Tag Archive: internet

Getting New Jersey’s Urban Residents Organized is in Everyone’s Interests

promoted by Rosi

In a blog published earlier this month, I introduced an important but little-appreciated topic that is at the core of what is ailing our troubled inner cities, that being, a lack of empowered community organizations. As crime and poverty continue to stifle New Jersey’s urban areas, it must be noted that if we expect the residents of places like Camden, Newark and Paterson to help themselves, they have to have a place to meet. Literally, there are little if any places to gather, talk about issues, prioritize, network and plan, plan, plan. So often we hear from the residents of the Garden State’s wealthier suburbs and rural areas (such as Sussex County) that the first step in solving the problems of our inner cities is getting the people who live there to work together. Or more cynically, we’ll read posted snippets like “We’ve been throwing money at these places for years and things just keep getting worse,” and even “if more of this crime continues we’ll have to call in the National Guard.”  

Finally, We Can Get Every Student and School Online – For Cheap

Cross Posted from Dan Kurz’s Jersey Globe Blog at http://kurzglobe.blogspot.com/…

Many decades have had their “Moonshots.” They’re The Big Ideas. Typically, they’re supremely-expensive, societally-challenging, disruptive projects that go down in history as  lasting achievements. In the 1930’s it was the New Deal. In the 40’s, it was victory in World War II. In the 1950’s it was the Interstate Highway System. In the 60’s it was, well, the Moonshot (and Civil Rights).

These “Moonshot” projects are costly, but necessary. They’re transformative, and frequently democratic in nature. They are national quests that are underwritten by the Federal government because either the private sector is not equipped to – or willing to – deliver. Yes, America is a capitalist nation, no doubt. We prize private ownership and initiative, but there are things that even the market cannot do. Not on a big level anyway.

The challenge of our age, the “Moonshot,” if you please, is national, affordable, quality connectivity. Everywhere, 24/7. Call it what you will – a national, low or no cost Wi-Fi system, Municipal Internet, whatever.

Internet access is not a civil right, not yet anyway, but a good education is. And I really doubt that you’d be able to find any educator or parent who would not observe that there is no way any student can attain a quality education in 2014 without ready, constant, available broadband access. It’s a no brainer. The entire world is online and competing furiously on an international basis. My own students are well aware that their future competitors are not only in nearby schools but in places like Shanghai and Singapore as well. As a nation, we’re long overdue in bringing free, fast Internet into our public schools. This goal has long been part of our “Moonshot.”

If you asked any person on the street (or me as recently as two hours ago) how much it would cost to bring fast, wired and wireless (Wi-Fi) internet to every school in the nation, a lot of figures would come up. But the bottom line is, everyone – myself included – would tell you the cost would be prohibitive. Hundreds of billions of dollars, at least – maybe more. Most would probably think that it’s worthy goal, perhaps, but really, just not realistic in the near future. It seems like a huge, progressive dream, and something that, in these troubling economic times, might have to be done either incrementally or put on the back burner for more prosperous days.

Then I read an article – a blog post in this week’s Washington Post. According to the FCC and two highly respected organizations in the Ed-Tech world, a price tag has been revealed. For this estimation, this “ballpark figure,” every school in the United States could be hooked up to broadband access, wired and wireless. And we’re not talking about the kind of access you get at home – we’re talking big, thick pipes dedicated to massive amounts of uploading and downloading via fiber optic connections. To do this, it would cost Congress about $4 billion.

When I read the estimation, I gasped. It can’t be that inexpensive. To bring wireless access to every public school in America…that’s just huge. Every school means every school, from the mega-high schools of busy New York City to the rural hamlets of Tennessee…sea to shining sea…etc.  

The implications of such a plan would be revolutionary to say the least. And for this price tag – really the amount that the Federal government probably spends on toilet paper yearly – it’s worth it. We have spent more than a trillion dollars in Iraq since 2003. A trillion dollars! To kill people and break things in a faraway land! And what have we got for our trillion dollars? Iraq is falling apart, Al Qaida’s still on the loose, our allies aren’t any more secure and we have tens of thousands of disabled vets to care for. Why don’t we take just a fraction of such an expenditure and invest it in our children and our communities?

We can do this. We must do this. We can still do great things, but now, apparently, we can achieve greatness with technologies partially bought at places like Radio Shack and The Home Depot. The private sector won’t do it; it’s had a decade to step up to the challenge of bringing affordable and widespread web access to our schools. Instead, our tech companies are focused on what all companies focus on: profits, mergers and acquisitions. That doesn’t make them bad, but it does make them incapable of acting on this level for the public interest.

We can do this. Who’s with me?

Comcast’s Data Caps Threaten More than Higher Prices

Cross Posted From Dan Kurz’s Jersey Globe Blog http://kurzglobe.blogspot.com/…

With recent news that Comcast plans to implement some sort of bandwidth/usage cap on its Internet users, it inadvertently and probably put a nail, at least from an ideological standpoint, in its soon-to-be corporate coffin. Now I know from a present-day perspective, that seems a bit extreme to say, considering that it’s one of the nation’s largest and most profitable corporations. Nevertheless, by implementing bandwidth caps, Comcast is doing more than falling off the Internet wagon; it’s shooting the horse. At the least, Comcast data caps ought to be declared by the Federal Government to be monopolistic activity and regulated; in an ideal situation, the Internet giant should be broken up into several rival corporations to drive prices down and internet speeds up. The U.S. Supreme Court did this in the early 1980’s by breaking up the old AT&T “Bell System,” and the result, frankly, was our modern-day communications miracle.

It bears repeating. The Internet is our network of networks. It’s very presence in our lives is something that is, frankly, without historical precedent. It is quickly forming into the economic backbone of the global economy, and that’s a fact that’s not going to change in future years, it’s only going to expand. And as one of the nation’s largest (and perhaps, soon to be the largest) Internet service providers, capped Internet represents an intentional plug on national economic growth and security. Internet caps are the equivalent of internal tariffs, an evil of the past that is outlawed in our own national constitution. There are so many reasons to reject the idea of caps, it’s not even funny. Here are a few:

1.   There is no bandwidth crisis. We know this because while Comcast and other big-time Internet Service Providers tell the FCC that there is, they’re bragging to their own investors that there is plenty of bandwidth to go around, and profitably so.

2.   New fiber optic cables and data compression technologies are amply keeping up with bandwidth needs

3.   Capping internet use and charging more for it will make all forms of digital communications and commerce artificially more expensive; it’s the equivalent to a physical attack on the national communications infrastructure in order to keep prices high

4.   We know from the short history of the Internet that today’s “Internet sipper” is tomorrow’s “power user” as more Internet use is the norm, not the opposite

5.   In places where Comcast and its monopolistic equivalents encounter competition prices have gone down and value for consumers has gone up; don’t believe me? Ask anyone from Austin, Texas, where the cable companies are being forced to compete with Google Fiber’s amazing packages…no internet caps there and speeds on par with South Korea’s (100 mbs+)

I could care less about Comcast and its quest for profits, especially if it comes at this kind of price. Our international competitors in South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Israel don’t cap their web use, because they know they’d be insane to do so. With so many start-up businesses depending on broad Internet use from both sides of the business model (producer and consumer), they have no intention of stifling the digital commons or limiting it in any way. If anything, our international rivals are making web use less expensive and more ubiquitous. Just this year, Tel Aviv’s municipal government began a plan to make the entire city wireless – for free. Taipei, Taiwan is already wireless, with Wi-Fi available on nearly every street and alleyway.

What we need is more competition and antitrust enforcement. In America we believe in the right to private property, but not at the expense of endangering the growth potential of the entire national economy. That’s what the Sherman Antitrust Act and similar legislation are for. We don’t believe in monopolies and, in fact, regard them as a threat. And that’s not just me – Adam Smith, that “Father of Capitalism,” makes the exact same argument in the very Bible of Capitalism: The Wealth of Nations.

Comcast’s quest wring the national Internet market for every dollar even at the expense at destroying its most valuable aspect, that being the vast potential for individual and national financial growth, must be countered and reversed. It’s in everybody’s interest to do so, especially those who still embrace the ideals of America as a place for broad economic opportunity and an unregulated marketplace for ideas.

Finally, The Possibility of Free, Widespread Wi-Fi: The Signs Are Everywhere

Cross Posted from http://kurzglobe.blogspot.com/…

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has brought the dream of a nearly zero-cost (to taxpayers) wireless cloud in New York City closer than ever with a brilliant plan. Admittedly first proposed in the last administration, if successful the proposal will enjoin a private-public partnership system that will install tens of thousands of Wi-Fi hotspots around the city. Access will be free and unlimited, and here’s the kicker – it will be, for the most part, privately funded, and gladly so.

How do they plan to do it? The strategy is two-fold. First, the Wi-Fi routers will be placed on city property that has been leased to advertisers. Billboards, old telephone booths, subway ads, etc. Year after year private advertisers pay millions of dollars to get their names up in public access areas and central commons. Previously, the deal was, pay the city and for a limited time your sign goes up. Signs are expensive too, especially ones that are illuminated. Well, now, the updated deal will be, buy public advertising space and along with your message, your company will be required to purchase and hang up one or two expertly camouflaged Wi-Fi routers to create a local wireless cloud. Equipment prices have plummeted to such lows that, frankly, the system’s costs will be marginal – practically built-in. There will be no huge increases in rates to these advertising firms. The actual network would presumably be run by the city; again, supported by, say, a small additional fee to be paid by advertisers. The actual public network would be ad-free. And once the infrastructure is up and running, additional costs to advertisers will drop to near zero.

This is a great idea for Jersey, but there’s more. Another source of revenue that could create an instant, funded and installed Wi-Fi network is through a small increase for illuminated sign and tower permits. If a business seeks to construct and display an illuminated sign (even on private property), for a few extra dollars the payer would fund one or two routers adjoining such signage.

Free wifi. Widespread. Readily available. Supported (mostly) by private sources for the public good, and implanted in a ready-made infrastructure. For Jersey, the possibilities are endless. With a little bit of tweaking with the contracts for billboard and other advertisers, we can unleash a long-overdue public resource: Free Wi-Fi. Think about it. How many huge billboards do you see locally? On bridges? Along the Turnpike? Aside tall buildings? How many old phone booths dot our towns and cities? In Newark there must be hundreds of sites, just waiting to be transformed to beacons on the Information Superhighway.

Using this arrangement, Wi-Fi clouds could be quickly established in our cities. Newark, Camden, Jersey City, Union City, New Brunswick…even smaller communities with dense, commercial downtown areas like Kearney, Princeton, Irvington and Belleville would benefit.

Okay, we’ve got this great idea. It’s already beginning to work for other cities. This idea is way outside the box, but it is sure to work, helping to light up our cities in the 21st century like they were illuminated in the 20th.

Our effort must be centered on the State Legislature. That is the only statewide authority capable of passing the laws to make this plan possible.

Let’s do this. Let’s have the hard liquor and cigarette advertisers in our cities bring fast, free Internet to our kids. Let’s take those bright signs along Route 1 and bring Internet to motorists and local shoppers. This plan is a no brainer. Do we dare to innovate? Can we still do great things? I believe we can.

Verizon wants to be excused from its broadband obligation – even though you’ve already paid for it

It was called Opportunity New Jersey, and you’ve already been paying for it for more than 20 years. It was designed to make this state one of the most wired, most advanced in the nation. If you’re a Verizon customer, you’ve been financing this at $1 dollar per month on your phone bills, with old copper wire out, fast new fiber optic services in. Verizon took in billions, according to some reports. Verizon, after striking this deal in 1993, also got the state to agree to looser regulatory oversight that it would have had without the deal. And the deal was, “essential” to the economic growth of NJ, which you now know is sluggish.

But depending on where you live, you might not feel very good about it. As long as two years ago, came reports that “the battle for America’s entire communications future is playing out this week in two small towns in New Jersey.” Those two little towns are both in Cumberland County; Greenwich and Stow Creek, where phone lines would suddenly go out, not for hours but for weeks or have background noise, plus bad wireless, and no cable. After complaints, the company seemed to do little more than move the goalpost.

Flash forward. We’re now 4 years past the 2010 deadline. And now BPU’s about to OK an agreement that would modify some requirements of the original deal, including allowing the company to provide only high-speed wireless Internet in some areas. Which is not what they promised, not what they collected your money for, and not what serves the people who won’t be getting that high-speed wireless. Verizon says it’s already invested heavily in the state. Here’s what NJ Citizen Action says:

Every Verizon telephone customer in NJ has been paying an extra $1 on their phone bill for the last 20 years so Verizon could build out high speed internet network to the entire state. We’ve paid for it, and now Verizon is saying they don’t have to do it.

BPU has kind of an arcane platform for registering comments. But if you want them to hear from you on this issue, here’s what to do: (1) me@BPU at this address. Put this in the subject field: “Verizon New Jersey, Docket No. TO12020155”. Deadline is 5pm, March 24.  

Sunday Letter to Trenton Times: Unwire Trenton Now to Promote its Future

To the Editor:

In his Sunday, March 16 Trenton Times op-ed “Take Trenton’s Raw Materials, Make Its Future,” author and local businessman John Boyd, Jr. makes some excellent points. The time is long overdue for our capital city to be completely revitalized and updated for the 21st Century. To enable its turnaround, first and foremost, the city must be broadly connected to the web, for the good of its residents, workers and visitors.

To enable Trenton economically and pump new life into it, as well as make it an attractive center for business and visitors, the city needs a universal, free, high speed Wi-Fi Internet network, or ‘cloud.’ Trenton is geographically compact and would be the perfect place for the state to begin its long overdue urban Wi-Fi initiatives.

Universal, municipal Wi-Fi would help connect its students to the vast learning resources of the web, from Encyclopedia Britannica to online documentaries, lectures and lessons. The state has already committed to constructing a completely new high school for the city, but a quality education must include widespread Internet access. In the 20th century Trenton’s classrooms were the place for education, in 2014 it ought to be the entire city.

Municipal Wi-Fi would help to draw in and assist much needed travelers and tourists. Trenton’s potential as a regional tourism hub is real, and it has numerous historical, cultural and artistic venues to offer. By covering these areas with working wireless Internet, and perhaps designing apps to guide visitors, the city could become more attractive to them. Their presence would enrich our treasury with their sales tax payments, their patronage of local businesses and sheer diveristy.

And most importantly, municipal Wi-Fi for Trenton would directly connect all of its residents and businesses to the Web and all of the opportunities it has to offer. Trenton’s residents, like most of us, currently have only two choices when dealing with getting online: Cable or Verizon Fios. Generally these companies offer quality access to the Internet but at prices starting at $60 monthly. By establishing a free network, people of all classes and abilities will be able to access job openings, government services and email.

Municipal Wi-Fi for Trenton won’t be free, as nothing is. But this is not ten years ago. The cost of constructing a working, high speed cloud has plummeted in recent years with improvements in technology and affordability. The entire city could probably be transformed into a high-speed wireless cloud for under $2 million initially, and then operated less expensively per year once the initial infrastructure is in place. Additionally, a new network will create jobs for those to construct and manage it. For help, the Legislature would have to assist as a safe, viable state capital is in everyone’s interest.

Let’s follow Boyd’s lead. Let’s give Trenton a genuine cyber-makeover to enable its citizens and businesses to join the global economy and help make a capital city we can all be proud of.

Sincerely,

Daniel B. Kurz, M.A.

Princeton, N.J.

On the internet censorship bills:  where does the NJ delegation stand?

As Blue Jersey readers who came to our site today have seen, we made the decision to “go dark” as part of a massive online protest against two Bills that would do great damage to internet freedom by allowing the Government to censor and block web sites that corporations don’t like.  The two bills are as follows:

 

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA, H.R. 3261) is on the surface a bill that attempts to curb online piracy. Sadly, the proposed way it goes about doing this would devastate the online economy and the overall freedom of the web. It would particularly affect sites with heavy user generated content. Sites like Youtube, Reddit, Twitter, and others may cease to exist in their current form if this bill is passed.