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Rural communities could get shortchanged as FCC moves to erode Internet network neutrality

Network neutrality, or "net neutrality," prescribes equal treatment for users of the Internet; there is no "fast lane." Companies cannot pay extra to have their web pages load faster, but that could change, and wouldn't be good news for rural America, Edyael Casaperalta writes for the Daily Yonder.

The Federal Communications Commission said last week that it consider "new rules on Internet traffic that would allow broadband providers to charge companies a premium for access to their fastest lanes," as The Wall Street Journal reported. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said the FCC won't vote and release the rules until May 15, but would act with transparency, and Internet providers would not be able prioritize certain content or block any legal content. Some groups are not too confident the results will be favorable. The Daily Kos is even asking people to sign a petition. "The FCC will consider this "pay-to-play" rule on May 15th, so let's nip it in the bud now," the Daily Kosreports.

The Washington Post noted in February that the agency has "a trump card" to hang over the head of Internet providers: reclassifying them "as regulated utilities under Title II of the Communications Act. Doing so would entitle the FCC to reinstate all the old rules about traffic blocking and discrimination that were just eliminated by the court."

Net neutrality matters, but not many rural people have joined the discussion, which may be because rural and Native American communities still comprise the majority of those who cannot access telecommunications services, Casaperalta writes. Of the 19 million Americans who do not have access to fixed broadband networks, 14.5 million live in rural areas, and almost a third live in tribal lands, according to the FCC's latest Broadband Progress Report.

"Net-neutrality advocates fear that without rules in place, big companies like Netflix, Disney, and ESPN could gain advantage over their competitors by paying ISPs to provide preferential treatment to their company's data," writes Brad Chacos for PC World. The net neutrality debate has been going on for years. In 2010, the FCC passed rules that earned them criticism from both the liberals and right-wingers. The Daily Beast's headline said that that ruling "boils down to one fact: there will soon be a fast Internet for the rich and a slow Internet for the poor."

Meanwhile, the FCC also announced last week that it was planning to raise the standard download speed that can be called broadband to 10 megabits from 4 megabits. "This is a great step! But there’s a chance weaker net-neutrality rules will compromise the ability of rural communities to enjoy these faster speeds. What good are faster speeds if the information rural people want is stuck in the cheaper slow lane?" Casaperalta writes.

Written by Melissa Landon   Posted at 4/30/2014 11:01:00 AM

MONDAY, APRIL 07, 2014

Businesses that rely on high-speed Internet leave major cities to get cheaper, better service;

While some rural areas continue to lack broadband access, a new trend is emerging among businesses whose survival relies on faster Internet speed. Several are closing up shop in metropolitan areas and heading for smaller cities and towns that offer high-speed, fiber-optic cable connections at better prices and better availablity, Kate Murphy reports for Personal Tech.

In the U.S. only 7.7 percent of broadband subscribers have fiber connections, which are 100 times faster than wired or wireless service, Murphy writes. Surprisingy, some of the best places to get fiber is outside major metro areas. That has resulted in businesses in places like Seattle, Los Angeles and Denver relocating to towns like Lafayette, La., Chattanooga, Tenn., Wilson, N.C., Kansas City, Kan., and Mount Vernon, Wash.

"These digital carpetbaggers aren’t just leaving behind jittery Netflix streams and aggravating waits for Twitter feeds to refresh. They are positioning themselves to be more globally competitive and connected," Murphy writes. With optic fiber "web pages load instantly. Video and sound are more realistic. And giant amounts of data can be transferred at the speed of light."

While companies save money on fiber, small towns are benefiting from an increase in economy due to the new businesses, Murphy writes. Wilson, whose economy has suffered after the loss of North Carolina's tobacco and manufacturing jobs, has seen its economy grow from offering fiber, with one Los Angeles company relocating to Wilson, where they now get fiber for $150 per month, compared to $1,500 to $3,000 per month around Los Angeles.

Another business owner, Eric Blank, moved his 20-employee information security firm from Seattle to Mount Vernon, Wash., where his cost of service not only dropped from $985 a month to $250 a month, but the connection is much faster, Murphy writes. Plus, small town life is easier for the business. Blank told Murphy, “The fiber connection is the only reason we are in Mount Vernon and the customer service isn’t bad because all you have to do is walk down the street and knock on the door at City Hall.” (Read more)

Groundhog sees shadow, 6 more weeks of bad weather?

East Ky. snow may not pack as big a punch

For up to the minute conditions and forecasts go to The Lazer's Weather Channel Feature Here

Groundhog Day 2014: Punxsutawney Phil sees shadow, 6 more weeks of winter BY JASON SAMENOW February 2 at 7:25 am (Getty images) (Getty images)  At 7:25 a.m. Sunday, a raw, cloudy and damp morning, Groundhog Phil saw his shadow in the small town of Punxsutawney, Pa. The appearance of Phil’s shadow means winter will extend well into March  according to folklore. Had Phil not seen his shadow, it would have meant spring is around the corner. Phil’s prediction may depress residents in the eastern U.S., weary from repeated outbreaks of arctic air.A winter storm that will begin as rain but change over to snow will hit Kentucky this evening and continue into Monday morning.

The National Weather Service office in Paducah has issued a winter storm warning from noon today to 3 a.m. Monday. Accumulations of 1 to 2 inches will be common in Western Kentucky, the weather service said, but some areas could see amounts of 3 to 4 inches.

At times, snow may mix with rain or change to sleet or freezing rain. The combination of snow, sleet and falling temperatures will create very hazardous travel conditions tonight.

Meanwhile, a winter storm warning remains in effect from 4 p.m. today to 7 a.m. Monday for Central Kentucky. Snowfall amounts of 3 to 5 inches are possible with even larger amounts in isolated areas, the weather service said. Snow should end by late Monday morning.

Road conditions will be hazardous in Central Kentucky, the weather service said.

In Eastern Kentucky, the weather service office in Jackson has issued a winter storm warning from 5 p.m. today until 10 a.m. Monday. Snowfall amounts of 6 to 9 inches are expected.

Roads will be slick and snow covered and the weather service predicted it will have a significant impact on travel Monday morning.

The weather service office in Wilmington, Ohio, predicted 3 to 6 inches of snow for Northern and Northeast Kentucky. A winter storm warning remains in effect from 4 p.m. today to 10 a.m. Monday. And road conditions in the region will be slick and hazardous, the weather service said.

Kentucky Press News Service

Digital media consumption is eating our time

Today’s digital consumer is a terrifying, distracted content monster that knows no saturation point. At least that’s one takeaway from Nielsen’s new Digital Consumer Report it released this morning, a detailed amalgamation of research produced from twelve of its regular company surveys into our media consumption.

Digital media use took another 17 minutes from each of us in 2013. Taken over the full year, that equates to an extra four days plugged into our devices. Just when we thought we needed to detox a little from the digital realm, we went in and re-upped at a higher level.

Nielsen’s finding that we’re spending over an hour less each week tied to a desktop computer and watching live TV is not surprising. Today the idea that you have to be in front of a screen at a set time of the week to watch anything is as laughably old fashioned as an old rotary phone.

But we’re not using this gain in time to get out and smell the flowers. The average digital media consumer spent about two and a half hours more on their smartphones, according to Nielsen.

As has been repeated ad nauseam, we’re becoming rapidly more mobile in how we consume our media. But for every one hour of traditional media consumption we’re being saved, the mobile platform is taking two in return. And with almost half of the audience plugged into a second screen – 84 percent of people with a smartphone or tablet are on them while watching something else – it makes the traditionalist in you wonder if the whole thing is degrading the viewer experience and appreciation.

We all have a myriad of ways to connect now. The average American household has four digital devices. A high definition TV was the most ubiquitous of these, in 83 percent of homes, closely followed by a computer in 80 percent, smartphones in 66 percent and digital video recorders and gaming consoles in nearly half.

Smartphone use in American households tripled between 2009 and 2013. HDTV’s are in twice as many homes. Digital video recorders are in half of all homes compared with a third four years ago. Tablets are in 30 percent of all households now, up from just five percent.

Things are changing quickly but the wonderful toys of old are fast becoming old news. DVD players backslid by 7 percent between 2009 and 2013. The number of American homes with an Internet-connect computer is comparatively stagnant, likewise the presence of gaming consoles.
Nielsen’s statistics on social media use will be fuel for anyone wanting to cluck about its destructive influence. Social media is not a sometimes thing anymore. Almost two-thirds of people on social platforms are there daily.

The size of the mobile audience appreciated markedly in 2013, as did the areas of our lives where we’re comfortable logging in. Forty percent of 18-24 year olds use social media in the bathroom and 44 percent of them use social media sitting at the table in a restaurant. But the warning signs ricochet through different demographics. Nielsen found that almost half of mothers with young children checked into social media platforms while in the car with their kids. And the more you earn, the more likely you are to be on Facebook at work.

Whether the changes are good, bad or just different is a subjective gut check on how you feel about the invasion of digital media into every area of our life.

What is for sure though is that we’re moving away from old-media touch points while consuming media at higher and higher rates. We’ve never been more reachable, round the clock. So, what’s bad for the sociologist is great for the marketer, I guess.

ON FEBRUARY 10, 2014

[illustration by Brad Jonas for Pando]

Today’s iPhone is more useful than $3,000 worth of gadgets from a 1991 Radio Shack;


January 31 at 9:45 am

Buffalo writer Steve Cichon dug up an old Radio Shack ad, offering a variety of what were then cutting-edge gadgets. There are 15 items listed on the page, and Cichon points out that all but two of them — the exceptions are a radar detector and a set of speakers — do jobs that can now be performed with a modern iPhone.

See story HERE