Jan 20

Ajit Pai, May be the Next FCC Chairman

ajitPresident Donald Trump will tap Ajit Pai as his pick to lead the FCC in the new administration, elevating the sitting GOP commissioner to the top spot overseeing the nation’s communications industry, according to two industry sources familiar with decision.

The announcement could come as soon as this afternoon, the sources said. Pai, a Barack Obama nominee who has served as the senior FCC Republican for more than three years, could take the new role immediately and wouldn’t require approval by the Senate because he was already confirmed to serve at the agency.

A spokesman for Pai declined to comment and the Trump transition team did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Pai, who met with Trump in New York on Monday, had been seen by many as a top contender for the job given his reputation as a telecom law expert who’s comfortable in front of the camera. But his selection is also somewhat of a departure for the incoming administration, which has tapped people outside of Washington for many top positions.

By contrast, Pai is already a familiar name in tech and telecom policy debates. He’s a fierce and vocal critic of many regulations passed by the commission’s Democratic majority, including the 2015 net neutrality rules that require internet service providers to treat all web traffic equally and are opposed by the major broadband companies. As chairman, Pai will be able to start the process of undoing the net neutrality order and pursuing other deregulatory efforts.

Pai was widely assumed to be taking the agency’s gavel at least temporarily as an acting chairman at the beginning of Trump’s tenure. But Trump’s decision to make him a more permanent chairman affords the Kansas-bred Republican a bigger mandate to make his mark on the agency and its rules.

Pai and fellow GOP Commissioner Mike O’Rielly, for example, said last month that they will “seek to revisit” the net neutrality rules “as soon as possible,” and Pai said in a December speech he believes 2017 is the best opportunity in the last decade to advance conservative principles. In September, he outlined a “Digital Empowerment Agenda” — a four-point plan he says will help spur investment in internet networks and close the digital divide between rich and poor. The approach seeks to expand access to mobile broadband and reduce regulatory barriers to broadband deployment.

Pai, who turned 44 earlier this month, has spent much of his 18 years in Washington in public service with the DOJ, Senate Judiciary Committee and the FCC. He also worked for two years as a lawyer for Verizon, and spent another year representing telecommunications clients at Jenner & Block.

His FCC term technically expired last year, but agency rules allow him to continue serving through 2017. He would need to be reconfirmed by the Senate this year if he were to continue serving as chairman.

Jan 20

Twitter Gets More Diverse, but Women, Latinos and African America Still Lag

dorseyLike many Silicon Valley companies, Twitter has vowed to make its workforce more diverse.

The social network thinks it’s making progress. Its evidence? Twitter said Thursday it beat its 2016 diversity goals, with slight gains in its representation of women and minorities.

Twitter said 37 percent of its 3,000 employees are women, higher than its 2016 goal of 35 percent. Women in leadership positions are now at 30 percent, compared to its goal of 25 percent. Underrepresented minorities make up 11 percent of the overall staff and 9 percent of the company’s tech roles, hitting 2016 goals.

Twitter’s 2017 goal to increase the number of women and minority workers projects incremental change.



Twitter’s update continues the trend of Silicon Valley companies releasing annual diversity reports for the sake of transparency. It also comes as the issue of inclusion in tech remains a hot topic. There’s increasing demand for companies to go beyond making promises and reporting incremental changes related to their hiring and retention of women and minorities.

Twitter’s current workforce in the United States is 3 percent African-American and 4 percent Hispanic, virtually the same as 2015. The social network reported that 2 percent of African-Americans and 3 percent of Hispanics working at Twitter hold leadership positions, compared to 74 percent for whites and 20 percent for Asians.

jeffJeffrey Siminoff, the company’s head of inclusion and diversity, acknowledged the company needs to do more.

“We know that the effects of our actions — many of which were new for 2016 — cannot be immediate,” he said in a post. “We are focused on sustained efforts that will help us draw more diverse talent, create great experiences and careers, and foster a culture of belonging that fully lives up to the spirit of community on Twitter itself.”

Twitter’s projected diversity goals for 2017 include slight increases to boost women and minorities working at the social network.

Twitter employees are also encouraged to refer diverse candidates. The company has been partnering with Paradigm, which works to help diversify tech companies, by participating in training to prevent unconscious bias. Other tech companies, including Pinterest and Intel, conduct similar training for employees.

“Twitter had a unique interest in tracking the long-term impact of their trainings, allowing us to learn that content designed to both raise awareness and to manage bias resulted in actual behavioral change in employees,” Paradigm CEO Joelle Emerson said in a statement.

Longtime civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson, who has been urging tech companies to diversify, said in a statement Thursday that despite “best efforts and new initiatives,” African Americans and Latinos continue to be grossly underrepresented in tech.

“Going forward, and just days after Dr. King’s birthday, it’s clear that a a new revolution is thinking is needed to accelerate the move toward race equality and economic justice in the tech industry,” he said. “Goals must be more aggressive so that companies reach parity with populations and communities in which they reside.”

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has publicly acknowledged a need for the social network to better reflect the diversity of its 317 million users, who gave rise to the hashtags #BlackLivesMatter, #LoveIsLove and #OrlandoStrong. In 2015, Leslie Miley, an African-American engineer who held a leadership role at Twitter before departing, publicly questioned the social network’s commitment to diversity, citing a 2014 Pew Research Center survey findings that about a quarter of African-Americans and Hispanics online said they use Twitter.

Last year, Twitter added Black Entertainment Television CEO Debra Lee to help diversify its male-dominated board of directors, and Periscope CEKayvon Beykpour was promoted to the social network’s executive team.

Jan 18

Oracle Practices Gender and Minority Discrimination, U.S. Labor Department charges

oracleThe U.S. Department of Labor is suing Oracle, alleging the company pays white men more than women and minorities working in the same jobs. But an Oracle representative blasted the lawsuit, saying it was “politically motivated.”

In addition to the alleged compensation discrimination against female, African American and Asian employees, the federal lawsuit filed on Wednesday also says the Redwood City-based tech corporation favored Asian workers in its recruiting and hiring practices, which resulted in hiring discrimination against non-Asian applicants.

Oracle (Nasdaq: ORLC) spokesperson Deborah Hellinger sent the Silicon Valley Business Journal the following statement: “The complaint is politically motivated, based on false allegations, and wholly without merit. Oracle values diversity and inclusion, and is a responsible equal opportunity and affirmative action employer. Our hiring and pay decisions are non-discriminatory and made based on legitimate business factors including experience and merit.”

The Department of Labor, in a press release, says that during the investigation – which began in 2014 – Oracle also didn’t comply with requests for employment data and records for almost one year. “Oracle refused to provide prior-year compensation data for all employees, complete hiring data for certain business lines, and employee complaints of discrimination. OFCCP attempted for almost a year to resolve Oracle’s alleged discrimination violations before filing the suit.”

In addition to the alleged compensation discrimination against female, African American and Asian employees, the lawsuit filed on Wednesday also says the Redwood City-based tech corporation favored Asian workers in its recruiting and hiring practices, which resulted in hiring discrimination against non-Asian applicants.Earlier this month, the Department of Labor said it was suing Google for failing to release data on employee compensation at that company’s Mountain View headquarters but Google claimed the government was asking for too much.

The Labor Department also stated that if Oracle fails to “provide relief” it will request that all its government contracts be canceled and that it be debarred from entering into future federal contracts. Oracle is a federal contractor, and is required to provide documents regarding pay and is prohibited from practicing discrimination.

Jennifer Elias is a technology reporter for the Silicon Valley Business Journal.

Jan 17

Pew: U.S. Smartphone Ownership, Broadband Penetration Reached Record Levels in 2016

routerU.S. smartphone ownership and the percentage of U.S. households with broadband service rose in 2016, reaching record levels of 77 and 73 percent, respectively as of November, according to the latest data from the Pew Research Center.

Pew’s release of the first of what is to be a regular series of continually updated fact sheets regarding information and communications technology (ICT) also reveals that 88 percent of Americans now use the Internet. That’s up from 52 percent in 2000, when the independent, non-profit research organization began tracking Internet usage.

Smartphone penetration rates continue to be highest among young adults, 92 percent of whom own smartphones. A “sharp uptick” in the number of low-income and older Americans (50-plus) that own smartphones was one of 2016’s most notable tech trends, however, Pew Associate Director of Research Aaron Smith highlights in a Jan. 12 blog post.

Nearly three-quarters of Americans 50-64 (74%) owned smartphones as of November 2016, according to Pew’s latest available market data. That’s up 16 points from 2015.

Smartphone ownership in households with overall annual incomes less than $30,000 rose 12 points from 2015, to 64 percent. The corresponding percentage for those 65 and older rose 12 points to 42 percent.

From a longer term perspective, U.S. smartphone ownership has increased from 35 percent in 2011, when Pew first began tracking data, to 77 percent as of last November.

U.S. Smartphone Ownership

Broadband Trends
A rebound in the share of American households with broadband service is the second of four notable 2016 tech trends that Smith highlights. The percentage of U.S. broadband households declined slightly between 2013-2015, from 70 to 67 percent.

That rose to 73 percent as of last November, the highest level since Pew began tracking home broadband adoption in 2000. Gains have been skewed toward those with higher levels of education and incomes, however.

Home broadband is present in 34 percent of households of Americans who haven’t graduated high school. It’s present in 91 percent of those in which college graduates live. Home broadband adoption also varies by age, location, racial and ethnic background, as well as household income, Smith points out.

Furthermore, more Americans without broadband at home relied on their smartphones for Internet access. Twelve percent of those responding to Pew surveys said they were “smartphone dependent.” That’s up 4 points since 2013.

Smartphone reliance, moreover, is markedly higher among young adults, non-whites and those who live in low-income households.

The rapid rise in social media use and tablet ownership are the third and fourth most notable trends that Smith singles out.

Just 5 percent of Americans used social media when Pew began tracking usage in 2005. That had risen to 69 percent last November. As has been well documented, social media usage is highest among young adults (18-29), 86 percent of whom use it.

A large majority of those 30-49 (80%) and 50-64 (64%) use social media as well. Only about one-third (34%) of Americans 65 and older do so, but that’s up from around 1 in 10 as recently as 2010.

Smith also highlights the rapid rise in tablet adoption, which continued, though at a slower pace, in 2016. Just 3 percent of Americans reported owning some type of tablet for Pew’s 2010 survey. That had risen to 51 percent as of November 2016.

Jan 17

Verizon CISO Paves Way for Women in Cybersecurity.

McMahonThere is a huge opportunity for women in cybersecurity, a field that’s not only lacking in females, but which faces an overall talent shortage.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that 209,000 cybersecurity jobs went unfilled in 2015 and job postings are up 74% in the past five years. And, the Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu says that only 11% of the world’s information security workforce is female. Put those statistics together and it’s clear now is the time to fill the cybersecurity pipeline with women.

Of course, this is easier said than done when there aren’t a lot of women role models in the space. (See BT’s Security Boss: Tech Has No Age.)

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ)’s Senior Vice President and Chief Information Security Officer Chandra McMahon is one such woman trailblazing the security space and providing an example for other women to do the same. She is the driving force behind Verizon’s information security strategy, policy, standards, architecture and processes.

McMahon has spent more than 20 years in cybersecurity, including serving as the chief information security officer at Lockheed Martin and frequently briefing White House and Congressional staff on sensitive security matters. Her storied career has led her to appreciate mentors, value risk taking and understand the importance of staying on top of technology trends. It’s also led her to believe the industry needs more women, especially in information technology. Read on for her thoughts on how to stack the pipeline and keep advancing in your own career.

 Women in Comms: Tell us a bit about your personal story and how you got to where you are today.

Chandra McMahon, Chief Information Security Officer, Verizon CommunicationsChandra McMahon

Chief Information Security Officer,
Verizon Communications
Chandra McMahon: I’ve always loved math and science. While in high school I attended a women in science and engineering program that inspired me to pursue an industrial engineering undergraduate degree in college. After graduation, I started my career in the aerospace and defense industry. Throughout my career, I looked for assignments that challenged me to grow and learn new skills, required creative problem solving and focused on transforming and building new business capabilities. I’ve spent more than two decades working in information technology and, most recently, in cybersecurity, which led to my current role as Verizon’s chief information security officer.

WIC: Have you faced any unique challenges or opportunities as a woman in the tech space?

CM: There have been plenty of times when I’ve been the only woman in a very technical meeting. Fortunately, that happens much less than when I started my career. Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to have several sponsors and mentors — both men and women. And, like any tech-focused role, there is always the challenge of staying up-to-date as technology changes. That’s especially true in information security, where threats, tactics and technologies change very fast.

WIC: What do you think is the most pressing issue or challenge affecting women in our industry today?

CM: We need more women in our industry and especially in information security! Specifically, we need more women in senior leadership roles so that early and mid-career women see it’s possible to achieve their career aspirations. I also believe it’s important to provide mentoring and networking opportunities to help other women grow their skills and capabilities.

WIC: What makes you feel optimistic — or, conversely, pessimistic — about the future for women in comms?

CM: I’m optimistic for the future. The talent shortage has compelled companies to get more innovative at how they look for and develop people with technical skills. Verizon partners with a number of organizations that promote STEM to young women still in school. We’re also doing more to encourage women as they grow careers in highly technical areas — both to support them when they are the only woman in the room and to get more women at the table.

WIC: What is your advice for other women in comms, whether just starting or those looking to advance in their careers?

CM: Take risks! When you look for that next career opportunity, look for a situation where you have about 70% of the knowledge and tools needed, and go in knowing that developing that last 30% is what will make the job fun and exciting. Too often women will look at a position and not even apply if they aren’t masters of 100% of what the job requires. Also, I’d encourage women to create their own personal board of directors, a group of carefully selected mentors and individuals who can help you as you design and advance your career.

Jan 13

TechLatino Guest Blogger Jamie Hastings SVP, CTIA: How Smart Wireless Policies Will Unlock Smart Cities and Grow Our Country’s Economy

Hastings$500 billion.  That’s a lot of money.

In fact, it’s the amount that Americans will contribute to their 401k accounts each year—by the end of this decade. All 401k contributions in the U.S.

$500 billion is also how much 5G, the next-generation of wireless, will contribute to the U.S. economy.

That’s according to an Accenture report released yesterday, detailing how 5G will grow the U.S. economy, create American jobs, and enable communities across the country to offer smart city solutions that generate significant energy and transportation benefits.

To be clear, we’re talking about a $500 billion shot in the arm of our economy—plus up to 3 million new jobs, from construction and equipment manufacturing to long-term employment gains from increased productivity and new services.

What generates this remarkable economic growth? America’s wireless industry. Specifically, the projected $275 billion that wireless carriers are expected to invest to build out 5G over the next decade.

And as the Accenture report illustrates, communities around the U.S., from big cities to small towns, will realize the benefits. That $275 billion will be invested in these neighborhoods, creating jobs and boosting their local economy.

That’s not all our cities and towns will see from the next-generation of wireless. Accenture finds that 5G-powered smart city solutions could produce $160 billion in benefits and savings through lowered energy use, reduced traffic congestion and fuel costs, and improved public safety applications.

There’s a catch, though. The economic growth, job creation, and smart city solutions stem from building out 5G wireless networks. Those networks will run in part on small cells— wireless antennas the size of a pizza box—hundreds of thousands of small cells, located everywhere from utility poles to street lamps.

But many communities still have in place regulations designed when wireless infrastructure meant only 250-foot tall cell towers.  The sheer quantity—as well as the drastically reduced footprint—of small cells means that the local rules, rates, and processes for approving these wireless antennas must evolve.

For communities that maintain the status quo, 5G investment—and the broader benefits—will flow to neighboring towns and cities that do take action to streamline their regulations. As the Accenture paper notes, “By facilitating 5G infrastructure deployment, [municipal leaders] can make their communities more efficient and attractive to investments by telecom operators as well as other industries.”

Communities that take those steps have the public—and local businesses—on their side. A recent survey found that 7 in 10 Americans and over 80% of small business leaders support more small cell deployments.

Why? The reason is simple: Americans understand that wireless innovation is important to growing the U.S. economy.  The wireless industry is ready to invest billions to create jobs and make that happen.

But communities need smart wireless policies to realize 5G-powered smart city solutions and economic growth. Let’s work together to unlock the next-generation of wireless.

Jan 13

New Research from Accenture Strategy highlights Economic and Societal Impact of Investing in 5G Infrastructure.

fast cityDeploying the next generation of high-speed 5G wireless networks could create up to three million jobs and add approximately $500 billion to U.S. GDP through direct and indirect potential benefits, according to a new report [PDF] from Accenture (NYSE: ACN), commissioned by CTIA.

Accenture Strategy’s analysis estimates that wireless operators will invest as much as $275 billion nationwide over seven years as they build out 5G. Estimates highlight that the wireless industry’s investment in deploying 5G could create direct impacts of 350,000 new construction jobs and a total of approximately 850,000 jobs in the United States when considering suppliers and other partners cumulatively over the seven years of network build-out. The broader economic benefits from 5G could create an additional 2.2 million jobs in communities across the country.


“The report findings show what an incredible opportunity there is in local economies,” said Tejas Rao, managing director and Mobile Offering Network lead for Accenture’s North America practice. “5G-powered smart city solutions applied to the management of vehicle traffic and electrical grids alone could produce an estimate of $160 billion in benefits and savings for local communities and their residents. These 5G attributes will enable cities to reduce commute times, improve public safety and generate significant smart-grid efficiencies.”

Sanjay Dhar, managing director in Accenture’s North American Strategy practice, added, “Full realization of the economic growth and cost savings will depend on how robustly 5G networks are deployed locally, and will require different approaches in local communities from those used in the past.”

Noting that achieving the full benefits, speed and capacity of 5G will require hundreds of thousands of new, shoebox-sized small cells, the study calls upon municipal leaders to consider a new approach to wireless siting policies. The study strongly suggests changes such as streamlining local permitting and regulations to account for the size and number of small cells needed, improving access to public rights of way, and changing wireless antenna fee structures to support the new small cell deployment model.

“5G will be transformative for all Americans. Accenture’s report confirms the significant benefits from the next generation of wireless, driven by hundreds of billions of dollars that the wireless industry will invest to deploy 5G,” said Meredith Attwell Baker, President and CEO of CTIA. “Not only will 5G deployment unlock substantial job growth and economic gains in cities and towns across the country, it will help make our lives safer. The Accenture report importantly underscores the need for policymakers at all levels of government to take action—cities and states with modernized zoning and siting rules that support tomorrow’s networks will be the first to realize the economic and civic benefits of 5G.”

Jan 13

Do Robots Hint at the Future of the Internet of Things?

Robots might always seem to be a concrobotept that’s way off in the future, or conveyed to us as thrilling ideas we see in the big blockbuster movies, but in 2017, many already exist in our smart homes. Amazon’s ALEXA, and Google Home, which are essentially voice-operated assistants, are early forms of robots, awaiting commands that range from playing specific music, preparing the coffee pot, or finding out the score of the big game. Many of these commands are things we already perform on our own mobile devices. But at CES last week, where the robotics marketplace premiered some of the most advanced and high-tech robots in the world, robots made it very clear that they offer something we can’t quite get from our iPhones, tablets, or voice assistants, and that they are indeed the next step in the evolution of the Internet of Things. In fact, Steve Cousins, a speaker at CES on CNET’s “Robots: Are They Ready to Help” panel, and CEO of Savioke, an autonomous robotics technology company, predicted that twice as many people will interact with robots in 2017 than they did in 2016.

Steve Carlin, vice president of SoftBank Robotics America,  said during the panel, “Robotics takes that wall between you and your environment, that cell phone, and gets rid of it.” Carlin explained the progression we’ve seen in technology over the last couple of decades as having gone from desktop to laptop to mobile, and now we see robotics entering the fray as well. “That’s spurred by one of the key consumer trends: The ability to talk to your devices,” he said. We’ve seen it in Siri, as well as the voice search on X1, and it will only become more of a dominant feature in our daily lives as technology catches up to what consumers seek the most: meaningful interactions and conversation. As many of the robots that roamed the showfloor at CES exhibited, people can cut right to the chase and just get to what they want without pulling out their own mobile devices and starting a search of their own — whether it’s a daily chore they want done, locking up the garage door, or checking what the weather will be later that day.

Jan 12

Apple Sets Its Sights on Hollywood With Plans for Original Content

tim_cookTech giant has been in talks with producers in recent months about buying rights to scripted television programs.  

Apple Inc. is planning to build a significant new business in original television shows and movies, according to people familiar with the matter, a move that could make it a bigger player in Hollywood and offset slowing sales of iPhones and iPads.

These people said the programming would be available to subscribers of Apple’s AAPL, -0.71%   $10-a-month streaming-music service, which has struggled to catch up to the larger Spotify AB. Apple Music already includes a limited number of documentary-style segments on musicians, but nothing like the premium programming it is now seeking.

Will the Biggest Chinese-U.S. Movie Venture Be a Success?

At a cost of around $150 million, “The Great Wall” is the most ambitious co-production between Chinese and Hollywood studios to date and the most expensive film shot exclusively in China. But can it capture a global audience? Photo: Universal Pictures

The technology giant has been in talks with veteran producers in recent months about buying rights to scripted television programs. It also has approached experienced marketing executives at studios and networks to discuss hiring them to promote its content, said people with knowledge of the discussions.

In addition to TV, Apple indicated to these people that it is considering offering original movies, though those plans are more preliminary. Executives at Apple have told people in Hollywood they hope to start offering original scripted content by the end of 2017.

Jan 12

Verizon boosts top FiOS speeds to 750Mbps, has multi-gigabit in works


Verizon will start offering a 750Mbps Internet package for $150 a month in parts of its FiOS fiber-to-the-home territory, the company announced today.

“FiOS Instant Internet” with symmetrical upload and download speeds of 750Mbps will launch Saturday “to nearly seven million homes and businesses in greater New York City/northern New Jersey, Philadelphia and Richmond, [Virginia] with more to follow in 2017,” Verizon’s announcement said. The Boston and Norfolk, Virginia, markets will get the new speed tier later in the first quarter, the company said.

This is an improvement over the top speed tiers currently advertised on the FiOS website, which lists 300Mbps for $170 a month and 500Mbps for $270, plus taxes, equipment charges, and other fees. Those are promotional prices that last only a year before increasing.

Since the 750Mbps tier will cost less than the current 300Mbps and 500Mbps offerings, we’d expect the price of those tiers to drop if Verizon keeps offering them. When asked if those prices will be lowered, a Verizon spokesperson said in an e-mail, “we will be adjusting the other tier’s pricing, stay tuned on that.”

What isn’t clear is whether the $150 price point is the standard price or a promotional price that only lasts a certain amount of time. It seems likely that Verizon will continue its policy of guaranteeing the price for just 12 months, but the company did not provide a direct answer to this question. “We’re launching at $149.99. Nothing else to share on future pricing,” Verizon told Ars.

The 750Mbps speeds don’t require any new in-home equipment as long as customers have the latest FiOS router, the company told us. But Verizon did not provide an answer about when the 750Mbps speeds will be available throughout its FiOS territory.

While the standalone 750Mbps plan is priced at $150 a month, triple-play packages that also include TV and phone service will start at $170 a month, Verizon said. While this isn’t nearly as good a deal as Google Fiber’s $70 gigabit plan that’s available in some cities, Verizon’s improved speeds and pricing may help it against direct competitors such as Comcast and Charter.

Charter download speeds top out at 300Mbps, while Comcast introduced a 2Gbps symmetrical fiber-to-the-home service that costs $300 a month (plus $1,000 in startup fees). Comcast also offers gigabit download speeds (but only 35Mbps uploads) over cable wires for $140 a month, with $70-per-month pricing available to some customers. AT&T is also doing a big fiber push, with prices of $70 or $90 a month for standalone gigabit service.

Though Verizon still hasn’t crossed the gigabit threshold for home Internet service, it’s been testing NG-PON2 (next generation passive optical network) equipment that could push its speeds into the multi-gigabit range. This week, Verizon said it “successfully completed what it believes is the first interoperability trial of NG-PON2 technology” at one of its labs, “demonstrat[ing] that equipment from different vendors on either end of a single fiber—at the service provider’s endpoint and at the customer’s endpoint—can be used to deliver service without impacting the end user… Until now, equipment from the same vendor had to be used on both endpoints.”

Besides Verizon, the trial involved the companies Adtran, Broadcom, Cortina Access, and Ericsson. NG-PON2 can support up to 10Gbps per customer over a single fiber, Verizon said.

Sadly, these advances will not benefit large portions of Verizon territory that haven’t been upgraded to fiber and are thus stuck on slow DSL technology, despite objections from residents and local government officials.


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