March 5th, 2014
Since the beginning of the year, some things that have been happening at the Federal Communications Commission (and happening to the FCC) have been of interest to libraries. Today we share some information about two of those things: Network neutrality (“Open Internet”) and bigger Internet connections for schools and libraries. It’s a little early yet to know how much of an effect either of these things will have on day-to-day library Internet, but we thought you should be aware of them. Think of today’s post as an FCC FYI.
- Statement by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler on the FCC’s Open Internet Rules “A new docket is opened today called ‘Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet,’ so that all public input on the court’s remand of the Open Internet decision will be collected and available. I will recommend to my fellow commissioners that the Commission seek comment through a formal rulemaking on the specific rules for preserving and protecting the open Internet. The focus of this docket will be on issues raised by the D.C. Circuit opinion.”
- Comcast’s deal with Netflix makes network neutrality obsolete (Washington Post/Timothy B. Lee) “If it wanted to ensure a level playing field, the FCC would be forced to become intimately involved in interconnection disputes, overseeing who Verizon interconnects with, how fast the connections are and how much they can charge to do it. At this point, the FCC doesn’t have any good options. Regulating the terms of interconnection would be a difficult, error-prone process. Trying to reverse the decade-old mergers that allowed America’s broadband market to become so concentrated in the first place would be even more so.”
- FCC to invest additional $2 billion in high-speed Internet in schools and libraries (FCC unofficial announcement) “The additional support will be targeted to address the most urgent Internet upgrade needs of schools and libraries. Today only about half of E-Rate funds go to true high-speed Internet connections. Last summer, the Commission began a proceeding to explore ways to modernize the E-Rate program. In November, Chairman Wheeler launched a top to bottom review of the program to examine how E-Rate can better meet the 21st century connectivity needs of schools and libraries.”
- Here’s Obama’s plan to give teachers and libraries $1 billion a year in extra funding (Washington Post/Brian Fung) “E-Rate’s newest push aims to fix that by installing 100 Mbps connections in educational facilities nationwide. As the FCC’s study implies, need is both relative and subjective. That has some critics of E-Rate complaining that the program’s benefits are unevenly distributed. […] This is where the move to reform E-Rate comes in. Some of this entails ending E-Rate discounts for outdated technologies like dial-up connections, but it also means a potential change in how E-Rate funds are disbursed.”
The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) has set a goal of 100 Mbps per 1,000 students and educators in all K-12 schools in 2014, and 1 Gbps by the 2017-18 school year.
February 26th, 2014
Much of the tech news last week was about Facebook’s huge deal to buy the WhatsApp messaging service. (One economist pointed out that the $19 billion purchase price exceeds the World Bank’s total annual lending.) Google was reportedly also interested in WhatsApp. Why is a messaging app such a hot property? Partially because WhatsApp has a solid presence in the fiercely competitive Asian mobile market, where smartphone messaging is done a little differently than it is in the United States. And partially because technology that works well in Asia often finds its way to America. And if that happens, social networks like Facebook do not want to get pushed aside.
- Upsetting the app cart: Asian messaging services challenge mobile order (Reuters/Jeremy Wagstaff) “More than half of all smartphone users are active users of such [messaging] apps, according to Analysys Mason, and the volume of messages has already overtaken traditional SMS short messages, and will double again this year. Riding this wave are dozens of companies peddling mobile messaging apps, with some able to gather a critical mass of 100 million users or more. By offering compelling mixes of chat, downloadable icons and games, LINE, KakaoTalk and WeChat have emerged as some of the most popular in Asia.”
- Messaging services shaking up telecom sector (eNCA/AFP) “Some analysts expect more deals to come now that it’s clear that messaging is becoming a killer app that can enable mobile phone users around the globe to get free from their local carriers and communicate freely worldwide. Declan Lonergan, analyst at Yankee Group, said the new focus on messaging ‘signals the growing importance of IP communications in consumers’ lives.’ ‘Facebook’s valuation of WhatsApp is shockingly high, but so too is the risk of being left behind as these apps become dominant platforms for communications, media distribution, social engagement and advertising,’ Lonergan said in a blog post.”
- Lessons for Facebook: How WhatsApp went from red-hot to passé in Southeast Asia (The Next Web/Jon Russell) “WhatsApp sits behind dominant local players in China, Japan and Korea, but its experiences in Southeast Asia — where its popularity is varied — provides important lessons for Facebook if it wants to keep its sparkling new acquisition in vogue among a sea of competing, and well-funded messaging rivals. In particular, WhatsApp is coming under pressure from a new breed of ‘platform’ messaging apps that go beyond replacing SMS to provide a range of connected services, like games, virtual content, video/voice calling, e-commerce and more.”
- Five unusual ways in which Indians use mobile phones (BBC/Tushar Banerjee) “India’s newest political party — Aam Aadmi Party (or Common Man Party) — which now rules Delhi, launched a membership drive earlier this month by urging citizens to give a missed call to their phone number. The AAP officers would then get in touch with the callers and get them formally enrolled into the party. The AAP claims it has added more than 700,000 people to the party through missed calls in less than a month.”
OK, that last article is a bit off-topic, but if you’ve never heard the phrase, “give a missed call,” the Wikipedia article is pretty interesting.
February 19th, 2014
In last week’s 4cast, there was mention of network filters implemented by Internet service providers (ISPs) in the UK. There’s actually quite a bit happening with filtering in the UK, and it has been interesting to watch as the government there tries to get ISPs to implement nationwide filtering systems that will block bad stuff and still allow people to access good stuff on the Internet. The results so far have been mixed. And, of course, who’s to say what is “bad stuff” and “good stuff.”
- How UK web filtering could affect web hosts (The WHIR/David Hamilton) “The filtering, which households can opt-out of, will be done at the ISP-level, and be rolled out voluntarily by ISPs without the need for new government legislation or regulations. Initially, it will be up to new Internet subscribers in the UK to opt-out of this filtering, but eventually all UK Internet subscribers will have to let their ISP know they want access to filtered material.”
- Online porn filters also block sexual health advice (The Telegraph/Matthew Sparkes) “Among websites blocked by TalkTalk was BishUK.com, a sexual advice website written by a qualified youth worker, and the Edinburgh Women’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre website. The websites for Sexual Abuse Scotland and the Doncaster Domestic Abuse Helpline were also blocked. The [BBC] investigation also found that the filter failed to block 7 per cent of 68 pornographic websites tested.”
- Ministers bid to block extremist videos posted on foreign websites (BBC News/Chris Mason) “If the CTIRU [Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit] and prosecutors deem material to be illegal it can be blocked from parts of the public sector, including schools and hospitals. But this does not extend to domestic users – and filters can be turned off. The BBC has also been told it has proved difficult for the government to act against sites hosted abroad, both in the Middle East and in the US, where freedom of speech is protected by the constitution.”
- UK’s new mandatory porn filter already defeated by a single Chrome extension (TechDirt/Tim Cushing) “According to the creator, Go Away Cameron is a private, smart proxy service that engages when blocking is detected. He also claims nothing about the end user is collected or saved, including the IP address. So, that’s how easy it is to circumvent the UK’s porn firewall. Not that anyone expected it to be a challenge. Most probably figured using a proxy is all it would take. The astounding thing is that politicians obviously believe this lousy bit of state-ordained soft censorship will actually turn the UK into a less, I don’t know, sinful nation.”
Last July, UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced the government initiative to have ISPs filter the Internet by default – hence the name “Go Away Cameron” for the Chrome extension mentioned above.
February 12th, 2014
Yesterday was Safer Internet Day in over 100 countries. If you don’t recall ever hearing about it before, it’s probably because the U.S. has been late getting involved. But this year the day got significant support from some big American companies, and for good reason – they have a lot to lose if the Internet becomes generally considered unsafe. It’s notable that the British apparently continue to be more concerned about Internet safety specifically for children, while U.S. concern seems to be for all Internet users.
- Safer Internet Day: One in four children share personal information with strangers online (The Independent/James Vincent) “The survey of 1,000 parents found that 25 per cent of young children confessed sharing personal information including their full name, address, password and images with people they didn’t know. The research, which was conducted by Disney’s Club Penguin in partnership with Childnet and the UK’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), also found that one in six of the children surveyed that sharing such information was appropriate.”
- Safer Internet Day: parents failing to protect children from online threats (The Telegraph/Sophie Curtis) “Separate research by Kaspersky Lab found that more than a quarter of parents believe their children have been exposed to online risks, such as accessing inappropriate content or cyber bullying, in the past 12 months. Last year, ISPs in the UK introduced network filters which can block inappropriate content from all the online devices within the home. The filters block access to pornography, ‘obscene and tasteless’ content, hate and self-harm, drugs, alcohol and tobacco and some dating sites.”
- Microsoft asks consumers to “Do 1 Thing” to support Safer Internet Day (PRNewswire) “According to the MCSI [Microsoft Computing Safety Index] survey, the annual worldwide impact of phishing and various forms of identity theft could be as high as $5 billion, with the cost of repairing damage to peoples’ online reputation higher yet at nearly $6 billion, or an estimated average of $632 per loss. This means that education and guidance about how to avoid online risks remain key and is why Microsoft is asking people to “Do 1 Thing” today and make it part of their daily digital routine.”
- Microsoft, Google and Twitter mark Safer Internet Day with privacy awareness initiatives (The Next Web/Jon Russell) “As you might expect, Google is also taking part in Safer Internet Day, though its participation is quieter than the other two. Like Microsoft, it is providing basic tips for Internet users on its Good To Know Web safety site.”
This is the eleventh year Safer Internet Day has been observed in Europe, but it has only been observed in the United States in the last few years.