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Why Isn’t Taxpayer-Funded U.S. Broadband Mapping Data Owned By The Public?

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We’ve noted for decades how, despite all the political lip service paid toward “bridging the digital divide,” the U.S. doesn’t truly know where broadband is or isn’t available. The FCC’s past broadband maps, which cost $350 million to develop, have long been accused of all but hallucinating competitors, making up available speeds, and excluding a key metric of competitiveness: price.

You only need to spend a few minutes plugging your address into the FCC’s old map to notice how the agency comically overstates broadband competition and available speeds. After being mandated by Congress in 2020 by the Broadband DATA Act, the FCC struck a new, $44 million contract with a company named Costquest to develop a new map.

While an improvement, the new map still has problems with over-stating coverage and available speeds (try it for yourself). And the FCC still refuses to collect and share pricing data, which industry opposes because it would only work to further highlight monopolization, consolidation, and muted competition.

But there’s another problem. As broadband industry consultant Doug Dawson notes, the public doesn’t even own the finalized broadband mapping data. Costquest does:

“…the FCC gave CostQuest the ability to own the rights to the mapping fabric, which is the database that shows the location of every home and business in the country that is a potential broadband customer. This is a big deal because it means that CostQuest, a private company, controls the portal for data needed by the public to understand who has or doesn’t have broadband.”

In addition to the $44.9 million the FCC paid Costquest to create the maps, Costquest received another $49.9 million from the NTIA to provide the databases and maps for the $42 billion broadband subsidy and grant program (included in the 2021 infrastructure bill). Third parties (like states trying to shore up access to affordable broadband) have to pay Costquest even more money to access the data.

So it’s all been incredibly profitable for Costquest. But taxpayers are closing in on paying nearly half a billion dollars for broadband maps that not only still aren’t fully accurate, but which they can’t transparently access and don’t own despite paying for.

That’s fairly insane any way you slice it, and as Dawson notes, it’s a detriment to the cash-strapped folks who could be helping expand access to affordable broadband (and helping fact-check the data):

“Our industry is full of data geeks who could work wonders if they had free access to the mapping fabric database. There are citizen broadband committees and retired folks in every community who are willing to sift through the mapping data to understand broadband trends and to identify locations where ISPs have exaggerated coverage claims. But citizens willing to do this research are not going to pay the fees to get access to the data – and shouldn’t have to.”

For decades, feckless and corrupt state and federal regulators turned a blind eye as regional telecom monopolies dominated the market and crushed all competition underfoot, resulting in spotty access, high prices, and terrible customer service. Usually under the pretense that “deregulation” (read: very little real consumer protection oversight) had resulted in immense innovation.

Not only did government not address (or often even acknowledge) that problem, they’re still proving somewhat incapable when it comes to transparently mapping its impact.

The $42 billion in subsidies flowing to many states to shore up access is a good thing, but its impact will most assuredly be corrupted by feckless bureaucrats who can’t stand up to industry giants, aren’t keen on the idea of data transparency, and will lack the courage necessary to ensure giant monopolies with a history of fraud (like Comcast and AT&T) don’t pocket most of the funds.

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Manzabar
10 hours ago
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Cedar Rapids
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John Oliver offers corrupt Clarence Thomas a luxury RV and $1 million a year to "get the f*ck off the Supreme Court"

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John Oliver Offers Clarence Thomas $1M a Year to Quit

John Oliver, like a couple of hundred million Americans, wants wantonly corrupt Clarence Thomas to "get the f*ck off the Supreme Court." Thomas has been a sleazy embarrassment to the U.S. judicial system since 1991, when Anita Hill, a lawyer and law professor, accused him of repeated sexual harassment. — Read the rest

The post John Oliver offers corrupt Clarence Thomas a luxury RV and $1 million a year to "get the f*ck off the Supreme Court" appeared first on Boing Boing.

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Manzabar
12 hours ago
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Cedar Rapids
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Relaxing video of traditional Japanese woodblock artist at work

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woodblock artist

I love watching masterful craftsmen at work and I've long been interested in woodblock prints and printmaking in general. Hasui Kawase might just be the master of printmaking and design. I've found that watching someone who knows exactly what they're doing at work to be extremely helpful (duh) in understanding the process and getting better at it myself. — Read the rest

The post Relaxing video of traditional Japanese woodblock artist at work appeared first on Boing Boing.

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Manzabar
13 hours ago
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Cedar Rapids
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I was in a phase of drawing marble statues, which eventually led to the creation...

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I was in a phase of drawing marble statues, which eventually led to the creation of this painting. Don’t ask me what those blobs are. Pringles? Beans? Lava lamp wax? I have no idea 😤

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Manzabar
13 hours ago
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Cedar Rapids
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West Virginia considers prosecuting librarians

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Ranked 50th out of 50 states for education, West Virginia is considering a new law to allow for the prosecution of librarians.

A new bill in West Virginia will allow librarians, museum staff, or school employees to be imprisoned if a minor obtains materials deemed "obscene." — Read the rest

The post West Virginia considers prosecuting librarians appeared first on Boing Boing.

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Manzabar
7 days ago
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Cedar Rapids
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this is correlation, not causation

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Just a couple of days ago, I told Anne that though I am always a little sad to wrap a season of Ready Room, because I genuinely love my job that much, I was glad to have the time and energy to do stuff together. It’s always so weird how we can live together, sleep in the same bed, see each other every single day, and still miss each other because we’re just so damn busy, and going in opposite directions most of the time. I was so happy that she had the idea to go out together, which is something we just haven’t done in a long time.

Before I continue, you need to know that Anne and I opted out of the Hallmark Holiday Industrial Complex well over a decade ago, around the same time we passed the No Gifts Just Cards, rule, with a late vote breaking my way to adopt my Also No Surprises amendment.

That doesn’t mean we never express affection for each other like corvids dropping shinies on the porch. We give each other silly cards, flowers we picked in the garden, or some cute little thing we saw at the artist’s market that we thought the other would like, all the time. We just don’t need The Man to tell us how and when, you know? We Choo-choo-choose to give you one of THESE, pal!

So. About that. Uh…

Anne came home late in the afternoon on Wednesday, found me playing Donkey Kong out in my game room, and asked if I wanted to go get tacos.

“I haven’t eaten anything since breakfast that wasn’t some form of candy,” she said, “and I am starving.”

“Yeah, I’d love that, just as soon as I finish this game.” I secretly hoped she’d stay and watch, so I could totally impress her with how good I’m getting, but she was on her way back into the house before I finished the level.

I missed 5th place on the top five by 100 points, which honestly feels like I should win both showcase showdowns, if I’m being honest? But only resulted in the end of my game, a few minutes later, and no WIL entry on the board.

I went inside, where Anne produced the sweetest painting from behind her back. “I made you a present!”

She paints in a class every Wednesday, and she’d worked on it last week, and finished it Tuesday. It’s a tree with A+W carved into it in a little heart, and a few little red and pink heart-shaped leaves sprouting around the branches.

I reflexively clutched my heart so the joy bursting inside it did not splatter all over the room and ruin the painting.

“Dude! I love this! I love it so much!”

“It needs to dry for … probably several days,” she said, “but isn’t it cute?”

“It’s just the best. I love it when you paint!”

“Okay, let’s go. I’m starving.”

This is when Marlowe must have noticed we had not observed the Super Good Sit she’d been doing since we came into the room. She whimpered a little bit, and did a Big Stretch.

“Mars,” I began, as I reminded her that I already took her on a long W-A-L-K while Mom was out.

Dramatic, Big Sigh … and now we are doing a Super Good Down, and … the eyebrows are activated.

“Marlowe, I appreciate and respect the effort. But Mom is starving and we’ll be right back.”

One gentle tail thump, as sad as a dog who has never had a walk and will never get a walk again in her life. 10/10 Very Good Girl, no notes.

We hit every light between home and the restaurant, because I was in the car. This is The Way.

We sat at what was our usual table before the pandemic. I don’t think I have to tell you how happy and grateful we are that it still is. We used to go out all the time, and we just … don’t, anymore. We’re not comfortable dining indoors, and more often than not it’s just easier to stay home and order or make one of the five or so simple things we got used to over the last few years.

After the chips and salsa arrived and we had accepted the implied challenge, Anne said, scandalously, “Dude. We are on a date, on Valentine’s Day.”

“No! Nonononono. No we are not! We are out to dinner together on a date, on a day that SOME PEOPLE happen to have dates on because THE MAN tells them to. It is awesome that we are on a date, but the timing is purely coincidence.”

I took a sip of my water.

Very casually: “Also, did you find the card I hid in your purse?”

BAM! SWITCHEROO!

“What?” She picked her purse up off the chair, next to her. “No?” She dug through it, until she found the card I had secretly tucked in there, apparently a little too well, the night before.

It’s a pretty great card. It could be construed as a card for the day which shall not be named, but it just as easily could be given on any other day of the year, to a person you love the way I love Mrs. Wheaton.

“This is correlation, not causation,” I said as she opened it. I’m not going to reveal the specifics; that’s up to her to share if she wants. But she laughed at it exactly the way I knew she would, because when you love someone for nearly 30 years, you just know these things.

“This is perfect. This is, objectively, the best card in the world,” she said, laughing the whole time.

I laughed with her. It felt so good to laugh together. It’s been a really long Winter. It’s been, like, seven years of Winter, and it’s nice to feel just a little bit of warmth in the air, the promise of Spring.

We shared flan, as is traditional, then went home and watched True Detective, before she went to sleep and I went out to my gameroom to play Baldur’s Gate (wild magic is so much fun).

So … yeah. Dinner and a movie, I guess, and the exchange of simple reminders of our love for each other, in this life we’ve built together.

BUT NOT BECAUSE THE MAN SAID WE HAD TO. Fuck that guy. This was for us.

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Manzabar
11 days ago
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Cedar Rapids
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