Obama Wants You to Have Cheap, Fast Internet, But Many Cities Aren't Allowed to Provide It

Obama hailed the benefits of an open Internet in his State of the Union address. Here's what it is and how he's trying to make it happen


On the evening of 20th January, during the State of the Union address, President Obama pledged "to protect a free and open Internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks." Obama is calling on the Federal Communications Commission to challenge a wave of state laws blocking the construction of municipal broadband networks, which are high-speed Internet services run by local communities.
Here's what you need to know about the president's proposal and what it might mean for consumers.
Why can't cities just build their own broadband networks?
Although there are about 300 municipal broadband networks across the country, laws in about 20 states create multiple administrative and financial hurdles for new networks to get off the ground. Such legislation makes it difficult, for example, for communities to issue bonds to cover the upfront costs of building a network or to lease out unused fiber as a way to offset their costs. In Florida, residential broadband networks must demonstrate how they plan to turn a profit within four years, a tall order. According to The Baller Herbst Law Group, so-called fiber-to-the-home networks often take much longer to become profitable. In Nevada, there are population restrictions. Municipalities are prohibited from providing broadband if the population exceeds 25,000; for counties, it is 55,000 or more.
Why have some states put these restrictions on municipal broadband networks?
The cable lobby and some conservatives believe that the business of Internet service should stay in the private sector. Last week, Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer called Obama's plan "a new federal takeover of state laws governing broadband and the Internet." Telecom industry groups such as the National Cable & Telecommunications Association have argued that these networks are risky investments that could drive cities into debt. Telecom companies have donated millions of dollars to state and federal politicians on both sides of the aisle. Besides contributions, the cable lobby has directly submitted legislation to restrict municipal broadband networks and taken fledgling networks to court. Last year, according to a report by Ars Technica, the Kansas Legislature squashed a bill to limit municipal broadband networks that was drafted and submitted by the Kansas Cable Telecommunications Association. When Lafayette Utilities System in Louisiana announced its intention to build a municipal broadband network, they faced three years of court battles with two incumbent Internet providers, costing them $4 million, according to a report from the Center for Public Integrity.
How is Obama going to get around these restrictions to expand municipal broadband?
The Obama administration is urging the FCC "to ensure that communities have the tools necessary to satisfy their citizens' demand for broadband." Section 706 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act charges the commission with encouraging "the deployment on a reasonable and timely basis of advanced telecommunications capability to all Americans." In its letter to the FCC, the administration argues that "where private investment has not resulted in adequate broadband infrastructure, communities can and should play a leading role in expanding broadband access." In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will revamp its broadband loan program to offer financing to eligible high-speed broadband carriers in unserved and underserved rural areas. The Department of Commerce will launch a new initiative to provide online and in-person technical assistance to communities that will help them address challenges in planning and implementing broadband networks.
What obstacles does Obama face?
With a Republican Congress, it's likely Obama will face opposition. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., drafted a net neutrality bill that would strip the FCC of Section 706 authority. He argues that this change is "necessary to update FCC authority for the Internet Age." 
Moreover, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai has said the Commission does not have the authority to preempt state bans on municipal broadband. In a statement last week, Pai recommended that the commission "focus on removing regulatory barriers to broadband deployment by the private sector."
But it's still possible for Obama's proposal to have an effect. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker introduced a bill on Thursday that would amend the Telecommunications Act to make it illegal for states to restrict or prohibit municipal broadband networks. And FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has already seemed to express his support for using the FCC's authority to remove barriers for municipal broadband networks in Tennessee and in North Carolina, which have submitted petitions to lift restrictions on their networks. "I believe that it is in the best interests of consumers and competition that the FCC exercises its power to preempt state laws that ban or restrict competition from community broadband," he wrote in a blog post in June.
The commission is expected to vote on these petitions on Feb. 26.


Can opinion polls predict election outcomes?
Opinion polls can be fairly accurate because robust statistical methodologies support them
Can a sample size of, say 20,000 voters be sufficient to predict the outcome in a country with over 600 million voters? This is what Rajeeva L Karandikar, director, Chennai Mathematical Institute, who has over 15 years of experience in statistical study of elections and trends in voting—went on to explain at a Moneylife Foundation event sponsored by BARC India. This was followed by a highly interactive discussion with Paritosh Joshi, member of the technical committee for the Broadcast Audience Research Council India and the Media Research Users' Council.
Using simple math and statistics, lots of common sense and a good understanding of the ground reality can yield very good forecast or predictions of the outcome of elections based on opinion polls and exit polls. These statistics, common sense and domain knowledge are the ingredients that go into psephology, explained Dr Karandikar.
Most surveys in India end up interviewing less than 0.05% voters. For an all-India survey, it may be much less. However, the predictive power of opinion polls lies in how the sampling of voters is done. Dr Karandikar gave the audience a few examples signifying the importance of proper sampling. A sample needs to of the right size, not very large, irrespective of the total population of voters. This held good even if the sample size was 4,000 irrespective of whether a constituency had one lakh voters or 20 lakh voters. Sampling, if properly done, has the power of determining the winner with 99% probability, said Dr Karandikar. Random sampling is a must to remove any bias. Failure to select a random sample can lead to wrong conclusions.
He also mentioned that the pre-election polls have a low predictive power due to volatility of opinion, not all respondents may vote and some may hide the truth as well. “Exit polls were devised to correct these effects: the gap between the opinion poll and date of voting and also that only between 50% and 70% voters actually vote,” he explained.
There are several questions raised about the integrity of opinion polls. Last year, in a sting operation, a number of opinion polling agencies approached by undercover reporters agreed to manipulate poll data. Dr Karandikar further mentioned that “the media hypes these projections as the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” But in reality, the polls should be seen as an indication, as to who is likely to win, will anyone get majority and so on. And it also gives a deeper insight into why people voted the way they did.”
Dr Karandikar’s detailed presentation on opinion polls was followed by a very lively discussion led by Mr Joshi. Mr Joshi questioned Dr Karandikar on various aspects of using statistics. To predict election outcome, Mr Joshi asked him on how they pick samples. Dr Karandikar explained in detail how they pick random samples using the masterdata of electoral rolls. Cases in which they are unable to collect data, the sample size would be small compared to the entire sample data collected. Further Joshi asked on the ethical use of opinion polls and how it can effect the actual election outcome. Further it was asked whether people accurately respond to sensitive data. Dr Karandikar explained how the questionnaire is prepared and other statistical techniques that are used to resolve issues such as replying to sensitive questions.



Dushyant Kumar

2 years ago

any link for the video of the above session?

Nifty, Sensex upmove may slow down - Weekly closing report

Nifty sharp up move may slow down and the index may turn volatile around 8,800


The S&P BSE Sensex closed the week that ended on 23rd January at 29,279 (up 1157 points or 4.11%), while the NSE’s CNX Nifty ended at 8,836 (up 322 points or 3.78%). From here Nifty sharp up move may slow down and the index may turn volatile around 8,800. Last week we mentioned that Nifty will remain bullish as long as it does not end the coming week below 8,200.
On Monday, the gap up opening was followed by a volatile session and ended with the Nifty closing near the day’s high. Nifty closed at 8,551 (up 37 points or 0.43%). The highlight of the day was the loss recorded on Shanghai Composite after China's securities regulator last week banned three brokers from opening new retail accounts for three months, after they failed to correct practices. Back home the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley assured that the government has no intention to privatise either railways or Coal India.
The rally was further extended with the Nifty closing in the positive again on Tuesday which was also its new life time high. Nifty closed at 8,695 (up 145 points or 1.7%). Ratings agency Fitch said the recent interest rate cut by the Reserve Bank of India will have minimal impact.
On Wednesday Nifty made a fifth day of positive closing. Nifty closed at 8,730 (up 34 points or 0.39%). SEBI chairman UK Sinha has said the regulator has written to the government asking for access to recovery mechanisms to other investors beyond banks and financial institutions.
On Thursday Nifty hit an all-time new high for the third consecutive session and closed in the positive again in spite of giving up all the intra-day gain mid-way. Nifty closed at 8,761 (up 32 points or 0.37%). In the government's Housing for All Mission which proposes to build 2 crore houses across the nation by 2022, prime minister Narendra Modi has directed all concerned departments to immediately finalise the programme and the financing models for alternate sets of housing requirements. Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian has said the real investment flows should begin picking up from next fiscal.
European Central Bank (ECB) unveiled its bond-buying stimulus programme to boost sluggish Eurozone economy. ECB left interest rates unchanged and announced larger-than-expected measures. It plans to buy 60 billion euros worth of assets per month. This move further boosted market sentiments as there is anticipation that inflows from foreign funds into India will rise. Nifty closed at it new life time high at 8,836 (up 74 points or 0.85%).
Out of the 27 main sectors tracked by Moneylife, top five and the bottom five sectors for this week were:


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