Internet Access: Rural Georgia NOT Included

Bloomberg View columnist, Susan P. Crawford, lays out a good case for publicly owned internet service. The author notes,

The Georgia legislature is currently considering a bill that would effectively make it impossible for any city in the state to provide for high-speed Internet access networks — even in areas in which the private sector cannot or will not.

Ugh!

Why would my state’s legislators (like Senator Rogers) want to prevent local and municipal governments from supplying internet connectivity to their communities? For that matter, I can’t imagine why commercial interests who refuse to provide service to rural areas would actively lobby my state legislature to prevent municipalities from doing it themselves.

Crawford goes on to say:

The Georgia bill is chock-full of sand traps and areas of deep statutory fog from which no local public network is likely ever to emerge. In addition to the ordinary public hearings that any municipality would hold on the subject, a town looking to build a public network would have to hold a referendum. It wouldn’t be allowed to spend any money in support of its position (there would be no such prohibition on the deep-pocketed incumbents). The community wouldn’t be allowed to support its network with local taxes or surplus revenues from any other services (although incumbents routinely and massively subsidize their networks with revenue from other businesses).

Most pernicious of all, the public operator would have to include in the costs of its service the phantom, imputed “capital costs” and “taxes” of a private provider. This is a fertile area for disputes, litigation and delay, as no one knows what precise costs and taxes are at issue, much less how to calculate these amounts. The public provider would also have to comply with all laws and “requirements” applicable to “the communications service,” if it were made available by “a private provider,” although again the law doesn’t specify which service is involved or which provider is relevant.

The end result of all this vague language will be to make it all but impossible for a city to obtain financing to build its network. Although the proponents of Georgia’s bill claim that they are merely trying to create a level playing field, these are terms and conditions that no new entrant, public or private, can meet — and that the incumbents themselves do not live by. You can almost hear the drafters laughing about how impossible the entire enterprise will be.

What makes this whole episode particularly odious is how desperately rural Georgia needs high-speed internet access. I’ve spent two decades–as a classroom teacher, an instructional technologist, a digital content developer, and university professor–trying to help my (non-metro) area of the state improve the quality of education through the meaningful integration of technology. I know rural students who would love to enroll in online classes. I know teachers who would like to be able to digitally connect with and support learners beyond the classroom day. I know small town businesses and citizens who would like to have the same opportunities as their metropolitan counterparts. These folks would appreciate high-speed internet access. I think any public figure who would come forward and make that happen would be a hero.

Do we have anyone like that in our legislature in Georgia?

Related Resources:

Following up on Pegoraro’s story, the map below was created by the the FCC. It shows the areas identified as potentially eligible for Mobility Fund Phase 1 support. Look at the black spots. Those are areas where there is no mobile broadband service. Specifically, these areas are, according to the FCC

US Census blocks that lack 3G or better mobile coverage at the centroid of the block according to January 2012 American Roamer data and contain road miles in any of nine road categories. Counties that contain any of these blocks are shaded light gray, and as you zoom in and mouse over these counties you will see more information on the potentially eligible blocks, including population, road miles (S1100, S1200, and S1400 categories only), and the name and number of the CMA in which the blocks are located. Further zooming in allows you to see the US Census tracts that contain these blocks.

If S1100, S1200, and S1400 categories don’t mean anything to you don’t feel embarrassed. At first, they didn’t mean anything to me either. A little digging into the 2009 TIGER/Line Shapefiles Technical Documentation yielded a helpful pdf document:
  • S1100: Primary roads are generally divided, limited-access highways within the interstate highway system or under state management, and are distinguished by the presence of interchanges. These highways are accessible by ramps and may include some toll highways.
  • S1200: Secondary roads are main arteries, usually in the U.S. Highway, State Highway or County Highway system. These roads have one or more lanes of traffic in each direction, may or may not be divided, and usually have at-grade intersections with many other roads and driveways. They often have both a local name and a route number.
  • S1400: Generally a paved non-arterial street, road, or byway that usually has a single lane of traffic in each direction. Roads in this feature class may be privately or publicly maintained. Scenic park roads would be included in this feature class, as would (depending on the region of the country) some unpaved roads.

CMA refers to (I think) Census Metropolitan Area.

What A Difference A Day Makes…

SOPA/PIPA Protest in NYC Yesterday

Andrew Dallos captured this at a SOPA/PIPA Protest in NYC Yesterday

As I write this post, ProPublica’s timely Where Do Your Members of Congress Stand on SOPA and PIPA? reports that there are now 122 legislators opposing SOPA/PIPA. Ars Technica notes that both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate are backing away from PIPA. Even so, Firedog Lake’s David Dayen explains why Democrats aren’t shying away from SOPA/PIPA as much as their colleagues across the aisle. Daily Kos is a bit more vehement in its assessment of a lesson that seems lost on the Democratic party.

SOPA and PIPA: You Make the Call

Despite believing that SOPA and PIPA were untouchable, that citizens and other concerned individuals could do nothing to halt their passage into law, Rep. Lamar Smith (R) and other well-lobbied supporters of these odious bills are discovering that these pieces of legislative excrement are quickly becoming untouchable in an entirely new and unpleasant manner. SOPA and PIPA are certifiably radioactive. As I write this post, 35 Senators now publicly oppose PIPA. Last week there were only 5 dissenting Senators. What brought about this change? Internet Blackout Day certainly caught everyone’s attention; however, that’s only part of the story. The real impetus for what we are observing is the people across America who are calling their elected officials.

Guess what Congress? You’ve got our attention. Yes, we are watching you and what see disgusts us. Truth be told, we should have been watching and calling you a long, long time ago. All those voters who didn’t know who you are or how to contact you are getting informed and mobilized. Now that you’ve contemptuously slapped a hornet’s nest, get ready for the Swarm.

I’ve been calling my own legislators here in Georgia. For example, I phoned the office of Rep. John Barrow (D) yesterday. I asked to speak with someone–anyone, really–who works on copyright issues. The person answering the call told me that the person I wanted to speak with was in an important meeting. I thanked the staffer for taking my call in the midst of chaos. I explained that I wanted share my dismay that Rep. John Barrow supports legislation that I and many, many others find distressing. I also explained that I wanted list my reasons for being concerned. I noted:

  • In all likelihood, the provisions of these bills would be abused. Emboldened by vague wording in the law, sites could be incorrectly seized and censored.
  • These bills go against American principles of freedom of speech. Respected Constitutional scholars and hundreds of law professors have echoed this point.
  • The technology sector (the people who know what they are talking about when it comes to the internet) have pointed out that these bills are innovation killers.
  • These bills are not do going to do anything to solve the problems they are trying to address.

While quickly and courteously sharing my concerns, the person taking my call began to try to convince me that there was nothing in either piece of legislation that was a cause for concern. I explained that I had not called to debate the merits of the bills, only to register my concerns. I added that I had a great many other legislators to contact and that I would like to finish leaving my message for Rep. Barrow.

I don’t know if my message will be relayed. It may get lost in the collection of other calls that were coming in at the time. Even so, I’ll be calling again…frequently.

Related Resources:

Finally watch Sal from Khan Academy explain, “What SOPA and PIPA are at face value and what they could end up enabling.”

Show Me the Money: MAPLight Illuminates Money And Politics

If you’re helping pupils navigate the confusing realm of politics, civics, law, and other issues related to government, consider asking your learners the following question: Is there a connection between campaign donations and legislative votes? Although the answer may seem laughably obvious, the implications of the response are anything but amusing. What might inform a neutral observer’s answer to the question? What evidence could a citizen use to seek clarification? Is there a beacon to guide a truly curious individual on such a quest?

Enter MAPLight.org.

Screen shot 2009-11-13 at 10.21.20 AM

MAPLight, uses a public database to shine a light on the links that exist between campaign donations made to political figures and legislative voting records. Not surprisingly, there are more than a few politicians who do not appreciate the glare of such attention on their behavior and decisions.

UPDATE: After writing this post, I came across a news item that seemed particularly relevant to the point I was trying to make. Robert Pear of the New York Times reports,

“In the official record of the historic House debate on overhauling health care, the speeches of many lawmakers echo with similarities. Often, that was no accident. Statements by more than a dozen lawmakers were ghostwritten, in whole or in part, by Washington lobbyists working for Genentech, one of the world’s largest biotechnology companies.”

I’ve included a citation for any teacher or student who may be wish to refer to the article.

Pear, R. (2009, November 14). In House, Many Spoke With One Voice: Lobbyists’. New York Times. Retrieved November 14, 2009, from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/15/us/politics/15health.html?_r=1&hp

Related resources:

  • If you’re teaching students how to gain a better understanding of the government of the United States, you’ll want to get acquainted with the Sunlight Foundation because it also provides a great deal of clarity.
  • Visitors who access Capitol Words are able to track and visualize the most used words in the Congressional Record. The words being tracked and visualized are displayed in more than one manner. They appear in a word cloud as well as in list view.
  • Kim Rees of Periscopic (an impressive interactive design firm specializing in information visualization), points out that curious educators, pupils, and citizens should also explore Congress Speaks as it’s a great way to review the words spoken by the 110th Congress.

Give Peace a Chance

It’s likely that students and educators will make comments or ask questions about the events of September 11, 2001, at some point in the day. On this day in 2001, life in the United States of America was forever altered when terrorist attacks destroyed the World Trade Center in New York City, a portion of the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and resulted in the downing of a passenger airliner in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Almost 3,000 were killed in the atrocity. Like the tragic assassination of President John F. Kennedy, this dreadful day in history left an indelible mark upon the memories of an entire generation. The events of 9-11 generated a number of political outcomes. Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda, dominated headlines and political leaders frantically drafted new legislation (such as the Patriot Act) that soon raised concerns about privacy.

What happened on 9/11 is still painful to discuss. Like a scar on the psyche of our nation, this day is tinged with sadness and fear. Indeed, the troubling emotions associated with the day may never dissipate. Still, when we look beyond petty differences, come together, and learn from from our experiences, the sorrowfully rich soil of tragedy becomes fertile ground where hope takes root and blossoms.

Consider talking about how people everywhere can gather the tools needed to break the cycle of violence and fear. Humans have unlimited capacity for doing good. Educators, students, people everywhere on our fragile planet can acknowledge, address, and overcome forces that lead to violence and terrorism:

  • separatism
  • racism
  • economic disadvantage/poverty
  • dehumanization
  • fanaticism

Peace is possible. We just have to be champions for it. Peace doesn’t magically happen. It must be cultivated over time. We must be vigilant to nurture its growth and help it spread.

toleranceThe good folks over at the Southern Poverty Law Center know what it means to fight for peace. They’ve been doing it since 1971. With close to three decades of experience, the SPLC has amassed very powerful tools for addressing the social inequalities that compromise peace.  The SPLC shares its ideas for promoting peace at a project site called Tolerance.org. The site has a number of excellent suggestions as well as teaching kits that are designed to teach, promote, and foster peace.

Start now. Decide to to care. Join with others and help make the world a better place. Be a champion for peace.

Since 2001, 9-11 has become synonymous with terrorism and tragedy. On September 11, 2001, life in the United States of America was forever altered when terrorist attacks destroyed the World Trade Center in New York City, a portion of the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and resulted in the downing of a passenger airliner in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Almost 3,000 were killed in the atrocity. Like the tragic assassination of President John F. Kennedy, this dreadful day in history left an idelible mark upon the memories of an entire generation. The events of 9-11 generated a number of political outcomes. Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda, dominated headlines and political leaders frantically drafted new legislation (such as the Patriot Act) that soon raised concerns about privacy.

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Program…

please-stand-by

At 12:00 PM, Eastern Time (ET) today, President Barack Obama delivers a national address to the students of America. Other presidents have done this kind of thing before. President Ronald Reagan happily addressed and took questions from students from four area middle schools on November 14, 1988. His successor, President George H.W. Bush, interacted with students as well on October 1st, 1991 from Alice Deal Junior High School in Washington, D.C.. Apparently, presidents think it’s a good idea to demonstrate a willingness to promote the importance of learning.

In his address, President Obama will speak directly to our nation’s pupils. He will urge students to roll up their sleeves and do the hard and necessary work of learning. His speech will call upon students to set educational goals, persevere (especially when the work is neither fun nor easy), and ultimately resolve to be responsible for their own learning. The U.S. Department of Education is understandably excited about the occasion. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has released a letter to school principals inviting students, teachers, and other administrators to participate in the event by watching the president deliver the address.

Sadly, though, as MediaMatters points out, some people are attempting to derail this promising educational message and steer it into a political divide. Opportunistic, venomous critics of the President are fanning the flames of fear and ignorance, encouraging parents, administrators, Boards of Education to not even entertain the idea of listening to President Obama’s appeal to students. A civilized society allows and requires its citizens to debate the merits of an idea. However, before one can debate the merits of an idea, one has to listen to the idea.

President Obama’s message to students is not a secret. Anyone–even those who oppose the president’s address–can read an advanced copy of the speech. The White House has made the Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama Back to School Event available online. Despite all the dire warnings that demagogues and other incendiary media schismatics are voicing, the President’s address is not a dastardly plot to subliminally deliver a partisan political agenda into vulnerable young minds.

What’s wrong with challenging students to dedicating themselves to working hard, working smart, staying in school and dramatically reducing dropout rates? Why wouldn’t our nation want its president to echo such a sentiment? ANY president of the United States, no matter what his or her political affiliation, should be able to inspire America’s students to be dedicated to serious lifelong learning. Of all the things people could worry about negatively influencing young minds, President Obama’s address to students isn’t one of them. A small minority of splenetic critics and opportunistic instigators are going about the detestable business of corrupting what should be a unifying message to students–education is so important that ALL of our parents, educators, business experts, and political leaders, regardless of other beliefs, agree that dedication to learning is vital for success and a wise nation.

Whether you are a parent, a superintendent, a principal, a media specialist, a teacher, or a student, you have the the right to make decisions. Do what wise people do: listen to another individual’s ideas–in this case, President Obama’s address to the nation’s pupils–and carefully analyze those ideas before you decide who or what to believe. The President’s message will be streamed live on WhiteHouse.gov/live at at 12pm ET, and broadcast live on C-Span. Thanks to technology, anyone with access to the internet can check facts and thoroughly inspect the merits of ideas.

Think for yourself...it’s what Americans do.

Related resources:

  • No ones likes to be tricked. Having someone pull the wool over our eyes is embarrassing and potentially harmful. Yet, how often do we arm our students (or ourselves, for that matter) with the cognitive tools to chip away at incorrect logic or obfuscations? My guess is (in the rush to prepare for standardized testing) that we probably don’t consistently explain to our pupils about how incorrect lines of reasoning sometimes appear plausible. Dangerous thinking can go unnoticed. We must be vigilant and prepare for a battle of wits. Thankfully, back in 1996, Stephen Downes created and graciously shared his wickedly wonderful Guide to the Logical Fallacies. The Guide is extremely enlightening and well worth visiting on a regular basis. Also check out the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill‘s incredibly handy collection of common logical fallacies. Teach students to use all of these resources to analyze and clarify their thoughts as well as ideas propagated by ALL figures of authority–including pundits and political officials from BOTH sides of the aisle.
  • Looks like it’s time to get out your Baloney Detection Kit.
  • FactCheck.org is an indispensable means of sorting through political spin and should be included one’s collection of tools for verifying claims.
  • Be a strong advocate of literacy. Citizens who can read have access to new ideas and perspectives, ingredients for a healthy, open mind. Today, September 8 is International Literacy Day. Even though there are approximately 4 billion literate people across our planet,  that’s not nearly enough! Visit Literacy Online and get involved with worthwhile reading projects.

Celebrate Independence Day, Know Your Rights

Well, I’m back in Georgia now. I’m glad to be home as life here in the South (or, at least, the portion of it where I reside) is a little more relaxed, a little more peaceful than the hustle and bustle that suffuses our nation’s capitol. That said, I can’t help wondering what it’s like in Washington, DC today. I imagine it’s hot and crowded with lots of traffic. People are probably poring over all those wonderful monuments to liberty. After all, today is an important day there and everywhere else in this great land of ours.

flags

July the 4th is one of many U.S. holidays that many Americans cherish and enjoy. However, it’s a day that holds a special place in the hearts of many of our citizens. It’s a day of barbecue, fireworks, and the nationwide celebration of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. July the 4th is also an excellent day for learning. Thanks to technology we can easily access, read, revisit, and reflect upon the revolutionary ideas expressed in the Constitution of the United States of America.

Why not revisit the bold proclamation that heralded our nation’s freedom and see why it was aptly referred to as the Declaration of Independence? Why not get reacquainted with the amendments that limit the powers of the federal government and protect the rights of all citizens, residents and visitors on United States territory? Today is more than just a day to fly a flag, grill a burger, and watch fireworks. Today is the day that we remember the birth of a nation dedicated to providing its citizens with fair treatment, equal opportunities, and the freedoms enshrined in and protected by our Constitution.

Informed citizens are the best citizens. Be the best citizen you can be. Get a refresher as to why the concept of checks and balances is still an important foundation upon which our liberty rests. A careful review of the importance of the separation of powers is a prudent means of correcting dangerous aspirations that ambitious office-holders may be contemplating. We place trust in those we vote into political office. We have the power–more importantly, the responsibility–to insure that our elected officials safeguard our liberties. Celebrate independence and freedom but, more importantly, preserve and practice these ideals.

citizen

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