Source: New America Foundation
In this study, we compare high-speed Internet offerings in 22 cities around the world by price, download and upload speed, and bundled services. We have included some of the most relevant findings from our research in the report that follows, as well as a discussion of policy recommendations for the U.S. The report includes:
- A comparison of "triple play" offerings that bundle Internet, phone, and television services;
- A survey of the best available Internet plan for approximately $35 USD in each city;
- A comparison of the fastest Internet available in each city.
The results indicate that U.S. consumers in major cities tend to pay higher prices for slower speeds compared to consumers abroad. For example, when comparing triple play packages in the 22 cities surveyed, consumers in Paris can purchase a 100 Mbps bundle of television, telephone, and high-speed Internet service for the equivalent of approximately $35 (adjusted for PPP). By contrast, in Lafayette, LA, the top American city, the cheapest available package costs around $65 and includes just a 6 Mbps Internet connection. A comparison of Internet plans available for around $35 shows similar results. Residents of Hong Kong have access to Internet service with symmetrical download and upload speeds of 500 Mbps while residents of New York City and Washington, D.C. will pay the equivalent price for Internet service with maximum download speeds that are 20 times slower (up to 25 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 2 Mbps).
The results add weight to a growing body of evidence that suggests that the U.S. is lagging behind many of its international counterparts, most of whom have much higher levels of competition and, in turn, offer lower prices and faster Internet service. It suggests that policymakers need to re-evaluate our current policy approaches to increase competition and encourage more affordable high-speed Internet service in the U.S.
Progressive authentication: deciding when to authenticate on mobile phones
Source: Microsoft Research
Mobile users are often faced with a trade-off between security and convenience. Either users do not use any security lock and risk compromising their data, or they use security locks but then have to inconveniently authenticate every time they use the device. Rather than exploring a new authentication scheme, we address the problem of deciding when to surface authentication and for which applications. We believe reducing the number of times a user is requested to authenticate lowers the barrier of entry for users who currently do not use any security. Progressive authentication, the approach we propose, combines multiple signals (biometric, continuity, possession) to determine a level of confidence in a user’s authenticity. Based on this confidence level and the degree of protection the user has configured for his applications, the system determines whether access to them requires authentication. We built a prototype running on modern phones to demonstrate progressive authentication and used it in a lab study with nine users. Compared to the state-of-theart, the system is able to reduce the number of required authentications by 42% and still provide acceptable security guarantees, thus representing an attractive solution for users who do not use any security mechanism on their devices.
New GAO Reports and Presentation
Source: Government Accountability Office
1. Telecommunications: Exposure and Testing Requirements for Mobile Phones Should Be Reassessed. GAO-12-771, July 24.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/592902.pdf
2. Students with Disabilities: Better Federal Coordination Could Lessen Challenges in the Transition from High School. GAO-12-594, July 12.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/592328.pdf
Podcast – http://www.gao.gov/multimedia/podcasts/593300
+ Presentation by the Comptroller General
1. Anticipating and Meeting Accountability Challenges in a Dynamic Environment, by Gene L. Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States, before the American Bar Association, Chicago, Illinois. GAO-12-988CG, August 4.
Goldilocks and the Two Mobile Devices: Going Beyond All-Or-Nothing Access to a Device’s Applications
Goldilocks and the Two Mobile Devices: Going Beyond All-Or-Nothing Access to a Device’s Applications
Source: Microsoft Research
Most mobile phones and tablets support only two access control device states: locked and unlocked. We investigated how well all-or-nothing device access control meets the need of users by interviewing 20 participants who had both a smartphone and tablet. We find all-or-nothing device access control to be a remarkably poor fit with users’ preferences. On both phones and tablets, participants wanted roughly half their applications to be available even when their device was locked and half protected by authentication. We also solicited participants’ interest in new access control mechanisms designed specifically to facilitate device sharing. ; Fourteen participantsa majority (14 out of 20) preferred these controls to existing security locks alone. Finally, we gauged participants’ interest in using face and voice biometrics to authenticate to their mobile phone and tablets; participants were surprisingly receptive to biometrics, given that they were also aware of security and reliability limitations.
New GAO Reports and Testimonies
Source: Government Accountability Office
1. Bus Rapid Transit: Projects Improve Transit Service and Can Contribute to Economic Development. GAO-12-811, July 25.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/592974.pdf
2. Information Technology: DHS Needs to Further Define and Implement Its New Governance Process. GAO-12-818, July 25.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/592930.pdf
3. Overseas Rightsizing: State Has Improved the Consistency of Its Approach, but Does Not Follow Up on Its Recommendations. GAO-12-799, July 25.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/592966.pdf
5. Telecommunications: FCC Has Reformed the High-Cost Program, but Oversight and Management Could be Improved. GAO-12-738, July 25.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/592958.pdf
1. Grants Management: Improving the Timeliness of Grant Closeouts by Federal Agencies and Other Grants Management Challenges, by Stanley J. Czerwinski, director, strategic issues, before the Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. GAO-12-704T, July 25.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/592996.pdf
2. Higher Education: Improved Tax Information Could Help Pay for College, by James R. White, director, strategic issues, and George A. Scott, director, education, workforce, and income security issues, before the Senate Committee on Finance. GAO-12-863T, July 25.
3. Retirement Security: Older Women Remain at Risk, by Barbara D. Bovbjerg, managing director, education, workforce, and income security, before the Senate Special Committee on Aging. GAO-12-825T, July 25.
4. Medicare Advantage: Quality Bonus Payment Demonstration Has Design Flaws and Raises Legal Concerns, by James Cosgrove, director, health care, and Edda Emmanuelli-Perez, managing associate general counsel, before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. GAO-12-964T, July 25.
Teen Sexting and Its Association With Sexual Behaviors
Source: Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine
To examine the prevalence of sexting behaviors as well as their relation to dating, sex, and risky sexual behaviors using a large school-based sample of adolescents.
Data are from time 2 of a 3-year longitudinal study. Participants self-reported their history of dating, sexual behaviors, and sexting (sent, asked, been asked, and/or bothered by being asked to send nude photographs of themselves).
Seven public high schools in southeast Texas.
A total of 948 public high school students (55.9% female) participated. The sample consisted of African American (26.6%), white (30.3%), Hispanic (31.7%), Asian (3.4%), and mixed/other (8.0%) teens.
Main Outcome Measure
Having ever engaged in sexting behaviors.
Twenty-eight percent of the sample reported having sent a naked picture of themselves through text or e-mail (sext), and 31% reported having asked someone for a sext. More than half (57%) had been asked to send a sext, with most being bothered by having been asked. Adolescents who engaged in sexting behaviors were more likely to have begun dating and to have had sex than those who did not sext (all P < .001). For girls, sexting was also associated with risky sexual behaviors.
The results suggest that teen sexting is prevalent and potentially indicative of teens’ sexual behaviors. Teen-focused health care providers should consider screening for sexting behaviors to provide age-specific education about the potential consequences of sexting and as a mechanism for discussing sexual behaviors.
Avian mortality at communication towers in the continental United States and Canada is an issue of pressing conservation concern. Previous estimates of this mortality have been based on limited data and have not included Canada. We compiled a database of communication towers in the continental United States and Canada and estimated avian mortality by tower with a regression relating avian mortality to tower height. This equation was derived from 38 tower studies for which mortality data were available and corrected for sampling effort, search efficiency, and scavenging where appropriate. Although most studies document mortality at guyed towers with steady-burning lights, we accounted for lower mortality at towers without guy wires or steady-burning lights by adjusting estimates based on published studies. The resulting estimate of mortality at towers is 6.8 million birds per year in the United States and Canada. Bootstrapped subsampling indicated that the regression was robust to the choice of studies included and a comparison of multiple regression models showed that incorporating sampling, scavenging, and search efficiency adjustments improved model fit. Estimating total avian mortality is only a first step in developing an assessment of the biological significance of mortality at communication towers for individual species or groups of species. Nevertheless, our estimate can be used to evaluate this source of mortality, develop subsequent per-species mortality estimates, and motivate policy action.
See: Almost Seven Million Birds Perish at Communication Towers in North America Each Year (Science Daily)
An Assessment of the Viability of Accommodating Wireless Broadband in the 1755 – 1850 MHz Band (PDF)Source: U.S. Department of Commerce
The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) led an interagency group to determine the viability of accommodating commercial wireless broadband in the 1755-1850 MHz band. While the analyses summarized in this report indicates there are a number of challenges to repurposing, NTIA concludes that it is possible to repurpose all 95 megahertz of the band. The challenges still to be met include the high cost and long timeline of the undertaking, estimated to be approximately $18 billion over 10 years, assuming relocation of most existing federal users, not including costs to incumbent systems in comparable destination bands.
However, the extent to which the spectrum can be made exclusively available to commercial interests requires further investigation, as some federal systems could remain in the band indefinitely. As a step toward meeting these challenges, NTIA believes that the agencies need to engage with industry to identify potential solutions, which could include partial clearing scenarios and a phased approach to commercial auctions and entry. NTIA also believes that spectrum sharing is a vital component of satisfying the growing demand for access to spectrum and that both federal and non-federal users will need to adopt innovative sharing techniques to accommodate this demand. This analysis results from an eight-month evaluation process led by NTIA and engaging, via the Policy and Plans Steering Group (PPSG), the predominant federal agency users of this band. 2 Each federal agency analyzed and documented its ability to relocate systems, associated costs, and anticipated periods of transition. In conducting the analysis, NTIA and the federal agencies endeavored to protect critical federal operations from disruption and to reach comparable capability via other spectrum, commercial services, or means that do not utilize spectrum, where appropriate.
One out of five American consumers used their mobile phone to access their bank account, credit card, or other financial account in the 12 months ending in January 2012 and an additional one out of five indicated they would likely use mobile banking at some point in the future, according to a Federal Reserve Board survey (2.5 MB PDF).The survey’s findings suggest that the use of mobile banking is poised to expand further over the next year, with usage possibly increasing to one out of three mobile phone users by 2013. However, the survey indicates that many consumers remain skeptical of the benefit of mobile banking and the level of security associated with the technology.The use of mobile banking is highly correlated with age, according to the survey results. People between 18 and 29 account for approximately 44 percent of mobile banking users, relative to 22 percent of all mobile phone users. Conversely, people age 60 and over account for only 6 percent of all mobile banking users, but 24 percent of mobile phone users. The survey showed a significantly higher level of mobile banking uptake among African Americans (16 percent) and Hispanics (17 percent), relative to 11 percent and 13 percent of mobile phone users, respectively.The widespread use of mobile technology has the potential to expand access to financial services for previously underserved populations. Underbanked individuals (people with bank accounts but who use check cashers, payday lenders, or payroll cards) make relatively heavy use of mobile banking, according to the survey. Of this group, 29 percent used mobile banking in the year ending in January 2012.The survey found that the most common mobile banking activities are consumers checking their account balances or monitoring recent transactions. Less frequently used mobile banking functions include making online bill payments from a bank account, locating an in-network automated teller machine, and depositing a check by phone.The majority of consumers who have a mobile phone but do not use mobile banking said they either had no need for these services or expressed security concerns. When asked to rate the security of mobile banking, non-users were more likely to report that they believed it was unsecure or that they simply didn’t know how secure the technology was.
Consumer Alert: Using or Importing Jammers is Illegal
Source: Federal Communications Commission
In recent days, there have been various press reports about commuters using cell phone jammers to create a “quiet zone” on buses or trains. We caution consumers that it is against the law to use a cell or GPS jammer or any other type of device that blocks, jams or interferes with authorized communications, as well as to import, advertise, sell, or ship such a device. The FCC Enforcement Bureau has a zero tolerance policy in this area and will take aggressive action against violators.
CRS — The Federal Communications Commission: Current Structure and Its Role in the Changing Telecommunications Landscape
The Federal Communications Commission: Current Structure and Its Role in the Changing Telecommunications Landscape
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an independent federal agency with its five members appointed by the President, subject to confirmation by the Senate. It was established by the Communications Act of 1934 (1934 Act) and is charged with regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable. The mission of the FCC is to ensure that the American people have available—at reasonable cost and without discrimination—rapid, efficient, nation- and world-wide communication services, whether by radio, television, wire, satellite, or cable.
Although the FCC has restructured over the past few years to better reflect the industry, it is still required to adhere to the statutory requirements of its governing legislation, the Communications Act of 1934. The 1934 Act requires the FCC to regulate the various industry sectors differently. Some policymakers have been critical of the FCC and the manner in which it regulates various sectors of the telecommunications industry—telephone, cable television, radio and television broadcasting, and some aspects of the Internet. These policymakers, including some in Congress, have long called for varying degrees and types of reform to the FCC. Most proposals fall into two categories: (1) procedural changes made within the FCC or through congressional action that would affect the agency’s operations or (2) substantive policy changes requiring congressional action that would affect how the agency regulates different services and industry sectors. Nine bills have been introduced during the 112th Congress that would change the operation of the FCC.
Most of the FCC’s budget is derived from regulatory fees collected by the agency rather than through a direct appropriation. The fees, often referred to as “Section (9) fees,” are collected from license holders and certain other entities (e.g., cable television systems) and deposited into an FCC account. The law gives the FCC authority to review the regulatory fees and to adjust the fees to reflect changes in its appropriation from year to year. It may also add, delete, or reclassify services under certain circumstances.
The FY2012 budget is included in P.L. 112-74, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012 (H.R. 2055), which was signed by President Obama on December 23, 2011. The budget provides $339,844,000 for agency salaries and expenses with no direct appropriation (all funding will be obtained through the collection of regulatory fees). This level is $16,790,000 less than the FY2011 budget.
New Report Highlights Wireless Broadband Benefits for Public Safety and Job Creation
Source: White House (Council of Economic Advisors)
Today, Vice President Biden met with law enforcement officials, firefighters and public safety groups in the Roosevelt Room and spoke to a couple hundred more first responders by telephone to thank them for their service and to discuss the new nationwide public-safety broadband network included in the Payroll Tax Extension legislation.
Members of the audience included police chiefs and sergeants from the New York City Police Department, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, and the National Association of Police Organization, among others. The Vice President discussed the need to ensure the safety of first responders and the public,and announced a new report from the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) that discusses the positive benefits of wireless broadband for public safety as well as jobs, growth, and investment.
The report illustrates the economic impact of President Obama’s goal of doubling the amount of spectrum available for wireless broadcast over ten years, while adopting a nationwide inter operable wireless network.
Vice President Biden said the expanded access “will enable new spectrum to be used for innovation, to speed wireless communication, and to fulfill a promise made to first responders after 9/11 that they would have the technology they need to stay safe and do their jobs.”
+ Full Report (PDF)
New GAO ReportsSource: Government Accountability Office
1. Whistleblower Protection: Actions Needed to Improve DOD’s Military Whistleblower Reprisal Program. GAO-12-362, February 22.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/590/588785.pdf
2. Airport and Airway Trust Fund: Factors Affecting Revenue Forecast Accuracy and Realizing Future FAA Expenditures. GAO-12-222, January 23.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/590/587867.pdf
3. Warfighter Support: DOD Needs Strategic Outcome-Related Goals and Visibility Over Its Counter-IED Efforts. GAO-12-280, February 22.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/590/588804.pdf
4. Emergency Communications: Various Challenges Likely to Slow Implementation of a Public Safety Broadband Network. GAO-12-343, February 22.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/590/588794.pdf
5. National Preparedness: Countermeasures for Thermal Burns. GAO-12-304R, February 22.
Location Leaks on the GSM Air Interface (PDF)
Source: Denis Foo Kune, John Koelndorfer, Nicholas Hopper, Yongdae Kim; University of Minnesota
Cellular phones have become a ubiquitous means of communications with over 5 billion users worldwide in 2010, of which 80% are GSM subscribers. Due to their use of the wireless medium and their mobile nature, those phones listen to broadcast communications that could reveal their physical location to a passive adversary. In this paper, we investigate techniques to test if a user is present within a small area, or absent from a large area by simply listening on the broadcast GSM channels. With a combination of readily available hardware and open source software, we demonstrate practical location test attacks that include circumventing the temporary identiﬁer designed to protect the identity of the end user. Finally we propose solutions that would improve the location privacy of users with low system impact.
Spectrum Policy in the Age of Broadband: Issues for Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
The convergence of wireless telecommunications technology with the Internet Protocol (IP) is fostering new generations of mobile technologies. This transformation has created new demands for advanced communications infrastructure and radio frequency spectrum capacity that can support high-speed, content-rich uses. Furthermore, a number of services, in addition to consumer and business communications, rely at least in part on wireless links to broadband (high- speed/high-capacity) infrastructure such as the Internet and IP-enabled networks. Policies to provide additional spectrum for fixed or mobile broadband services are generally viewed as drivers that would stimulate technological innovation and economic growth.
In the 112th Congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate have announced plans to address job creation and deficit reduction in bills that may include provisions to expedite the availability of spectrum for commercial use. Bills under consideration address deficit reduction, spectrum policy, public safety communications, and research and development for emerging communications technologies.
In December 2011, the House of Representatives approved the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2011 (H.R. 3630, Representative Camp). H.R. 3630, Title IV contains spectrum reallocation and assignment provisions from the Discussion Draft of the Jumpstarting Opportunity with Broadband Spectrum (JOBS) Act of 2011, as amended, approved in markup on December 1, 2011, by the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, House Committee on Energy and Commerce. H.R. 3630 is under consideration by a conference committee for which a major focus of discussion is an extension of payroll tax cuts and how to fund them. On the Senate side, some provisions for compromise legislation may come from the American Jobs Act of 2011 (S. 1549, S. 1660) and from the Public Safety and Wireless Innovation Act (S. 911, as amended, Senator Rockefeller). S. 911 received bipartisan approval by the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
These bills would, among other provisions: address incentive auctions, which would permit television broadcasters to receive compensation for steps they might take to release some of their airwaves for mobile broadband; require that specified federal holdings be auctioned or reassigned for commercial use; apply future spectrum license auction revenues toward deficit reduction; establish a planning and governance structure to deploy public safety broadband networks, using some auction proceeds for that purpose; and reassign spectrum resources available for public safety. The bills include provisions that would affect the development of new technologies and the availability of spectrum for unlicensed use and for shared use.
This report discusses key spectrum policy provisions in the bills, as well as other spectrum policy issues that are being considered in the 112th Congress, such as the role of wholesale networks like that being deployed by LightSquared.