Ars Technica is reporting that the Obama administration has decided to ramp up the broadband stimulus money outlays into one more round instead of the planned two. The monies appear to be a different pool than what is funding the broadband mapping work, but the article is a tad unclear on that point. All in all around seven billion dollars are being invested, largely to tackle the “last mile” issue in US broadband. Interestingly enough, I think, most of the project seem to be focused upon projects that will help stimulate private companies toward developing that last mile, not so much making the last mile itself. I guess time will tell if this is a good strategy or not.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation had an interesting piece about two weeks ago that I just ran across. The Supreme Court of Massachusetts recently ruled that it is against their state constitution for the police to track a vehicle using GPS without court approval. The interesting thing here is that the crux of their rationale is that the scale of GPS is too great that it interferes with the owner’s “possessory interest”. To be honest, my understanding of the law is weak enough that I’m not sure what “possessory interest” means and why GPS violates it. However, older US Supreme Court cases from the ’70′s ruled that beepers were permissible by the police without owner permission. Basically because GPS is more powerful and more exactly, it is a bigger threat. New York has similarly ruled that as well.
All in all, the case only has jurisdiction in Massachusetts, but it might set a precedent that Federal courts could follow.
In case you haven’t seen this around, BoingBoing.net has a nice link round up for NASA’s photos of the current California fires as seen from space. The smoke cloud is impressive in the most depressing way possible. The BoingBoing link has links to NASA’s original image and large version, a NYT piece on the fires featuring the image, and some detailed information about the fires from the JPL at NASA.
If danger is your middle name and you like to eat, breath, and sleep in danger, then you might want to check out this Popular Mechanics article. Whether you like the extreme cold, fiery mountains, potentially getting drowned by global warming, living in the eye of hurricanes, there’s a place here for you. I’m no expert in real estate, but I have to imagine at least a couple of these places would be housing bargains. I can’t imagine, “Scenic views of lovely lake housing billions of cubic feet of methane and carbon dioxide that can potentially be released and kill you with a toxic cloud” is a big selling point in most “For Sale” ads. Then again, I’m not in marketing, so I could be wrong.
Here’s an interesting bit of geographic news from the USDA – rural counties with broadband tend to have more jobs and those jobs are better paying. Another fascinating finding is that households above the same income level tend to have broadband. Rural-urban differences become non-existant above a certain level. There are also some regional differences, with the south east unsuprisingly being behind the times relative to the rest of the US. The article contains a link to the full report if you want to check the nitty gritty. To me the whole report highlights the critical importance of our rural areas adopting broadband and doing so quickly.
Really, what CAN’T geospatial do? Researchers out of University of Padua in Italy took aerial photos of an area just north of Venice and discovered what used to be Altinum, a thriving city that existed before Venice. The site is fairly unique in that it’s one of the few places that haven’t been built upon by later generations, thus making it ripe for study. The team intends to continue their work using LiDAR and other techniques to help archeologists figure out the best places to continue their work excavating this important site.
Google labs has launched a neat new feature called City Tours. The idea is similar to other sites (like Microsoft’s BING!) in that you can enter in a destination and the site will give you a bunch of things to do there. What’s nice is you get it all laid out on Google Maps, with travel times by foot and the estimated visit time. The site tries to give you a couple of days worth of stuff, but it only has so much material in its databases. That’s why the feature includes some crowd sourcing so the public can add more attractions. I punched in San Diego for our upcoming UC trip and found a couple of places that might be worth checking out!
As many long-time listeners will know, I exceptionally intersted in broadband adoption world-wide. The US has long been behind the ball on broadband adoption and this latest report does nothing to reverse that trend. The US is ranked 20th, behind even places like Singapore, Denmark, and even Estonia, all places I’m sure most Americans wouldn’t peg as being so technologically advanced relative to the US. What is exceptionally intersting about this study is that they claim past reports have been using the wrong metric; that in fact the household is the better study unit rather than per capita.
I should start by saying I’m not even going to pretend to not be biased on this issue. The community of Wilson, NC decided that they were tired of paying so much for so little with regard to broadband and cable. So what’s an industrious community who’s tired of their contractor to do? Well do it there darn self, that’s what. Turns out they offered a better product for less than either major cable company could. So what’s a cable company to do? Lobby the state legislature to make that type of stuff illegal! Personally, I’m a big supporter of community broadband, especially in markets where the cable companies don’t want to complete. I find this trend rather flustrating and disappointing. I understand the point about private/public competition, but if the private isn’t willing to compete, why should the public be prohibited by law from doing so?
Digg had an interesting link to a pretty cool visualization technique. I like the addition of actual people into the “livable” street, as well as the architectural improvements. I think the use of a real world place transformed in easily identifiable ways is incrediblly powerful to the public. You can really see what they’re talking about quickly and efficently. The flash annimation links to the Livable Streets Initiative, which includes a series of videos, a wiki, and a means of interacting with people in areas trying to make their streets more livable. If you’re interested in this sort of thing, it’s worth taking some time to go through the site.