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The Cost of Connectivity 2014

October 31, 2014 Comments off

The Cost of Connectivity 2014
Source: Open Technology Institute (New America Foundation)

The Cost of Connectivity is an annual report that examines the cost and speed of broadband Internet access in 24 cities in the United States (U.S.) and abroad. Overall, the data that we have collected in the past three years demonstrates that the majority of U.S. cities surveyed lag behind their international peers, paying more money for slower Internet access. The report presents the 2014 Cost of Connectivity data, which was collected between July and September 2014.

The 2014 report includes:

  • A literature review of other studies that rank and compare broadband speeds, pricing, and market factors domestically and internationally, which explains how the Cost of Connectivity fits among other reports produced by international organizations and independent think tanks and contributes new data and analysis.
  • A detailed methodology, which explains both the data collection process and the methods used to conduct the analysis for our findings. The data from this and past reports is also publicly available online for researchers and other interested parties to view and download.
  • Specific findings from our data set for both home and mobile broadband pricing, as well as additional observations about the data. We include the following rankings and comparisons:

- The fastest home broadband speed available in each city,
– The fastest home broadband plan available for under $40 in each city,
– The range and median prices of broadband services in the U.S. compared to Europe,
– The cost of 3 GB of mobile data in each city,
– The mobile data cap available for under $40 in each city,
– The average cost of all plans in each city based on a range of speed or data caps,
– The average speed or data cap available in each city in a particular price range,
– The relationship between speed and price for home broadband plans in each city,
– Trends in wireless data, and
– The prevalence of data caps and modem fees.

  • Key takeaways from this analysis and further research questions based on our data and observations.
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The Federal Civil Service Workforce: Assessing the Effects on Retention of Pay Freezes, Unpaid Furloughs, and Other Federal-Employee Compensation Changes in the Department of Defense

October 31, 2014 Comments off

The Federal Civil Service Workforce: Assessing the Effects on Retention of Pay Freezes, Unpaid Furloughs, and Other Federal-Employee Compensation Changes in the Department of Defense
Source: RAND Corporation

Planners and policymakers must be able to assess how compensation policy, including pay freezes and unpaid furloughs, affects retention. This study begins to extend the dynamic retention model (DRM) — a structural, stochastic, dynamic, discrete-choice model of individual behavior — to federal civil service employment. Models are developed and estimated,using 24 years of data, and then used to simulate the effects of pay freezes and unpaid furloughs. A permanent three-year pay freeze decreases the size of the retained General Service (GS) workforce with at least a baccalaureate degree by 7.3 percent in the steady state. A temporary pay freeze with pay immediately restored has virtually no impact on retention. When pay is restored after ten years, the retained GS workforce falls by 2.8 percent five years after the pay freeze and 3.5 percent ten years after it. An unpaid furlough, similar to the six-day federal furlough in 2013, has no discernible effect on retention. For all subgroups of GS employees for which the model is estimated, the model fit to the actual data is excellent, and all of the model parameter estimates are statistically significant. In future work, the DRM could be extended to provide empirically based simulations of the impact of other policies on retention; to estimate effects on other occupational areas, other pay systems, or specific demographic groups; or to create a “total force” model (military and civilian) of DoD retention dynamics and the effects of compensation on those dynamics.

Backgrounder: Media Censorship in China

October 30, 2014 Comments off

Backgrounder: Media Censorship in China
Source: Council on Foreign Relations

The Chinese government has long kept tight reins on both traditional and new media to avoid potential subversion of its authority. Its tactics often entail strict media controls using monitoring systems and firewalls, shuttering publications or websites, and jailing dissident journalists, bloggers, and activists. The severity of media censorship grabbed headlines in early January 2013 when Southern Weekly, a liberal-leaning paper based in Guangzhou, staged a week-long confrontation with the government after local propaganda authorities rewrote a front-page pro-reform editorial. Google’s battle with the Chinese government over Internet censorship in China, and the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s awarding of the 2010 Peace Prize to jailed Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo, have also increased international attention to media censorship in the country. At the same time, the country’s burgeoning economy has allowed for greater diversity in China’s media coverage, and experts say the growing Chinese demand for information is testing the regime’s control.

Mental Health Stigma in the Military

October 30, 2014 Comments off

Mental Health Stigma in the Military
Source: RAND Corporation

Despite the efforts of both the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and the Veterans Health Administration to enhance mental health services, many service members are not regularly seeking needed care when they have mental health problems. Without appropriate treatment, these mental health problems can have wide-ranging and negative impacts on the quality of life and the social, emotional, and cognitive functioning of affected service members. The services have been actively engaged in developing policies, programs, and campaigns designed to reduce stigma and increase service members’ help-seeking behavior. However, there has been no comprehensive assessment of these efforts’ effectiveness and the extent to which they align with service members’ needs or evidence-based practices. The goal of this research was to assess DoD’s approach to stigma reduction — how well it is working and how it might be improved. To address these questions, RAND researchers used five complementary methods: (1) literature review, (2) a microsimulation modeling of costs, (3) interviews with program staff, (4) prospective policy analysis, and (5) an expert panel. The priorities outlined in this report represent a first step for where additional program and policy development and research and evaluation are needed to improve understanding of how best to get service members with mental health disorders the needed treatment as efficiently and effectively as possible.

A Better Way to Budget for Federal Lending Programs

October 30, 2014 Comments off

A Better Way to Budget for Federal Lending Programs
Source: Tax Policy institute (Urban Institute and Brookings Institution)

Policy analysts have long debated how best to budget for student loans, mortgage guarantees, and other federal lending programs. Under official budget rules, these programs appear highly profitable; under an alternative, favored by many analysts, they appear to lose money. That discrepancy confuses policy deliberations. In this brief, Donald Marron proposes a new budgeting approach, known as expected returns, that would eliminate this confusion. Unlike existing approaches, expected returns accurately reports the fiscal effects of lending over time and provides a natural way to distinguish the fiscal gains from bearing financial risk from the subsidies given to borrowers.

The Nonprofit Sector in Brief 2014: Public Charities, Giving and Volunteering

October 29, 2014 Comments off

The Nonprofit Sector in Brief 2014: Public Charities, Giving and Volunteering
Source: Urban Institute

The Nonprofit Sector in Brief 2014 highlights trends in the number and finances of 501(c)(3) public charities and key findings on two important resources for the nonprofit sector: private charitable contributions and volunteering. Each year, The Nonprofit Sector in Brief 2014 presents the most recent data available on the nonprofit sector. This particular edition of the brief presents data from 2002 to 2012.

Continuing Federal Cyber Breaches Warn Against Cybersecurity Regulation

October 29, 2014 Comments off

Continuing Federal Cyber Breaches Warn Against Cybersecurity Regulation
Source: Heritage Foundation

Recent high-profile private-sector hacks have once again put a spotlight on the issue of cybersecurity. This is a serious problem that requires legislation to improve the United States’ cybersecurity posture, but the U.S. should not reflexively adopt government regulation of cyberspace as a solution. There are concerns that such a response would not be cost-effective and would have an adverse effect on innovation. It could also potentially create a mindset of compliance rather than of security. Additionally, the government’s own cybersecurity track record raises questions about the effectiveness of government cyber regulations.

The following is a list of federal government cybersecurity breaches and failures, most of which occurred during 2013 and 2014. This list is part of a continuing series published by Heritage that serves as a long-term compilation of open-source data about federal cybersecurity breaches dating back to 2004.

This list is in no way complete: Some hacks might not be reported or are classified, and others have yet to be realized. In September 2014, Robert Anderson, executive assistant director of the Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch of the FBI told the Senate Homeland Security Committee that if a federal department believes it hasn’t been hacked, it is likely that they are simply unaware of the hack. When Senator Coburn asked for a list of all the government hacks the panelists were aware of, he acknowledged that they may have to be discussed in a closed Senate hearing. Furthermore, the list below does not include the large number of private-sector failures. Nevertheless, the seriousness and number of known U.S. government cybersecurity failures undercut the argument for a government-led regulatory approach to cybersecurity.

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