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

Hatch and DeMint: Gatekeepers, Not Government.

Today's op-ed from Sens. Orrin Hatch and Jim DeMint against net neutrality is strange all the way through, but one part in particular jumps out: If there is a perfect encapsulation of the success of Washington's current hands-off approach to the Internet, it's the popular "There's an app for that" advertising campaign. Since the latest introduction of smart phones like Apple's iPhone and Blackberry's Curve, independent software developers have created tens of thousands of applications for mobile devices. There are apps for gamers, bloggers, couch potatoes, foodies, health-care providers and every other niche market you can imagine. These applications have improved people's lives and satisfied consumer demand. Now, there are a lot of substantive arguments you can make about why it doesn't make sense for the Federal Communications Commission to codify net neutrality regulation right at this moment in time. But celebrating the Apple iTunes App Store is a particularly curious one. As a...

Fewer Foreign-Born Technologists, Fewer Patents?

Whether or not to raise the congressionally mandated cap on H1-B visas for specialized workers (including internationally known fashion models, but this isn't the place to get into that that) is tricky question. It's fairly inarguable that technologists from lands abroad have been a key component in the growth of the American technology sector; Microsoft, for example, has reported that 35 percent of the patents awarded to the company in 2008 were the product of visa or green-card holders. So tech companies love H1-Bs. But in the eyes of some politicians -- Barack Obama in his candidate days, for one -- visa holders take jobs that Americans could otherwise hold, and sometimes at a depressed pay rate. But the debate over raising the H1-B cap seems close to moot. Miriam Jordan at the Wall Street Journal reports today that -- of the 65,000 H1-B visa slots approved for FY 2010 00 only 47,000 had been applied for by September 25. In other words, we're not even using the H1-Bs we've got...

John McCain's Special Kind of Internet Freedom.

Jon Stewart and Rachel Maddow have both been poking fun at John McCain this week for introducing a bill called the Internet Freedom Act , the stated purpose of which is to block net neutrality. Sure, on its face, the bill seems to follow the up-is-down naming convention that Congress enjoys. But a deeper reading of the bill suggests that S. 1836 might actually be named to perfection. That's because McCain's bill, if enacted, would prevent the federal agency charged with overseeing communications from overseeing the Internet, which by general consensus among sane people is to be the future of communications. What McCain is proposing -- whether he knows it or not -- would have the effect of exempting telecom companies and other interests from regulatory oversight on all things Internet. Freedom! Read the very short bill , and you'll see that McCain wants to make it so the FCC cannot "propose, promulgate, or issue any regulations regarding the Internet or IP-enabled services," with the...

An Internet in Every Pot. Or Maybe Not.

In the comments, LuisB raises a good point. One argument you hear against the idea of public broadband is that it's too risky from a financial perspective, particularly in places where the market has decided that demand doesn't justify the capital investment. That's something similar, suggests Luis, to what was said before FDR's rural electrification push in the '30s: Farm people just don't want electricity. But then the TVA's electrification of parts of the South suddenly made hand-grinding corn and scrubbing clothes somewhat less romantic. Could something like that happen with broadband? Given the powerful forces involved in the broadband debate, more concrete demonstrations of demand help. ArsTechnica's Nate Anderson has the story of Monticello, Minnesota, a town that could only convince its local telecom that its people really wanted broadband in their homes when the town started building out its own municipal fiber network. But whether Americans beyond Monticello really want a 50...

Broadband Labeling.

Why don't we have a public option for broadband Internet? That's what Matt Yglesias wants to know . Several reasons jump to mind. One is that letting government provide Internet service on the infrastructure that cable and telephone companies have built creates unfair competition between government and teleco. Another is that it's too risky and expensive, in many cases, for state and local governments to roll out their own networks in places where there isn't a guarantee that people will pay for high-speed Internet service. But then you realize that those are exactly the arguments Verizon would make against it: So it's worth thinking on more seriously, is a public option for broadband such a crazy idea? That's an interesting intellectual exercise with long-term potential. But in the shorter term, here's another simpler idea from the realm of health that is totally worth consideration in the broadband debate. The New America Foundation wants for broadband something that looks a lot...

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