Over at Rolling Out, our Co-Chairman Jamal Simmons has a piece on how technology can help lead to healthier lives, particularly in minority communities. Here’s a taste:
Broadband Internet access, especially mobile broadband, can go a long way in terms of achieving the goals of improved health care access and affordability. According to comScore, smartphone ownership is at 54 percent in the U.S. That’s a lot of iPhones and Androids in the pockets of Americans across the map, and when it comes to health care information, Pew Research reports more than half (52 percent) of the people owning these gadgets report using them to access health or medical information.
In an op-ed for Governing, Richard Bennett, senior research fellow at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, pushes back against the idea America’s broadband networks would be better suited through government control like the electrical power grid:
Apart from a few superficial similarities—they’re both networks, both involve wires of some sort, and both involve billing and maintenance—broadband information networks are as different from power networks as they could possibly be. Power networks deliver the same service to each user all the time, but the technology-driven services that information networks deliver are dynamic, tailored to the needs and activities of each customer, and constantly adapting to a changing environment.
Bennett also tackles the “natural monopoly” myth when it comes to broadband:
Broadband service is many things, but a “natural monopoly” is not one of them. In fact, advances in technology such as wireless LTE, faster satellites and increased deployment of fiber optic cable are combining to make broadband markets more competitive year after year. Forward-looking policymakers would love electricity markets to enjoy the benefits that competition brings where it’s practical and meaningful.
As for the claim that America’s broadband networks are woefully inadequate when compared to other nations, Bennett writes:
[C]ritics of the American broadband system like to charge that our services are slower than those of most other countries, an oft-repeated fib. It certainly was the case that the average speeds of the most popular service plans in use in the U.S. during the economic collapse of 2008-2009 were not the world’s fastest: On average, American broadband speeds were 22nd in the world in late 2009.
Tremendous attention was paid to America’s 2009 standing, but very little mention has been made about the fact that our position in the global ranking has since risen to 8th place thanks to steady increases year after year. The publicity campaign around the 2009 figures and the subsequent silence has left many with the mistaken impression that we’re in dire straits when quite the contrary is true: 82 percent of American homes are passed by a broadband network capable of delivering 100 Mbps service today, and we’re the world leader in the adoption of the fastest mobile technology.
Our Co-Chairman Jamal Simmons has penned an op-ed for The Grio on the critical need to provide urban schools with Internet access. Here’s a taste:
When it comes to digital access, location matters and not all students stand on equal footing. While more than half (54 percent) of these teachers report that almost all students have sufficient access to these tools in school, only 18 percent say students have sufficient access at home. Low income students are least likely to have access in school or at home. For urban students, they face greater barriers at school and rural students have less access at home.
Erasing the barriers to digitally enhanced learning for students in disadvantaged situations requires a multifaceted approach.
In an op-ed for Politic365, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation President and CEO Melanie Campbell (who is also on of our Members) writes about the promise of healthcare powered by broadband for minority communities:
In 20 or 30 years, when we look back on today, we may realize that the most important medical enabler of the last generation is, ironically, high-speed broadband networks. After all, the doctor monitoring your heart and asking you questions during an online evaluation can’t do that using an old voice-centric telephone line. The broadband connection has to be robust and dynamic, capable of carrying the data-intensive traffic to and from patients and their doctors or healthcare specialists.
As FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said to a civil rights conference in Memphis, TN, “Access to broadband means access to better education, healthcare, job opportunities, news and information.” Policies affecting access to America’s communications revolution will have an immense role in the future of affordable healthcare.
That’s why telemedicine, including the potential for more accessible and affordable care, depends on the nationwide build out of high-speed broadband networks.
The US Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) policy on broadband is simple: USCA wants to encourage policymakers to make policy that provides the regulatory certainty that will encourage the substantial private sector investment that will bring more, better, and faster broadband to rural America. Right now, that means encouraging a rapid and smooth transition from the old voice-centric networks to robust IP-based networks and services.
Until regulations are updated to account for the IP transition, certain incumbent telephone network operators will continue to have to support two networks — the slow, legacy copper-based telephone network and the new, faster and more capable IP-based network. The legacy network is not only antiquated but is expensive to maintain and becoming even more expensive as more consumers leave their traditional wireline phone service and switch to IP-based solutions, such as VoIP or LTE mobile phone service.
Here’s some good news on the digital divide front. Jenny Kane of The Farmington New Mexico Daily Timesreports that the country’s largest Tribal Nation is getting a big broadband boost:
The Navajo Nation is about to get connected with the help of a tribal owned company.
Now in its final stages, a nearly $46 million dollar project is expected to create a broadband network that will give more than 30,000 households and 1,000 businesses access to improved wireless Internet service and cell phone service.
An additional 1,100 community institutions, including public safety, health, social services and emergency care facilities are expected to benefit from the new infrastructure.
“It’s a very complex project, and the Navajo Nation is the largest reservation in the country,” said Mike Scully, general manager of the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority Wireless, first Navajo majority owned broadband company.
Earlier this week, Robert E. Litan penned an editorial for Bloomberg in advance of his new report (co-authored by Afzal Bari) titled “Faster Broadband: Policies and options for spurring expanded access to the next generation of Internet speeds.” Both in his opinion piece and study, Litan argues that when comes to achieve faster broadband, the FCC should be focusing more on spurring competition than on regulations. From the Bloomberg piece:
We are encouraged that the FCC seems intent on proceeding with its spectrum auctions in 2014 (though we wish this had happened earlier), but are less optimistic that the commission will reverse its policies of the past four years that are inconsistent with the deregulatory agenda that would really unleash competition in the broadband market and accelerate the race for faster broadband speeds.
In Litan and Bari’s study, they dig a lot deeper — specifically when it comes to steps the FCC can take:
One policy that would surely help is speeding up the auctions of wireless spectrum. Other deregulatory measures, aimed primarily at reducing the costs and increasing incentives for wireline broadband providers to build fast broadband networks, also are available:
• Removing legacy regulations on telecom carriers designed for outdated copper networks that discourage investments in modern broadband networks.
• Allowing broadband providers to charge for premium delivery services (just as on-line retailers do for more rapid shipping, and airlines and railroads do for first-class seating).
• Adopting the current case-by-case approach to resolving complaints of discrimination against vertically integrated cable video providers for resolving similar disputes in the broadband arena.
• Eliminating duplicative merger authority by making the FCC an advisor on telecom mergers, with ultimate authority resting with the Justice Department, where it belongs.
• Eliminating the FCC’s ability to condition spectrum purchases on the identity, business plans or spectrum holdings of the bidder, practices which inhibit wireless competition to wireline broadband providers.
You can download of a PDF of Litan and Bari’s study here.
In response to a hearing held last week by the House subcommittee on communications and technology on broadband stimulus programs, our friends (and members) the National Grange argue that the private sector is being more effective than thee government when it comes to broadband deployment:
While this government program hasn’t been a runaway success for the more than 50 million rural residents in America by any measure, private sector investment has played (and should continue to play) a key role in achieving widespread broadband access. Lawmakers acknowledged this reality in Wednesday’s hearing. In fact, according to the U.S. Telecom Association, broadband providers have invested more than $1.2 trillion in their networks since 1996. CTIA—the Wireless Association—reports that wireless carriers have made $348 billion in network capital investments, including 4G LTE build-out. As a result, increasing numbers of Americans have access to high-speed broadband and are subscribing at home.
It is clear that the private sector is better at delivering options, choices, and services to more consumers while also minimizing costs and expanding broadband infrastructure.
The solution, according to the National Grange, is partnership:
Our policymakers promote policies that facilitate continued private sector investment in the next-generation of high-speed broadband networks. Government must work with the private sector to achieve rapid deployment of 21st century communications networks and to bring access to this vital resource to all Americans. Public-private collaboration will help quickly deploy modernized, enhanced broadband networks in a cost-effective manner.
IIA Says Proposed Beta Trials Are Best Way to Accelerate the Transition to All-IP Networks and Services in America
Emphasizes that consumer trends and explosive broadband growth have ended ILEC dominance in voice market
WASHINGTON, D.C. – February 25, 2013 – The Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA) today issued the following statement regarding its reply comments on AT&T’s Internet Protocol Transition Petition and its comments on the United States Telecom Association’s (USTA) Petition calling on the FCC to declare incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) as non-dominant in the provision of switched access services:
“AT&T’s proposed limited beta trials epitomize sound policy-making and will provide an open and transparent process in which the FCC can accelerate the transition to all-IP networks and services in America. Initial comments fail to make a compelling argument on why the FCC should not move forward with the beta trials. Consumer trends, particularly the overwhelming preference for wireless and Internet-based services as the primary means of communications over plain old telephone service, demonstrate that ILECs are no longer dominant in thevoice market. The evidence suggests the consumer benefits associated with the IP transition far outweigh any potential costs identified by opponents.
“Failing to acknowledge the dynamic innovation, economic growth, and overall benefits the broadband market offers to consumers and businesses as a result of a ‘light touch’ regulatory approach ignores the primary reason why the Internet has flourished in the U.S. Despite this success, certain commenters now seek torevisit the FCC’s previous forbearance decisions by looking for ways to bring ‘old rules to all networks.’ To continue expanding the array of social and economic benefits for American business and consumers, the Commission should ignore the call of entities seeking to expand legacy regulations in an all-IP world.”
To read the IIA’s full comments, visit here, or go to the FCC’s website.
[T]here is a big problem in the way the broadband story is being reported and anaylyzed. Somehow, conventional wisdom came to be that (1) American broadband lags the world and (2) the government needs to prop it up. Both are false. This story needs context and facts, not more fuzzy charges of U.S. sloth and supposed government rescues.
To really understand the policy issues, we need to understand networks and business models. For example, much of what we would want a gigabit broadband network to deliver is high definition video. That is what cable TV does. That’s why Verizon and AT&T, when they built their FiOS and U-verse fiber optic networks, decided to offer both broadband Internet services and cable-like video programming. Over time, the mix of broadcast and narrowcast video and interactive Internet content will shift. And the broadband service providers will adjust their network technologies and business models to both accommodate and drive these changes. Cable TV providers, for example, are dedicating ever more capacity to on-demand video and broadband and relatively less to broadcast. To suggest, however, that everyone in America needs a fiber optic gigabit Internet connection today is beyond simplistic.
Courtesy of the Wall Street Journal comes some good news for the economy:
It is estimated that this year’s Cyber Monday will be the biggest online shopping day of the year for the third year in a row. According to research firm comScore, Americans are expected to spend $1.5 billion, up 20% from last year on Cyber Monday, as retailers have ramped up their deals to get shoppers to click on their websites.
The WSJ report also looks at what’s helping drive the increase in Internet sales. Not surprisingly, it’s great access to broadband:
With the growth in high speed Internet access and the wide use of smartphones and tablets, people are relying less on their work computers to shop than they did when Shop.org, the digital division of trade group The National Retail Federation, introduced the term “Cyber Monday.”
“People years ago didn’t have…connectivity to shop online at their homes. So when they went back to work after Thanksgiving they’d shop on the Monday after,” said Vicki Cantrell, executive director of Shop.org. “Now they don’t need the work computer to be able to do that.”
Somewhat ironically, this increase of home broadband access will probably lead to Cyber Monday becoming less of an event.
In his annual address to members, National Grange President Ed Luttrell (National Grange is one of our members) spoke about the importance of expanding broadband access to more of America’s rural communities:
While supporting traditional forms of access and communication, we also stress the need for rural America to see a substantial increase in access to the essential technology of broadband. Rural America achieved a great legislative victory this past year with the allowance of Universal Service Funds to be used for broadband expansion. Now it is our duty to ensure that these funds are properly utilized to bring high-speed internet to every rural household and business. This will help ensure that rural America can compete with its urban counterparts in today’s global economy.
It is an evolution that goes by many names. Smart networks. Internet Protocol Networks. All-IP.
At its core, is a dramatic shift for America’s communications infrastructure. A major leap forward from the copper networks of the past to the digital communication of today and tomorrow.
This transition from copper to IP has been happening for a while, led by a society that is increasingly “cutting the cord” — dropping traditional landlines in favor of wireless, be it phone service or broadband.
Now things are speeding up. Recently, AT&T announced it will be investing more than $60 billion over three years to accelerate its transition to all-IP networks. This substantial investment is not without its hurdles. While more and more Americans are abandoning a reliance on the copper network, there are still millions of people — many of them in rural areas — who still depend on it for their communication needs.
It is important that the industry work hand-in-hand with the government to ensure no one is left behind as the transition happens. This is a message regulators need to listen to — not only because they share in the responsibility to keep Americans connected, but because of what the shift to all-IP will mean for the economy.
According to broadband association US Telecom, America’s telecommunications companies have invested close to $1.2 trillion since 1996. As recent announcements show, the transition to all-IP promises to unleash even more investment from the highly competitive telecommunications industry — investment that will translate into a substantial increase in jobs and overall economic growth.
Obviously, the government should continue to encourage this high level of investment from private industry. One way they can do so is through modernizing regulations.
As copper networks are increasingly losing relevance, so are the rules governing their operations. Today, companies must continue to invest heavily in their legacy networks even as customers are embracing newer technologies. Not only is this increasingly a waste of investment dollars, it also maintains an uneven playing field, one where certain companies are forced to divert investment dollars necessary to keep them competitive. It is not just the industry that is being held back. The same outdated regulations are also slowing the government’s own goal of connecting everyone in America to high-speed Internet.
The way we communicate changes quickly. Just five years ago, there was no iPhone. Mobile broadband was in its infancy. Tablet computing was almost non-existent. In order to keep up with innovation, the transition to all-IP networks needs to happen now. There is a path to make this transition go as smoothly as possible, one that ensures everyone remains both connected and able to participate in the digital revolution. However, it will take substantial cooperation from private industry and the government to make it happen.
The age of the Internet everywhere is at hand. We just need to ensure regulations from 1930s do not hold it back.
The Digital Policy Institute believes that advancing the interests of consumers should be a major, driving force in government policymaking processes aimed at broadband expansion and enhanced connectivity. Our 21st Century digital infrastructure can be the conduit for many consumer benefits. As part of our review of those many benefits we’ve developed a Top 10 list that federal and state officials should consider when making choices that can affect the availability and capacity of broadband.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of moderating a legislative forum held by Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA) entitled “Beyond the Digital Divide: Capitalizing on the Technology Economy.”
Participants in the discussion included noted DJ and technologist Hank Schocklee; n4md founder James Harris; Kimberly Stewart, Chief Curator of the Be Blogalicious community and conferences; Howard Law School professor Lateef Mtima; Where Are the Blacks in Technology blog founder Kai Dupe; and Google executive Malik Ducard.
It was a lively discussion, with an emphasis on education and entrepreneurship — and how broadband access is helping to revolutionize both. On the education front, there was a focus on mobile apps, and how encouraging children at a young age to learn programming, math and app development helps them become entrepreneurs and prepare for the workforce of tomorrow. As for entrepreneurship, while everyone agreed broadband — whether it’s wired or wireless — is vital for small companies to compete in today’s technology economy, there was concern that the cost of access can act as an impediment to would-be startups.
This reminded me of something that may be overlooked by entrepreneurs as they take the plunge and embrace the power of broadband in their business — namely, the amount they can save in the long run by being connected. In fact, our recent “Start-Up Savings” report found that the average entrepreneur can save more than $16,000 in startup costs alone by utilizing a high-speed Internet connection.
Obviously, that’s a good chunk of savings for a business just getting off the ground. And as I told attendees of the forum, it shows that when it comes to competing in today’s economy — especially when investment capital continues to be tight — the benefits of being connected far outweigh the costs of connecting.
Over at Light Reading, Jeff Baumgartner highlights a new idea aimed at bridging the digital divide:
The pre-paid model has worked wonders for the mobile market over the years, so why shouldn’t it be applied to U.S. broadband?
Wipro Ltd. is pitching the idea to the nation’s cable operators as they think about how to stoke broadband service growth. They’d like to tailor packages to lower-income consumers (or students), but without the associated risks of non-payments and bad debt.
“There’s sort of a hole out there that’s not being addressed,” says Stephen Snyder, the global head of business innovation for Wipro’s Global Media and Telecom unit. “It could open up a whole new revenue stream.”
From FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell’s statement:
“It is discouraging that, for the third year in a row, the majority has decided to clutch to its earlier negative findings as to whether “advanced telecommunications capability is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion” pursuant to Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. In reality, the growth of broadband deployment in America, especially regarding the mobile marketplace, has been swift and strong. For instance, between 2003 and 2009, broadband deployment steadily increased from reaching 15 percent of Americans to 95 percent of Americans.
Furthermore, mobile broadband is the fastest growing segment of the broadband market. America has always led the world in wireless connectivity thanks to de-regulatory policies and our lead is growing. For instance, our country has approximately 21 percent of the globe’s 3G/4G subscribers and approximately 69 percent of the world’s LTE subscribers even though the United States is home to less than five percent of the global population. Furthermore, the investments made by American wireless providers have been higher than their international counterparts. For example, in 2011, over $25 billion was invested in United States’ wireless infrastructure compared to $18.6 billion invested in the 15 largest European economies combined.
From 1999 to 2008, the Commission found that broadband was being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion. In 2010, however, this suddenly changed.
Despite our general economic problems and the current regulatory environment, the private sector deserves credit for what it has been able to accomplish recently when it comes to infrastructure investment. Communications network operators invested $66 billion in 2011. According to State Broadband Initiative data, private sector investment brought fixed terrestrial broadband service meeting the Commission’s speed benchmark to 7.4 million Americans and mobile broadband service to 46.7 million Americans from June 2010 to June 2011.
The Commission has consistently ignored in recent years the statute’s direction that “advanced telecommunications capability” may be deployed “using any technology.” That instruction does not permit us to segregate fixed connections from mobile connections, focusing on the former and neglecting the latter.
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