Wednesday, August 5, 2009

States get the grants for building the nation wide map of broadband

Previously on this web log we talked about the $350 million grant for developing a national broadband map. The National Telecommunication and Information Administration (NTIA) has published the Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for the broadband map on July 2nd. Based on the NOFA the states or their designated organizations are eligible for the grant.

Each state is supposed to provide structured and searchable data to NTIA and the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) that indicates availability of broadband at address level. The data should contain the advertised and "actual expected" speed of broadband service as well as the average per user revenue (ARPU) for the service. It is also expected that the data includes the technologies used for delivering broadband. If the exploited technology is wireless, the data should express the utilized spectrum.

The applications for the grant are going to be reviewed by a panel of at least three expert/peer reviewers. One of the criteria for the evaluation is the provisions for repeated data updating. It is recommended that the applicants demonstrate a workable and sustainable framework for repeated updating of data for at least five years.

NTIA and FCC will make the below data available to the public:
1) Geographic areas in which broadband service is available

2) The technologies used to provide broadband service in such areas

3) The speeds at which broadband service is available in such areas

4) Broadband service availability at public buildings like schools and hospitals

I personally cannot wait to get access to this data. I hope this map will be up and running by the statutorily mandated date for public posting of the National Broadband Map which is February 2011!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Authority's control over telecommunication services

It was the morning of the presidential election in Iran. I logged in to facebook and the first message that caught my eyes was one from a relative in Iran. It said “God! what’s going on?! why SMS is not working?!!!!!” Why does SMS not work on the day that it was supposed to be used to collect third party independent information of the ballots counts?! Why is SMS down when it is the main communication medium of the opposition?!

Earlier on that morning a friend of mine received a phone call. “Can you shut down all the SMS traffic that pass through your servers? ” the man on the other end of the line asked. My friend is the administrator for a service providers of the second mobile phone carrier in Iran. He questioned the authority of the caller and responded that he cannot shut down the server just by a phone call (from a manager in the carrier company). Evidently, if my friend did not do it, someone must have pulled the plug!(You can find more information about the SMS ban here.)

In Ethiopia the government shut down the SMS service to break the communication bridge of the opposition in 2005 election; I learned from an Ethiopian girl, who sat next to me on a plane from San Diego to Seattle. The SMS service were down for almost two years in Ethiopia! (I also remembered hearing that news on the National Public Radio.) Iran and Ethiopia are two examples of authority's control of telecommunication services in countries with totalitarian governments. What are the policies in democratic countries like the United States?

In the United States, shortly after the 2005 bombing in London, the Port Authority in New York City interrupted the wireless service in the transportation tunnels to Manhattan. The transmitters providing wireless service for Holland and Lincoln tunnels were shut down for almost two weeks after the London attack. There are still debates on wisdom of shutting down telecommunication to prevent terrorist attacks. However, carriers work with the government to develop a program to shut down small portions of their networks if there is a threat to public safety. I was wondering if the public safety is the only legitimate reason for disrupting telecommunication services.

I searched through the information available on the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) web site, looking for an answer. Particularly, I reviewed the communication act of 1934 and browsed through other communication acts. After a few hours of online search with no success, I called mobile service providers and regulators to find the answer to my question. One of the associates at Cellular Telephones Industries Association (CTIA) was kind enough to give me a general back ground. I would like to particularly emphasize that his comments should not be considered in any way as an official CTIA position. I will update this post with direct references whenever I hear from the director of public affair at CTIA, or the respective associates at FCC.

Just as a general background, both the FCC and CTIA have been given powers and authorities by congress that could, theoretically, be used to shut down Commercial Mobile Wireless Services over small or large areas. There are strong forces that work against them exercising these powers in most situations. Many 911 calls are sent through wireless phones and public safety entities rely on wireless for some of their applications and as back up to their own radio systems. Wireless Carriers have paid hefty auction fees for the spectrum they use to operate their networks. If these authorities were exercised arbitrarily, brigades of lawyers would be quickly deployed to question whether any such action was legal and necessary.

In a nut shell, theoretically it is possible to shut down telecommunication services in the United States. Practically, it is almost impossible!

edited by Behnam Analui

Friday, June 12, 2009

Update on US Government Broadband Development Initiative

Some of you have been asking me about the $7.6 billion stimulus package. Here, is a short update.

Based on the phone conversation I had with the Department of Agriculture representative, there will be information available by the end of June on the program requirements, eligibility, and how to apply. She suggested to check the recovery web site.

In addition, the Department of Commerce has published a report on May 18th including the deadlines listed in the table below.

Department of Commerce Broadband Grant Deadline
Issuance of Notice of Funds Availability -- Broadband Inventory Mapping Early Summer 2009
Issuance of Notice of Funds Availability--General Early Summer 2009
Outreach and Grant Guidance Workshops Summer 2009
Submission of Grant Applications July 2009 – September 2009
Initial Grant Awards Fourth Quarter 2009
Second and Third Notices of Funds Availability--General 2010
Completion of Grant Awards September 30, 2010
Broadband Map Posted to Website February 17, 2011
Substantial Completion of all Grant Projects September 30, 2012

Based on the information I have collected from the public hearings held by the Department of Commerce, the fund will be primarily invested on the development of broadband communication in the unserved and under-served areas. The fund is not going to be allocated for research.

open developers are touring

If you are interested in developing web 2.0 or embedded devices applications, Stack Overflow developers' day , or as they call it DevDay, may be a good networking venue for you.

The DevDay is touring across the United States in Oct 2009. They are going to have several day long events in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin, Boston and Washington DC. In every city they will have about six speakers talking about
* Android

* Objective C and iPhone development

* Google App Engine

* Python

* jQuery


* FogBugz 7.0
* Mercurial and Distributed Version Control

For more information check out the coordinator weblog. The event webpage has the list of some of the speakers.

Stackoverflow is a web site where software developers can ask their questions and contribute by answering the posted questions. It has a user-friendly interface as well as features that separate it from other forums I have seen. It had 3.5 million unique visitors per month- only 6 months after being launched. The large number of visitors encouraged the founders to think of ways to bring the developers together in real life. The October tour is their first effort to facilitate face-to-face interactions between the visitors of their web site.

Embedded Wireless Devices: an interactive webinar

My original plan for today's post was to report the Embedded Wireless Devices: An Interactive Executive Summit webinar. However, I changed my mind, as I learned that is available on demand. I am going to describe the webinar shortly and refer the interested readers to its website.

The webinar was held on Tuesday June 9th. Executives from 12 major companies in the field of Wireless Communications participated in it. They elaborated on the strategies of their respective companies with regard to embedded wireless devices. The participating companies were Ericson, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobil, Sprint, Clearwire, Panasonic, Best Buy, Qualcomm, Jasper Wireless, Intertek, and Accenture.

For me, attending a webinar by itself was a very interesting experience. From the main page of the webinar you could choose to go to either the conference floor or the exhibition floor. On the exhibition floor you could chat with the representatives of the companies. Also you could chat with other participants who were at the same booth on the exhibition floor. At any point you could see the list of other attendance who were online. For more details please check out the Embedded Wireless Devices web page.

Friday, June 5, 2009

future TV remote control

This is the third post on a series discussing broadband penetration. If you are interested, please check out the first and second posts on this series as well. Previously, I discussed using TV as a means for connecting to the Internet. Now the question is how would you like to interact with the TV. Can we add more buttons to the TV remote control? Or do we need more innovative designs for the user interface?

The first remote control came to the market in 1957. It utilized ultrasound technology, had four buttons and was called space command. One of the buttons was for turning the TV on and off. Two other buttons were for changing channel. The fourth button is described in the 1957 commercial of the device as “the one that shuts off the sound of long, annoying commercials while the picture remains on the screen”. It took more than 20 years for the industry to come up with an infrared version of the device that did not get on your dogs nerves.

Today you can find a variety of universal remote controls with sleek and ergonomic designs. They have color displays and soft keys. Some models work with AA batteries but more sophisticated models are rechargeable. One of the most advanced universal remote controls commercially available today is the Logitec’s Harmony 1100 which was exhibited in 2009 Consumer Electronic Show (CES). It has a touch screen and the capability to control 15 devices at a time! It can be programmed to work even as the remote control for you xBox. It costs more than $500, yet it is just another remote control. If the future Internet TV is going to be something between today’s TV and a PC, it needs a controller that allows higher level of interactivity.

There are a variety of paths for the evolution of TV remote controls. The science fiction solution, in my opinion, is what Hitachi has demonstrated in the 2009 CES: just move your hand in the air to control the TV! If this is hard to believe remember how Nintendo Wii has become popular with its unique interface. Remote control manufacturers can also integrate more familiar ways of interacting with the applications running on the TV. Remember Atari? Your remote control can have a miniature joystick to navigate you through your TV screen. Some of you may be happy with my desired miniature joystick, but don’t you wish that the market will become competitive enough to nourish a variety of innovative designs?

edited by Behnam Analui

Friday, May 29, 2009

Engineering Leadership

Last night we have participated in the inaugural forum of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) Gordon Engineering Leadership Center. In our after-forum discussion in the parking lot, some of my friends were skeptical about the role of the center. Their view was that you can not teach someone to be a leader. I would like to take a pause from broadband and ask your opinion about engineering leadership.

Below I am listing some of my questions about engineering leadership. I don't mean to ask you to answer these questions here. (But, feel free to do so if you like.) I am just asking you to think about them and acknowledge the differences between an excellent engineer and an engineer leader.

- What is your definition of engineering leadership? Can you describe it as a collection of qualities? (Gordon Center asked similar questions from some of the industry leaders. You can see their answers in a short video here.)

- Do you think a school can teach someone any of the qualities you listed above?

- How do you evaluate engineering leadership potential?

- If you are an engineer leader in your firm, do you think your engineering education in the United States gave you the non-technical tools necessary for your role? Do you think there were some classes missing from your formal curriculum?

- Do you think an engineering school like UCSD will benefit from a center for leadership development?

Next week, I will continue writing about broadband and will share with you what I think about future ways of interacting with your Internet TV.