4G through Best Buy in 2011

According to the Minneapolis/St Paul Business Journal

Best Buy Co. Inc. will partner with Clearwire Corp. to offer 4G wireless broadband service beginning next year, the electronics retailer said Thursday

It’s a quick upgrade from their recent forway into wireless as reported by Minneapolis Star Tribune

On July 10, Best Buy launched a private-label service through Sprint, known as Best Buy Connect, that offers 3G mobile access for laptops and netbooks for $30 to $60 a month.

Best Buy Connect now offers several broadband plans, with prices ranging from $29.99 for 250 MG of data per month, to $59.99 for 5 GB per month.

Ookla’s new and improved speed test

Thanks to Ann Higgins for the heads up on Ookla’s speed test and ISP ranking tool. The speed test is still very easy to take – simply click on a button, but now once you get your speeds, Ookla will ask you for more information:

  • Advertised upload speed
  • Advertised download speed
  • Monthly changes and add-ons (phone, TV)
  • Postal code

They are aggregating this info to provide ISP ranking, which will be udates daily. You remember there was a lot of discussion about the validity of Ookla tests two winters ago (Feb 2009)

One thing they can’t fix is the accuracy of the Ookla tests used to gauge speeds partially because there are so many things that come into play with testing bandwidth: the quality of the computer, the network card, congestion of Internet at just about every router.

I think they’ve handled this in creative way – with ads for faster browsers and PC scans. It doesn’t correct the problem – but I think it helps people recognize the issues. Telecompetitor reports on the tests thus far…

In the near future, Ookla intends to add a Value component to Net Index that will allow consumers “to see the cost breakdown associated with broadband services by country, state, city, and even ISP.” According to preliminary data, the average monthly broadband bill for US customers amounts to $47.32, with the average cost per Mb/s coming in at $5.06.

The other day I wrote about how most folks don’t really know the speed of their Internet connection. Tools like this will help. Dave Peters asked about what might get people thinking about speeds – and that got me thinking. I thought about the things I do measure; temperature and car speed came to mind. I know what 80 degrees is and I know what 30 mph feel like – because I look at the gauges for those measurements all of the time. Maybe we need an app to gauge broadband speed – something on the desktop that fluctuated as use/speeds. As 4g emerges an app will make even more sense.

ARRA broadband funding left alone

There’s good news for folks who still have ARRA proposals in the hopper. A week ago it looked as though the ARRA broadband funds that had not yet been awarded were in jeopardy but according to Broadband Breakfast, that won’t be happening…

With a vote of 308- 114 the House has approved a supplemental appropriations, HR 4899, which eliminates previous amendments that would have rescinded broadband funding. As previously reported two separate attempts have been made to repurpose $600 million from the BTOP and BIP programs for other purposes. The bill will not be sent to the President, as the Senate has already approved a similar version.

Broadband for computerized pillbox

Today I read about a great “kill app” or maybe we could call it a “liver app” in the NY Times (thanks to a heads up from John Schultz). The NY Times wrote about the role of technology (and broadband) in taking care of aging parents.

There are a host of applications out there that will monitor you (or a loved one) that don’t require much participation or even a computer. I loved the example of the grandparents in Minneapolis who were being monitored by their children all over the world. The mother suddenly required a complicated regimen of medication and the father was describes as a former math teacher who was not interested in technology but would be most likely holed up with a math book wearing his socks and sandals. The kids were worried but found out about a MedMinder, a computerized pillbox. Here’s how the NY Times describes it…

It is basically a computerized pillbox. The correct daily dosages of her mother’s 10 different medications are arranged in boxes. When it is time to take them, the pillbox beeps and flashes. If she takes them, Ms. Meyers gets a phone call in Brooklyn saying, essentially, Mom took her pills. Her siblings, including a brother who lives in Australia, get e-mail notifications.
But if her mother doesn’t take the pills within a two-hour window, the system starts nagging. It calls her. It flashes and beeps. Then Ms. Meyers gets a phone call in New York with a message saying her mother missed her dose.

What a great way to keep people in their homes and provide comfort to scattered relatives. Not to mention a great way to reduce healthcare costs by reducing the number of visits to a healthcare professional, reducing the trips the aging parents need to take (in Minneapolis a trip to the hospital might not be as hard as in International Falls – but it still saves someone the time and effort) and the potential for an early warning system.

Broadband is in the eye of the beholder

So the FCC recently changed their definition of broadband. To those of us who think about broadband everyday that’s a big deal. But what does it mean to the regular Joe in Moorhead? Dave Peters (of MRP’s Ground Level) asked some of the Minnesota Ultra High Speed Task Force folks about that. By folks I mean Rick King, the Task Force Chair and Carlos Seoane-Quinteiro of Thomson Reuters who spent a lot of time working with the Task Force.

I hope Dave won’t mind that I’m re-posting some of his observations here:

But at the bottom of it all is whether anybody in Moorhead thinks he or she needs service faster than 1.5 megabits per second. Here are a few ways King and Seoane-Quinteiro thought that would get answered:

–You live in the Twin Cities and your aging parents live in Moorhead. As hospitals and medical clinics move toward remote diagnoses that let more people get help from the best experts, you won’t want your parents to get second class health care.

–You start a business at home and realize email and normal web browsing isn’t sufficient to meet your needs to deal with customers.

–You want to have video conversations with your son or daughter serving in Afghanistan.

–Your local government starts putting material online and making it easier to make transactions via the computer than in person

I saw another example of that “I know what I’ll need when I see it” on an email list today. Someone wrote in looking for an ISP…

…for reliable, inexpensive internet access for a home. It’s actually an apartment. This family ONLY needs internet, preferably high speed (or ‘higher’ speed) for two people simultaneously using fairly heavy access.

They didn’t know the bandwidth they needed – just the applications they wanted to be able to use; that would be high speed for them.

Is Net Neutrality the First Amendment of our Time?

That’s the question Ars Technica asks – spurred by comments made by Al Franken at the Netroots conference on July 24. Here’s a except from his comments (you can read and view more on the Ars Technica site)…

“I believe that net neutrality is the First Amendment issue of our time,” Franken said.

“Comcast merges with NBC. How long do you think it will take for Verizon and AT&T to start looking at CBS/Viacom and ABC/Disney? If no one stops them, how long do you think it will take before four or five mega-corporations effectively control the flow of information in America, not only on television but online? If we don’t protect net neutrality now, how long do you think it will take before Comcast/NBC/Universal or Verizon/CBS/Viacom or AT&T/ABC/DirecTV or BP/Halliburton/Walmart/Fox/Domino’s Pizza [laughter] will start favoring its content over everyone else’s?”

As Ars Technica points out – Net Neutrality seemed to be the be-all-end-all topic in the last couple of years but lately I don’t hear as much. It will be interesting to see if Franken’s comments spur a resurgence of attention.

If it doesn’t, a recent article from Free Press might. According to the article…

“Despite public outrage and repeated promises of transparency, the FCC continues to meet behind closed doors with the largest companies to negotiate a secret deal that would short circuit public participation in policymaking that will shape the Internet for a generation,” declared Free Press’s Josh Silver in a message just sent to us. “The great irony here is that the FCC’s ‘transparency’ policy is part of the negotiations behind closed doors.”

Austin MN seeks proposals for wireless network

I learned from MuniWireless that…

Austin Utilities, a community-owed, non-profit utility (water, electric and natural gas) has issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) seeking an ISP as its management partner to run the wireless broadband network in the city and offer Internet access to residents and businesses.

You can find the RFP online. Proposals are due August 23, 2010.