Tag: "innovation"

Posted November 26, 2016 by Scott

Next Century Cities, a nonprofit advocate of high-speed Internet accessibility for all communities, and Internet Service Provider (ISP) Google Fiber are joining forces to support the second annual Digital Inclusion Leadership awards. 

The competition recognizes city governments that are spearheading or investing in community-based organizations that are tackling barriers to high-speed Internet service adoption, or what is commonly known as the “digital divide.” Next Century Cities is comprised of more than 150 mayors and city leaders dedicated to ensuring that all communities get access to fast, affordable, and reliable broadband Internet service.  

The 2017 Digital Inclusion Leadership awards will feature two categories: Leader in Digital Inclusion Best Practices and Most Promising New Plan. There will be two winners in each category. All contest submissions are due February 10, 2017 and winners will be announced in spring, 2017.  

In a news release, Next Century Cities Executive Director Deb Socia said: 

“Approximately 50 million Americans don’t have internet in their homes. Families affected by the digital divide, many of whom are from lower-income neighborhoods, are at a disadvantage when it comes to doing homework, applying for jobs or staying in touch with loved ones. Whether cities are leading or partnering on programs, city governments have a major role to play in getting residents the digital access and resources they need, and we look forward to celebrating their innovations with the 2017 Digital Inclusion Awards.”

Winning projects from the inaugural 2015 Digital Inclusion Awards include:

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Posted June 15, 2016 by Scott

The high-speed, municipal fiber network in Westminster, Maryland, (pop. 18,000) is making possible another intriguing resource service for the community’s businesses and residents.

In May, Westminster officials and the city’s fiber network partner, Ting, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the coming this fall of the first Ting Makerspace, a service featuring 3-D scanning technology, including “an electronic router that can carve digital designs into physical objects and laser engraving," reports the Carroll County Times. 

Ting Makerspace And 3D Printing

The Times story notes:

The 3-D scanner “takes any object smaller than a sofa and records the shapes and contours using light patterns, digitizing it,” according to the news story. Then, the digital rendition can be printed on a mini 3-D printer, “which can scale down the scanned object or print original computer designs. The 3-D printer ejects layers of heated, rapidly cooling plastic to create plastic models of these designs.” The newspaper reported that the subscription fee for using the 3-D scanner will be $5 a day, $30 a month or $300 a year. 

The Makerspace will encourage development from local entrepreneurs who would not otherwise have access to affordable 3-D scanning technology.

Westminster Municipal Fiber Network 

Such an innovative community resource goes hand in hand with Westminster getting a high-speed Internet network. Westminster began building its municipal fiber network in October, 2014, and entered into a public-private partnership in February, 2015, with Ting. The city owns the fiber network and Ting leases fiber to bring Internet service of up to 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) to businesses and residents. Last September, we noted that Westminster’s partnership with Ting earned it honors from the National Association of...

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Posted May 6, 2016 by ternste

A recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article (requires subscription) chronicles the increasingly problematic effect of data caps on the quality of residential subscribers' Internet access experience.

Also known as a bandwidth cap, a data cap is a monthly bandwidth usage limit Internet Service Providers (ISPs) sometimes impose on subscribers at their standard monthly rates. While some ISPs charge customers more for exceeding their monthly bandwidth caps, in other cases ISPs may even cut off a customer’s service completely.

The problem is also harming companies like Netflix and Sling TV who are losing customers who can’t justify paying for a high capacity video streaming service that’s only available until they hit their data caps partway through the month. In response, Netflix lowered the video quality for users on ISP networks that use data caps as a way to help them avoid the limitations. The plan worked, but in the process Netflix angered customers, who blamed both the ISPs and the streaming service for the lowered video quality.

It's Not All About The Money

The problem goes beyond the extra fees charged to customers who use a lot of data. The WSJ article cites two Internet users who’d like to join the growing number of “cord cutters” who are dropping television service for Internet-based video. As one man put it:

“I wouldn’t have regular TV if not for the data cap,” he says. “Comcast has got me by the throat.”

Another added:

“I was planning to cut the cord when my DirecTV contract is up,” he says. “This is essentially a ploy to keep people from cutting cable in my opinion.”

An increasing number of subscriber complaints and suspicions about the accuracy of measuring bandwidth usage heighten concerns.

Feds Take Notice

The Government Accountability Office released a report at the end of 2014 expressing their concern about ISPs abusing the use of data caps. At the time, the FCC said that they had not received enough complaints about the problem to merit action. In 2015, as this new WSJ article notes, the FCC received an unprecedented number of complaints about data caps. The problem is...

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Posted April 4, 2016 by ternste

It was just last year when the City Council in Westminster, Maryland voted to begin a partnership with private ISP company Ting Internet. Ting now delivers high quality Internet access via the citywide, publicly owned fiber network.

A new collaborative initiative, facilitated in part by the still expanding Westminster Fiber Network, is bringing new cultural opportunities and economic benefits to city residents. “Tech Incubation” aims to give local students hands-on experience exploring their interests in technology.

Incubating Talent, Innovation

For the first project within the Tech Incubation initiative, 15 students from local high schools spent several weeks learning to create and operate an actual temporary wireless network. The city then used the network for its annual Celtic Canter and Downtown Irish Celebration in March, providing attendees of the celebration with unprecedented levels of bandwidth and broadband speeds.

The Tech Incubation Initiative is the product of a collaboration between the City of Westminster, the Mid-Atlantic Gigabit Innovation Collaboratory (MAGIC), Ting Internet, and the Westminster-based company Freedom Broadband. Freedom Broadband supervised the project and provided the wireless equipment necessary to build the network; Ting and the City of Westminster provided the necessary Gigabit backhaul over the Westminster Fiber Network.

More Opportunities Ahead

This project is the first in a series of planned, ongoing projects to teach students technology skills and encourage a culture of innovation. MAGIC is developing the Tech Incubation program in response to requests by students in Westminster for more opportunities to learn about technology.

Westminster’s City Council President Dr. Robert Wack described the value of the Tech Incubation initiative to community:

“For the students, it’s mostly fun, but I’m sure some of them have specific goals for education and certainly the more...

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Posted March 19, 2016 by ternste

Chattanooga's EPB Fiber Optics continues to stand out as a model for the municipal broadband movement, demonstrating the extraordinary impact that fast, affordable, reliable Internet access can have on economic development efforts. 

Now, a new research report from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation highlights the network’s vital role in kick starting the development of what has become a thriving “entrepreneurial ecosystem” in this city of about 174,000.

Collaboration, Public Private Partnerships

The report, titled "Little Town, Layered Ecosystem: A Case Study of Chattanooga," credits the EPB network as the “spark” for an explosion of economic development since the network's launch in 2010. As the article notes, the EPB estimates that since the launch, Chattanooga has seen an influx of ninety-one new companies with approximately $50 million in venture capital contributions from six firms. 

According to the report, the network has also encouraged an entrepreneurial climate in this city that had a “long history of collaboration and public-private partnerships” even prior to the network launch. The report cites examples of the city's collaborative spirit in several non-profit entities, city officials, local anchor companies and universities, and the city’s recently opened Innovation District.

Yasuyuki Motoyama, director of Research and Policy at the Kauffman Foundation and one of the paper's authors, explains the lessons that other cities might take away from Chattanooga’s example:

"Chattanooga organized and mobilized its assets to orient itself to entrepreneurial initiatives. This demonstrates what a small-size city can do when factions from different sectors focus on a common goal and collaborate to achieve that goal. This case of Chattanooga provides lessons for other cities to leverage their own unique assets and to create equally successful ecosystems."

Posted June 11, 2013 by christopher

For our 50th episode, we're trying something new: Lisa and I respond to three common claims made by opponents of community owned networks. We owe these three particular arguments to the Executive Director of the trade association of Wisconsin telephone companies. Each of the clips we respond to come from claims he made at a workshop at the 2012 WiscNet conference.

We play a short claim by him and then Lisa and I respond to it. For this show, we look at claims that telephone companies already serve everyone with broadband, that the rapid iteration of mobile phone technology delegitimizes public sector investment in networks, and that public investment "crowds out" private investment.

These are very common arguments offered every time a community considers building its own network, but they are quite weak. As Joey Durel, Mayor of Lafayette, so often reminds us, the big companies don't win by having good arguments. They win by buying steaks and football tickets -- lobbying. Campaign contributions help too.

At any rate, let us know if you like this format and what questions we should consider the next time we do it. We want your feedback and suggestions for the show - please e-mail us or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to suggest other guests, topics, or questions you want us to address.

Read the transcript from our discussion here.

This show is 12 minutes long and can be played below on this page or subscribe via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed. Search for us in iTunes and leave a positive comment!

Listen to previous episodes here. You can can download this Mp3 file directly from here.

Find more episodes in our podcast index.

Thanks to Eat at Joe's for the music, licensed using Creative Commons.

Posted December 11, 2012 by christopher

Dewayne Hendricks has returned for his second appearance on the Community Broadband Bits Podcast, continuing our discussion about the potential for wireless technologies to improve how we access the Internet. We recommend listening to his first appearance in episode 18 before this one.

Here, we take up the old wired vs. wireless debate, but quickly determine that such a framing is useless. Wires and radios are actually complementary, not substitutes. In fact, Dewayne explains how he and other entrepreneurs cannot build the great wireless networks they want to because most communities lack the robust wired infrastructure necessary to support a strong wireless network.

The lack of competition among last mile providers like Comcast and AT&T leave too few options for innovators to build better networks -- which is, of course, the aim of existing providers that do not want to encourage any competition that would eat into their profits.

Read the transcript from this discussion here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show - please e-mail us or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to suggest other guests, topics, or questions you want us to address.

This show is 25 minutes long and can be played below on this page or subscribe via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed. Search for us in iTunes and leave a positive comment!

Listen to previous episodes here. You can download the Mp3 file of this episode directly from here.

Find more episodes in our podcast index.

Thanks to mojo monkeys for the music, licensed using Creative Commons.

Posted August 6, 2012 by christopher

For those who missed it, a Wall Street Journal op-ed ignited a geektroversy by claiming the federal government did not invent the Internet. First, some history. Then an explanation of why we should care.

A guy named Crovitz kicked off the fight with his poorly researched op-ed:

It's an urban legend that the government launched the Internet. The myth is that the Pentagon created the Internet to keep its communications lines up even in a nuclear strike.

Well, he was right about the nuclear strike bit. But the federal government played several important roles in the creation of the Internet, which truly was created by the efforts of many people, companies, and institutions.

As evidence for his argument, Crovitz cites Dealers of Lightning by Michael Hiltzik. Unfortunately, Hiltzik disputed Crovitz's understanding of it:

And while I'm gratified in a sense that he cites my book about Xerox PARC, "Dealers of Lightning," to support his case, it's my duty to point out that he's wrong. My book bolsters, not contradicts, the argument that the Internet had its roots in the ARPANet, a government project.

...

But Crovitz confuses AN internet with THE Internet. Taylor was citing a technical definition of "internet" in his statement. But I know Bob Taylor, Bob Taylor is a friend of mine, and I think I can say without fear of contradiction that he fully endorses the idea as a point of personal pride that the government-funded ARPANet was very much the precursor of the Internet as we know it today. Nor was ARPA's support "modest," as Crovitz contends. It was full-throated and total. Bob Taylor was the single most important figure in the history of the Internet, and he holds that stature because of his government role.

CNET talked to Vint Cerf about the Crovitz claims. In reaction to a Crovitz claim that the government didn't understand the value of TCP/IP but the private sector did, Vint said:

I would happily fertilize my tomatoes with Crovitz' assertion.

Nicely done. Vint discussed another...

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Posted November 2, 2011 by christopher

CNN Money has profiled 7 government-backed inventions.  Most of us know the Internet would not have been possible without the research and development funded by tax dollars, but fewer know that the GPS and microchip were also created as a direct result of "big government."

Beyond those inventions, I was suprised to find that aerodynamic trucks (tractor trailers on the highway) were designed by NASA.  Bar codes -- imagine modern commerce with the ubiquitous bar code -- were developed with funding from the National Science Foundation.  

As a nation, we greatly appreciate the innovation that comes from the private sector (especially you Apple fan-boys) but it is beyond time we recognize the role of the public sector in innovation as well.  Heck, just how much innovation would we see on farms if they were still only connected with dirt roads??  How much more will we see when they are all connected with fast, affordable, and reliable connections to the Internet?  

Posted March 25, 2011 by christopher

A CBC show, Spark, offers a content-rich 40 minute interview with Barbara van Schewick discussing how the Internet developed and the role of network neutrality. Her explanation is very accessible, a great opportunity for people who are trying to learn more about the issue but frustrated at technical discussions.

Highly recommended. She explains how the innovate applications and products we use today developed precisely because no one controls the Internet. The danger now is that powerful ISPs may exert more control and retard the innovative nature of the net.

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