Technology

Opinion: How the FCC Can Save the Open Internet

As millions flocked to the web for the first time in the 1990s, President Clinton and a Republican Congress decided “to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet.” In the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the government called for an internet “unfettered by Federal or State regulation.” The result of that fateful decision was the greatest free-market success story in history. Encouraged by light-touch regulation, private companies invested over $1.5 trillion in nearly two decades to build out American communications networks. Without having to ask anyone’s permission, innovators everywhere used the internet’s open platform to start companies that have transformed how billions of people live and work. But that changed in 2014. Just days after a poor midterm election result, President Obama publicly pressured the Federal Communications Commission to reject the longstanding consensus on a market-based approach to the internet. He instead urged the agency to impose upon internet service providers a creaky regulatory framework called “Title II,” which was designed in the 1930s to tame the Ma Bell telephone monopoly. A few months later, the FCC followed President Obama’s instructions on a party-line vote. I voted “no,” but the agency’s majority chose micromanagement over markets. This burdensome regulation has failed consumers and businesses alike. In the two years after the FCC’s decision, broadband network investment dropped more than 5.6%—the first time a decline has happened outside of a recession. If the current rules are left in place, millions of Americans who are on the wrong side of the digital divide would have to wait years to get more broadband. The effect has been particularly serious for smaller internet service providers. They don’t have the time, money or lawyers to cut through a thicket of complex rules. The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, which represents small fixed wireless companies that generally operate in rural America, found that more than 80% of its members “incurred additional expense in complying with the Title II rules, had delayed or reduced network expansion, had delayed or reduced services and had allocated budget to comply with the rules.” They aren’t alone. Other small companies have told the FCC that these regulations have forced them to cancel, delay or curtail upgrades to their fiber networks. The uncertainty surrounding the FCC’s onerous rules has also slowed the introduction of new services. One major company reported that it put on hold a project to build out its out-of-home Wi-Fi network partly because it wasn’t sure if the FCC would approve of its business model. Nineteen municipal internet service providers—that is, city-owned nonprofits—told the this past May that they “often delay or hold off from rolling out a new feature or service because we cannot afford to deal with a potential complaint and enforcement action.” This is why I’m proposing today that my colleagues at the Federal Communications Commission repeal President Obama’s heavy-handed internet regulations. Instead the FCC simply would require internet service providers to be transparent so that consumers can buy the plan that’s best for them. And entrepreneurs and other small businesses would have the technical information they need to innovate. The Federal Trade Commission would police ISPs, protect consumers and promote competition, just as it did before 2015. Instead of being flyspecked by lawyers and bureaucrats, the internet would once again thrive under engineers and entrepreneurs. The FCC will vote on this proposal on Dec. 14. If it passes, Washington will return to the bipartisan approach that made the internet what it is today. Consumers will benefit from greater investment in digital infrastructure, which will create jobs, increase competition, and lead to better, faster, and cheaper internet access—especially in rural America. In the next few weeks, anti-market ideologues are going to try to scare the American people. They’ll argue that government control is the only way to assure a free and open internet. They’ll assert that repealing utility-style regulation will destroy the internet as we know it and harm innovation. They’ll allege that free speech online is at risk. Don’t fall for the fearmongering. We have proof that markets work: For almost two decades, the U.S. had a free and open internet without these heavy-handed rules. There was no market failure before 2015. Americans weren’t living in a digital dystopia before the FCC seized power. To the contrary, millions enjoyed an online economy that was the envy of the world. They experienced the most powerful platform ever seen for permission-less innovation and expression. Next month, I hope the FCC will choose to return to the common-sense policies that helped the online world transform the physical one. -Mr. Pai is the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

Mr. Pai is 100% right here.  Let’s hope the FCC reverses Obama’s disastrous, and fascist,  big government restrictions that have stifled freedom on the internet.

Pyramid discovery: Scientists use cosmic rays to find mysterious chamber inside ancient edifice

Scientists have harnessed sophisticated scanning technology to discover a mysterious chamber inside Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza. The discovery, which was revealed in the journal Nature, has been described as the first discovery of a major new space within the pyramid since the 19th century. An international team of researchers used cosmic-ray imaging to find a 30-meter (98.4 foot) “void” within the Great Pyramid, which is also known as Khufu’s Pyramid for its builder, a 4th Dynasty pharaoh who reigned from 2509 to 2483 B.C. Cosmic ray imaging records the behavior of subatomic particles called muons that penetrate the rock similar to X-rays, only much deeper. The muon scan harnesses special plates that are planted inside and around the pyramid to collect data on the particles, which rain down from the earth’s atmosphere. The particles pass through empty spaces but can be absorbed or deflected by harder surfaces, enabling scientists to study their trajectories and discern what is stone and what is not. Several plates were used to triangulate the void discovered in the Great Pyramid. The technology was also used to analyze the Fukushima nuclear reactor after it was damaged by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011. Scientists involved in the pyramid scanning called the find a “breakthrough” that highlighted the usefulness of modern particle physics in archaeology. “This is a premier,” said Mehdi Tayoubi, a co-founder of the ScanPyramids project and president of the Heritage Innovation Preservation Institute. “It could be composed of one or several structures… maybe it could be another Grand Gallery. It could be a chamber, it could be a lot of things.” “It was hidden, I think, since the construction of the pyramid,” he added. Intriguingly, the newly discovered space does not appear to be connected to any known internal passages. Egyptologists, however, say there is unlikely to be any treasure within the hidden space. The pyramid’s ‘void’ is the latest ancient Egyptian discovery to thrill experts. Last month, for example, archaeologists announced the discovery of an ancient temple belonging to King Ramses II. In August experts revealed that they had unearthed three tombs from an ancient “great cemetery” in Egypt’s Nile Valley. A month earlier, archaeologists said that a tomb that may have belonged to the wife of King Tutankhamun had been discovered in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. In June, archaeologists from Yale and the Royal Museum of Art and History in Belgium announced the discovery of the earliest-known ‘billboard-sized’ hieroglyphs in the ancient city of Elkab. Other finds include a 3,000-year-old royal tomb in the Luxor area and the tomb of an ancient gold worker on Sai Island in northern Sudan.

Fascinating!!  For more, click on the text above.

Report: 42 Percent of American Children Under 8 Own a Tablet

42 percent of American children under eight-years-old own a tablet computer, according to a report. Axios reported that the number is “up from less than 1% in 2011,” noting that, “Families with young children are now more likely to have a subscription video service such as Netflix or Hulu (72%) than they are to have cable TV (65%).” “10% of kids age 8 or under own a ‘smart’ toy that connects to the internet,” they continued. “And 9% have a voice-activated virtual assistant device available to them in the home, such as an Amazon Echo or Google Home.” The research, conducted by Common Sense Media, also discovered that 95 percent of families “with children age 0 to 8 now have a smartphone (up from 63 percent in 2013 and 41 percent in 2011),” while “78 percent have a tablet (up from 40 percent in 2013 and 8 percent just six years ago, in 2011).” The “digital divide” between higher and lower-income families has also started to close, according to Common Sense Media. “Since 2011, the gap in high-speed internet access between higher-income and lower-income families — the ‘digital divide’ — has been cut down from 50 to 22 percentage points (96 percent of higher-income families have high-speed internet versus 74 percent of lower-income families),” the report proclaimed. “The gap in overall mobile device ownership has virtually disappeared (3 percentage points), due to the number of lower-income families that now have a smartphone.” “Children from lower-income homes spend an average of 1:39 more time with screen media each day than those from higher-income homes (3:29 vs. 1:50),” they continued. “Children from homes with lower parent education consume more screen media than children from homes with higher parent education (2:50 vs. 1:37).” In a statement, Common Sense Media Founder James P. Steyer pointed out the potential benefits and risks to the increasing tech use by children. “In today’s tech-driven world, where things are moving so quickly, it is really important to step back and take a hard look at what technology kids are using and how they are using it,” Steyer declared. “Over the last six years, we have seen massive growth in media use and tablet ownership, and we haven’t even begun to experience the explosion of new technologies like virtual reality and voice-activated assistants in our homes. If we want to ensure our kids develop well and are successful in life, we have to make sure they get the most out of tech while protecting them from potential risks — and that means paying close attention to the role media is playing in their lives.” “It is promising to see many of the gaps closing when it comes to access to technology and devices among all segments of our population,” he added. “Technology is integral to success in our world, and every child deserves access to it. Over the last several years, we have seen the digital divide and app gap closing, which is a very positive development for our country.” In March, it was reported that 82 percent of children in “Netflix-only” homes don’t know what commercials are, while 38 percent of those in houses with a television were also unaware of the word.

Elon Musk can rebuild Puerto Rico’s power grid, if given the chance

Robert Downey Jr.’s version of Tony Stark in “Iron Man 2” may have been loosely based on Elon Musk, but it appears Musk is the real super-hero, as he tries to save one energy grid at a time. Responding to a comment from a follower, Musk said that he could rebuild Puerto Rico’s electrical infrastructure destroyed by Hurricane Maria. “The Tesla team has done this for many smaller islands around the world, but there is no scalability limit, so it can be done for Puerto Rico too,” Musk tweeted. Upon seeing this, Puerto Rico’s governor Ricardo Rossello‏ tweeted back at Musk, writing “Let’s talk.” Musk responded, saying he would be happy to talk and is hopeful Tesla can help. According to several media reports, 95 percent of the U.S. territory is still without power after the category 4 hurricane battered the island weeks ago. Some estimates have said that a full restoration of power may not return to Puerto Rico for as long as six months. In addition to selling electric cars, including the recently introduced Model 3, Tesla has an energy storage business, selling battery packs to commercial utilities, as well as home residences. It also has a solar panel business, after it acquired Solar City, co-founded by Musk’s cousin Lyndon Rive, for $2.6 billion in November 2016. Tesla has powered such smaller islands as Kauai in Hawaii and Ta’u in American Samoa, according to the company’s website. The populations of those islands is far less than the 3.4 million people living in Puerto Rico. James Murdoch, the CEO of 21st Century Fox, parent of Fox News, is a member of Tesla’s board of directors. Tesla has already sent a number of its battery packs to Puerto Rico to help the island store energy in an effort to offset the shortage. Musk has also personally donated $250,000 in an effort to rebuild the island. The conversation between Rossello and Musk is similar to one that took place several months ago, between Musk and billionaire entrepreneur Mike Cannon-Brookes, who asked if Musk was serious about ending South Australia’s rolling blackouts. Musk responded by saying the company could do it in 100 days from the time the contract was signed or it would be free. It has since won a contract to help fix the issues in South Australia.

Definitely something to keep an eye on…  As a side note, in reference to the first sentence (above)..  Elon Musk actually, ironically, made a cameo appearance in Iron Man 2 toward the beginning of the film.

Trump’s financial strategy persuades China to put screws to North Korea

President Trump persuaded China to freeze all financial transactions with North Korea and ordered a new round of U.S. sanctions Thursday, closing out his first U.N. General Assembly with a major diplomatic victory in his efforts to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and missile programs short of war. In a carefully choreographed strategy deployed from the shadow of the United Nations headquarters in New York, Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin called the head of China’s central bank very early Thursday to alert him that Mr. Trump was preparing an executive order to sanction any financial institutions doing business with North Korea. He asked for the cooperation of China, the main source of North Korea’s cash. Hours later, the People’s Bank of China announced it was directing all other banks in China to halt financial transactions with North Korea. Soon afterward, Mr. Trump signed an executive order in a meeting with the presidents of South Korea and Japan, expanding the Treasury Department’s ability to freeze the assets of banks or individuals doing business with Pyongyang. Mr. Trump praised China’s action, saying with uncharacteristic understatement that it was “somewhat unexpected.” “For much too long, North Korea has been allowed to abuse the international financial system to facilitate funding for its nuclear weapons and missile programs,” Mr. Trump said. “Tolerance for this disgraceful practice must end now.” Mr. Trump’s tightening of the screws culminated his weeklong effort to marshal more international pressure on North Korea. The expanded and coordinated sanctions were announced two days after Mr. Trump alarmed many at the General Assembly by warning that the U.S. was prepared to “totally destroy” North Korea if it attacked the U.S. or its allies. South Korean President Moon Jae-in praised Mr. Trump’s handling of the crisis, saying through a translator, “North Korea has continued to make provocations, and this is extremely deplorable and this has angered both me and our people, but the U.S. has responded firmly and in a very good way.” White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said Mr. Trump is taking the steps to try to resolve the crisis “short of war.” A senior administration official said the White House wants China and North Korea to understand that “this is different than anything in the last quarter century.” “We’re not negotiating for the right to negotiate, which is all the ‘strategic patience’ was all about,” the official said. “We’re going to try and have discussions so that we’ll reach a point where we agree to have negotiations. And we’ve made it clear that they need to step forward and be prepared to abandon the ballistic missile program and dismantle the nuclear weapons program. That’s where negotiations and discussions begin.” The official added, “We think China’s going to need to walk with them on that because of the outsized role that China plays in their economy, their long historic relationship, dating all the way back to the Korean War.” North Korean leader Kim Jong-un described Mr. Trump early Friday in Asia as “mentally deranged,” according to Reuters. He said North Korea would consider the “highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history” against the U.S. in response to Mr. Trump’s threat to “totally destroy” the North. Some analysts said Mr. Trump’s thinly veiled threat of sanctions against Chinese banks, his lobbying of Chinese President Xi Jinping and even perhaps his threat of nuclear war appear to be working, at least for now. “U.S. pressure is having an effect,” said Bill Bishop, a China analyst and publisher of the Sinocism newsletter. “If the U.S. decides to ratchet up secondary sanctions another notch, expect sanctions and/or penalties against a large [People’s Republic of China] bank like China Merchants, but not one of the big four.” Michael C. Desch, director of the International Security Center at Notre Dame University, said China was likely responding to the threat of war as much as any other incentive. “My sense is that it is not sanctions and the U.N. but rather China’s fear that the North Korea situation is spiraling out of control that is leading Beijing to take these steps,” he said. “The last thing China wants is a war on its border that, at a minimum, could remove a key buffer between it and an American ally and at a maximum could result in a thermonuclear war right next door.” Sen. Ben Sasse, Nebraska Republican and a member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, said the administration’s sanctions “are aimed squarely at North Korea’s despot but also remind China that it has a strong interest in preventing a nuclear arms race in Asia.”

Those are but a few of the things that China is worried about.  They don’t want to see a reunified Korea….under southern rule.  They don’t want an American ally that border’s China.  They also don’t don’t want to deal with the thousands and thousands of North Korean refugees flooding their border if a military (even conventional) war breaks out.  China like order; not chaos.  That would be more chaos than they’d care to deal with.  Those are just a few of the incentives they have to work with Trump.  And it wasn’t that hard, really.  It just took a little leadership from someone who isn’t afraid to upset the apple cart.  Trump isn’t a natural politician.  He is just someone who wants to see result; to see progress.  And, he doesn’t take no for an answer.  Nor does he care whose tender feelings he hurts.  In other words, he’s a business-man, and a leader.  Imagine that!

US Navy to use Xbox controllers on highly sophisticated submarines

Virginia-class submarines, equipped with some of the U.S. Navy’s most highly advanced and sophisticated technology, will soon use Microsoft Xbox 360 controllers to operate the periscope. Unlike the traditional rotating tube periscope, these submarines use photonic masts that display the images on screens, so multiple Navy personnel can view at once. But the problem with the photonic masts is that they’re controlled by a complex joystick, which junior officers and sailors described as “clunky” and “real heavy,” Lt. j.g. Kyle Leonard, the USS John Warner’s assistant weapons officer, told the Virginian-Pilot. In addition, the current system used to operate the photonic mast and imaging panels costs about $38,000, the newspaper reported. The idea of using an Xbox controller stemmed from a collaboration effort between Lockheed Martin and Navy officials looking for a less expensive solution, and a way to incorporate everyday technology. “That joystick is by no means cheap, and it is only designed to fit on a Virginia-class submarine,” Senior Chief Mark Eichenlaub, the USS John Warner’s assistant navigator, told the Virginian-Pilot. “I can go to any video game store and procure an Xbox controller anywhere in the world, so it makes a very easy replacement.”

How great is this?!?  To read more, click on the text above.     🙂

Robots could overpower humans thanks to new ‘artificial muscle’

Robots could soon be 15 times as strong as humans thanks to a new artificial muscle. Scientists used a 3D printing technique to create the rubber-like synthetic muscle that could lead to the creation of machines which “make the Terminator look puny.” The material was capable of expanding to nine times its normal size when heated. In tests it demonstrated enormous strength, having a strain density – the amount of energy stored in each gram of a stretched elastic body – 15 times greater than natural muscle. The device, described as a “soft actuator,” was able to lift 1,000 times its own weight, said the researchers whose work is reported in the journal Nature Communications. Professor Hod Lipson, from the Creative Machines laboratory at Columbia University in New York, said: “We’ve been making great strides toward making robot minds, but robot bodies are still primitive. “This is a big piece of the puzzle and, like biology, the new actuator can be shaped and reshaped a thousand ways. We’ve overcome one of the final barriers to making lifelike robots.” As a champion body builder, Schwarzenegger was famous for his muscles before making his name in Hollywood and starring as a homicidal android in the Terminator movies. Artificial muscles may not only suit killer robots but also sensitive surgical devices and a host of other applications where gripping and manipulation is important. Co-author Dr Aslan Miriyev, also from the Creative Machines lab, said: “Our soft functional material may serve as robust soft muscle, possibly revolutionizing the way that soft robotic solutions are engineered today. “It can push, pull, bend, twist, and lift weight. It’s the closest artificial material equivalent we have to a natural muscle.” The long-term aim is to accelerate the artificial muscle’s response time and link it to an artificially intelligent (AI) control system, said the researchers, who were part-funded by the Israeli defense ministry.

“Rise of the Machines”…indeed..