Monday, June 10
In an opinion piece for Politico, former FCC advisor David Goodfriend weighs in on recent remarks from FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel regarding the Commission’s upcoming spectrum incentive auctions:
Rosenworcel articulated how reforms to the FCC’s wireless licensing policy — which allows us to use devices like cellphones and tablet computers — can help millions of consumers and drive job growth in one of the most dynamic sectors of our economy. But her approach should not be limited to telecommunications policy.
Goodfriend goes on to highlight what he’s calling the “Jessica Principles” for crafting spectrum auctions. Among them is putting consumers first, making the process open and transparent, adhering to simplicity:
Well-intentioned, bright people in government often come up with ridiculously complex answers to difficult questions. Every good manager will tell you, though, that simplicity is its own virtue. We should pursue it wherever possible. Rosenworcel addressed one of the most complex tasks facing the FCC today: how to design a license auction where broadcasters have an incentive to sell their licenses back to the public and wireless providers have an incentive to buy those licenses and turn them into useful wireless broadband services for the public. Complex recommendations abound. Rosenworcel’s call for simplicity should be heeded.
Friday, June 07
Hackers from China have been making the news recently as a number of American companies and government agencies have been the victims snooping. But as Michael Isikoff of NBC News reports, attacks from behind the Great Firewall have been happening for a while now:
The U.S. secretly traced a massive cyberespionage operation against the 2008 presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and John McCain to hacking units backed by the People’s Republic of China, prompting high level warnings to Chinese officials to stop such activities, U.S. intelligence officials tell NBC News.
The disclosure on the eve of a two-day summit between the U.S. and Chinese presidents highlights what has become a persistent source of tension between the two global powers: Beijing’s aggressive, orchestrated campaign to pierce America’s national security armor at any weak point – in this case the computers and laptops of top campaign aides and advisers who received high-level briefings.
As for China’s response to being caught, Isikoff reports:
The 2008 attacks, for example, prompted U.S. intelligence officials to sternly warn the Chinese that they had “crossed the line,” says one former senior U.S. official who was directly involved in the investigation.
“We told them we knew what they were up to – and that this had gone too far,” said the former official. Chinese officials listened politely and denied they had anything to do with the attacks on the campaign, the former official said.
The National Telecommunications & Information Administration (or NTIA, if you’re into acronyms) has released its U.S. Broadband Availability Report, and overall it it shows an increase in broadband speeds and penetration. Some highlights:
• Basic Availability: Ninety-eight percent of Americans have access to wired or wireless broadband at combined advertised download speeds of 3 Mbps or greater and upload speeds of 768 kbps or greater (referred to as 3/768 here).
• Wireline: Just over 93% of Americans have access to advertised wireline broadband at speeds of at least 3/768, and almost 93% of Americans have access to at least 6 Mbps. Ninety-one percent of Americans have access at 10 Mbps, but access drops to 78% at 25 Mbps.
• Wireless: Approximately 81% of Americans can access mobile wireless download speeds of 6 Mbps or greater. Nearly 26% of the population can access fixed wireless download speeds at 6 Mbps.
While most Americans now have access and better speeds, the report concludes that more investment will be needed in order to meet the demands of consumers going forward:
Broadband service at basic speed levels is now widely available, but even for basic speeds, gaps still persist between rural and urban communities. These gaps between rural and urban broadband availability become larger as speeds increase; and as speeds increase, the overall level of broadband availability decreases, regardless of whether the user is located in an urban or rural area. Similarly, far more providers compete for customers when the service offering is at the lower broadband speeds tiers. Cable dominates the provisioning of broadband service at the higher speed tiers, followed by fiber to the premises. The implication of this finding is important because in areas where the technology deployed today is not capable of providing broadband service at speeds of 50 Mbps, 100 Mbps or a 1 Gbps, most companies or communities will need to significantly upgrade their infrastructure to offer these speeds when consumers, businesses or institutions demand them.
The full report is available at the NTIA website.
Thursday, June 06
An item from reporter David Jackson of USA Today, about President Obama’s plan to stump for education around the country, caught my eye this morning. Specifically, this line:
Obama is likely to call on the Federal Communications Commission to expand a program to bring high-speed Internet connections to 99% of the nation’s students within five years.
That’s an aggressive call to action. It’s also long overdue, given the profound effect high-speed Internet access has on education. The FCC’s bold National Broadband Plan, launched way back in 2010, has been slow to gain momentum, so any sort of kick-start the president can give it is more than welcome.
But as with anything, the devil will be in the details. Funding — especially in cash-strapped municipalities — will be a significant challenge, which means hitting the mark of 99% of students will require a massive amount of private investment.
The good news is, providers are willing to make that investment. The upgrade to all Internet-based networks will greatly expand the reach of broadband access, especially in rural areas. And the FCC’s upcoming spectrum incentive auctions will hopefully deliver much-needed capacity for mobile broadband providers so they can both keep up with demand and connect new customers.
While the FCC can certainly expand its program for deploying high-speed Internet, its true effectiveness in achieving President Obama’s goal will arguably be on the regulatory front. The upgrade to all-Internet based networks and the allocation of more spectrum for wireless face hurdles. For the former, it’s a phone book of regulations enacted way back in 1996, if not decades before. For the latter, it’s the issue of whether certain wireless providers should be limited in participating in spectrum auctions — an unwise move, given the billions the FCC would leave on the table from auction proceeds.
Connecting every student in America to high-speed Internet is certainly achievable. But it will take the government and private industry working together to negotiate the regulatory minefield.
President Obama is setting the target. Now we just need to make sure we can hit it. Every student in America deserves nothing less.
This post was authored by Floyd Mori, IIA Member and President and CEO of the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies.
The desire to increase equal opportunities for all Americans is a noble one. But the process of achieving this worthy goal is complicated, and it requires a variety of approaches—each tailored to meet the different needs of different communities.
For example, the Asian-American community is incredibly diverse, comprised of some groups that traditionally have achieved higher levels of education and economic stability. But their success doesn’t tell the whole story: The Asian-American community also includes many that continue to struggle with poverty, language and educational barriers, as well as health disparities. Their struggles mirror the challenges that affect many other minority communities in America.
It turns out that one way to increase equality of opportunity for these communities and for virtually every American is through increased access to high-speed broadband service. This service provides improved access to additional educational, professional, and social opportunities, in addition to opportunities for better health care and civic engagement. President Obama, recognizing the importance of broadband access, set a goal for providing 98 percent of all Americans with access to high-speed broadband by 2016.
Unfortunately, the availability of high-speed broadband is still limited in many parts of the country and within many minority communities, for a variety of reasons. This is a problem because in our modern, digital age, broadband access is now a necessity, not a luxury. Broadband service can strengthen communities and families, present new possibilities that lead to a better quality of life, and even act as a bridge to a brighter future.
In addition, too much of today’s communication regulatory and legislative decision-making processes are incorrectly based on yesterday’s communication network of wired connectivity. This has slowed the expansion of high-speed broadband and thus contributing to widening the inequalities we face today.
For example, distance learning has become both a viable alternative and a valuable supplement to traditional classroom learning for students at all levels and at any age. Online classes and job training can even make it possible for people to learn on their own time, a particularly important benefit for workers and families. With broadband access, non-native English speakers can choose from several language applications and programs to help them achieve proficiency in English.
Additionally, broadband-enabled applications in telehealth and mobile health (mHealth) offer better access to quality care and increased options for improved wellness and health. These health technologies also offer improved management of chronic diseases, including those that affect minority communities (including Asian-American communities) at disproportionately higher rates.
Conversely, lack of broadband access constitutes more than just an inability to get these and other benefits. In our modern time, it puts people at a tremendous disadvantage. For those without access—including many Asian Americans (in particular, our Pacific Islander and Southeast Asian communities), as well as many African Americans, Hispanics, and rural Americans—a fast solution is needed. Many minorities and other underserved groups face a real risk of falling behind and missing out on all that these exciting technologies have to offer.
That’s why it’s so important to upgrade our nation’s communications networks to Internet Protocol (IP)-based networks. Transitioning to such an infrastructure will bring increased access to next-generation, high-speed broadband networks with new capabilities and applications. These modern networks deliver faster speeds and enhanced connectivity. Moreover, unlike outdated networks, they support a variety of devices while also offering new options for services and technologies. The IP transition can transform and improve health care and education as well as provide more opportunities for civic engagement, professional development, and economic growth for us all.
Investment in modern networks is good for our economy, too. A study by Deloitte estimated U.S. investment in modern networks to be between $25–53 billion during 2012–2016; this corresponded to a conservative estimate of $73–152 billion in GDP growth and 317,000–771,000 new jobs for that same period. That investment presents many opportunities for our country and for all Americans.
The transition to next-generation networks will increase broadband access and result in economic growth and countless benefits for Americans; therefore, it must become a national priority. I believe that this transition can be achieved if our policymakers focus on encouraging private sector investment and creating a modern regulatory framework. Achieving rapid deployment of modern communications networks is the key to achieving the President’s national broadband goal and to creating true equality of opportunity. All Americans, regardless of background, should have access to broadband and to the brighter future it can deliver.
— Floyd Mori
Wednesday, June 05
How much do Americans lose in productivity by not being able to use electronic devices during flights. As Keith Laing of The Hill reports, a new study has a startling estimate:
The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) ban on the use of electronic devices during flights is costing the U.S. 105 million hours of productivity, according to a recent study.
The findings, from the DePaul University Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development, come as the FAA is nearing a decision on relaxing its rules prohibiting the use of electronic devices during take-offs and landings of airplanes.
Via Mike Snider of USA Today, a new report from PricewaterhouseCoopers finds that when it comes to being online, consumers are increasingly turning to mobile connections:
This year, consumer spending on Internet-connected smartphones, tablets and other devices will surpass home broadband service fees for the first time, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ “Entertainment & Media Outlook 2013-2017” report. In four years, nearly 286.7 million in the U.S., or 87% of the population, will have mobile Internet devices, while about 85% of homes will have broadband.
Mobile Internet access spending will top $54 billion in the U.S. this year, compared with $49.6 billion in home Internet spending, the consulting firm estimates in the report, out today. In 2012, home Internet spending ($46.5 billion) slightly outpaced mobile ($44.5 billion).
“We see mobile growing at a much more pronounced rate than broadband, because we are getting toward the saturation point (on home broadband),” says PwC partner Sean De Winter. “Mobile Internet penetration is screaming through the roof.”
All the more reason for the FCC to ensure their upcoming spectrum auctions are designed to be as successful as possible — for providers, the federal government, and consumers.
Yesterday, Sen. John Thune, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation delivered prepared remarks for the Committee’s hearing on the State of Wireless Communications. TMCnet has posted the entirety of Thune’s remarks, but here’s a couple highlights.
On the pressing need for more spectrum, Thune said:
“Without enough spectrum, the private sector will not be able to keep pace with consumer demand, which is growing exponentially. We must make it a priority to increase the availability of spectrum for commercial use, both licensed and unlicensed, as quickly as possible.”
As for how the FCC’s upcoming spectrum incentive auctions should be crafted:
“Getting more spectrum into the marketplace, to the parties that value it most, is ultimately the best way for Federal policymakers to encourage new services and spur competition. Unfortunately, some voices, including the Department of Justice, are calling for the Federal Communications Commission to micromanage the allocation of spectrum among wireless carriers. I stand with Chairman Upton, Chairman Walden, and my other colleagues in the House who challenged this perspective in a letter to the FCC in April. I believe the Commission should not pick winners or losers among individual companies, but instead let all interested participants freely compete against one another in the open market.”
Sen. Thune’s full remarks are definitely worth checking out.
Monday, June 03
Video streaming service Hulu has reportedly been up for sale for a while now, and according to Noah Kravitz of Read Write Web, the company has a number of suitors:
At least seven suitors are said to be vying for Hulu, which went back on the auction block after previous attempts at a sale and initial public offering both failed. A deal would hinge as much on terms as sheer dollar value, as the length of Hulu’s content licenses - and what control the site’s trio of owners have over content available to subscribers - will be part of any negotiations. Hulu’s days of exclusive rights to popular television content could be drawing to a close as networks see the financial benefit in licensing online rights to multiple players including Amazon, Netflix and YouTube/Google.
The current price for Hulu is rumored to be north of $1 billion, with players Yahoo! and DirectTV reportedly in the lead.
These days, when you’re out and about chances are you see scores of people hunched over their smartphones. As Ina Fried of All Things Digital highlights, there’s a reason for that:
There’s no question that we spend a lot of time staring at our phones, but just how much?
Well, on average, it’s about an hour, according to a new study from Experian.
So what are we doing with our phones? According to the Experian, Fried reports, we’re doing a lot of talking and texting, with social networking and surfing the web close behind. Also of interest: iPhone users spend more time with their device than people with Android phones.