Power Players on the FCC’s Net Neutrality Plan: Not So Fast

Carl Weinschenk
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We are at the end of another long week. Perhaps it is spring fever, but the news seemed a bit slow this week. Still, significant things happened, along with a good deal of strong analysis. Here are some highlights.

It’s an Online World

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) said this week that by the end of 2014 the online population of the world will surpass the 3 billion person mark. About a third, or 32 percent, will be mobile and two-thirds will come from developing economies.


The organization also said that the 3 billion represents about 40 percent of the world’s population. About 90 percent of the people who have yet to connect will come from developing countries. The biggest population of users will be in the Asia-Pacific region and Europe, at 75 percent, will have the highest penetration.

Beyond 4G

Believe it or not, the wireless industry is gearing up for 5G. Right now, it is looking at a rollout in 2020. A good deal of work has to be done, despite the fact that the rollout seems so far away. This week, Japanese carrier NTT Docomo named partners in a multi-frequency 5G trial. They are Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Fujitsu, NEC, Nokia and Samsung.

The ZDNet story points out that “Chinese networking vendor Huawei is noticeably absent from the pilot” and details the way in which each of the vendors will work with Docomo.

Cablevision Planning Wi-Fi Move

Light Reading reports that Cablevision is readying a major Wi-Fi initiative in the New York City metropolitan area. The report is based on comments made by CEO James Dolan. Nothing is definitive, but writer Alan Breznick assesses where the multiple system operator (MSO) is with the technology and zeroes in on what the move likely will entail:

Key to Cablevision's plans is the deployment of more powerful Wi-Fi-outfitted "smart routers" in broadband customers' homes. Taking a leaf out of Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s book, Cablevision is furiously installing these data gateways throughout the New York region, because the gateways turn each home into a public hotspot that other broadband users can leverage.

Such a shared public/private approach is a way to reuse bandwidth and create a dense mesh that can be utilized by the service provider to support residential and business services in a number of ways.

Net Neutrality Plan Backlash

In April, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) set in motion a regulatory process that, if completed, almost certainly will result in a fundamental change in how the Internet is administered. For the first time, organizations would be able to pay extra for faster last-mile access to premises.

Gigaom reports that two FCC commissioners—believe it or not, one Republican and one Democrat— want the plan to be delayed. Many organizations, including content companies and venture capitalists, have asked the FCC to reconsider. That seems a bit surprising simply because many of those companies could benefit from such approaches.

Thinking Machines

And, finally, comes a story about what those machines really are thinking. InformationWeek offers a story focusing on a paper written by a team led by Phil Maguire, co-director of the BSc degree in computational thinking at National University of Ireland, Maynooth. The paper, “Is Consciousness Computable? Quantifying Integrated Information Using Algorithmic Information Theory," essentially seeks to determine if computers can think.

The team used an academic model of consciousness called the integrated information theory (IIT) that was created by Giulio Tononi at the University of Wisconsin. According to writer Thomas Clayburn, the brain does something that computers, no matter how powerful, cannot:

One of the axioms of IIT is "Each experience is unified; it cannot be reduced to independent components." This means that a person's experience of a flower, for example, is the product of input from multiple physiological systems -- various senses and other memories -- but that product cannot be reverse engineered. Under this definition, consciousness behaves like a hash function.

The bottom line is that the ways in which computers and the brain work are fundamentally different and, therefore, machines cannot achieve true consciousness.



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