The Internet Will Not Break Itself Tomorrow


"Allie," I said as I spread his Marmite, "it's absurd to equate the freedom of millionaires to push their line with the freedom of a basement pamphleteer to challenge them."

"Oh, mummy," he said, "don't be so silly. You are confusing freedom with capability. The Flat Earth News is free to sell a million copies. What it lacks is the capability of finding a million people with fourpence and the conviction that the earth is flat. You see, mummy," he said, "people don't buy rich men's papers because the men are rich; the men are rich because people buy their papers." - Tom Stoppard, "Night and Day"

Depending on who you ask, the Internet is poised to either grind to a slow, shuddering halt or be invigorated with an infusion of confidence and investment after the FCC votes the net neutrality/Internet Freedom order tomorrow. At least, that is what some of the hyperbole surrounding the issue portends. The truth is probably somewhere in between.

Making (Meaningful) Change

Keith Gabbard, CEO and GM of Peoples Rural Telephone Cooperative in McKee, Kentucky,
cuts the ribbon for the Smart Rural Community-supported Virtual Living Room/VALOR at
which U.S. service veterans can obtain no-cost access to V.A. telehealth and other online services.


For as much as I research and talk about technology, I am not an ardent early adopter. It is not that I do not appreciate or believe in the usefulness of various applications; it's more that I am selective about employing technology that will make a meaningful and useful difference in my life. And, so, while I have not yet installed a smart lock on the front door of my house, it is a device that is in the not-too-distant future. I have not yet identified a compelling need for a smart refrigerator at my house, but I have a family members (elderly) for whom I think such an appliance would be useful.

At last year's Consumer Electronics Show, the buzz was about how to grasp the reins of technology and make it matter. NTCA's Smart Rural Community initiative offers that same opportunity through its Collaboration Challenge grant program.

Happy Thanksgiving

 Astute readers of this blog might recall that I posted Lincoln's 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation here last year. And, those who worked with me in previous lives might recall a hard copy of these words taped to my office door each year around this time.

The Syringe of Social Media

 Disclaimer: this post is not a statement against interests. I am a firm believer that moderation is a fine approach to most things in life. Donuts, bourbon, and social media are all OK - so long as not taken to excess.

Several articles over the past few weeks have unveiled research that tends to illuminate suspicions which have been brewing for a while. The most sobering piece was published by the Wall Street Journal about two weeks ago - "How Smartphones Hijack Our Minds." If you are wondering whether this is even a valid thesis, ask yourself whether you have enjoyed elevator conversations in the past several years, or whether you have noticed an almost reflexive reach for the phone when passengers cross the threshold into the cab.

Dopamine, courtesy Wikipedia

School Bus Wi-Fi, Sears, and Smart Rural Community

   Soon after landing my first "real" job, I made a habit of visiting Sears each weekend to buy a tool. It started with a small, wood-handle hammer (which remains my favorite), and was followed over time by screwdriver sets, pliers, clamps, and other toolbox basics. Added to what I purchased on an "as needed basis" for specific jobs (tile cutters, Jorgenson clamps, etc.), it was a relatively painless way to build a working collection over time. During those years, Sears was busy, staffed, and stocked.

A few weeks ago, I visited a Sears location to return an item that I had purchased on-line. I was surprised by how vacant the store appeared; that is best word I can find to describe it. Half-filled shelves, barren aisles, and wide-open spaces illuminated with harsh fluorescent lighting only seemed to emphasize how empty the place was.

Shop On-Line, Lose Weight

  Anyone reading this blog over the past couple of weeks could be forgiven for thinking that this is a fitness-oriented publication. First, the FitBit (last post), and now this article about the potential impact of on-line grocery shopping on snack sales. In reality, however, both posts simply illustrate the way individuals (and, collectively, a society) respond to our deepning relationship with ever-pervasive technologies.

This week, I purchased grass seed and a 1TB external hard-drive on-line. They should both arrive at my door tomorrow. Can I source  grass seed locally? Of course, I can. Am I to lazy to drive 20 minutes to the garden center? Affirmative.

It's National Obesity Day, But I am Ditching My Fitbit

  An article published by the Catholic University Journal of Law and Technology proclaims, "Technology is Killing Our Opportunity to Lie." It's true.

The Washington Post yesterday published an extraordinary account of how a widower became a suspect in his wife's murder when her Fitbit, along with IP addresses from his email and data from his home security system, tore holes in his alibi. The article quotes District of Columbia law professor Andrew Furgueson as noting, "Americans are just waking up to the fact that their smart devices are going to snitch on them."

The Consumer Technology Association reports that wearables are expected to increase nine percent in 2017 to 48 million units, driving a $5.6B market. Smart home technology is expected to experience a mind-blowing 50 percent increase to 27M unites and a whopping 48 percent increase in earnings to $3.3B.

If Yahoo Served Hamburgers . . .

  Growing up in central Ohio, I often drove past a small McDonald's and wondered how that little store sold 65 billion hamburgers. And, every so often, the number would change, much the way the price signs at the gas stations changed - a lone guy with a long pole and a giant number at the end of the stick.

I thought about that today when Yahoo disclosed that it 2013, all 3 billion of its acocunts were hacked. Yep, that's right. Every. Single. Yahoo. Account. 


Which means that somewhere in Sunnyvale, California, there may well be a guy with a big "3" on a stick, patiently trying to wiggle it into a spot that previously held a "1" (which was the perceived extent of the breach until today's announcement).

Taking the "Tele" Out of Telemedicine

 Every so often, I hear a pivotal sentence that sticks. During the 90s, a friend of mine commenting on a current White House scandal observed, "If you always tell the truth, you never need to remember what you said." Or, an ethical observation by a dean at my college seminary: "None of us got to where we are without some help along the way." At a U.S. House roundtable yesterday on veterans' telehealth, I heard another one: "We should be striving toward a point at which we see telehealth as simply health care."

Taking Care of Business...

 It’s not easy bringing broadband service to the most rural parts of this country: among the inherent challenges are low population densities, rugged terrain, and a smaller customer base over which to spread deployment costs. 

Yet despite these impediments, NTCA member companies continue to not only bring service to these remote areas, but to bring faster speeds to more and more of their customers, as illustrated by the newly-released NTCA 2016 Broadband/Internet Availability Survey Report.

The survey finds NTCA member companies utilizing a wide variety of technologies to bring broadband to their customers: 41% utilize fiber to the home (FTTH), 36% copper loops, 12% cable modem, 9% fiber to the node (FTTN), and 2% licensed or unlicensed wireless, and satellite. And the service they provide is robust: 67% of respondents’ broadband customers can receive service of greater than 25 megabits per second (Mbps), 20% service between 10 and 25 Mbps, and 7% service between 6 and 10 Mbps.