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Link to Wednesday's news

Friday, October 7, 2005 by

Link to Thursday's news

Internet provider feud hits Time-Warner

Road Runner finds way around battle between Internet backbone giants

After two days of outages caused by a battle between Internet service providers which left customers of the Road Runner network unable to connect to numerous websites, including In Fact Daily, owner Time-Warner resolved its part of the problem last night.

Frustrated customers around the world learned Wednesday morning that Level 3 Communications had severed its agreement with Cogent Communications, cutting off the customers of each from the other’s websites and email. Those affected included Time-Warner and other consumer service providers. Roger Heaney, director of Public Affairs for Time-Warner Austin, said Wednesday, “We are working to find alternate pathways so our customers can be reconnected with these websites as soon as possible.” Apparently Time-Warner found those alternative pathways last night.

Level 3 and Cogent provide the “backbone” of the Internet. The dispute between the two involves money and does not appear to be headed toward an easy resolution. Reuters.com reported Thursday, “Like other large, wholesale Internet service providers, Cogent and Level 3 handed off traffic from one network to each other free of charge, until Level 3 said that it was handling too much Cogent traffic.”

"We felt that there was an imbalance and we were disadvantaged in that relationship and we were ending up with what amounts to free capacity," Level 3 spokesperson Jennifer Daumler told Reuters. Cogent, on the other hand, argues that the two sides are handling equal amounts of traffic. Some online commentators referred to the dispute as a game of chicken. The loser of this game is likely to pay a high price.

Austin web host Sonia Santana, owner of http://hyperweb.com, told In Fact Daily that the 40 sites she hosts were being affected by the Level 3-Cogent battle. She was appreciative of Time-Warner’s effort to find a technical fix for the problem. “We looked at the (Internet) routes and we know that Time-Warner was the party that resolved this. We don’t think that Level 3 and Cogent resolved this.” She said Time-Warner “understood what their customers were feeling.”

According to Internetnews.com, Level 3 is one of the largest Internet backbones in the world. It is also “the primary provider of Internet connectivity for millions of broadband subscribers, through cable and DSL partners. Level 3’s upstart rival, Cogent, “is the largest provider of Ethernet services in the United States. Cogent specializes in providing businesses in the United States and Europe with high-speed Internet access and point-to-point transport services. “

For information on the articles mentioned here, check these links:

http://today.reuters.co.uk/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=internetNews&storyID=2005-10- 06T215536Z_01_KWA678919_RTRIDST_0_OUKIN-UK-BACKBONE.XML&archived=False

http://www.internetnews.com/infra/article.php/3554476

Federal grants repay Austin for Katrina expenses

FEMA to cover most of the costs of operating shelter, housing evacuees

Two decisions on Thursday put the City of Austin significantly closer to the goal of 100 percent reimbursement for costs related to aiding evacuees from Hurricane Katrina. The City Council voted unanimously to accept a FEMA grant to cover housing costs for Louisiana evacuees, and Senator John Cornyn’s office announced a separate FEMA grant to cover costs associated with operating the emergency shelter at the Austin Convention Center.

The housing grant is the larger of the two at slightly more than $17 million. “That provides about six months of rent for about 2,000 families plus the utility costs,” said Paul Hilgers, director of the city’s Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Office. “It’s a large chunk of change. We’re pleased to be able to get this application process into FEMA and get this process moving forward.”

The money is coming from FEMA’s Public Assistance Program, and is designated for those evacuees who were brought to the Austin Convention Center. The city kept a database of clients who stayed at the emergency shelter there for at least one night, and they can be placed at one of the 180 apartment complexes that have registered with the city to take part in the program.

City officials had been counting on federal reimbursement to cover the costs associated with helping the Katrina evacuees, and the federal grant accepted by the Council on Thursday covers a major portion of those costs. “This is FEMA’s offer of assistance to the City of Austin to say ‘we know you’re going to have some expenses with regard to housing people, we’re asking you to pay for these up front and then we will reimburse you,’” said Hilgers. Chief Financial Officer John Stephens said the city was always confident that FEMA would approve the housing reimbursement program. “The next step is just to place people in apartments, and we’re doing that at a very brisk clip,” he said.

A smaller grant announcement came from Cornyn’s office. FEMA will release $5.4 million to the city to pay for the temporary housing of evacuees at the Austin Convention Center, which provided shelter for more than 4,000 individuals in the weeks following the hurricane.

“We had a dramatic amount of overtime, mostly police, fire, and EMS, but also Building Services and other departments,” said Mayor Will Wynn. “We also had a lot of direct material expenses. We had to go out and buy a lot of supplies to actually convert the Convention Center floor into a shelter facility.”

The Mayor attributed the quick response from the federal government to the close working relationship Austin has developed with the region’s elected officials. “It has paid off a lot that every chance we got, we toured delegations through our Convention Center. The Vice President toured the facility. We had both Senators tour. I led a large Texas Congressional delegation, including many members of Congress who don’t represent the Austin area,” he said. “Every chance I got, I would pull the Vice President or a Senator aside and say ‘we’re doing this, it’s a stellar performance, but we’re going to need your help.’”

The FEMA grant of $5.4 million does not cover all of the costs associated with the shelter, which the Mayor said were closer to $8 million. But the city is still in negotiations with FEMA over the possible reimbursement for the remaining $2.5 million.

Panel backs tougher standards for historic designation

The Historic Preservation Task Force will still need to tackle the use of moratoriums at a future meeting, but made recommendations this week on many of the major issues on its agenda.

Chair Betty Baker led the meeting, which bogged down briefly on the issue of the size of local historic districts. However, the panel did catalogue a number of recommendations to the City Council, most intended to address perceived problems surrounding the new historic preservation ordinance.

Among the recommendationsmade by the Task Force:

• After some discussion, the Task Force settled on the concept of a block face – or one street block length down one side of a street – as the minimum size of a local historic district. Members expressed a preference for local historic districts to be the size of a subdivision—or at least the concept of a local historic district as a neighborhood—but recognized that it could be a smaller area. The group wants to prevent the gerrymandering of neighborhood lines to create local historic districts.

Under the recommendations, the standard for the creation of a local historic district would be that 51 percent of the structures within the boundaries would be contributing historic value to the district. At least 60 percent of the owners must support the district in a valid petition, although the guidelines would apply to all homeowners within the district’s boundaries once the local historic district was approved.

City legal staff is still uncertain whether recent legislation – specifically, House Bill 3461, passed in the last session – could stop the city from imposing a moratorium on permits in the area of a proposed local historic district while an application for a district is being processed.

Task force members want to prevent a rush on demolition permits. Assistant City Attorney David Lloyd, who has contacted a number of cities to ask about interpretations of the new law, says the reaction has been mixed. The task force will meet again on October 19 to receive further input on the possible interpretations.

©2005 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

. . . Under a deal approved by the City Council Thursday, the City of Austin will purchase the Walnut Creek Business Park for $12 million, giving city 311 operators and employees in some other departments a permanent home. The city plans to spend another $10 million to renovate the four buildings, which offer a total of 271,000 square feet of space as well as some room to grow. Other departments that intend to utilize the space include Solid Waste Services, Austin Energy and the Library History Center, which needs storage space. City CFO John Stephens said buying the property and renovating it would cost about $9.91 per sq. ft. The cost of a new building would be at least $20.28/sq ft and leasing would be $10.40/sq. ft., he said . . . Agreement heads off vote . . . An agreement between the property owner of the Thompson-Carter House and the Clarksville Community Development Corporation headed off what could have been a divided vote by the Council Thursday. The original structure on the property had some historic value, according to city staff, but an addition to the house was basically worthless. The agreement allowed the addition to be moved and the original structure to remain on the lot at 1815 Waterston Ave. At staff’s request, the Council voted to deny historic zoning to accommodate the agreement. . . . Independent Texans get Kinky . . . Kinky Friedman, independent gubernatorial iconoclast, will accept an honorary membership in Independent Texans, a political reform organization seeking recognition for the 4.2 million Texas voters who do not identify with either the Democrats or Republicans. The event is set for 11am Saturday at Mojo’s Daily Grind at 2714 Guadalupe St. Independent Texans’ founder, Linda Curtis, Austin’s own political iconoclast, will speak to why Kinky, in building such an alliance for political reform, stands to shake up an already shaken gubernatorial election. Kinky will talk about why he’ll accept his honorary membership in an organization whose name, he believes, is redundant. . . . Drive safely to Texas – OU . . . The Texas Department of Public Safety will increase patrols Friday and Saturday along I-35 between Austin and the Oklahoma border to monitor traffic headed to Dallas for the Texas-Oklahoma football game Saturday afternoon. Troopers will concentrate on finding drunk drivers on their way to and from the game. They’ll also look for speeders and people who are not wearing safety belts. “We want to make sure that everyone headed to the game gets there safely,” said Col. Thomas A. Davis, Jr., director of the DPS, who recommends that travelers leave early for Dallas. . . . Free smoke alarms . . . The Austin Fire Department's Public Education Division and the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) will offer free smoke alarm installations and home hazard assessments for residents of South Austin as part of Fire Prevention Week (October 8-15). A $2,600 donation was made by BOMA to purchase the smoke alarms. The event takes place on Sunday in the area bounded by Town Lake, Stassney Lane, South Congress Blvd. and I-35. Participants will meet at 12:30pm at Odom Elementary School, 1010 Turtle Creek Blvd.

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