Wednesday, February 20
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.
Shields’ full profile is worth checking out.
Tuesday, February 19
Our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher talked with Ted Gotsch for (subscription only) TR Daily about the coming IP Transition. From Gotsch’s story:
Rick Boucher, now a partner and head of the government strategies group at law firm Sidley Austin as well as honorary chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA), told TRDaily in an interview that the FCC is largely on the right track when it comes to proceeding with the public switched telephone network-to-IP transition, but that the agency needs to help figure out how to facilitate the transition.
“Having a single, transparent proceeding where these various policy questions are involved provides a more meaningful way to participate than having many to follow,” the former Democratic House member said.
Friday, February 15
FCC findings reinforce that broadband marketplace is extremely competitive and consumers want higher speeds
WASHINGTON, D.C. — February 15, 2013 — Commenting on findings in the newly-released Federal Communications Commission (FCC) “Measuring Broadband America” report that 1) “most broadband providers continue to closely meet or exceed the speeds they advertise” and 2) “consumers of broadband providers covered by the report are continuing to migrate to faster speed tiers and receiving faster speedsthan ever before,” the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA), a broad-based coalition supporting broadband access and adoption for all Americans, today released the following statement:
“Today’s FCC report reinforces two very important realities about the broadband marketplace: it is highly competitive with natural market forces driving private investment that is rapidly upgrading America’s network infrastructure, and consumers want higher speeds that unlock opportunities within education, health care, entertainment, entrepreneurship and more.
“Consumers across the nation — all ages, races and socioeconomic statuses — are abandoning outdated technologies. Florida, for example, has the largest proportional share of Americans over the age of 65, but only 19 percent of all (IIA member) AT&T customers there still subscribe to legacy, copper wire service. And the FCC-reported fact that nearly half of consumers who subscribed to speeds of less than 1 Mbps six months ago have adopted higher speeds makes clear that slower, outdated networks no longer suffice for the technology-driven world of today.
“A nationwide transition to all-IP networks will allow telecom providers to concentrate their investment dollars in building out technology of the future, rather than maintaining technology of the past. This move will alleviate the cost burden for consumers footing the bill to maintain outdated networks without the benefit of access to new services provided bynext-generation networks being built at the same time.
“The FCC data makes crystal clear: this is not your father’s telecom market. Times have changed. Luckily, the FCC has the capacity to change with the times, forbearing from imposing yesterday’s regulations on tomorrow’s technologies and networks. The Commission has prudently exercised such restraint previously, declining to regulate investment in fiber-based facilities. Future growth demands additional forbearance, and market conditions warrant such humility and restraint. The FCC now has the data to prove it.”
Thursday, February 14
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.”
Kurz’s full article, “FCC should ‘show humility,” allow market to work, says Pai” is worth checking out.
Monday, February 11
To mark the 17th anniversary of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher — who was chair of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet at the time — has penned an op-ed for Roll Call. In it, he reflects on the importance of the Act, and makes the case that regulations are in dire need of modernization in order to keep up with today’s technology. Here’s a taste:
Seventeen years after the 1996 Telecommunications Act was signed into law, we find ourselves at another major inflection point. The IP transition is already under way, driven by technological advances and consumer preferences. FCC Chairman Genachowski has taken farsighted steps to create a process for addressing the policy questions that transition brings, and one of the giants of the industry has made helpful suggestions for a national dialogue through a single, focused proceeding for clarity and meaningful participation by all interested parties.
It is my hope that regulators can, once again, come to a consensus on how best to regulate fairly. Only with a level playing field will competition thrive and more investment in America’s broadband infrastructure increase. Let the conversation begin.
You can check out Boucher’s full op-ed at Roll Call.
Friday, February 01
How important is spectrum to the wireless industry? So important that normally fierce competitors are working together. As Phil Godstein of Fierce Wireless reports:
AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA inked an agreement with the Department of Defense to explore the possibility of sharing 95 MHz of spectrum that is currently used by the Pentagon and other federal agencies located in the 1755 - 1850 MHz band.
The announcement comes as the FCC and National Telecommunications and Information Administration encourage spectrum sharing between commercial and government users as one way to meet Americans’ seeming insatiable demand for mobile broadband.
So far, Sprint is sitting out the agreement, though Goldstein notes they will “follow the group’s work.”
Wednesday, January 30
Late last year, Sprint announced it was being acquired by Japan’s Softbank. Now, Brendan Sasso of The Hill reports, the Justice Department has asked the FCC to hit pause on approving the deal:
In letter to the FCC released on Tuesday, an attorney for the Justice Department’s National Security Division said DOJ, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI need more time to investigate the deal for any “national security, law enforcement, and public safety issues.”
John Taylor, a Sprint spokesman, said the request is routine for deals involving a foreign company and that Sprint still expects the deal to close by the middle of this year.
Monday, January 28
Last Friday, IIA submitted comments to the FCC on AT&T’s recent petition regarding the transition from copper wire networks to networks that are all Internet Protocol (IP) based. From those comments:
While the era of the telecom monopoly is long over, monopoly-era regulations persist. In some ways this is predictable, since markets move faster than government, and entrepreneurs innovate more rapidly than policy makers. By way of example, one of the most counter-productive, monopoly-era regulations still on-the-books is the requirement for legacy carriers to continue maintaining redundant legacy copper (nonIP) networks even when they are no longer needed for the carrier to serve its customers. While these rules made sense at the dawn of the Internet era when little, if any, competition existed, voice remained the essential product and telephone networks had been built via government-guaranteed-rate-of-return exclusivity, they have longbeen overtaken by events. For example, in many regions incumbent telephone companies have retained less than 30 percent of the customers, yet they are still required to cover 100 percent with their pre-IP, voice-grade networks. Voice is today just another application delivered over multiple IP platforms.
You can read our full comments, penned by our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher and Co-Chairs Bruce Mehlman and Jamal Simmons, here.
Thursday, January 24
This is a guest blog post from Lindsey C. Holmes, founder of digital marking firm LCH Business SM & Tech. You can learn more about Lindsey and her business at her website. — IIA.
You only need to look around you to see just how mobile our lives have become. Hop a train, visit a coffee shop, look around a crowded bar — you’ll likely see the same thing: People staring at a device in their hands.
We can argue whether all this screen staring is good for our social lives, but there’s no denying that the mobile revolution is changing how we live. It has also changed how we work.
As the founder of the digital marketing firm LCH Business SM & Tech, I specialize in helping clients build a comprehensive “digital footprint,” from a social media presence to creating mobile apps. I live and breathe in the mobile space, and yet I must admit that until recently I didn’t think much about what drives that space. Chances are you haven’t either.
I’m talking about spectrum, the airwaves that power every mobile thing we do. On the technical side, spectrum is all about frequencies and bands — signals carved up for various devices and uses. Your garage door opener? That relies on spectrum. Your remote control? Same thing. That WiFi connection in your house? Spectrum again.
But thinking beyond the technical aspects, spectrum is really one of our greatest natural resources. And like all natural resources, there’s only so much to go around.
Recently, Apple announced 40 billion apps had been downloaded from its App Store. Think about that. I remember when the first iPhone was released six years ago, and in that time 40 billion apps have been downloaded for Apple’s devices alone. An entire industry that didn’t exist six years ago now thrives, and a major component of that industry is the ability to download feature-rich apps to our devices through the air.
That’s what makes dealing with the “spectrum crunch,” as it’s being called, so important — not just for the big telecommunications companies and the government, but for business owners like me. Providers of mobile broadband are running out of airwaves, and unless more frequencies and bands are made available to them, demand for mobile broadband could quickly outpace capacity. And if that happens, a ripple effect will be felt throughout the mobile industry — from major app developers, to owners of boutique businesses like me.
Thankfully, the government and wireless industry have been working to address this problem recently. But as they hammer out the details and put together a plan to free up more airwaves, it’s important for them to remember their actions will have a major effect — good or bad — on businesses and entrepreneurs across the economy.
That’s why I’m paying more attention to spectrum. And it’s why you should be too.
Wednesday, January 23
Over at Bloomberg BNA, Paul Barbagallo highlights renewed focus from President Obama and Congress to make more spectrum available for the ever-growing wireless industry:
For much of the last four years, federal policymakers have worked aggressively to find swaths of frequencies that could be made available to wireless carriers to help meet the ever-increasing consumer demand for smartphones and tablet computers, which require more radio spectrum to carry their data transmissions—significantly more than what is needed to carry cellular telephone calls.
That work will continue this year, starting at the FCC.
Later in the piece, our own Co-Chairman Bruce Mehlman is quoted:
“I think we’re going to see bipartisan interest in both inventorying and transferring spectrum from federal government use to private-sector use,” Bruce Mehlman, co-chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance, a coalition of nonprofits and corporations, including telecom carriers and equipment makers, told BNA.
Mehlman, former assistant secretary of commerce for technology policy under George W. Bush, noted that for the last four years, Congress has placed much of its attention on passing legislation to authorize the FCC to hold incentive auctions.
“A lot of focus is now going to turn to federal spectrum holdings that could be repurposed,” he said.
This is still an important topic. Barbagallo’s full article is definitely worth checking out.
Friday, January 18
As part of its effort to free up more airwaves for wireless use, the FCC has launched a new website with information for broadcasters on the upcoming spectrum incentive auctions. Check it out.
Wednesday, January 16
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.
You can read the full op-ed over at Politico.
Thursday, January 10
Amidst all the talk at CES about innovation, new gadgets, and the coming transition to all IP-based networks, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski reminded attendees yesterday there was another issue of importance for the tech industry: spectrum. As Broadcasting & Cable’s George Winslow reports, Genachowski sat down with CEA president and CEO Gary Shapiro during the convention and reiterated the need to free up more airwaves for wireless use:
Shapiro began the hour long interview by telling Genachowski that “we want to call you the spectrum chairman because freeing up spectrum has been the hallmark [of your tenure at FCC chairman]...On behalf of the industry I appreciate your focusing on spectrum and the dire need for spectrum.”
Genachowski quipped in reply “I accept this honor on behalf of the FCC staff” and reiterated his longstanding contention that freeing up spectrum would encourage innovation.
“I don’t think it is a surprise that broadcasters who aren’t interested in tendering [spectrum] would rather this not happen,” he said. “But we need to do this for the country. It doesn’t make sense in New York to have 28 full power licenses.”
The FCC is currently receiving comments for its spectrum incentive auctions, which will hopefully go a long way toward easing America’s spectrum crunch.
Wednesday, January 02
Via Brendan Sasso of The Hill, FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn has been approved by the Senate for another term on the Commission:
In a statement, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said he looks forward to continuing to work with her.
“Commissioner Clyburn is an excellent and dedicated public servant and has been a strong advocate in seeking to extend the benefits of broadband to all Americans,” he said.
Also approved was Republican Joshua Wright for the Federal Trade Commission. Interestingly, Wright has agreed to recuse himself from any FTC cases involving Google for at least two years due to the search/advertising giant having funded Wright’s academic research.
Thursday, December 20
Yesterday’s petition filing from the US Telecom Association urging the FCC to modernize regulations for switched services is just one of what will be many important steps as America upgrades its communications infrastructure.
The legacy POTS network — the copper wires that connect to everyone’s home — has served America well for over a century. But the needs of consumers are making that network obsolete. As the USTA states in its filing:
Today, there are likely more households that have chosen to “cut-the-cord” and subscribe only to wireless service than there are households that subscribe to a switched-access service provided by an ILEC. And within the next year, the number of households being served by an interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (“VoIP”) service will surpass the number of households subscribed to an ILEC switched access service.
These statistics are merely the most obvious manifestations of a profound and accelerating technological and societal shift away from “plain old telephone service” (POTS) offered over the legacy public switched telephone network (“PSTN”) to IP-based services offered over fixed and mobile broadband networks.
But even as Americans are increasingly “cutting the cord” (and younger people especially are dropping the old phone line — or not even bothering to subscribe to wireline service at all), dusty regulations require providers to maintain antiquated public switched networks. That’s a substantial annual investment in a service people are abandoning — an investment we can all agree would be put to much better use building out our next-generation broadband infrastructure.
Like all filings with a government agency, the USTA’s petition to the FCC is filled with technical terms and legalese. But at the heart of the filing is the issue of diverted investment — putting money toward the past instead of the future.
A century or so ago, it made sense for the government to grant AT&T the status of regulated monopoly in order to connect every household in America with a telephone. But given the many ways Americans now communicate — and the sheer amount of competition consumers now enjoy in the telecommunications marketplace — the regulations of old are now hurting more than they’re helping.
It’s still critical that we guarantee every American access to communication (be it wireless, VoIP, or through the copper network if no other affordable communications channel exists). But if providers are going to keep up with consumer demand in our digital reality — and if America is going to remain competitive in the global economy — we need to take a look at all regulations and ensure they still make sense. The USTA’s petition is just one of what will be many conversations about the transition to an “all-IP” infrastructure.
Wednesday, December 19
IIA Endorses USTA Petition Urging FCC to Modernize Regulations for Switched Services amidst Clear Competition
Says outdated requirements for maintaining antiquated public-switched networks siphon investment away from next-generation IP infrastructure
WASHINGTON, D.C. – December 19, 2012 – Following the filing of a petition by US Telecom Association (USTA) with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asking the Commission to make a “Declaratory Ruling” that incumbent ILECs no longer possess market power when providing switched access local phone services to residential and business customers, the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA), a broad-based coalition supporting broadband access and adoption for all Americans, today issued the following supportive statement:
“The vast majority of the nation now benefits from a highly competitive telecommunications marketplace. Consumers have an abundance of wireless and wireline options for telephone communications and are taking their pick from an array of technologies.
“Policy makers should prioritize the modernization of regulations, eliminating rules that are inappropriate to apply in today¹s dynamic and robust marketplace. In places where there is clear competition in the offering of local voice telephone service, the “dominant carrier” status now accorded to local phone companies should be repealed.
“Outdated requirements focused on maintaining antiquated, public-switched networks slow Internet transformation by siphoning investment away from the next-generation broadband infrastructure that is meeting consumers’ evolving needs. Advancement by the FCC of a national conversation on the IP Transition is paramount to keeping innovators innovating, businesses growing, consumers choosing and America competing.”
Tuesday, December 18
FCC’s Special Access Data Collection Order Is Necessary to Shed Light on Today’s Highly Competitive Marketplace
Today’s Special Access Market Is Quickly Leaving Outdated, TDM-Based Technology Behind - It’s Time for the FCC to Refocus its Priorities for America on How Best to Make the Transition to Next-Generation IP Networks for the Benefit of Consumers and Businesses Nationwide
WASHINGTON, D.C. – December 18, 2012 – In response to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) unanimous approval and release of its Special Access Order, the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA), a broad-based coalition supporting broadband access and adoption for all Americans, today issued the following statement:
“Moving forward with comprehensive data collection and analysis of the special access market to evaluate competition and infrastructure investment is a step in the right direction; the new data is expected to show that the market has grown highly competitive due to Fiber/ethernet network build-out by competitors and is dramatically different today than just five years ago. The demand for TDM-based services is declining with customers choosing to use high-speed IP-based services. Given this trend, it’s time for the FCC to refocus its priorities for America on how best to make the transition to next-generation IP networks for the benefit of consumers and businesses nationwide. Policies regarding special access were put in place in the 1990’s when incumbent telephone company copper lines were the only available option, and clearly this is no longer the case.”
“Unfortunately, the FCC appears to be moving forward prematurely with its FNPRM on how to conduct its market analysis. Data should be collected first so that any future analyses will be based on a foundation of facts that reflect the current state of the marketplace. However, the FCC should be asking itself whether it is worthwhile to undertake such a large examination of competition for a service that is rapidly being replaced by an IP-based technology and whether its resources would be better spent creating a clear path forward for the deployment of this newer technology across America.
Yesterday at the Huffington Post, John M. Burns wrote about a new report on education from the NAACP.
Both Burns’ post and the NAACP’s report are must-reads for anyone concerned about how America can fix its failing education system, but I want to highlight one part of Burns’ piece that dovetails with one of IIA’s main missions as an organization. Burns writes:
Clearly, success in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) disciplines not only requires the preparedness, education and skills necessary to navigate these waters but it is essential that the technological landscape provide the medium for growth and innovation. At a time when we as a nation have collectively conceded that we are lagging behind the world in these key disciplines, we cannot afford to be confronted with undue government and regulatory restrictions on the digital world. These types of restriction will do nothing but hinder our own sustainability and competitiveness in the global world. It is critical that U.S. policymakers show that it is our nation’s unequivocal policy to avoid undue regulation of the Internet at all levels of government. And that means the Federal Communications Commission and other regulatory bodies must invest in the technological infrastructure to ensure that the regulatory environment meets the needs of our new technological reality while simultaneously removing old restrictions that suppress technological expansion and innovation.
Burns is exactly right. There’s no question America’s position in the global economy will depend on a healthy workforce fluent in the STEM disciplines. But just as important is the underlying infrastructure that workforce will rely on in order to keep America competitive. And key to upgrading our nation’s communications backbone will be billions in investment from the private sector — investment outdated and unnecessary regulations can easily stifle.
Well over a century ago, the government and the private sector made a commitment to connect everyone with a telephone. Now we need to make another commitment to meet our new technological reality.
Investing in our IP future will be more than an investment in our communication infrastructure. It will be an investment in education. And as Burns and the NAACP both rightly point out, that’s an investment we should all be able to agree on.
Wednesday, December 12
Speaking of deals — and LTE buildout — courtesy of Alex Fitzpatrick of Mashable, satellite provider Dish Network received some good news of its own yesterday:
Dish Network, the company you’re most likely familiar with as a provider of satellite television, has been trying for years to get government approval for its plans to build a nationwide LTE network. After extensive negotiations, the company’s LTE plans got the go-ahead from the Federal Communications Commission late Tuesday night.
The FCC unanimously approved Dish’s plan, which calls for using the company’s satellite network to build a new LTE network to compete with those of Verizon Wireless, AT&T and other companies.
“These actions will help meet skyrocketing consumer demand and promote private investment, innovation and competition, while unlocking billions of dollars of value,” said an FCC spokeswoman said in an e-mailed statement.
One of the FCC’s requirements for approval, interestingly, was that Dish must reach 70% of buildout on its network within six years.
Tuesday, December 11
Big news from the FCC yesterday, as the Commission announced it is forming a “task force” to study how best to transition the country’s communication infrastructure from legacy wireline networks to next generation, IP-based ones. As Brendan Sasso of The Hill reports:
The group will review the FCC’s policies to ensure that they encourage technological transition, protect consumers, promote competition and ensure network reliability, according to the FCC.
“The Technology Transitions Policy Task Force will play a critical role in answering the fundamental policy question for communications in the 21st century: In a broadband world, how can we best ensure that our nation’s communications policies continue to drive a virtuous cycle of innovation and investment, promote competition, and protect consumers?” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement.
FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, who has called for the formation of a task force since he joined the Commission, is happy with the move. Again from Sasso:
“The analog, circuit-switched copper-wire networks that dominated the 20th century communications marketplace are being replaced by competitive fiber networks that digitally distribute voice, video, and data services. Yet our rules continue to presume static domination by monopoly providers,” Pai said in a statement on Monday.
Also applauding the FCC’s action is AT&T, which in November announced its own plans to work with the FCC in order to smoothly transition its wireline network to all-IP. From the company’s Public Policy Blog:
“Today’s announcement by the FCC to appoint a Technology Task Force to modernize its rules for the transition of traditionally regulated services to applications that ride on an IP broadband infrastructure is welcome news. As AT&T pointed out in our recent filing, that transition is well underway with more than 70% of consumers having already migrated away from POTS service. Addressing these issues in a comprehensive process that crosses the smoke-stacked bureau structure that is a remnant of an almost eight decades old telecom law is critically important.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski’s full statement about the task force is available on the agency’s website, as is the statement from Commissioner Pai.