1000 adult mobile phone users in North America by ABI Research revealed 7% of those surveyed would pay a premium for an environmentally friendly green handset. Another 40% said they would select a green handset if price, features and performance were equal. I've never heard the term "green handset" used and am in the majority according to ABI - only 4% of those surveyed said they were ‘very familiar’ with green handsets.

What's really "green" and not just "greenwashing" can be confusing. According to industry analyst Michael Morgan there are three key factors for a handset to be "truly green":

  • Using recyclable or renewable materials;
  • ensuring that handsets are in fact recycled after use; and
  • the use of low-power chargers.
ABI Research projects the percentage of properly recycled handsets will grow from 8% in 2009 to 17% in 2014.

You can get more information on the ABI survey here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wi-Fi Direct

Tomorrow the Wi-Fi Alliance consortium (Cisco, Apple, Intel and over 300 other equipment manufacturers), will release something called Wi-Fi Direct - a technology that will turn (according to Business Week) turns gadgets into mini access points, able to create wireless connections with other Wi-Fi-enabled gadgets or broadband modems within a radius of about 300 feet.

Wi-Fi Direct enabled devices can be setup to automatically scan the vicinity for existing hot-spots and the gamut of Wi-Fi equipped devices, including phones, computers, TVs, and gaming consoles. They will then be able to connect to these devices in a peer-to-peer configuration. Two connected devices will not have to be both running Wi-Fi Direct, only one of two paired devices will have to be enabled to establish a connection. Here's more from Business Week:

The feature could boost usage of Wi-Fi capabilities in smartphones and television sets in particular. "It makes adding Wi-Fi to devices that don't have Wi-Fi more compelling," says Kelly Davis-Felner, marketing director at Wi-Fi Alliance. Marvell is already talking to makers of TVs, few of whom offer Wi-Fi connectivity today but are now considering adding the capability to let users wirelessly transfer photos and video from their Wi-Fi-enabled cameras, camcorders, and netbooks directly onto TV screens.

You'll be able to upgrade many of your existing Wi-Fi enabled devices. Expect to see enabled products like cameras, TV's, printers and just about every smart-phone become available next year and get ready for some pretty cool television commercials demonstrating the technology!

Monday, October 5, 2009

ATETV.ORG - Thinking About A High Technology Career?

If you or someone you know is thinking about a career in a high technology field, you need to take a look at Advanced Technological Education Television (ATETV.ORG). There, you'll find a National Science Foundation funded Web-based video series and interactive network designed to connect students and professionals with careers in advanced technology. The series highlights ATE success stories from community colleges and ATE programs nationwide. Its outreach efforts -- at and on social networking sites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter -- aim to connect employers in industry and government with the high-tech workforce of tomorrow.

Here's the third episode in the series, featuring how The College of the Mainland trains students on an industry-scale oil refinery and how schools are working to close the gender gap in biotechnology. Be sure to check this one out along with all the episodes on YouTube and grab them on iTunes.

A little more from the ATETV website....... globalization has changed the scope of our workforce, creating new opportunities and greater demand for workers in the fields of science and technology. In order to drive our economy forward, we must recruit, train and place technically skilled professionals to meet new demand.

How can you get involved and learn more - check out ATETV.ORG and your local community college!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Why the Public Switched Telephone Network Is Sunsetting

In my last post, titled Verizon No Longer Concerned With Telephones Connected With Wires, I described an interview Ivan Seidenberg, chief executive of Verizon Communications, did at a Goldman Sachs investor conference on Thursday. In the inteview Seidenberg described how, by using the decentralized structure of the Internet rather than the traditional design of phone systems, Verizon had a new opportunity to cut costs sharply.

This summer I spent some time reading Martin Sauter's excellent new book Beyond 3G, Bringing Networks, Terminals and the Web Together. In the book Martin describes the movement in the wireless/cellular world away from circuit-switched telephony technologies like 2G, 2.5G (EDGE) and even 3G to 4G based technologies like LTE and WiMAX.

What does wireless technology have to do with copper wires? Like these wireless technologies, the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) uses circuit-switched telephony technology designed around voice. Even DSL (a technology basically designed to extend the life of the copper wire based network by a few years) is a circuit-switched service - Internet based traffic goes to the Internet and voice traffic goes - you guessed it - right to the PSTN.

Circuit-switch based networks have made a lot of sense for the past 100 years or so. They work well for voice calls because by nature they are deterministic. If a circuit is available a connection is made. If a circuit is not available the call attempt gets rejected and the customer gets some kind of message back from the busy switch. Once a connection is made (phone-to-phone) the connection is also deterministic - each call is independent and cannot influence any other calls. A great design for voice communications - whether it be with copper wires or over wireless frequencies.

The problem with these circuit-switch based networks though is they were designed for voice. Sauter argues correctly that when networks are designed for specific applications, there is no separation between the network and the applications which ultimately prevents evolution. In addition, tight integration of applications and networks also prevents the evolution of an application because changing the applications also requires changes to the network itself. The PSTN basically cannot evolve beyond where it is now - it's been tweaked-up to the point where it cannot be tweaked-up any more.

Internet (TCP/IP based) technologies work using exactly the opposite approach. A neutral transport layer carries packets and any kind of application (voice, video, data, etc) can efficiently send high and low volumes of data through the network. For applications the connection process is transparent - the device operating system establishes an Internet connection before the application is even launched. The network and any applications running that use the network are independent of each other.

Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint, etc are all moving to non-circuit-switched IP based 4G technologies like WiMAX and LTE to handle voice, video and data traffic. It is inevitable that Verizon's landline division (along with other landline carriers) move in this same direction.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Verizon No Longer Concerned With Telephones Connected With Wires

According to the New York Times, that's what Ivan Seidenberg, the chief executive of Verizon Communications said at a Goldman Sachs investor conference on Thursday.

Why? Traditional landline customer numbers have been shrinking and not just for Verizon. Earlier at the conference according to the same Times article, Randall Stephenson, chief executive of AT&T, and Ed Mueller, head of Qwest Communications, both talked about seeing a day when their landline businesses would stop shrinking.

Here's a few more interesting quotes from the piece:

Mr. Seidenberg said that his “thinking has matured” and that trying to predict when the company would stop losing voice landlines “is like the dog chasing the bus.”

Video is going to be the core product in the fixed-line business,” Mr. Seidenberg declared. And the focus will move from selling bundles of video and landline to video and cellphones, he added.

By converting most of its landline operation to FiOS, Mr. Seidenberg said Verizon had a new opportunity to cut costs sharply. FiOS uses the decentralized structure of the Internet rather than the traditional design of phone systems, which route all traffic through a tree of regional, then local offices.

We don’t look any different than Google,” he said. “We can begin to look at eliminating central offices, call centers and garages.”

The article finishes with Seidenberg talking of the psychological lift he had gotten when he finally escaped from the shadow of the legendary Alexander Graham Bell and his copper wires. “Once I shed myself of the burden of chasing the inflection point in access lines and say ‘I don’t care about that anymore,’ I am actually liberated,” he said.

[Thanks to Mark O for sending me a link to this article - be sure to read the entire New York Times piece linked here.]

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Report on Internet Speeds In The U.S.

The Communications Workers of America released their third annual Speed Matters survey of Internet speeds last week. The 67 page report takes a look at how U.S. Internet speeds compare state-by-state and with the rest of the world. Here's some highlights:

  • The United States ranks 28th in average Internet connection speeds.
  • The average download speed for the nation was 5.1 megabits per second (Mbps) and increased from 4.2 Mbps last year.
  • The average upload speed for the nation was 1.1 mbps and increased from 873 kilobits per second (Kbps) last year.
  • The U.S. average upload speed is far too slow for patient monitoring or transmitting large files such as medical records.
How do we compare? 24 other countries in the world have faster broadband than we do in the U.S. Here's some of the faster ones:
  • In South Korea, the average download speed is 20.4 Mbps.
  • In Japan, the average download speed is 15.8 Mbps.
  • In Sweden, the average download speed is 12.8 Mbps.
  • In the Netherlands, the average download speed is 11 Mbps.
According to the CWA report, at our current rate of increase, it will take the United States 15 years to catch up with current Internet speeds in South Korea. Also:
  • 90% of Japanese households have access to fiber-to-the-home networks capable of 100 Mbps.
  • The average advertised download speeds offered by broadband providers in Japan was 92.8 Mbps and in South Korea was 80.8 Mbps.
The report also indicates relatively few Americans have access to truely high-speed two-way communications:
  • 18% of those who ran the speed test on the Speed Matters website recorded download speeds slower than 768 Kbps which does not even qualify as basic broadband according to the new(er) Federal Communications Commission definition.
  • 64% of speed test participants connected at less than 10 Mbps downstream which is not enough bandwidth for high-definition video.
  • Only 19% connected at speeds greater than 10 Mbps and only 2% of those exceeded 25 Mbps downstream.
In the United States, Delaware was ranked number one with an average download speed of 9.906 Mbps and an average upload speed of 2.310 Mbps. Puerto Rico was ranked last (53rd) with average download speeds of 1.043 Mbps and average upload speeds of 383 Mbps.

Some will argue about the way the data was collected and things like sample sizes, etc. In the end though we are performing incredibly poorly when compared with the rest of the world.

The Speed Matters website has the full free report that includes a state-by-state breakdown along with the option of viewing and downloading individual state specific reports. Be sure to check it out and see how your state did.

[Note: Image above taken from full report, page 1]

Monday, August 31, 2009

Online Courses - Preparing for H1N1 at the University of Southern Florida

Last week I read an interesting article in the St Petersburg Times about how the University of Southern Florida (USF) is taking precautions for H1N1. The article did not focus on the usual (and so important) hand-washing, vaccination, go home if you are feeling sick content we've all been seeing. It focused on the use of online content as a backup in the event USF gets shut down because of the virus. Here's a piece from that St Petersburg Times article:

University of South Florida students returning to class Monday found something new on every course syllabus: A paragraph outlining USF's plan to hold classes online, via e-mail or a video service like Skype, in the event of emergency. And one of this fall's worst-case scenarios concerns a possible severe outbreak of swine flu that could force the suspension of classes, perhaps for weeks. "In my mind, that's a high probability," said Tapas Das, USF's associate provost for policy analysis, planning and performance.

A couple of weeks ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a document titled CDC Guidance for Responses to Influenza for Institutions of Higher Education during the 2009-2010 Academic Year. In the document, the CDC says to decrease the spread of flu, CDC may recommend preemptive class suspension if the flu starts to cause severe disease in a significantly larger proportion of those affected than occurred during the spring/summer 2009 outbreak.

Is USF going too far with their preparation? I don"t think so after taking a look at what the CDC experts are saying. The university seems to be making a strong preemptive effort to prevent an entire semester from being canceled because of the flu.

My favorite piece of the St Petersburg Time article is the last few lines:

At first, Das said, it was hard to imagine teaching some courses in nontraditional ways. But he said USF professors have been working on backup plans to continue teaching even courses like music, theater and dance.

"This is, perhaps," he said, "an opportunity for us to be more creative."

Very nicely said Associate Provost Das. Could this be an opportunity for all of us involved in higher education to be more creative?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

I’m Gabby and I’m a PC

[I know, I know the iPhone SDK will only run on a Mac but.... bear with me! And anyways.... any savvy Mac user is also running Windows using bootcamp or a virtual machine!]

I started writing this up on a flight back home from Tampa. I’ve been vacationing on the beach in Clearwater Beach, Florida for the past three weeks with my family, perhaps trying to catch one more little bit of childhood with our oldest daughter Gabby who is heading off to study computer science at Mount Holyoke College next week.

The past three weeks Gabby, Eva, Diane and I basically beach-bummed around. We swam, beachcombed, fished, snorkeled, scalloped….. I slacked off on my work these last three weeks like never before. I’m behind on just about everything – email, reports, proposals and Twitter follow-backs. I haven’t posted a blog since the end of July and the people I work with probably don’t remember what I look like! If I owe you something – I’ll catch up – it is coming!

It was worth it though - the best part of these three weeks by far has been the chance to take some time to watch, reflect and look back. It’s been an interesting and fun summer with Gabby, her sister Eva and Diane.

Like any parent will tell you, watching your kids grow up is pretty special. One event from this summer that will remain etched in my mind forever was watching Gabby presenting to a room full of college faculty at an iPhone SDK workshop with Mike Q (thank you Mike!) at the HI-TEC Conference. It was amazing to watch her and Mike teach, demonstrate, help people out and answer questions. The only way I can describe it – it was like watching her go from a teenager to an adult in about three hours. I got to relive that experience again watching her do a MATEC Networks Webinar on the same topic a couple weeks later. That pic up on the left is her during the webinar session.

A whole bunch of emotions for me pretty much boiled down to a huge amount of pride and just about as much sadness at the same time. She’s grown up.

It’s been a wonderful 18 years since Gabby was born, almost four weeks premature and so tiny. She’s always had a passion for computers, science, technology and math. Here’s an old video of her when she was 3 years old showing Dad how to use Windows 95. She’ll probably be upset that I posted it but I’ll take that chance. I call the video “I’m Gabby and I’m a PC”.

That little rascal in that video is off to college! Wow – where did the years go? And…… look out big sis – your younger sister is Eva moving up just as fast!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Mobile Broadband Growth 2009

Lynnette Luna from FierceBroadbandWireless has an interesting post titled
Two studies point to explosive mobile broadband growth. In the post she first refers to Informa Telecoms & Media's newest World Cellular Data Metrics report, quoting the following:

  • Mobile broadband subscribers worldwide almost reached a quarter of a billion at the end of March with more than 225 million subscribers. The figure represented 93% year-on-year growth.
  • The popularity of mobile broadband is at its highest in the Asia-Pacific region, which supports more than 90 million subscribers.
  • Latin American subscribers represent 385% year-on-year growth and support more than 10 million subscribers as 3G operators offer emerging market subscribers a primary Internet connection.
  • The spread of the iPhone continues to boost data usage for those operators that distribute the model with O2 reporting that 40% of its data traffic in UK comes from the smartphone market.
Lynnette also quotes Allot Communications' first Global Mobile Broadband Traffic Report (GMBT). This report tracked global IP application usage and growth, collected data from leading mobile operators worldwide with a combined user base of more than 150 million subscribers:
  • Worldwide mobile data bandwidth usage has increased by about 30% during the second quarter of 2009.
  • Asia leads the growth with 36%.
  • Europe posted 28% growth.
  • The Americas recorded 25% growth.
Allot also says the report shows how subscribers, particularly heavy data users, do not distinguish between their fixed and their mobile networks, and seem to expect the same service from the Internet, irrespective of their access method. Specifically:
  • HTTP browsing is the most popular application globally and usage increased by 21%.
  • HTTP streaming is the fastest growing application with a usage increase of 58%. This includes streaming sites such as YouTube and Hulu.
  • HTTP downloads, which experienced 34% growth globally, are now almost as popular as P2P, and in EMEA have even overtaken P2P in popularity.
  • P2P accounts for 42% of bandwidth utilization in the busiest cells on the network, but only 21% in the average cell.
You can get information on the Allot report here and get information on the Informa report here.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Plastic Logic E-Reader

Plastic Logic has a new e-book reader coming out early next year that looks pretty interesting and should give the Kindle DX some competition. Here's some preliminary specs on the device:

  • The device will be slightly larger than the Kindle DX and have a touchscreen.
  • The device will be marketed to business users which probably means it will be priced higher than the Kindle DX. The Kindle DX currently sells on Amazon for $489 with free shipping.
  • The device will have a built in 3G radio for access over AT&T's network and also have a built in WiFi network.
  • Barnes and Noble will manage the devices electronic book store.
  • In addition to e-books, the device will display several other document formats including PDF, DOC, DOCX, XLS, XLSX, PPT, PPTX, JPEG, PNG, TEXT, HTML, BMP, RTF and ePub.
  • The first version will be grayscale but Plastic Logic says color is "in the works".

Here's a short video from CNN that includes Plastic Logic CEO Richard Archuleta demoing the new device.

I'm wondering how long it will take before we see heavy bulky textbooks replaced by devices like these.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mike Q HI-TEC Educator Of The Year

Today I had the honor of presenting Mike Qaissaunee the HI-TEC Educator of the Year Award. HI-TEC is a national conference on advanced technical education where technical educators, counselors, industry professionals, and technicians can update their knowledge and skills. HI-TEC uniquely explores the convergence of scientific disciplines and technologies.

Here's the text from the presentation:

The HI-TEC Educator of the Year Award recognizes a community college educator for outstanding contributions to advanced technological education. Nominees for the award must have had a demonstrated impact on technology education on both a local and national level.

This year there were several excellent nominees and the decision was a difficult one. As you probably know, Michael Qaissaunee is this year’s awardee.

Many of you know Mike, an Associate Professor of Engineering and Technology at Brookdale Community College and founding director of the Mid-Atlantic Institute for Telecommunications Technologies . As Principal Investigator of this NSF project, Mike led the development and implementation of numerous courses related to wireless communications technologies. He’s also Co-Principal Investigator for the National Information and Communications Technologies Center in Massachusetts, serving as a subject matter expert in wireless communications and leading ICT Center's national dissemination efforts.

He’s been involved with many projects around the United States and in 2007 was selected as recipient of the Global Wireless Education Consortium (GWEC) Wireless Educator of the Year Award.

He is a national leader and expert (many refer to him as a Rock Star) promoting the adoption of new technologies and approaches to teaching and learning, including: blogs, audio and video podcasts, wikis, mobile computing and educational gaming and simulation. This includes workshops and keynote addresses in wireless, wireless security, iPhone programming, and Web 2.0.

Here’s some things you may not know about Mike:

His father Abdul was the first person from his village in Afghanistan to go beyond elementary school. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) brought him to the U.S. in the midst of his 11th-grade year. He graduated with honors from the University of Wyoming and returned to Kabul, where he headed the technology department at the technical high school he had left only two and half years earlier.

Three years later, USAID brought him back to America to study highway engineering. Barbara (Mike’s Mom who is here today) and Abdul met at the University of Illinois where she was completing her master's degree in library science. After Abdul completed his PhD, he and Barbara moved back to Afghanistan where he began working at Kabul University, eventually becoming Dean of the Engineering school.

In Afghanistan, his parents had three children--Mike is the middle child. In 1973 Barbara and Abdul moved their family from Afghanistan to Delaware where Abdul took a faculty position and Barbara worked as a librarian at Delaware State.

Both of Mike’s parents were a great inspiration and instilled great value on teaching and learning. Mike graduated from high school in Delaware at the top of his class and was accepted at a number of top engineering schools including MIT. He selected the University of Delaware for his Mechanical Engineering degrees.

Mike now lives in New Jersey with two other great inspirations - his wife Laura and daughter Haley.

I’ve had the honor of working and getting to know Mike for the past 6-7 years. He’s intelligent, honest, respectful, humble and has a great sense of humor. We’re pretty lucky to be working with him and his students are pretty lucky to be in his classes.

I can’t think of a more deserving person for this first HI-TEC Educator of the Year Award.

Please join me in congratulating Mike!

Some of the pictures from the conference are linked here.

Way to go Mike Q!!!!!!!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

NBC's New Comedy - Community (College)

There's a new half-hour comedy about higher education...and lower expectations coming from Emmy Award-winning directors Joe and Anthony Russo to NBC this fall titled Community. The comedy is centered around the fictitious Greendale Community College. Here's an interesting quote from the NBC website describing the show:

It's been said that community college is a "halfway school" for losers, a self esteem workshop for newly divorced housewives, and a place where old people go to keep their minds active as they circle the drain of eternity. Well, at Greendale Community College...that's all true. Community focuses on a band of misfits, at the center of which is a fast-talkin' lawyer whose degree has been revoked (Joel McHale, The Soup). They form a study group and, in "Breakfast Club" fashion, end up learning a lot more about themselves than they do about their course work.

NBC is going all out with this show - they're even going to put together a Greendale Community College website that will introduce the show characters including: the student body, Dean Pelton, the faculty, etc. Here's a 4 minute promo you may find interesting.

What's the real story? Here's some current stats from the American Association of Community Colleges website (I've quoted these in the past).

Number and Type of Community Colleges:
Total: 1,195
Public: 987
Independent: 177
Tribal: 31
Total: 11.5 million
Enrolled full time: 41%

Enrolled part time: 59%

Selected Demographics:
Average age: 29
Women: 60%

Men: 40%

Minorities: 35%

First generation to attend college: 39%

Single parents: 17%

Percentages of Undergraduates:
All U.S. undergraduates: 46%
First-time freshmen: 41%

Native American: 55%

Asian/Pacific Islander: 46%

Black: 46%

Hispanic: 55%

Employment Status:
Full-time students employed full time: 27%
Full-time students employed part time: 50%

Part-time students employed full time: 50%

Part-time students employed part time: 33%

Sound familiar? Maybe your neighbor, your friend, your grandchild, maybe even you. Community colleges are wonderful, inexpensive places to get the first two years of a four year degree or learn a specific skilled technology.

I just don't get where this show is coming from. Is it tongue in cheek humor? We'll see and we'll see how long it lasts..... The series premieres Thursday, September 17th 9:30/8:30c.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Massive Internet Traffic Volume During Michael Jackson Memorial Service

Akamai has released some interesting network traffic data today, the day after Michael Jackson's Memorial service. The service started at 1 Eastern yesterday with many watching from there office computers. Here's some of theinformation Akami has reported:

The company delivered more than 2,185,000 live and on-demand streams in Flash and Windows Media formats.

Total traffic on the Akamai network surpassed a rate of more than 2 terabits per second during the memorial service.

Early on in the online streaming of the memorial services, at about 1:00 pm EST, there was a peak on Akamai's Net Usage Index for News at 3,924,370 visitors per minute, with more than 3.3 million visitors per minute coming from North America.
In contrast, on June 25th, at about 6:30 EST, as word of Jackson’s death began to spread, traffic on the Net Usage Index for News spiked to 4,247,971 global visitors per minute at its peak as compared to average of approximately 2,000,000 visitors per minute globally. Seventy-five percent of visitors were accessing sites from within the United States.

Also as a point of comparison, the largest day on the Akamai network in terms of total traffic on its network was the Obama Inauguration live streaming online in January
2009. During the
Inauguration, the Akamai network surpassed a rate of more than 2 terabits per second at approximately 12:15 p.m. ET. Akamai also delivered over 12,000,000 requests per second at the same time

Here's more from the press release:

“When a public figure of global prominence such as Michael Jackson passes away, the public’s desire for up to date information and news is rarely satiated,” said Robert Hughes, executive vice president of Global Sales, Services, and Marketing at Akamai. “Akamai’s network has seen a steady stream of online traffic when news of any sort related to Michael Jackson is updated, and we expected demand from a global online audience around the online streaming of his funeral would be no different. For an event of this scale, Akamai's globally-distributed EdgePlatform is unique in its ability to bypass congestion points on the Internet, and to ensure a reliable, high-quality experience for our customers. While this event was supported without any issues for our broadcast customers, it is also important to point out that Akamai continued to deliver perfect quality of service for the remainder of our 2,800 enterprise customers. This is just the beginning of what is possible when broadcasting live to audiences around the world.”

Akamai, a Massachusetts based company, has created a digital operating environment for the Web. A global platform of thousands of specially-equipped Akamai servers helps the Internet withstand the crush of daily requests for rich, dynamic, and interactive content, transactions, and applications. When delivering on these requests, Akamai detects and avoids Internet problem spots and vulnerabilities, to ensure Websites perform optimally, media and software download flawlessly, and applications perform reliably.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Pew Study: Home Broadband Adoption 2009

I've been watching the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project reports for a while now and their latest report has some interesting information. According to Pew, for the period between December 2007 and December 2008 high-speed adoption was stagnant between 54% and 57% in the United States. This past year we've seen a jump - home broadband adoption stood at 63% of adult Americans as of April 2009, up from 55% in May, 2008.

Here's more from the report:

The Pew Internet Project’s April 2009 survey interviewed 2,253 Americans, with 561 interviewed on their cell phones.

The greatest growth in broadband adoption in the past year has taken place among population subgroups which have below average usage rates. Among them:

Senior citizens: Broadband usage among adults ages 65 or older grew from 19% in May, 2008 to 30% in April, 2009.

Low-income Americans: Two groups of low-income Americans saw strong broadband growth from 2008 to 2009:
- Respondents living in households whose annual household income is $20,000 or less, saw broadband adoption grow from 25% in 2008 to 35% in 2009.
- Respondents living in households whose annual incomes are between $20,000 and $30,000 annually experienced a growth in broadband penetration from 42% to 53%.

Overall, respondents reporting that they live in homes with annual household incomes below $30,000 experienced a 34% growth in home broadband adoption from 2008 to 2009.

High-school graduates: Among adults whose highest level of educational attainment is a high school degree, broadband adoption grew from 40% in 2008 to 52% in 2009.

Older baby boomers: Among adults ages 50-64, broadband usage increased from 50% in 2008 to 61% in 2009.

Rural Americans: Adults living in rural America had home high-speed usage grow from 38% in 2008 to 46% in 2009.

Population subgroups that have above average usage rates saw more modest increases during this time period.

Upper income Americans: Adults who reported annual household incomes over $75,000 had broadband adoption rate change from 84% in 2008 to 85% in 2009.

College graduates: Adults with a college degree (or more) saw their home high-speed usage grow from 79% in 2008 to 83% in 2009.

Notably, African Americans experienced their second consecutive year of broadband adoption growth that was below average.
- In 2009, 46% of African Americans had broadband at home.
- This compares with 43% in 2008.
- In 2007, 40% of African Americans had broadband at home.

Last year, the average monthly bill for broadband internet service at home was $34.50, a figure that stands at $39.00 in April 2009.

Download the full Pew report PDF file here.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Impressions: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the Iranian Revolution

Saturday, June 20, 2009, was a fairly typical day for me. The only thing different than most Saturdays was we woke up early and dropped my daughter off at the airport for a graduation gift trip with her friends. On the way home my wife, younger daughter and I decided to stop at the mall and have the Apple store take a look at my daughter's busted power button on her iPod touch. We made a reservation at the Apple Genius Bar and ended up with about an hour and a half to kill walking around the mall. My wife and daughter ended up doing most of the shopping and I ended up peeking at my Twitter feed on my iPhone. I noticed a lot of tweets tagged #iranelection and decided to start following those tags.

Like tens of thousands of others for the rest of the day I watched a revolution tweet by tweet - described in 140 characters or less on Twitter. The Iranian government had pretty much shut down traditional media (television feeds, reporters, etc) but that did not matter - they could not shut down the web. As Secretary of Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, the Iranian government "could not draw the net tight enough to stop everything" It was evident when I got home and turned on the TV - guess where the major networks (CNN, Fox, etc) were getting their updates on Saturday - Twitter, Facebook, YouTube......

The ability to read, watch and experience through the eyes of others what was happening in real time was something I had never experienced before. The closest think I can compare it to was was it felt like like watching a live battle - not through the eyes and interpretation of a reporter or camera person - but through the tweets of the individual soldiers.

For the past few days there are reports the Iran government has been confiscating laptops, cell phones, etc and analyzing historical information on the devices. It is very simple to pull historical information off cell phone SIM cards (for example) and they will be able to track down some of the posters this way. It has also been reported the government is taking a close look at those videos on YouTube and will be identifying some of the protesters this way too. There are also reports of looking at things like Twitter names and tracing IP addresses to ID people. There also may have been a counter attack using social media, hacking Moussavi's Facebook page and posting incorrect information to confuse and upset his supporters.

What can be done? Not much without shutting the entire country down from the rest of the world. I'm guessing tsomeone is taking a serious look at cell phone signal jammers that could shut down cellular communications when things start to get out of control. Sure things can be shut down temporarily but a jammer is not going to stop a user from tweeting or recording video and then posting the content when they do get a connection. It will be very difficult to shut this stuff down for extended periods of time.

So many really smart people have told me they just don't get social media apps like Twitter and I struggle sometimes describing why and how I use them. I'm hoping a lot of people are getting it a little more after the past weekend. Saturday will stick with me and I'll remember it in a way that I remember the first time I saw a color television, used a modem, sent an email and searched the web.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Pokemon Video Game Championship Series

A couple of weeks ago I got up early to drive down to the Pokemon Video Game Northeastern Championship Series in King of Prussia (outside Philadelphia) with my daughter. Nintendo runs these competitions around the U.S. and Japan, culminating in a World Championship event being held this year in San Diego on August 14.

Nintendo splits the competition into two age groups - a Juniors Category for players born on or after January 1, 1997 and a Seniors Category for players born on December 31, 1996 or earlier. I've always found the age grouping odd - you often have 12 year old kids competing against much older adults which, to me as a parent, is a little bit creepy.

The competitor selection process is also setup in an odd way. There are only 128 competition slots in each age group with players randomly selected. We arrived around 7:00 and waited for registration to open - by the time registration ended there we're close to 500 people signed up for the 128 place older age group lottery. Names were randomly pulled and 128 people were selected to compete. Yes, there were 40-plus year old adults competing with 12 year old kids. There were also a lot of discouraged kids (and parents) who traveled some long distances only to not have their name pulled.

I ended up sitting for a while with a guy in his late thirties who had competed in the first round of the seniors category and lost. He told me he had not spent much time preparing for the competition and was really only there to throw his name into the lottery for a chance at the give-aways only the people that compete get. He was extremely proud of the DS (game) sticker he had "won" telling me "Only the people that compete get these special stickers".

I asked him if it bothered him that he had taken a competition slot from a 12 year old who had likely spent a lot more time preparing than he did - he told me "No, not at all".

My Flickr picture set for the event is linked here

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Simulation and Modeling in Technology Education (SMTE) Project

This is pinball game demonstrating the type of simulation we'll be using for the Survival Master game for STEM learning .

You can follow along via the project website at

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

FCC National Broadband Plan: Defining Access

It's a busy time of year with my daughter graduating from high school, the end of the semester, etc, etc, etc. Things are settling down now and I wanted to get back to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Notice of Inquiry (NOI) to develop a modern national broadband plan that will seek to ensure that every American has access to broadband capability.

As I've written in the past, the NOI is currently open for comment until June 8 with FCC reply to comments on July 7. In my last post I took a look at Defining Broadband Capability. Today let's look at Defining Access to Broadband as described in the 59 page report. I've listed selected items the FCC is seeking comment on, followed by my comments.

The FCC seeks comment on what it means to have access to broadband capability. For instance, the FCC seeks comment on whether the determination of availability should take into consideration the provision of broadband at locations, such as at home, at work, in schools, in transit, in libraries and other similar community centers, and at public Wi-Fi hotspots.

Broadband capability needs to be everywhere. Prioritizing (for example, saying a library requires more bandwidth per user than a home) makes little sense. We need to make broadband available to everyone.

The FCC seeks comment on whether to interpret the capability term differently
depending on the technology used or whether it is used in a fixed, nomadic, or mobile context.

A minimum definition should be set that all technologies should meet and then categories should be broken out. For example, a fiber to the home (FTTH) fixed technology connection is going to have considerably more capability than a mobile wireless connection.

The FCC seeks comment on whether (and if so, how) the Commission should evaluate the term “access”
with certain basic consumer expectations in mind.

In 2005 the Commission adopted an Internet Policy Statement in which it committed “to preserve and promote the vibrant and open character of the Internet as the telecommunications marketplace enters the broadband age” by incorporating four consumer-based principles into its ongoing policy making activities. (1) “consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice”; (2) “consumers are entitled to run applications and use services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement”; (3) “consumers are entitled to connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network”; and (4) “consumers are entitled to competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers.”

I believe these 4 principles are critical as we move forward and these principles should be turned into rules (through a rulemaking).

To what extent should the Commission consider price or marketplace competition for broadband as it considers whether people have access to broadband capability?

Competition is key if we want bandwidths from different providers to leapfrog and prices to drop. In Massachusetts we've seen fierce competition in the eastern part of the state as Verizon (FiOS) and the cable companies go back and forth with each other. In Western Massachusetts (where I live) FiOS is not available and we are seeing little competition when compared.

Areas where there is only a single provider typically have to wait for long periods of time to see new broadband delivery technologies. More competition in under-served areas is critical areas or these areas will continue to fall further behind. I'd like to see the national broadband plan focus stimulus money on these areas with limited competition and capability.

What benefits to consumers are unique to differentbroadband technologies? How should the Commission consider the different qualitative features discussed in the definition of broadband, such as latency, peak download speed, and mobility?

We must set these features aggressively and at a level that does not just compete but leads the rest of the world - this must be our goal. The OECD maintains a portal that provides access to a range of broadband-related statistics gathered by the OECD. The OECD has indentified five main categories which are important for assessing broadband markets - Penetration, Usage, Coverage, Prices, and Service & Speeds. For example, fiber is the dominant connection technology in Korea and Japan and now accounts for 48% of all Japanese broadband subscriptions and 43% in Korea. With fiber comes lower latency, higher peak download speeds and (yes) even more mobility.

The FCC also seeks comment on the extent to which access hinges on affordability.

Simply put, it needs to be fast and it needs to be cheap. Referring to the OECD portal again and as an example, on average, subscribers in OECD countries pay 15 times more per advertised megabit of connectivity than Koreans. We must be faster and cheaper than Korea if we want to compete with the rest of the world.

The FCC seeks comment on what it means for a person with disabilities to "have access" to broadband capabilities.

The report references the Assistive Technologies Act of 2004, supporting state efforts to improve provision of assistive technology to individuals with disabilities; the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990,requiring common carriers to provide telecommunications relay services for deaf and speech-impaired individuals; and the Amendment of the Commission’s Rules Governing Hearing Aid-Compatible Mobile Handsets; Petition of American National Standards Institute Accredited Standards Committee C63, that focuses on adopting hearing aid compatibility requirements for mobile wireless devices.

Higher bandwidths and lower costs per megabit will drive innovation and applications that help and support people with disabilities. That said, assistive technologies must continue to be regulated and ratcheted up as bandwidth and access continues to improve.

I believe residential broadband (to the home) is key in our country. Homes in our broadband equation are the lowest common denominator. Lots of inexpensive and reliable bandwidth to everyone's home will drive bandwidth up and costdown at work, libraries, public Wi-Fi hotspots, etc. We must set our residential broadband bar higher than the rest of the world in each of the five OECD portal categories.