Technology | Off Message | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

BTV Ignite Hires New Executive Director

Posted By on Wed, Apr 12, 2017 at 2:03 PM

Dennis Moynihan - KATIE JICKLING
  • Katie Jickling
  • Dennis Moynihan
Burlington tech nonprofit BTV Ignite has hired a new executive director from across the pond.

Dennis Moynihan will relocate from London to take the helm of the three-year-old organization, the city announced at a news conference Wednesday. He'll replace Mike Schirling, a former Burlington police chief whom Gov. Phil Scott chose in December to serve as Vermont's commerce secretary.

"We live in an ever more rapidly changing world that's not only benefiting from technology, but being really disrupted by it," Moynihan said. "My job ... is to help Burlington, Chittenden County and Vermont thrive in this 21st century digital world."

Moynihan comes to Vermont after 11 years working across the Atlantic, most recently as the London node director of EIT Digital, a branch of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology. He led an "innovation accelerator" that invested in digital technologies to integrate education, research and businesses.

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Friday, February 17, 2017

Media Note: Vermont PBS Reaps $56 Million in FCC Spectrum Auction

Posted By on Fri, Feb 17, 2017 at 1:16 PM

Vermont PBS board chair Patricia Gabel, left, and station president Holly Groschner - MARK DAVIS
  • Mark Davis
  • Vermont PBS board chair Patricia Gabel, left, and station president Holly Groschner
Vermont PBS announced Friday that it sold one of its four broadcast licenses for $56 million, money it plans to use to fund new programs and expand services for years to come.

The station said the loss of the license would not cause any reduction in over-the-air coverage. Instead, the windfall could transform the sleepy station into one of the most financially powerful media organizations in Vermont.

Vermont PBS, which airs syndicated shows such as "Sesame Street" and "NOVA," along with local productions "Outdoor Journal" and "Vermont This Week," says it plans to use the bulk of the money to provide expanded offerings in both over-the-air and digital platforms. It has no plans to use the money for "brick and mortar" improvements, Vermont PBS president Holly Groschner said during a press conference inside the station's Colchester studios.

"We are doubling down on the Vermontness of our broadcast," Groschner said. "We are hoping to be able to produce more Vermont content and [explore] more Vermont issues."

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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Norwich Students Win National Contest for Counterterror Tool

Posted By on Thu, Feb 2, 2017 at 12:36 PM

Team “Norwich EMIT” includes (L to R): Professor William “Travis” Morris, Emran Babak, Naomi Rinaldo, Jacob Freeman, Akshay Awasthi and Yushan Xireli. - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Team “Norwich EMIT” includes (L to R): Professor William “Travis” Morris, Emran Babak, Naomi Rinaldo, Jacob Freeman, Akshay Awasthi and Yushan Xireli.
Students from Norwich University have once again proven their mettle in taking the fight to America’s adversaries. On Wednesday, a team of Norwich students were awarded the nation’s top prize in “P2P (Peer-to-Peer): Challenging Extremism,” a nationwide collegiate competition aimed at countering foreign and domestic extremism through social media campaigns.

The five-member team, whose members hail from four countries and collectively speak 14 different languages, were among four final teams — from an original pool of 44 — chosen to present their projects in Washington, D.C. this week. Seven Days profiled the team in a January 25 story, “Extremist Measures: Norwich Students Work to Intercept Would-Be Terrorists.”

“We’re still in a little bit of shock that it’s all over,” said Jacob Freeman, a senior in war and peace studies from Wake Forest, N.C., who was reached by phone Thursday while the team was still in the nation’s capital. Freeman said that the judges, who included officials from the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security, asked “very pointed questions” about their project.

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Friday, January 6, 2017

The Hackers Are Coming! Burlington Electric’s Crisis That Wasn’t

Posted By on Fri, Jan 6, 2017 at 6:47 PM

Neale Lunderville - FILE: MATTHEW THORSEN
  • File: Matthew Thorsen
  • Neale Lunderville
Burlington Electric Department communications director Mike Kanarick said he didn’t notice the first time his cellphone buzzed just after 8 p.m. on December 30. Or the second time. It was a Friday night after all, and Kanarick’s house was crowded with 25 guests celebrating Hanukkah with a healthy offering of potato latkes and Heady Topper.

It wasn’t until after 8:20 p.m. that Kanarick heard about a Washington Post report, posted 25 minutes earlier, that suggested that the municipal utility had been hacked by Russians. By then the news had already gone viral; Kanarick’s work phone was inundated with calls from unfamiliar numbers. He called back one he recognized: BED general manager Neale Lunderville’s.

Lunderville had gotten wind of the story around 8:15 p.m. He and his wife were at dinner at a friend’s house when Green Mountain Power spokesperson Kristin Carlson called to ask: “Has your electric grid been hacked?”

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Vermont Gubernatorial Candidates Debate Technology

Posted By on Mon, Oct 17, 2016 at 8:39 PM

Gubernatorial candidates Phil Scott (left), Bill Lee and Sue Minter at a roundtable forum Monday with moderator Cathy Resmer. - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Gubernatorial candidates Phil Scott (left), Bill Lee and Sue Minter at a roundtable forum Monday with moderator Cathy Resmer.
The government’s role in enhancing technology across the state proved a point of contention among the gubernatorial candidates during a debate Monday in Burlington.

The tech-based roundtable discussion, part of Innovation Week in the Queen City, exposed that and other key differences between Democrat Sue Minter and Republican Phil Scott just weeks before Election Day.

“The governor does need to actually drive this forward,” Minter said. “We cannot have kids unable to actually do their homework in the same speed and at the same conditions as others.”

Scott countered that he won’t promise to bring universal broadband across Vermont. Both current Gov. Peter Shumlin and former governor Jim Douglas proclaimed they’d make such a vision a reality — but never saw it through.

“I’m going to stop short of promising that,” Scott said, later calling for incentives to encourage private companies to expand broadband coverage.

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Drone Debate in House Judiciary Balances Privacy, Public Safety

Posted By on Thu, Apr 28, 2016 at 6:18 PM

Rep. Maxine Grad, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, which voted out a privacy protection bill addressing the use of drones and license-plate readers. - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Rep. Maxine Grad, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, which voted out a privacy protection bill addressing the use of drones and license-plate readers.
The House Judiciary Committee walked a tightrope Thursday in recommending its version of a bill to protect personal privacy.

The legislation sets guidelines for how and when the police may use drones, and it reauthorizes police use of cameras that capture photos of license plates and establishes the procedures that law enforcement agencies must follow to gain access to electronic communications.

“What is important is the balance between protecting individual privacy and enhancing public safety,” said Rep. Maxine Grad (D-Moretown), chair of the committee.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

State Won't Pursue Huge IT Projects; Will Take Smaller Bytes

Posted By on Tue, Feb 9, 2016 at 6:16 PM

Secretary of Administration Justin Johnson - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Secretary of Administration Justin Johnson
The Shumlin administration has pulled the plug on two multimillion dollar information technology projects that would have upgraded and integrated obsolete systems in the Agency of Human Services.

The administration now intends to break the large projects into smaller components to increase the chances of successful implementation, Secretary of Administration Justin Johnson explained to the Senate Committee on Institutions Tuesday afternoon.

The state has spent several years planning the two big technology upgrades at the Agency of Human Services. One, with a price tag of more than $147 million, would have created an integrated eligibility system for dozens of social service programs. The other, required by federal health care regulators and with a cost estimated at $75 million, would have overhauled the Medicaid management information system. The state had selected vendors for these IT projects. Johnson said that last week the state halted its negotiations on the scope and payments of both projects.

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Friday, January 29, 2016

Garrett Graff's 'Mental Home' Stance Sparks Social Media Snark

Posted By on Fri, Jan 29, 2016 at 4:58 PM

In case you haven't heard, Montpelier native and former Politico Magazine editor Garrett Graff is thinking about running for lieutenant governor.

After spending more than 11 years in Washington, D.C., Graff moved to Burlington last fall and said he'd explore a run for the state's second-in-command. Just one catch: The Vermont Constitution states that candidates for the position must have lived in the state for four years before the election.

Graff made his case that he should be eligible for the position before a legislative committee Wednesday, stating that though he'd moved away, Vermont has always been his "mental home."

The denizens of Twitter seized on that phrase, asking the big questions: How do you get food delivered to #mymentalhome? What are the taxes like there? And, most importantly — it's Vermont, after all — what is #mymentalhome's carbon footprint?

The hashtag originated with Shay Totten (who, full disclosure, is a former Seven Days political columnist). But others jumped in on the action, too.

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Friday, January 22, 2016

CCTA Announces New App, Rebranding

Posted By on Fri, Jan 22, 2016 at 11:06 AM

CCTA riders board buses on Cherry Street in Burlington. - OLIVER PARINI
  • Oliver Parini
  • CCTA riders board buses on Cherry Street in Burlington.
The Chittenden County Transportation Authority plans to roll out phone apps that let passengers purchase tickets and track buses in real time later this year, the agency said Friday. 

In addition, the agency plans to rebrand itself as Green Mountain Transit.

CCTA said its Automatic Vehicle Location system will feed information about the location of buses and any last-minute schedule changes to users' cell phones. The initiative will be largely paid for by funding from the Vermont Agency of Transportation.

"This highly sought after system has been a high priority for CCTA and its passengers for quite some time," CCTA General Manager Karen Walton said in a prepared statement.

On Tuesday, CCTA's Board of Commissioners decided to seek bids to implement the mobile ticketing system, which will allow riders to purchase tickets and board buses with their phones.

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Senate Takes Step to Protect Privacy in Electronic Age

Posted By on Thu, Jan 14, 2016 at 3:15 PM

Sen. Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden) - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Sen. Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden)
The lead sponsor of a privacy protection bill said he hoped the legislation would stir public awareness and expand discussions about the changes technology is bringing to personal privacy. But senators spent little time debating the bill before voting to pass it unanimously this week.

The bill is a first step to bring privacy protections up to speed with evolving technology, Sen. Tim Ashe (D/P- Chittenden) told his colleagues.

Before passage, the Senate Judiciary Committee had stripped out the provision that generated the most controversy — a proposal to allow individuals to sue and collect penalties and legal expenses if the privacy of their medical records was breached. "We agreed that provision wasn't fine-tuned," Ashe said, but he also acknowledged heavy lobbying by physicians.

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