By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Brown University has received $44 million as a down payment on construction of a new home for its three-year-old School of Engineering, the school announced Wednesday.
• Related: Watch Newsmakers with Brown U. President Christina Paxson (Nov. 21)
Who says Rhode Island can’t compete with Massachusetts?
Boston’s Museum of Science handed out its second annual batch of “Invented Here!” awards last month, and The Boston Globe’s Scott Kirsner reports two of the four honorees were Rhode Island companies: IlluminOss Medical Inc. of East Providence and G-Form LLC of Providence.
The event, presented in partnership with the Boston Patent Law Association, “honors New England’s newest and most innovative technologies,” according to a press release. The innovations selected are described as “breakthrough technologies that will fulfill important individual and/or social needs in novel ways, and ensure a more sustainable future for our environment.”
Here are descriptions of the local innovations that won, via a museum press release republished by Kirsner:
IlluminOss Medical Bone Stabilization System
Inventors: Robert Rabiner, Dennis Colleran, Anthony O’Leary, Justin Dye, Mark Drew
Assignee: IlluminOss Medical, Inc. (East Providence, RI)
The patented IlluminOss Photodynamic Bone Stabilization System is a revolutionary orthopedic system for minimally invasive stabilization and treatment of broken bones. The ground breaking IlluminOss Photodynamic Bone Stabilization System fixes fractured bones from the inside out. By positioning a customizable implant into the intramedullary cavity of the fractured bone, support and stability for the bone fracture is achieved as the bone is healing. The system utilizes a photodynamic (light-curable) reinforcing material to customize the implant in the body, and is intended to eliminate the need for traditional, inconvenient and painful methods of bone fixation with external pins, plates and screws.
G-Form Flexible Cushion Pads (Fan Favorite)
Inventors: Daniel Wyner, Richard Fox, Thomas Cafaro, Stephanie Rogers, Ami Newsham, David Foster
Assignee: G-Form, LLC (North Scituate, RI)
G-Form’s proprietary Reactive Protection Technology (RPT™) leverages a composite blend of rate-dependent and other proprietary materials and technologies to provide athletes with superior protection without compromising range-of-motion. Other protective pads can be heavy, hot, non-breathable, and restrictive. G-Form’s pads are lightweight, flexible and conform to your body shape so that they are comfortable and don’t get in your way. On impact, at a molecular level, the pads absorb the shock by stiffening temporarily like body armor, and then immediately return to their soft and flexible form. The harder the impact, the more G-Form’s RPT™ reacts, absorbing 94% of the impact forces. G-Form also integrates the same proprietary RPT™ in to protective cases for cell phones, tablets, and laptops.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A growing number of contracts for printing and distribution gave The Providence Journal a slight bump in revenue during the first half of this year despite a deep drop in springtime advertising revenue.
The Journal’s total revenue rose to $46.7 million during the six months of 2012, an increase of $597,000 or 1.3% compared with the first half of last year, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing this week by its parent company A.H. Belo.
The share of total Journal revenue that came from advertising fell below 50%, a symbolically important milestone in light of newspapers’ historic reliance on advertisements to pay the newsroom’s bills. Printing and distribution contracts’ share of revenue jumped to 13% and circulation accounted for 37%.
The Journal is one of many papers with a changing revenue mix, said Ken Doctor, a media analyst with Outsell. “All are seeing rapidly increasing percentile contributions from circulation – or what we should call reader revenue,” he told WPRI.com. “Projo is at the leading edge of change, probably due more to ad decline than [its] digital circulation program.”
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Providence Journal’s finances brightened during the first three months of this year, as the paper used higher circulation revenue and more third-party printing work to offset another sharp drop in advertising.
The Journal’s revenue totaled $22.7 million in the three months ended March 31, up 3% from $22 million in the same period last year, according to a regulatory filing. That performance helped offset weakness elsewhere within its Dallas-based parent A. H. Belo, which said companywide revenue slid 7% in the first quarter.
The Journal’s first-quarter contract work nearly doubled to $2.8 million year-over-year as the paper distributed more national and local newspapers and landed new commercial printing jobs. The paper’s circulation revenue also posted a healthy gain of nearly 6%, rising to $8.6 million.
Advertising is no longer the bedrock of The Journal’s business that it once was, contributing only 49.5% of total revenue in the first quarter. Ad sales through March 31 fell to $11.2 million, down nearly 10% from a year earlier, with declines in all categories. Digital advertising on ProvidenceJournal.com slipped 7% to $1.5 million compared with 2011.
An email arrived just past noon from Ann Clanton, the new executive director of the Rhode Island Republican Party. This was the subject line:
Cicillini Pays Lower Taxes Than Warren Buffet
There are a few problems here. First, the congressman’s last name is spelled “Cicilline.” Second, the investor’s last name is spelled “Buffett.” As for the substance of the critique, Buffett paid an effective tax rate of 17.4% in 2011, while Cicilline paid an effective rate of 15.6%. (Brendan Doherty paid the most: 21.6%.)
There was another problem with the email, however. Here is the first line of the undated media advisory:
Rhode Island GOP Chairman Giovanni Cicione today called for the Rhode Island Congressional Delegation to give back the money they received from AIG to fund their campaigns.
This appears to be the same media advisory sent out by Cicione back on April 23, 2009, three years ago today; he stepped down as party chairman early last year and was replaced by Ken McKay, who stepped down later in the year and was replaced by Mark Zaccaria.
The last holdout among the four Democrats, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, has joined his three colleagues and on Monday began tweeting under the handle @SenJackReed. He has 111 followers as of this writing (and is following no one).
“Launching @SenJackReed today as a new way for you to connect with Senator Reed,” the senior senator said in his first tweet. “Account will be managed by staff, with any tweets from Senator Reed himself signed ‘-JFR.’” Reed was first elected to Congress in 1990, on the eve of the Internet era.
Reed’s Twitter account was registered on Feb. 8, according to whendidyoujointwitter.com’s records. “This is just one more tool we are using to try and keep Rhode Islanders updated on Senator Reed’s work for them,” Reed spokesman Chip Unruh told WPRI.com in an email.
Reed has a long way to go to catch up with his junior colleague @SenWhitehouse, who has 4,361 followers. The state’s two congressmen are neck and neck, with @JimLangevin (3,499 followers) holding a slight edge over @DavidCicilline (3,116).
A sociologist might find it interesting that the senators use their titles in their official handles, while the representatives do not. The lower chamber was always supposed to be closer to the people, after all.
• Related: RI’s top officials – except Chafee – take to Twitter (Feb. 4, 2011)
By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Neumont University has given up on getting a green light from Rhode Island lawmakers to open a second campus here and will instead seek approval to set up shop in Massachusetts.
“Unfortunately, the support and advocacy of visionary Rhode Islanders could not overcome the inertia of state and city government,” Ned Levine, president of the for-profit school, wrote Thursday in a letter [pdf] obtained by WPRI.com.
Levine has spent months seeking approval for a Providence Neumont campus. Gov. Lincoln Chafee and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras both played crucial roles in stymying his proposal, which had the backing of key legislative leaders including the House and Senate majority leaders, he said.
“The governor’s office was distinctly unsupportive,” Levine wrote. “Mayor Taveras was surprisingly firm in his refusal to actively support Neumont’s plan to create jobs and tax revenue in Providence – even as the city verges on bankruptcy.”
Spokesmen for Chafee and Taveras were not immediately available after business hours. Levine said Neumont plans “to build our Northeast campus in another state, likely in Massachusetts where our welcome has been overt and broadly based.”
Rhode Island is the only state in the nation that requires for-profit colleges to pass a special law authorizing them to operate, after which the school would need to win approval from the R.I. Board of Governors for Higher Education. No special law is needed in Massachusetts, where Neumont’s application would go directly to the Mass. Board of Higher Education.
• Related: RI roadblock has Neumont U. chief eyeing Mass. as alternative (March 12)
(photo: Neumont University)
By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Advertising sales at The Providence Journal plunged by more than 60% over the last six years, forcing Rhode Island’s top newspaper to eliminate a third of its work force and to rely increasingly on subscribers and printing contracts to pay the bills.
The Journal’s total revenue dropped for a sixth straight year in 2011 to finish at $95.1 million, down 5% from 2010 and off 43% since 2005, parent company A.H. Belo disclosed in an SEC filing. Lower advertising and circulation sales were partly offset by $3 million in new printing and distribution contracts.
Journal publisher Howard Sutton declined to comment on the results. “The printed Journal has adapted to changing times, intensifying its focus on local and regional news and carefully managing its cost structure to match lower revenues,” A.H. Belo CEO Robert Decherd wrote in an op-ed on Feb. 26.
The Journal sold $52.9 million worth of advertising in 2011, down 11% from the prior year, with retail, preprint and digital lower but classifieds higher. Advertising has fallen a dizzying 61% at the paper since hitting $136.5 million in 2005, though last year’s percentage decrease was the smallest since 2007.
By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The head of Neumont University, the Utah-based for-profit school seeking a green light from lawmakers to open its second campus in Rhode Island, met with officials in Boston last week to review his options there amid uncertainty about whether the General Assembly will act.
“Rhode Island is our preferred home,” Ned Levine, Neumont’s president, told WPRI.com on Friday. “But we need a New England campus. There’s a market and there’s demand among employers in the Northeast, and therefore that’s attractive to students.”
Rhode Island is the only state in the nation that requires for-profit colleges to pass a special law authorizing them to operate, after which the school would need to win approval from the R.I. Board of Governors for Higher Education. No special law is needed in Massachusetts, where Neumont’s application would go directly to the Mass. Board of Higher Education.
“We have to be in the Northeast,” Levine said. ”We hope it’s Rhode Island, but it will be some place.” The college would lease space rather than build if it wins approval, he said.
Those of you who followed my pension coverage last fall may recall my incessant, obnoxious whining about the lack of Internet connectivity at the State House, where all the key hearings were held. We had an awful time trying to get strong enough Wi-Fi signals through our cell phones to file stories and tweet live coverage.
Considering the General Assembly’s nearly $40 million budget, it didn’t seem like a huge burden for them to add a wireless signal in the building. Well lo and behold, today our prayers were answered:
STATE HOUSE — The General Assembly now offers Wi-Fi accessibility for members of the general public and the media. As of today, Wi-Fi is available in the House and Senate chambers and galleries, all committee rooms and in the hallways outside the chambers and committee rooms.
“This is another step in our concerted effort to upgrade the General Assembly’s technology in order to provide a more transparent and accessible legislature,” said Speaker of the House Gordon D. Fox. “During the pension reform hearings and debate last fall, we received a number of requests from the public and the media to have access to the social media world from our chambers and hearing rooms. We invested in this upgrade and it was installed during our February recess last week.”
Speaker Fox added that both he and President of the Senate M. Teresa Paiva Weed are committed to the technological upgrades, which began last year by making all House and Senate floor votes available on the General Assembly’s website instantaneously, as well as all votes in House and Senate committees recorded on the website within 24 hours. …
Wi-Fi users can gain access to the network by going to rilin_public. The user name and password will be displayed on the screen. By using this on a personal device, members of the public will be able to have direct access to the Internet.
The Providence Journal will start charging online readers Tuesday, doubling down on its strategy of selling a digital replica of the print edition rather than using an HTML-based paywall like those of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
The Journal said it will create 10 subscription tiers on Tuesday. A seven-day digital-only subscription will cost $208 a year for the Web and iPad e-editions or $192 a year for the iPad e-edition alone through Apple’s App Store. A seven-day subscription to both the print edition and the e-edition will cost $416 a year, unchanged from the current price, effectively making it free to current subscribers. A weekend print subscription with seven-day digital access will cost $312 a year.
The Boston Globe charges the same price – $208 a year – for digital access to its new website without a print subscription. The New York Times charges $195 a year for full access to its website and smartphone apps.
The Journal’s new e-edition designed by Olive Software has been available as a free trial since Oct. 17, when the paper launched its new website, which also offers brief blog items and sports stories for free. The paper’s online traffic has declined 33% since the new site debuted. The paper has not created iPhone or Android apps and did not say whether those will be added.
A.H. Belo executives gave no explanation Tuesday for why The Providence Journal’s sales trailed those of its two sister papers in 2011 and didn’t say if they’re satisfied with the response to its new website.
In a short conference call with investors, A.H. Belo CEO Robert Decherd and his management team outlined no plans for the Providence paper and didn’t indicate when the company expects to start charging Web and iPad readers for its new electronic edition created by Olive Software. The company’s Dallas Morning News flagship started charging last March.
Only one investor asked A.H. Belo executives questions during Tuesday’s call. Chief Financial Officer Alison Engel promised “a robust update” about its “subscriber content strategy” on its next investor call, which will likely happen in April or May. An executive said in November The Journal will launch its paywall this year.
The Journal suffered the largest year-over-year drop in advertising revenue during the fourth quarter among A.H. Belo’s three papers, the company said. Ad sales surpassed expectations at the Morning News and Press-Enterprise of Riverside, Calif., during the three months ended Dec. 31, Decherd said.
Fascinating story with a Rhode Island angle in The Wall Street Journal:
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Wearing leg irons and guarded by federal agents, David Whitaker posed as an agent for online drug dealers in dozens of recorded phone calls and email exchanges with Google sales executives, spending $200,000 in government money for ads selling narcotics, steroids and other controlled substances.
Over four months in 2009, Mr. Whitaker, a federal prisoner and convicted con artist, was the lead actor in a government sting targeting Google Inc. that yielded one of the largest business forfeitures in U.S. history.
“There was a part of me that felt bad,” Mr. Whitaker wrote in his account of the undercover operation viewed by The Wall Street Journal. “I had grown to like these people.” But, he said, “I took ease in knowing they … knew it was wrong.”
The government built its criminal case against Google using money, aliases and fake companies—tactics often used against drug cartels and other crime syndicates, according to interviews and court documents. Google agreed to pay a $500 million forfeiture last summer in a settlement to avoid prosecution for aiding illegal online pharmaceutical sales.
“I’ve heard from many Rhode Islanders who are concerned about this bill and I share their desire to preserve the free and open nature of the Internet,” Whitehouse, who is in the Philippines with other senators, told WPRI.com in a statement. “I remain concerned about the effect of online piracy on jobs and consumer safety, and continue to support legislation to address this problem.”
“That said,” he continued, “I look forward to working with my colleagues to consider further improvements to the bill before a final vote is held – whether that happens next week or at a later date.” Whitehouse’s colleagues – Jack Reed, Jim Langevin and David Cicilline – say they also support the goal of cracking down on Internet piracy.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced Friday morning that he has decided to postpone Tuesday’s scheduled vote on the Senate anti-piracy bill, the Protect IP Act, in the hopes of finding “a compromise in the coming weeks.” Whitehouse has been a cosponsor of the bill since it was introduced last May.
Politico reported that the anti-piracy bills were “hanging on for dear life Thursday.”
Whitehouse’s Republican challenger, Barry Hinckley, criticized the senator’s support for the bill this week. Christopher McAuliffe, a spokesman for Hinckley, suggested “it makes more sense in light of the over $200,000 in campaign contributions Whitehouse has received from the entertainment industry.” Whitehouse’s allies dismiss that, pointing to his years in law enforcement and his concern with unfair economic competition from abroad.
• Related: Whitehouse bucks Wikipedia, stays sponsor of Protect IP Act (Jan. 18)
Wikipedia’s blackout hasn’t convinced U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse to drop his support for a controversial bill to beef up regulation of the Internet.
“The PROTECT IP Act is a sensible, bipartisan response to this serious problem,” Whitehouse, D-R.I., told WPRI.com in a statement Wednesday.
The bill would “advance protections for American intellectually property online,” he said. The freshman Senate Judiciary Committee member has been a cosponsor of the legislation since U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., introduced it May 12.
The PROTECT IP Act and its House counterpart, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), have run into a firestorm of opposition online and been criticized for potentially compromising cybersecurity by lawmakers including Whitehouse’s Rhode Island colleague, Congressman Jim Langevin. Wikipedia and Google are among a host of sites protesting the bills publicly Wednesday.
The total number of visitors and page views to ProvidenceJournal.com/Projo.com were both down 32% in the 10 weeks ended Dec. 24 compared with the 10 weeks before the new website launched, figures from Experian Hitwise show. The paper switched to the new, scaled-down ProvidenceJournal.com site on Oct. 17.
ProvidenceJournal.com/Projo.com averaged 300,241 U.S. visitors a week between Oct. 22 and Dec. 24, down from Projo.com’s 439,013 weekly average between Aug. 13 and Oct. 15, Hitwise said. Average weekly page views declined from 1.3 million to 884,706 over the same period.
Separate figures from Nielsen also showed a decline in The Journal’s Web audience.
It’s back to the future for Rhode Island’s Future.
The lefty website that was an influential voice of opposition to the Carcieri administration will return to its roots on Wednesday by debuting with a new look and a commitment from 15 contributing writers to reenergize the blog, which fell all but silent last year.
“There is this ephemeral image of Rhode Island being this bastion of liberal policy,” Brian Hull, who bought Rhode Island’s Future in August 2009, told WPRI.com. “Sure, everyone’s a Democrat, but that doesn’t mean everyone’s a liberal. Now RIFuture is coming back to actually have that strong liberal voice that’s been missing.”
With Hull busy as a student at Harvard’s Kennedy School, Rhode Island’s Future became a ghost town in 2011, rarely updated except for occasional scattered posts, some anonymous, and event announcements. It was a far cry from the consistent commentary that marked the site in its heyday under founder Matt Jerzyk or that still happens at Anchor Rising.
In the wake of two high-profile reports of cyber attacks this month – first against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, then the elite consultancy Stratfor Global Intelligence – Congressman Jim Langevin is renewing his call for Washington to take stronger steps to protect the nation’s digital infrastructure.
The Stratfor attack is particularly concerning, Langevin said. ”When you have a major firm specializing in cybersecurity getting hacked this way, it gives you an idea of how difficult this problem is and how much ground still needs to be covered to better secure our cyber networks,” he said Wednesday in a statement.
“Consider also that many of our most critical industries still aren’t taking cyber threats seriously, even though they do not have the level of expertise that Stratfor does and an attack on them could result in much more serious damage than this incident,” Langevin said. In the past, he’s pointed to electric and water utilities as potential targets.
Rhode Island’s 2nd District congressman has become one of Congress’s leading authorities on digital threats and is cofounder of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus. In June he authored an op-ed for The Hill’s website entitled “Preventing a cyber Sept. 11.” (For more on the topic, try David Scharfenberg’s May Providence Phoenix story.)
However, Langevin has yet to weigh in on the top hot-button digital debate roiling Congress these days: the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) that’s before the House Judiciary Committee. But considering the concerns experts have raised about its potential to compromise cybersecurity, it won’t be surprising if he decides to oppose it.
Rhode Island often finds itself at the wrong end of state ranking lists – think of unemployment, pension funding, business friendliness. But technologically speaking, you couldn’t be in a better place, the NYT reports (emphasis mine):
Internet speeds in the United States have long trailed those in other countries like South Korea. Downloading videos, games and other big files often takes far longer for Americans than their counterparts across the globe.
In the latest global rankings, the United States remained a slow-poke, placing No. 26 in terms of speediest Internet connections, according to Pando Networks, a company that delivers games and other large online files online for other companies. …
A separate study by Pando Networks earlier this month showed the average speeds in all 50 states. Rhode Island led the list with 894 [kilobytes per second] while Idaho finished last at 318 KBps.
Back when I was at PBN, I did a story on why Rhode Island’s Internet connections are so speedy. Experts gave a lot of the credit to Cox Communications, which invested early and heavily in Rhode Island’s broadband infrastructure; Verizon has done the same more recently.
AllThingsD says it’s coming Oct. 4, though it’ll take a few more weeks to get into stores.
Not interested yet? What if I told you this is also a post about how to get a free drink at Starbucks?
For that you can thank Providence’s own Jonathan Stark. On July 20, Stark posted his Starbucks card’s information online and invited anybody in the world to buy something with it. He also invited people to put money on the card. (You can find out its current balance using the card’s Twitter feed.)
“Based on the similarity to the ‘take a penny, leave a penny’ trays at convenience stores in the US, I’ve adopted a similar ‘get a coffee, give a coffee’ terminology for Jonathan’s Card,” he writes on his website.
Stark, a mobile Web consultant, is grabbing headlines all over the place for his quirky test of human nature in the Twitter era. (Local political types may know Stark’s brother Matt as Providence Mayor Angel Taveras’ director of policy.) More than $10,000 has been spent – and donated – since he started his experiment.
“The vast majority of people are being cool, which is the main takeaway,” Stark told CNN.
You can get the card here. Its balance has fluctuated between $15.90 and zip just in the half-hour since I started writing this post. As Stark points out, the enormous number of transactions that have taken place also show that mobile payments likely have a huge potential future in the United States.
When he’s not using Starbucks as a sociological laboratory, Stark is active in the Providence tech scene with groups like Providence Geeks and Betaspring. For more, check out this interview I did with him back in my PBN days.
I’m as thrilled as the next guy that Rhode Island’s lawmakers are taking tentative steps into the 21st Century by posting votes online and all that. But this – from a press release issued this afternoon and reported on less snarkily by WRNI’s Ian Donnis – is a little silly (emphasis mine):
STATE HOUSE, Providence – Senate Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, Providence, North Providence) announced today that he has posted online an amended version of legislation (2011-S-0114A) which will create a redevelopment district and a commission that would be responsible for the use of the land becoming available in Providence as a result of the relocation of I-195.
The amended bill is available on the General Assembly’s website (http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/) under the “2011 Proposed Subsitute [sic] Bills” link on the left-hand side of the page.
You can’t even click on that URL in the release, let alone get a link straight to the 59-page bill. To save you some time, here’s the PDF of the legislation in question.
Update: So as I read the bill it would create a new quasi-public agency, the I-195 Redevelopment Commission, which would have its own board and employees but would also be a subsidiary of the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation. The Rhode Island Airport Corporation and the Quonset Development Corporation are structured the same way, as separate EDC subsidiaries.
Also interesting – particularly in light of our Target 12 investigation last week – is this provision (emphasis mine):
Employees of the [I-195 Redevelopment Commission] shall not, by reason of their employment, be deemed to be employees of the state or the city for any purpose, any other provision of the general laws, charter, or ordinance to the contrary notwithstanding.
What does that mean? Is the same language in the laws governing the other quasis? Does it mean this I-195 Redevelopment Commission would be exempt from the Access to Public Records Act? Should we be concerned that I’m writing about this on the Friday afternoon before Memorial Day, when nobody will notice?
Update #2: Nesi’s Notes’ star commenter Mario points out this could also be a way around union rules, a thought that had occurred to me earlier as well.
Update #3: Via Twitter, eagle-eyed Valley Breeze reporter Brenna McCabe points us to this section of the bill that applies public records rules to the commission:
Any action taken by the commission under the provisions of this chapter may be authorized by vote at any regular or special meeting, and each vote shall take effect immediately. All meetings shall be open to the public and all records shall be a matter of public record except that if a majority of the commission decides, consistent with the requirements of the open meetings law, that it would be in the best interests of the commission and the city and/or the state to hold an executive session in private, then the commission is authorized to transact any business as allowable under law at that executive session in private, and the record of the executive session shall not become a matter of public record until the transaction discussed has in the opinion of the commission been completed.
Following the Chafee administration’s March budget briefing, my friend Bill Hamilton of PBN and I were talking to Director of Administration Richard Licht about what else could be done to improve the way Rhode Island’s government operates – and hopefully make it less expensive.
Asked what most surprised him during his first two months in office, Licht responded immediately: “The inattention to technology.”
It may sound like a “small matter,” Licht continued, but he saw huge opportunities across state government to improve efficiency with smart IT investments – like getting rid of forms that still needed to be filled out on a typewriter, or implementing an Oracle system that had been purchased but still wasn’t up and running due to a lack of funds.
Bill has more details in a PBN story this week:
Richard A. Licht, the director of administration, said the acquisition of new technology will be a major focus of his department soon after the fiscal 2012 state budget is finalized in the coming months. The initiative will be part of an effort to run government more cost-effectively, he said.
“There are so many things I see every day [that] could be done so much better, more easily and efficiently if we were using technology better,” Licht told Providence Business News recently.
Already, Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee has submitted a capital improvement plan that recommends more than $85 million worth of technology investments over the next five years, including the completion of a new computer system at the R.I. Division of Motor Vehicles and upgrades at the state’s courthouses.
While some of the recommendations are a continuation of previous initiatives proposed by former Gov. Donald L. Carcieri, the Chafee administration has tacked on plans for a new integrated tax system that is projected to cost $25 million over the next five years. The administration also is requesting $11.5 million over the same period to continue work on a statewide accounting system known as the Rhode Island Financial and Accounting Network System, or RIFANS.
Additionally, officials in the governor’s office are looking for $14.5 million over five years to pay for technology initiatives that would “assist agencies in providing better service to customers and/or make their operations more efficient,” according to Chafee’s 2012-2016 capital improvement plan.
“There are a lot of needs,” Licht said. “In my view, the state is woefully behind where it needs to be if we hope to effectively and efficiently provide services.”
So reports Business Insider, using data collected by the New America Foundation’s Measurement Lab.
The average download speed in No. 1 Delaware was 11.36 Mbps, compared with No. 2 Rhode Island’s 9.74 Mbps. We’re a heckuva lot faster than last-place Montana, which came in at 2.57 Mbps, but still in the slow lane compared with South Korea, where the government is promising universal 1 gigabit per second broadband by next year – that’s 1,000 Mbps.
Here’s a map of the Northeast posted by BI – the closer to red, the faster:
This doesn’t really surprise me. Back when I was a tech reporter at PBN, I reported on how Delaware’s broadband pushed Rhode Island’s from the top spot in the 2009 Speed Matters survey.
Experts I spoke with back then gave a big part of the credit for Rhode Island’s speedy connections to Cox Communications, which invested early and heavily in Rhode Island’s broadband infrastructure; Verizon has done the same more recently. The EDC is now making its own push through its Broadband Rhode Island initiative.
What do all these places have in common? Verizon has promised them they’ll have 4G wireless service by the end of this year – unlike Rhode Island.
Verizon’s long list of places that will get 4G in 2011 includes two more cities in Massachusetts – Boston has had it since December – and three in Connecticut. But Rhode Island is conspicuously absent.
That’s bad news for local gadget geeks salivating over the carrier’s new Thunderbolt 4G phone, which got a wet kiss from Walt Mossberg in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. Did we do something wrong?
Nothing personal, Verizon Wireless spokesman Michael Murphy said.
“As you know we’re in the process of building a nationwide 4G LTE network that when completed will provide coverage everywhere our 3G network is currently available,” Murphy told me in an e-mail. “But it doesn’t happen overnight. As you can imagine, there is a tremendous amount of planning and work underway behind the scenes preparing markets for eventual activation.”
Sure, but Verizon has already told nearly 150 U.S. cities they either have 4G LTE or will get it later this year. Why haven’t we made the list? After all, Verizon’s LTE research facility is located less than an hour away from Providence in Waltham, Mass.
“Being in the news business I’m sure you can appreciate that we too are in a competitive industry and that Rhode Island is a highly competitive market,” Murphy said – a hint, perhaps, that the state could get 4G sooner than the carrier’s list would lead you to believe.
“Bottom line,” he continued, “Rhode Island is an important market to Verizon Wireless, and when we’re ready to share our local LTE plans with customers, and tip our hand to the competition, Ted Nesi and WPRI will be among the first to know.”
(photo: Verizon Wireless)
Governor Chafee, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts will join leaders from IBM and OSCAR at Providence City Hall this morning to offer details about how the capital will make use of its designation as one of the computer giant’s 24 Smarter Challenge cities.
The mayor’s office says the goal is to make Providence and other cities “more efficient, more responsive and more collaborative” by “creating a new computer system to support economic development in the Jewelry District and beyond.”
If this sounds familiar, it may be because similarly lofty goals were outlined in November 2009 when Brown switched on its new IBM supercomputer. Here’s what I wrote about that project last year for PBN:
When Brown University turned on its new supercomputer last November at a ribbon-cutting attended by Gov. Donald L. Carcieri and other dignitaries, officials said their goal was nothing less than the transformation of Rhode Island’s research landscape.
Four months later, Brown is already seeing the benefits of the powerful, multimillion-dollar machine, which can perform more than 14 trillion calculations per second at its peak speed of 14 teraflops – 50 times faster than what was previously possible at Brown. To take one example, a group of researchers mapping Mars can now process images from NASA in one day instead of three months. …
Nor are the benefits limited to Brown. The supercomputer is envisioned as a statewide tool that will allow other schools, government agencies, hospitals, nonprofits and businesses to access the technology at a competitive cost (currently, about $100 per account). Researchers at the University of Rhode Island and the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., helped design the machine and are taking advantage of it.
The supercomputer’s lofty mission, as set out by Brown and IBM Corp., which shared the cost and provided the technology, is to give researchers in Rhode Island the means to tackle – and, hopefully, solve – “grand challenges” and “pressing societal problems,” in areas ranging from climate change and biology to education and health.
That may sound like hyperbole, but supercomputing’s local boosters are far from alone in their hopes. A 2005 White House report declared: “The most scientifically important and economically promising research frontiers in the 21st century will be conquered by those most skilled with advanced computing technologies and computational science applications.”
What does a company in Bellevue, Wash., want with Rhode Island’s Future?
The pioneering liberal blog disappeared from the Web a few days ago and was replaced with that ubiquitous photo of an attractive young woman with a backpack and a series of links hawking gold and stock options.
International records show the rifuture.org domain name was taken over around 11:30 a.m. Friday by eNom Inc., a Bellevue-based registration service and subsidiary of Demand Media, the infamous content farm that’s one of the major reasons Google is being forced to make large-scale changes to its search engine.
The records say eNom’s ownership of rifuture.org is good until February 2012. [Or does it? See update.]
Brian Hull, who bought Rhode Island’s Future in mid-2009, told me Wednesday he’s working on regaining control of the site’s domain name from eNom and is confident he will succeed, although he doesn’t know how long it will take.
“It will come back,” Hull said. “There’s just some issues I need to try and work out with it.”
This isn’t the first time a popular local blog has temporarily lost its domain name. Anchor Rising went through the same thing a few years ago, though AR contributor Mark Comtois wrote today, ”It appears as if the management over at RIF is having a more difficult time than we did.”
Registration records do not give a live phone number for eNom; phone calls are directed to its Whois Privacy Protection Service division. A call to Whois Privacy Protection’s number led to an answering machine – with a full mailbox – that suggested sending questions to an e-mail address.
I tracked down a phone number for eNom’s office in Bellevue and spoke briefly with a technical support representative there. He was unable to provide further details beyond what the records show, but said he would pass my message along to his supervisor. I’ll update if I get a call back.
Update: Domain Name Wire says the blame for this should fall squarely on Rhode Island’s Future, not eNom:
When you screw up and don’t renew your domain name, just blame the registrar when you talk to the press. …
“Some issues” means Hull needs to pay his bill. Which isn’t mentioned anywhere in the [WPRI.com] article.
It’s also inaccurate that eNom now owns the domain through February 2012. The domain is actually in “Auto Renew Period”, which means the .org registry tacked a year onto the expiration date, not eNom. …
Now, that’s not to say that eNom won’t eventually take this domain and keep it in its portfolio. But don’t blame eNom right now — blame the guy who forgot to renew his domain name.
eNom isn’t the only domain registrar to take attacks like this. The same thing happened when backup service CrashPlan.com forgot to renew its domain at Go Daddy. The company tweeted that Go Daddy “mistakenly removed our root nameserver entry”, “inappropriately took over our DNS”, and did a DNS “hijack”.
Update #2: E. Greenwich firm keeping RIFuture in Web purgatory (March 3)