Exploring the impact of broadband and technology on our lives, our businesses, and our communities.

Who is listening?

Without providing personal detail, I have had two incidents this week where an email and a separate conversation both resulted in emails the next day from Amazon suggesting that I guy products related to the email and the conversation.

The email was sent to several people, and two of them were Gmail accounts, so I think it is logical to assume that Google is scanning all gmail messages and passing stuff on to Amazon--Google has admitted as much.

Knowledge Democracy:

Are reforms to Form 477 coming?

Broadband Breakfast has a story on the FCC's proposed changes to the way broadband availability data is collected on what is known as Form 477.

Gig fiber was and is a big part of Danville, Virginia's renaissance

James Fallows writes in The Atlantic about the amazing success of Danville, Virginia. Fallows identifies Gig fiber as of several key factors in the renaissance of the city. Other factors included a local foundation that took a long view of community revitalization and the opportunity to tap Virginia's tobacco settlement funds to build infrastructure like the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research.

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I'm back

The Technology Futures Web site has been moved to its own domain (technologyfutures.info) and has been upgraded. The old news site was using very old blogging software that needed substantial upgrades and security improvements. I've been blogging for nearly twenty years, and it turned out that safely moving thousands of news articles was by itself a major effort.

I will resume writing more regularly now.

Best regards,
Andrew Cohill

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Finally, a home assistant that protects privacy

Someone has finally identified the market opportunity to sell a home assistant that protects your privacy. Devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home are sending everything that happens in your home to the Amazon or Google mothership: what music you listen to, what you are talking about, what programs you watch, what you buy....everything. Apple's HomePod also sends everything to Apple for processing, but Apple has a much stronger commitment to protecting customer privacy than Amazon and Google (the latter two don't really promise any privacy protection).

Knowledge Democracy:

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5G: Hype and disappointment

Here is a good, very readable article that tries to dissect the hype around 5G without dragging you down into the weeds with a lot of arcane technical data.

The short version of the article is perhaps summed up best by a quote from Former FCC Chief Michael Powell: 5G is "...25 percent technology, 75 percent hype."

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Where is all the bandwidth going?

Our use of bandwidth has been doubling every two years since the commercial use of the Internet started in 1993. Depending on whose statistics you believe, it may be doubling every eighteen months. It can't keep doing that forever, but these days, the 25 Meg down/3 Meg up defined by the FCC as "broadband" is setting the bar quite low.

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Xerox says, "To heck with customers..who needs them?"

Some years back, Xerox had outsourced all of their customer support to overseas call centers full of people who a)barely spoke English, and b)could only read from a canned script. The result was truly awful interactions if you needed to get a copier repaired or tried to order printer supplies.

But they seemed to figure that out, and for some time, if you called Xerox customer service, you got native English speakers who were delightfully helpful.

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SportClips and the loss of privacy

SportClips has decided that it does not really want to cut your hair unless you give them your full name, your email address, your phone number, and your birthdate.

For a haircut.

Some months ago, they instituted an online scheduling system so that you can schedule your haircut. And of course, there's an app for that.

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Laugh of the day: Telcos complain there is too much competition

The big incumbent telcos are complaining there is "too much" competition.

...and I have some swampland I want to sell you....

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If you have ever wondered what happened to RSS

RSS, which stood for several different things, depending on who you asked (Real Simple Syndication was probably the most popular), has withered away. It was designed in the early days of the Web to make it easy to process and read news articles and blog posts from many different sites. Once you subscribed to a Web site using your RSS reader app, you could easily browse and read all the content from that site.

Knowledge Democracy:

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Is your security camera spying on you?

Companies like Amazon and Facebook are selling camera-based products that are designed to be used inside the home and outside the home (e.g. the Ring doorbell).

Knowledge Democracy:

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Will 5G deliver the promises?

This article from PC Mag takes a sober look at the 5G promises. Both the 5G vendors and the big cellular providers want us to believe that "5G" is going to solve all our broadband problems, but like every previous wireless "breakthrough," which typically arrive about every 6-8 years, the promises rarely materialize.

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What is eating all our bandwidth?

Here is a Cisco study that shows, no surprise, that video is eating the Internet star.

Average broadband speeds are set to double in the next two years, from around 25 Mbps (download) to 53 Mbps.

Much of the demand is from the increasing use of 4K video content. As more and more households cut the cord and start streaming high definition over the Internet, bandwidth use increases dramatically.

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Death of TV: Part LXXXI: Cord cutting continues to increase

Fed up customers are continuing to "cut the cord" to their cable and satellite TV providers. The article I have linked to says that 23% of households with wireline broadband have ditched their traditional TV package. As improved fixed wireless broadband continues to become more widely available in rural areas (i.e. no bandwidth caps, more bandwidth), the trend will accelerate even more.

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Fragility of the iGen

The "iGen" is defined as those people born after 1995, which means they are the first generation to have grown up with the Internet widely available. By their teens, iGen kids had access to smartphones, and the results have been sobering.

Depression among young people has increased 60% in five years, and self harm has increased sharply among young women.

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Death of TV: Part LXXX: Who cares anymore?

This recent article from USA Today says that cord cutting is accelerating.

Customers are looking at the incredible variety of content available from OTT (Over The Top) services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, and deciding that they can save money by just paying for Internet and a few OTT subscriptions.

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Alexa, please open the door

More than twenty years ago, as the Internet became more common, some prognosticators began talking about the "smart house," where lots of household devices would be interconnected and make our lives one of ease.

At that time, I wrote a somewhat tongue in cheek article for a professional newsletter about a "smart house" gone wild, somewhat in the fashion of the Hall 9000 problem in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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Amazon and remote work driving Millenials to the Rust Belt

This is one of the most interesting articles I have read in a long time.

Millenials are moving to smaller "Rust Belt" towns and small cities to escape the high cost of living in the larger metro areas. Heavy student debt loads, combined with skyrocketing rents and home costs, are part of the appeal to live in a place where housing is affordable.

Neighborhoods are business districts

Here is confirmation of what I have been saying for twenty years: Neighborhoods have become business districts.

This article cites a study showing that more workers telecommute than take public transportation (e.g. buses, subways) to work.

This is why fiber to the home is so important: it is an economic development imperative. Home-based workers and home-based businesses need affordably priced, business class Internet services.

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