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November 14, 2006

Bridging the Rural Divide [7:03 am]

With a Dish, Broadband Goes Rural

“It’s not a perfect technology, but it is one of the best options for those of us in rural areas,” he said.

In bringing Mr. Clark and others in rural America into the fast lane, WildBlue and its chief rivals — Hughes Network Systems, which markets under the name HughesNet, and Spacenet, which sells the StarBand service — are filling one of the biggest gaps in the country’s digital infrastructure. Roughly 15 million households cannot get broadband from their phone or cable provider because the companies have been slow to expand their high-speed networks in areas where there are not enough customers to generate what they regard as an adequate profit.

[...] But alternative technologies, like wide-area wireless services and access over power lines, are still in their infancy. And demand for broadband in rural areas is as strong if not stronger than in suburbs and cities. Broadband is essential to distance-learning programs, health clinics that communicate with bigger hospitals and farmers who rely on the latest market and weather data. Second-home owners and resorts are potential customers, too.

“If you don’t have a broadband connection, you’ll be left in a backwater and won’t be able to take part in the economy,” said David J. Leonard, WildBlue’s chief executive. “There’s a growing unmet demand in these markets.”

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Emergent Applications — YouTube, Police Oversight and Public Discourse [6:56 am]

Consumer oversight of the LAPD - pdf

It is a relatively recent development for police behavior to be subject to such close and instantaneous public scrutiny. The public was once dependent on TV photographers, with their then-bulky equipment, for images of controversial police activity. Then, in 1991, George Holliday was trying out his new video camera when he saw police officers clubbing Rodney King. His tape, replayed countless times on TV, changed history.

Today, any bystander is likely to be reasonably proficient with a cellphone camera and to have the know-how — or at least, a preteen at home with the know-how — to post the images on YouTube. That makes certain subjects, like arrests, more likely to be captured and displayed repeatedly. On YouTube are thousands of other arrest-related videos from around the world, in addition to the Cardenas clip.

That’s mostly a good thing. Public confidence in the police requires monitoring outside the regular channels of self-review, and technology has democratized the process. (Of course, it could also be used to subvert it.) The video-viewing blogosphere has become a sophisticated community, famous for ferreting out fakes and identifying nuances. The blog debate on the Cardenas beating is typical in that it includes the usual pro- and anti-police diatribes, but it goes further, spotlighting details of the video. Was the suspect, for example, pinching one of the officers in the thigh, and could that have justified the brutal punches?

Later: The WaPo points out that this is an international development — some stories from Malaysia: Amateur Videos Are Putting Official Abuse in New Light - pdf; later: A third incident, a new video - pdf

See also Malaysia: Cellphone video captures police excess

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