Broadband in France

WSJ writes how France became a leader in broadband:

For years, France’s telecommunications industry was a state-owned monopoly with one of the world’s most backward broadband markets. But thanks to deregulation six years ago, French consumers have access to high-speed Internet service that is much faster and cheaper than in the U.S.

One telecom company in particular has exploited the changes and created competition in France — a start-up called Iliad. Over 1.1 million French subscribers pay as low as 29.99 ($36) monthly for a “triple play” package called Free that includes 81 TV channels, unlimited phone calls within France and to 14 countries, and high-speed Internet. The least expensive comparable package from most cable and phone operators in the U.S. is more than $90, although more TV channels are generally included.

Attention, Intention and Influence

Seth Goldstein writes:

# In order to get attention, you need to give information.
# The more attention you want, the more information you need to give.
# There is a finite supply of attention and people want to get as much of it as possible.
# Your influence registers the amount of attention you have control over.
# To be influential is to give little information and control lots of attention.

Loans for Education

Atanu Dey writes:

People do gain net benefits from investing in education, and so does society at large. In our case, we who are fortunate enough to be surfing the web and reading blogs, we have the money to invest in education or we have been privileged enough to get subsidized education, and are reaping the benefits of that education. But unlike us, the poor are credit constrained. They too would privately benefit from investing in education, and society too will benefit from having them being educated, but as it happens, the poor cannot afford to make that investment.

The way forward is straightforward: give loans to people so that they will invest in education.

Google’s Vertical Search Platform

Bill Burnham writes about Google Base:

Google is clearly putting into place the major pieces required to support its vertical search platform. Broadly speaking, such a platform requires 4 major pieces:

1. A big, highly scalable database that can handle lots of queries. This, of course, is what Google Base was all about.
2. Consumer friendly front ends to access these databases. The auto and real estate front ends are obviously the first of such front ends.
3. A large, robust, crawling farm. This is obviously Googles crown jewel.
4. A set of intelligent algorithms to find, classify, and flag listings. We have yet to see this from Google.

HP’s Gesture Keyboard

Mercury News writes:

Hewlett-Packard has unveiled a computer keyboard pad that should make typing tasks like Web browsing easier for millions of people in India who read and write languages that don’t translate well into a Western alphabet.

HP’s “gesture keyboard” — a digitized pen and pad packaged with handwriting-recognition software — allows people to quickly jot down words in Hindi script on the digitized pad that transmits them to a desktop computer screen. Indians can use it to type a report, chat on instant messengers or search the Web. The new system could prove more convenient than tediously typing combinations of characters from the Indian script-based languages that, if assigned their own computer keys, would require a keyboard with close to 1,000 buttons.

TECH TALK: City Wi-Fi Networks: The US Scene

The Economist discussed municipal Wi-Fi networks in a recent article (March 9):

Small municipal wireless networks, typically built for local-government use, have been up and running in some parts of America for some time. The far bolder idea of building citywide networks available to all took flight in August 2004, when plans for such a network were announced by John Street, the mayor of Philadelphia. Stringing transmitters across the entire city would create the world’s largest Wi-Fi hotspot, providing access both indoors and out.
This would extend low-cost broadband access to existing users frustrated by the slow speed and high cost of dial-up internet connections.

Mesh networking allows large areas to be blanketed with wireless coverage quickly and inexpensively. As its name suggests, a mesh network consists of an array of wireless access points, only a few of which are actually connected back to the internet via high-speed links (known as backhaul connections). The trick is that all of the access points double as relays, passing packets of data to and from their neighbours. This connects up the mesh, so that users can access the internet at high speed at any of the access points. If the nearest access point does not have a backhaul connection, the packets of data that users send and receive simply make one or more hops across the mesh.

As well as being cheap and fast to set uppartly because many of the access points can be attached to utility polesmesh networks have several other merits. They can provide coverage in areas, such as sprawling suburbs, where fast copper or fibre-optic connections are hard to come by.

The advantage of using Wi-Fi is that it operates in the unlicenced frequency bands. (In India, there may still be some licences required for the use.)

The Wall Street Journal (March 20) wrote: Most of the municipal networks use the same wireless technology, Wi-Fi, that provides Internet “hotspots” at coffee shops and airports. Small radio transponders are deployed on public buildings, street lamps, and streetlights, creating a network that consumers can connect to with their laptops almost anywhere in a city. That network itself is connected to the Internet. The cities often charge users around $15 a month for the service, though cities such as St. Cloud, Fla., are opting for free access. That compares with cable broadband bills that typically run around $40. DSL services from the large phone companies can run as low as $15 a month for slower speeds, but speeds closer to cable are roughly $30…EarthLink inked a deal with Philadelphia on March 1 to offer service there by putting radio transponders on 4,000 of the city’s street lamps. The service will be about $10 a month for low-income people, $20 a month for the general public. The company is bidding in a partnership with Google in San Francisco to offer a service that would be free at slow speeds, and would go for a moderate fee at higher speeds.

Tomorrow: Taipei’s Lead