Nearly Half of Global Population Will Be Online by Year’s End
May30

Nearly Half of Global Population Will Be Online by Year’s End

According to new figures released May 26 by the United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union, almost half the world’s population will have Internet access by the end of 2015. The report predicts that 3.2 billion of the world’s 7.2 billion people will be online this year. That’s big news for nearly every industry in the world. It adds to consumer pools — previous studies have found that around 61% of global Internet users do online product research — but could also have implications for education and knowledge democratization efforts. Around 2 billion people out of that 3.2 billion will be in the developing world. However, just 89 million will be in countries on the United Nations’ list of “least developed countries,” such as Somalia and Nepal. The combined population of these countries is around 940 million, demonstrating that there are still clear disparities in terms of global Internet access. But still, Internet user penetration is now seven times what it was in 2000, going from about 6.5% to a full 43%. And in the last 10 years, the number of households with Internet service in the home went from about 18% to about 46%. According to new figures released May 26 by the United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union, almost half the world’s population will have Internet access by the end of 2015. The report predicts that 3.2 billion of the world’s 7.2 billion people will be online this year. That’s big news for nearly every industry in the world. It adds to consumer pools — previous studies have found that around 61% of global Internet users do online product research — but could also have implications for education and knowledge democratization efforts. Around 2 billion people out of that 3.2 billion will be in the developing world. However, just 89 million will be in countries on the United Nations’ list of “least developed countries,” such as Somalia and Nepal. The combined population of these countries is around 940 million, demonstrating that there are still clear disparities in terms of global Internet access. But still, Internet user penetration is now seven times what it was in 2000, going from about 6.5% to a full 43%. And in the last 10 years, the number of households with Internet service in the home went from about 18% to about 46%. Mobile Internet Web-enabled mobile devices, of course, have played a major role in expanding global Internet access. Mobile broadband is the “most dynamic market segment,” according to the new report, and mobile-broadband penetration will reach 47% in 2015. That figure has increased 12-fold since just 2007. About 69% of the global population will...

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Comcast Says Customer Service Will Soon Be Its “Best Product”
May28

Comcast Says Customer Service Will Soon Be Its “Best Product”

Comcast is making a bold promise in its efforts to revamp its abysmal customer service image: If the cable guy is late, the company will pay you $20. “We are going to reimagine our whole experience through a customer lens,” Neil Smit, president and CEO of Comcast Cable, told reporters at a May 5 press-only event. The company has outlined numerous changes it will be making to its customer service model in the near future. Certainly nothing is more frustrating than waiting for a repair technician during an already-wide window, only for him or her to be late anyway. But Comcast thinks it can reach a 100% timeliness goal for service appointments by the third quarter of 2015, which is why it’s backing up the initiative with a promised $20 credit for customers whose technicians show up outside the designated timeframe. Additionally, the cable giant will implement an Uber-like tracking feature that will allow customers to anticipate their technicians’ arrival by tracking movements in real time and then rate their overall experiences. The system was tested last year, and will be rolled out to all customers by the end of 2015. Improving Existing Contact Methods Comcast’s most widely publicized customer service failings lately have had to do with their phone representatives. Several customers have recorded frustrating phone interactions (some hours long) and posted them online, and a story about how customers who canceled services had their names changed to expletives in the Comcast system by customer service representatives went viral earlier this year. In light of that public perception, Comcast will be adding 5,500 new customer service jobs and opening several new call centers. Around 84,000 existing employees will be retrained in customer service, and employees will undergo regular hospitality brush-up education sessions. It’s also trying a “We’ll Call You” feature that will allow customers to schedule telephone appointments, rather than waiting on hold (a smart move, given that a full 32.3% of customers think customer service departments should be answering phones with no waiting time whatsoever). “We want to make the customer experience our number-one priority and our best product,” CEO Brian Roberts said during a keynote address at the INTX cable television conference just a few hours before the press event. “The goal is to make it incredibly easy for customers to do business with...

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Nearly a Decade Has Passed Since University of Colorado Students Began Analyzing Dust in Space — Here’s Why It Still Matters
May28

Nearly a Decade Has Passed Since University of Colorado Students Began Analyzing Dust in Space — Here’s Why It Still Matters

The NASA spacecraft New Horizons has been traveling toward Pluto for the last nine years, with seven independent instruments on board, each intended to spring to life once on Pluto, in order to collect various bits of data from the solar system. All but one of these instruments has been patiently waiting for its turn; the one active instrument, called the Venetia Burney Student Dust Counter (SDC), has been working nonstop to collect dust particles from space, to analyze the material, and then to send this information back down to Earth. A student group at the University of Colorado, Boulder was in charge of creating the SDC. Now, nearly 10 years after the SDC was sent away (and 15 years after the project was first started), it’s becoming clear just how much work this student group contributed to the mission. In everyday life, the presence of dust is more of an nuisance — if not a serious health risk — but it’s important to realize that space dust differs quite a bit from the particles that you sweep up off the floor. An average ounce of Earth dust found in a carpet can easily contain about 2,000 dust mites, but the space dust in the new student research group is likely to contain particles that are much more interesting. Space dust is the material that results after collisions between asteroids, comets, and other materials in space. It’s highly unlikely that living organisms will be found in the dust collected by the SDC, but traces of ice crystals and chemical compounds could still provide insights into how the universe was created. The project was first proposed to NASA by physics professor Mihaly Horanyi, and by 2003, the project was approved and a handful of students agreed to help. As news spread about the SDC, students scrambled to join the team, which was the first student group to launch any instrument on an interplanetary mission, according to the New York Times and The Space Reporter. It took two years to build the SDC and at certain points in the journey, the team has had to monitor the device constantly to ensure that it would survive the trip. One particular situation, according to the Times, involved 24-hour shifts, which were particularly taxing on students. The majority of the original student team has graduated from the university and moved onto other endeavors, but four of the original student researchers have stayed on...

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Buffalo’s Canalside Offers Various Summer Attractions to the City
May28

Buffalo’s Canalside Offers Various Summer Attractions to the City

The summer season at Buffalo’s Canalside will officially commence on Saturday. The Buffalo News reports that the city’s Canalside attraction, a development that took years to organize and build, is finally underway for the summer season. City officials hope that Canalside will revitalize the downtown area and provide Western New York residents something fun to do in the city. “Those who said Buffalo doesn’t have a waterfront to be proud of can now say we have an extraordinary waterfront,” said Sam Hoyt, a board member of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. (ECHDC), the organization responsible for Canalside. “Especially when you look at where we were seven or eight years ago, when the canals and HarborCenter were a vacant lot.” Among Canalside’s attractions are ice cream vendors, craft beer, bicycle rentals, and small shows and venues. The canals themselves are an 18-each deep pool filled with more than 487,000 gallons of water. They used to serve as an ice-skating rink in the winter. “We want to appeal to the masses, and make this a fun place to come down,” said Tom Dee, the President of ECHDC. “I expect this will be a destination for office workers to also come and hang out.” One especially exciting activity at Canalside is boat racing. Remote-controlled model boats can be raced in the canals. Though the miniature sailboats are wind rather than power-driven, the operators can control them by moving the boat’s rudder and sail. “It’s old-time sailing,” said John Barbieri, the Director of Project Development for model boat company Freeze Frame. “It takes a very specific location to make this worthwhile operationally, and fun for everybody, and this area exceeded our expectations.” Outside of the water, the Canalside features a sea-themed playground with two spacious picnic pavilions. The playground includes a tube slide, climbing tubes, and a balancing bar, and is all surrounded by soft rubber matting for safety. In addition, it features a landscaping design that vary the topography and masks the unsightly parking lots nearby. The landscaping services industry in the United States is considerably large, generating an estimated $80 billion by the end of this...

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Advertisers Making Big Splashes as They Abandon the Sinking Ship of 19 Kids and Counting
May27

Advertisers Making Big Splashes as They Abandon the Sinking Ship of 19 Kids and Counting

Advertisers have made some serious waves upon abandoning the sinking ship that was TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting,” as they not-so-subtly pull their advertising. Social media marketing is a powerful advertising tactic. In fact, about 47% of marketers believe Facebook is a necessary tool for brand advertisement. So rather than quietly pulling its advertising, Walgreens announced its stance via social media on the subject of Josh Duggar, an alleged child molester who appears on the show. The former sponsor wrote in a Facebook post, “In the wake of recent news, we are no longer advertising on the ’19 Kids and Counting’ program.” They weren’t the only ones, either. Choice Hotels International and Payless ShoeSource both publicly announced they were jumping ship, also, using Twitter as their medium. “We share your concerns and we have decided to remove our advertising from the show,” tweeted Choice Hotels International in response to a question from a follower, who asked if the chain wanted to be associated with child sex abuse. “Our ads ran during this show as part of a larger buy w/ TLC,” explained Payless ShoeSource in a tweet. “We are taking steps to have them removed from future episodes.” The debacle began when In Touch magazine obtained a police report, revealing that Duggar family patriarch Jim Bob had waited over a year to contact police after his son, Josh, confessed to sexually molesting several female minors when he was a teenager. A day later, TLC pulled all episodes following the report. The network has not, however, commented on whether or not it will decide to cancel the program. Although last October, TLC did cancel another of its programs, “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” shortly after allegations surfaced that the series’ matriarch, “Mama June” Shannon, had rekindled a romantic relationship with a man convicted of molesting her own children. With a strong stance already having been taken on a similar matter, and the utter abandonment of sponsors, it seems likely that “19 Kids and Counting” has in fact counted its last...

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