Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Latest FCC meeting shows need for better data collection

The FCC decided that in order to make an informed decisions further data was needed on the penetration and access of cable television services in the US. Apparently the cable service providers have 60 days to provide the FCC with this information. This recent need for better data on communications penetration and access shows how important bills such as the H.R. 3919, Broadband Census of America Act of 2007.
Though H.R. 3919 is geared towards showing broadband Internet access penetration, the same methods can be used to obtain cable television data.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Entertainment drives Internet innovation, desire for speed

Bruce P. Mehlman wrote an intersting tidbit on the Internet Innovation Allicance blog this week. In his post Mehlman comments as to the leading driver of broadband Interenet adoption; entertainment.

This is a statement that I don't believe many can refute. I had not even really thought of the use of the Internet in such a manner. It is available to me and I use it, that is the extent to my thought in how the Internet is used. The Internet is also a hybrid system of entertainment and work. Sure, I play hours of my favourite online game, EVE. However, I also spend a lot of time searching, waiting on files to download, and connecting to different databases. All the while wishing the Internet was faster for my ever growing impatience.

Does the matter that the Internet is mostly used for entertainment mean that we should not develop or increase broadband penetration? Of course not. If anything the realization that the Internet can fulfill several roles of instruments of entertainment and work, should push the penetration for broadband Internet further.

So how does this statement by Mehlman change my view of the Internet? It does not alter my perception that we still lack and need an ICT policy in the US which promotes the penetration of broadband Internet access and the training needed by peoples to use all the technologies available to them.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A shared view of sorts...

Susan Crawford had an excellent post on her blog. Though I think my favourite portion of her post was only a secondary point to freedom of speech/net neutrality, it is a very powerful and important point that needs to become clearer, in my opinion at least.

Society has treated electricity and water as a public utility available to every person. In a similar way telephone communication has transitioned into the same 'utility' view. Our next step is to transition highspeed Internet access to a similar position of a public utility.

In the past the US has transitioned first potable water, then electricity, and then the telephone as utilities with great efforts to spread availability across the country. Many politicos have told us repeatedly that the Internet is the future and that it is vital for American jobs and so forth. Why is it that the US, with all of this political rhetoric, still had not transitioned into thinking that highspeed Internet Access is a utility?

There are many points that I do not understand fully. However, I am sure one of the cons in transitioning to this view is the need for regulation. The last time I tried to research communications regulations, read as FCC publications etc, the regulatory body seemed quite capable of the task. One of the FCC's duties is to promote the best interests of the public. If everyone agrees that the Internet acces is almost mandatory for a prosperous life in the US, why has the FCC not helped to foster an environment of highspeed Internet diffusion or for that matter the rest of the US government?

As with the other public utilites, time was needed to make the transition from viewing electricity and water from amenities to necessities. My hope is that the time required for the US to take step of transition will not be too much longer. The US is slipping further down the OECD rankings and if we do decide to act, it may be too late to catch up to other societies.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

House Resolution 4137

The contents of HR 4137 are interesting. Specifically the following amendment; SEC. 494. CAMPUS-BASED DIGITAL THEFT PREVENTION. The amendment, my interpretation, stipulates that colleges and universities take on the role of intellectual property police. In short, the amendment requires that colleges/universities provide information on copyright and the illegal downloading of intellectual property. It also says that colleges/universties should develop a to provide alternatives to illegal downloading of intellectual property and peer-to-peer sharing of protected materials. Further, it specifies that colleges/universities should plan to explore a technology-based deterrent to illegal downloading.

An interesting point is that the resolution seems to treat colleges/universities as both Internet end users and Internet service providers. This resolution seems to present a deviation from earlier cases of illegal downloading of intellectual property. Not only can the college/university loose funding with non-compliance, but the college/university has to provide an alternative to the illegal downloading of intellectual property. This sounds like a gift to the recording industry. Make colleges/universities subscribe to some service in order to prevent illegal downloads of intellectual property? Why not simply allow the college/university to stop illegal downloading of intellectual property by technology-based tools? Who will pay for the alternative downolad system too? That would be you and I the students and taxpayers.

A secod point that needs to be discussed is how the colleges/universities will distinguish between downloads protected by fair use and illegal downloads of intellectual property?

There are more questions than solutions in the resolutions current form. Perhaps if it makes it way to becoming a bill, the resolution will evolve to answer or solve some of these points here?

So you think you are writing a thesis

Recently I have begun my journey into the hectic world of writing a thesis. Thus far these are some points that I have learned. I offer them up to anyone in hopes that they may have a less hectic journey.

First, pick your topic as early as possible. For me my topic, CIPA, was related to my interest in Information Policy and ICT Policy, so I had a 'leg up' with some materials. The earlier you choose your topic, the more reading and research you can conduct. That is within the boundaries of my second point.

Point two is to know the rules of the Institutional Review Board, the Graduate College, and department/school in which you are studying. All three of these entities have a different area of coverage. Probably the most unhelpful, or waste of time for me, what the Institutional Review Board. (Here is my rant at least as it pertains to my institution's IRB). Though some of the material is relevant to all researchers, most of the training materials provided and tested over for the IRB is completely irrelevant to many researchers that do not conduct research on children or in a medical area. (I am one of those researchers) It took me a few hours each day for a week to complete the incredibly overly dramatic and majority irrelevant information in the IRB training. (End of rant).

Along with beginning your thesis as early as possible, you should already have in mind who will be your advisors. Though my advisors think I will be doing all the work, I think that their assistance in being objective and constructively critical of my work is just as important as my portion. My advisors, in our first meeting, said it is 'your thesis', but with all the advice and information they provide it is more a concerted effort. So choose advisors that are interested in your topic, can be active in the project, and who are nice to you! Always be nice to your advisors, they will be 'life savers' and 'therapists' when you have issues.

Time management. An extremely important concept in any thesis. Just last week I began to work on my scheme for my thesis. Unfortunately, the best laid plan is wasted as soon as a variable changes. In my overzealous or naive attempt at scheduling I overlooked the fact that my advisors have lives outside of advising me on my thesis. The audacity of my advisors to have lives, when I have none. Now, I can laugh about this, because it seems so incredibly strange that I did not think of this variable. I even considered snow days and holidays in my scheme/schedule. So no matter the plan, be prepared for changes. One other thing, is to be sure you solicit for dates when your advisors will not be available to participate. (I have learned Time management the hard way recently). Remember those different entities, the IRB, Graduate College, Department/school, well they will all have different due dates for many different aspects. Take those dates and put them all on one single calendar, preferably your thesis scheme/timeline.

My last piece of advice as of now: STAY POSITIVE. No matter how bad it seems, you can 'KBO', keep buggering on. (Thank you Sir Winston Churchill for that)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Google Policy Fellowship

For those that are able, unfortunately I will be in the final stages of my thesis, this sounds like a great opportunity. The Google Policy Fellowship information.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

U.S. Broadband Map

H.R. 3919 , Broadband Census Act of America of 2007, sets out to map out the service areas of broadband Internet access across the U.S. In the current language of the bill, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration of the Department of Commerce would collect data down to the 9-digit zip code or census tract level. The bill would also survey consumers as to several aspects of broadband service in their area.

The fact that this bill is now being introduced is a positive step. Positive in that such a broadband inventory can encourage competition by ISPs. The identification of underserved potential customers or wholly ignored areas open to new development could provide a catalyst for increasing broadband Internet access. When broadband Internet access saturation occurs, a broadband map will prove useful to identify further markets open to competition based on prices and speeds available to consumers and businesses.

The bill can also provide information for new residents about services. I know that before I move, typical transitory college student, one of the first questions I ask a landlord is whether broadband Internet access is available. Many times they do not know, and I am left with the duty of going to all the various big name ISPs to see if they offer service in which area. With such a map, a person could cut down the time spent researching for an answer to this question and at the same time see pricing and speed options. (At least the current information for when the map and survey were last conducted, which is to be annually).

Another use for this map is to provide data concerning broadband accessibility, geography, and demography. The data could be used in many imaginative ways. One could be the correlation between broadband accessibility and population income or whether remoteness and low population density are underlying characteristics of communities that do not have access to broadband Internet connectivity.

I would urge that the bill define broadband in terms to the current accepted use of the word. Instead of using the Federal Communication Commission’s 200Kbps speed, I would suggest that a minimum speed in the Mbps, perhaps 5Mbps, be used as a defining characteristic with a separate notation for non-broadband access, say through dial-up access in which speeds are slower than 5Mbps. Of course the 5Mbps was picked at random, but with 10Mbps speeds available in my area, I think 5Mbps would be a nice speed as a minimum.