In June of last year Google unveiled Google Loon
, the latest in a long line of similar projects that will use hot air balloons to deliver broadband and wireless services to under-served or emergency prone areas. Project Loon will use hot air balloons 49 feet wide stationed 12 miles above the planet, well above the range of commercial aircraft. Ground base stations set some sixty miles apart communicate with solar-powered radio transmitters affixed to the balloons, and Google steers the balloons using wind as they ride the 40th parallel.
Not everybody has been optimistic that Google Loon will ever be more than a fun hobby for Google. Avid balloonist and aeronautical engineer Per Lindstrand stated that the company was wasting their time on the effort
, saying the winds up there are simply too fierce to keep reasonable control of the balloons over longer periods of time (more than a few days).
But in an update on the Loon project posted today by Google on Google+
, the company says they're making great strides in making Loon commercially viable. Google says they've been able to make their Loon balloons last 10 times longer in the stratosphere than the company could last year, with many lasting 100 days or more.
In addition to learning lesson about building balloons and keeping them afloat, the company says they've made great strides in keeping the Loon balloons on course:
As we’ve launched more long-lasting balloons in the stratosphere we’ve needed to ensure that we can accurately maneuver them to where they need to go. By constantly computing thousands of trajectory simulations it turns out we can get pretty close to our targets. For example, one flight came within 1.5km of our target destination over a flight of 9,000 kilometers, purely through predicting and sailing with the stratospheric winds.
There's still no word on when these tests will result in a viable commercial product (if ever), though Google appears to be proving some of the earliest doubters wrong in terms of improving on broadband-by-balloon technology.
It has been interesting to see lately how Apple and Google have effectively started competing on privacy -- both companies announcing recently
that new encryption standards used on their latest OS's and devices mean they'll no longer unlock devices at the behest of law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Not too surprisingly this shift has annoyed law enforcement and intelligence agencies, who've been escalating their rhetoric in opposition to the shift.
September of last year wireless operator C Spire issued a rather surprising announcement
saying they were going to start deploying fixed-line broadband networks capable of 1 Gbps in several markets within their (mostly Southern) footprint. C Spire's initial focus will primarily be on Mississippi, where nine cities are currently in the running to be the first to get the speedier service.
Add Tesla CEO Elon Musk to the growing list of people investing in the idea of less-expensive satellite broadband technology. According to the Wall Street Journal
, Musk is working closely with satellite-industry veteran and former Google employee Greg Wyler on building a network of roughly 700 satellites, each weighing less than 250 pounds.
A Google filing with the SEC this week
indicates that Google is exploring the possibility of a variety of wireless broadband technologies across a number of spectrum frequencies, including millimeter-wave. Google's interest in wireless hasn't been much of a secret; the company acquired wireless Seattle startup Alpental Technologies
back in June (founded by ex-Clearwire folks), and a report back in April
indicated that Google was interested in potentially forming an MVNO as a supplement offering alongside or instead of Google Fiber. This particular filing appears to hint at shorter distance technologies for last mile, likely as an inexpensive way to service MDUs or apartment buildings.
Without much if any fanfare, Google today unveiled the company's new Nexus 6 smartphone, their new Nexus 9 tablet, and the latest incarnation of their Android operating system: 5.0 Lollipop. The Motorola-made Nexus 6
sports a 5.96-inch, 2560×1440 display, and unlike the Nexus 5, will be available for all US carriers "in November" starting at $649.
Security researchers at Google this week unveiled that they've found a new "POODLE" vulnerability in SSL 3.0 that allows an attacker to calculate the plaintext of encrypted communications. According to the Google announcement
(complete with a Zappa reference most won't get), notes that while SSL 3.0 is almost 15 years old (and supplanted by Transport Layer Security), it's still commonly in use as a browser backup option when other protocol versions fail.
Former Google Fiber boss Milo Medin recently proclaimed that the most difficult obstacle for Google in deploying fiber isn't digging ditches or dealing with government -- it's securing TV programming. Video "is the single biggest impediment" to Google Fiber deployment, Medin told attendees
of the COMPTEL telecom conference in Dallas this week. "We operate at a very significant difference than incumbents we compete against," said Medin, who called programming "biggest piece of our cost structure." "We may be paying in some markets double what incumbents are paying for the same programming," he added.
Even though we're now in the 1 Gbps "fiber to the press release" era where everybody and their uncle is promising to deliver 1 Gbps speeds
, a new study indicates that most consumers may have absolutely no idea what these companies are talking about.
A new report by Pivot Media
found that only 13% of those surveyed had even heard of gigabit services, a percentage that jumped to just 18% in urban areas, and 21% among those between the ages of 18 and 24.
While over-shadowed by Google Fiber, Google's free Wi-Fi efforts (begun in their home town of Mountain View) have quietly continued to expand. In addition to offering Google Wi-Fi in Google Fiber locations like Kansas City, the company last year gave a $200,000 grant to Pryor, Oklahoma to build a citywide Wi-Fi network
. Google also provides 60 acres worth of free Wi-Fi access in Douglasville, Georgia
, near where Google runs a 500,000 square foot data center. Last week, Google helped fund the launch of free Wi-Fi in thirty San Franciso parks
Internet giant Google donated about $600,000 to help the city buy and install Wi-Fi equipment and cover maintenance cost for two years, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. "This network will make the web more accessible than ever for thousands of our neighbor — getting online is as easy as heading to the local park," Rebecca Prozan, Google's public policy and government affairs manager, said in a statement.
In June of last year Google unveiled Google Loon
, the latest in a long line of similar projects that will use hot air balloons to deliver broadband and wireless services to under-served or emergency prone areas. Project Loon will use hot air balloons 49 feet wide stationed 12 miles above the planet, well above the range of commercial aircraft.
It has been interested to see lately how Apple and Google have effectively started competing on privacy -- both companies announcing recently
that new encryption standards used on their latest OS's and devices mean they'll no longer unlock devices at the behest of law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Not too surprisingly this shift has annoyed the FBI; the agency's James Comey not so subtly insisting that both Google and Apple are putting people's lives at risks with the shift
"What concerns me about this is companies marketing something expressly to allow people to hold themselves beyond the law," Comey said. At another point, he said he feared a moment when “when people with tears in their eyes look at me and say, ‘What do you mean you can’t?"' Comey said he was gathering more information about the issue and would have more to say about it later.
Granted the FBI might not have found itself in this position if its collection of consumer data had been a little more reasonable in the first place, and the agency hadn't spent a good chunk of the last decade over-reaching and finding creative ways to dodge the law
Comcast last night filed their reply comments to the FCC as the agency considers approving the company's $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable. The filing is filled with the sort of arguments we've seen countless times already
over the past few months, including Comcast's repeated claim that they face so much competition on every front
there's simply no way they'd ever engage in anti-competitive behavior.
Earlier this month we highlighted how Google was under fire for funding the lobbyist organization ALEC
, a group that helps companies submit draft legislation that then gets lobbied into law. These efforts by and large are anti-consumer, with ALEC opposing network neutrality and supporting blockades on municipal broadband.
If you recall (and many don't), Google was partially responsible for the lack of network neutrality protections we see (or don't see, as the case may be) today. Google worked hard alongside AT&T and Verizon to make sure the rules had ample loopholes and didn't protect wireless. story continues..
The Wall Street Journal
again confirms that the NFL did hold talks with Google and Microsoft about the possibility of offering NFL game streaming over the Internet, but nothing so far has come of those talks. The NFL and DirecTV are rumored to be putting the finishing touches
on an extension of DirecTV's controversial exclusive Sunday Ticket arrangement to offer out of market NFL games.
The Wall Street Journal
has an interesting article exploring complaints on how Google Fiber (and responding, highly-selective deployments by CenturyLink, AT&T, and others) may fuel a digital divide by only upgrading select residents in certain cities. That said, the article claims that Google Fiber's ability to deploy fiber to just select locations helped save them 20% over traditional builds like Verizon's FiOS. "If Verizon resumes expansion, the company would consider Google's build-to-demand model because it has the potential to be more profitable," Verizon executive Chris Levendos tells the paper.
Back in April Cox Communications announced
that the company would be launching 1 Gbps service of their own sometime this year, though they failed to offer any meaningful specifics about where or when. In May, Cox provided a little more detail in an announcement
, stating that the company's deployment of 1 Gbps service will start start with new residential construction projects and new and existing neighborhoods in Phoenix, Las Vegas and Omaha.
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