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    Thursday, February 18, 2010

    CNN - Austin plane crash was deliberate, officials say

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    Austin plane crash was deliberate, officials say

    An Austin, Texas, resident with an apparent grudge against the Internal Revenue Service set his house on fire Thursday and then crashed a small plane into a building housing an IRS office with nearly 200 employees, officials said.

    Federal authorities identified the pilot of the Piper Cherokee PA-28 as Joseph Andrew Stack, 53.

    Two people were injured and one person was missing, local officials said. There were no reported deaths.

    A message on a Web site registered to Stack appears to be a suicide note.

    "If you're reading this, you're no doubt asking yourself, 'Why did this have to happen?' " the message says. "The simple truth is that it is complicated and has been coming for a long time."

    In the lengthy, rambling message, the writer rails against the government and, particularly, the IRS.

    The building into which the airplane crashed is a federal IRS center with 199 employees.

    "I saw it written once that the definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting the outcome to suddenly be different," the online message says. "I am finally ready to stop this insanity. Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let's try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well."

    Two people were transported to University Medical Center Brackenridge, said hospital spokeswoman Matilda Sanchez. She could not provide additional information.

    University Medical Center Brackenridge is the only Level 1 trauma center for adults in Austin.

    St. David's Medical Center, the other major hospital in the area, said it had not received any patients.

    Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell said one person remained unaccounted for Thursday afternoon.

    He tried to calm any concerns residents could have about the crash and the huge fire, which he said was mostly contained.

    "It is an isolated incident," the mayor said. "The people of Austin, the people of the nation, are in no danger whatsoever."

    He added that "there is evidence that the gas tank was just about full. ... That amount of gasoline ... can do a lot of damage."

    Witnesses described an infernal scene that shook nearby buildings and sent fire and smoke bellowing into the sky.

    "I just saw smoke and flames," said CNN iReporter Mike Ernest. "I could not believe what I was seeing. It was just smoke and flames everywhere."

    The crash occurred around 10 a.m. (11 a.m. ET).

    Firefighters used two ladder trucks and other equipment to hose down the blaze at the Echelon office building, which police said is in the 9400 block of Research Boulevard.

    The flames seemed mostly extinguished about 75 minutes later.

    The FAA said preliminary information indicated the plane departed Georgetown Municipal Airport north of Austin about 9:40 a.m. CT.

    Jack Lillis, an attendant at Georgetown airport, said initial indications are that the flight originated there but there were conflicting reports and he could not verify that information.

    The pilot evidently did not file a flight plan, the FAA said. No flight plan was required because flights Thursday morning were under visual flight rules, or VFR, because of clear weather.

    Two F-16 fighter jets were sent from Houston as a precaution, but federal authorities said preliminary information did not indicate any terrorist connection to the crash.

    "We do not yet know the cause of the plane crash," the Department of Homeland Security said in a release. "At this time, we have no reason to believe there is a nexus to terrorist activity. We continue to gather more information, and are aware there is additional information about the pilot's history."

    CNN - Plane crashes into building in Austin, Texas

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    Plane crashes into building in Austin, Texas

    A small airplane crashed Thursday morning into a building in Austin, Texas, said Lynn Lundsford of the Federal Aviation Administration.

    Firefighters used a ladder truck and other equipment to hose down the blaze at the building, which police said was located in the 9400 block of Research Boulevard.

    Traffic on a nearby interstate started to snarl as black smoke poured out of the building.

    Details were still forthcoming, authorities said.

    Tuesday, February 16, 2010

    Reuters - Operators unite to challenge Apple's apps

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    Operators unite to challenge Apple's apps

    Monday, Feb 15, 2010 3:39PM UTC

    BARCELONA (Reuters) - Twenty-four telecom operators have formed an alliance to build an open platform that will deliver applications to all mobile phone users in an effort to compete with Apple's successful apps store.

    The move is supported by three of the world's largest device makers -- LG Electronics, Samsung and Sony Ericsson, the telecoms industry body GSM Association said on Monday at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

    But analysts were skeptical whether so many operators could work together efficiently and noted that it was difficult to compete with the strength of Apple's brand.

    "I do question whether such a large group of mobile operators will be able to achieve the level of cooperation and integration required to make this initiative a success," said Mark Newman, chief research officer at Informa Telecoms & Media.

    "Some of these operators (for example AT&T and Sprint) are fierce competitors and have always tried to find ways of differentiating themselves in order to win market share," Newmann added.

    AT&T, Bharti Airtel, China Mobile, MTN Group, NTT DoCoMo, Orange, Orascom Telecom, Telefonica and Vodafone are among those who have agreed to the initiative, the GSMA said.

    "There is one point that is missing: the brand and the marketing power that Apple has," Frost & Sullivan's analyst, Saverio Romeo said.

    "Every time Steve Jobs decides to launch a new product/device/service, the entire world, the common individual in the street included, passionately discusses it for days," Romeo added.

    Together the operators have access to over three billion customers around the world, the GSMA said, adding the plan would help reduce fragmentation in the industry.

    In a first step, "the alliance will seek to unite members' developer communities and create a single, harmonized point of entry to make it easy for developers to join," the GSMA said.

    John Strand, owner and chief executive of Strand Consulting, said the plan reminded him of OMTP or Open Mobile Terminal Platform that was founded in June 2004 by eight operators and never heard from again.

    Frost & Sullivan's Romeo also said the alliance would have a hard time getting past Steve Jobs.

    "Apple has built a nice and very well functioning castle with a direct bridge to consumers over which no one else seems able to walk comfortably so far," Romeo said.

    "If the rest of industry just keeps talking about applications stores trying to walk on the Apple's bridge, they will always find Steve Jobs at the door of the castle."

    (Reporting by Nicola Leske; Editing by David Cowell)

    Reuters - Smartphones a growing problem for networks

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    Smartphones a growing problem for networks

    Tuesday, Feb 16, 2010 10:57PM UTC

    By Kate Holton and Georgina Prodhan

    BARCELONA (Reuters) - The chief executive of Vodafone Group Plc, the world's largest mobile network operator, expressed the fears of many on Tuesday when he said Google Inc should not be allowed to dominate the mobile space.

    Vittorio Colao, speaking ahead of a keynote speech by Google's chief executive, told the Mobile World Congress trade fair in Barcelona that, instead of letting one group dominate, new business models needed to be created to cope with the demand operators are facing for data services.

    The comments added to the impression at the annual gathering that, while handset makers, chipmakers and service providers are all flourishing from the rapid growth of smartphones such as Apple Inc's iPhone, operators are being left to fund the related improvements needed in network capabilities, while pondering how to make a profit.

    Later, Google responded to say the mobile industry needed to rise to the challenge and work with the Internet giant to meet the insatiable consumer demand.

    In his first speech at the fair, Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt told a packed auditorium he relied upon the successful delivery of services from operators and said the two sides needed to work together.

    "Find a way to say yes, not no is our thesis," he later told journalists. "We need them to go ahead and invest these enormous amounts of money at great risk and in return they need us to continue to build powerful new reasons to upgrade the connections and get a new phone."

    BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion Ltd said it was well aware of the data problem, saying smartphone manufacturers must develop less bandwidth-guzzling products or risk choking already congested airwaves.

    As users abandon traditional cellphones for netbooks, wireless modems and feature-rich smartphones, wireless data traffic has exploded and is threatening to saturate network capacity, co-CEO Mike Lazaridis told Reuters in Vancouver before setting off for the trade fair in Barcelona.

    "If we don't start conserving that bandwidth, in the next few years we are going to run into a capacity crunch," Lazaridis said. "You are already experiencing the capacity crunch in the United States."


    Colao said the industry was at a key point in its development, as it adapts to the new economic realities of the smartphone and the ever-increasing amounts of data that consumers wish to consume.

    In order to succeed the industry needs to allow operators, content owners, application developers, search and operating system owners to develop new business models, to enable the operators to continue to invest in new and faster networks.

    Within the search and advertising market, Colao said one player, Google, dominated the industry and held around 70 to 80 percent of the market, which should be "looked at."

    Spain's Telefonica SA said last week it was considering charging search engines and a source at the Spanish company told Reuters they had previously discussed the proposal with other European operators.

    But Verizon Wireless -- the biggest operator in the United States and which is owned by Vodafone and Verizon Communications Inc -- said they were taking a more considered view.

    "I recognize like everybody else there is the scary aspect of Google which is similar to the scary aspect of Microsoft 10 years ago," Verizon Wireless Chief Marketing Officer John Stratton told Reuters.

    "Who knows where this Google thing is going to go. I do think there is a bit of a knee jerk response to anything that Google does."

    Vodafone's call for a different approach stands in contrast to the makers of operating systems and those involved in the production of the handsets.

    Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Sony Ericsson unveiled new high-end smartphone models on Sunday aimed at improving their positions in the more lucrative part of the phone market.

    Texas Instruments Inc told Reuters at the fair on Tuesday it was enjoying strong demand for its wireless chips due to the continuing rise of smartphones.

    "That's what's driving the industry," Greg Delagi, the head of TI's mobile operations said. "It's the place where there's opportunities for differentiation."

    And he also gave an indication things may only get tougher for the operators, explaining that TI was working on new capabilities such as filming and sharing three-dimensional video on smartphones which are even more data intensive.

    Cisco expects data traffic to more than double each year over the next five years, with video making two thirds of mobile data.

    (Additional reporting by Georgina Prodhan, Tarmo Virki and Nicola Leske in Barcelona and Nicole Mordant in Vancouver; editing by Greg Mahlich and Andre Grenon)

    Reuters - Google CEO woos suspicious mobile industry

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    Google CEO woos suspicious mobile industry

    Tuesday, Feb 16, 2010 10:59PM UTC

    By Georgina Prodhan and Kate Holton

    BARCELONA (Reuters) - Google's Chief Executive Eric Schmidt urged the mobile industry to embrace the mobile Web instead of seeing Google as the enemy, in his first speech to the world's biggest wireless industry fair.

    Schmidt said the industry stood at an historic moment when the computing power of mobile phones, attractive services and networks that could handle them had come together, and said Google was driving network traffic to the benefit of operators.

    "It's like magic. All of a sudden there are things that you can do that didn't really occur to you... because of this convergence point," he told a packed auditorium at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

    "That time is upon us -- right now, right here, for this year and at least the next many years," he told the audience of operators, telecoms gear vendors, and observers of an industry that generally views Google with suspicion.

    Google has recently made overtures to other industries who consider it a threat, including newspaper and book publishers, and advertising agencies.

    In telecoms, Google has raised hackles by launching a free smartphone platform, Android, selling its own-branded phone directly to consumers without the mediation of carriers, and announcing plans to build a super-fast broadband network.

    It has also been seen as a problem by some operators, who are having to invest to upgrade their networks to meet the huge demand for data services required by users who are spending more and more time on the mobile Web on sites from Google and others.

    Google announced two new features: one that translates images of text in foreign languages captured by a camera, such as restaurant menus, and the addition of German as the fourth language supported by Google's voice-recognition technology.


    Schmidt's remarks were met with skepticism and some hostility from an audience already worried about economic recession and the prospect of becoming "dumb pipes" that merely carry valuable content, including free Internet calls.

    "I'm talking about Google stealing operators' talk minutes," said one questioner, when asked by Schmidt to clarify his concerns. Schmidt shot back: "It's not our objective to steal your minutes."

    Later, in a roundtable with journalists, Schmidt explained why he believed the two industries needed one another.

    "We need them to go ahead and invest these enormous amounts of money at great risk and, in return, they need us to continue to build powerful new reasons to upgrade the connections and get a new phone," he said.

    "Find a way to say yes, not no, is our thesis."

    Google's core business is in helping online businesses to attract vast audiences to which it can sell advertising.

    "We want to have a little bit of Google in everybody's transaction with the Internet," Schmidt said.

    He added that, eventually, other means of making money than advertising, like selling software to large enterprises, would become significant. Google has email, document-management and other subscription services for business users.

    (Reporting by Georgina Prodhan and Kate Holton; Editing by Andre Grenon and Tim Dobbyn)

    Reuters - FCC to propose faster broadband speeds

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    FCC to propose faster broadband speeds

    Tuesday, Feb 16, 2010 11:35PM UTC

    By John Poirier

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Communications Commission unveiled a plan on Tuesday that would require Internet providers to offer minimum home connection speeds by 2020, a proposal that some telecommunications companies panned as unrealistic.

    The FCC wants service providers to offer home Internet data transmission speeds of 100 megabits per second (Mbps) to 100 million homes by a decade from now, Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski said.

    Industry estimates generally put average U.S. Internet speeds at below 4 Mbps.

    The proposal is part of the FCC's National Broadband Plan, due next month. It comes a week after Google Inc rattled Internet service providers with its plan to build a super-fast Internet network.

    Some providers derided the FCC's plan.

    "A 100 meg is just a dream," Qwest Communications International Inc Chief Executive Edward Mueller told Reuters. "We couldn't afford it."

    "First, we don't think the customer wants that. Secondly, if (Google has) invented some technology, we'd love to partner with them," Mueller added.

    AT&T, the top broadband provider among U.S. telecommunications carriers, said the FCC should resist calls for "extreme forms of regulation that would cripple, if not destroy, the very investments needed to realize its goal."

    Verizon, the third-largest provider, and one that has a more advanced network than many competitors, said it has completed successful trials of 100 Mbps and higher through its fiber-optic FiOS network.

    "(One gigabit per second) as discussed in current news reports is a lot of signal; typically enough for many massive business operations," Verizon said in a statement that referred to Google's plan to test a network with those speeds. "But we could make it happen over the FiOS network without much trouble, should a market for it develop."

    Verizon said it offers speeds of up to 50 Mbps.

    One analyst questioned whether the FCC's proposal could lead to a sustainable business model.

    "In order to earn a return for investors, you have to be conscious of what consumers will pay. I don't know this is something consumers will pay for," Piper Jaffray analyst Christopher Larsen said. "It's a nice goal, but it's a little on the over ambitious side."

    Genachowski said the FCC plan would set "ambitious but achievable goals" in remarks to the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners conference.

    He offered few details on the plan and how the FCC would get providers to reach the minimum speeds. He said the goal is to transform the United States into the world's largest market of very high-speed Internet users.


    Genachowski said speedier Internet service would help create jobs and economic growth.

    "Despite significant private investment and some strong strides over the last decade, America's broadband ecosystem is not nearly as robust as it needs to be," he said.

    The United States ranked 19th in broadband speed, trailing Japan, Korea and France, according to a 2008 study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

    Data shows that about 64 percent of U.S. households used a high-speed Internet service in 2009, the Commerce Department said on Tuesday. That is a 25 percent increase from 51 percent two years earlier.

    Companies like network equipment maker Cisco Systems Inc, which makes routers and switches which support Internet traffic, would benefit from greater broadband investment.

    "Cisco believes that a next generation Internet will enable economic growth and job creation, as well as improve the delivery of health care, education and energy," Jeff Campbell, Cisco's director of technology and trade policy, said in a statement.

    Research in Motion Ltd, which makes the BlackBerry mobile device, said on Tuesday that smartphone manufacturers must start developing fewer bandwidth-guzzling products or risk choking already congested airwaves.

    Genachowski lauded Google, the world's top Internet search company, for plans to offer its fast network to up to half a million people, and called on other companies to step up their broadband plans.

    Google wants to demonstrate that a carrier could easily manage complex applications that use a lot of bandwidth without sacrificing performance.

    "We should stretch beyond 100 megabits," Genachowski said. "The U.S. should lead the world in ultra high-speed testbeds as fast or faster than anywhere in the world."

    The FCC also wants to use the universal service fund, a U.S. subsidy program for low-income families to gain access to phone service, to get more people high-speed Internet access.

    (Additional reporting by Ritsuko Ando and Sinead Carew in New York, editing by Dave Zimmerman, Robert MacMillan, Tim Dobbyn)

    Monday, February 15, 2010

    Reuters - U.S. official confirms top Taliban commander captured

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    U.S. official confirms top Taliban commander captured

    Tuesday, Feb 16, 2010 6:3AM UTC

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Taliban's top military commander, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, has been captured in Pakistan in a joint raid by Pakistani and U.S. spy agencies, a U.S. official said on Monday, confirming a report of the capture in The New York Times.

    Washington hopes the capture will at least temporarily weaken the Taliban-led insurgency in neighboring Afghanistan, where U.S. Marines are leading one of NATO's biggest offensives in the southern militant stronghold of Marjah.

    "I would call it significant," another U.S. official said of Mullah Baradar's capture. "But even when you get their leaders, they've shown an amazing resilience to bounce back. It's an adaptive organization."

    Both U.S. officials spoke on condition of anonymity.

    The New York Times reported that the raid that apprehended Mullah Baradar was conducted by Pakistan's spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, and involved CIA operatives.

    The ISI's role may signal a new level of Pakistani cooperation against Taliban leaders behind the Afghan insurgency. Pakistan has long resisted U.S. calls for a crackdown.

    "We continue to look for opportunities to coordinate across the border," the second American official said. "We appreciate the help we get."

    The White House, the CIA, and the Pentagon declined comment on the operation.

    (Reporting by Adam Entous; Editing by Chris Wilson)

    Tuesday, February 9, 2010

    Reuters - Google tweaks Gmail to challenge Facebook, Twitter

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    Google tweaks Gmail to challenge Facebook, Twitter

    Tuesday, Feb 09, 2010 8:40PM UTC

    By Alexei Oreskovic

    MOUNTAIN VIEW, California (Reuters) - Google Inc injected social networking features into its popular Web email product as the world's No. 1 search engine seeks to fend off competition from Facebook and Twitter.

    Google introduced a new product dubbed Google Buzz on Tuesday that allows users to quickly share messages, Web links and photos with friends and colleagues directly within Gmail, the company's popular email product.

    And the company unveiled a handful of new products designed to make the new social networking features suited to mobile devices, like smartphones based on Google's Android operating system.

    Google's new social networking technology mimics some of the key features of popular social networking services like Twitter and Facebook, which are increasingly challenging Google for web surfers' online time.

    Gmail is the third most popular Web based email in the world, with 176.5 million unique visitors in December, according to comScore. Microsoft Corp's Windows Live Hotmail and Yahoo Inc's Mail were No. 1 and No. 2, with 369.2 million unique visitors and 303.7 million unique visitors respectively.

    In addition to the Buzz features for Gmail, Google said it is launching a special mobile application for Buzz, as well as weaving Buzz technology into the mobile versions of its flagship Web site and its maps products.

    Google has tried to ride the social networking wave before, launching the Orkut social network in 2004. But while Orkut is big in certain overseas markets, like Brazil, it has failed to attract as many users as social giants like Facebook and MySpace in the United States.

    In building a social network on top of an email product, Google is following in the footsteps of Yahoo, which has taken a similar approach in efforts to keep up with Facebook.

    (Additional reporting by Ian Sherr, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)

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    As attitudes shift, marijuana classes roll

    This school doesn't have a problem with students not paying attention.

    "They're paying us to come, and our classes are full," says Jeff Jones, chancellor of the Los Angeles branch of Oaksterdam University, where students learn the business of marijuana from seed to ash.

    Attitudes are changing as 14 states now have laws allowing some form of legal marijuana use with a doctor's recommendation. And with legalization comes a growing cannabis industry.

    In California alone, the medical-marijuana business could be worth as much as $2 billion, says Dale Gieringer, state coordinator for NORML, a marijuana advocacy group. Prices vary widely, but dispensaries have advertised an ounce of dried marijuana for $340 or more.

    "Ten years ago I couldn't get a room full of people to talk about this," Jones says. Now, people from across the country come to learn how to legally grow, distribute and profit with pot, even though it remains illegal under federal law.

    Oaksterdam holds classes in three California cities and is expanding out of state. Students learn about the law and science of marijuana as well as how to lobby local government leaders and how to tamp down the pungent, tell-tale smell of cannabis gardens. Growers often worry about theft, and because of legal uncertainties, there is always the risk of a raid by authorities.

    About 7,000 people have taken classes at Oaksterdam, says Executive Chancellor Dale Sky Clare, who oversees all branches. There are waiting lists to enroll 850 students started courses this semester, and more than 300 have signed up for next semester, she said.

    "It's not just hippies in tie-dye," Clare says.

    Mixed group of students

    Jeff Studdard, a former police officer, was among students at a recent class. Studdard, 46, of Riverside County, said he had been a school district police officer and a Los Angeles County auxiliary sheriff's deputy trained to recognize drug users until a broken back forced him to retire. The pain, even after three surgeries, prompted him to try marijuana.

    "I never smoked pot as an officer," he says, but after the injury, "I know first-hand the benefits." He was hoping to incorporate medical marijuana in a holistic treatment business.

    Kenji Klein, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California-Irvine, is studying the emerging legal pot market as a basis for his doctoral thesis. "It's interesting to me the way social change and entrepreneurship get linked together," Klein said.

    Many students, worried about legal uncertainties, did not want to be identified.

    "We all like to have fun in this industry, but sometimes people go to jail," says Sarah Diesel, an instructor.

    Oaksterdam University opened in 2007 in Oakland. Its name is part Oakland, part Amsterdam, the Dutch city known for its permissiveness toward pot. Classes are offered in Oakland, Los Angeles and Sebastopol, north of San Francisco. Last year, it expanded to Michigan, where voters passed a medical-marijuana law in 2008.

    On a recent weekend, 55 students in Los Angeles paid $250 each for Marijuana 101, a two-day introductory course.

    They were instructed on key court decisions, how to work in a dispensary, which varieties of cannabis are best for various ailments and how to cultivate a good pot crop.

    Oaksterdam is not the only school of its type. In Michigan, Nick Tennant, 24, opened Med Grow Cannabis College. "Our law is in its infancy," Tennant says. "We've been doing very well. I think there's huge demand."

    'People come from all over'

    Oaksterdam's founder and owner, Richard Lee, is a successful medical marijuana entrepreneur. His Coffeeshop Blue Sky is one of four dispensaries licensed in Oakland. He recently financed most of a $1 million signature-gathering effort for a proposal on California's ballot this fall to fully legalize pot while establishing state and local taxation.

    "It's been amazing, the response," Lee says of his school. "People come in from all over the country."

    Special Agent Casey McEnry of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, wouldn't comment on the cannabis school but said, "It is not the practice or policy of DEA to target individuals with serious medical conditions who comply with state laws."

    Much of the school's teaching is devoted to helping students operate within the law, while acknowledging that gray areas remain 14 years after California approved the nation's first medical-marijuana law.

    "If you have a grow, don't let anyone know," Diesel warns.

    In a recent Los Angeles class, there were students from states with medical-marijuana laws, such as Colorado and Nevada, and states without, including Arizona, Florida, Minnesota and Texas.

    "Everybody wants to get in

    Monday, February 8, 2010

    CNN - Google analyst: U.S. Internet needs to get faster

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    Google analyst: U.S. Internet needs to get faster

    Google long has been an advocate of a single Web, one that's free of government censorship and barriers to information access.

    That's not the reality in today's world however.

    Governments from China to France put various roadblocks in the information superhighway to serve their interests, filter speech or protect copyrights.

    And high-speed Internet connections haven't reached all corners of the globe -- not even all parts of the United States.

    To learn more about this split between Google's idea of an all-access Web and the reality today, CNN sat down recently with Derek Slater, one of Google's policy analysts.

    Slater declined to comment on Google's negotiations with China. The search engine has threatened to pull out of the country after the Gmail accounts of some human rights activists were hacked. Since this interview, it has been reported that Google is working with the National Security Agency to prevent similar cyberattacks.

    But Slater did offer insights about increasing today's sluggish Internet speeds and why a unified Web can change peoples' lives.

    The following is an edited transcript:

    CNN: What are you expecting from the broadband talks in the United States?

    Slater: Earlier in the year the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] started its proceedings to create a national broadband plan, and in our view that's a great step in the right direction, to make the U.S. once again a leader in broadband.

    The Internet was essentially invented here, but over the years we've fallen further and further behind in speed, deployment, penetration.

    And we think it is essential that there be a national goal to have fast, affordable and open access to the Internet.

    CNN: What aren't we doing that we should be?

    Slater: It's a combination of classical and jazz. So there are certain things that we need to do in order to bring faster connections to all Americans, to make sure there's really, truly universal service, and updating the ways in which we do that.

    But there's also a range of experimentation that's going to have to go into this.

    It's a really difficult challenge to think about how are we going to move not just a step further in terms of the speeds that we're getting today, but a leap further. How are we going to get to 100 megabits per second, a gigabit per second, to homes?

    There is no silver bullet there. Instead, it's going to take encouraging creative solutions. Some of them will come from the public sector, that is, some of them will involve municipalities or governments. Some of them are going to come from the private sector. And some of them are going to be a mix.

    CNN: What are the ideas that Google has submitted to the FCC?

    Slater: One is that community institutions can serve as hubs to improve adoption within communities. Schools, libraries, health care facilities can be local and centralized points where people from the community who aren't familiar with Internet access or don't have access to it can get access, and we can help achieve universal adoption. ...

    One other one that we had talked about was encouraging deployment of multiple strands of fiber to peoples' homes. That's because the biggest cost of broadband is digging up the streets, running cables into peoples' homes and so-on.

    CNN: Zooming back a bit, why is broadband [high-speed Internet] important for the average person?

    Slater: Broadband is the dial tone of the 21st century. It is essential for participation in civil society and political processes. It's also essential infrastructure when it comes to economic growth and innovation, and job creation.

    It's also to this century what the beginning of national highways and the electricity grid was for the 20th century. It's going to be an input into a broad range of economic activities.

    So, as we fall behind, that's also falling behind in our global competitiveness and our global ability to grow our economy and compete as an innovative country.

    That's why this is a national issue, and that's why broadband is different from average consumer goods.

    CNN: Why is an "open Internet" important to the globe, or to developing countries?

    Slater: At this point the benefits of the open Internet are really indisputable.

    We've seen unprecedented innovation come from that. Not just companies like Google, but all sorts, both commercial and not. The net is also essential to free expression and creativity. It's democratizing the ability for everyone to speak and create. It puts a printing press and a megaphone in everyone's hands. That can reach billions of people potentially all over the world.

    That sort of democratization of creativity, of innovation, of free expression, is essential to us all, essential to our economy and our society.

    You can look specifically at the way the Internet today is transforming the way small businesses operate. Through both Google and other platforms they can advertise their businesses, make people aware of what they're doing online, which they couldn't do through traditional media as easily.

    CNN: Are there limits to how much the Internet can improve peoples' lives?

    Slater: Faster broadband is not a cure-all to everything, but we see every day how it is improving our economy and benefiting our society. ...

    I think improving broadband infrastructure can improve peoples' lives in a number of core areas that are important to our society.

    Health care. Improving medical treatment. Imagine if someone in rural Montana could do a medical consultation over the Internet with an expert in New York City. Imagine the same thing if we were talking about a student in Iowa [who] could do a distance learning course with somebody miles away, and in that way could improve education.

    CNN: In watching the first weeks after the earthquake in Haiti, have you thought of any ways tech infrastructure or the Web might be used to help build that country back up?

    Slater: That's a really interesting question, and I don't have a great answer off the top of my head. I've only seen parts of [the news coverage], but it's been amazing to watch all of the sites that have sprung up to get funding to Haiti. ... Google set up a site to help drive funding there. It's amazing how quickly that stuff can just take root and spread quickly throughout our society.

    It reminds me in certain ways of the protests in Iran. It was so quick and easy for people there to start snapping photos and tweeting. And that information diffused and spread throughout the world in a very quick way and a way we've never seen before.

    Friday, February 5, 2010

    Reuters - U.S. teens lose interest in blogging: study

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    U.S. teens lose interest in blogging: study

    Thursday, Feb 04, 2010 9:18PM UTC

    By Dan Whitcomb

    LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Blogging by teenagers and young adults has dropped by half over the past three years as they turn instead to texting and social networking sites such as Facebook, a new study shows.

    The study released this week by the Pew Internet and American Life project also found that fewer than one in 10 teens were using Twitter, a surprising finding given overall popularity of the micro-blogging site.

    According to the report, only 14 percent of teenagers who use the Internet say they kept an online journal or blog, compared with a peak of 28 percent in 2006 -- and only 8 percent were using Twitter.

    "It was a little bit surprising, although there are definitely explanations given the state of the technological landscape," Pew researcher Aaron Smith told Reuters.

    Smith said the report's authors attributed the decline in blogging to the explosion of social networking sites such as Facebook, which emphasize short status updates over personal journals.

    According to the study, 73 percent of teens who were online used social networking sites.

    He also cited the ubiquity of cell phones. Much of the communication between young people now takes place on mobile devices, which don't lend themselves to long-form writing.

    He said teens may be shying away from Twitter because they see it as designed for celebrities, and because of reluctance to put their thoughts on such a public forum when they can post them to their Facebook page instead.

    "It was somewhat interesting in the sense that teens tend to be the early adopters," Smith said. "They were the first to use social networking and texting. Its certainly unusual compared to what we've seen with other technology."

    Blogging among adults has held steady since 2005, Pew found, but it has dropped among Internet users between the age of 18 and 29 -- while rising in those over 30.

    "Older people are becoming more comfortable with the online environment and young people in the meantime have moved on to social networking and text messaging," Smith said.

    The teen portion of the study was based on a telephone survey of 800 people, aged 12 to 17, that was conducted from June to September of 2009.

    (Editing by Vicki Allen)

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