Google Outpaces Facebook on Getting India Connected to Internet

When it comes to connecting India’s population to the Internet, Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai is having better luck than his Facebook counterpart, Mark Zuckerberg. Google began offering free Wi-Fi at about two dozen train stations in the country earlier in 2016, and now has 2 million people using the service each month, Pichai said. Millions more will gain access as the service expands to 100 locations by the year end. The search provider’s goal is to reach 400 stations. Facebook had also sought in 2015 to get people online by covering the cost for mobile users to connect to select websites and services on their phones. That effort, called Free Basics, was blocked in February by India’s telecommunication regulator. The ban was a setback for Zuckerberg, who had visited India to promote the program, which was designed for people who can’t afford expensive mobile-data charges.

Google, Facebook and other providers of web services are all flocking to India to amass their next billion users and get them to adopt their products first. By targeting train stations and offering unfettered access, Google has been able to leap ahead. Both are seeking to maximize eyeballs for their revenue-generating ads in the country of 1.3 billion, according to C.S. Rao, chairman of QuadGen Wireless Solutions Inc., a wireless engineering services company which has more than 2,000 public Wi-Fi hotspots in the country. “Their popular apps are seen to have huge growth potential in a country with youthful demographics and good technology literacy,” Rao said.

Cities, States Battle Over Municipal Broadband

According to the Federal Communications Commission, 10 percent of Americans don't have access to fixed high-speed networks for Internet service, mostly delivered via cable, fiber-optic or digital subscriber telephone lines. That number jumps to 39 percent of Americans in rural areas. Local governments, supported by the FCC, say they should be able to build out broadband networks, especially in rural areas where commercial service is slow or non-existent. About 490 cities offer some sort of public broadband, according to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a non-profit advocacy group that promotes community development. Internet service providers have fought against local government efforts. Nineteen states, including Tennessee, have laws on the books limiting municipal broadband networks, according to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

The question before the Sixth Circuit: How much authority do Tennessee and North Carolina have to restrict local broadband networks, and does the FCC have the power to overrule them? “There’s considerable legal precedent around the ability of states to have unfettered authority on laws impacting municipalities,” said Michael Santorelli, a director of the Advanced Communications Law and Policy Institute at New York Law School.

How Your Local TV Station Is Cashing In on Politics

In the past three years, Tribune’s 42 stations have added 170 hours a week of local news programming, for a total of more than 80,000 hours annually. Tribune executives said in a May earnings call that they expect to increase political ad business by 20 percent this year from 2012 Local newscasts across the nation have already reaped an estimated $279 million in revenue from political ads since Jan. 1, or about 40 percent of the money spent on ads across broadcast and national cable television, according to Kantar Media, which tracks ad spending through its Campaign Media Analysis Group. “People who watch local news are more likely to vote in the same way that if I watch sports on TV I’m more likely to buy a ticket,” says Will Feltus, senior vice president at National Media, a Republican ad-buying firm. Saturation coverage has another benefit, he says: “Campaigns are never going to complain about having too many spots on the local news because they want to see themselves. All of the donors to the campaign, the candidate’s family and friends, and the people around the campaign all watch the local news.”

The increase comes as local news viewership is falling. Since 2007 the average audience for late-night local news fell 22 percent, according to a June report from the Pew Research Center. Viewership in the morning and early evening decreased by 2 percent from 2014 to 2015, while viewership of early-morning newscasts has increased by the same amount. Adding news programming is attractive to station managers because it’s usually cheaper than buying syndicated shows to run in the daytime hours. That’s a concern for stations that aren’t affiliated with ABC, CBS, or NBC. “If you’re a Big Three, you’re getting 12 to 14 hours a day from the network,” says Larry Wert, president for broadcast media at Tribune, where only about a quarter of stations are affiliated with one of those three networks. “If you’re a Fox station, you’re really getting two hours plus sports.”

Democrats Ignored Cybersecurity Warnings Before Theft

The Democratic National Committee was warned in the fall of 2015 that its computer network was susceptible to attacks but didn’t follow the security advice it was given, apparently. The missed opportunity is another blow to party officials already embarrassed by the theft and public disclosure of e-mails that have disrupted their presidential nominating convention in Philadelphia (PA) and led their chairwoman to resign.

Computer security consultants hired by the DNC made dozens of recommendations after a two-month review, apparently. Following the advice, which would typically include having specialists hunt for intruders on the network, might have alerted party officials that hackers had been lurking in their network for weeks -- hackers who would stay for nearly a year. Instead, officials didn’t discover the breach until April. The theft ultimately led to the release of almost 20,000 internal e-mails through WikiLeaks on the eve of the convention.

FCC's Wheeler Said to Stay into 2017 if Clinton Wins Election

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler intends to stay in his job until the middle of 2017 if presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton wins the White House, apparently. Chairman Wheeler has avoided any public pronouncements about when he might leave the agency. Apparently, Chairman Wheeler has told telecommunications industry insiders privately about his plans for 2017.

Staying until mid-2017 gives Chairman Wheeler a better shot at wrapping up several big-ticket agency initiatives, sealing his legacy as an activist chairman. Chairman Wheeler is hoping to finish several controversial agency proposals before he leaves the chairmanship, including rules impacting the business broadband market, broadband privacy related to his network neutrality rules and a complex auction to shift spectrum licenses from television broadcasters into the hands of mobile carriers hungry for more airwaves. A mid-2017 time frame could also be just what a Clinton administration would prefer, apparently. Chairman Wheeler technically could serve out his full five-year commission term, which doesn't end until Nov. 3, 2018. That is not likely; according to conventional wisdom inside the Beltway, a Clinton loyalist is expected to take the helm of an agency that has grown from relative obscurity to playing a prominent policy role in the Obama Administration.

Google Cuts Its Giant Electricity Bill With DeepMind-Powered AI

Google just paid for part of its acquisition of DeepMind in a surprising way. The Internet giant is using technology from the DeepMind artificial intelligence subsidiary for big savings on the power consumed by its data centers, according to DeepMind Co-Founder Demis Hassabis.

In recent months, the Alphabet unit put a DeepMind AI system in control of parts of its data centers to reduce power consumption by manipulating computer servers and related equipment like cooling systems. It uses a similar technique to DeepMind software that taught itself to play Atari video games, Hassabis said. The system cut power usage in the data centers by several percentage points, "which is a huge saving in terms of cost but, also, great for the environment," he said. The savings translate into a 15 percent improvement in power usage efficiency.

Why we need affordable broadband for anchor institutions and communities

[Commentary] Schools, healthcare providers, libraries and other anchor institutions are the gateway to the community. These non-profit and governmental organizations increasingly provide essential Internet services to students, patients, patrons and underprivileged people. But their ability to meet these community needs depends on being able to obtain affordable, high-capacity broadband connections that often do not exist, especially in rural and non-competitive markets.

The 2010 National Broadband Plan Goal #4 called for every community to have affordable gigabit level broadband to anchor institutions by the year 2020. While we have made significant progress in the last six years, there is much more work to be done to meet that goal. The Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition (SHLB Coalition) will be releasing an important Broadband Action Plan for Community Anchor Institutions on Wednesday, July 13. One of the most important recommendations of this Action Plan is the need to rein in the prices for special access services, also called “business data services.” Communities are clamoring for better, faster, more affordable broadband to support their public institutions. As we’ll outline in our Grow2Gig+ Action Plan, we believe addressing a lack of competition in business data services is an important step forward. We have the opportunity to dramatically improve teaching and learning, to offer equal and ubiquitous access to broadband for our communities and begin to reach goals we have set for ourselves.

[John Windhausen is Executive Director of the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition]

ESPN Pays Four Times the Going Rate to Air NFL Games

According to published reports, ESPN pays roughly double what the three broadcast networks do for the rights to air National Football League games, $1.9 billion per year.

ESPN aired the fewest games, with only 17. But unlike the other networks, which have to share the fans’ attention on Sundays, ESPN owns Monday -- a weeknight in prime time.

Not surprisingly, Monday Night Football is the highest-rated show on cable television and the highest-rated show for young men. ESPN has been able to pass along its additional costs to the cable operators -- which, in turn, pass them to the customer to the tune of $6/month/subscriber.

The Cookies You Can't Crumble

The bad news for the privacy-conscious is that big Web companies and dozens of startups have begun testing or using cookie alternatives that are often more difficult to spot or disable.

These programs “don’t have consumer controls already there,” says Lou Montulli, who invented the cookie 20 years ago and is now a co-founder of Zetta, a cloud storage startup. “Once they go into effect, consumers have no ability to turn them off.”

Some programs track users by their IP addresses; others look at users’ operating systems and other factors. Startups are promising advertisers that they can deliver, without cookies, data comparable to what the big Web companies collect.

Millennials Say ‘Venmo Me’ to Fuel Mobile-Payment Surge

Millennials are chucking their checkbooks and cash. EBay’s mobile-payment tool called Venmo handled $314 million in mobile payments in the first quarter of 2014, up 62 percent from the prior quarter.

The broader mobile-wallet market was slow to catch on with a wide audience. Yet, the rising use of peer-to-peer applications among 20-somethings is improving the prospects for adoption of all kinds of smartphone-based payments.