High-speed internet is now legally essential as water and electricity

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law by President Joe Biden on Nov. 15, 2021, was hailed by the White House and advocates as a historic investment to improve internet access in America…

In the law, Congress finally recognizes that “access to affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband is essential to full participation in modern life in the United States.” In other words, broadband access is like access to running water or electricity. It is essential infrastructure, the lack of which is a barrier to economic competitiveness and the “equitable distribution of essential public services, including health care and education…”

Many studies…have documented how investments in fiber-optic lines and related next-generation broadband infrastructure are going to more affluent communities, often bypassing low-income residents in highly urbanized areas such as Los Angeles and Detroit. The law not only empowers the FCC to monitor and correct such practices, but also helps align private investment incentives with public benefits by creating the Affordable Connectivity Fund, a permanent broadband subsidy for low-income households.

So, check in with your friendly neighborhood politicians. Make certain they’re up-to-date on the importance, usefulness, benefits to society provided by broadband access. Especially to middle and lower-income communities. It’s the law!

Super-fast MRI technique demonstration – words & music by Arlen & Yarburg

In order to sing or speak, around one hundred different muscles in our chest, neck, jaw, tongue, and lips must work together to produce sound. Beckman researchers investigate how all these mechanisms effortlessly work together–and how they change over time…

The sound of the voice is created in the larynx, located in the neck. When we sing or speak, the vocal folds–the two small pieces of tissue–come together and, as air passes over them, they vibrate, which produces sound.

After 10 years of working as a professional singer in Chicago choruses, Aaron Johnson’s passion for vocal performance stemmed into research to understand the voice and its neuromuscular system, with a particular interest in the aging voice…

Thanks to the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) capabilities in Beckman’s Biomedical Imaging Center (BIC), Johnson can view dynamic images of vocal movement at 100 frames per second–a speed that is far more advanced than any other MRI technique in the world…

The basis for the technique was developed by electrical and computer engineering professor Zhi-Pei Liang’s group at the Beckman Institute. Sutton and his team further developed and implemented the technique to make high-speed speech imaging possible.

If I Only Had a Brain” (also “If I Only Had a Heart” and “If I Only Had the Nerve”) is a song by Harold Arlen (music) and E.Y. Harburg (lyrics). The song is sung in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz by the characters that meet Dorothy. The characters pine about what each wants from the Wizard. It was also sung in Jeremy Sams and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 2011 musical adaptation with an additional reprise called “If We Only Had a Plan” when the characters discuss on how to rescue Dorothy in Act II.

Axcess Ontario brings high-speed broadband to rural New York

Government executives who are curious about the specific projects that are likely to result from the FCC’s National Broadband Plan might want to study Axcess Ontario, the county-established nonprofit deploying a fiber network in Ontario County, N.Y.

County officials met with the FCC, May 4, to explain their broadband strategy. The program, much of which is already implemented, focuses on snaking a 180-mile fiber backhaul throughout all municipalities in Ontario County. Any service provider will be free to extend its network equipment from the backhaul to provide services to homes and businesses.

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FCC wants 100 million homes at 100Mbps by 2020

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

By 2020, the National Broadband Plan calls for 100 million homes to have 100Mbps Internet access, and the US should have the world’s largest “ultra-high-speed broadband testbeds.” In addition, Internet adoption rates should hit at least 90 percent—way up from the current 65 percent.

Broadband will also become a universal service like the telephone system of old—and FCC Chairman Julius Genachoswki promised that even baseline service would be faster than the 1-2Mbps currently pushed by other countries.

Genachowski provided a preview of the soon-to-be-unveiled National Broadband Plan to a meeting of state regulators gathered in DC. After months in which we’ve heard only about modest targets and worthy but mediocre goals for the NBP, Genachowski made clear that the final plan would push for “ambitious but achievable” results…

But the marquee piece of the plan will be the call for 100 million US households to use 100Mbps broadband connections by 2020. When it comes to availability, this is not actually an ambitious goal. Verizon’s FiOS already passes 12.2 million homes and could easily scale past 100Mbps today if the company wanted to do so (the company said today that it can “currently” deliver “up to 400Mbps to all customers” if it so desired). Cable already offers high-speed Internet to 120 million US homes, and inexpensive DOCSIS 3.0 upgrades have already brought 50Mbps and 100Mbps speeds to millions.

The real issue here is not availability, but uptake. Of the 12.2 million homes passed by FiOS, for instance, only 3.43 million have subscribed to the service. And, while cable already reaches millions with blazing speeds, most people are still taking much slower speed tiers. If the FCC wants to get people to use high-speed services, it needs to encourage more price competition so that we can get the sort of speed/price equation already seen in places like Hong Kong…

For Genachowski, broadband isn’t transformative in the way that interstates were transformative. No, this is bigger—think electricity—and building broadband pipes is “our generation’s great infrastructure challenge.”

The American tradition of government functioning exclusively on behalf of corporate wealth is now challenged by a flea’s worth of backbone. If the Telecom/Cable barons are a brown bear, Genachowski is a flea on the hide of a very small dog barking at that bear.

Though I reject kneejerk agreement with the dilettantes of “the big blogs” – automatic cynicism is pretty easy. Verizon, Comcast, Time-Warner and their ilk will call in all their markers among tame Congress-critters to oppose any meaningful legislation enabling mandatory line-sharing.

OTOH, not since the days of Fair Use [remember that?] have we had a White House and an FCC Chairman willing to broach topics reeking of so much economic democracy.

China’s bullet train project shoots past schedule

The world’s largest human migration — the annual crush of Chinese traveling home to celebrate the Lunar New Year, which is this Sunday — is going a little faster this time thanks to a new high-speed rail line.

The Chinese bullet train, which has the world’s fastest average speed, connects Guangzhou, the southern coastal manufacturing center, to Wuhan, deep in the interior. In a little more than three hours, it travels 664 miles, comparable to the distance from Boston to southern Virginia. That is less time than Amtrak’s fastest train, the Acela, takes to go from Boston just to New York.

Even more impressive, the Guangzhou-to-Wuhan train is just one of 42 high-speed lines recently opened or set to open by 2012 in China. By comparison, the United States hopes to build its first high-speed rail line by 2014, an 84-mile route linking Tampa and Orlando, Fla.

Speaking at that site last month, President Obama warned that the United States was falling behind Asia and Europe in high-speed rail construction and other clean energy industries. “Other countries aren’t waiting,” he said. “They want those jobs. China wants those jobs. Germany wants those jobs. They are going after them hard, making the investments required.”

Indeed, the web of superfast trains promises to make China even more economically competitive, connecting this vast country — roughly the same size as the United States — as never before, much as the building of the Interstate highway system increased productivity and reduced costs in America a half-century ago…

On a recent Wednesday, the 2:50 p.m. bullet train glided smoothly out of Guangzhou’s station and within four minutes was traveling more than 200 miles an hour. Practically every seat on the 14-car train was full of migrants heading home for Chinese New Year…

China’s response to the Great Recession was to invest federal funds in infrastructure capable of moving people as well as commodities. The Bullet Train project was targeted at 2020 in the original plan. When the recession hit, the emergency decision was made to accelerate construction.

Hundreds of thousands of workers got instant jobs. Manufacturers of components – global and domestic – benefitted from the new pace of production. And we’re told by conservative beancounters we should worry more about deficits than jobs or results.

How much will Google’s fiber network cost? And why build it?

Google has announced an audacious plan to build what is essentially the most cutting-edge broadband network in the United States. While it is being mis-portrayed in certain segments of the media as an ISP effort, in reality it is nothing more than an experimental network, much like Google’s early efforts to provide municipal Wi-Fi in the city of Mountain View, Calif. It will be a trial-only network, not Google’s entry into telecommunications services. Google’s planned network won’t be cheap, but in the end it is worth the price.

The idea behind the network: provide bandwidth and see if it fosters new user behavior and thus innovations. I admire Google for creating a real-life laboratory that will provide intelligence to predict not only the future of the web, but also help it develop new products to stay relevant. By announcing this network, Google also showed why it is quite distinct from its onetime peers such as Yahoo and AOL.

When I said that Google’s plan was audacious, I said so because this is not going to be cheap. For starters, Google wants to offer 1 gigabit per second speeds to about 50,000 to 500,000 people. At 2.6 people per household, that roughly translates to between 20,000 to 200,000 homes. Our friend Ben Schachter, Internet analyst with Broadpoint.AmTech, estimates that it will cost Google between $3,000 to $8,000 per home, or roughly $60 million to $ 1.6 billion, depending upon the final size and footprint of the network. If they reach, say, 100,000 homes, it would cost them about half a billion dollars…

Is spending this much money — even for Google, which has about $25 billion in cash — a good idea? I think so: Just as car companies spend their R&D dollars on Formula One Racing teams to get a better idea of what new features could be included in their commercial vehicles, a company such as Google needs to explore the outer limits of broadband.

In addition, “Google has a secondary motivation here and that is to also push the FCC to accelerate its examination of using TV white spaces for wireless broadband,” says Jeff Heyman, Analyst, Broadband and Video for Infonetics Research. He points out that if “Google can make this endeavor successful for a number of communities, why couldn’t they do so for even more using white spaces? This FTTH initiative, in other words, could be a proving ground for Google as infrastructure provider.”

Like Om, I’m a bit doubtful that this will ever result in a national or international alternative to the Internet – or Internet2, for that matter.

But, pushing competitors, pushing the government, ain’t ever an unreasonable tactic in accelerating the rate of change in an essentially stodgy and conservative society.

Obama delivers on $8 billion in high-speed rail grants

President Obama mentioned an $8 billion investment in high-speed train systems across the country in his State of the Union speech on Wednesday.

Details released Thursday said the investment would be grants from the government’s $862 billion economic stimulus package to begin the planning and initial work on creating the first nationwide program of high-speed intercity passenger rail service.

Overall, projects and planning involving the rail corridors will take place in 31 states, according to a White House statement.

RTFA for key cities on the network

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were scheduled to travel to Tampa, Florida…to formally announce the program. Other Cabinet members and administration officials also were visiting sites of the program in other states…

The statement described the program as “a long-term venture in which states will need to plan projects, purchase and lay track, build and assemble equipment, and construct or upgrade train stations, tunnels and bridges.”

Here in New Mexico we just finished construction, opening up rail service from south of Albuquerque to Santa Fe, the state capitol. The road bed looks good enough to me to serve high-speed trains; but, realistically, we haven’t the population and traffic [yet] to justify such a service.

Javelin train test runs – is this the future for the U.S.?

Guests on a test-run of the “Javelin” – Britain’s fastest commuter train with a 140mph top speed – have been whisked from London to Kent and back.

The Hitachi train took 30 minutes to travel from St Pancras station to Ashford at an average speed of 114mph. The return journey took 29 minutes.

The test-run on the Channel Tunnel line passed without a hitch and was slightly quicker than the forthcoming passenger services as it did not stop at Ebbsfleet.

The services are expected to cut Ashford to London journey times from 80 minutes to 37 minutes. Ebbsfleet to London will take 17 minutes.

The trains, which have 338 seats and can carry up to 508 people, will provide the “javelin” service to take spectators from St Pancras to the 2012 Olympics site at Stratford in east London in just seven minutes…

Transport Secretary Lord Adonis, who travelled on the test-run, said the high-speed trains were the “future of the railways“…

“It will offer the best service in to London from the Kent coast and the Medway towns. It’s a great day for passengers and a great day for UK railways.”

This is the kind of train the Obama administration proposes for high speed rail corridors in the United States.

Following the construction of the new railroad track system in central New Mexico has convinced me it could be a piece of cake – if we can claw the politicians and lobbyists out of the way of progress. It’s a beautiful piece of work and appears to be as capable of high speed traffic as any rail line in Europe or Asia.

No doubt the project will be opposed by the Party of No and all the other feebleminded thugs who’d rather find a war to invest in. Meanwhile, the Javelins look to be up and raring to go – in the UK.

Obama announces a push for high-speed rail as part of stimulus

The snazziest way to get to Beijing from Tianjin – at 350kph
Daylife/Getty Images

President Obama on Thursday highlighted his ambition for the development of high-speed passenger rail lines in at least 10 regions, expressing confidence in the future of train travel even as he acknowledged that the American rail network, compared with the rest of the world’s, remains a caboose…

“What we need, then, is a smart transportation system equal to the needs of the 21st century,” he said, “a system that reduces travel times and increases mobility, a system that reduces congestion and boosts productivity, a system that reduces destructive emissions and creates jobs.”

The government has identified 10 corridors, each from 100 to 600 miles long, with greatest promise for high-speed development.

They are: a northern New England line; an Empire line running east to west in New York State; a Keystone corridor running laterally through Pennsylvania; a major Chicago hub network; a southeast network connecting the District of Columbia to Florida and the Gulf Coast; a Gulf Coast line extending from eastern Texas to western Alabama; a corridor in central and southern Florida; a Texas-to-Oklahoma line; a California corridor where voters have already approved a line that will allow travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles in two and a half hours; and a corridor in the Pacific Northwest.

Only one high-speed line is now operating, on the Northeast corridor between Washington and Boston, and it will be eligible to compete for money to make improvements.

This is so long overdue it’s hard to comment about. If you know anything about mixed transportation modes, if you’ve ever spent any time traveling in most of the civilized world outside the U.S. – you know about high speed trains.

It’s just Congress and American voters who specialize in ignorance on the topic.

White House pushes for rail and mass transit projects

One of the centerpieces of U.S. President Barack Obama’s transportation initiative is high-speed rail, officials said.

The Washington Post reported that the White House is pushing for a bevy of rail projects, including a high-speed line between Minneapolis and Duluth, Minn.

Funding high-speed rail projects comes from $8 billion in economic stimulus money and $5 billion more over the next five years in the administration’s proposed transportation budget, the newspaper reported…

“We’re trying to get everything moving as fast as possible with the understanding that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for funding,” said Steve Raukar, a commissioner in St. Louis County, Minn., chairman of the Northern Lights Passenger Rail Alliance, which is spearheading the drive for the $500 million Minnesota project.

The Times said nearly half of the $48 billion in stimulus money for transportation projects will go toward rail, buses and other non-highway projects.

“It sounds like a lot of money to Americans, but it’s really just a start,” James RePass, president of the National Corridors Initiative, a non-profit rail advocacy group, was quoted by the newspaper as saying. “We’re not going to wake up in a year and see a bullet train. But we are going to see much faster service for relatively little money.”

I would have been one of the first skeptics in line – except for our experience here in New Mexico over the past couple of years. Because Governor Bill Richardson succeeded in squeezing the funds from the state [bloody amazing!] and the Feds for high-speed rail north and south of Albuquerque.

It has exceeded everything he said it would be. A convenience for commuters – was most of the premise, since state government is up here in Santa Fe; but, most of the employees live down around around Albuqeurque and Rio Rancho. Then, tourists, including the intra-state flavor, realized that training up from Albuquerque to Santa Fe for a day’s shopping was a piece of cake.

The system, has had to add more trains to the schedule – barely setting aside Sundays for offline maintenance. Even the stodgy rural voters who opposed the system from the gitgo now want the line extended to Taos so they can get in on the action. Convenience and comfort really work.