In a speech before the Media Institute yesterday, Craig Silliman, Senior Voce President of Public Policy for Verizon, argued that outdated regulations risk holding back innovation and investment. It’s a similar argument other telecom providers have made recently. As Silliman told the crowd:
[W]e need to ensure is that we do not let an increasingly outdated regulatory regime for the Internet ecosystem slow innovation and investment. The 1996 Telecom Act succeeded in what it was designed to achieve, but almost two decades later it is leaving the FCC struggling to shoehorn Internet-era technologies into phone-era regulations. I am not suggesting that the answer is to abolish all regulation. But I am suggesting that we need a 21st century policy framework that is designed for 21st century technologies and marketplaces, not 19th century ones.
We need to start by asking the right questions. It has been suggested that a key question for the next FCC chairman will be how to keep the FCC relevant in the Internet era. I believe that is the wrong question. I recognize, of course, that tactical battles to secure budgets and resources are part of any organization or entity, including the federal government. But a strategic view of policymaking starts by asking what objective we are trying to achieve, and then asking whether regulation is needed, why it is needed, and who is best placed to administer it.
Via Janko Roettgers of paidContent, streaming service Hulu hit some big numbers during the first quarter of this year:
Hulu now has more than four million paying users subscribing to its Hulu Plus service, and the number of subscribers has doubled since last year. The service also streamed more than one billion videos in the first quarter of 2013, which is another record for Hulu.
Speaking of streaming video, Brad Stone at Bloomberg has the scoop on another big tech player making a big play to get in on the action:
Amazon is making e-readers and tablets and will likely soon introduce a smartphone. As it works to build all types of connected devices, that leaves a natural next step: a television set-top box. The e-commerce giant is planning to introduce a device this fall dedicated to streaming video over the Internet and into its customers’ living rooms, according to three people familiar with the project who aren’t authorized to discuss it.
Amazon’s entry will be just another example of how streaming is the future of TV. All the more reason for more investment in the infrastructure to handle the coming flood of data.
At an event hosted by the Hudson Institute earlier today, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai discussed the transition to all-IP networks. During his speech, Pai spoke of two paths the Commission could take when it comes to regulations and technology. One path is rooted in the past — and outdates rules — that could hinder investment and innovation. The other path leads to the future, or the “all-IP world,” as he called it, which has great benefits for health care, education, public safety, and most of all consumers.
Noting that the FCC up until now had a foot on each path, Pai didn’t shy away from his belief that the Commission should be working toward the future, stating the FCC’s decisions around the IP transistion will have “dramatic and real world consequences.” He then made plain his preference for a pilot program — put forward to the FCC by AT&T — to upgrade legacy copper networks to all-IP. As John Eggerton of Broadcasting & Cable reports:
“The FCC has sought and received comments on a proposal to create an All-IP Pilot Program,” Pai said in a speech to the Hudson Institute. “I’ve reviewed the record carefully. And having done so, I am proposing today that the FCC move forward with this program.”
Pai also noted that in 2011 alone, there were over 317 million wireless connections in the U.S., and at least 47% of all households had “cut the cord” — meaning, dropped traditional landline service in favor of wireless or VoIP. This, he joked, pointed to the IP transition being as “inevitable as another reality series starring a Kardashian.”
A recent story in USA Today from Ron Barnett highlights some of the benefits students at a South Carolina high school are receiving from being connected:
Jennifer Southers has flipped education upside-down for her math students at Hillcrest High School.
Instead of coming to class and listening to a lecture, then going home and trying out what they learned on their own, they listen to a lecture on video before class and work on putting the new knowledge to practice in the classroom, where their teacher is there to help.
“The level of frustration has almost disappeared completely on those lessons when we do that,” she said of the “flipped classroom” concept that she and other teachers are using.
Unfortunately, as Barnett’s piece goes on to point out, America’s ongoing digital divide may be creating an uneven playing field when it comes to educating students:
[W]hat about students who don’t have broadband Internet access at home? How can they keep up with their peers in streaming instructional videos and doing online research?
More than two-thirds of low-income families in South Carolina don’t have a high-speed Internet connection, said Jessica Ditto, spokeswoman for Connected Nation, a nonprofit organization that works to increase broadband access in the nation. Overall, 57 percent of households in the state have broadband access, she said.
Increasingly, access to the Internet means access to improved education, which means students in the 43% of South Carolina households not connected with broadband are at risk of being left behind when it comes to innovative learning. But as Barnett reports, there’s hope on the horizon — for South Carolina and elsewhere:
Bill Brown, executive director of educational technology services for Greenville County Schools, says 4G LTE technology offers the most promise for bridging the digital divide.
With it, “You could blanket buildings, you could blanket cities” with high-speed Internet access, he said.
More powerful networks — beginning with 4G LTE (which, as anyone who has experienced it can attest, is remarkably fast) and continuing with the shift to all-IP based networks — will mean more access in more ways for more people. With the future of education tied to technology, encouraging investment in these networks should be an educational priority.
Over at Bloomberg Businessweek, Todd Shields looks at the tenure of FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, specifically his heavy focus on broadband:
Genachowski has warned U.S. economic growth could be compromised if wireless demand from smartphones overwhelms available airwaves. His pending initiatives include auctions, perhaps next year, that will encourage television-station owners to give up their airwaves for use by smartphone networks.
His focus on broadband has broken with some priorities of his predecessors. Genachowski’s FCC has levied no fines for broadcast indecency, after a flurry of penalties under Republican chairmen from 2003 to 2008, and he hasn’t completed a loosening of media-ownership rules.
Last week, FCC commissioner Ajit Pai delivered a speech at the Media Institute Luncheon in Washington, D.C. A major focus of the Commissioner’s speech, Broadcast Engineering’s Phil Kurz reports, was the role the FCC should take when it comes to regulations:
The FCC commissioner said agency rules should reflect today’s technological and competitive landscape to accommodate the transformational impact of the Internet. Even small statutory changes could have a positive effect.
One example, according to Pai, is if the commission’s forbearance authority could be extended to Multichannel Video Programming Distributors (MVPD) and cable services. Forbearance has allowed the agency to do away with outdated regulations impacting telecommunications carriers, which has “encouraged infrastructure investment and broadband deployment,” he said.
“Technology is turning voice and video into applications transmitted over the Internet,” said Pai. “So it seems to me that the FCC should have the same authority to relieve MVPDs from obsolete rules as we currently have for carriers.”
Today is the second annual Digital Learning Day, which highlights the use of technology to support teachers and how children are benefiting from technology in the classroom. You can find more information on this important event, including activities around the country, on the Digital Learning Day website.
The bridge between technology — especially broadband — and education has long been a passion of IIA. Last summer, we hosted this webinar with Kramer Middle School principal Kwame Simmons on broadband and education:
And in October, an op-ed by Simmons — based on what was shared during the webinar — was published by the Washington Post on how his school achieved a high-tech turnaround. From the piece:
At the end of the 2011-2012 academic year, Kramer logged barely double-digit scores on the D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System (CAS): 17 percent proficient in reading and 26 percent proficient in math. The school had a much-warranted bull’s-eye on its back. But after a year of planning and a three-year School Improvement Grant and two-year Race to the Top grant from the U.S. Education Department, we have high hopes for change. Our secret weapon and education equalizer? Broadband.
Most recently, our 2013 Broadband Guide featured information on how IP-based networks are improving education in a variety of ways. From page 7 of the Guide:
Thirty-two states have virtual schools delivering online courses to students in any district in the state, according to Evergreen Consulting. In the United States, 75 percent of school districts offer online courses in K–12 education, and student enrollments are growing at a rapid pace of 30 percent annually, reported the Sloan Consortium.
A big shift in TV consumption may be afoot, as Jason Del Rey of Ad Agereports a heavy hitter in the online video space may be launching a pay service:
YouTube is prepping to launch paid subscriptions for individual channels on its video platform in its latest attempt to lure content producers, eyeballs, and advertiser dollars away from traditional TV, according to multiple people familiar with the plans.
On a related note, Nancy Hass of GQsat down with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and learned about the company’s new foray into original content. Choice quote:
“The goal,” [Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos] says, “is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us.”
Last week, our Co-Chairman Bruce Mehlman appeared on a panel as part of the State of the Net in Washington, D.C. The discussion, “The Internet Leadership Challenge: Restoring America to Economic Greatness Through Sound Internet Policy,” was moderated by Joe Waz, Senior Strategic Adviser to the Comcast Corporation. Also on the panel were Blair Levin, Communications & Society Fellow, FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform.
Here’s video of the discussion, which touches on President Obama’s legacy, taxation of the Internet, and the transition from legacy networks to all-IP.
The vast majority of network upgrades and day-to-day operation of the Internet are overseen by private businesses, universities and organizations. Yet governments — domestic and international — continue to exert influence over the environment in which the Internet evolves. To provide the next generation of policy makers and leaders with the information they need to make informed decisions about Internet policy, IIA today released the “IIA 2013 Broadband Guide for the 113th Congress,” a 21-page handbook with six major sections complete with answers to common questions, definitions of technical terms and background on the importance of the Internet Protocol (IP) evolution. The Guide is being issued in conjunction with the 2013 State of the Net Conference,at which IIA founding Co-Chair Bruce Mehlman will speak today at 2:05pm ET.
“Few American innovations have changed the world more profoundly and positively than the Internet. Today more than 2.5 billion people are connected to the Internet and have access to information and opportunities that did not exist 20 years ago. It’s critical that policy makers be well-informed as they make decisions affecting the Internet in order to promote and encourage the expansion of Internet investment, access and adoption.”
The Guide also includes broadband-related data points such as:
• Over the past three years, American smartphone adoption has increased from 16.9 percent to 54.9 percent, according to Nielsen.
• One out of three American homes now relies on wireless-only technologies, according to the U.S. National Health Interview Survey (NHIS).
• The tech industry added nearly 100,000 jobs from January to June 2012, a 1.7 percent increase, according to TechAmerica Foundation’s Competitiveness Series.
• As of April 2012, 66 percent of American adults had a high-speed broadband connection at home versus 11 percent a decade earlier in March 2002, according to Pew Research.
• The app economy, which didn’t even exist five years ago, now employs more than 500,000 Americans, according to research by Economist Michael Mandel.
“Innovations in broadband technology are not exclusively relegated to the wired world. Today, mobile devices act as general-purpose computers, complete with nearly 1.5 million available apps. Massive amounts of data are necessary to operate these mobile devices, and the future of lightning-fast, mobile communications depends on migrating America’s communications networks away from outdated legacy phone line networks and toward IP-based infrastructure.”
Our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher and Co-Chairman Bruce Mehlman have penned an op-ed for Politico on the need to free telecommunications companies from outdated regulations. Here’s a taste:
One of the most egregious monopoly-era regulations still on the books is the requirement that legacy carriers continue maintaining legacy copper networks and leasing them to their competitors at below-market rates. While these rules made sense at the dawn of the Internet era when little, if any, competition existed and telephone networks had been built via government-guaranteed rate-of-return exclusivity, they have long been overtaken by events. Today these regulations from the past century result in a misallocation of resources. And they perpetuate free-rider business models that diminish investment in networks and hinder innovation in telecom services.
CES is an absolute avalanche of tech. Simply keeping up with the various announcements and news reports can be a challenge. But as someone very much interested in both education and technology — and where they often cross paths for the good of society — I wanted to highlight an app showcased during the convention earlier this week. It’s called “Big Bird’s Words,” and comes courtesy of Qualcomm and the Sesame Workshop. At Fast Company, Anya Kamenetz has a good description of the app:
Big Bird’s Words lets kids use their parents’ phone to scan the world around them for printed words. Big Bird then helps them learn to read by sounding out the first letter. (“You found the word Milk! It starts with the letter M.”)
Beyond the cool factor, Big Bird’s Words is yet another example of how technology is turning the traditional idea of learning on its head. This is something we touched on last summer in our “Back to School With Broadband” seminar (archive here), and the fact that Big Bird’s Words made its debut during Qualcomm’s keynote address at CES shows the collision of technology and education, specifically in the mobile space, is only heating up.
That makes ensuring broadband access all the more important. Not just by wiring schools, although that’s critical, but expanding the reach of mobile broadband. To get there will take investment — particularly in next-generation IP-based networks that can handle the constant deluge of data. It will also take a commitment from both the government and industry to make achieving the goal a high priority. If Big Bird’s onboard, we all should be.
Via Patricia Reaney of Reuters, a new report sheds like on how mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets are affecting education:
Smartphones were used at home for schoolwork by 39 percent of 11 to 14 year olds, 31 percent of those surveyed said they did assignments on a tablet while nearly 65 percent used laptops, the poll by research firm TRU, which specializes in data on tweens, teens and twenty-somethings, showed.
For more on technology and education, check out our “Back to School with Broadband” webinar from August.
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