Ultra high-speed broadband is coming to Kansas City, Kansas

Update 4:15PM: We’ve heard from some communities that they’re disappointed not to have been selected for our initial build. So just to reiterate what I've said many times in interviews: we're so thrilled by the interest we've generated—today is the start, not the end the project. And over the coming months, we'll be talking to other interested cities about the possibility of us bringing ultra high-speed broadband to their communities.

New imagery of Japan after the earthquake

(Cross-posted from the Lat Long Blog)

It’s now the third week after the devastating 9.0-magnitude earthquake that struck northeastern Japan. Aid organizations have been hard at work and cities are starting to show signs of recovery, but the damage is beyond imagination and there are still thousands of people at shelters grappling with daily challenges. As a native of Sendai city, I’m still speechless seeing the destruction and damage that has been done to the places I love and care about.

We’ve been looking for ways we can assist in the relief efforts using Google’s map-related tools. A few days after the quake, we published updated satellite imagery of northeast Japan in Google Maps and Google Earth, which illustrated the massive scale of devastation in the affected areas.

Today, we’ve published imagery of the Sendai region at even higher resolution, which we collected on Sunday and Monday. The new Sendai imagery, along with satellite imagery from throughout the area, is now live in the base imagery layer of Google Earth and will soon be visible in Google Maps. We hope to continue collecting updated images and publishing them as soon as they are ready.

We hope our effort to deliver up-to-date imagery provides the relief organizations and volunteers working around the clock with the data they need to better understand the current conditions on the ground. We also hope these tools help our millions of users—both those in Japan and those closely watching and sending their support from all over the globe—to find useful information about the affected areas.

A riverside neighborhood in Sendai from our newly released imagery

Gathering data from within Cuba

I interviewed an anonymous Internet user for my report on the state of the Internet in Cuba. I was curious about control over access to information and services at various locations.

He told me that domestic email and Web pages can be accessed from all locations. International email is blocked at the Youth Computer Clubs (YCCs) and some work places. He said there is no international web access at the YCCs, and Web sites are filtered at other locations. (See Table 6 in the report). Of course this is anecdotal -- only one person's experience. (Have you had a different experience in Cuba)?

Can we get better data using a survey? I don't know if we can get much response, but let's try one.

Several comments in a previous post on Alan Gross said that many people in Cuba have illegal access to Direct TV, a popular satellite television service for US homes. Underground TV might be more important than underground Internet access. To learn a little more, I set up a two-minute survey on illegal TV in Cuba in English and in Spanish.

If you are in Cuba or have been there recently, please complete the anonymous survey.

Also, since many people do not have Web access, please forward the following versions to others using email:
I do not think many people read this blog, but perhaps we can spread the survey by sending it to others and asking them to pass it around.

I will post a summary of whatever results we have in one month.

Cuba needs a domestic upgrade to utilize the ALBA cable. Will China help?

Commemorating 50 years of Cuba-China relations
The Cuba-Venezuela undersea cable will soon be operational. In our report on the Cuban Internet, we discussed the cable and China's role in its financing and construction. We mentioned a report stating that the cable had been financed with a Chinese loan to Venezuela, and described the Chinese role in its design and installation.

When complete, the cable will increase the speed of Cuba's international connectivity dramatically, but, what of the physical and human infrastructure needed to capitalize on that increase? Cuba's domestic network and the people and organizations that operate it have been working with low-speed, high-latency international connectivity. They are, to a great extent, living in the dial-up access era.

To utilize the capacity of the new cable, they will have to upgrade equipment, organizations, and worker skills. If they do not, the cable will be of limited value -- a strong link in a weak chain.

The Ministry of Informatics and Communications (MIC) and others in Cuba must have plans and programs for upgrading the physical and organizational Internet infrastructure.

For example, we discussed Cuban computer science education in our report, with some focus on the relatively new University of Informatics Science (UCI). UCI places major emphasis on practical work along with education -- I expect (hope) that they are involved in both training for and implementing a strategic upgrade of the domestic network.

In January 2011, MIC was reorganized and later in the month Cuba purchased Telecom Italia's 27 percent share of ETECSA. These moves may indicate a strategic shift toward support of a new domestic network.

But, what of the funding? It was reported that it cost $706 million to buy Telecom Italia out. Those funds are no longer available for domestic network upgrades, but might China play a role in modernizing Cuba's domestic Internet?

Cuba was the first Latin American nation to establish diplomatic relations with China in 1960. At a fifty-year commemoration ceremony, the Chinese pledged to "provide assistance to Cuba to help its social and economic development."

Like the US before it, China has made many investments in developing nations, and they have already participated in the undersea cable project. China has extensive experience building Internet infrastructure at home and to a lesser extent in Africa and other parts of the world. Furthermore, Huawei, a Chinese company, has emerged as a major manufacturer and exporter of Internet equipment.

How will Cuba upgrade its physical and organizational infrastructure to take advantage of the new undersea cable and what will be China's role in developing the domestic Internet in Cuba? Is there a Cuban IT plan?

My speculation on China should be qualified by the fact that according to a Wikileaked diplomatic memo Cuba-China trade volume fell with the current economic crisis and China is somewhat disillusioned with Cuban finance.

There has been speculation that Cuba is looking for a new foreign partner, perhaps to finance new domestic infrastructure.

Broadband data maps, brought to you by M-Lab

In 2009 we helped a group of researchers and industry partners launch Measurement Lab (M-Lab), an open platform for broadband measurement tools. Over the past two years, M-Lab has grown significantly – more than 300 terabytes of data from over half a billion tests are now publicly available.

M-Lab tools help an individual understand the performance of one’s own broadband connection, but making sense of that much data in the aggregate is more complicated. That’s why we’re happy to announce that, working with M-Lab, we have developed a set of maps to help investigate such a huge dataset using Google’s Public Data Explorer.

The visualizations show measured median upload and download speeds as measured by M-Lab tools across the United States, Europe, and Australia, and you can drill down to city-level aggregates. You can also view to what extent speeds are limited by problems with users’ network connections or with their computers (or other devices).

The maps are built entirely on open data collected by Network Diagnostic Tool (NDT), an open source tool developed by Internet2 and widely deployed. The platform, the tool, and the data are all open – which means the Internet community can vet the measurement methodology, perform independent analysis of the same data, and build their own visualizations. In fact, the M-Lab data provide much more information that what’s presented in these visualizations, and we hope that our effort will help drive future research in this area.

On Wednesday, the Open Technology Initiative will be hosting a panel discussion on M-Lab in Washington, D.C. In a keynote, Vint Cerf will explain how M-Lab is helping analyze broadband performance and promote good science. For those who can’t attend in person, the event will be live-streamed via the web, starting at 10:30am, EST.

Update (3/23/11): Check out video of the event, below.

More resources for those affected by the Japan earthquake and tsunami

(Cross-posted from the Official Google.org Blog.)

Like the rest of the world, we’ve been transfixed by the images and news coming out of the northeastern part of Japan over the past six days. Our hearts go out to those who have been affected by this devastation and we’re deeply grateful to those who are working to keep us safe. In the meantime, Googlers in Japan and elsewhere around the world have been working around the clock to try and help improve the flow of information. Here are some of the recent developments we’ve been working on:

Centralized information
Our Crisis Response page—now in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean—organizes all of Google’s efforts, with links to valuable resources such as emergency hotlines, Person Finder, blackout schedules, maps and links to relief organizations receiving donations. Ninety-three percent of mobile users in Japan don’t have top-of-the-line smartphones, so we’ve recently optimized this Crisis Response page to make it more readable for a wider range of devices. You can also access that version by scanning this QR code:

Person Finder
Within the first two hours of the earthquake, we launched Person Finder so people can enter the names of those they’re looking for or have found. You can now also search by entering mobile phone numbers to see if they match any listings. And as with the Crisis Response page, Person Finder has also been optimized for those without smartphones. There are currently more than 250,000 records in the database (including names shared with us by NHK, the national broadcaster in Japan) and we’ve heard several reports of people who have found their loved ones safe.

To help the many people in shelters get word of their whereabouts to loved ones, we’re also asking people in shelters to take photos of the handwritten lists of names of current residents and email them to us. Those photos are automatically uploaded to a public Picasa Web Album. We use scanning technology to help us manually add these names to Person Finder; but it’s a big job that can’t be done automatically by computers alone, so we welcome volunteers with Japanese language skills who want to help out.

Satellite images
We’re also working with our satellite partners GeoEye and DigitalGlobe to provide frequent updates to our imagery of the hardest-hit areas to first responders as well as the general public. You can view this imagery in this Google Earth KML, browse it online through Google Maps or look through our Picasa album of before-and-after images of such places as Minamisanriku and Kesennuma.

You can follow developments on the ground by looking at several maps that track changing developments. We’ve mapped rolling blackouts for areas that are affected by power outages. With data given to us by Honda, you can now see which roads have been recently passable on this map or this user-made Google Earth mashup with new satellite imagery. We’re also constantly updating a master map (in Japanese and English) with other data such as epicenter locations and evacuation shelters. And with information from the newspaper Mainichi, we’ve published a partial list of shelters.

Use Google Translate for Japanese and 56 other languages. You can paste in any text, or enter the address of any web page for automatic translation. We also just released an early experimental version of Google Translate for Android to help non-Japanese speakers in affected areas.

Visit our Crisis Response resource page to find opportunities to donate. When you donate to Japan relief efforts through Google Checkout, we absorb processing fees—so 100% of your money goes to the organizations. Google has also donated $250,000 to help the people of Japan recover.

To keep up with the latest developments on our efforts in Japan, follow @googlejapan (tweets are mostly in Japanese) or @earthoutreach (for our mapping and imagery efforts) on Twitter.

You’re changing the world. We want to help.

(Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog.)

One of the greatest things about my job is hearing how terrific organizations are using technology to help their cause. Today I've had a chance to talk with Direct Relief International who raised more than $1 million using Google AdWords, Samasource who saved tens of thousands of dollars using Google Apps and the Natural Resource Defense Council who earned 100,000 views from one video on their YouTube channel with no paid advertising. Listening to these stories and several like them, we realized that we had an opportunity to greatly increase the number of nonprofits we could assist. With today’s launch of the Google for Nonprofits program, which provides exclusive product offerings and enhanced online resources, we’ll be able to help U.S.-based nonprofits reach more donors, improve operations and raise awareness for their cause.

If you work for a nonprofit, this program provides you with several new benefits. Instead of applying to each Google product individually, you can sign up through a one-stop shop application process. If approved, you can access our suite of product offerings designed for nonprofits: up to $10,000 a month in advertising on Google AdWords to reach more donors, free or discounted Google Apps to cut IT costs and operate more efficiently, and premium features for YouTube and our mapping technologies to raise awareness of your cause. We’ve also developed other online resources such as educational videos, case studies and better ways for you to connect with other nonprofits.

Over time, we’ve learned that many nonprofits require hands-on assistance to optimize the use of Google tools. So we’re also introducing the Google for Nonprofits Marketplace, which connects nonprofits with professional service providers who have agreed to offer their services for a free or discounted rate. These firms are already certified partners from existing Google marketplaces—like AdWords Authorized Resellers, Analytics Certified Partners, Google Apps Marketplace and the Google Earth Outreach Developer Marketplace.

We’re inspired and humbled by the amazing ways nonprofits make positive changes to our world and look forward to supporting their work. If you work for a nonprofit, apply today to see how Google can help your organization grow and expand your impact.

Keeping counterfeits out of ads

(Cross-posted from the Google European Public Policy Blog.)

Thanks to the Internet, it’s never been easier to start a business and reach a huge audience, at an incredible scale. Unfortunately, some people misuse legitimate online services to try to market counterfeit goods. Of course, this isn’t a problem unique to the online world, but as the Web has grown, so have attempts to sell counterfeits online.

With over one million advertisers using AdWords in over 190 countries, how do we weed out the bad actors who violate our clear policies against advertising counterfeits? In the last six months of 2010 alone, we shut down approximately 50,000 AdWords accounts for attempting to advertise counterfeit goods. But there’s no silver bullet here. Instead, it’s a cat-and-mouse game, where we are constantly working to improve our practices and tune our systems to keep out the bad guys.

That’s why today we’re announcing three improvements designed to further improve our collaboration with brand owners to address the problem and prevent counterfeiters from abusing our services:
  • We’ll act on reliable AdWords counterfeit complaints within 24 hours. In 2009, we announced a new complaint form to make it fast and easy for brand owners to notify us of misuse. For brand owners who use this form responsibly, we’ll reduce our average response time to 24 hours or less.
  • We will improve our AdSense anti-counterfeit reviews. We have always prohibited our AdSense partners from placing Google ads on sites that include or link to sales of counterfeit goods. We will work more closely with brand owners to identify infringers and, when appropriate, expel them from the AdSense programme.
  • We’ve introduced a new help center page for reporting counterfeits. That way, we aim to make it easier for users and brand owners to find forms to report abuse.
These steps are our ways of facilitating co-operation with brand owners, which is absolutely essential in tackling the sale of counterfeits online. AdWords is just a conduit between advertisers and consumers and we can’t know whether any particular item out of the millions advertised is counterfeit or not.

Of course, we do more than simply respond to brand owners’ removal requests. We use their feedback to help us tune a set of sophisticated automated tools, which analyze thousands of signals along every step of the advertising process and help prevent bad ads from ever seeing the light of day. We devote significant engineering and machine resources in order to prevent violations of ads policies, including counterfeiting.

In fact, we invested over $60 million last year alone, and, in the last 6 months of 2010, more than 95% of accounts removed for counterfeits came down based on our own detection efforts. No system is perfect, but brand owner feedback has helped us improve over time – as our system gets more data about ads it has misclassified before, it gets better at counteracting new ways that bad guys try to cloak their behavior.

While our systems get better over time, counterfeiting remains a complex challenge, and we keep investing in anti-counterfeiting measures. After all, a Google user duped by a fake is far less likely to click on another Google ad in the future. Ads for counterfeits aren't just bad for the real brand holder – they're bad for users who can end up unknowingly buying sub-standard products, and they're bad for Google too.

Tunisian bloggers win annual Net freedom award

(Cross-posted from the Google European Public Policy Blog.)

Last week we blogged about the annual 2011 Reporters Without Borders Netizen Prize, which recognizes bloggers or Internet activists who defend freedom of expression on the Net. This year’s prize went to Nawaat, a group of Tunisian bloggers.

The independent jury of press specialists agreed that Nawaat’s online reporting played a significant part in helping to depose Tunisia’s longtime dictator, Zine el Abidine Ben Ali. It chose Nawaat as the winner from a strong field of finalists from Bahrain, Belarus, Thailand, China and Vietnam.

Created in 2004, Nawaat.org is an independent collective blog operated by Tunisian bloggers as a platform for all “committed citizens.” The bloggers played a crucial role in covering the social and political unrest in Tunisia that began on December 17. Nawaat recently created a special page for the WikiLeaks revelations about Tunisia, and another one about the recent events in Sidi Bouzid, which were not covered in the traditional media. The site also warns Internet users about the dangers of being identified online and offers advice about circumventing censorship.

Pictured above from left to right are: Jean-François Julliard, Secretary General of Reporters Without Borders; Former French Foreign Minister and founder of Doctors Without Borders, Bernard Kouchner; and Nawaat co-founder Riadh Guerfali, accepting the awards at a ceremony in Paris’ Salon des Mirroirs.

“We are deeply honored by this prize. It will help to strengthen the citizen journalism that we have been practicing for years at Nawaat, despite all the risks involved,” Guerfali said in his acceptance speech. “This award is not only a tribute to Nawaat but to all our fellow journalists who often risk their lives to keep working in countries where freedom of expression is suppressed.”

Google sponsors the annual Netizen prize. First awarded in 2010, it forms part of our commitment to support the free flow of information and free expression online. Last year, Iranian women’s rights activists Change for Equality became the first recipient.

Update: Here's a video of Google's Chief Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf saluting the 2011 Netizen Award winners –

The Internet is "dumb" and micro-management is dumb

In my report on the state of the Cuban Internet, I characterized the Cuban Web as being stuck in the mid 1990s. I cited quite a bit of evidence for that conclusion -- let me give you one example here.

I went to the Web site of the Ministry of Informatics and Communication (MIC), which one would expect to be relatively sophisticated and modern, but the site is definitely "Web 1.0" with little information and no interaction. It is a poorly designed online brochure.

Drilling down I found something that may be more telling about the Ministry -- one must apply to establish a WiFi network. Not only is permission required, one is expected to print out an application form and fill it in rather than apply online. (If you have trouble downloading the form, click here for a mirror copy).

Needing permission to set up a WiFi network is startling. The success of WiFi in other nations was due to its being an open standard in a license-free spectrum band. The industry has thrived and WiFi has become an important part of our communication infrastructure because one can walk into a store, buy a low-cost access point, and set it up at home or work. In Cuba it seems that one must fill in a form stating the make and model of every WiFi access point.

Judging from past comments, some readers of this blog will see this registration requirement as a draconian attempt to control access to information and curtail freedom. Others will say it is necessary because Cuba is at war with the US and has to take appropriate protective measures.

Let me offer another possible explanation. Might it be a reflection of a sort of "bureaucratic Alzheimer’s disease" -- an attempt to keep control and find a meaningful role for a fearful bureaucracy during hard times? It is reminiscent of Cuba’s recent decision to privatize government jobs, in which they list permitted occupations.

This sort of micro-management seems more desperate and dysfunctional than evil. Bureaucrats being bureaucratic -- that's what they do. My intuition says this is a more plausible explanation of WiFi regulation than those of the left or right, but I could be wrong. Regardless of the explanation for the registration procedure, it is discouraging, and micro-management will stunt the growth of the Cuban Internet.

The Internet was intentionally designed to be a "dumb" network. The network would only move data as fast as possible between "smart" terminals connected to it. That design decision led to decentralized innovation and capital formation. University students were able to launch software like the Linux operating system or start companies like Yahoo, Google, Facebook, and Dell without permission from the government or a network operator. It was an open network and millions of people were free to experiment with novel hardware and applications. The same can happen in Cuba.

Will the new MIC minister make significant changes?

P. S. The application form contains what is probably an inadvertent error in that it refers to the 2456 – 2482 MHz frequency band, whereas the standard low-frequency WiFi band is 2412-2484 MHz. They do not even mention the 5GHz WiFi band – that may be an oversight or it may be illegal in Cuba. Does anyone know about Cuban WiFi frequency regulations?

The US and Cuba both overestimate the impact of small Internet ground stations

The Alan Gross case has been in the news, but Phil Peters just posted a description of an earlier attempt to smuggle satellite Internet ground stations on his blog the Cuban Triangle. The ground stations were the type used by people in rural areas who cannot get cable or DSL connections, and the antennae were disguised as surf boards. Gross summarizes the failed attempt and links to a Spanish language post with several photos of the equipment and a Cuban TV program on the project.

Let's put these smuggling attempts in context. In my recent report on the state of the Internet in Cuba, I observed that there were reportedly over 300,000 mobile phones (2008) and 455,000 Internet-connected computers (2009) in Cuba.

How many cell phones, laptops or ground stations could Gross or his predecessors have brought in without attracting attention? Had these efforts succeeded, they would have had a negligible marginal impact -- they would have been minuscule drops in the bucket. Both the US and Cuba appear to have grossly overestimated the possible impact of this equipment.

As I have shown in an earlier post, low-speed satellite ground stations are quite limited, but the Cuban government has reported that they represent a serious threat. In doing so, they have scored a public relations victory -- showing Cuban citizens that they have defended them against a "major" cyber attack.

The US also overestimates the value of personal Internet ground stations. The State Department budget request for Cuba is $20 million for fiscal year 2011. Those funds will be used to
continue to promote self-determined democracy in Cuba. Funds will be used to provide humanitarian assistance to political prisoners, their families, and other victims of repression; advance human rights; strengthen independent civil society organizations; and support information sharing into and out of Cuba.
I don't know what percent of their budget goes toward the "support of information sharing" using Internet ground stations, but it would have to cover the cost of the equipment, travel and expenses, bandwidth charges, overhead charges, etc. On top of these financial costs, there is the possibility of failure and the subsequent PR cost. It is hard to know what they hoped to achieve in these cases, and easy to think of alternative ways to use the funds.


I got the Cuba budget figure for the State Department here.

The clandestine TV reception discussed in the comments of this post seem much more important than a few Internet links. How many Cubans see foreign TV? What do Cubans watch? How does it influence them?

Unleashing energy innovation

The Internet, digital music, smart phones - these are just some of the innovations that have changed the way we live and work. Yet the way we use energy - whether it’s powering our cars or our homes and businesses - hasn’t changed in decades. Our economy needs a cleaner, more efficient way of delivering energy while giving people better tools and information to manage their energy use.

The good news is there’s widespread agreement that transforming the energy sector is a big opportunity to create jobs, foster innovation and grow new industries. At Google, we’ve been working to transform our own energy use. We’ve made our data centers the most efficient in the world, built a fleet of electric cars, invested in renewable energy, and developed online tools like Google PowerMeter.

Of course, government policy plays an important role in driving change towards a cleaner economy and it’s important to get the rules right. There’s a real debate happening now in Washington about how to solve the nation’s energy challenges. We don’t have all the answers, but here are a few important areas that policymakers should consider:
  • Drive investments in energy infrastructure and technology.  With the right mix of policies, vast amounts of private capital can be leveraged to develop the next generation of energy infrastructure. That means a smarter, more efficient power grid and more renewable power generation, whether it’s utility-scale or on rooftops. The government should provide clear market signals through measures such as energy efficiency and clean energy standards. And we should deploy a variety of incentives to help take new technologies to full commercial scale.
  • Stimulate R&D to find the next technological breakthroughs.  We should support research and development that can lead to the next energy breakthroughs, including innovative programs like the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), which has spurred four dollars in private sector investment for every taxpayer dollar spent.
  • Remove barriers to innovation and empower energy consumers.  Regulatory and market barriers have created huge inefficiencies in the way homes and businesses use energy. Consumers still lack basic information and tools for better managing their energy use. Utility regulation must be brought into the 21st century to promote investments in efficiency and renewables and reductions in peak energy demand. That includes enacting policies that give consumers access to and control over their own energy information.
We’ll be engaging on these issues over the next few months. In the meantime, we invite you to post comments and join the conversation!

What did Alan Gross actually do?

Alan Gross and his wife Judy
The trial of Alan Gross, who was arrested in December 2009, has begun in Havana. Gross is accused of working on a USAID contract to bring illegal equipment into Cuba for distribution to NGOs.

I can readily believe that USAID might have commissioned such a project -- they are pretty open about their goals and funding programs -- but I can't get a fix on exactly what Gross allegedly brought in. I've read cryptic statements saying he brought:
The court proceedings are closed to the public and press, but let's assume he brought it all -- cell phones, laptops, and BGAN ground stations, and that he was doing so on a USAID contract. How much damage could he have done?

Cell phones and laptops are increasingly available in Cuba, so those he might have brought would not have made a significant difference.

What about BGAN ground stations, which can be used for clandestine Internet connectivity? I discussed the limited capability of BGAN equipment in a previous post -- a few BGAN ground stations would have no practical impact. (Elsa Claro speculated that they could be used for encrypted messages perhaps containing bombing coordinates, but so could any other IP-connected computer in Cuba -- see, for example, this post).

Without taking a position on the right or of the US and USAID to meddle in Cuban affairs, the efficacy of that meddling or Alan Gross' motives, it seems clear that what he allegedly tried to do would not have made a difference even if he had succeeded.

Your interview with Speaker of the House John Boehner

(Cross-posted from the The Official YouTube Blog.)

As Democrats and Republicans duel over the federal budget this week in Washington, we sat down for the first-ever YouTube interview with Speaker of the House John Boehner. It’s clear that Americans are still feeling the weight of the recession -- a large majority of the questions submitted for Speaker Boehner were on the topics of jobs, the economy, and spending in Washington. The Speaker also played a YouTube speed round of, “Keep it or Cut it?” in which he reacted to your suggestions on budget cuts.

Watch the full interview here:

Speaker Boehner also addressed questions on immigration, education, and healthcare. A unique question from a man in New Jersey about whether the Speaker would ever consider a Works Progress Administration similar to the one FDR created during the Depression may surprise you.

You can see more videos from the Speaker’s YouTube channel at youtube.com/johnboehner.