Friday, October 04
As Detroit prepares to choose a new mayor and City Council, teachers are preparing their students for the future. The new school year is now in full swing, and kids and teachers are settling into a routine of classes, friends, lunch menus and after-school activities. Students who are lucky enough are likely discovering how technology can enhance their lessons and expand learning beyond the classroom.
The Motor City, and indeed the entire country, are facing a tough time. Cuts are being proposed at every level of government, but there’s one essential learning tool that shouldn’t be on the chopping block: high-speed Internet. Access to this resource is increasingly necessary for students. More than a simple learning tool, access to broadband has the potential to transform education in America, afford our students new opportunities and give them the ability to transform their own communities. To see the numerous benefits of high-speed broadband, however, policy-makers and regulators must implement policies that will deliver this essential educational resource.
Advancing STEM education in America is an important and oft-discussed issue, and 21st Century broadband networks can help move forward this educational goal. Fast, reliable broadband connectivity makes individualized, interactive learning possible. This technology can enhance and supplement traditional classroom learning by engaging students in ways that can ignite a lifelong passion for knowledge. High-speed Internet service creates opportunities for educational enrichment and distance learning and can reduce inequities that exist between schools across the state or country.
High-speed Internet also makes possible blended learning, in which students and teachers collaborate to combine traditional classroom instruction with online lessons and tools. All of these benefits are possible with robust, advanced communications networks. Basic broadband access has proved to be an invaluable educational resource, but basic access alone can’t meet today’s capacity and speed requirements, much less tomorrows.
Schools and libraries across the country connect to the Internet largely because of a little-known government program run by the Federal Commissions Commission. E-rate, the nation’s largest education technology program, created in 1996, essentially funds Internet connectivity in our country’s classrooms and public libraries. The current program, however, has failed to keep pace with changing technology and the needs of students and schools. Today’s average classroom Internet connection is insufficient to support the educational innovations and learning tools of the 21st Century. According to a recent government survey, nearly half of schools and libraries reported connectivity speeds that were slower than the average American home , even though they typically serve 200 times as many users.
The dilemma of improving broadband access is a challenge not unique to our schools and libraries. Modern high-speed Internet remains out of reach for too many Americans. Schools and libraries, however, play a vital role in serving as a gateway to knowledge and providing access to broadband technologies in communities across the nation.
Efforts are now under way to expand the availability of high-speed broadband in our nation’s schools and libraries. President Barack Obama announced his ConnectED initiative in June. It calls on the Federal Communications Commission to modernize the existing E-rate program and would expand high-speed, high-capacity broadband service to 99% of K-12 students within five years. FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel has proposed going further, by outlining specific capacity and speed goals for a revised E-rate program, E-rate 2.0.
These efforts can ensure that our students have the resources they need to become tomorrow’s leaders. Broader access to next-generation broadband services, however, is also crucial for our entire nation. Thankfully, the federal government is now working with the private sector on how to best modernize and upgrade our antiquated telephone networks to bring high-speed broadband connectivity to every corner of the country.
Each child must have equal opportunity to develop and hone the skills necessary to navigate the technologies of tomorrow. Political, business and nonprofit leaders must support and encourage measures that expand access to 21st Century broadband in Detroit and the entire country.
This op-ed was originally published in the Detroit Free Press.
Monday, September 30
by Mario H. Lopez
Hispanic Heritage Month began in 1968. Two decades later, it was officially recognized when it was enacted into law by President Reagan.
Since that time, America’s Hispanic community has experienced significant economic and social advancement. Given IIA’s mission to advocate for the expansion of broadband service across the country, I’d like to focus on the inroads that have been made in the Hispanic community with respect to broadband access and adoption.
According to Pew, 68% of Hispanics now own a cellphone, and of that number, 60% mostly use their phones to go online. That’s not too surprising; Hispanics have for years been among the most active adopters of mobile broadband, and as smartphones have proliferated wildly, that rate of growth should continue.
As for home broadband connections, however, the numbers are less promising. In its May survey, Pew also found that a little over half — 53% — of Hispanic households had high-speed Internet. That’s compared to 74% of whites, and 64% of African Americans.
Given the importance of broadband to access education, economic opportunity, telemedicine, and employment, our nation should rededicate itself to encourage additional investment in next-generation wired and wireless networks throughout the country. These networks help power the devices we use today, and will use tomorrow.
Mobile broadband has greatly benefitted the Hispanic community. Yet, mobile broadband represents just one part of the solution needed to achieve universal high-speed Internet access connectivity for all—irrespective of one’s geographic location or social status.
Achieving the goal of bringing every American into the digital age, won’t be cheap. But as with bringing universal telephone service to every household a century ago, it can be achieved when government allows for the creation of an economic environment that allows innovation and ingenuity to flourish.
America has always had a strong, and diverse, social fabric. It’s one of the reasons why we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. And communications has been key to creating that social fabric. We are connected as a nation, and together we can ensure everyone in America can remain connected, no matter how we communicate.
Mario H. Lopez is President of the Hispanic Leadership Fund, an IIA member organization.
It is hard to believe that next month marks one year since Superstorm Sandy slammed into the East Coast, flooding streets, tunnels and cutting power in many towns. Beyond causing $65 billion in damage, the storm highlighted the vulnerabilities of our aging telephone network and the broader need to modernize and upgrade our nation’s communications infrastructure to bring 21st Century services and capabilities to all Americans.
There is an urgent need to complete the upgrade of the century-old telephone network, and replace it with a sparkling new broadband communications system that links to the Internet; moves information, data, and video at lightning speed; and carries our voice “phone” calls, too. It’s an exciting change that creates jobs, opens the door to improved schooling, and enhances access to medical care among other benefits.
It also means saying goodbye to a familiar friend – the old telephone network that’s enabled us to chat with friends and family from the comfort of our own homes for more than 100 years. A marvel of the 20th Century, that system is now becoming obsolete, surpassed by broadband technologies capable of delivering phone calls and offering a myriad of new communications services and applications.
The switch to the next-generation network is invigorating; it’s beneficial and, as the consumer group Public Knowledge has pointed out, “It’s inevitable.” In fact, the vast majority of Americans, perhaps 75 percent, have already made the move. Their house phone, which may look and feel just like what they’ve always had, is now connected to and powered by the same broadband technology that connects their computers to the Internet and can deliver high-definition TV programs, as well. With so many making the switch, the old network has grown redundant and increasingly costly to operate and maintain. In fact, some manufacturers have already pulled the plug and stopped making antiquated equipment for the telephone network, such as the circuit switches used to connect calls.
This nationwide upgrade and modernization requires thought and planning, and should be undertaken in a way that protects consumers and assures that basic voice service remains available and reliable. That’s why we ought to do it now – while the existing phone system can provide a “safety net” as a back-up for any potential glitch or surprise that might arise during the complex transition toward a new and modern technology.
Although inevitable, the move to the network of the future is gradual enough that we now have an opportunity to direct and shape it in a seamless way for America’s consumers. Since we know it’s coming, we owe it to ourselves to make sure it happens the right way and ensure that any potential disruptions are minimized for those who choose to arrive late to the high-speed broadband age.
Central to a smooth transition is having public dialogue among all stakeholders – consumers, telecom companies, suppliers, and regulators – to help set the rules of the road for the new network. Under a collaborative process, we should arrive at key principles to guide us – perhaps beginning with five concepts recently proposed by Public Knowledge – service for all, competition, reliability, consumer protection, and public safety.
In addition to overarching principles, important technical activity, such as geographic field tests, must commence to better understand what works and what doesn’t in real life and to find solutions for the issues that will inevitably arise. Such advance testing, similar to the trials conducted for America’s switch to digital TV, is the best way to protect consumers. Trials give us the chance to come up with fixes now while the old telephone network is in place to lessen any potential consumer disruption associated with the switchover.
Upgrading and deploying modern broadband networks in a controlled, supervised fashion with “safety net” functionality in place is far superior to inaction. Beyond the obsolescence that is rapidly diminishing the circuit-switched network, as we witnessed during the past hurricane season, our nation’s older telephone system is highly susceptible to the forces of nature and the physical destruction they can bring.
In the future, when natural disasters obliterate legacy telephone networks, service restoration for consumers and businesses will be achieved through the deployment of new wireless and/or broadband network technologies. Under those circumstances, network upgrades occur without the benefit of the existing copper telephone network and the likelihood of consumer inconvenience and disruption being much greater.
Right now, we have the gift of time to get the path toward modernization right by devising a smart new framework tailored for next-generation communications. But without an action plan, such as starting local market trials, some of that time slips away each day. We need to get working without further delay so that the transition to 21st Century communications is a step forward for all and a step backward for none.
This op-ed was originally published in The Hill.
Thursday, September 26
At a technology conference in London this month, a BMW official gave a remarkable account of the speed at which his company is adopting wireless technologies to improve its cars’ performance.
Last year, according to Vice President of IT Infrastructure Mario Mueller, there were about one million BMWs wirelessly connecting to the web. This year, that number has grown to 2.5 million vehicles, and by 2018 he expects 10 million vehicles wirelessly feeding and receiving data.
Here’s another way of quantifying this remarkable growth: In 2012, BMW had about the same number of wirelessly connected vehicles as are registered in Suffolk County, a leafy suburb of New York City. By 2018, the company expects to have a million more wirelessly connected vehicles than are registered in the entire state of New York.
In terms of mobile data, BMW’s vehicles currently use 40 gigabytes per day. By 2018, the company expects this will grow to a terabyte per day, which is enough data to stream 366 hours of high-definition video, according to Netflix.
BMW’s mobile transformation is one more example of the increasingly urgent need for officials at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to hold its upcoming spectrum incentive auction, tentatively planned for late next year. This will be the first major auction of airwaves necessary to handle Americans’ growing mobile data demands since early 2008, when Apple didn’t even have a public App Store.
With more than 20% of all adult cell phone owners doing most of their web browsing on their mobile phones and more than 750,000 jobs that depend on the mobile app economy, there’s immense pressure on the FCC to move quickly.
This is why it is vital that the FCC structure this spectrum auction in a way that promotes the best possible use of this spectrum and generates the most revenue. Above all, the Commission should soundly reject the concept of favoring some bidders over others. An attempt to artificially favor or hinder bidders would be terribly unfair to tens of millions of wireless users who might see degraded service as a result of wireless providers not getting the spectrum they need to serve their customers.
Beyond that, artificial restrictions could cost U.S. taxpayers as much as $12 billion in lost revenue, according to a Georgetown study, much of which would go to fund a nationwide public safety system for first responders. This network will help police and other emergency response personnel to coordinate rescue efforts during emergencies.
The FCC has every reason — sustaining jobs, protecting taxpayers, fostering economic growth — to hold fair and unrestricted auctions. Such an auction is the best way to promote economic vibrancy and the benefits of our wireless marketplace.
For the FCC to do anything less would put our mobile economy on a road to nowhere.
by Neal Neuberger
Technological advances have brought many improvements to modern life, and today’s broadband networks can actually deliver health care and health information that saves lives. The lightning-fast evolution of broadband technology has indeed begun a revolution in health care—one that can benefit us all.
Innovations in broadband technologies have also raised questions about how health care providers and institutions alike can maximize the benefits of this technology, both today and into the future. The Eighth Annual National Health IT Week, held this year from September 16th–20th, presented an opportunity for policymakers and health care industry leaders to gather and discuss solutions and craft policies and strategies to ensure continued adoption and development of these health IT innovations.
Over the course of just a few years, broadband-enabled health care technologies, including telemedicine and mHealth, have presented new possibilities to hospitals, medical personnel, and patients. The ability to access and transmit health records, information, and diagnostic images at unprecedented speeds allows easier, more effective collaboration between medical personnel, resulting in quicker diagnoses and better results. Video teleconferencing is now being used to connect patients in rural or remote areas with specialists who can perform consultations remotely. Across the country, hospitals and clinics are using innovative technologies and methods to expand access to care and to deliver that care in cost-effective ways.
Increased access to high-speed broadband has given patients access to technologies and solutions that are more convenient, as well. With modern networks and connectivity, it’s now possible for patients with chronic conditions—including diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and asthma—to receive care in their own homes, via wireless devices that can collect and transmit medical data directly to health care professionals. These methods eliminate the need for some office visits, keeping costs down, and they also empower patients to take charge of their health and participate in their own treatment. New developments in wireless health devices are helping seniors and people with disabilities to enjoy a higher quality of life and to live independently in their own homes. Innovative new wireless devices, wearable biosensors, and mobile apps make it possible for patients and doctors to work together to achieve better health and wellness, both within and outside of medical facilities.
Modern networks allow hospitals and medical personnel to reach individuals and communities that have traditionally struggled to gain access to health care, often due to geographical, financial, or cultural barriers. Reducing health disparities that affect certain populations is an important goal, and broadband-enabled health care technologies can help achieve that goal by making patient-centered, cost-effective care available to more people and communities.
Access to modern broadband networks and speeds has already begun to transform and improve today’s health care. The resulting innovations offer exciting possibilities for enhanced health and wellness, improved quality of care, expanded access to health care, and better treatment options. To continue this progress and these impressive results, we will need enhanced, upgraded broadband networks in place across the country. The theme of this year’s Health IT Week was “One Voice, One Vision.” That’s fitting, because I believe we all share a positive vision of advancing health care technologies that lead to better outcomes. It is clear that increased and expanded access to high-speed broadband can extend the reach of doctors and hospitals, delivering better care and better access to care.
Neal Neuberger is President of Health Tech Strategies, LLC, a Virginia-based consulting firm focused on the public and private sector policy environment with regard to research, development and implementation of emerging health care technologies.
Tuesday, September 24
While the iPhone is breaking sales records, BlackBerry — which used to rule the roost when it came to smartphones — is in deep trouble. Via Zach Epstein of Boy Genius Reports:
BlackBerry has been hemorrhaging users and its worldwide count fell to 72 million from 76 million during the May quarter. According to one industry watcher, the bleeding won’t stop until BlackBerry’s subscriber base hits zero.
When it comes to technology, entire industries can be turned upside down seemingly overnight.
At the Huffington Post, Clive Thompson profiles a man who has been at the forefront of wearable computing:
[S]ay hello to Thad Starner. Starner is a forty-three-year-old computer science professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology who also works for Google.
But he’s best known as one of the few people on the planet with years of experience using a wearable computer. The guts of the computer are the size of a small soft-cover book, strapped to his torso in what amounts to a high-tech man purse. And what’s most prominent is the screen—a tiny LCD clipped to his glasses, jutting out just in front of his left eyeball. While you or I have to pull out a phone to look up a fact, he’s got a screen floating in space before him. You might have seen pictures of Google Glass, a wearable computer the company intends to release in 2014.
Starner’s helping Google build it, in part because of his long experience: He’s been wearing his for two decades.
9 million, which is the number of new iPhones — both the 5S and 5C versions — that Apple sold in just three days. From the company’s press release announcing their windfall:
“This is our best iPhone launch yet―more than nine million new iPhones sold―a new record for first weekend sales,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “The demand for the new iPhones has been incredible, and while we’ve sold out of our initial supply of iPhone 5s, stores continue to receive new iPhone shipments regularly. We appreciate everyone’s patience and are working hard to build enough new iPhones for everyone.”
Call me crazy, but this whole smartphone thing might be taking off.
Thursday, September 19
The U.S. Investment Heroes of 2013, courtesy of the Progressive Policy Institute.
Today, the Progressive Policy Institute released its 2013 list of Investment Heroes. This year, like last year, the telecom and cable sector is a big winner.
AT&T and Verizon once again lead the way in domestic investment, and telecom is second only to the booming energy sector in total U.S. investment. PPI shows that these two companies combined invested nearly $34.5 billion to build-out nationwide high-speed broadband networks and infrastructure. AT&T alone invested almost $19.5 billion. As a sector, telecommunications and cable invested $50.5 billion last year, over a third of the nearly $150 billion invested by the Fortune 150 last year. Such levels of investment are remarkable, but not surprising. With each passing day, Americans witness and benefit from the emergence of the nation’s “data-driven economy,” all driven by U.S. telecom and technology company capital investment. Our data-driven economy is at the forefront of creating new jobs in entirely new industries — like mobile apps — and is a driving force in improving cost structures and the delivery of services in sectors such as healthcare, education, and agriculture.
Broadband providers have done their part to improve the path to economic recovery, demonstrated by their significant investments in America. The progress we’ve seen, however, needs to continue. Billions of dollars of additional private investment is necessary to bring ubiquitous high-speed broadband to every American.
For this to take place, government should adopt policies that create an environment for sustained investment. As PPI notes, government can ensure that upcoming FCC wireless spectrum auctions proceed in an open manner and allow all carriers to bid equally and without restrictions. No one company should be given favored treatment to the disadvantage of its competitors. Moreover, government can also proactively promote additional investment by eliminating existing regulatory barriers and helping to speed the upgrade and modernization of our nation’s antiquated telephone networks, so that more Americans can benefit from the high-speed Internet and video services that next generation broadband networks offer.
It is uncertain that the nearly $50.5 billion in existing telecom and cable investment will continue unless government helps promote additional regulatory and business certainty by adopting wise and timely pro-market investment policies. In the meantime, we owe our gratitude and thanks to the tech and telecom companies who invest in America and help spur innovation, create jobs, and contribute the nation’s economic growth.
Top 25 Nonfinancial Companies by Estimated U.S. Capital Expenditure
1. AT&T - $19.5 billion
2. Verizon Communications - $15.0 billion
3. Exxon Mobil - $12.2 billion
4. Chevron - $10.7 billion
5. Intel - $8.8 billion
6. Walmart Stores - $8.3 billion
7. Occidental Petroleum - $7.6 billion
8. ConocoPhillips - $6.1 billion
9. Exelon - $5.8 billion
10. Comcast - $5.7 billion
11. Duke Energy - $5.4 billion
12. Hess - $4.7 billion
13. Sprint Nextel - $4.3 billion
14. Union Pacific Railroad - $3.7 billion
15. General Motors - $3.7 billion
16. Enterprise Products Partners - $3.6 billion
17. Time Warner Cable - $3.1 billion
18. Microsoft - $3.0 billion
19. Amazon - $2.9 billion
20. CenturyLink - $2.9 billion
21. Ford Motor - $2.7 billion
22. Walt Disney - $2.7 billion
23. FedEx - $2.6 billion
24. Apple- $2.6 billion
25. Target - $2.3 billion
Total Economic Investment - $149.8 billion