Science and Technology Update

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By Science and Technology Staff

Gigabit Communities

The United States government wants to see faster Internet speeds for Americans and has set a goal for all 50 states.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski issued the “Gigabit City Challenge” on Jan. 18.

The challenge calls on every state to have at least one gigabit community by 2015.

What is a gigabit community? A gigabit community is a community which has Internet speeds of 1 Gbps (gigabit per second). That’s 100 times faster than the current national average Internet speed.

The FCC does understand that creating gigabit communities is no small task.

Creating the infrastructure to provide the increased speeds is not cheap; estimates of providing gigabit speeds range from $2500 to $6000 per person.

However, it is not impossible; Google began providing gigabit speeds to Kansas City, Kan. and Kansas City, Mo. in July 2012.

The FCC has stressed the importance of the increase of internet speeds for its potential benefits to the economy.

Although there are presently only 42 gigabit communities in 14 states, large companies as well as start-up businesses—especially tech companies—seem to gravitate toward these high-speed Internet communities.

While it will be awhile before you have gigabit speeds in your own town, the FCC’s initiative and Google’s present actions seem to show that things are moving in the right direction.

Internet speed has increased dramatically in the past 10 years, and it looks as if that trend won’t be stopping soon. And with governments across the world stressing the importance of Internet speed, it appears the U.S. does not want to fall behind.

Unlocking your smartphone is now illegal

As of Jan. 25, it is illegal to unlock your smartphone.

When you buy a new phone at an AT&T, Verizon or any other carrier’s store and sign a multi-year contract with that carrier, you are now stuck with that carrier for the duration of the contract.

Until this past week, a user was able to unlock his or her smartphone, removing it from that carrier’s network in favor of other options.

However, due to the Library of Congress’s recent interpretation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, if you buy a phone on one carrier’s contract, that phone will remain with that carrier.

This change mainly affects customers who buy a locked phone, and then unlock it afterwards.

Unlocked phones are still available to purchase at Verizon, AT&T and other carriers, but at their set price—which can be two to three times as expensive as buying the phone with a contract attached to it.

Additionally, any phone purchased before the law went into effect is excused from the new no-unlocking policy.

However, the penalty for now illegally unlocking your smartphone is no slap on the wrist.

The law reads that “First time offenders may be fined up to $500,000, imprisoned for five years or both.

For repeat offenders, the maximum penalty increased to a fine of $1,000,000, imprisonment for up to ten years, or both.”

The new law has sparked controversy, especially from consumers who question if they really own the smartphone they paid for and who are questioning the substantial fine and potential jail time established if the law is broken.

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