Friday, March 07
Speaking of broadband access, Ben Popper at The Verge has a detailed breakdown of plans of both Google and Facebook to deliver high-speed Internet access via balloons and drones. As Popper writes:
There is actually a long history of failed attempts to provide aerial internet access. Starting in the 1990s at least five big projects were announced, including Iridium and Globalstar, both of which aimed to provide cellphone coverage. They were actually built but promptly went bankrupt. Teledesic, a venture funded by by Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and Saudi prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, got a lot of people interested but was scrapped before it launched its first constellation. One problem with these early efforts was that people on the ground required bulky, custom handsets in order to receive the signal. But the rapid and widespread proliferation of cheap, powerful smartphones means that’s no longer a major obstacle.
If Google and Facebook are able to pull these projects off, it could revolutionize the developing world.
Via Julian Hattern from The Hill, the FCC has put word out that it wants public input on how best to achieve President Obama’s call to bring high-speed Internet access to every school and library in America:
Comments the FCC receives will be on top of the 1,500 it has already gotten on the issue.
“The record in this proceeding demonstrates overwhelming agreement among stakeholders that the E-rate program has been a crucial part of helping our nation’s schools and libraries connect to the Internet,” the FCC wrote in the notice. “The record also shows a strong commitment to ensuring that the E-rate program quickly evolve to meet the ever-growing need for high-capacity broadband so our students and communities have access.”
Next week, one of the biggest video games of the year, Titanfall, will be released. Except, as it turns out, in South America. As Kyle Orland of Ars Technica reports:
When Titanfall finally sees its worldwide release next week, South Africa will not be among the countries to get a version of the game. Early this morning, EA South Africa announced via Facebook that it has decided to hold off on a local release after poor Internet performance during the game’s recent beta test. South Africa’s Gamezone reports that local preorders are being canceled both by Origin and area brick-and-mortar retailers.
“After conducting recent online tests for Titanfall, we found that the performance rates in South Africa were not as high as we need to guarantee a great experience, so we have decided not to release Titanfall in South Africa at this time,” the post reads. “We understand this is a disappointment for local fans and will keep fans posted on any future plans regarding the release of Titanfall in South Africa.”
Interestingly, the video game’s online servers are powered by Microsoft’s cloud service, Azure, and the closest data center to South Africa is in Brazil. While missing out on a video game is no big deal in the grand scheme of things (unless you were excited to play it), Titanfall‘s absence in South Africa highlights the challenges involved in building an international product that is dependent on a robust Internet infrastructure.
Wednesday, March 05
Over at Latinovations, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel has penned a guest op-ed on how broadband access can help close the Latino achievement gap. Here’s an excerpt:
According to the Department of Education, Latino students on average lag roughly two grade levels behind white students in reading and math exams. And Latino students lag behind their white and Asian peers in high school graduation rates in all but two states. This gap can be even greater for Latino students that are English language learners.
Now, I’m a regulator, not an educator. But as a member of the Federal Communications Commission, I’ve had a front-row seat to the digital revolution. Broadband and cloud computing are revolutionizing education. The traditional teaching tools that I grew up with – chalky blackboards and hardback books – are giving way to interactive digital content delivered through high-speed broadband.
Commissioner Rosenworcel’s full op-ed is worth checking out.
Monday, March 03
Over at Fierce Telecom, our Co-Chair Bruce Mehlman responds to a recent article on the Huffington Post claiming special access is a monopoly market. Here’s a taste:
I’m not quite sure what the author was trying to convey; however, I do know that special access is no secret. It’s a decades-old service that many Americans (including American businesses) have already abandoned and virtually all don’t use exclusively. It’s no secret in the marketplace: Far from being some monopoly, today’s reality is that the business market served by special access services is robustly competitive.
Don’t take my word for it—look at the companies and competitors who use special access services. In 2012, Sprint announced that it would look for other alternatives to telephone company special access service by starting an RFP for competitive bids from other companies. Thirty to 40 competitive providers were expected to offer alternative service to telephone company special access high-capacity services. In fact, at the conclusion of the RFP process, Verizon, the nation’s second largest phone company, obtained a contract to provide special access services to only 6 percent of Sprint’s cell towers in Verizon’s service area.
You can read Mehlman’s full article at Fierce Telecom.
Friday, February 28
From IIA Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher:
Every month, 450,000 people make the transition from the old circuit-switched network to the new, IP-based world of telecommunications. Two-thirds of Americans have fled the old phone network entirely, and only five percent use it as their sole means of communication. It’s clear that consumers prefer newer products, services, and technologies in place of the old. Just as the telegraph once gave way to the telephone, and analog gave way to digital, so we stand at the threshold of another revolution in communication, as Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone network gives way to the advanced IP broadband networks of tomorrow. In fact, by the end of this decade a sunset should occur for the antiquated circuit-switched telephone network.
As a key step in reaching that goal, in its filing today, AT&T has accepted the FCC’s call for the initiation of trials in select local markets where consumers will rapidly be transitioned from the old network to modern broadband communications platforms. The company in its filing underscored a thorough ongoing commitment to the core network values the Commission seeks to promote. Far from being a “regulation-free zone,” the future vision for an all-IP world is one in which communications services are accessible, secure, and reliable. Using the core values of universal service, consumer protection, public safety, reliability, and competition as its guidepost, the FCC can help speed investment in advanced networks that bring the benefits of high-speed broadband to everyone.
During the upcoming trials – to be held under the direct supervision of the FCC – government, consumers, and industry will all work together, in an open and transparent manner, to learn what can go wrong when the consumers who remain on the old telephone network are rapidly transitioned to modern broadband communications. With information from the trials, solutions can be put in place to ensure that the nationwide transition is a success for everyone. And at this stage and throughout the trials, the traditional phone network will remain in place, providing protections, a kind of safety net, for those who still depend on the old system for essential communications needs.
As we move forward, I’m confident that the IP networks and services to be tested will exceed both consumers’ and the FCC’s expectations for service, reliability, and consumer protection.
Thursday, February 27
The transition to all-IP networks may be the hot tech topic inside the Beltway these days, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other pressing issues. Like the need to free up more spectrum for wireless use, which as Kate Tummarello from The Hill reports, is getting some much-needed attention from members of the House:
As the Federal Communications Commission prepares for its 2015 airwaves buy-back and auction, a pair of House lawmakers has launched a new congressional caucus focused on spectrum.
The caucus, announced Thursday by Reps. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.), will examine spectrum-related issues, including licensed spectrum — such as the kind used by federal agencies and wireless companies — and unlicensed spectrum, which powers Wi-Fi systems.
“As our economy increasingly relies on spectrum, this Caucus will be an important mechanism for our colleagues and congressional staff to engage on the spectrum policies, both licensed and unlicensed, facing our economy,” Matsui said in a statement.
Next month, ye olde World Wide Web turns 25, which is old enough to rent a car in most states. To mark this milestone, Pew has put together a new report on the state of the web today. Some highlights:
• 87% of adults now use the Internet in America.
• 68% of adults now use a mobile device — smartphone, tablet — to go online.
• 28% of landline telephone users believe their phone would be very hard to give up, which is notable since just eight years ago that number was 48%.
• Overall, 90% of Internet users believe the Internet is a good thing.
Those are just a handful of interesting stats for you to chew over in Pew’s report. Dig into the full thing here.
Monday, February 24
February being Black History Month, our Co-Chairman Larry Irving has penned an op-ed for The Root looking back at efforts to close the digital divide. An excerpt:
Secretary Brown was a firm supporter of the e-rate proposal that provided low-cost Internet connectivity to schools and libraries across America. He worked to develop policies and establish grant programs designed to connect schools, libraries, hospitals and rural health clinics. It’s a straight line from Secretary Brown’s commitment to connecting schools to the Internet two decades ago to the ConnectEd program the Obama administration supports today. Secretary Brown understood that, particularly in the early days of the Internet, millions of Americans would have their first experience with the Web in public institutions, and he fought to ensure those institutions had the resources they needed to serve their public.
Perhaps most importantly, he understood that there was a “digital divide,” and that it was the role of government to assist industry in bridging that divide. The digital divide would have been deeper and more pervasive but for Secretary Brown.
It is his signature on the front page of the first report defining the digital divide and stating that we, as a nation, have an obligation to ensure that all Americans have access to essential technological tools. He knew that with government and industry working together and with the formulation of smart policies, we could drive Internet connectivity rates higher. In slightly more than two decades, we have gone from 2 million people with access to the Internet to almost 3 billion people having access worldwide. Much of that growth is the result of the vision and the work of Ron Brown.
Today we are at another technological inflection point, another time of great disruption. The mobile revolution and the so-called “IP transition” promise to be even more disruptive than the cable revolution and the Internet revolution. And they promise to provide great opportunity for the smart and the agile. Women and men of vision must step forward to embrace these twin revolutions and work to ensure that these new technological tools are used to improve education, increase access to health care and fitness tools and provide for greater productivity and economic opportunity for our community.
Check out Irving’s full op-ed at The Root.