Get the latest news alerts: at Twitter.

A roundup of the latest high-tech news “Hot Off the Wire” from The Associated Press and Local Tech Wire:

• Calif. license plates might go digital, show ads

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — As electronic highway billboards flashing neon advertisements become more prevalent, the next frontier in distracted driving is already approaching — ad-blaring license plates.

The California Legislature is considering a bill that would allow the state to begin researching the use of electronic license plates for vehicles. The move is intended as a moneymaker for a state facing a $19 billion deficit.

The device would mimic a standard license plate when the vehicle is in motion but would switch to digital ads or other messages when it is stopped for more than four seconds, whether in traffic or at a red light. The license plate number would remain visible at all times in some section of the screen.

In emergencies, the plates could be used to broadcast Amber Alerts or traffic information.

The bill’s author, Democratic Sen. Curren Price of Los Angeles, said California would be the first state to implement such technology if the state Department of Motor Vehicles ultimately recommends the widespread use of the plates. He said other states are exploring something similar.

Interested advertisers would contract directly with the DMV, thus opening a new revenue stream for the state, Price said.

At least one company, San Francisco-based Smart Plate, is developing a digital electronic license plate but has not yet reached the production stage. The bill would authorize the DMV to work with Smart Plate or another company to explore the use and safety of electronic license plates.

• Business group marketing Appalachia as high-tech

SOMERSET, Ky. — A group of Appalachian computer and information technology companies joined forces Monday to tell businesses in the region they don’t have to look elsewhere for high-tech help – it’s available right in their back yard.

The , which currently has 13 companies as members, formally organized during a daylong conference at the Center for Rural Development attended by community and business leaders. It was an effort to share eastern Kentucky’s technological expertise with those that are seeking it.

"We have to stop making fun of ourselves and stop laughing when others make fun of us," said Josh Ball, representing Hazard Community and Technical College. "It begins with us, then it spreads like a web throughout the nation where folks start to respect our talents."

Organizers say the first step is getting companies and governments within the region to look close to home when they need technological help. But they also are looking far beyond that goal and want to market Appalachia as a place where high-tech workers will want to live. Their slogan: Same Talent, Better Location.
Jonathan Picklesimer, chairman and one of the founders of the Silicon Hollow Association, acknowledges it’s a tall task but insists the region has at least one thing going for it.

"We really do believe people in eastern Kentucky have the kind of life millions of other people wish they had, and go on vacation to get," Picklesimer said. "(Information technology) is something we normally associate with big cities and big companies, but it can make a difference in rural America."

• Verizon lets FiOS customers sign up month-to-month

NEW YORK — Verizon Communications Inc. is offering its FiOS television and broadband Internet package to new customers without a long-term contract.

The company said it wants to be more competitive with cable TV companies, which typically sell services on a month-to-month basis and had mocked Verizon’s contract requirements in ads. Contracts are more common with cell phone services.

FiOS is still small compared with cable. Verizon has about 3 million television customers, compared with nearly 62 million that cable TV providers collectively have. FiOS is currently available in 13 states, and the company is aggressively trying to cut into the cable business where it offers FiOS service.