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

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....

Technology News:

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.

This article is a very detailed history of the technology. For some of us early users of the Internet, the article is a trip down memory lane.

There are many reasons why RSS has faded away, but Facebook could be primary factor. Facebook provides the same "endless news feed" that RSS does/did, and bundles all sorts of other information for you.

It is unfortunate that RSS never really took off. It gives the user much more control over what you read, unlike Facebook, which shoves all sorts of unwanted stuff into your feed. The Internet's domination by monopoly giants like Facebook, Google, and Amazon has become a corporate playground where users are the product. It's not a good thing.

Technology News:

Knowledge Democracy:

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).

The problem is that we don't really know what these companies are doing with the video pictures and data that are being collected and processed by these devices. Here is a news article that suggests that the images collected by Amazon Ring devices (doorbell, inside cameras) are easily accessible to Amazon employees and third parties..one of which is in the Ukraine.

So personal data is being distributed worldwide without our knowledge or permission. This will not end well.

Technology News:

Knowledge Democracy:

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.

This discusses what 5G might offer for rural areas, and the so-called "rural solution" is actually fiber! The article agrees with what we have been saying for several years--that running fiber down rural roads and then using wireless to connect to homes that may be set well back from the road might be worth looking at.

And we have been studying that in detail. The last time we ran cost estimates to compare fiber drops from the road to the home with wireless from the road to the home, the fiber drops were cheaper. The idea that 5G is ideal for short runs between a fiber cable at the road side and a home set back from the road is almost laughable, since you could do that with existing off the shelf wireless gear for a lot less--probably by an order of magnitude.

Design Nine and WideOpen Networks, our sister company, are not equipment resellers or VARs, so we are free to design networks that meet local conditions and budgets, using the most cost effective equipment.

Technology News:

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.

And the steadily increasing use of video in ads is contributing. There are few commercial Web sites (at least the ones I visit) that don't have pop up or embedded video ads. You can usually close them or turn them off, but it is incredibly annoying. One news site I visit has two pop up video ads on every page, so you can't really start reading the news until you change focus and close the ads.

And there are other bandwidth hogs. The Nest video doorbell sends video constantly to the Nest cloud servers. They keep it there for a certain period of time so you can go back and review it. On the "medium bandwidth" setting, the doorbell uses about 400 Gig a month. That's the equivalent of somewhere north of twenty-eight 4K HD movies a month....for your doorbell! If you put the doorbell in high resolution mode, the data increases to something around 600 Gig a month...for your door bell!!

Copper based cable networks, no matter what numbers they advertise, are going to be struggling as 4K HD TV and video doorbells become more common.

Fiber is still the future.

Technology News:

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.

Our studies show that the average household can save at least $35-$55 per month by getting rid of cable/satellite service and just paying for some over the top (OTT) services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu.

Technology News:

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.

Cause and effect is under debate, but there is increased evidence that children and teen access to smartphones, tablets, and the Internet should be managed carefully by parents.

Technology News:

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.

Our internal calculation suggest that this approach can shave between $35 and $55 per month off your telecom bill. The range can be highly variable because it depends on the kind of cable/satellite TV package you have. Customers with several premium services (e.g HBO, Starz) may save more.

We've been surveying tens of thousands of Internet users for the past several years, and the most common complaint is that their cable TV service does not support business class needs like videoconferencing and corporate VPN access. As the way people access content and services, fiber connections can deliver both the bandwidth and the symmetric connectivity (equal upload and download speeds needed for business).

Technology News:

Knowledge Democracy:

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.

At the time, the few smart house attempts did not catch on, because the technology was immature and expensive. But now we find the Internet of Things is exploding, because the chips and software needed to put so-called "intelligent" into common household appliances is just a couple of dollars.

This article provides a good summary of the issues, and one example cited is a microwave that can be controlled by Amazon's Alexa. I've never had any issues "controlling" my microwave simply by punching a couple of buttons, and the idea that it is somehow "better" to have Alexa get involved strikes me as bizarre.

The core problem for me is that devices like the Amazon Echo (Alexa), Google's Home Hub, and Apple's Home Pod (Siri) are constantly listening to everything that goes on in your home and sending that information back to an unaccountable multi-national company that is monetizing that information, although Apple says they are not doing that...but they still have the data.

A secondary problem is that many "smart" home devices that use WiFi lack any meaningful security, so malicious hackers thousands of miles away can do things like use your security cameras to spy on you, turn household devices on and off, and could conceivably use video recorded on your own cameras to gain information on what you are doing for purposes of blackmail.

Many homes already have these always-listening devices installed, but there won't ever be one in my home.

Technology News:

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.

But there is also this:

"There is a community-mindedness with millennials that attracts them to the smaller Rust Belt towns," said Peter Haring, president of Haring Realty in Mansfield, Ohio.

"We are seeing an intense interest in participating in the revitalization of our towns and being a part of the community. It's palpable, and it's exciting," he added."

Millenials want affordable housing, but they also want to belong to a place, and to be involved in the life of the community....a major shift from a long trend of community disengagement in America.

Finally, there is also this:

"More and more people are now working virtually, which means they do not need to be in their office and can work from almost anywhere," said Ralph DiBugnara, senior vice president at Residential Home Funding. "So why not find somewhere to live where your city dollars can go a lot further?"

Home-based work AND the ability to shop online has diminished the need to a)Live close to your employer, and b)Live close to stores and essential shopping needs.

What ties all this together? Millenials, no matter where they live, are heavy users of the Internet and want and expect to be connected 24/7. Affordable, high performance broadband is the essential ingredient in this major shift in community and economic development.

Smaller towns and cities that do not have a strategy for ensuring that they have the necessary broadband infrastructure to attract and keep Millenials are not going to be able to benefit from this trend.

Pages

Subscribe to Front page feed