Broadband policy: Department of Justice going too far in attempts to regulate spectrum auction
by Bruce Mehlman
In March, 37 senators urged President Barack Obama to appoint Jessica Rosenworcel to chair the Federal Communications Commission. The president instead named the well-qualified venture capitalist and industry veteran Tom Wheeler. Rosenworcel is sure to continue contributing mightily to the FCC as a commissioner, but perhaps the president should consider her for another job—attorney general.
This is not another criticism of the controversies embroiling the Department of Justice. Rather, Rosenworcel’s real contribution would be to offer a breath of fresh air in economic policy in the department, especially with regard to the dynamic tech marketplace.
The Justice Department doesn’t get it. Rosenworcel does. And the department’s anachronistic worldview threatens to delay our mobile broadband future.
Our nation faces a serious “spectrum crunch.” Too few radio frequencies are devoted to consumer broadband applications to meet the exponentially growing demand of wireless consumers. Too much existing spectrum is allocated for government or non-broadband uses, limiting consumers’ options. And America lacks a reliable, interoperable public safety broadband network and the $7 billion-plus needed to build it.
To address many of these challenges, Congress recently authorized “incentive auctions,” where broadcasters can voluntarily sell under-used radio frequencies to the highest commercial bidders. Proceeds will be used, in part, to build the public safety network and pay down debt while enabling wireless companies to help fix the spectrum crunch. Win, win, win.
Only some now suggest the auctions should exclude certain bidders. One might expect this from wireless competitors looking to narrow the competition. But on April 11, the DOJ’s Antitrust Division seemingly joined their cause, urging policymakers to impose auction “rules that ensure the smaller nationwide networks, which currently lack substantial low-frequency spectrum, have an opportunity to acquire such spectrum.”
Congress expressly mandated that no bidders be excluded from the auctions. Yet DOJ would do precisely that. Such interventions are frequently unfair and usually unwise, given the difficulty of predicting the future, especially as it relates to technology.
Rosenworcel appears to understand this. In a recent speech, she urged policy makers to first and foremost maximize auction revenue for the public safety network, FirstNet. She further recommended an open and transparent auction process that promotes speed, efficiency and fairness—not picking winners and losers.
She and fellow commissioner Ajit Pai make clear that the real solution to the spectrum crunch is not limiting carriers’ access to new radio frequencies—they will all need more bandwidth to give consumers what they want. Rather government should make significantly more spectrum available to the entire wireless industry on a fair and open basis. Instead of restricting who can bid, let’s find ways to transfer far more spectrum to the commercial market.
The mobile sector is constantly changing. With multiple mergers and spectrum-sharing arrangements in the works, DOJ’s recommendation could steer new frequencies to those with the greatest access to bandwidth. Just last month Morgan Stanley observed that a combined Clearwire, Sprint and DISH network would hold more than twice the spectrum of either Verizon or AT&T, the two companies DOJ aims to restrict.
DOJ’s supporters point out that it could block mergers and deals to protect competition, but how far should government go in controlling our wireless sector? Lawyers propose deciding which spectrum is most valuable, declaring who can buy it and how much they can acquire, then overseeing which companies can merge. Such a managed marketplace is not a formula for global leadership or rapid innovation.
So if we cannot make her FCC chair, let’s send Jessica Rosenworcel to Justice. Or at least hope that the DOJ heeds her counsel for humility, restraint and common sense in the upcoming incentive auctions.
Source URL: http://www.mercurynews.com/opinion/ci_23453441/broadband-policy-department-justice-going-far-attempts-regulate
To Network the Nation, Go Back to the Future
By Rick Boucher
A little less than two decades ago, in a bid to stoke competition and create more choices for consumers, Congress rewrote the law that governed telephone and cable TV communication. It was a difficult, bipartisan, multi-year effort as we weighed the advice of policy experts, listened to competitors’ concerns and looked for the best way to serve consumers. That focus and a lot of hard work created a landmark accomplishment that stimulated competition and consumer choice in the local telephone, long-distance and cable television markets.
Today, the development of the Internet has brought us to another critical juncture in communications policy as we consider how to complete the transition from the bygone era of plain old telephone service to the digital bonanza of the 21st century. It’s a critical transition, given the Internet’s increasingly dominant role in every part of our economy, as well as its ability to improve lives and help achieve important national goals. It’s also something that just about every stakeholder, including the Federal Communications Commission, regards as inevitable. As we move forward, the guiding principle must be to put consumers first.
When complete, this Internet transformation will mean that every telecom service will move over the fastest, most reliable broadband networks built specifically for Internet-based delivery of voice, video and data rather than antiquated networks that were designed for phones wired to the wall. Every app, every smartphone and tablet, every desktop computer will smoothly connect consumers to the online experience of their choice – telemedicine services for better health, virtual classrooms for lifetime learning, their legislators’ offices for civic engagement, a job opportunity, a sporting event, a movie, friends and family across town or on the other side of the world. That’s the first goal – delivering the services consumers want. Indeed, that move is already under way led by consumers themselves, about three quarters of whom have left the old wired phone network for services provided with digital tools.
Ideally every consumer – in the rural communities of Southwestern Virginia, the mountains of Colorado, and the poorest neighborhoods of the inner city – should have access to this advanced network. The principle of universal service, which ensured basic telephone service for every American, may be even more important in the Internet age. As FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel explained: “No matter who you are or where you live, prosperity in the 21st Century will require access to broadband services.”
But providing access to the service isn’t the whole job. We also must boost adoption rates, educating every American about what the transition means, how it will affect them and why they should use broadband to improve opportunities for themselves and their family. We can’t afford to leave any American in the dark about the value of broadband; we can’t leave anyone behind.
A competitive marketplace that enables consumers to choose among different providers, technologies and service options is another core goal, because competition provides consumers a better deal. That principle guided our work on the Telecommunications Act of 1996. In today’s context, FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn has it exactly right: “We must also ensure that competitive alternatives are available to consumers and that all providers continue to invest and innovate – pushing one another to offer consumers the best services at the lowest prices.” Competition thrives where a level playing field exists and consumers understand the rules of the road. Basic consumer protections are vital to guard against deceptive and abusive practices.
The Internet has prospered in large part because of decisions dating to the Clinton administration to steer clear of excessive rules about matters such as terms of service and pricing. While the tradition of light touch regulation of the online space should continue, regulators must remain on guard against potential abuse and make sure that consumers receive the services they’re paying for.
Protecting public safety also remains a vital goal. Next generation networks must be reliable so that consumers can communicate in times of greatest need. Disruption of 911 in Hurricane Sandy made clear that we have work to do to achieve this goal. Ensuring access to first responders on new networks is one reason that I support proposals like one by AT&T for field tests. Market trials of IP technology will enable carriers to identify potential problems and find solutions before the final transition from the old networks to the new. Every American must have the means to reach 911 in times of emergency in this digital era.
Finally, there is the matter of outdated regulation, specifically legacy rules adopted decades ago for the old phone system. Without prejudging specifically what rules should go and what rules should stay, our nation’s regulatory system must be just as modern as the networks it governs. Over the past decade, regulators have correctly recognized that new technologies require new rules. As outgoing FCC Chair Julius Genachowski observed last December in creating the Commission’s technology transition task force, “[T]he ongoing changes in our nation’s communications networks require a hard look at many rules that were written for a different technological and market landscape.” A national dialogue moderated through an FCC proceeding should summon a broad range of stakeholders from consumer groups to broadband providers to focus on the rules that are appropriate for a time when all communications are Internet-based.
To be clear, modernizing regulations for the transition does not mean a regulation-free zone. What’s needed is smart regulation appropriate to protect consumers and public safety, promote competition and support universal service, while also encouraging significant and sustained private investment in America’s next-generation communications networks. Again to quote Commissioner Rosenworcel, “Our policies in these transitional times must do two simple things. They must promote confidence for private investment in digital age infrastructure – and they must promote confidence for consumers to realize the full potential and opportunity that our digital world provides.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Source URL: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/technology/296399-to-network-the-nation-go-back-to-the-future#ixzz2RaHI8axi
Lessons from the ‘90s for re-igniting growth now
Commentary: Key decisions made years ago still apply today
By Bruce P. Mehlman
Economic growth stalls. Public debt is exploding. People quit looking for work faster than new jobs can be created. Around the world, voters turn to policymakers to solve these economic challenges and re-ignite growth. But how?
Solutions vary radically. Some see government bureaucracy and red tape as the problem, proposing budgetary discipline and deregulation to solve our woes. Others perceive government as the solution, urging greater Keynesian stimulus through public investment and more comprehensive regulation of “big business.” In nearly every nation, policymakers are experimenting with various remedies, from Japanese currency devaluation to European austerity to massive Chinese infrastructure investments.
Over the next 18 months, four newly named leaders in the Obama Administration have the opportunity to expand on proven successes and reignite growth. At the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Office of United States Trade Representative (USTR), the Treasury Department and the State Department, these new officials can advance policy solutions that we know can work, provided they have the vision and courage.
Across geographic and ideological spectrums, policymakers agree that the keys to future prosperity are productivity, innovation and entrepreneurship. And their most compelling proof point remains the Internet and its extraordinary contribution to American employment and efficiency. A huge amount of the Internet-enabled growth that has supercharged our economy over the past two decades resulted from four critical decisions made by U.S. policymakers in the mid-1990s on issues that have returned to the fore today.
First and most significantly, 17 years ago, bipartisan majorities in Congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Recognizing the enormous value of competition as a driver of progress, Congress rewrote a 1934 monopoly-era law to promote investment in new networks and competition across platforms. The act led regulators to drastically cut terminating-access charges imposed on emerging wireless services, spurring the mobile boom. New rules begat new investment, with more than $1.2 trillion in private capital expenditure; the broadband era was born.
Next, in December 1996, U.S. negotiators at the World Trade Organization got 75 nations to agree to the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) that eliminated customs duties on a wide array of information and communications technology products. Trade in these goods exploded from $1.2 trillion in 1996 to $4 trillion in 2008, vastly expanding markets for American exporters while lowering the cost to U.S. entrepreneurs of powering up, logging on and joining the networked world. U.S. productivity surged a massive 85%, from 1.4% per year (1980-1995) to 2.6% per year in the 15 years after.
In July 1997 the Administration released its “Framework for Global Economic Commerce,” recognizing the imperative of avoiding government control of core Internet governance functions. By investing Internet governance functions in a professional, private-sector led, bottom-up organization (ICANN), policymakers blazed an unprecedented trail that has minimized political interference in Internet growth and avoided a balkanization of this critical global medium. Internet usage grew from 16 million in December 1995 to 2.4 billion today.
Finally, in August 1997, Congress passed the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 (BBA), legislation that significantly boosted investor confidence by imposing fiscal discipline over Washington budgets. Of even greater impact, the BBA lowered capital-gains rates to 20%, encouraging a torrent of venture capital funding that gave rise to many of today’s leading tech employers.
For 15 years these policies and the Internet economy they fostered helped power economic growth during boom times and sustain job creation and productivity in the lean years. Yet each of these essential policies is now at risk.
Today some policymakers propose higher tax rates on capital gains and entrepreneurial activity, either to spare spending or “fix” income inequality. New Treasury Secretary Jack Lew should prioritize maintaining effective tax incentives for venture capital.
At the same time, trade in high-tech goods and services is increasingly limited by new protectionist barriers and the failure of the ITA to evolve with new innovations. USTR nominee Mike Froman should make expanding the ITA to new technologies and additional markets his top priority.
Regimes less committed to Internet freedom are this month pushing to move Internet governance functions away from the multi-stakeholder ICANN and to the government-run United Nations instead. New Secretary of State John Kerry must prevent UN takeover of Internet governance as a top priority.
And in domestic telecom markets, many are seeking re-regulation of advanced broadband networks with monopoly-era telecom laws… old rules for all wires. FCC nominee Tom Wheeler should champion efforts to deregulate all-IP broadband networks to re-ignite our innovation-led growth.
It is critical that the policymakers of 2013 learn from and apply the lessons of 1996-1997. The broadband-enabled Internet economy can continue to benefit American consumers and power renewed productivity, innovation and entrepreneurship, provided policymakers make the right decisions.
Bruce P. Mehlman is founding partner of public affairs company Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti, co-Chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance and former Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Technology Policy.
Getting Healthier With Technology
By Jamal Simmons
The numbers aren’t pretty. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, minority communities are struggling with certain health problems more than whites. Consider this:
• African Americans are twice as likely — and Hispanics 1.7 times as likely — to have diabetes.
• African American men and women are 30 percent more likely to die from heart disease than non-Hispanic white males.
These are just two of many troubling statistics that speak to a major challenge facing our country. But it’s not all bad news.
April, National Minority Health Month, is coming to a close — the last 30 days have been aimed at focusing attention on the need to improve health care in communities of color across the country. But, luckily, this is just the beginning; major strides in health care technology are empowering minorities to avoid being just another statistic.
This year’s theme was “Advance Health Equality Now: Using Our Communities to Bring Health Care Coverage to All.” It’s a call for everyone to come together to improve health in minority communities and increase access to good and affordable health care. Thanks to high-speed broadband, rather than break the bank on travel expenses, many Americans, including minorities, will increasingly be able to receive remote consultations from specialists across the country; patients with chronic conditions can receive care at home or while on the go with a wireless device; and all Americans can utilize mobile apps to monitor their fitness and nutrition. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 72 percent of Internet users say they looked online for health information within the past year.
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.
According to Pew data, minority communities are more reliant on mobile connections to access the Internet. That’s why mobile health — or mHealth — should dominate discussions on minority health beyond April. The ability to make informed decisions that impact your health with quick and easy access to information, no matter where you happen to be, greatly improves overall awareness. Not to mention that being able to use mobile broadband to do things like track your medications can improve lives. Innovations in mHealth and telemedicine are making health care more convenient, patient-centered and cost-effective.
As the networks that power fixed and mobile broadband continue to evolve, more advanced services and more powerful health care apps will become available. For example, doctors, nurses and first responders are using high-speed Internet more and more to access and transmit health records, images and information at mind-blowing speeds, leading to more efficient diagnoses and treatments. The ongoing transition to all Internet Protocol (IP) networks will provide robust infrastructure to build on these innovations and support more devices and data, both at home and out and about. Communities of color — as well as in all communities — stand to greatly benefit from innovations in health care technology, particularly those enabled by high-speed broadband.
Policy makers can hasten the move to next-generation networks by adopting a modernized approach to regulation of the rapidly evolving technology industry. Higher broadband speeds and IP-enabled services will fast-track us to achieving our national health care goals.
So while statistics paint a gloomy picture of health in minority communities, there’s definitely room for optimism. A connection to high-speed Internet can be a route to better health. With more and more people in minority communities going online each day, hopefully one day soon National Minority Health Month will be a time for celebration and not a call-to-action.
Source URL: http://rollingout.com/health/political-analyst-jamal-simmons-getting-healthier-with-technology/
Desperate need for Internet in our urban schools
by Jamal Simmons | April 17, 2013
For years, parents and educators have argued over the role of technology in the classroom. A poll of some of the most qualified teachers in America conducted by the Pew Center on the Internet and American Life recently revealed how thoroughly digital tools and the Internet have been integrated into education.
Policymakers now must determine how to ensure that all students regardless of income or location enjoy the benefits of digitally enhanced learning. Wireless mobile and an Internet Protocol (IP)-based network might be the answers.
According to the Pew poll of advanced placement and National Writing Project teachers, the Internet and digital tools such as laptops, cell phones and tablets are threaded throughout the teaching and learning experience. In some schools use of a cell phone or digital device in class is a violation of the rules, but that is changing.
Fully 73 percent of poll respondents say students use mobile phones in class and 45 percent say they use e-readers or tablets to do research and access or submit assignments. Nearly 70 percent of teachers say they use these tools to share work with other teachers (69 percent) or interact with parents (67 percent).
Almost all of these teachers use search engines like Google to find information, and they are more likely to use digital tools and social networks than the general population.
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.
One consistent barrier is computer ownership. For example, when examining the barriers to broadband adoption in America, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) found that U.S. computer ownership rates in 2010 were 80 percent of those of leading nations such as Japan and South Korea.
Access to affordable and reliable high speed Internet access is another barrier. For rural students who are less likely to have at-home access, that means getting service into hard to reach areas. Unlike other advanced nations that significantly subsidize investment in high speed networks through tax dollars, the U.S. relies primarily on private companies. ITIF also found that a significant barrier to the deployment of fiber optic broadband in sparsely populated suburbs and rural areas is the cost per home which can exceed more than $1000 per home.
Given this challenge, wireless must be part (although not all) of the solution. Earlier surveys show that African-American and Latino kids are more likely to use wireless devices to access the web than their white counterparts. Using a wireless-enabled tablet or laptop is a lower-cost option for accessing the web without losing much functionality.
To ensure reliable wireless access long term, we need to make available more spectrum, the invisible airwaves that carry radio, television and data traffic. Just like adding lanes to a highway, the more of it there is, the more information can get through.
Those in high-cost areas would benefit from the transition to an all Internet Protocol network, a multimedia platform that can support more capabilities than the old, slow copper-based networks. Right now the FCC has a petition from IIA member company AT&T to transition away from maintaining the plain old telephone service (POTS) to an all-IP network.
The company, which has pledged to invest $66 billion dollars in expanding the reach of its wired and wireless broadband service, petitioned the FCC to sanction test market runs for any company interested in using IP technology to determine that it is safe, affordable and reliable. This measured approach will permit any issues to be addressed before a nationwide transition takes place.
Getting students in underserved communities’ access to these educational tools is critical. American kids are facing global competition and according to the Pew poll, digital tools are becoming difference-makers for students in achieving a high standard education. In the global competition the U.S. faces, we can’t afford to leave any kids behind.
Source URL: http://thegrio.com/2013/04/17/desperate-need-for-internet-in-our-urban-schools/#
America’s Telecom Policy Is Stuck in the 1990s
By Bruce Mehlman
NEW YORK (TheStreet)—Coming out of the Mobile World Congress in Spain, headlines such as “Europe Is Strangling the Telecom Industry” paraded across news outlets.
According to the reports, European regulators are saddling telecommunications firms with additional heavy-handed price mandates that have slowed investment in next generation, high-speed broadband networks. The current regulatory landscape in Europe has forced many companies to cling to dead-end business models built on outdated, slower technology. As a result, Europe has an overcrowded market with too many telcos unwilling or unable to invest in state-of-the-art, IP-enabled networks. They are in essence starving the broadband future.
Sound familiar? It should. Our nation is facing a similar challenge today with the transition to all-Internet Protocol (IP) networks. Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs) and their allies demand that America’s outdated regulatory framework governing Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) must remain in place in perpetuity. Many even push to extend POTS regulations to the all fiber-based networks that have thrived and proliferated precisely because they are free from such mandates. Talk about stuck in the 1990s.
Currently, CLECs are afforded access to incumbent carriers’ TDM-based networks at reduced government-regulated rates, pursuant to the 1996 Telecommunications Act. Such favorable treatment was intended to give new entrants a running start, a base upon which they might invest in their own networks and build out competing infrastructure. Indeed, policy makers’ explicit goal at the time was to create more robust competition in the telecommunications marketplace for both residential and business voice services. It was thought that by allowing the competitors to use the networks of incumbents and to pay a deeply discounted rate for network access, so-called TELRIC pricing, CLECs would rapidly acquire customers, enjoy revenues and soon be able to build their own infrastructures.
It hasn’t quite worked out as Congress intended. Unfortunately, too few CLECs actually deployed competitive networks of their own, preferring instead to leverage their rate-regulated access to Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier (ILEC) infrastructure while targeting mostly business customers with lower-cost alternatives enabled by lower overhead. Residential consumers rarely receive any benefit from the competitive services most CLECs offer. Easy profits if you can get them, but hardly rules to encourage deployment of upgraded, competitive broadband networks.
Policy makers should address the market that is, not the myth that was. In truth, ILECs are no longer dominant by any rational standard, and consumers now have an ever-increasing array of alternatives to ILEC service providers. ILECs today serve less than a third of consumers with switched access voice service in their service areas (e.g., IIA member AT&T serves 25% in its 22-state-wireline footprint).
According to the National Broadband Map, 89% of Americans have a choice of five or more broadband providers, including wireless and satellite. A total of 85% have a choice of two or more wireline broadband providers. Some 86.7% of Americans have a choice of four or more wireless broadband providers, while more than half have access to five or more wireless broadband providers.
Many of these CLECs understandably fear the impact of the IP transition on their own legacy businesses, especially those companies predicated on regulatory arbitrage. Other supporters of legacy rules worry whether upgraded networks will confuse consumers or change services that some prefer just the way they are and have always been. Yet fear of the future is not a sound basis for public policy, and it is obviously not the role of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to protect the business model of specific companies, especially those that have been on notice for more than 17 years that they needed to invest in their own facilities and connections.
As with government, the ability of businesses to invest is not unlimited. When demanding investment in redundant copper networks to preserve the status quo for an ever-shrinking minority of consumers, policy makers directly rob investment from faster broadband networks that serve the ever-growing majority of consumers. That’s the wrong choice.
Today’s broadband marketplace is hyper-competitive, rapidly innovating and most enabled by less regulation and a lighter regulatory approach to advance the public interest and best serve consumers. It’s clear that outmoded telecommunications regulations designed in the pre-broadband, pre-smart phone era no longer advance America’s future.
Bruce Mehlman is co-chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance and served as U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Technology Policy from 2001-2003.
Source URL: http://www.thestreet.com/story/11885870/1/americas-telecom-policy-is-stuck-in-the-1990s.html
The ‘next generation’ of American Talk
April 1, 2013 | By Rick Boucher
It’s hard to imagine communicating without Skype, Facetime, X-Box, Twitter or a text on your smartphone. Mobile devices and other Internet Protocol (IP)-based services powered by high-speed broadband have revolutionized the way we connect with one another at just about every moment of our lives.
Millions of Americans are now abandoning traditional, copper-wire phone service. In just the past three years, U.S. smartphone adoption has increased from 16.9 percent to 54.9 percent, according to Nielsen. One out of three homes in the United States now relies on wireless-only technologies, according to the National Health Interview Survey.
Copper telephone technology has limited capabilities. It falls short in providing robust, high-speed Internet services that support IP-enabled applications such as Voice over Internet Protocol. Nor can it offer the next-generation healthcare, education and public-safety IP-based applications that consumers demand. Shifting our nation’s communications networks to all-IP is critical to ensuring consumer access to the most modern communications services.
As with the adoption of any new technology, the move to IP networks offers challenges and opportunities. A majority of Americans have already changed from voice-only telephone networks. Roughly 93 percent of U.S. households subscribed to switched-access phone service a decade ago, according to USTelecom, today it’s less than one-third and is projected to decline to one-quarter of households by the end of 2013.
Moving the dwindling number of consumers still on copper technology will likely require a public-private partnership that can ensure no one is left behind while also providing access to affordable 21st century technologies.
The Federal Communications Commission has begun reforming rules and expanding broadband access across America. Its recent restructuring of the Universal Service Fund, for example, made deployment to unserved areas economically feasible by transferring existing federal subsidies from voice-only copper networks to the build-out of broadband IP-based networks.
The government should continue to encourage investment in this transition. In AT&T’s 22-state wire-line service area, for example, only one in four customers subscribes to legacy phone service where it is available, yet by law the company must continue offering this to 100 percent of its customers. Every dollar that local telephone companies uses to maintain antiquated copper telephone networks is at the expense of investment in newer, more capable IP networks. Our country needs to speed up the IP transition to effectively compete with other nations.
The FCC acknowledged this when its Technical Advisory Council in 2011 recommended that, in the interest of promoting broadband expansion, the traditional copper-wire telephone network should be retired by 2018. A new approach, the council suggested, is necessary to unleash the innovation and investment that could result from accelerating the IP transition.
As a first step, the FCC should authorize monitored trials in select markets where people are rapidly moved from copper networks to IP networks. The commission can use these test areas to help identify potential problems and devise fixes before a nationwide transition occurs.
As the shift proceeds, everyone should be guaranteed voice service at least as good and as affordable as their existing service.
The bedrock principle must be that no one is left behind. We must ensure continued access to quality communications services for the hearing- and vision-impaired. Access to public-safety services must also remain universal. The means to meet these goals, while accelerating the move away from century-old copper networks, can be refined in the test regions.
The United States is known as the land of opportunity and innovation. IP-based networks hold the promise of enhancing quality of life, spurring job creation and advancing economic growth. Government and industry must work together to ensure that the benefits and opportunities of next-generation networks and services become widespread and available to all.
One thing is for sure: More changes in technology are coming. The next big thing may be just around the corner ‑- and soon in your pocket.
Source URL: http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2013/04/01/the-next-generation-of-american-talk/
It’s time for the entire broadband ecosystem—including voice—to invest
February 25, 2013 | By Jamal Simmons
American greatness is in part based on our willingness to reach for a better future even though that often means letting go of past comforts. Not only has the United States absorbed waves of immigrants from other countries, Americans have moved from one state to another in search of better lives. We went from family farms to urban factories and now are making the exciting (and challenging) transition to a technology-based economy. Innovations in technology have meant leaving behind cherished LPs and cassette tapes for CDs and digital music; and we threw out analog televisions and rabbit ear antennae for digital TV and broadband-delivered video-on-demand.
Things change, and phone service is no different. More and more Americans are switching from the old landlines we grew up with to wireless and broadband-based telephone options. In fact, one out of three American homes now relies on wireless-only technologies, according to the U.S. National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). Telecom companies have taken note.
In addition to investing in wireless, Verizon (NYSE: VZ) committed $23 billion over nine years toward building its fiber-optic FiOS network. Similarly, AT&T (NYSE: T) recently announced plans to invest $66 billion over the next three years to transform its existing wireline network to provide high-speed Internet and video service, as it begins the transition away from antiquated 100-year-old copper lines and further expands its wireless 4G LTE service to cover 300 million people by the end of 2014.
If such efforts are successful, more ubiquitous high-speed broadband service will be available to consumers, key goals of IIA, President Barack Obama, and the FCC’s 2010 National Broadband Plan that seeks to achieve high-speed Internet coverage for 98 percent of Americans by 2015. Access to better-quality, faster-speed broadband will help Americans start new businesses and help schools transition students to blended learning models like the one at Kramer Middle School in Washington, D.C., where my brother Kwame Simmons is principal. More broadband will mean people in rural communities who are long distances from the nearest town will be able to consult with medical experts at far away hospitals without making long car trips or expensive airplane voyages.
Of course, a massive transition like this presents challenges, albeit surmountable ones. As the country migrates to all-IP networks, we must ensure every customer will still be reached by voice service regardless of where they live, including sparsely populated regions that are hard to connect. Customers with low incomes should be able to afford the improved services, and they should work with a similar degree of service quality as “plain old telephone service” during moments of great need, natural disaster or crisis. Speaking to reliability, Congressman Brian Bilbray recently said during a House Energy and Commerce hearing that during Hurricane Katrina and the fires in San Diego, “it was much more probable that when your electricity gave out that your cell phone worked enough to be able to call and say you were out of power…Those who want to talk about the old hard line technology as being dependable—it definitely was not more dependable than the new technology we had.” In its proposal to conduct beta tests, AT&T has prudently promised to test out an all-IP network on a smaller scale before transforming the entire network, allowing engineers and experts the opportunity to identify and address any potential issues that may arise early.
Many observers view this move to the future with enthusiasm. While technological advancements have granted the nation with significant benefits, many people still approach change with caution. Others will advocate for the status quo in order to retain their business models built on old technologies and favorable regulations. For example, many CLECs provide service dependent on regulated access to old Bell networks at subsidized rates. Once upon a time, regulated access may have made sense to provide a competitive alternative to the existing Bell telephone monopoly. In today’s marketplace, however, many providers compete to offer communications services. CLECs in general have failed to use their subsidized access to fund widespread investment and deployment of IP-based services, and instead have banked on the fact that they would have this favorable access in perpetuity. But for consumers, businesses and our nation as a whole to benefit from the opportunities enabled by a high-speed, all IP-based broadband network, the entire ecosystem must invest.
According to the Progressive Policy Institute, AT&T and Verizon were the two biggest investors in America out of all nonfinancial Fortune 150 companies in 2011—$20.1 billion and $16.2 billion in U.S. capital expenditures, respectively. AT&T has indicated that it plans to stay on this path and spend billions of dollars each year to aid the IP transition—more jobs and a real boost to our economy. This kind of jolt is exactly what the country needs right now.
Leaving behind an old world for a new one makes some people nervous. But taking that leap forward is what has always made America great.
Jamal Simmons, an advisor to corporate, nonprofit and political clients and former Clinton Administration appointee, is co-chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance.
Source URL: http://www.fiercetelecom.com/story/its-time-entire-broadband-ecosystem-including-voice-invest/2013-02-25
The More Things Change, the More Regulations Cannot Stay the Same
Thirty years ago, Americans had plain old telephone service (POTS). In each community, one local telephone company offered a voice connection, referred to as “dial tone.” These rotary dials were considered a great improvement over the live operator who controlled a switchboard and personally connected each call. There was no Internet; there were no cellphones; and TV came from an antenna on the roof or rabbit ears on top of the set. That was the communications landscape of the time, and, my, what changes the last three decades have brought!
By the early 1990s, emerging competition in the long-distance telephone market and the desire to create competition in local telephone and cable TV services led Congress to engage in a multiyear exercise to overhaul the nation’s communications laws. This effort culminated in the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Feb. 8 marked the 17th anniversary of that law, which prompts me to reflect on today’s accelerating evolution in communications technology and the policy challenges these dramatic changes present.
The 1996 act focused on POTS. We wrote new rules to foster competition in both the local and long-distance telephone market. While we took steps to bring about greater competition in the local, multichannel television market, we hardly focused on the Internet. In fact, the Internet was only mentioned in one section of the act, which was later declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
In other words, the 1996 act was designed for a world that is rapidly disappearing. Today’s consumers benefit from decades of innovation in telecommunications equipment and services.
The Internet is now pervasive, and broadband reaches all but the most remote places. Nine out of 10 American consumers can choose from five or more wireless providers. Packages of voice, video and data are offered to consumers by both wired and wireless providers who compete with each other on price, quality and the variety of service offerings. Cable, satellite, wired and wireless phone companies are engaged in furious cross-platform competition, giving consumers choices that were unimaginable 17 years ago.
Against this dynamic background, some clear and accelerating trends have emerged. For example, POTS is vanishing and voice service is transforming as we speak. Most consumers have now “cut the cord” to their telephone company wire-line service.
Approximately 25 percent of homes now subscribe to the phone service offered by their traditional local telephone company over that network. Indeed, communications traffic of all kinds is rapidly moving from the public switched telephone network to Internet Protocol-based networks.
Despite this, telephone companies are still required to maintain PSTN coverage to 100 percent of homes, effectively siphoning investment away from the faster and more capable networks that customers have demonstrated they prefer. No other broadband competitors are saddled with this regulatory obligation, and many are investing in high-speed broadband networks at a significant pace.
Against this backdrop, the Federal Communications Commission recently announced in the National Broadband Plan that the greatest telecommunications infrastructure challenge of this decade will be the transition from the old PSTN to IP networks. The FCC’s Technical Advisory Council went on to recommend that the PSTN sunset by 2018, after which voice, video and data will travel exclusively on IP networks.
Such a major transition will require thoughtful planning and the resolution of numerous policy questions. For example, we must determine the role of the federal universal service program and ensure that all consumers receive services at least as good as what they currently enjoy.
We need to preserve access to communications services for people with disabilities. We must retain basic consumer protections. And, lastly, we must make sure that services are reliable and affordable for lower-income Americans.
At the time of the 1996 act, I sought to serve my rural district by encouraging investment in new technologies more likely to reach rural areas. I believed smarter regulation would encourage greater competition, stronger investment and a more rapid arrival of capable telecommunications networks. I still do.
To address the complicated policy aspects of the IP transition, the FCC has opened multiple proceedings that address various questions. In addition, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski recently announced the formation of the agency’s Technology Transitions Policy Task Force, which draws on expertise across the agency’s various bureaus.
These are welcome steps, but more can be done. In November, AT&T filed an IP transition petition calling for a national dialogue on the IP transition and recommending, as a matter of efficiency, consolidating the multiple open proceedings that consider policy aspects of the IP transition into one proceeding. A single proceeding allows focus, transparency and clarity. It provides a more meaningful opportunity for stakeholders, including consumers, to comment and become active participants in the IP transition policy formation process.
The petition also suggests that the FCC establish pilot “test” projects in selected communities across the nation where communications customers would rapidly be moved from the PSTN to IP networks. Such a “beta test” approach is modeled on a similar test that occurred in advance of the successful digital-television transition of the last decade. That transition took place only after a demonstration project in Wilmington, N.C., provided real-world data on how the transition would work in practice. We should do no less for the IP transition.
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.
Former Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., served for 28 years in the House, where he chaired the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet. He is honorary chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance and chairs the government strategies practice at the law firm Sidley Austin, which represents communications companies among other clients.
Bringing the Internet Home
Your Take: Letting our innovators innovate will help communities of color get fully connected.
The Internet has changed America perhaps even more profoundly than the telegraph, television or Motown Records. Much the way these earlier innovations shrank the spaces between Americans and unleashed new market forces, access to broadband has opened up a whole new way of doing business that crosses lines of culture and geography. In order for the Internet to continue to flourish and become even more accessible, policymakers need to rethink outdated telecommunications regulations so that carriers can keep investing in the expansion of next-generation networks.
Innovations in broadband technology have transcended the boundaries of the wired world. Today mobile devices like smartphones and tablets act as general-purpose computers complete with nearly 1.5 million available apps. These gadgets are helping to close the digital divide.
Seventy-one percent of African Americans are now connected to the Internet, according to Pew Research, and have access to information and opportunities that did not exist 20 years ago. The African-American community also has an overall smartphone-adoption rate that is higher than the national average, according to Pew Research (49 percent for African Americans versus 46 percent for Americans overall).
Huge amounts of digital data are consumed through these mobile devices, causing carriers to struggle to deliver ever-increasing network coverage and faster service. The wireless carriers’ ongoing ability to provide information that consumers access on a daily basis—wherever, whenever—can be enhanced by the migration of America’s communications networks away from outdated legacy phone-line networks and toward Internet Protocol-based, or IP-based, infrastructure.
The rate of home broadband adoption within the African-American community is lower than that of the general population in the United States and 16 percent lower than the white rate. This can largely be attributed to accessibility and affordability issues.
Putting smart policies in place to promote the IP transition would help address these concerns. With the right incentives, incumbent telephone companies could invest in and build faster, more robust and more dynamic IP-based networks that would provide residential customers with additional competitive choices for video, high-speed broadband and voice services. Accelerating the IP transition would also have the positive effect of shifting the cost burden of maintaining antiquated, legacy voice networks away from voice subscribers in communities of color, who would disproportionately have to pay the costs of maintaining outdated networks without the benefit of access to new services provided by next-generation networks being built at the same time.
Today the vast majority of network upgrades and the day-to-day operation of the Internet is overseen by private businesses, universities and organizations, but governments—domestic and international—continue to exert influence over the environment in which the Internet evolves. Over the years, policymakers have sought to protect, promote and encourage expansion of Internet access and adoption.
Many actions by the U.S. government have helped facilitate the growth of our nation’s broadband infrastructure. For example, policymakers decided to make more government-controlled spectrum—the invisible airwaves that carry radio signals, television broadcasts, voice calls and data traffic—available for high-speed commercial mobile-broadband service. They also did not impose monopoly telephone regulations on competitive new IP-based services and encouraged agencies to use the Internet to connect, serve and inform citizens.
The government can take similar steps to promote investment and deployment of IP-based, high-speed wire-line broadband networks. There is no doubt that broadband is transforming how we work, live, play and learn. Every sector of our economy and facet of our lives is being remade by real-time, high-speed connectivity. As a result, policymakers and industry leaders should view the future with a blend of optimism and humility.
Perhaps the only reliable rule for predicting technology trends is that we tend to overestimate changes in the near term and underestimate them in the long term. Although we know that broadband is changing everything, policymakers can never truly predict the next innovation. Too often, any efforts to force or regulate an unknowable future limit competition and miss disruptive innovations—technology that blows up the status quo—along the way.
The future of broadband is bright, and the benefits to America in general and the African-American community in particular could be boundless. The Federal Communications Commission has the opportunity to help lead the IP transformation in America for the benefit of all communities, particularly those currently lacking access to high-speed wire-line and wireless Internet services.
The same way that Motown unleashed the creativity of an entire generation, the Internet will—if policymakers ensure that adequate training and opportunities are available for all Americans, and if they let our innovators innovate and our entrepreneurs compete—keep creating the technological equivalent of music we can all dance to.
Read it on The Root
Free telecom industry from 20th-century regs
After an exceptionally divisive election season, and amid neverending battles over taxes and spending, many observers question America’s ability to remain globally competitive, upwardly mobile and innovative. Perhaps our best days are behind us, they lament. Perhaps our children face a bleaker future than their parents.
We disagree with the skeptics. We approach the future with excitement for the possibilities and optimism that our policymakers can unleash Americans’ unique entrepreneurial spirit and creative talents. Our nation’s past is the story of continual reinvention and renewal — from steamships to automobiles, assembly lines to personal computers — a rising, innovation-driven tide has consistently lifted all boats. No sector of our economy provides a stronger example than telecommunications.
Thirty years ago, there was one telephone company. No cellphones, no smartphones, no apps. Telecom was important, but hardly the essential engine driving productivity, employment or new business formation. Through an elaborate structure of regulations and cross-subsidies, policymakers ensured this slow-moving monopoly accomplished desired social outcomes, such as universal service and affordable pricing for consumers. That world of plain old telephone service is long gone.
In its place, today’s telecom consumers enjoy incredible innovation and furious cross-platform competition. For example, nine out of 10 wireless consumers have the choice of five or more providers, and at least three times as many digital devices. Beyond mobile carriers, robust voice, video and data packages are offered by cable companies, satellite companies and today’s telephone companies. The era of the monopoly is over … yet monopoly-era regulations persist.
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.
To their credit, policymakers over the past decade understood that “new wires” demanded “new rules” and, as a result, today the more advanced broadband infrastructure faces fewer regulatory barriers and obligations. Yet while this new broadband economy evolved, advanced, competed and flourished, a few businesses built on arbitrage of the old regulations dug in. And today we find them aggressively opposing efforts to end their government-granted regulatory lifeline. Specifically, we see a small number of business competitive local exchange carriers mobilizing in Washington to protect, preserve and defend their anachronistic — yet still profitable — business models premised on their subsidized government-mandated access to other carriers’ facilities. These subsidized carriers overwhelmingly serve high-profit business customers, rather than individual or lower-income consumers.
Nothing prevents true competitors in the marketplace from investing in new services and innovative service offerings. Google is proving that in Kansas City, just as C Spire is in Jackson, Miss. Yet CLECs have recently rallied in protest to the notion that government might not forever mandate that their competitors maintain a network infrastructure for them. Rather than picking off the most profitable customers via subsidized platforms, these CLECs would need to stand on their own feet, build their own facilities and compete on a level playing field where innovation differentiates and the best network wins — prospects they find unacceptable.
CLECs must also face the reality that high-speed fiber/ethernet services are rapidly leaving the slower, outdated copper networks behind. Businesses want high-speed Internet service in today’s marketplace, which means CLECs most likely see the writing on the wall: Their business model and the technology they use has to change if they are to survive.
In the end, we suspect policymakers will recognize the paramount importance of encouraging investment in our dynamic telecom markets by retiring the monopoly-era regulations that no longer make sense. With or without howls of protest from companies still profiting from last-century networks and government-granted margins, our future clearly lies in transitioning to Internet Protocol networks. The IP transition is already proving an incredible boon for consumers and the American economy, and federal regulators can accelerate this transition by clearing away regulations that no longer make good sense and do not apply in today’s broadband ecosystem.
Our future is bright, and cutting-edge broadband technologies light the way.
Rick Boucher served as a member of the House of Representatives from the 9th District of Virginia for 28 years. Bruce Mehlman served as assistant secretary for technology policy in the George W. Bush administration. Boucher is the honorary chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance, and Bruce Mehlman is IIA’s founding co-chairman. IIA is a broad-based coalition supporting broadband availability and access for all Americans.
Spectrum uncertainty hurting investment on digital highway
Uncertainty: One of the greatest challenges facing today’s innovators, entrepreneurs and investors. Businesses have roughly $2 trillion idled on their balance sheets, capable of more productive immediate and long-term investment, but they lack visibility into future consumer demand and global growth. Given Europe’s ongoing sovereign debt crisis, China’s slowing growth, increasing protectionism in the developing world and immediate risks that the American economy will go “off the fiscal cliff,” potential employers are understandably reluctant to hire. Absent greater investment and new jobs, consumers are more cautious. A vicious economic cycle churns. Growth stalls.
Despite this lack of clarity, the mobile broadband marketplace has proved to be one of the greatest economic engines powering America’s current economic recovery efforts. Over the past three years, American smartphone adoption has increased from 16.9 percent to 54.9 percent. Americans have downloaded 35 billion Apple apps, watched more than 37 billion online content videos last month alone and signed up for social media by the hundreds of millions. Wireless network providers have invested an average of $65 billion each year over the past four years in capital equipment and network capacity, with billions more planned over the next four years. There is, however, no guarantee that this level of financial commitment will continue at current levels without regulatory certainty in the marketplace.
But investment in fast-growing broadband networks, notwithstanding their extraordinary success with consumers, is even being impacted. Network providers across all platforms must assess new regulations, both those adopted and those proposed, when considering how to deploy resources. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 - a legislative framework crafted in the pre-broadband era - provides scant guidance and all too often invites regulatory adventurism.
The shortage of spectrum, the airwaves that make mobile innovations possible, is also stunting investment decisions in the wireless industry. With exponentially-expanding mobile usage and ever-denser content threatening to swamp wireless network capacity, spectrum scarcity is the biggest single barrier to growth and proliferation of our broadband economy.
Fixed quantities of spectrum - resulting from insufficient allocations to commercial broadband and/or policy maker limits on wireless aggregation - directly challenge the growth of new applications and services that demand greater bandwidth. Rather than continuing to tweak the rules that govern how best to divide insufficient spectrum among an arbitrary number of market participants, policy makers should first focus on finding more spectrum for all carriers.
One of the reasons we have had such extraordinary growth in the broadband economy is thanks to investments and aggregations made in the 1990s and 2000s. Wireless carrier consolidation and repeated auction of public airwaves enabled the spectrum aggregation required to support increasingly robust nationwide wireless data services - and all the advantages delivered for consumers. Over the years, combinations in the wireless market enabled carriers to amass bigger footprints and gain the capacity to carry mobile apps, real-time social media and streaming video. These actions helped accelerate more investment, innovation, and new opportunities for start-ups across the country.
Our nation gained from this trend. During this decade of steady spectrum aggregation, prices per message, per minute and per megabit all fell substantially, while the number and sophistication of available wireless services has increased. Today consumers enjoy intense competition among device-makers, online retailers and wireless service providers, all without government direction, intervention or controls. Today’s wireless marketplace is highly competitive, with nine out of 10 consumers having a choice of five or more service providers in local markets across the nation.
Going forward, creating an open and predictable process for evaluating the amount of spectrum carriers can possess will be essential to protecting and promoting the growth in wireless services that benefit consumers. The existing arbitrary, non-public process for changing spectrum screens, for example, undermines economic growth by failing to provide investors with the transparency, predictability and flexibility needed to properly consider wireless broadband investments.
Mobile broadband networks are even more impactful than the service provider jobs they create and capital expenditures they make. Broadband makes businesses more productive and helps entrepreneurs reach new markets and invent new products. The mobile app economy today supports 466,000 jobs, up from zero in 2007. At a time when exit polls reveal three out of five Americans are most concerned about the economy, mobile broadband may be our nation’s strongest hope for future growth and stability.
My school’s high-tech turnaround plan
In his Sept. 24 column, “D.C.‘s goal for higher test scores in lowest-performing schools is a risky trip to Fantasyland,” Post education writer Jay Mathews looked at the D.C. schools’ new plan to raise achievement at the district’s 40 lowest-performing schools by 40 percentage points in five years and declared: “It is hard to understand how intelligent adults could believe that target has any connection to reality.”
“The District’s records show that those schools have made no significant improvement in the past five years… The team that former chancellor Michelle Rhee brought in five years ago, including current chancellor Kaya Henderson, can’t explain what it will do differently in the next five years,” he wrote.
As the principal of Kramer Middle School, one of those lowest-performing 40, let me take a shot at it, at least with regard to my own school.
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.
Kramer is the first school in the district to implement a new program that is predicted to elevate student engagement and drastically improve test scores. The grant funding has increased the number of laptops available for use in our classrooms, so that we now have a one-to-one student-to-laptop scenario at Kramer, a rare gift in the field of education. Under Henderson’s direction, our campus is testing a learning model combining online instruction and face-to-face teaching.
Here’s how it works. At one time, half of the students in a classroom are on laptops, engaged with broadband-enabled lessons that require active participation. This shrinks the student-to-teacher ratio, allowing the other half to receive more one-on-one attention from the teacher to reinforce their learning. Midway through the class period, the students switch places.
Requiring the completion of task-oriented lessons online means that students can’t daydream during a class-long lecture. It also means that they receive performance scores immediately, allowing teachers to quickly hone in on problem areas. Learning materials that support each course are available 24/7 to students online; eighth-grade social studies students, for example, now have access to videos and interactive maps connected to the era being studied that they can view as many times as needed to ensure understanding. All this broadband-enabled learning also centrally locates schoolwide data, improving organization and communication among the staff.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the norm in our country. According to the Federal Communications Commission’s National Broadband Plan, only 37 percent of all teachers reported having electronic access to achievement data for students in their classrooms. Building out reliable broadband access must remain a national priority.
After a few short weeks, there is already a heightened level of excitement throughout the halls and classrooms at Kramer. Students, teachers and administrators are regularly logging on to access their curriculum through the Brainhoney Learning Management System. To overcome the huge disconnect in digital access typical in high-poverty areas, we literally have an open-door policy with parents. Throughout the year, moms and dads can visit the school and attend workshops with parent coordinators. By making education a family affair, we believe we can quickly and efficiently identify trouble areas or subjects that should be monitored at home, as well as in the classroom.
I know how much Mathews is concerned about the future of education in Washington, and he raises serious issues. I’m highly committed to proving him wrong and hitting our goal of boosting test scores by 40 percentage points in five years. As we closely monitor the progress at Kramer, let’s encourage the public and private sectors to invest in the networks that make online learning possible. Broadband is the bridge that will connect D.C. Public Schools’ goals to reality.
The writer is the principal of Kramer Middle School in Southeast Washington.
Staying in touch with our soldiers abroad
How wireless Internet is transforming wartime communications
This Labor Day, we will no doubt be saying prayers and giving thanks to the soldiers, Marines and members of the Air Force still fighting in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world. My own brother-in-law Josh is serving in an infantry regiment attached to the 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan. Amazingly, we are able to thank him face-to-face, over the Internet.
For centuries, communications between families at home and soldiers fighting on the war front were limited to written letters, often long delayed and sometimes never delivered. Throughout conflicts of the 20th Century, letters winged their way between home and the front.
Letters from soldiers in the trenches in World War I are often faded, not just by time, but because ink was dear and often had to be watered-down. World War II soldiers, Marines and Airmen reported that letters and V-mail took weeks to catch up to them, sometimes longer, often arriving in batches or out of order.
By the Vietnam War, reel-to-reel tapes allowed some families to hear the voices of their loved ones, but the delays were significant and tragic at times. Technology finally allowed for phone calls, but calls were exceedingly rare and generally only for emergencies – if calls were even possible.
Fast forward to today. For many of the armed forces fighting in Afghanistan, daily phone calls are standard, supplemented by e-mail and even frequent video calls over Skype or similar applications.
We take for granted modern-day technologies that have the ability to keep us connected, and perhaps no other technology has transformed communication during wartime as much as the Internet. Not only has modern technology transformed warfare from a battlefield and strategic perspective, it has also transformed the way in which those deployed are able to keep in touch with the people who matter most back home.
As the Internet continues to transform military activities, wireless technology in particular is enabling better, real-time communications with members of our armed forces abroad. For example, the time difference between the United States and Afghanistan means that many communications take place during the morning and afternoon hours in the US, when many are at work. Being able to use a video or voice call app, such as Skype, e-mail, or a chat service, such as Google Talk, on a smartphone enables couples and families to connect in real-time.
Debates over the need for more of the airwaves over which wireless digital traffic flows too frequently treat video and data-intensive applications that keep us connected as trivial. But it’s not just about streaming a movie or watching a live sporting event.
We need fast, reliable and robust airwaves devoted to these important communications tools. To date, government has only assigned a small fraction of the total amount of this spectrum available to consumer wireless communications, meaningfully less than most other developed nations despite Americans’ more comprehensive use of bandwidth. We can do better.
The Internet brings family members of those risking their lives on the front lines closer to their loved ones. So this Labor Day, as Americans at home are able to pay tribute through face-to-face conversations with those deployed in Afghanistan, remember how it is they are connecting. We should do all we can to ensure reliable wireless connectivity continues to be available whenever and wherever we are.
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2012/09/03/staying-in-touch-with-our-soldiers-abroad-how-wireless-internet-is-transforming/#ixzz2Cs834Egm
Walking the walk on Internet regulation
Why increased government oversight imperils the Internet
Even though games like Angry Birds and Words with Friends might swallow more hours in a week than some would like to admit, investment in broadband technology has hugely improved Americans’ productivity and quality of life. The Internet is one of the most remarkable American innovations of the 20th century—but recent international efforts to expand governmental regulation over the Internet put future investment, innovation and societal progress at risk.
The Obama Administration and especially Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have consistently acknowledged this growing threat, and we’ll need them to remain focused and forceful. Their efforts do more than support America’s Internet users; by maintaining a vibrant global Internet, they are supporting economic growth at America’s high-tech and telecommunications companies that employ our citizens.
Jobs: that’s just one reason why there should be pressure on state and federal officials to not undercut these efforts by pushing for new Net regulations here at home. Congress and the FCC should be especially cognizant of this and ensure that Internet policies at home match our international stance. We cannot expect to persuade others that top-down regulation of the Internet is a bad idea if we enact those policies at home.
Proposals to expand Internet regulation domestically undermine our policy of having the Internet accessible to all citizens around the globe. To appreciate the risk of global regulation and the need for forbearance at home, it’s important to understand how the Internet works. The Internet operates in an essentially decentralized way. It’s based on a “multi-stakeholder model,” in which independent groups and nonprofits, rather than governments, take the lead on Internet governance.
Importantly, this has been the case for decades. Even though the Internet started as a federal research effort, the Clinton Administration decided to oppose government control in favor of private oversight. This lets scientists and engineers work together to improve web operations. (For more on this, check out the history of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.) Yes, consensus based decision-making is slower than government fiat. But it has spurred the Internet’s unprecedented growth, providing businesses and consumers with today’s buffet of information and services.
But this private sector governance is under threat from certain foreign governments that object to fundamental principles of openness and freedom. For example, Russia and China support intrusive new regulations and expanded governmental oversight.
Egypt and Iran have also sought to limit what their citizens can access on the Internet. Now these and other countries seek global regulation of the Internet through the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), an agency of the United Nations. If successful, the UN would be able to exert greater control not only over technical matters – Internet domain names and protocol standards, for example – but such issues as data privacy and online security.
FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell reports that some foreign governments have even suggested adopting regulations to govern compensation arrangements between entities who exchange Internet traffic. These nations are proposing not just regulation of Internet access, but regulation of the Internet itself.
They seek to use the Internet and American companies as potential revenue sources for their own purposes. This is why Vint Cerf, the computer scientist known as the “father of the Internet,” recently testified to Congress that “[t]he open Internet has never been at a higher risk than it is now.” It has never been more important for the U.S. to lead by example.
Just as President Clinton recognized that the Internet could only reach its highest potential in a private sector, multi-stakeholder regime, so, too, must the current Administration. The ITU does not need expanded authority over the Internet. The private sector model of Internet governance has worked well and we should foster its continued success.
America gave the Internet to the world and open access to it has resulted in more than just enjoyable games. Private investment has brought innovative communication tools that have aided social movements and connected families across continents and oceans. Keeping that open access and innovation means limiting regulation of the Internet, both globally and right here at home.
Walking the walk on Internet regulation - FierceTelecom http://www.fiercetelecom.com/story/walking-walk-internet-regulation/2012-08-13#ixzz2Cs7Wx694