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What will we do with all this "white space"?

Posted: 09/26/10 11:15 AM

There’s a vote coming up this week in Washington that will have a big impact on how you use the internet, what’s available to you, how much faster you’ll be able to get things online. On Thursday, the FCC is expected to open up unused parts of the broadcast spectrum, a lot of people call it “white space”. This is space that was positioned to be something of a buffer between television stations but such padding is proving less essential since the conversion to digital TV.

On today’s show, we talk to Glenn Fleishman from Wi-Fi Networking News and The Economist about how the spectrum works and what kind of new space we’re talking about. We also check in with Tim Wu from Columbia Law School about the companies that will look to use the space and what it all might mean for you and me as internet consumers.

Comments | Filed Under: policy government science

Microsoft and political repression in Russia

Posted: 09/15/10 06:00 AM

The New York Times recently reported that Russian authorities were raiding the offices of protest groups under the premise of checking for unlicensed Windows software. They’d seize computers, haul them away, attempting to silence those groups.

Microsoft has been fighting software piracy for some time. They say 41 percent of software worldwide is pirated, resulting in 750 Billion dollars of lost revenue for the software industry.

But Microsoft was quick to issue a response to these Russian raids, announcing Monday that non-governmental organizations or NGOs in Russia would be issued a blanket license, making all the software they run legal. It’s a variation of their software donation program.

Microsoft’s move raises some new questions. If a dissident group in Russia can stake a claim to free software, can a group in France or Libya or Mexico or the United States do the same? And more broadly, what kind of political position taking might Microsoft be forced to take going forward?

We talk to Sharon Pian Chan, who covers the northwest-based Microsoft for the Seattle Times. And we check in with James Lewis, Senior Fellow and Director of the Technology and Public Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

We contacted Microsoft for this story. They declined to be interviewed but they pointed us to a blog post from their chief counsel outlining their position and their plans.

Plus, comedian Paul F. Tompkins joins us to talk about a new way to cheat in Angry Birds. He’s angry about it. He is not a bird.

Comments | Filed Under: law government policy business microsoft

Wi-fi on steroids

 by John Moe // Posted: 09/13/10 12:02 PM

The FCC is set to approve use of unlicensed bandwidth for wireless use. Turns out there’s all this room on the spectrum and it can be used to make super powerful wi-fi networks that can cover entire university campuses. Or entire hotels.

The unused bands of spectrum were generated by the conversion of television signals from analog to digital. Because digital transmission uses a smaller slice of spectrum, more “white space” was freed up around each broadcast signal. It is those white spaces that the F.C.C. is now seeking to put to use. The new airwaves are particularly attractive because television signals are low-frequency waves, meaning they can travel farther, go more easily through walls, trees and other obstructions, and provide more reliable connections.

Testing is already under way in Wilmington, NC and Claudville, VA.

But, some people aren’t happy about this. Like Dolly Parton and the National Association of Broadcasters. They want the FCC to make special rules that would prevent TV interference and keep some spectrum reserved for wireless microphones.

Comments | Filed Under: policy science mobile

Koran-burning pastor loses website

 by John Moe // Posted: 09/09/10 12:14 PM

We’ve all heard about Terry Jones in Florida planning to burn the Koran. Now he’s offline. The ironically named website doveworld.org is not working and the web hosting service Rackspace says they’re the ones who took it down.

Comments | Filed Under: policy

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