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By PETER SVENSSON, AP Technology Writer Thu May 22, 3:14 PM ET

NEW YORK – The lack of high-speed Internet access in some areas of the U.S. has been hotly debated, even as that digital divide has narrowed. But a new, wider gap is being created by technology that will make today’s broadband feel as slow as a dial-up connection.

Much like broadband enabled downloads of music, video and work files that weren’t practical over dial-up, the next generation of Internet connections will allow for vivid, lifelike video conferencing and new kinds of interactive games.

But while access to cable and phone-line broadband has spread to cover perhaps 90 percent of the U.S. in the space of a decade, next-generation Internet access looks set to create a much smaller group of “haves” and a larger group of “have nots.”

The most promising route to superfast home broadband is to extend the fiber-optic lines that already form the Internet’s backbone all the way to homes. Existing fiber-to-the-home, or FTTH, connections are already 10 times faster than vanilla broadband provided over phone or cable lines. With relatively easy upgrades, the speeds could be a hundred times faster.

In the U.S., the buildout of FTTH is under way, but it’s highly concentrated in the 17-state service area of Verizon Communications Inc., which is the only major U.S. phone company that is replacing its copper lines with fiber. Its FiOS service accounts for more than 1.8 million of the 2.9 million U.S. homes that are connected to fiber according to RVA LLC, a research firm that specializes in the field.

FTTH is also offered by some small phone companies, cooperatives and municipalities, like Chattanooga, Tenn. The other major phone companies, like AT&T Inc. and Qwest Communications International Inc., are laying FTTH in “greenfield” developments, but aren’t pulling fiber to existing homes. Some cable companies are doing the same.

Graham Finnie, chief analyst for the telecom research firm Heavy Reading, believes 13 percent of U.S. households will be connected to fiber by 2012. Since Verizon is the major builder, the vast majority of those will be in Verizon territory on the East Coast, Texas and California.

“That does beg the question: What happens to everyone else? There’s going to be a huge community of people who are not getting FTTH in the next five years,” Finnie said.

“A quarter of the U.S. is going to get one of the best networks in the world,” said Dave Burstein, editor of the DSL Prime newsletter.

The rest of the country, he said, is going to be stuck with slow DSL or cable, though the latter is due for upgrades in the next few years that will boost top speeds fivefold.

Still, it’s not entirely clear that people on fiber connections are going to have a big advantage over slowpokes on regular broadband. Today, there is not much that can be done on a fast connection that can’t be done on a standard one. Fiber is already available to a third of South Korean homes, but that hasn’t revolutionized society there, at least not yet.

Increased used of video, particularly high-definition video, is seen as the future of the Internet, but most cable modems and high-end DSL are already capable of streaming HD video downloads. However, fiber connections support higher upload speeds, potentially making for better video conferencing from the home, which in turn creates opportunities for distance learning. Games also could get a jump in realism and online interactivity, Burstein said.

Not only are U.S. regions going to differ tremendously in how fast they get fiber, the differences between countries will also be huge. Apart from South Korea, Finnie cited Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Sweden as other front-runners. He estimates that almost half of all Swedish households would have fiber by 2012, for instance.

“This is not a market where there’s a smooth progression across countries and regions — it’s going to be extremely variable,” said Finnie.

Considered as a whole, the U.S. will be “middling” in the international comparison, trailing the pioneers but well ahead of other developed nations like Finnie’s home country, Britain, which he estimates will have 3 to 4 percent fiber-connected homes in 2012.

The fiber buildout is going to take more time and be more patchy than the introduction of broadband because it’s so much more expensive, Finnie said. Cable modem and DSL connections are retrofits to links originally laid down to provide video and phone service, respectively. Fiber-optic lines will be the first links that are built for data to reach U.S. homes.

The costs will remain high, because getting permits for the buildout and drawing the physical lines is “a hugely physical, human-type activity,” said Joe Savage, president of the FTTH Council North America. While the cost of the equipment keeps dropping rapidly, two-thirds of the cost of connecting a home are labor, he said

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Robert McMillan, IDG News Service Sat Jan 19, 9:00 AM ET

Criminals have been able to hack into computer systems via the Internet and cut power to several cities, a U.S. Central Intelligence Agency analyst said this week.Speaking at a conference of security professionals on Wednesday, CIA analyst Tom Donahue disclosed the recently declassified attacks while offering few specifics on what actually went wrong.

Criminals have launched online attacks that disrupted power equipment in several regions outside of the U.S., he said, without identifying the countries affected. The goal of the attacks was extortion, he said.

“We have information, from multiple regions outside the United States, of cyber intrusions into utilities, followed by extortion demands,” he said in a statement posted to the Web on Friday by the conference’s organizers, the SANS Institute. “In at least one case, the disruption caused a power outage affecting multiple cities. We do not know who executed these attacks or why, but all involved intrusions through the Internet.”

“According to Mr. Donahue, the CIA actively and thoroughly considered the benefits and risks of making this information public, and came down on the side of disclosure,” SANS said in the statement.

One conference attendee said the disclosure came as news to many of the government and industry security professionals in attendance. “It appeared that there were a lot of people who didn’t know this already,” said the attendee, who asked not to be identified because he is not authorized to speak with the press.

He confirmed SANS’ report of the talk. “There were apparently a couple of incidents where extortionists cut off power to several cities using some sort of attack on the power grid, and it does not appear to be a physical attack,” he said.

Hacking the power grid made front-page headlines in September when CNN aired a video showing an Idaho National Laboratory demonstration of a software attack on the computer system used to control a power generator. In the demonstration, the smoking generator was rendered inoperable.

The U.S. is taking steps to lock down the computers that manage its power systems, however.

On Thursday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved new mandatory standards designed to improve cybersecurity.

CIA representatives could not be reached immediately for comment.

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MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) is seen in Richmond, B.C., in this undated photo. MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) is seen in Richmond, B.C., in this undated photo.
Paul Cottle, a former employee with B.C.-based company MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA), explains to CTV Newsnet why he felt he had to resign on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2008.Paul Cottle, a former employee with B.C.-based company MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA), explains to CTV Newsnet why he felt he had to resign on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2008.
Lloyd Axworthy is shown in this interview with BNN.Lloyd Axworthy is shown in this interview with BNN.

CTV.ca News

The Tories are under pressure to block the proposed sale of a division of Richmond, B.C.-based MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates — the maker of the Canadarm — to an American arms-maker.

Last week, MDA, a provider of essential information solutions, announced the sale of its Information Systems and Geospatial Services operations to Minnesota-based Alliant Techsystems (ATK) for $1.325 billion in cash.

On its website, ATK says its core businesses is conventional munitions and rocket motors and that it is building on that to become the “leading provider of advanced weapon and space systems.”

The sale is subject to MDA shareholder approval and regulatory approvals in Canada and the United States.

Paul Cottle, a 31-year-old American-born engineer, resigned from his job of three years at MDA after the company announced the sale. He had helped develop satellite technology for the company.

“I do not want to work for a company like ATK that manufactures weapons that kill civilians and soldiers indiscriminately,” Cottle told CTV’s Canada AM on Friday.

“That includes weapons such as cluster bombs, depleted uranium rounds, nuclear missiles and land mines.”

Cottle, citing Canada’s duties under 1997’s Mine Ban Treaty, wants Ottawa to block the sale.

“Despite the fact that the United States hasn’t signed the Mine Ban Treaty, Canada has, and the first article of the treaty states very explicitly that any country that signs the treaty cannot aid the production of mines that violate it,” Cottle told CTV Newsnet on Thursday.

“The fact that Canada would be allowing the sale of a company that was largely funded through Canadian tax dollars to a company that produces these landmines is a clear violation… of the treaty.”

MDA would not give an interview but released a statement, saying it will comply with any Canadian laws and the sale is in the best interest of its employees.

ATK said in a statement that it only provides NATO countries and other allies with treaty-compliant systems subject to US government approval.

However, ATK’s Spider land mine system is only deemed treaty compliant because it can be deactivated and self-destructed, said Cottle.

“First of all the shut-off switch is allowed a 5 per cent rate of failure and secondly, even if the shut-off switch does work, that still leaves about a half-pound of high explosives sitting out for someone to find,” said Cottle.

Additionally, Cottle said the mines can be operated in a “battlefield override switch,” a so-called “set-and-forget” mode.

Critics weigh in

Lloyd Axworthy, the former foreign affairs minister who signed the treaty during his tenure, said that the sale could potentially pose a problem for the Canadian government.

“If the manufacturer of this special landmine that the American company is involved in has already been condemned by the landmines monitor, then I think we’ve got a real problem,” he said.

“Especially if there’s a continuing of public dollars going into the company to support the space work, there’s a real association that takes place in that case.”

Axworthy said he was sure the treaty parties would investigate the sale and that if it’s approved Canada could end up “in a real political bind with some embarrassment to ourselves as a country.”

NDP industry critic Peggy Nash said Thursday that allowing the sale could make Canadian technology a factor in the arms race in space.

“This technology could potentially be part of the weaponization of space,” Nash told The Canadian Press. “There are serious concerns about where this technology is going.”

Bob Rae, the Liberal foreign affairs critic, highlighted that Canada has invested $430-million in the company’s Radarsat project.

“While the manufacture (of mines) would not necessarily be in Canada, we would still be in the position of subsidizing — through grants and other (technology) subsidies — a company that’s engaged in that business,” said Rae. “That’s something we have to think through very carefully.”

A spokesperson for Industry Minister Jim Prentice said the deal would be rigorously reviewed “to ensure there’s a net benefit to Canada.”

Deirdre McCracken also said that talk of reviewing Canada’s international treaty obligations were premature because the government hasn’t had time yet to review the deal.

“That’s the first time it’s been brought up,” said Deirdre McCracken. “We only heard about the proposed sale last Tuesday.”

With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Peter Grainger and files from The Canadian Press

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