Community Technology

Comments on Twelve Years of Commission Service

On March 27, 2014, I received a Distinguished Service Award from the City of Austin for twelve years of service on the Austin Community Technology and Telecommunications Commission. Here is the video, followed by my prepared text.

Thank you for this recognition. I see this as a recognition not just for my personal efforts, but also for the accomplishments of the many groups I've had the good fortune to work with over the past ten years.

I'd like to share this recognition with: all my fellow Community Tech and Telecom Commissioners, past and present; City Council and its Emerging Technology Committee members; Rondella Hawkins and her staff in the office of Telecommunications and Regulatory Affairs; the city's CTM and PIO departments; and the many groups who work so hard on behalf the community, such as Austin Free-Net, Channel Austin, Big Gig Austin, and Open Austin.

Tribute to Gary Chapman

Photo of Gary Chapman at public computer lab demo

I gave this speech last night at a tribute to Gary Chapman, held before the annual Dewey Winburne Community Service Awards ceremony.

I've had the privilege of working with Gary Chapman several times over the years.

The first time was back in 2000. We were both serving on the very first Austin Grant for Technology Opportunities review board. GTOPs was a brand new program, designed to provide grant funds to local digital divide/digital opportunity projects. Gary was an early supporter of GTOPs, and chaired the review board its inaugural year.

Since then, GTOPs has grown into a successful and widely popular program.

Bandwidth Cap Red Herrings

Time-Warner Austin has announced that later this year, it will implement a tiered set of bandwidth caps for its broadband customers. That's been a controversial and hotly debated proposal. I see some things frequently mentioned in the debate that I think are distracting, not helpful.

First, I see people frequently trying to draw a parallel between broadband tiers and cell phone usage plans. This makes sense only on a superficial level. Yes, in both cases you buy a certain amount and pay extra when you go over.

This analog does not hold up under scrutiny. The usage patterns of cell phones are pretty stable. There continues to be some migration away from landline service and towards online (VOIP) services, but for most of us our cell phone usage a year from now won't be that much different from what we do today.

This is completely untrue for broadband usage. New, innovative services are being created as we speak. Our broadband usage patterns may be radically different a year from now than they are today. Broadband caps lock in current usage patterns, which is detrimental to innovation.

Coming Events

There are some events planned around town over the next several weeks that may be of interest to the geek in your household.

NAB Radio Show
Sept. 17-19
Austin Convention Center

This is a bit of a big deal. The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is the primary industry organization for the companies that beam all that fabulous programming into our living rooms. Unless you are in the industry you probably won't be going (it's insanely expensive), but it's cool to know they picked Austin for their annual conference.

Thu., Sept. 18, 7p.m.
Cafe Mundi

If you haven't heard of it already, think of Dorkbot as a science fair with beer. It's fun, and, in spite of the beer, is usually very kid friendly.

Video of GTOPs Month Proclamation Ceremony

I've got video of the ceremony last month where Mayor Wynn declared "GTOPs month" in Austin.

View it here: Mayor Proclaims GTOPs Month in Austin

Mayor Proclaims August as "GTOPs Month" in Austin

thumbnail of GTOPs proclamationThis afternoon, Mayor Wynn issued a proclamation honoring the Grant for Technology Opportunities program, and declaring August "GTOPs Month" in Austin. You may view the proclamation here (137KB PDF).

I chair the Austin Community Technology and Telecommunications Commission, which oversees the program, so I had an opportunity to make some comments during the ceremony. Here is my statement:

On behalf of the 60 programs and over 15,000 people that have been served by GTOPs, thank you for this honor.

Honoring GTOPs

If you are near a TV 5:30pm tomorrow (Thursday, Aug. 21), flip on over to cable channel 6. The Mayor will be issuing a proclamation honoring the Grant for Technology Opportunities (GTOPs) program, and I'll be there to accept.

GTOPs, currently in its eighth year, provides matching fund grants to local organizations that address digital divide issues and that use technology in interesting ways to benefit the community. It's been an effective program, and the honor is well deserved.

GTOPS Statement

Chip at GTOPS press conferenceLast weekend, I mentioned the press conference to announce the Grant for Technology Opportunities selections for this year. The press conference happened this afternoon, and will be replayed this week on cable channel 6. Here is the statement I gave at the press conference:

Over seven years ago, local leaders had a vision to use technology in novel ways to help people and to strengthen our community. That vision led to the Grant for Technology Opportunities program, or GTOPs.

GTOPs was created in 2001. It was designed by the predecessor of the Austin Community Technology and Telecommunications Commission. The Commission wanted to support digital technology projects that could benefit our community. GTOPs is funded by the city, and is administered through the city's office of Telecommunications and Regulatory Affairs, or TARA.

The goals of GTOPs are to:

Community Forum on the Transition to Digital Television

Earlier this year I wrote about the transition to digital television.

This weekend, the Austin Community Technology and Telecommunications Commission is co-sponsoring an educational event to let people know about DTV and how it affects them.

The Austin Community Technology and Telecommunications Commission and the City of Austin’s Office of Telecommunications and Regulatory Affairs will present a free community forum on "The Transition to Digital Television" from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, March 30, 2008, at the Conley-Guerrero Senior Activity Center, 808 Nile St.

Members of the community forum are invited to learn more about the digital TV (DTV) transition, and who will be affected by this technological advancement. This transition affects viewers with televisions that operate with roof-top antennas or "rabbit ears."

The full details are here: City to host forum on transition to digital television

Community Technology and Telecom Commission Quarterly Status

Last October, I was elected chair of the Austin Community Technology and Telecommunications Commission, an advisory body to the Austin City Council. One of my duties is to present periodic updates to the Council Committee for Emerging Technology and Telecommunications.

On January 23, I appeared before the council committee and presented a summary of the commission actions over the previous quarter.

One important item was the impending contract renewal with Austin Free-Net, because that was due for council action. AFN is the City's primary partner in its digital inclusion initiatives. The contract is about $53K/year and was up for renewal. The Commission passed a resolution in support of renewal.

On January 31, the Council did approve the contract, and that's good news.

The slides from my presentation, as well as the commission resolution on the Free-Net contract, are attached below.

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