Nancy Scola

Nancy Scola is a writer based in New York. Her work has appeared in Science Progress, Politics Magazine, AlterNet, and the Columbia Journalism Review.

Recent Articles

The Hong Kong Cutoff.

Rebecca McKinnon , a China expert, seems hopeful that the great Google Web site switch that points people from to a new Hong Kong-based version of the site will give Beijing enough cover to ignore that site's refusal to censor. It's technically a Hong Kong site, they might say, and look the other way. Google seems to be putting a lot of chips on that possibility. On the other hand, reports are coming in today that's redirect to is already being blocked in mainland China. It's tempting to look at Google's latest move and say that the company is showing admirable (if belated) moxie in refusing to accept Chinese content laws. In China's case, the laws are often aimed at deflecting attention from the failings of the Chinese government, from searches for "Tiananmen" to information on the botched government response to the horrific Sichuan earthquake in 2008. By that, no freedom-of-information-loving company can abide. But more deserving of concern in this...

Google Bets Its Yuan on Redirection.

This afternoon, Google made its expected announcement on the future of operations in China. The background, of course, is that Google had said recently that it would no longer censor search results in China, which China said put the company in violation of Chinese laws. Which brings us to today. In its announcement, Google said that traffic from within mainland China to, the local Google homepage, will redirect from now on to, the Hong Kong iteration of Google search. Google said it will continue its R&D operations in China (which leaves open the possibility of development in mobile, OS, etc.). At first read, you have to wonder whether China is going to be placated by what is a thinly veiled, if clever, manipulation that doesn't address the underlying censorship issue that China has been raging about. While the site that Chinese people will see is billed as the Hong Kong version of Google, it's actually not. Not quite. Google says that what visitors to...

The First Step is Acceptance.

Maybe it's wishful thinking, but there are signs that we're starting to see a questioning of the consensus that the national broadband plan released by the Federal Communications Commission last week was all that it could have been. I've argued that the plan does little to encourage competition. And without competition in broadband, it's pretty unclear how you (a) drive up adoption rates in places where people aren't connected and (b) drive down prices that are keeping people from buying broadband. Harvard Law professor Yochai Benkler argued that the plan is flawed in an op-ed this Sunday in The New York Times : The Federal Communications Commission’s National Broadband Plan, announced last week, is aimed at providing nearly universal, affordable broadband service by 2020. And while it takes many admirable steps -- including very important efforts toward opening space in the broadcast spectrum -- it does not address the source of the access problem: without a major policy shift to...

The Last Attempt to Connect the Countryside.

The long-awaited National Broadband Plan was, as you might be aware, finally released Tuesday by a small planning unit within the Federal Communications Commission. What's been somewhat surprising is how the reaction to the plan among broadband-access advocates seems to be that it's a good document, as far as it goes. Fair enough. But a close read of this text suggests that what was given unto us doesn't go all that far. What could the FCC have proposed here? Well, history contains an obvious example of what the federal government did in the past to extend a network to places in the U.S. that free-market calculations found unworthy. What FDR did in the 1930s was considered radical. Un-American, even. The Rural Electrification Administration was set up to bring electricity to the 90 percent of rural Americans who didn't have it. The private electric interests screamed bloody murder. REA started working with farmers cooperatives, providing government funding that built them into the...

Depressing Statistic of the Morning.

Tribal lands in the United States have terrestrial broadband penetration rates of about 10 percent, according to the best available data, as cited in the new National Broadband Plan released yesterday. As a point of comparison, the broadband adoption rate among rural Americans more broadly is 50 percent. It's important to keep in mind the possibility that some people living on American Indian reservations in the U.S. don't see a need for broadband. But it's probably a good bet that more than one in 10 of them do. --Nancy Scola