Update: Wis. lawmakers spare broadband program

The proposal would have forced the system to return millions in grants

A controversial plan to cut $37 million in federal grant money from the University of Wisconsin system has been axed from the 2011-13 budget, according to a legislator involved with the process.

In a letter to a constituent, released to the State Journal Tuesday, state Rep. Erik Severson, R-Star Prairie, said the program known as WiscNet will continue unaltered for the next two years while a study is conducted to evaluate the program.

“Through much discussion with my colleagues, and after hearing from you and other members of the community on this complex subject, I am pleased to announce that WiscNet will not be changed by the budget bill,” Severson wrote.…Read More

Broadband access jeopardized by GOP action in Wisconsin

Private companies complain that a broadband grant to the UW system is unfair for competition.

**Update: Wisconsin state legislators have backed off their controversial plan to cut $37 million in federal broadband money from the University of Wisconsin system amid sharp protest from the state’s schools. For details, see here.**

A federally funded effort to expand broadband service in Wisconsin is in jeopardy because some state officials don’t think the recipient of the grant, the University of Wisconsin (UW) system, should get the money. The grant to a public university makes it harder for private companies to compete in delivering broadband service, they say.

Area lawmakers from both parties are voicing concerns over a provision added to the proposed state budget to strip federal stimulus funding from a project to build telecommunications infrastructure—including high-speed, broadband internet cables—in the Chippewa Valley and elsewhere in Wisconsin.…Read More

Netflix dominates U.S. net traffic, grabs 30 percent of total bandwidth

The International Business Times reports that according to new research, movie and TV streaming site Netflix has become the biggest source of internet traffic in the U.S., accounting for 29.7 percent of downstream internet traffic during peak times. The Sandrive Research report said that in October, Netflix accounted for 20 percent of peak downstream traffic. However, according to experts, the growing trend of streaming is likely to cost more to internet service providers in terms of upgrades to satisfy demand. Not only peak times, Netflix accounted for a 22 percent average traffic share over a 24 hour period even at off peak hours. Streaming of video and audio is responsible for 49.2 percent of peak time internet congestion in the U.S., the report said…

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University of Hawaii plans internet graduation for education technology students

A virtual commencement address and virtual diplomas will be handed out to University of Hawaii students participating in an online graduation ceremony, the Republic reports. The university’s College of Education Department of Education Technology is organizing the graduation event in the virtual world of Second Life. The May 6 ceremony will take place at a replica of Diamond Head Amphitheatre…

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Planned wireless internet network threatens GPS

A new, ultra-fast wireless internet network is threatening to overpower GPS signals across the U.S. and interfere with everything from airplanes to police cars to consumer navigation devices, the Associated Press reports. The problem stems from a recent government decision to let a Virginia company called LightSquared build a nationwide broadband network using airwaves next to those used for GPS. Manufacturers of GPS equipment warn that strong signals from the planned network could jam existing navigation systems…

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Obama promotes plans for wireless expansion

President Barack Obama wants nearly all Americans to have access to speedy wireless services. He’s promoting that plan in a small city in Michigan that’s becoming a model for how the Internet can bring prosperity to far-flung places, the Associated Press reports. Obama on Thursday heads to Marquette, Mich., a university and tourism town of 20,000 overlooking Lake Superior that cherishes both its geographical remoteness and technological savvy. There he’ll see high-tech wireless initiatives in action at Northern Michigan University, where students telecommute, and talk about the plan he unveiled in his State of the Union address to expand access to high-speed wireless to 98 percent of the population within five years…

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FCC to update phone subsidy program for broadband

The federal government spends more than $4 billion a year, collected from phone bills, to subsidize phone service in rural and poor areas. Now, it’s considering ways to give those places more for the money: high-speed internet connections instead of old-fashioned phone lines, the Associated Press reports. The Federal Communications Commission is set to vote Tuesday to begin work on a blueprint for transforming a subsidy program called the Universal Service Fund to pay for broadband. The details the agency works out could have profound consequences not just for residents of rural areas who are still stuck with dial-up connections or painfully slow broadband speeds. Many rural phone companies–including both landline and wireless carriers–rely heavily on Universal Service funding and could lose some of this money. New FCC rules could also pave the way for cable companies to begin collecting from the program. Although the Universal Service Fund was established to ensure that all Americans have access to a basic telephone line, the Internet is replacing the telephone as today’s essential communications service, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said…

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Netflix CEO wades into net neutrality debates

Netflix, the DVD mail-order-company-turned-online-video-giant, is firing back at cable and telecom firms as it weighs in on an increasingly thorny debate over net neutrality, the Washington Post reports. In a blog Thursday, Netflix published a ranking of how internet service providers perform in delivering Netflix’s online streaming videos. Chartered gets highest marks for delivering videos at high speeds, therefore better resolution. Clearwire is ranked last in the United States (of course, Clearwire is a wireless firm, which isn’t exactly an apples to apple comparison). Time Warner Cable, Comcast and Cox rank high. And after reporting strong fourth-quarter earnings, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said in a letter to shareholders that the practice by Internet service providers such as Comcast of charging networking firms such as Level 3 more to bring videos and other content to users is “inappropriate…

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Google and Mozilla announce new privacy features

Add two more internet browser makers to the list of companies planning to offer web users new ways to control how their personal data is collected online, reports the New York Times. On Monday, Mozilla and Google announced features that would allow users of the Firefox and Chrome browsers to opt out of being tracked online by third-party advertisers. The companies made their announcements just weeks after the Federal Trade Commission issued a report that supported a “do not track” mechanism that would let consumers choose whether companies could monitor their online behavior…

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Comcast’s legal win raises questions for education

Approval of the Comcast-NBC Universal deal could have a lasting impact on schools and colleges.

Educators and students could see new internet service options after the federal government on Jan. 18 gave Comcast Corp., the country’s largest cable company, the green light to take over NBC Universal, home of the NBC television network, in a deal that is likely to shake up the internet landscape.

Public-interest groups, meanwhile, hope consumers won’t see new restrictions on content distribution as a result of the deal.

Comcast is buying a 51-percent stake in NBC Universal from General Electric Co. for $13.8 billion in cash and assets. The deal raises many questions, however, as public-interest groups have expressed concerns about what will happen to accessibility when one of the county’s largest suppliers of broadband pipeline joins forces with one of its largest suppliers of content.…Read More