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The Mother’s Milk of Algorithms: Google Expands Its Data Center Lobbying Footprint in Minnesota–Home to Senator Amy Klobuchar

January 14, 2019 1 comment

Data profiling requires a lot of computing power.  Really a whole bunch.  When you’re talking that much electricity, you’re talking government.  When you’re talking government, you’re talking lobbying.

And in this case, looking at the political landscape from the data center point of view might explain a whole lot of oddball results.  Like why do Senators from Oregon and Nebraska seem ready to abandon their constituents in favor of a bunch of out-of-staters that don’t have another connection to their states?  And which moves are Google making now that might position them to be influential again in US presidential politics in 2020 and also be bad for the creative community?  Maybe having juice all comes down to having the juice.

When Google and Facebook are scraping all your personal information and hosting all that user-generated pirated content, they need to really work over their algorithms.  Bigly.  And crunching algorithms requires gigantic data centers and gigantic data centers don’t run on magic elves.

No, electricity is the mothers milk of algorithms and electricity doesn’t come from magic elves generating special energy on treadmills imported from the Undying Lands.

How much electricity does it take for Google to invade your privacy…sorry…be Google?  Google has not, to my knowledge, updated its voluntary 2011 disclosures on energy use. In 2011, Google’s continuous energy needs were roughly what it would take to power 200,000 homes in the U.S.–say Salt Lake City, Yonkers or Little Rock.  Approximately 80% of that electricity is Google’s data centers.  And that was eight years ago.  According to a 2016 feature in the Guardian, Google accounts for the lions share of approximately 2% of greenhouse gas emissions in the world that power data centers.  That’s right–the world.  So presumably the reason they haven’t updated those 2011 disclosures is because the Google climate news isn’t good.

Google would like you to believe that they offset their carbon footprint through investing in renewable energy, which they do to a degree.  But the people who really do the big investing in Google’s renewable energy needs are not just Google–they are that old standby, the old reliable for corporate welfare, the innovator of last resort.  That’s right.

You.

We’ll come back to how you do that in a minute, but rest assured.  You won’t be shocked, shocked.  And we’ll always have Paris.

Regardless of who’s building their infrastructure, Google’s energy drain would make Google a very big electricity customer–very big.  And then there’s Amazon and Facebook, too.  Internet Association types, you get the idea.  (Someone has to pay for Michael Beckerman’s $4,000 shoes.)

My bet is that the demand for electricity to run those algorithms needs to be spread out so hopefully nobody will notice the affect on the climate that the Silicon Valley party is having.  This is due to the massive draw down of electricity and the crowding out of local users in the lucky localities where the taxpayer pays Google to locate their data centers.  Where these data centers are located can create considerable political leverage for the already over-leveraged Google.

Let’s take a look at the most recent example, Google’s new data center in Minnesota, home to Senator Amy Klobuchar. (Senator Klobuchar was included in the recent list of potential 2020 Democratic Party presidential candidates in Politico.)  Senator Klobuchar is–or at least was–a long-time ally of artists in the U.S. Senate.

According to Minnesota Public Radio, the biggest utility in Minnesota is selling over 300 acres of land to Google to locate a new $600 million data center in the city of Becker, Minnesota not far from Minneapolis.  Fair market value, right?  Maybe not.

After the data center is built, Google will immediately become one of the utility’s five largest customers.  Although the utility “plans” to have “most” of Google’s data center needs met by renewable energy by 2050, it currently operates the largest coal-fired generator in Minnesota and is scheduled to replace that plant with a natural gas facility in the near future.

In order to get that natural gas plant paid for and opened, former Governor Mark Dayton side-stepped the customary process before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.   How?  Google’s favorite method of avoiding local elected officials–lobbying the state legislature.

What a coincidence.

And why was that new plant so important?  According to local press, “[p]roponents say the legislation [authorizing the natural gas generator] is necessary to stabilize the Sherburne County economy, which will be hurt by the coal generators’ demise.”  Sounds important.  Sounds like back scratching–we can only get Google to move here if we get rid of coal, and we can’t get rid of coal without spending some more of the taxpayers’ money–not Google’s money, your money–on a new power plant.

How do you think the Mayor of Becker (population 4,568) feels about Google coming to her town?  Think she’ll get in the way after the Governor and the state legislature have already mandated what is to go down?  Because the county economy is dependent on the new power plant and the new power plant will in large part be dependent on Google.

Do data centers produce a huge number of jobs that might justify paying a company like Google to move to Becker, Minnesota?  Not once they’re built--“the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development said the…data center would involve 2,000 construction jobs and employ about 50 full-time workers.

That’s right–50 jobs.  So we build you a power plant and you give us…50 jobs.

This is about the same result as Senator Ron Wyden enjoyed from the data centers built in The Dalles along Oregon’s Columbia River watershed.  (That would be the same Ron Wyden who is the former chair of the United States Senate Finance Subcommittee on Energy, Natural Resources, and Infrastructure….  No connection, I’m sure.)

But it seems that a handful of jobs is worth poking his finger in the eyes of the Oregon music community in Portland and beyond by consistently opposing fair copyright reforms and protecting Google’s cherished Section 230 safe harbor–which he’s proud to tell you he wrote.  It’s also worth opposing the Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act and generally being as close to Google as one is to two.

You might also find that Nebraska’s wind farms explain Senator Ben Sasse’s sudden interest in screwing pre-72 artists in line with Google’s desire to block the CLASSICS Act, particularly when you find out that Nebraska is in an internecine struggle with neighbor Iowa to get another of Google’s data centers.

So the question is–now that Google is building a data center in Minnesota, will we discover that Senator Klobuchar and her colleague Tina Smith are suddenly finding that protecting Minnesota artists like Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis,  Sounds of Blackness, Prince and that Zimmerman kid from the ravages of multinational corporations is just not their thing after all?

 

 

Are Data Centers The New Cornhusker Kickback and the Facebook Fakeout?

July 9, 2018 Comments off

In case you were scratching your head about why Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse decided to stick his beak into trying to continue discrimination against recording artists who had the misfortune to record before 1972–here’s a possible explanation.  Maybe he was just getting his beak wet?

Remember, Senator Sasse introduced an amendment to the Music Modernization Act in the dead of night the day before the markup of MMA in the Senate Judiciary Committee.  While Senator Ron Wyden–another data center beneficiary of Amazon, Facebook and Google–was at least trying to dress up his complicity in a Chanel suit and Louboutin shoes.  Senator Sasse went the more direct route:

Sasse Amendement

Now why might he be so interested, particuarly given Nebraska’s musical history?  It turns out that there is quite the competition between Nebraska and Iowa for Silicon Valley’s data center business, particularly given the rewewable energy profile of each state (wind is 37% of Iowa’s electricity production and about 20% of Nebraska (including hydro).  That checks the box for Silicon Valley.

Of course, as we see from Senator Sasse’s tone deaf foray into copyright lobbying, Silicon Valley thinks they can play the rubes in return for building data centers in their state, just like they did with Senator Ron Wyden and the people of Oregon.  What does stiffing pre-72 artists have to do with data centers?  Nothing.  What does it have to do with playing footsie with royalty deadbeats like Google and Facebook?

Everything.

And rumor has it that there is a deal in the wings for a new Google data center in Nebraska.  Which also explains a lot.

But somehow, Facebook knows that its Silicon Valleyness may not be that popular with the rubes.

According to Data Center Dynamics, Facebook has been going to great lengths to hide its involvement in massive data centers being built in Nebraska, which gives “Cornhusker Kickback” a whole new meaning:

Operating under the alias Raven Northbrook, Facebook has its eyes on Nebraska, DCDcan exclusively reveal

Late last year, local council officials granted approval for a large data center project in Sarpy County, Nebraska, but the company behind the huge facility was kept a secret.

Now, DCD can confirm that the corporation hoping to build four 610,000 square foot (56,670 sq m) data center halls at the Sarpy Power Park is Facebook.

You can run servers, but you cannot hide them

SHOW FULLSCREEN

Raven Northbrook, certificate of authority, Facebook

Source: Nebraska Secretary of State

Sarpy County documents reveal that the company, which is publicly represented by infrastructure engineering and design solutions company Olsson Associates, goes by the name Raven Northbrook.

Read the post on Data Center Dynamics

What’s Up With @SenSasse’s Vicious Little Amendment on pre-72?

June 28, 2018 Comments off

Sasse Amendement

It’s important to know who your friends are, and we’ve learned this week that Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse is not one of them.   It’s a bit surprising given Omaha’s musical legacy that starts with the big band era–you know, the musicians and artists Sasse was trying to dis with his amendment to strike the CLASSICS Act pre-72 fix from the Music Modernization Act.  Not to mention the Saddle Creek juggernaut.

It’s such a strange little tableau that it’s hard to really understand what in the world Senator Sasse thought he was up to with his vicious little amendment that would stab pre-72 artists and their heirs in the alley.  But we learned to keep a close eye on this character who seems to be in league with Senator Wyden, Google, Public Knowledge and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

So while you think about that one, you may want to have a listen to his fellow Nebraskan, my friend Buddy Miles with my old band mate Wally Rossi on guitar.

 

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