Because every American
should have access
to broadband Internet.

The Internet Innovation Alliance is a broad-based coalition of business and non-profit organizations that aim to ensure every American, regardless of race, income or geography, has access to the critical tool that is broadband Internet. The IIA seeks to promote public policies that support equal opportunity for universal broadband availability and adoption so that everyone, everywhere can seize the benefits of the Internet - from education to health care, employment to community building, civic engagement and beyond.

The Podium

Friday, August 21

Be Careful With That “Status Update” on Facebook

By Brad

Via the New York Times “Bits” blog comes news of a new study that finds of employers are now using social networks to screen job applicants:

According to a new study conducted by Harris Interactive for, 45 percent of employers questioned are using social networks to screen job candidates — more than double from a year earlier, when a similar survey found that just 22 percent of supervisors were researching potential hires on social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and LinkedIn.

The study also found that Facebook was by far the most used site for employers—not too terribly surprising since the site has over 250 million users.

What is Broadband?

By Bruce Mehlman

That’s what the FCC would like to find out—and they’re asking for input. From a Public Notice (pdf) issued by the agency:

In this first Public Notice, we seek tailored comment on a fundamental question—how the Plan should interpret the term “broadband” as used in the Recovery Act, recognizing that our interpretation of the term as used
in that statute may inform our interpretation of the term in other contexts
. In particular, the Recovery Act requires the Commission to develop a “national broadband plan” that seeks to ensure “access to broadband capability” for the entire United States. An understanding of what constitutes “broadband” thus is essential to evaluating the extent to which “broadband capability” is available, and informs the evaluation of particular policy approaches intended to ensure access to broadband capability. The National Broadband Plan NOI observed that “broadband can be defined in myriad ways,” and sought comment on possible approaches. We now seek more targeted comment on three aspects of this issue: (1) the general form, characteristics, and performance indicators that should be included in a definition of broadband; (2) the thresholds that should be assigned to these performance indicators today; and (3) how the definition should be reevaluated over time.

Thursday, August 20

The Demand Must Be There

By Bruce Mehlman

While close to 90% of Americans now have access to broadband, a reported 37% still don’t subscribe to the service in any form. And as Computer World reports, during yesterday’s FCC workshop on the national broadband plan, getting those non-subscribers online should be a focus of any plan on the table:

[M]any who don’t subscribe believe broadband is too expensive or don’t see the benefits, several speakers said at a broadband workshop hosted by the FCC. The agency, tasked with developing a national broadband plan by early next year, needs to show the benefits to those nonsubscribers, particularly elderly people, ethnic minorities and some people in rural areas, they said.

Also taking part in yesterday’s workshop was President (and IIA Broadband Ambassador) Craig Settles, who spoke about the need to ensure communities have a stable broadband provider:

“If you can’t get the networks built, and if you can’t get an operator or a community to run that network year after year because they can’t get enough individual subscribers, the network itself is going to fail, and all of the rest of this discussion isn’t going to matter,” [Settles] said.

IIA Video: Broadband, Economics & Education


Debbie Goldman, Telecommunications Policy Director for Communications Workers of America, discusses the perspective of telecommunications workers and the economic and education benefits of broadband for all Americans.

This Will Not End Well

By Brad

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology have discovered a way to make robots evolve. That’s cool and all, but here’s the part that should concern all of mankind: Some of the robots that evolved learned how to lie:

By the 50th generation, the robots had learned to communicate—lighting up, in three out of four colonies, to alert the others when they’d found food or poison. The fourth colony sometimes evolved “cheater” robots instead, which would light up to tell the others that the poison was food, while they themselves rolled over to the food source and chowed down without emitting so much as a blink.

Seems like now would be a good time to re-visit Isaac Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics.”

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey any orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Let’s hope lying and scheming robots still adhere to the rules.

Wednesday, August 19

Watching the Tube Through the Tubes

By Brad

Streaming video sites like Hulu are growing in popularity—especially among the younger generations. And as Investors Daily Business reports, traditional cable companies have taken note and are experimenting with streaming services of their own.

That’s good news for consumers. But rarely addressed is the question of whether America’s digital infrastructure will be able to keep up with the amount of bandwidth heavy content. Good ol’ TV still rules when it comes to viewers and ad dollars, but with even the cable companies preparing for the market to shift, now is the time to start planning and investing for the flood of bandwidth heavy content that’s obviously just around the corner.

Broadband Adoption and Utilization Workshop

By Brad

Today’s FCC broadband workshop tackles the subjects of broadband adoption and utilization. As for tomorrow, the agenda includes education and broadband opportunities for people with disabilities.

Both workshops are viewable via webinar at

Broadband in Rural America

By Bruce Mehlman

A new study from the United States Department of Agriculture examines the effect broadband has on rural communities:

In general, rural America has shared in the growth of the Internet economy. Online course offerings for students in primary, secondary, post-secondary, and continuing education programs have improved educational opportunities, especially in small, isolated rural areas. And interaction among students, parents, teachers, and school administrators has been enhanced via online forums, which is especially signifi cant given the importance of ongoing parental involvement in children’s education.

Telemedicine and telehealth have been hailed as vital to health care provision in rural communities, whether simply improving the perception of locally provided health care quality or expanding the menu of medical services. More accessible health information, products, and services confer real economic benefi ts on rural communities: reducing transportation time and expenses, treating emergencies more effectively, reducing time missed at work, increasing local lab and pharmacy work, and savings to health facilities from outsourcing specialized medical procedures. One study of 24 rural hospitals placed the annual cost of not having telemedicine at $370,000 per hospital.

The full USDA study, “Broadband Internet’s Value for Rural America,” is available on the department’s website.


FCC Encroaching On Our Turf

By Brad

There’s a new feature on the FCC’s broadband site: a blog. From Chairman Julius Genachowski’s inaugural post:

Like our unprecedented two-dozen public workshops and the upcoming fall public hearings, Blogband is part of the FCC’s commitment to an open and participatory process. Blogband will keep people up-to-date about the work the FCC is doing and the progress we’re making. But we want it to be a two-way conversation. The feedback, ideas, and discussions generated on this blog will be critical in developing the best possible National Broadband Plan.

Monday, August 17

Sitting Out in San Francisco

By Bruce Mehlman

Ever since the federal broadband grant rules were released, a controversy has brewed over the definitions of “unserved” and “underserved” communities, with officials in a number of urban areas worrying that the definitions, as currently worded, would leave their communities out in the cold.

Now, Business Week reports, the city of San Francisco—which despite being known as a technology hotbed still has areas in need of broadband access—is sitting out the initial round of grants:

To qualify for funding, applicants need to prove they’re catering to an “underserved” area. Yet the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA), which is overseeing the program, defines underserved as one where at least half of all households lack broadband, or where fewer than 40% of households subscribe to broadband, or a place where no service provider advertises broadband speeds of at least 3 megabits per second. In a densely populated city like San Francisco, where telecom providers like AT&T (T) and Comcast (CMCSA) widely advertise residential broadband all over the city, it’s hard to point to a place that technically meets the “underserved” definition.

Business Week contacted a spokeswoman for FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and was told that the commission won’t comment on the broadband grants process. The NTIA was a bit more forthcoming:

Mark Seifert, senior adviser to NTIA director Strickling, says potential applicants should nevertheless file an application and make the best case possible. He says a good way to make the case is for applicants to take surveys among the local population to see what kind of service is available. But the priority, he says, is for bringing broadband to places where it’s either not available at all or only marginally available. “We know that this program alone will not achieve the President’s goal of broadband for everyone,” Seifert says. “We have limited dollars to invest, and we have a directive from Congress and the public record telling us to invest it in areas that are unserved or underserved.”

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