Tag Archives: internet

Revised Post #5: Cuba opening up boundaries best thing for them.

Thesis: Cuba is doing the right thing by opening up their country and internet and encouraging increased freedom.

With the recent announcement that the Cold War enemies have finally ended the détente in December, Cuba is ripe for new world technologies and innovations. Companies are waiting to move into Cuba and try to help their people move into the modern world that they have been shielded from for decades. This is an opportunity for companies to not only make a profit, but also to help the people of Cuba realize a better life.

One of the industries most ready for innovation is the internet and technology.   As the Wall Street Journal reported, “Going online at designated cyber centers and hotels is unreliable and slow. At around $5 an hour, it’s too costly for Cubans, who on average earn $20 a month, according to government statistics.” This is attempting to be solved by “The so-called Code for Cuba ‘hackathon,’ organized by Miami-based nonprofit groups Roots of Hope, aims to attract U.S. engineers, software developers and entrepreneurs to work on increasing access to information as the Caribbean country begins flirting with freer telecommunications.” This organization aims to bring the innovative, entrepreneurial environment of the United States, to Cuba which has been hidden in the dark of the internet for years.

One of the first companies who have taken advantage of this opportunity in Cuba is Airbnb. They recently just opened up their services to be offered in Cuba as well. As reported in the US News, ““Licensed U.S. travelers will now be able to experience the unique culture and warm hospitality that makes the island so special through our new Cuban community,” Airbnb co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk said.” This will boost tourism to the country as “Demand for travel to Cuba is growing despite these obstacles, as Airbnb “saw a 70 percent spike in searches from U.S. users for listings in Cuba,” says Cristina Calzadilla of DKC Public Relations, which represents Airbnb.

This combination of increased tourism and travel to Cuba, with the increased freedom and innovation should help lift Cuba out of the economic turmoil they have been in since the Cold War. This offers good signs as “U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro are expected to meet this weekend in Panama at the Summit of the Americas, Cuba’s first time attending the hemispheric gathering.” These all point to positive signs that Cuba is finally opening up their economy to the world. If Cuba is to reach its ambitious goals of having 60% of it’s 11 million inhabitants using the internet by 2020, they will need as much help as they can get, especially from the U.S.

Cuba is finally opening up to outside world

Thesis: In order to improve life in Cuba, they will have to open up their internet and remove some of the censorships.

With the recent announcement that the Cold War enemies have finally ended the détente in December, Cuba is ripe for new world technologies and innovations. Companies are waiting to move into Cuba and try to help their people move into the modern world that they have been shielded from for decades. This is an opportunity for companies to not only make a profit, but also to help the people of Cuba realize a better life.

One of the industries most ready for innovation is the internet and technology.   As the Wall Street Journal reported, “Going online at designated cyber centers and hotels is unreliable and slow. At around $5 an hour, it’s too costly for Cubans, who on average earn $20 a month, according to government statistics.” This is attempting to be solved by “The so-called Code for Cuba ‘hackathon,’ organized by Miami-based nonprofit groups Roots of Hope, aims to attract U.S. engineers, software developers and entrepreneurs to work on increasing access to information as the Caribbean country begins flirting with freer telecommunications.” This organization aims to bring the innovative, entrepreneurial environment of the United States, to Cuba which has been hidden in the dark of the internet for years.

One of the first companies who have taken advantage of this opportunity in Cuba is Airbnb. They recently just opened up their services to be offered in Cuba as well. As reported in the US News, ““Licensed U.S. travelers will now be able to experience the unique culture and warm hospitality that makes the island so special through our new Cuban community,” Airbnb co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk said.” This will boost tourism to the country as “Demand for travel to Cuba is growing despite these obstacles, as Airbnb “saw a 70 percent spike in searches from U.S. users for listings in Cuba,” says Cristina Calzadilla of DKC Public Relations, which represents Airbnb.”

This combination of increased tourism and travel to Cuba, with the increased freedom and innovation should help lift Cuba out of the economic turmoil they have been in since the Cold War. This offers good signs as “U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro are expected to meet this weekend in Panama at the Summit of the Americas, Cuba’s first time attending the hemispheric gathering.” These all point to positive signs that Cuba is finally opening up their economy to the world. If Cuba is to reach its ambitious goals of having 60% of it’s 11 million inhabitants using the internet by 2020, they will need as much help as they can get, especially from the U.S.

Thesis: Online Education’s Best Days are Behind Them

Everyone has seen advertisements for some online college campus such as University of Phoenix which strive to offer cheap affordable college classes that are convenient for anyone to take, since the classes are all online. This industry has grown tremendously over the previous 10 years as the cost of college has been rising at a much faster rate than inflation (as witnessed by the graph below).

fredgraph

The rising costs of college are one of the reasons that online university courses became such a prominent alternative to traditional colleges. These universities offered not only convenience, but huge savings when compared to other college campuses. This was due to not only saving on room and board, but as mentioned in Spencer Jakab’s article, “During the 2009-2010 academic year, one-quarter of all Pell Grants and subsidized federal loans went to students at for-profit colleges [such as Apollo Education Group], according to the College Board. That was well above their share of, say, graduates.” These subsidies for the students attending colleges like University of Phoenix even further reduced the cost and increased the savings these consumers felt.

However, this story does not end well for these for-profit online schools as enrollment, and revenue, have decreased significantly from their peak a few years ago. One potential reason for this huge decrease in the early 2010’s of these online college degrees was due to as pointed out in Kevin Carey’s article, “Over the course of a few months in early 2012, leading scientists from Harvard, Stanford and M.I.T. started three companies to provide Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, to anyone in the world with an Internet connection. The courses were free. Millions of students signed up. Pundits called it a revolution.” These online courses are taught by some of the most prestigious teachers in the world, and all that is needed is an internet connection. While this reformation of higher education is revolutionary and is only going to keep increasing its prominence as credentials begin to become recognized by employers from taking these courses, the importance of getting an actual college degree remains significant.

A more viable reason for the decrease for-profit online education schools have felt in enrollments and revenues comes straight from the White House. President Obama announced “his new $60 billion community college initiative to provide two years of community college for free in January.” These community colleges are University of Phoenix’s biggest competitor because they both target people who cannot (or choose not too) pay the steadily rising prices to go to a traditional college. This initiative, if and when passed, will be the final crippling blow to these online for-profit schools that have gained prominence these past few years.

Should we Put a Price Tag on Our Personal Data?

Recently, there has been plenty of debate swirling around as society tries to define what an individual is entitled to in their use of the internet.  Net neutrality has been the king of this debate – as cable companies explore methods to maximize their monetization of the web, others have fought back to keep the internet deregulated, and President Obama has gone as far as to claim that access to the internet is a public good, and “that companies who connect you to the world have special obligations not to exploit the monopoly they enjoy over access in and out of your home or business,” as written in QZ.  It is only a matter of time before we see new issues concerning the regulation of the internet pop up, and one of those issues that is quickly gaining traction is the question of whether or not an individual has claim to their browsing data.

Earlier this month, Michael Dell was quoted in Inc. as asking “How much of [the] data that companies or organizations store is actually being used to create better outcomes or better decisions or better results or better anything–particularly in real time?” he asked. “The dirty secret is, almost none of it. Well, that’s a huge opportunity, and an area that’s hugely interesting to our customers”.  He’s not alone as one of the major proponents of big data collection, a field that has grown exponentially with the widespread adoption of technologies such as smartphones and services like Facebook and Google.  But while Dell is probably right about the oncoming big data revolution, he’s somewhat downplaying the fact that companies have already figured out ways to put the data they collect from users to use – the biggest of which is providing targeted ads to users based on their browsing data.  A phrase that I’m rather fond of is that if you’re not paying for a service then you are the product – meaning that free services are able to remain, well, free, because they collect user browsing data, package it, and sell it in bulk to advertisers.  Michael Wells, writing for 3 Quarks Daily, believes that individuals should have some say in the matter.

Wells argues that there is a market failure at play with regards to advertising and user data.  He claims that the right to advertise to an individual is improperly priced due to a lack of property rights over one’s attention and personal data, and that the resulting underpricing of advertising rights is leading to an glut of advertisements where they shouldn’t be.  While I respect Wells’ analysis and agree with some of his ideas, such as the concept that there should be some regulation of the most intrusive forms of advertising, his analysis of the pricing of advertising is missing a key element.  He writes that the only cost of advertising is the cost of obtaining user data, which may be true, but I think he is underestimating that cost.  It is not so easy to pry someone’s attention away from them or to get them to commit to registering for a service – just ask any of the hundreds of startups and apps that have folded over after failing to capture a large enough user base.  The real cost of getting a valuable supply of user data is providing a service that can not only attract enough users but that can keep them committed – and that is something that often requires would-be entrepreneurs to provide their service for free.  That is exemplified by some of the biggest players in the personal data collection market: Google, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.  All massive companies with massive expenses, but which remain free because that’s what it takes.  And so I don’t think the market is quite ready for users to start fighting for rights to their intellectual data.  Free access to a variety of apps and services is payment enough for our data.

Facebook Is Doing Good From Social Welfare Aspect (Blog 21)

While internet giants like Facebook Inc. and Google Inc. states that they are trying to provide convenience and connecting billions more people to the internet, telecom operators such as Digicel Group view them as a problem. In WSJ article Is Facebook Friend or Foe for Telecom Operators, the authors put the conflict between internet giants and telecom operators on the table. On the one hand, those Internet giants (Facebook Inc. and Google Inc. specially ) are taking advantage and profiting handsomely at telecom operators’ expense, as telecom operators spend huge amount of money building infrastructure but internet companies offer apps that let users circumvent network operators make phone calls and send text messages free. On the other hand, Facebook says it can help get more people online without additional construction which benefit telecom operators.

I have two concerns from this article: First, what a role should telecom carriers play? Should it be a public server whose main goal is providing convenience for the public, or should it a be a profit-drive company. Second, What effects does those internet giants have.

For the first question, Well, though the fact is that in the U.S most telecom operators are private-owned companies whose goal is pursuing profit, I personally think that the primary job of telecom carriers should be providing service to the public instead of simply making money. In fact most countries do put providing service to public as the first job for their telecom carriers. If we look up the list of telecom operators, we will find out that actually many telecom carriers are government-owned(at least government hold most shares) or public owned (public stock) entities all over the world, such as China Mobile (primarily owned by Chinese government), Bridge Alliance(primarily owned by Singapore government) and MTN Group(public stock and government employees pension fund in South Africa). The reason of having government-owned telecom carriers is just like public transportation system: the cost of building networks or frustrations is so high that few private-company can afford it, thus government subsidies to run the system for the public welfare. Even in the U.S where most telecom frustrations are built and run by private companies, those telecom carriers are still state-regulated monopolies, which promise the maximum welfare of users. By the way, the recently net neutrality regulation is another policy to weaken telecom carriers’ power to keep users’ benefits.

After clarifying that the main goal of telecom operators should be providing convenience for public, we could say that Facebook Inc. is doing a good thing, though at the cost of telecom carriers’ profit. One way to measure social welfare is to sum up all the utility surplus. For example: I want to pay 10 dollars to a telecom carrier per month to buy a 200 minutes phone call package, now I only need to pay 5 dollars to the telecom carrier per month for a data traffic package, through the traffic I could download a Facebook app from internet which allow me to make 200 mins phone call free. In this way, I gain 5 dollars utility surplus that contribute to the social welfare. Same thing applies to millions of users. Thus the social welfare increases enormously. On the other hand, though the supply side(i.e: telecom carriers) lose 5 dollars utility surplus on its every clients, (yes, which makes the total social welfare increase zero), additional clients are attracted by those apps. Since Telecom carriers get more clients, what they lose in utility surplus is actually less than 5 dollars per clients. Thus from social welfare aspect, those internet giants are doing good.

Internet Supervision Intensify in China (Blog 19)

I went back China today. To my surprised, I cannot log into my UM email anymore, neither use Google browser or look through the WSJ website. It seems that after a year, the internet suspension(block) in China is being even more strict instead of loosening.

Indeed, right recently, China announced a new regulations requiring users of an array of internet services to register with their real names and avoid spreading content that challenges national interests, which is going be effective in March 1st. The requirements apply to users of blogs, instant-messaging services, online discussion forums, news comment sections and related services. In a word, the characteristic of anonymity in the internet, which is one of the most attractive features of the internet is gone in China.

Most people complained about the new regulation as well as those extreme internet monitoring. Personally saying, I could understand why is Chinese government requiring internet users to register with their real names: to maintain the stability of the Chinese society.

First of all, China is a ‘one party rule’ nation. Unlike U.S that different parties involve in governing the nation(though there would be a dominate party in a period, it won’t hurt too much if a party fade since others will replace it), in China Communist Party takes all charge of the country although there are some other auxiliary minority parties. Thus once the Communist Party are threaten by something or someone, the whole country are in danger. Maintaining the stability of Chinese society is equal to maintaining the stability of Communist Party in a way.

Secondly, with the development and popularization of internet, some voices which against the Communist Party or against some regulations or creeds of Communist Party can be spread very quickly and wildly. Some people are easily believed by those reactionary information, considering China has over 1.4 billion population, those ‘some people’ could have a quite large number. Which is a potential threaten for Communist Party, hence a potential threaten for the stability of the society.

Applying real names on the internet users is quite an effective way and quickest way to find out where those voices comes from, which makes it easy to fix the problem. What is more, applying real names also could reduce the reactionary information from the beginning since people will know that they will be tracked. Put another way, reactionary information or voice may bring little externality to the society, but internet amplifies the negative externality by spreading those information to millions of people. Appling real names on the internet is like putting a fetter on the internet, which minimal the externality. For those who obey the ‘net neutrality rule’, register using real names may not disturb one’s life too much.

However, while enforcing real names does reduce the negative externality, it may also reduce some positive externality. For example, the freedom of speak. people may afraid of being caught by government that they cannot speak out their ideas. Or missing ‘real appeals’. Because internet and media maybe the only way for some people to expose their unfair treatment by local government. Once the center government enforcing using the real names, the local government could ‘clean’ the person first.

Personally speaking, I may prefer not to using real names in the internet. Real names in the internet could bring stability for the nation, I doubt the effect may be only temporary. However, let the public lose the freedom of speak because of the fear for being punished by government, eventually the government would become to dictatorship and cause the even worse fury of the public.

Other Source:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communist_Party_of_China

Price to not be tracked

AT&T has recently launched a 1 gigabit-per-second service in Austin, Texas and Kansas City, Missouri, but there is a catch. In order, for users to not be tracked as they surf the web they must pay a higher monthly service price, or as AT&T is phrasing it, a discount to the people who are okay with being tracked.

“AT&T’s new service uses searches terms entered, Web pages visited, and links clicked. The tracking remains in effect even if you clear cookies, use an ad block program, or switch on a browser’s do-not-track settings. The company uses the data it collects to help advertisers target ads on Web pages, email messages or direct mail” – Elizabeth Dwoskin and Thomas Gryta from the Wall Street Journal.

Many people are upset about this, primarily due to the fact that most companies offer privacy options for free. Some people think that it should be illegal for a company to do such thing.

 “Lax regulation allows communications providers to charge for safeguards that consumers previously assumed they would receive by default, said Marc Rotenberg, president and executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington” – Elizabeth Dwoskin and Thomas Gryta from the Wall Street Journal. 

However, from an ethical and legal standpoint it seems that what AT&T is doing is perfectly okay. Users are not forced to buy the GigaPower service by AT&T. If enough people are upset about the tracking they should find a different company to purchase their service from.

Economic thinking we lead us to believe that if that many consumers are upset by the AT&T tracking, then AT&T would be forced to change their business model in order to stay competitive.

Gigabit-per-second Internet service is very uncommon right now, making it seem like AT&T is safe from competition in the mean time, but as it becomes more prevalent they may be forced to make some adjustments.

Only time will tell if AT&T will end up changing their pricing model due to consumer complaints or outside competition. However, I would be willing to allow a company to track my web browsing habits for a discount on my bill. As long as you do not have any to hide, there does not seem to be anything to worry about. Also, the user information that is being tracked is being shared with advertisers so they can get a better understanding of consumer interest, rather than being used by the government to track users for potential crimes.

Instant information for all, not just the rich and powerful

I have always been in love with the Internet every since I first came in contact with it. I loved how free it made me feel. Anyone with a computer and an Internet connection could access the same information at the same rate. You could be anyone and do anything on the Internet; there were seemingly no rules or regulation for the most part. Now, I do recognize having a computer with Internet access is a privilege. However, as of 2014 there is an estimated 2,925,249,355 Internet users, which represents 40.4% of the world population (http://www.internetlivestats.com/internet-users/#byregion).

The possibilities and potential upside seemed limitless. For centuries, information took weeks, months, or even years to span the globe. Now that information, such as scientific discoveries, epidemics, and other global issues could be made available to everyone seemingly in an instant. If a cure for a life threatening disease was discovered in France or India or basically anywhere, that information could be shared with all other nations.

I am clearly not the only one who noticed the seemingly limitless potential of the Internet, which has made it quite a controversial issue as of late. Broadband providers, such as Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast just to name a few have spent a great deal of time and money trying to lobby Congress and the White House to allow them to treat internet traffic differently depending on the website (http://www.wsj.com/articles/how-white-house-thwarted-fcc-chief-on-internet-rules-1423097522?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTTopStories).

This would allow them, the broadband service provides, to build in fast lanes and slow lanes, so to speak, into the Internet. Where, for a fee, a company could make sure their information or service gets to the end user faster than those opting out of paying the fee (http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2014/11/10/full-text-obama-statement-on-net-neutrality/). Luckily, for nearly everyone, Obama has taken a firm stance against the capitalization of the Internet and has stood up in support of keeping the Internet free and equal for everyone, saying that it should be viewed as a public utility (http://www.wsj.com/articles/how-white-house-thwarted-fcc-chief-on-internet-rules-1423097522?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTTopStories).

“An open Internet is essential to the American economy, and increasingly to our very way of life. By lowering the cost of launching a new idea, igniting new political movements, and bringing communities closer together, it has been one of the most significant democratizing influences the world has ever known. “Net neutrality” has been built into the fabric of the Internet since its creation — but it is also a principle that we cannot take for granted. We cannot allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas” (http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2014/11/10/full-text-obama-statement-on-net-neutrality/).

Internet users can let go a sigh of relief for the meantime. Obama has stood firm against lobbyists, and sided with the general public that seems to support a free and open Internet for everyone.