Fastest net service in U.S. coming to Chattanooga

In the global race to see who can offer the fastest internet service, an unlikely challenger has emerged, reports the New York Times: Chattanooga, Tenn. The city-owned utility, EPB, plans to announce that by the end of this year it will offer ultra-high-speed internet service of up to one gigabit a second. That is 200 times faster than the average broadband speed in America. Only Hong Kong and a few other cities in the world offer such lightning-fast service, and analysts say Chattanooga will be the first in the United States to do so. “This makes Chattanooga—a midsized city in the South—one of the leading cities in the world in its digital capabilities,” said Ron Littlefield, the city’s mayor. There is one caveat: the highest-speed service will cost $350 a month, a price that might appeal to some businesses but few households, even though the service will be offered to all the 170,000 homes and businesses that EPB serves. “We don’t know how to price a gig,” said Harold DePriest, chief executive of EPB. “We’re experimenting. We’ll learn.”

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Researchers: Digital devices deprive brain of needed downtime

Cell phones, which in the last few years have become full-fledged computers with high-speed internet connections, can make the tiniest windows of time entertaining, and potentially productive. But scientists point to an unanticipated side effect, reports the New York Times: When people keep their brains busy with digital input, they are forfeiting downtime that could allow them to better learn and remember information, or come up with new ideas. At the University of California, San Francisco, scientists have found that when rats have a new experience, like exploring an unfamiliar area, their brains show new patterns of activity. But only when the rats take a break from their exploration do they process those patterns in a way that seems to create a persistent memory of the experience. The researchers suspect that the findings also apply to how humans learn. “Almost certainly, downtime lets the brain go over experiences it’s had, solidify them, and turn them into permanent long-term memories,” said Loren Frank, assistant professor in the department of physiology at the university, where he specializes in learning and memory. He said he believed that when the brain was constantly stimulated, “you prevent this learning process.”

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Broadband adoption slows down, but blacks catching up

The adoption of high-speed internet service in homes has slowed to a crawl this year after a decade of rapid growth, reports the Associated Press—and it looks as if broadband is going to be a tough sell for those who don’t already have it. The Pew Internet & American Life Project said 66 percent of U.S. adults now use broadband at home, up from 63 percent last year. The difference is not statistically significant. Leichtman Research Group issued a separate report that said cable TV and phone companies added a net 336,000 broadband subscribers in the April-June period, fewer than in any quarter in the last nine years. Of the adults Pew surveyed, 53 percent said they didn’t believe the spreading of affordable broadband access should be a major government priority. That fits in with previous Pew surveys, which have shown that most people who don’t have internet service at home just aren’t interested in it, particularly if they’re over the age of 64. A minority don’t have it because it’s too expensive or not available at all. The Federal Communications Commission’s national broadband plan, released in March, found that 14 million to 24 million Americans do not have access to broadband. The plan, mandated by last year’s stimulus bill, lays out a roadmap for bringing high-speed connections to all Americans. FCC spokeswoman Jen Howard said the Pew report confirms there are still too many barriers to broadband adoption. The agency’s plan includes “digital literacy” initiatives to educate people about the ways that broadband can improve their lives. The Pew survey found one group that has signed up for broadband at a rapid pace in the past year: blacks. Last year, 46 percent of them used broadband at home. This year, the figure was 56 percent, meaning they’re closing the gap with Americans at large, but there’s still room for further gains…

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FCC plans to move forward with broadband plan

The Federal Communications Commission said April 8 that it intends to move forward quickly with key recommendations in its national broadband plan, reports the Associated Press—even though a federal appeals court this week undermined the agency’s legal authority to regulate high-speed internet access. The FCC needs that authority to push ahead with many parts of the broadband plan, which it released last month—including a proposal to expand broadband by tapping the Universal Service Fund, which subsidizes telephone service in poor and rural areas. Still, the agency said it will focus on a number of major proposals in the plan this year, such as freeing up more wireless spectrum to deliver mobile broadband services, with much of those airwaves potentially coming from television broadcasters;

establishing a nationwide wireless network for public safety that will help firefighters, police officers, and other emergency workers communicate; and seeking ways to drive more competition in the market for network connections used by enterprise customers and other large bandwidth users…

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Universities hope to top Google’s high-speed list

Google plans to build and test ultra high-speed broadband networks in communities across the United States.
Google plans to build and test ultra high-speed broadband networks in communities across the United States.

As cities and towns vie for the opportunity to be chosen for Google Inc.’s pilot of an experimental, ultra-fast internet network, some colleges and universities have thrown their support behind their local towns.

Google is planning to build and test ultra high-speed broadband networks in at least one and possibly several locations across the United States. The plan is to be able to deliver internet speeds of 1 gigabit per second through fiber-to-the-home connections—more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today. Google hopes to be able to offer the service at a competitive price to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people.

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