Have a question for Virginia's Democratic gubernatorial candidates?

Virginia voters - want to know what your next governor is going to do about traffic, taxes, or schools? You have just two more days to ask -- through YouTube or Google Moderator.

Google and YouTube teamed up with the Politico and ABC 7/WJLA-TV to launch a digital interview series for Virginia's Democratic gubernatorial primary. All three candidates -- Terry McAuliffe, Creigh Deeds, and Brian Moran -- have agreed to participate.

Make sure to tune in June 3 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC 7/WJLA-TV to hear the candidates answer questions direct from voters like this:

White House completes cyberspace policy review

As the world becomes more and more connected, a cyberattack on any nation's critical infrastructure -- its telecommunications system, electrical grid, and banking network -- could pose as serious a threat to its security as an attack carried out by a bomber or conventional forces.

With that in mind, today the Obama Administration announced the creation of a cybersecurity director and released the findings of its 60-day cyberspace policy review, offering recommendations on steps the United States government, working with the private sector, should take to guard critical networks from harmful attacks.

Strong partnerships and open lines of communication between government and the private sector will be the key to protecting critical networks. As the report explains, the "public and private sectors' interests are intertwined" when it comes to cybersecurity. Government agencies are in a unique position to help companies identify attackers' targets and methods of operation, while companies can share expertise and best practices for guarding private networks and protecting the privacy of user data.

We support the Administration's goal to make the Internet safer and more secure, and we look forward to continuing our work with policymakers, software developers, security experts, and our users to help do just that.

Wired's look at how Google sells and prices ads

Most policymakers are pretty familiar with how TV stations, magazines and newspapers sell advertising. Typically those organizations have a "rate card" with standard ad prices for a 30 second ad or a full-page print ad, and the advertiser pays the standard rate or negotiates a lower rate if they commit to buy ad space in bulk.

That's not how ad space on Google is sold. Instead, all advertisers -- big and small -- bid for their ads to appear when users search on Google for certain terms.

Admittedly Google's ad auction can be a bit difficult to understand because it differs so much from traditional ad models. That's why we have posted videos and tutorials on the AdWords Learning Center explaining how it works.

Now Wired Magazine's Steven Levy has a new article out in the June issue taking an even closer look ad the Google ad auction, and it's a must-read for policymakers who want to understand online advertising. Levy looks at how Google's auction model evolved, the role of algorithmic "quality scores" that ensure users see relevant ads, and how the "second price" auction means that advertisers don't overbid.

Check it out when you get a chance.

Graphic: Wired.com

Commemorating Memorial Day on YouTube

(Editor's Note: SGT Dale Sweetnam is working with Google's Global Communications & Public Affairs team this year through the U.S. Army's "Training with Industry" Program.)

Today is Memorial Day in the United States, a day of remembrance that was first observed in 1868 to pay tribute to Union and Confederate soldiers who had died in the Civil War. Over the years, Americans have commemorated the day in different ways -- from wearing red poppies, to decorating graves, to attending military parades.

More recently, people from across the country -- including the President and several Members of Congress -- are using YouTube to share their reflections on what the day means to them.

Congressman Joe Donnelly of Indiana told the stories of Lance Corporal Cameron Babcock, Sergeant Joseph Ford, and Private Randy Stabnik, three fallen troops from his home district, in a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives, which he later posted to YouTube:

Congressman Denny Rehberg of Montana uploaded this tribute to his official YouTube channel:

Meanwhile, troops and government employees deployed around the world are sending virtual Memorial Day greetings to their friends and family back home via DIVIDS, an online system for sharing news, images, and video from military operations worldwide.

Wishing you a safe Memorial Day weekend.

The U.S. Government comes to YouTube

(Cross-posted from CitizenTube)

Spacemen floating through the international space station. World leaders sending messages across borders. A life-sized slice of pizza explaining how to apply for a passport. Sound like outtakes from the latest Hollywood movies? Actually, these videos are part of the new U.S. Government portal on YouTube.

That's right, your federal government has come to YouTube. You may have noticed that President Obama has been posting weekly addresses to the White House YouTube channel since inauguration. Now, there are dozens of official federal YouTube channels where you can access footage from NASA, the State Department, the FBI, the CDC, and more. It's all part of making Washington, D.C., more transparent and accessible than ever before -- and helping you easily navigate government information that's relevant to your life.

The U.S. Government channel is located at youtube.com/usgovernment, a nifty hub that links off to dozens of federal government channels on YouTube, from the Social Security Administration to the Environmental Protection Agency, with others to be added in the coming months. Learn more in this video from the White House New Media office, and take a spin through this playlist to see some highlights so far:

Our federal leaders and civil servants aren't just on YouTube to distribute video; they're here to engage with you in a way that only YouTube makes possible. So leave your comments, rankings, and ideas for these agencies on any of their videos to ensure that your voice is heard on the issues you care about. Reach out to your local government as well and encourage local officials to start posting footage to YouTube. By exposing everything from committee hearings to planning meetings, we can make our civic lives more open than ever before. Ultimately, it will help us hold public servants accountable for the jobs we've hired them to do.

Small businesses and broadband access

If you're a small business owner without access to high-speed Internet, you may sometimes feel as though you're operating with one hand tied behind your back. Unfortunately, that's business as usual for countless companies across the country -- especially those in rural and underserved areas -- that still lack access to broadband.

Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy, with companies that have fewer than 500 employees providing jobs for more than half of the nation's private workforce. With more and more consumers going online, the Internet provides these companies with unprecedented opportunities to reach millions of new customers worldwide -- a reach that was once limited only to the largest corporations. Now more than ever, policymakers should ensure that small businesses have the tools necessary to succeed in a 21st century economy.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act sets aside $7.2 billion to improve the nation's broadband infrastructure. As we celebrate National Small Business Week, we'd like to invite small business owners to share their opinions on how the stimulus money should be spent through our new Small Business Network. You can sign up and learn more here.

Since we launched the Small Business Network just two weeks ago, nearly 1,000 members have joined the conversation. If you're the owner of a small business, we hope you'll sign up to stay informed on broadband access and other public policy issues that affect you and find out how you can get involved.

Bringing "fiber to the library"

By many measures, much of the United States continues to lag behind other developed countries in terms of broadband penetration and speed -- but it's not for a lack of good ideas. Take Don Means' "Fiber to the Library" (FTTL) proposal, which would equip every one of our nation's 16,548 public libraries with a 100+ Mbps Internet connection. This morning I was fortunate enough to hear Don discuss details of these plans at a forum sponsored by ITIF.

For centuries, libraries have provided a tremendous public service, allowing Americans to access useful information in their free and open facilities. What better way to continue and expand that mission in the 21st century than to provide every library in the United States with a high-speed fiber connection to the Web?

Deploying FTTL is a bold yet achievable concept that promises a number of tangible benefits. It would deliver high-performance Internet applications to communities across the country quickly and equitably, serving pre-schoolers and senior citizens alike -- not to mention millions of folks who don't have or can't afford Internet access at home. Libraries with fiber connections also could be transformed into virtual technology hubs, offering multiple ways for people to interact with new forms of IT services. Fiber-equipped libraries even can become their own communications nodes, from which any number of providers could further expand high-performance broadband infrastructure into surrounding neighborhoods now lacking such access.

There are several possible ways to help make FTTL a reality. For example, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) sets aside $7.2 billion to improve the nation's broadband infrastructure, with no less than $200 million explicitly allocated to expand capacity for computer centers at public libraries and other community-based institutions. Don and his partners estimate it would cost on average only about $20,000 to wire each of our public libraries with fiber connectivity. Policymakers as a start should resolve to distribute ARRA funds to local anchor institutions like libraries that will use emerging broadband technologies in ways that most directly benefit our nation's communities.

Clean energy's "Valley of Death"

The so-called "Valley of Death" is a scary place. It's where so many promising clean energy technologies die because they can't attract the significant capital to move from pilot scale (the realm of the venture capital world) to full-scale operating projects (where banks will invest). Failing to bridge this gap has cost us serious progress on clean energy technologies like wind, solar, and geothermal, which in turn has stifled the creation of new green jobs.

Last week the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources discussed ways to bridge the Valley of Death. The Committee held a significant hearing that addressed a proposal to create a new federal agency to help finance higher-risk clean energy projects that will deploy breakthrough technologies. I testified last week and also last summer to the Committee in support of this idea. Google.org's RE<C initiative is focused on creating renewable electricity, at utility-scale, that is cheaper than coal. The only way to achieve this goal is to move technologies from small pilot projects to full-scale commercial plants.

I'm pleased to note that last Friday the Chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, Senator Bingaman, and the top Republican on the Committee, Senator Murkowski, introduced legislation to assist clean energy technologies in securing sufficient funding to cross the Valley of Death. The bill was also introduced in the House by Congressmen Inslee and Dingell. The legislation would initially provide $10 billion in federal funding, which would leverage many times that in private finance for renewable, efficiency, and other clean energy projects deploying breakthrough technologies. We're throwing our strong support behind this bill, and we'll continue to work with others in clean energy finance, technology, and policy to advance efforts to build sorely-needed clean energy projects.

Google's approach to competition

As Google has grown, the company has naturally faced more scrutiny about our business principles and practices. We believe that Google promotes competition and openness online, but we haven't always done a good job telling our story.

That's why we have recently been meeting with policymakers, think tank representatives, academics, journalists, ad agencies, and trade associations -- in the U.S. and Europe -- explaining Google's six principles of competition and openness:

1. Help other businesses be more competitive.
2. Make it easy for users to change.
3. Open is better than closed.
4. Competition is just one click away.
5. Advertisers pay what a click is worth to them.
6. Advertisers have many choices in a dynamic market.

As part of this effort we recently gave a webinar for ad agencies in which we walked through these principles. Check it out if you have a chance, and let us know what you think.

Using the stimulus to advance smarter energy use

(Cross-posted from the Official google.org blog)

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed by President Obama in February, includes tens of billions of dollars in federal stimulus funding for clean energy. This investment gives our country an unprecedented opportunity to rebuild our energy system and make it cleaner and more efficient. It's also an opportunity to become "smarter" about the way we all use energy.

Getting smart about energy starts with empowering consumers and businesses with information and tools to make better energy choices. That's why we submitted comments yesterday with the Department of Energy, asking them to put consumers first as they develop one of the more promising elements of the ARRA -- a $4.5 billion grant program for "smart" grid investments. We also asked the DOE to ensure the program contributes to President Obama's goal of funding the installation of 40 million smart electricity meters in American homes. You can read our comments here.

The advent of smart meters, the Internet and a myriad of other information technologies means that our interaction with electricity can be dramatically redefined. Instead of receiving a monthly bill in the mail, for example, we can receive information on electricity use in real time; instead of turning on the furnace or the A/C when once you are home, we can automate these systems or even control them remotely. We can even aggregate energy savings from appliances and electronic equipment from thousands of homes to avoid the need to build new power plants.

Using the stimulus to invest in the electricity grid can help accelerate this transformation, while in the process creating jobs and helping to diversify our energy supply. Most importantly, these investments can help consumers and businesses save energy and money. We feel it's important for the country not to miss this opportunity.

Senate testimony on the future of journalism

Later today Marissa Mayer, Google's VP of Search Product and User Experience, will take to Capitol Hill to testify before the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet about the ways innovation can help preserve journalism and its vital function in our society. Marissa will explain that Google is doing its part by driving significant traffic to online news publishers, by helping them generate revenue through advertising, and by providing tools and platforms that enable them to reach millions of people. You can read her complete testimony here.

Taking stock of the nation's airwaves

When you're walking around town chatting on your cellphone, or sitting in a cafe surfing the Web over Wi-Fi, do you ever wonder how wireless signals travel through the airwaves around you? Most of us probably don't give it much thought -- and yet use of these airwaves is precisely what makes many of our modern communications systems possible.

Radio spectrum is a natural resource, something that here in the U.S. is owned by all of us as American citizens. But which entities are operating in our nation's public airwaves, and where? Are these resources actually being used efficiently and effectively, or is a sizable portion of useful spectrum simply lying fallow?

We cannot conclusively answer these critical questions today, because our government has not taken and published a full inventory of spectrum ownership and use in the United States. Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) have introduced a bill in Congress that seeks to do just that. The Radio Spectrum Inventory Act calls on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to take a full inventory of our nation's spectrum resources between the 300 MHz and 3.5 GHz bands.

The Kerry/Snowe effort to take full stock of our nation's airwaves is a positive development. Often lost in the debate over how best to put our spectrum to use is the fact that these airwaves belong to the American public, not to any corporation or other entity. But without a clear idea exactly whether and how these airwaves are being used, it is difficult to have an informed conversation about the best way to allocate and use spectrum efficiently for the needs of the American people.

In the past decade, Wi-Fi and other innovative uses of our public airwaves have revolutionized wireless communications and triggered great economic and technological growth. Last year's white spaces decision paved the way for better and faster broadband Internet connections. More efficient use of spectrum holds potential for even greater gains. Developing and publishing a detailed inventory of our nation's airwaves would be the first step towards achieving this critically important goal.