Techno-votes: Astronauts and the FCC

Tiffany Smith

*Although Earthlings braved long lines to cast their votes, the Times Online reported that two Texas astronauts cast their votes from the International Space Station, about 220 miles above the Earth, today. In a pre-recorded video, broadcast by NASA, they took the unique opportunity to encourage the rest of us to get out and vote. "If we can do it, so can you," ICC commander Edward Fincke was quoted as saying. However, as wet ballots clog counters in Virgina and some voters wait hours just to reach the ballot box, it seems natural to wonder when the rest of us will be able to beam our votes in. If the touch screen glitches that have caused many polling places to return to paper ballots are any indication, the influence of technology on the mechanics of voting seems to be occuring slowly.
*To the chagrin of television broadcasters and the excitement of Google and other technology companies, the Federal Communications Commission voted 5-0 today to open up "white space," the radio frequencies between those used by television channels, for public use, the New York Times reported. Yesterday, the NYT ran an article explaining that tech companies hope opening this airwave chunk will inspire development of new devices that will transmit wireless internet signals better than those that rely on existing WiFi networks. Television networks are resistant–they’re worried that wireless signals in this ‘buffer zone’ might encroach on their piece of the spectrum. Entertainers who rely on wireless microphones are also concerned, since they depend on "white space" signaling. However, today’s NYT article reported that the FCC was confident that interference doesn’t pose a major risk.

Tiffany Smith Science and technology reporter