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

Blog posts tagged with 'Broadband'

Monday, September 12

The Infrastructure of Virtual Reality

By Brad


Over at tech site Recode, our Co-Chairman Jamal Simmons and former Co-Chairman Larry Irving have penned an op-ed on virtual reality and the need for regulators to encourage private investment in the infrastructure that supports it. An excerpt:

The future of virtual reality is bright. Investors are bullish, users are excited to consume novel entertainment and educational applications, and engineers are developing new products. While innovators create exciting hardware and content, a VR future is only possible if policymakers make the right decisions today. Virtual reality will require new and upgraded broadband networks, both wired and wireless, that will be capable of satisfying future bandwidth needs of the technology, which consumes massive amounts of data.

Policymakers need to make more spectrum available, too. People are using their iPhones and Android phones for the early versions of VR, but today’s tools will not be adequate for a fully immersive, high-definition virtual reality future. Whether it is 4K, 5K, high-definition or ultra-high definition, each next-generation technology will require retrofitting our infrastructure. It’s time to rethink, rebuild and reinvest.

Check out at the full op-ed over at Recode.

Thursday, July 14

Recap of IIA Virtual Reality Event in San Francisco


On the evening of July 13th, IIA hosted, “Cocktails & Virtual Reality: Breaking Innovation Boundaries with Broadband,” an event focused on how policymakers can support innovation and investment in high-speed internet infrastructure to help unlock the opportunities of a virtual reality ecosystem.

The event was held at Upload Collective, a hybrid co-working and incubation space in San Francisco where virtual reality demonstrations had been set up in three “holo-deck” rooms. Featured speakers for the panel included:

Evan Helda, Director of Sales and Partnerships, Meta Co.

Anjney Midha, Founding Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers (KPCB) Edge

Tony Parisi, Co-Creator of the VRML and X3D ISO standards for networked 3D graphics, Upload Collective

Alisha Seam, Product Developer and Solutions Engineer, AT&T Foundry

Adam Thierer, Senior Research Fellow, Technology Policy Program at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University

Among the questions asked by moderator Jamal Simmons and the audience were:

• What products do you see on the horizon?

• What is the biggest obstacle to a robust VR marketplace?

• When you began in this field what was the craziest idea you had and has it come true or are we still waiting on it?

• What is the most frightening or perilous thing about VR?

• What is the biggest network challenge to bringing these ideas to life?

• What is the role of regulation? Has it helped or hurt?

• What can policymakers in Washington do to support all of this innovation?

• if]What about using augmented and virtual reality in driving?

• What about building for 5G?

Many attendees at the event expressed that they had not thought about the network requirements for virtual reality technology or the role of federal regulators in developing new products in the virtual reality sphere. You can watch the full discussion, along with some clips of attendees trying out the virtual reality experience for themselves, below.

Tuesday, July 05

Save the Date



Cocktails & Virtual Reality: Breaking Innovation Boundaries with Broadband

Wednesday, July 13th   5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. PT

Upload Collective 1535 Mission St San Francisco, CA 94103

RSVP via Eventbrite

Virtual reality will transform entertainment, education, business, healthcare and more. Behind these breakthrough innovations sits a broadband infrastructure that must evolve with it. To help unlock the opportunities of a virtual reality ecosystem, how should policymakers support innovation and investment in high-speed internet infrastructure?

The Internet Innovation Alliance invites you to explore these questions with us over cocktails:

•  What opportunities will virtual reality technology unlock over the next decade?
•  How should the broadband network evolve to support the growth of virtual reality?
•  How can policymakers best support innovation and virtual reality?

Featured speakers include:

Anjney Midha Founding Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers (KPCB) Edge

Tony Parisi Co-Creator of the VRML and X3D ISO standards for networked 3D graphics, Upload Collective

Alisha Seam Product Developer and Solutions Engineer, AT&T Foundry

Adam Thierer Senior Research Fellow, Technology Policy Program at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University

Jamal Simmons (Moderator) Co-Chairman, Internet Innovation Alliance


A cocktail hour with virtual reality demos will precede the panel discussion.

Thursday, June 16

Backup Battery Power for… Broadband?


In a new article for Forbes, Fred Campbell, director of Tech Knowledge and former head of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), brings to light yet another example of regulatory overreach, compliments of the FCC. The Commission intends to marry broadband with…batteries? In short, broadband providers would be required to redesign cable and DSL modems to have bigger backup batteries that would allow web surfing for up to 8 hours during a power outage – IF you also have backup power for your computer and/or other devices that you use to access the web.

As Campbell points out, the Commission’s thought process might as well have been born in the 20th century and doesn’t make sense for a number of reasons. Here are the top three:

First, this directive would take choice out of the hands of consumers. Forget having a say about whether or how you want to implement a backup power solution.

Second, it’s unnecessary. A power outage doesn’t prevent mobile devices from being used to connect during an emergency, from calling 911 to texting friends and family. In real-world testing, a mobile phone can run for at least 35 hours with low and mixed usage. And, as Campbell describes, if you use your broadband modem to make phone calls, the FCC’s rules already require your broadband provider to offer you a backup power battery for voice calls – that 97% of Comcast XFINITY voice service customers decline, by the way.

Third, consumers – despite demonstrating (through an extremely low take-rate) little interest in backup power for broadband – will be forced to foot the bill for this extravagance in the end…for your “protection.” Big Brother knows best?

Head on over to Forbes and read Campbell’s full piece for more details about why the FCC’s reasoning on backup battery power for broadband doesn’t add up.

Thursday, May 05

A Look at Broadband & the U.S. Economy


U.S. Broadband and ICT Sector Adds More than $1 Trillion in Annual Value for the American Economy under Light-Touch Regulation

Report authors Hassett and Shapiro argue that the broadband/ICT sector has grown dramatically under light regulation, and increased regulation could slow Internet ecosystem investment and impair other sectors that depend on broadband/ICT technologies

For the past decade, the broadband and information and communications technologies (ICT) sector has fueled enormous growth and development in the American economy, according to a new 20-page report from the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA) that analyzes broad trends in the economic value, output, and employment in this key sector. The study concludes that the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) effort to impose Title II regulation on broadband providers could “adversely affect broadband/ICT sector investment, with potentially significant secondary costs for the other industries that depend on it and the overall American economy,” the study states.

Authored by Kevin A. Hassett and Robert J. Shapiro, “The Impact of Broadband and Related Information and Communications Technologies on the American Economy” highlights how steady demand for the broadband/ICT sector’s goods and services has helped spur U.S. employment and GDP growth over the past decade. Principal findings of the research include:

• In 2014, the U.S. broadband/ICT sector produced $1,019.2 billion in value added for the American economy, equal to 5.9 percent of U.S. GDP of $17,420.7 billion in 2014. “This substantial share of all U.S. economic value added has been roughly stable for the past decade and likely understates the sector’s full contribution by undervaluing technological improvements,” the paper explains.

• The use of U.S. broadband/ICT goods and services by U.S. private industries, and the information sector (and government), contributed an additional $692.0 billion in output in 2014, equal to 2.7 percent of their combined output and 4.0 percent of GDP. Including the government sector, the use of U.S. broadband/ICT goods and services by other industries and sectors contributed $843.3 billion in output in 2014, equal to 2.9 percent of their combined output and 4.8 percent of GDP.

• The companies that comprise the broadband/ICT sector employed 4,933,000 workers (full-time equivalents or FTE) in 2014, or 4.2 percent of all U.S. private employment and 3.5 percent of all non-farm employment. Demand by the broadband/ICT sector for goods and services produced by other industries was responsible for an additional 2,784,683 jobs (FTE) in 2014. All told, the broadband/ICT sector was responsible for 7,717,683 jobs (FTE) in 2014, or 6.4 percent of all U.S. private employment and 5.5 percent of all non-farm employment.

• The average compensation of broadband/ICT sector workers in 2014 was $104,390, 59.3 percent greater than the average compensation earned by other U.S. workers ($65,517).

“The large economic gains associated with the broadband and ICT sector have flourished in an environment of light federal regulation,” commented Hassett and Shapiro. “The FCC’s proposed regulation of broadband ISPs and their service offerings would stifle broadband/ICT sector investment, growth and employment, negatively impacting the American economy.”

“Today, high-speed Internet is the backbone for 21st century economic growth in the digital economy,” said Rick Boucher, a former Democratic congressman who chaired the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and the Internet and now serves as honorary chairman of the IIA. “Unnecessary price regulation in competitive broadband markets will have far-reaching negative impacts on U.S. economic growth and development. Without ample investment in modern networks, consumers and the entire broadband ecosystem – from Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to edge providers – will suffer from reduced innovation and fewer cutting edge broadband services, as well as reduced jobs and economic growth in the nation’s Internet economy.”


Thursday, December 17

Saving Money via Broadband

By Brad

Early this week, we released an updated version of our 10 Ways Broadband Saves You Money research. In it, we found the average household can save an average of $11,944 per year on spending by using the Internet. You can find an infographic with our findings, along with the methodology used, here.

Tuesday, November 10

Savings From Rebooting Lifeline


A new paper from Anna-Maria Kovacs, Ph.D., CFA published by the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy makes a convincing case that the FCC can save hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars as it reboots Lifeline for the broadband age.

The full paper, “Regulation in Financial Translation: Rebooting Lifeline for Broadband,” is available for download, but here are some highlights:

The FCC’s FNPRM states that the FCC seeks to make the program more efficient by “targeting support to those low-income consumers who really need it while at the same time shifting the burden of determining consumer eligibility for Lifeline support from the provider. We further see to leverage efficiencies from other existing federal programs and expand our outreach efforts.” An effective way to accomplish this goal is to link Lifeline to SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] for eligibility verification and enrollment.

As Kovacs points out in the paper, reducing waste, fraud and abuse of the Lifeline program is important. But just as important is ensuring those reduction efforts aren’t duplicative. Again, from the report:

As the FCC’s FNPRM indicates, the job of verifying that households have low-income is already being verified by other federal agencies. Most notably, the USDA verifies the eligibility of those households that quality for SNAP. SNAP not only enrolls those households whose low income qualifies them, but de-enrolls them if their income rises. In other words, SNAP already does the job the FCC duplicates at a cost of roughly $600 million. Thus, the first argument for relying on SNAP for eligibility verification is that doing so would save roughly $600 million in wasted administrative efforts.

$600 million is obviously a lot of savings. But as Kovacs goes on to note, the benefits of linking Lifeline to SNAP go beyond the monetary because:

It would provide automatic enrollment for low-income households that need Lifeline, and make it easier for them to apply the discount to the technology and provider of their choice. By making it easier for both providers and low-income households to participate in Lifeline, the FCC would also enhance competition.

For more on rebooting Lifeline for the broadband age, check out this op-ed from our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher that was recently published in The Hill. An excerpt

With bipartisan support in Congress, the FCC now has a unique opportunity to completely overhaul and reshape the program for the 21st century. The central challenge is to add broadband as a Lifeline benefit without a significant increase in program costs. Tinkering with the existing program or making minor modifications to program administration at the edges will likely fail to deliver the promise of ubiquitous and modern high-speed broadband access for low-income consumers.

Tuesday, November 03

Innovation Drives Improved Outcomes for Education

By Jamal Simmons


I am always encouraged by the ways in which technology is improving the classroom experience for students around the country. Through network-enabled devices and high-speed broadband, students and their teachers are able to harness all the Internet has to offer, including apps and content sources that can improve educational outcomes and open doors of opportunity throughout the country.

Both in school and out, students are using mobile devices and the digital economy to explore new ideas and prepare for successful futures. Innovation in the technology industry has jump-started this introduction of technology into the educational experience for millions of students, and it is always worth pointing out some exciting examples of how technology is being put to use for educational innovation.

Just last week, Discovery Education and DirecTV joined the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to celebrate National Energy Awareness Month and ENERGY STAR® Day. This event was great. In addition to bringing students in to meet with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in person, the three organizations teamed up to provide a “virtual field trip” to schools around the country, which allowed them to tune in to watch the event remotely. By infusing technology into the event, more students not only watched the conversation, but joined it, bringing unique perspectives and questions from around the country.

Events like this show how important innovation in the technology sector is and why we need to continue to make the right kinds of regulatory and legislative choices that allow all players in this innovative industry to provide critical solutions and new offerings.  Working together we can avoid false choices between arbitrary winners and losers. Just recently, the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) released their annual “Investment Heroes” report that showed that the technology industry was leading the pack when it comes to investments in America. As the EPA’s “virtual field trip” shows, this innovation is already changing educational models for the better, which has ripple effects throughout the economy.

While the PPI report illustrates the dollars being invested in the economy, the underlying story may be more important. These dollars are also investments in America’s students, schools and education system. When we deliver new tools and services to schools to open students’ eyes to the world around them, we are able to better prepare them for tomorrow’s workforce, giving them the skills they need to compete on a global scale.

Last week’s “virtual field trip” event sought to engage students in a conversation about being good stewards of the global environment. It is another great example of how technology solutions can be deployed to expose students to new ways of thinking about the world around them. The more we can innovate and deploy these kinds of solutions and ideas, the better off America’s students will be.

Monday, August 31

IIA Filing on the Future of Lifeline


Today, IIA delivered a filing to the FCC urging the Commission to embrace fundamental and sweeping reform as the agency moves forward in its effort to modernize the existing federal Lifeline Program.

It is our strong belief that only a “sea change” in the program’s current design will advance the goal of creating a 21st Century program capable of efficiently and effectively delivering broadband Internet technologies and meaningful opportunities to America’s low-income consumers.

“The time for bold action is now. As Commissioner Clyburn aptly noted, Lifeline reform gives us a unique opportunity to ‘rid us of antiquated constructs’ and ‘design a future-proof program that enables low-income consumers to have access to broadband services comparable to everyone else.” — IIA Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher.

Beyond making broadband an eligible Lifeline service, we urge the FCC to squarely address existing structural flaws that today hamstring the program and the Lifeline marketplace. We propose that the Commission move swiftly to adopt the following essential reforms:

1. Safeguard the Lifeline Program by taking eligibility determinations away from self-interested service providers.

In its comments, IIA enthusiastically supports the FCC’s proposal to remove the responsibility of consumer eligibility determination from Lifeline providers. IIA points out that determining eligibility for receiving benefits from a government program is an inherently governmental function; as such, eligibility determinations should not be left to service providers that may have improper economic incentives to increase enrollment.

2. Simplify and protect the Lifeline Program by vesting administration in a state agency using a “coordinated enrollment” and de-enrollment process.
IIA supports relying on state governmental agencies as the neutral entities charged with using a coordinated enrollment process to verify consumer eligibility and administer the enrollment and de-enrollment processes. Under this process, consumers determined eligible to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) by the State would automatically be deemed eligible to receive Lifeline assistance. IIA believes that a reformed federal Lifeline program should link eligibility determination to a single, mature assistance program – SNAP – which would increase administrative efficiency, promote participation by both consumers and service providers, and reduce the potential for waste, fraud, and abuse.

3. Empower consumers and promote dignity with a “Lifeline Benefit Card” – a direct-to-consumer benefit.

To preserve and advance the personal dignity of Lifeline beneficiaries, IIA believes that Lifeline Program benefits should be transferred directly to the consumer using a “Lifeline Benefit Card” or similar approach (e.g., coordinated enrollment taking advantage of existing SNAP EBT cards and adding the Lifeline benefit to that EBT card). Eligible consumers could use the “Lifeline Benefit Card” as a voucher to buy whichever communications service meets their needs from authorized and registered providers, whether broadband, wireline, or wireless voice service (on a stand-alone or bundled basis).

4. Incentivize voluntary participation in the Lifeline Program by cutting red tape.

IIA recommends delinking the ETC designation from the Lifeline Program so subsidy recipients receive the complete benefits of robust competition that full service provider participation could offer. Removing existing regulatory roadblocks will make it easier for service providers to participate in Lifeline and incentivize them to compete for the purchasing power of Lifeline consumers.

To read our full filing to the FCC, visit here.

Wednesday, July 08

America’s Place in the Digital World

By Brad

Earlier today, the Media Institute released its “Net Vitality Index In Detail” report, which is a data-heavy companion to its report from April this year called “Net Vitality: Identifying the Top-Tier Global Broadband Internet Ecosystem Leaders.” For those who like to wonk out on broadband stats — which we definitely do — both reports are worth digging into. From the press release accompanying the new report:

Harvard Law School faculty member and Media Institute Global Internet Freedom Advisory Council member Stuart N. Brotman authored both reports. He compiled the detailed data released today for the benefit of scholars, researchers, and policymakers who desire an in-depth look at the metrics used in assessing the broadband Internet ecosystem capabilities of countries around the world. 
Based on five years of research, the Net Vitality Index is the first holistic analysis of the global broadband Internet ecosystem, identifying the United States, South Korea, Japan, United Kingdom, and France as the top-tier leaders. Unlike the one-dimensional rankings that serve as the basis of most broadband comparative studies, Brotman’s composite analysis takes into account 52 indices developed independently to evaluate countries on an apples-to-apples basis. Overarching categories assessed encompass applications and content, devices, networks, and macroeconomic factors.

The new detailed report is a treasure trove of data. Some highlights:

• While Windows 7 still dominates when it comes to personal computer operating systems, both Android and Apple’s iOS rank in the top 5 — which is pretty incredible given both operating systems are less than a decade old.

• Surprisingly, at 56.4%, the United States ranks 13th when it comes to smartphone penetration. The leader? The United Arab Emirates at 73.8% penetration.

• The United States continues to domination when it comes to investment in telecommunications, more than doubling the dollars invested by China over the same time period.

• When it comes to mobile app development, the United States is the leader of the world, with the vast majority of apps dominating the charts globally having been developed by U.S. companies.

Nine of the top 10 digital startups globally are based in the United States.

The Media Institute’s April report “Net Vitality: Identifying the Top-Tier Global Broadband Internet Ecosystem Leaders” is available here. The “Net Vitality Index In Detail” report is available here. Happy reading!

Thursday, May 14

MMTC Sends Letter to FCC and Urges Modernization of Lifeline Program to Include Broadband

By Brad

The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) has assembled an impressive list of co-signers for a letter to the FCC encouraging the Commission to rapidly and comprehensively reform the Lifeline universal service program for the digital age. An excerpt from the letter:

Success in upgrading this 30 year-old program will require policy makers to embrace a new approach. Commissioner Clyburn outlined her thoughts on the subject in a 2012 speech at the American Enterprise Institute referencing immediate Lifeline reform where she stated that reform must occur in a manner that, “…increases the value of other federal investment, reduces administrative burdens, reduces incentives for waste, fraud and abuse, addresses privacy concerns of consumers, streamlines the program to encourage participation and leverages efficiencies from other programs.”

On behalf of the constituents that entrust our organizations to ensuring parity in telecommunications services and other public benefits, we believe that the Commission has the tools necessary to create a new twenty-first century model for the Lifeline program that would serve the needs of low income consumers in an efficient, secure and respectful fashion.

You can read the MMTC letter, which includes its recommendations on how best to reform Lifeline, at the FCC’s website. And for more on the subject, check out our white paper “Bringing the FCC’s Lifeline Program Into the 21st Century.”

Tuesday, November 25

The Internet Sky is Not Falling

By Brad

Bret Swanson of Entropy Economics (and one of our Broadband Ambassadors) has put together a new study for the American Enterprise Institute showing that despite claims from those who wish for the government to heavily regulate broadband providers, the U.S. broadband market is actually quite healthy. The full study is definitely worth digging into, but below are some of Swanson’s key points:

• Internet traffic volume is an important indicator of broadband health, as it encapsulates and distills the most important broadband factors, such as access, coverage, speed, price, and content availability.

• US Internet traffic is two to three times higher than that of most advanced nations, and the United States generates more Internet traffic per capita and per Internet user than any major nation except for South Korea.

• The US model of broadband investment and innovation—which operates in an environment that is largely free from government interference—has been a dramatic success.

• Overturning this successful policy by imposing heavy regulation on the Internet puts one of America’s most vital industries at risk.

You can read Swanson’s full report, titled “Internet traffic as a basic measure of broadband health,” over at the American Enterprise Institute.

Tuesday, August 05

The Need for a New Regulatory Framework

By Brad

Over at The Huffington Post, Kristian Ramos — self-described “tech nerd” and one of our Broadband Ambassadors — writes about the new study from Anna-Maria Kovacs released last week. An excerpt:

Expanding consumer options and preferences has forever broken down traditional standalone wire line, wireless, cable and broadcast services. According to Kovacs, 89% of households subscribed to wireless voice by the end of 2013, either by itself or in combination with some supplemental type of wired voice service.

Additionally, 29% of consumers prefer the blend of wireless service with plain old telephone service (with voice capabilities) and 22% with voice over internet protocol. Those figures are corroborated by a recent Pew Research Center study, which shows that as of 2013, 70% of adults had fixed-broadband access from home, a number that rises to 80% when access via smartphone is included. And most notable, are the 38% of consumers who rely solely on wireless.

Given this data it is clear many households are combining some form of fixed broadband (including some forms of fixed wireless) with mobile wireless broadband. All of this underscores the need for a new regulatory network framework based on the recognition of the diversity of consumers and the various choices they have today in a 21st century broadband world.

Check out Ramos’s full piece over at The Huffington Post.

Thursday, July 10

Save the Date!

By Brad




























If you’re in DC next week, and like to hear smart people talk about a smart topic, check out this U.S. Chamber of Commerce event. Bret Swanson, one our Broadband Ambassadors, is one of the speakers.

Wednesday, June 11

Percentage of the Day

By Brad

84%, which is how much Internet traffic Cisco expects to be video in four years. As Marina Lopes of Reuters reports:

Video consumption of the World Cup alone will generate nearly as much Internet traffic as occurred in all of Australia in 2013, according to a new Cisco Systems Inc report that shows growth in Internet traffic is fueled by video.

The report, which says video is expected to grow to 84 percent of Internet traffic in the United States by 2018 from 78 percent currently, raises questions about whether Internet service providers should prioritize traffic, which has become a controversial issue.

“In the future at some point every month is going to look like the world cup month because the consumption just keeps getting bigger and bigger,” said Robert Pepper, Cisco’s vice president of global technology policy.

Often forgotten in the great net neutrality debate is the fact that bandwidth-intensive video is the future of the Internet. And that presents some very real engineering challenges.

Monday, May 05

Looking Over the Deal

By Brad

Also via The Hill, this time from Kate Tummarello and Julian Hattem, the proposed merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable is scheduled to get some scrutiny from the House:

Lawmakers in the House this week will get their first chance to press Comcast and Time Warner Cable executives on the two companies’ proposed $45 billion merger.

The House Judiciary Committee hearing comes almost exactly a month after the Senate took a look at the merger and is likely to cover similar ground.

Already, Tummarello and Hattem go on to report, a number of members of the Senate have made it clear they’re not too keen on the merger. Which means it’s time to buckle up for a legislative fight.


Friday, March 07

No Game in South Africa

By Brad

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, February 19

Putting the ‘Europe is Better’ Argument to Rest

By Bruce Mehlman


There’s nothing like a little international competition to motivate action. Take Sputnik. Or JKF’s “missile gap.” Or Finland’s recent schooling of the time-to-watch-from-the-sidelines Olympic hockey team.

The battle over global broadband offers a prime example, Washington-style. Many broadband boosters here in our nation’s capital lament a Bandwidth Gap with other nations, including many in the European Union. Some have even suggested that Europe offers the best model for future American broadband policy.

It is worth observing, however, that many European experts disagree. For example, in September European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes lamented:

The world envied Europe as we pioneered the global mobile industry in the early 1990s (GSM), but our industry often has no home market to sell to (for example, 4G).  Consumers miss out on latest improvements or their devices lack the networks needed to be enjoyed fully. These problems hurt all sectors and rob Europe of jobs it badly needs. EU companies are not global internet players… 4G/LTE reaches only 26% of the European population. In the US one company alone (Verizon) reaches 90%!”

This Battle of the Bandwidth is nicely highlighted in a new report from AEI’s Roslyn Layton that focuses on the important contrasts between European and American broadband policy. Those differences are profound, focusing on incentives for private investment.  Only 2% of European households subscribe to Internet services offering connections faster than 100Mbps, according to the EU’s 2013 Digital Agenda Scoreboard. While Europe’s share of broadband investment is less than 20%, the U.S. attracts 25% with a smaller population — per capita investment here is double that in Europe. The EU estimates that it faces a shortfall of €110–170 billion ($150–230 billion) by 2020 if it is to reach its connectivity goals.

In America that money is being put to work, most aggressively by those facing the least legacy regulation, such as IP networks, cable networks and wireless. Such light-touch regulation has fueled robust intermodal competition in the development and deployment of next-generation broadband networks to satisfy a seemingly bottomless consumer appetite.

Those who criticize the state of broadband in our nation typically focus only on one technology, fiber to the home, and choose to ignore the vibrant intermodal competition — such as cable, wireless — that has delivered cutting edge broadband services that are available to millions of Americans, yet largely unavailable to Europeans. 

Some criticize America’s delivery broadband service in comparison to the Nordic countries in Europe. Yet, a closer look reveals that the successes in these countries may actually be a result of having policies that look similar to the policies here at home.  As Layton notes, Denmark, a country with high broadband penetration, has demonstrated two keys for success:

1. Technological agnosticism. No one broadband technology is favored over another.

2. Market-led broadband development. The government does not decide which technology citizens should have, nor does it give government subsidies for broadband deployment.

Layton’s right.  It’s time to put the “Europe is better” argument to rest.  Ultra-fast broadband for everyone sustained and serious levels of investment, enabled by policies that promote investment and competition.

Thursday, February 13

Deal of the Day

By Brad

Hmmm… not much happening out there today — WAITASECOND!

Comcast Corporation (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) today announced that their Boards of Directors have approved a definitive agreement for Time Warner Cable to merge with Comcast. The agreement is a friendly, stock-for-stock transaction in which Comcast will acquire 100 percent of Time Warner Cable’s 284.9 million shares outstanding for shares of CMCSA amounting to approximately $45.2 billion in equity value. Each Time Warner Cable share will be exchanged for 2.875 shares of CMCSA, equal to Time Warner Cable shareholders owning approximately 23 percent of Comcast’s common stock, with a value to Time Warner Cable shareholders of approximately $158.82 per share based on the last closing price of Comcast shares. The transaction will generate approximately $1.5 billion in operating efficiencies and will be accretive to Comcast’s free cash flow per share while preserving balance sheet strength. The merger will also be tax free to Time Warner Cable shareholders.

This transaction will create a leading technology and innovation company, differentiated by its ability to deliver ground-breaking products on a superior network while leveraging a national platform to create operating efficiencies and economies of scale.

Comcast and Time Warner Cable are the two biggest cable providers in America, so of course this proposed deal is going to receive heavy scrutiny. As The Hill‘s Kate Tummarello writes:

The deal would bring Comcast’s total number of subscribers to 30 million, with the company gaining 8 million subscribers from Time Warner. But as a part of the deal, Comcast also agreed to sell off systems that serve 3 million subscribers.
Top antitrust lawmakers vowed to examine the acquisition closely.

In a statement, Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) — chairwoman and ranking member of the Senate Commerce’s Subcommittee on Antitrust — said they will hold a hearing on the proposed merger.

“This proposed merger could have a significant impact on the cable industry and affect consumers across the country,” Klobuchar said, adding that she will “carefully scrutinize the details of this merger and its potential consequences for both consumers and competition.”

This is going to be a long regulatory battle, so buckle up. The full Comcast statement about the deal is here.

Wednesday, January 29

Back to School

By Brad

Last night, President Obama delivered his sixth State of the Union Address. One highlight from his speech was a renewed pledge to connect every school in America with high-speed Internet. As Kevin Fitchard of GigaOm reports:

Last year, Obama announced a program to extend broadband access to 99 percent of schools over four years, and on Tuesday he said the administration is working with the Federal Communications Commission, Verizon, Sprint, Apple and Microsoft to fund such a project. According to the White House, details of these “philanthropic partnerships” will be released in coming weeks and will help connect 15,000 schools and 20 million students with wireless and wireline broadband in the next two years.

The Hill‘s Julian Hattem has more:

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said that the commission has made a point to make the program as efficient as possible.

“By applying business-like management practices to E-Rate, we can take steps this year that will make existing funds go farther to significantly increase our investment in high-speed broadband connectivity for schools and libraries for the benefit of our students and teachers,” he said in a statement after Obama’s remarks.

“In the Internet age, every student in America should have access to state-of-the-art educational tools, which are increasingly interactive, individualized and bandwidth-intensive,” Wheeler added.

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