Tuesday, November 18, 2008
IBM has signed a contract with International Broadband Electric Communications to deploy broadband-over-power-line networks with 13 rural electric utilities in areas that the two companies say are underserved by cable and telco high-speed Internet services.
Under the $9.6 million agreement, IBM will install IBEC’s broadband-over-power-line networks at electric cooperatives in seven states within the next two years.
The 13 utilities represent a total of approximately 62,000 subscribers in Alabama, Indiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin. An IBM spokeswoman said a list of the electric co-ops was not immediately available.
IBM will provide overall project management and training of the line crews installing the BPL equipment from IBEC, which will also act as the Internet service provider.
IBEC, based in Huntsville, Ala., provides BPL Internet access solutions and services focused on rural U.S. markets. Its residential pricing ranges from $29.95 a month for 256-Kbps service to $89.95 per month for 3-Mbps service.
"Americans in rural areas of the country trail their urban and suburban counterparts in broadband availability," IBEC CEO Scott Lee said in a statement. "This capability will play a critical role in rural health, education, and economic development, while closing the digital divide that exists between well-served and underserved America."
Broadband-over-power-line systems use standard power lines to carry data in an RF signal in the magnetic field surrounding the wires.
Currently, there are over 900 electric cooperatives in the U.S., which provide 45% of the total electric grid and cover 75% of the land mass in the U.S., according to IBEC.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Obama is recruiting a transition team of former tech executives will help to push his vision of low-cost, fast, private internet
President-elect Barack Obama has an ambitious and comprehensive national agenda that seeks to put into effect many initiatives and changes. To assist him in implementing this vision, he is recruiting top leaders to his transition team, which will prepare his plans and flesh out his plans, and ready them for proposal to the new House and Senate.
Top on Obama's agenda are many technology-related efforts. President-elect Obama is no stranger to technology and has said that he wants more expansive protection of users rights to online privacy, a stance which surely runs counter to the RIAA, MPAA, and other groups' aggressive litigation efforts. Also on the list are plans to free up unused government spectrum for public use. Obama during his presidential campaign referred several times to the White Space, a section of the spectrum which Google and Microsoft have been lobbying for the government to free up.
Finally, Obama wants to fight bandwidth caps and mandate faster internet from internet service providers. He is concerned of what he sees as a trend among companies like AT&T and Time Warner to give the customer less for more.
Among those whom Obama has recruited for his team are Google.org's Sonal Shah and Julius Genchowski, a former IAC executive. Both individuals bring with them diverse and varied backgrounds to the table.
Sonal Shah is a part of Google's global development team. She also served as a Vice President at Goldman, Sachs and Co. in the environmental protection department. She is the founder of Indicorps, a U.S.-based non-profit organization offering one-year fellowships for Americans of Indian origin to work on specific development projects in India. She's an expert on a diverse range of tech topics and an expert in global trade and the internet.
She also has government experience, serving in the Department of Treasury in a variety of roles, working in Europe, Africa, and Asia.
Julius Genachowski, an executive with Barry Diller's IAC/InterActiveCorp, likewise has government experience. He worked with the Federal Communications Commission as chief counsel to former Democratic Chairman Reed Hundt. He has been advising Obama on tech issues as is chairing the President-elect's Tech & Innovation Plan.
The pair first met in Harvard Law School, and he has helped sway Obama into making tech a focus of the campaign. Mr. Genachowski is pushing for laws that would ban ISPs from slowing, blocking, or placing other controls on internet content over their networks, a plan tentatively approved by President-elect Obama. The proposal has drawn harsh criticism from ISPs who argue that place limits on what their customers receive is critical to their business.
Rick Whitt, Google's Washington telecom and media counsel, says Mr. Genachowski is the perfect advocate with the technical know-how and desire to represent the average American, and the perfect leader for Obama's team. Mr Whitt states, "Julius is a true believer in the power of technology to change lives and I think that bodes well for the Obama administration that someone like him is part of the transition team."
Both advisers eschew the traditional lobbyist background that many of the advisers from the past several administrations had hailed from. Supporters say that this is a sign that Obama-administration really is about change, including in the tech industry. With his party in firm control of the new House and Senate, barring a conservative filibuster, it looks like he may be able to pass through some impressive legislation which will protect citizens' rights on the internet.
Monday, November 3, 2008
While most of us are caught up in a historic U.S. presidential election tomorrow, the Federal Communications Commission will be creating its own drama when it votes on the future of unfettered wireless Internet access.
Before the FCC is the controversial idea to open up the wireless spectrum in the 700MHz range for wireless devices. Called white spaces, these airwaves have acted as a buffer between TV channels to prevent overlap and interference from other signals. With television stations abandoning the airwaves as they switch to federally mandated digital service, white spaces have become a hot commodity because of their ability to pass easily through walls and travel long distances. This makes the spectrum ideal for Wi-Fi, but is extremely contentious, and pits major tech companies like Google, Microsoft, Intel, and Dell against broadcasters, sports leagues, and even mega-churches.
Opponents of the plan say that use of white space will interfere with other devices, like wireless microphones, and also still interfere with clear television broadcasts despite the move to digital. On the other side, major tech companies, operating under the lobbying group The White Spaces Coalition say their devices can be designed to avoid interference with other signals in the 700MHz spectrum. Earlier this month the FCC issued a report on the reliability of these devices, and while results look promising for the tech companies, opponents were not convinced.
Everyone from Bill Gates to Dolly Parton has begun lobbying the FCC as the vote closes in. In a letter to congress, Parton said "the importance of clear, consistent wireless microphone technology cannot be overstated."
Gates has been meeting with FCC commissioners face to face as he tries to seal the deal. White spaces have the potential to revolutionize Internet access, and could make it much easier for America's millions of rural internet users who still rely on dial-up access to obtain wireless broadband service.
Whatever the outcome, tomorrow's decision by the FCC seems likely to impact the country's communication infrastructure for years to come.