For all the talk about fiber being the future of broadband, an increasing number of rural communities are finding a prominent seat at the table for wireless technology as well. Now that Google has dropped both oars in the wireless waters, expect communities to follow suit. “For the entire broadband industry, Google has definitely made things interesting,” says Joel Mulder, vice president of sales at eX2 Technology, which designs and installs broadband networks. The potential of wireless is especially apparent for rural areas. “Few people dispute that in many ways fiber is a superior technology for broadband compared to wireless,” states Terry Rubenthaler, vice president of operations and engineering at Midwest Energy Cooperative. Midwest is Michigan utility that provides energy and Internet services “However, the reality is that terrain issues, geographic isolation, low-income status, and other factors make it virtually impossible to deliver fiber ubiquitously.” Other than terrain and geography issues, what’s driving wireless’ popularity is innovation and cost. Several companies are testing products that enable wireless networks to deliver up to a gigabit Internet access speeds to businesses and individuals.
A federal court had high praise for municipal broadband networks in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Wilson, North Carolina. But that didn’t stop the Sixth District Court of Appeals from siding with the state governments and major telecommunications companies that wanted to restrict the networks’ growth. Last week the court sided with North Carolina and Tennessee, where state laws restricted the growth of publicly managed broadband providers beyond a utility district service area in Chattanooga and the city limits in Wilson. Last year the FCC said states couldn’t enact such restrictions because they countermanded the goals of the Telecommunications Act to promote competition and expand broadband service. The court said Congress had not granted the FCC any specific authority to invalidate the state laws, so the regulators had overstepped their authority. The case was an important bellwether in efforts to expand broadband access for communities that say major telecommunications companies aren’t responding to community needs for faster speed and more affordable prices.
New York cats and dogs used for research by colleges and universities will soon be put up for adoption after their work is completed, according to a law signed Tuesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The new law requires higher education institutes and laboratories that partner with them to make "reasonable efforts" to offer research animals for adoption, either through a private placement or a partnership with a local shelter or adoption agency. The law, which will take effect in 30 days, is meant to prevent animals that are suitable to become pets from being euthanized.
A tax break for landowners who shield property from development has a nearly three-year wait because of a state cap that environmentalists say is undermining conservation efforts. Landowners who set aside property under the state program can get income tax credits for 50 percent of their land's value. A landowner may claim up to $75,000 in tax credits, but the program is capped statewide at $2 million per year. Environmental groups want to raise the limit to $5 million, if not eliminate it.
The University of Arizona’s plan to open the nation’s 31st veterinary school was dealt a severe setback when the Council on Education refused to issue a letter of reasonable assurance of accreditation, UA announced today. The decision will be appealed, said Shane C. Burgess, Ph.D., the interim dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine. Council chairman John R. Pascoe, BVSc, Ph.D., Dipl. ACVS, told UA in a letter that the school’s plan fell short on five of the 11 standards that colleges of veterinary medicine are expected to meet. The areas of concern were finances, clinical resources, research, students and faculty.
The vacant storefronts on Main Street make it clear that the town is no longer in its prime. Like many rural towns, Brookfield's top moneymakers in decades past were agriculture, transportation and manufacturing. While those industries still exist today, each has taken a hit. The town lost an auto plant. The railroad station is no longer bustling. And farming isn't bringing in as much as it used to. This story is a familiar one for thousands of towns across rural America. It mostly comes down to technology — because of advances like herbicide-resistant seeds and more efficient tractors, farms need fewer employees. The number of farm jobs in the U.S. plummets by 14 percent between 2001 and 2013, according to the Department of Agriculture. "What does that mean for a rural community?" asks Mary Hendriockson, a rural sociologist at the University of Missouri, who says there's a ripple effect. "How are you going to sell insurance if those people aren't there? How are you going to have a bank if those people aren't there? How are you going to have a grocery store?" Pair that with young people fleeing to cities, Hendrickson says, and you're left with small towns that just fade away. "These things just kind of work in tandem," she says. "So we have to ask a lot of questions about what's the future of rural development for these farming-dependent counties."
The deeper problem facing the United States is how to provide meaningful work and good wages for the tens of millions of truck drivers, accountants, factory workers and office clerks whose jobs will disappear in coming years because of robots, driverless vehicles and “machine learning” systems. The political debate needs to engage the taboo topic of guaranteeing economic security to families — through a universal basic income, or a greatly expanded earned-income tax credit, or a 1930s-style plan for public-works employment. Ranting about bad trade deals won’t begin to address the problem. The “automation bomb” could destroy 45 percent of the work activities currently performed in the United States, representing about $2 trillion in annual wages, according to a study last year by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. We’ve seen only the beginning of this change, they warned. Currently, only 5 percent of occupations can be entirely automated, but 60 percent of occupations could soon see machines doing 30 percent or more of the work.
Locals in the Florida Keys are concerned about the prospect of their community becoming a testing ground for the release of thousands of genetically modified mosquitoes marketed as a solution to the Zika virus, and plan to protest the potential experiment.Ultimately, however, the decision will be up to the five-member mosquito control board. Three members have said they will support whatever the public decides, according to a spokeswoman for the board, but two are up for re-election and one is retiring, and the final decision could come before or after the new members begin their terms in January.Oxitec – the British biotechnology company that created the mosquitoes – hopes to release them into the area to test their effectiveness in reducing the population of the type of mosquito that can spread Zika, which has plagued communities in Latin America and the Caribbean and has sparked fears of outbreaks in the US, particularly in Gulf states like Florida. The same type of mosquito can spread diseases like dengue, yellow fever and chikungunya.
California is burning. The state has nine active wildfires as large as 25 acres or more, including the massive Clayton fire north of San Francisco that forced nearly 1,500 residents to flee their homes after it erupted Saturday in dry conditions created by the state’s extreme drought. On Sunday the blaze doubled in size. “The winds really kicked up, and the fire crossed over tentative lines in place [to slow its advance] and started impacting a whole new area,” Suzie Blankenship, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said Monday. “Once it creates that momentum, it really moves. They had a good handle on it. We had this fire contained at 5 percent Saturday. But today it’s still 5 percent. It tells you that the fire keeps moving and moving and moving in different directions.”
Spend enough time traveling around the United States and you’re bound to notice a dramatic variation in what a dollar can buy. Everything from the price of a cup of coffee to the cost of a house can fluctuate among, and even within, states. A gallon of regular gas costs $2.74 in Hawaii but just $1.82 in South Carolina. The average Connecticut resident pays twice as much for electricity as the average Tennessee resident. Tuition at public colleges varies by orders of magnitude. Fortunately, the federal government now measures these variations.The most recent data, published in July by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, shows that a dollar can swing more than 30 percent in terms of what it can buy. The “real value” of a dollar is highest in Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, South Dakota, and Kentucky. It buys the least in the District of Columbia, Hawaii, New York, New Jersey, California, and Maryland.