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Three issues before the FCC that could change the Internet

(Recently, CEO) Fletcher Kittredge and I attended the Community Fiber Networks conference in Springfield, Mass. Community leaders throughout New England came together there to talk about the impact of better broadband to community development, share experiences in deploying networks, and discuss important policy issues around broadband deployments. Jones-Trevor-blogger copy

During a panel discussion yesterday, FCC Special Counsel for External Affairs Gigi Sohn made a remarkable statement that I shared on Twitter: "The next six months are going to be the most important months in the history of #telecommunications policy."

Is the current FCC docket really that important?

It wasn't until I stopped to consider Ms. Sohn's remark that I really appreciated just how sweeping the topics under consideration are when taken together. For those who don't live this stuff every day I thought I'd present a short summary of three of the biggest issues so you can judge for yourself.

Net Neutrality. On Jan. 14 of this year, a federal appeals court overturned the FCC's rules on Net Neutrality, a policy which prohibited Internet service providers from favoring the Internet traffic of one company over another. The issue pits network operators that would like to regulate the flow of traffic on their networks against content providers who fear that network providers will charge extra fees to deliver their content or worse, slow down the delivery of their content as a means of shutting out competition. Since the ruling, the FCC has been exploring new ways to address the open Internet issue, including the possibility of regulating Internet providers like public utilities. Opponents say this regulating Internet access will stifle competition and innovation.

The Merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable. Earlier this year, Comcast, the nation's largest cable operator, announced its intention to acquire Time Warner Cable, the Nation's second largest cable network. Opponents of this acquisition say that the resulting mega-corporation would have excessive influence over the broadband industry, negatively impacting consumer prices for broadband service. Meanwhile, representatives of Comcast have pointed out that the two companies do not compete with each other in any zip code in the country, and no direct competition is destroyed by the merger.

Preemption. Thanks to the lobbying efforts of major broadband providers trying to forestall unwanted competition, 20 states have passed laws prohibiting municipalities from building their own broadband networks in order to get the broadband access their economies need to thrive. Communities such as Chattanooga, Tenn., and Wilson, N.C., are now asking the FCC to lift the restrictions placed on them by these state laws. There is rigorous debate on both sides of this issue, with opponents of preemption claiming that government (the municipalities) has no place competing with private industry while many communities, particularly I rural areas, feel that this is the only way they will get the vital infrastructure their economies need to survive and thrive in the digital economy.

Each of these issues has important implications to competition in telecommunications and the role of government in protecting consumer choice. Taken together, they could have a very far reaching impact into how we will access and use the Internet in the future.

 (Trevor Jones, director of marketing and product development at GWI, a Maine-based provider of broadband Internet, phone, and managed services to homes and businesses. Trevor can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 30 September 2014 01:11

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Glitter germs

Rub your hands in lotion, sprinkle them with glitter and then go about your work day. It's a kids' game to demonstrate how quickly germs spread through our places of work, schools and at home. With flu season upon us, there are a lot of steps we can take to protect ourselves and co-workers from getting "the bug." Here are some interesting developments in flu prevention. Payne-bw-blogger copy

The first is to actually try the glitter germ game with your co-workers. There is nothing so impactful than seeing where people's hands travel in the course of a day. A dash of glitter also may serve as a reminder for months or more as it's a bear to clean up. That said, glitter comes off with soap and water – a lesson that we all can use to reinforce the value of hand-washing. That little glint of light I the break room, at your desk, in the bathroom or the kitchen can spur a little extra attention to keeping our hands clean.

Flu shots also are now available. Encouraging employees and family members to get inoculated can reduce illness symptoms or help people dodge the flu entirely. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months receive a flu vaccination. New this year are nasal spray vaccinations for children. To find a flu vaccination near you, call your doctor's office, or any variety of retail stores and pharmacies that have trained personnel on staff to administer vaccinations.

What else is going on to prevent germs from doing damage?

Hospitals, often notorious harbors of resistant germs and infectious diseases, are beginning to add a layer of disinfecting to their procedures. In addition to diligent hand washing and alcohol-based lotions, hospital staff are employing ultra violet light to combat germs. According to a Concord Monitor news article, the Concord Hospital has hired Rosie the Robot to enter infection-prone areas of the New Hampshire care facility. The machine emits up to 450 pulses of UV light during a five minute period. This new approach is conducted after normal cleaning to add an extra measure of protection for patients and staff.

So how about folks who can't afford the $75,000 industrial light-emitting robot? Amazon advertises hand-held UV light wands for under $100 that can be swept across germ-prone surfaces of the home or office. Some models promote the device as a solution for killing odors, as well.

The DNA of germs is broken down by UV light, a technology that has been used for several decades. Several manufacturers also offer UV light systems to purify water even for hikers who may be far from safe municipal water systems.

So, back to the flu. The CDC also suggests avoiding people who are sick and if you appear to be coming down with "the bug," stay home for 24 hours after your fever is gone. That's another reason why many employers use personal time off (PTO) to let employees take time when they need it.

Another hard-to-practice measure is to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. And, of course, cover your face when you sneeze or cough. A sneeze travels at the equivalent of 35 miles per hour so think about how a serial sneezer can share their misery in a very short time in a radius if 15 feet or more.

If you do get sick, the CDCD notes that antiviral drugs as opposed to antibiotics can relieve symptoms.

So, let's all do our best to keep it to ourselves and make the winter flu-free.

(Tony Payne is business development director at Clark Insurance. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . 207-523-2213)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 30 September 2014 01:10

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Press Hotel signs receive sign-off from historic review board

A sign with letters that resemble typewriter keys will welcome guests to the Press Hotel, a new hotel that will occupy the former Portland Press Herald building complex on Congress Street.9-23-14-press-herald
The Portland Historic Preservation Board reviewed signage for the project last Wednesday, Sept. 17, and Kevin Gough, project architect for the Press Hotel project, said board members approved the plans.
Located at 390 Congress/l19 Exchange St., the former Portland Press Herald building complex will become the Press Hotel, developed by Jim Brady. Gough, with Archetype Architects, said two signs received approval.
City staff reported, "When the Historic Preservation Board approved the applicant's program of exterior and site alterations in February 2013, plans for exterior signage had not yet been developed. Recognizing that signage for the hotel would become an important-and hopefully integrated-design element of the building exterior, the Board conditioned its approval to require that the signage proposal be reviewed and approved at the Board level."
Gough wrote, in the city's packet, "This signage includes internally illuminated signs at the corners of Exchange and Federal Streets, and at Market and Congress Streets. There are, in addition, some acrylic plaques at the main entry door, as well as a bronze plaque on the Exchange Street elevation with some historic information about the Building and its past use as the Portland Press Hcrald offices."
The hotel developer is scheduled to seek approval for signage for its restaurant tenant, which has not yet been identified. In the next month and a half, Gough expected this request to go before the historic preservation board, marking one of the last steps for approval.
City staff and board members embraced plans for the Press Herald complex, which consists of two adjoining buildings (built 1923 and 1948) that take up the entire block bounded by Congress, Exchange, Federal and Market streets.
According to city staff, "the applicant's proposal to retain the building's original Press Herald signs is ... a welcome decision."
The hotel is scheduled to open in April 2015, Gough said.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 September 2014 01:20

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Stand up for your job!

This is not a call to retain your employment but a chance to improve your health. Most office workers spend nearly six hours a day sitting and about seven hours a day in bed according to the British Psychological Society. That does not include the hours we log in front of televisions and computers at home. As I write this article, I am standing at an elevated work surface with a much happier musculo-skeletal arrangement. So what are the benefits of standing while working? Payne-bw-blogger copy

With aging bones and muscles, my son recently noted, "Dad, you're starting to walk like an old man." How's that for un-nuanced observation from a pesky teen? I also was having sciatic pains down the back of one leg from trying to kill a golf ball. Sitting hurt.

So with pain in one leg and being called an "old man", corrective action seemed worth testing. One remedy was a stand-up desk to minimize the hobbled steps and relive the pain of sitting.

In less than three weeks, I have become accustomed to standing while working. My feet have made the transition by standing on a cushy pad. I also have a foot rest that raises one leg or the other for variety and movement. Most remarkable; no more sciatic pain and no more hobbled walking.

Just as with an exercise program, it is not uncommon to feel tired after starting a workout routine. The first week I went home bone tired but now have ample stamina to feel great at the end of the day. I'm also burning three times the number of calories when standing than when sitting according to data from the Mayo Clinic. Hopefully, I'll trim a few pounds.

As with anything, making a change should be gradual so having a stool to rest on or buying an adjustable desk that can be raised and lowered will help your body become accustomed to the new arrangement.

Ergonomics

When making the move to a standing desk, it is very important that your relationship to the work surface changes as well. Your key board should allow your arms to hang at a right angle for typing and should minimize having your wrists in a forced position. Computer monitors also should be elevated to allow your head to tilt at a natural and comfortable position; ditto for your mouse. Our loss control consultant helped engineer my work station to avoid strains and discomfort that can create longer term issues, a service we provide for our customers, as well.

An article on Smithsonian.com cites several benefits of remaining on your feet during the day — all of which are related to movement and blood circulation.

Good for your heart

Data from the Mayo Clinic suggest that extended sitting at home or at work is correlated with a higher incidence of heart disease and related cardio vascular issues. Besides changing your diet, exercise is one of the greatest factors in cardio vascular health. Standing at work promotes circulation and movement.

Lower glucose

Rather than waiting to find out that your blood glucose levels are hinting at the onset of Type 2 diabetes, standing while working could improve your metabolic numbers. Other data cited suggested that being sedentary increased the levels of fasting blood glucose, a key measure of the body's ability to respond to one's natural insulin production. The American Diabetes Association says that more than 1.5 million new cases of diabetes are being diagnosed annually. The relevance is that diabetes can be a contributing factor to kidney failure, amputations, blindness, heart disease and strokes. Simply standing up while working can change those numbers.

Avoiding cancer

Though extended sitting is correlated with cancer, there are no definitive results. That said, the rate of breast, colon and other cancers were more prevalent among those who sat for prolonged periods of time. Researchers have found that certain biomarkers associated with cancer are found at higher levels among those who sit for long periods. In researching this article, I found a physician who suggested that sitting is the new smoking – a lifestyle choice with negative ramifications.

Since making the switch to my stand up desk, a number of co-workers have stopped by to ask questions or investigate how they, too, can make the switch. Depending on your office set-up, the cost can be very reasonable for re-tooling your space. A search on the internet for "stand up desks" produced 3.9 million results and featured adaptive work surfaces for as little as a few hundred dollars. Of course, being a Yankee, you can jury-rig the desired changes using books, boxes and reams of paper to see if you like the stand up lifestyle.

Give it a try and see what happens. I suspect that over time you'll see a great many more people opting to stand up for their job and realize the benefits of better health.

(Tony Payne is business development director at Clark Insurance. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . 207-523-2213)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 September 2014 01:21

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