Nottingham, United Kingdom
Nottingham, United Kingdom

Time filter

Source Type

News Article | April 6, 2016

A telecom-funded policy paper slamming local government-owned broadband networks published Wednesday is masquerading as a serious “economic analysis,” but is yet another example of the dominant players in telecom manipulating the political system to suit their interests. In the last couple years, there’s been a strong push by local municipalities to provide Gigabit fiber internet connections for their residents, whether that means incentivizing a company like Google to come to their city, partnering with a startup ISP, or building the entire network by themselves using taxpayer money. The “municipal-owned” broadband networks are the ones taken on by The Impact of Government-Owned Broadband Networks on Private Investment and Consumer Welfare, and are, at least in theory, the ones that present the biggest threat to existing ISPs. Municipal networks are also the easiest targets for telecom lobbying—taxpayer money being used to build a service that competes with private companies make an easy mark for small-government types. And when muni broadband networks fail, they often fail spectacularly. That’s why, over the past few decades, the most severe and destructive broadband lobbying has happened at the state level, as incumbent internet operators have found it easier to get state and local level policies against municipal broadband. So far, 23 states have passed anti municipal broadband laws, and often times, the legislation itself is written by lobbying groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council. The Federal Communications Commission is working to preempt some of these laws to allow greater municipal investment in some states, a crisis for telecom that has led to a bevy of pending lawsuits. It’s in this context that the paper is released, and there’s no doubt that it will be used as a study to support telecom-written legislation that are passed to governors and state lawmakers as evidence that taxpayer-funded internet services just don’t work. This is not my opinion, this is the stated purpose of the paper, published by the State Government Leadership Foundation, a group that, like ALEC, “has assisted state elected leaders around the country in crafting sound policy solutions and promoting their successes.” On a conference call with reporters Wednesday, former Congressman Tom Reynolds, the chairman of the SGLF, said the purpose of the paper is to "protect taxpayers." “When the FCC decided to preempt state laws in March of last year dealing with municipal broadband, SGLF realized it needed to lend its voice to help [state legislators] craft economically sound laws that protect taxpayers from undesired consequences of government-run broadband,” he said. The SGLF was founded in part with donations from AT&T and Time Warner, and has since made its funding sources unknown. As a lawmaker, Reynolds counted Verizon and AT&T among his top donors, according to Open Secrets. George S. Ford, the man they tapped to write the report, spent the late 1990s and early 2000s working for telecom companies MCI and Z-Tel. He now works for the Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal and Public Policy Studies, a think tank that grew out of AT&T’s old research arm and has regularly received telecom support throughout its history. Last year, the organization filed a legal brief in support of the US Telecom Association’s challenge of the FCC’s net neutrality rules, and both Ford and his boss, Lawrence Spiwak, have written a dizzying array of op-eds and reports in support of the telecom industry. This paper, then, will be fed to lawmakers and governors under the guise of a serious economic analysis that proves that local governments have no place becoming internet service providers. But if you actually read the study, it quickly becomes clear that there's little substance here. The study itself paints municipal broadband networks as a financial disaster for taxpayers, for the communities that install them, and for the telecom companies that Ford argues should be receiving the subsidies that are used to build out municipal networks. “If subsidies are to be used, theory indicates that subsidies to existing firms to increase output to achieve externalities is likely to be a more efficient approach,” he wrote. While Ford is correct that not every municipal broadband project has succeeded—there have been some catastrophic failures beset with scandal that have undermined the movement in general—there are many examples (Chattanooga, Tennessee; Lafayette, Louisiana; and Leverett, Massachusetts come to mind) of it working quite well. So far, at least 83 cities in the US have offered fiber to their citizens. Many—most—are not economic disasters. The most glaring problem with Ford’s paper is that he uses economic theory over and over to prove his point, without doing any deep dives into the economics of these real-world examples. Time and time again, cities have been thrilled with the fact that investment in broadband technology has led to businesses relocating to take advantage of fast and reliable internet. Ford dismisses this phenomenon as “business stealing” that may be good for one city but is bad for the rest of the country. “Chattanooga and other cities were perhaps wise to get a first-mover advantage in stealing businesses from other cities, but as the deployment of fiber networks becomes more pervasive the first- or early-mover advantages of cities with municipal broadband networks is diminished,” he wrote. “Most troubling is that the federal subsidies used to support financially municipal networks are funded through federal taxation; therefore, the people in cities losing businesses are perversely funding the broadband networks that are destroying their economy.” This is a bizarre argument does not leave room for the idea that top-of-class broadband can spur and support the creation of new businesses that take advantage of higher bandwidth connections; it also does not take into account research that suggests faster connections lead to higher real estate values and more educational opportunities for residents, which are associated with better economic outcomes overall. Finally, it operates on the assumption that the status quo should be good enough going forward—that America's businesses can and should continue to compete globally with companies based in countries with broadband that runs laps around ours. Ford wrote that labeling broadband a “necessity” or “a human right” is “melodramatic” and wrote in the paper that “downloading a movie in five seconds rather than five minutes is a private issue, not a social good worthy of taxes and subsidies.” He also says that competition alone has not been proven to increase the quality or quantity of any given good, then uses this to suggest that building municipal networks will not be enough to improve someone’s internet experience. But he does this in a totally abstract economic theory sense without looking at the fact that new fiber networks—be they run by Google, a startup, or the local government—are objectively leaps and bounds faster than the existing infrastructure. “We’re almost ‘high’ on it,” Ford said in the conference call. “People are kooky for broadband … there’s no rational broadband thinking at the FCC and people are carrying on about it so much.” Ford argues that existing telecom companies often can’t compete with taxpayer-subsidized networks and thus don’t end up trying, leading to less overall competition. The thing is, there are multiple paths toward a sufficient broadband experience: In a perfect world, private companies would compete with each other and would offer fast cheap internet to its customers. In cities where that’s happened, such as Kansas City and Austin, there is no clamoring for municipal networks. Alternatively, a city—and its residents—can decide that they’re tired of being underserved and overcharged and can opt, with their own tax dollars, to do something about it. Municipal broadband is inherently a repudiation of the status quo, an emphatic statement by voters and their representatives that the free market has not worked for them. Municipal broadband certainly isn't right for every city, but it's an option that individual communities should be legally allowed to explore. State-level laws that put up significant barriers to exploring that option serve no one but the telecom companies that helped write them. So Ford is right: Municipal broadband is bad for telecom companies. He says they can’t compete with municipal providers who are “truly not interested in profit maximization.” But after years of watching big telecom care about profits and nothing else, who can blame communities for taking control of their broadband destiny?

Barwood M.J.,Sheffield Hallam University | Barwood M.J.,Loughborough University | Breen C.,Sheffield Hallam University | Clegg F.,Sheffield Hallam University | Hammond C.L.,Phoenix Center
Applied Clay Science | Year: 2014

Shape Memory Polymers (SMPs) exhibit the intriguing ability to change back from an intermediate, deformed shape back to their original, permanent shape. In this contribution a systematic series of t-butylacrylate- co-poly(ethyleneglycol) dimethacrylate (tBA- co-PEGDMA) polymers have been synthesised and characterised prior to incorporation of organoclay. Increasing the poly(ethyleneglycol) dimethacrylate (PEGDMA) content in increments of 10% increased the storage modulus from 2005 to 2250. MPa, reduced the glass transition temperature from +. 41 to - 26. °C and reduced the intensity of the associated tan δ peak. The tBA- co-PEGDMA crosslinked networks displayed useful shape memory properties up to PEGDMA contents of 40%. Above this PEGDMA percentage the materials were prone to fracture and too brittle for a realistic assessment of their shape memory capability. The system containing 90% t-butylacrylate (tBA) and 10% PEGDMA was selected as the host matrix to investigate how the incorporation of 1 to 5. mass% of a benzyl tallow dimethylammonium-exchanged bentonite (BTDB) influenced the shape memory properties. X-ray diffraction data confirmed that BTDB formed a microcomposite in the selected matrix and exerted no influence on the storage modulus, rubbery modulus, glass transition temperature, Tg, or the shape or intensity of the tan δ peak of the host matrix. Therefore, it was anticipated that the presence of BTDB would have no effect, positive or negative, nor on the shape memory properties of the host matrix. However, it was found that the incorporation of clay, especially at the 1. mass% level, significantly accelerated the speed, compared with the clay-free SMP, at which the microcomposite returned to the original, permanent shape. This accelerated return to the permanent shape was also observed when the microcomposite was coated onto a 100. μm PET film. © 2014.

Jaffa T.,Phoenix Center | Davies S.,Phoenix Center | Sardesai A.,Cambridgeshire and Peterborough National Health Services Foundation Trust
European Eating Disorders Review | Year: 2011

Aim: Weighing patients with anorexia nervosa tends to be an integral part of their treatment, yet there is variability in the detail of how this is conducted. The aim of this study was to carry out preliminary exploration of one aspect of this, namely what patients wear when being weighed. Method: Two Web-based surveys were conducted accessing the views of ex-patients (20 respondents) and professionals (98 respondents). Results: Responses confirmed the variability in arrangements for weighing patients. Both patients and professionals were more concerned with accuracy than with privacy, and the patients stated a preference for being weighed in underwear. Between 30 and 57% of patients reported having falsified their weight during treatment. Discussion: These surveys provide a reminder of the high frequency of falsification of weight and some support for a policy of weighing in underwear. The strength of the findings is limited by the methodology with small number of ex-patients all of whom had been through the same treatment programme. Given the paucity of literature on this clinically relevant topic, this does seem to be an area that warrants further investigation. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and Eating Disorders Association.

Baron-Cohen S.,University of Cambridge | Baron-Cohen S.,Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust | Jaffa T.,Phoenix Center | Davies S.,Phoenix Center | And 3 more authors.
Molecular Autism | Year: 2013

Background: Patients with anorexia may have elevated autistic traits. In this study, we tested test whether patients with anorexia nervosa (anorexia) have an elevated score on a dimensional measure of autistic traits, the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ), as well as on trait measures relevant to the autism spectrum: the Empathy Quotient (EQ), and the Systemizing Quotient (SQ). Methods. Two groups were tested: (1) female adolescents with anorexia: n = 66, aged 12 to 18 years; and (2) female adolescents without anorexia: n =1,609, aged 12 to 18 years. Both groups were tested using the AQ, EQ, and SQ, via the parent-report adolescent versions for patients aged 12 to 15 years old, and the self-report adult versions for patients aged over 16 years. Results: As predicted, the patients with anorexia had a higher AQ and SQ. Their EQ score was reduced, but only for the parent-report version in the younger age group. Using EQ-SQ scores to calculate 'cognitive types', patients with anorexia were more likely to show the Type S profile (systemizing (S) better than empathy (E)), compared with typical females. Conclusions: Females with anorexia have elevated autistic traits. Clinicians should consider if a focus on autistic traits might be helpful in the assessment and treatment of anorexia. Future research needs to establish if these results reflect traits or states associated with anorexia. © 2013 Baron-Cohen et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

Rayment D.,Phoenix Center | Asfaha E.A.,Phoenix Center | Babiker A.,University of Cambridge | Jaffa T.,Phoenix Center | Jaffa T.,University of Cambridge
International Journal of Eating Disorders | Year: 2012

Objective: We report the second case of hyperthyroidism emerging during refeeding of a severely malnourished patient with Anorexia Nervosa (AN). Method: Available patient records and biochemical data were evaluated. Previous case reports of hyperthyroidism in eating disorders were reviewed. Discussion: Refeeding can be associated with the onset of hyperthyroidism in patients with AN. AN and hyperthyroidism share a number of symptoms which can make identification of hyperthyroidism difficult. Lack of weight gain because of hyperthyroidism may be interpreted as noncompliance with refeeding treatment. The report shows that not taking antithyroid treatment can be employed as a method of weight control, highlighting the importance of extra consideration regarding treatment regimen and adequate support with medication compliance. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Loading Phoenix Center collaborators
Loading Phoenix Center collaborators