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 'Investment'

Friday, September 12

Investment Heroes

By Brad

The Progressive Policy Institute has released its annual list of “Investment Heroes,” and at the top of the list are AT&T and Verizon, with estimated capital expenditures of more than $20 billion and $15 billion, respectively. That’s a lot of investment dollars, but as Hal Singer warns in Forbes, current regulations being considered by the FCC could severely hurt that investment going forward:

This week, PPI released its third annual report on “U.S. Investment Heroes,”  authored by Diana Carew and Michael Mandel, which analyzes publicly available information to rank non-financial companies by their capital spending in the United States. Once again, AT&T and Verizon ranked first and second, respectively, with $21 and $15 billion in domestic investment in 2013. Comcast, Google, and Time Warner also made PPI’s top 25 list, each investing over $3 billion. The authors credit investment in the core of the network with sparking the rise of the “data-driven economy.”

In light of the results from prior experiments in rate regulation, the FCC should eschew calls to regulate ISPs under Title II. The incremental benefits (potentially barring fast lanes) are dubious, but the incremental costs (less investment at the core of the network) would be economically significant. Given its size and contribution to the U.S. economy in terms of jobs and productivity, even a small decline in core investment in response to rate regulation would impose social costs beyond the immediate harm to broadband consumers from an atrophying network.

Tuesday, September 09

Big Investment in Broadband

By Brad

$1.3 trillion.

That’s the amount of investment broadband providers have made in networks since 1996, according to a new report from the US Telecom association. Obviously, that’s a lot of investment, and as the paper shows, all those dollars have made a huge difference when it comes broadband access and speeds. Some highlights:

• Over 95% of Americans can access fixed broadband, with 88% having at least two providers to choose from.

• 99% of Americans have broadband at speeds 10 mbps or more available to them.

• 99% also have mobile broadband available, with 97% able to choose from at least three providers.

• Broadband investment jumped to 10% — from $69 billion in 2012 to $75 billion in 2013.

While those are some impressive numbers across the board, It’s not all rosy news from US Telecom. As the association notes in its press release:

Ongoing investment in all broadband networks, wireline and wireless, will be essential to accommodate the expected data traffic growth and enable the continued adoption of more powerful information and communications technologies and applications. Economically efficient investment in U.S. broadband infrastructure will pay off in the form of consumer welfare, business productivity, and global competitiveness. As noted in USTelecom’s blog on investment, a move to stricter Title II regulation could inject unnecessary uncertainty and negative pressures into the broadband investment equation. This poses risks to broadband investment, and also to the so-called “virtuous cycle” of innovation among broadband and related information technology industries.

Investment in broadband matters, which makes any move away from the “light regulatory touch” in place since 1996 all the more problematic. Can the FCC keep the Internet open without putting all this investment at risk? The Progressive Policy Institute thinks so. According to their recent paper, “The Best Path Forward on Net Neutrality,” they’re confident the FCC can achieve its goals by leaning on its Section 706 authority.

Friday, September 05

The Smarter Path

By Brad

A new paper from Progressive Policy Institute Senior Fellow Hal Singer and Brookings Non-Resident Senior Fellow Robert Litan examines the effect Title II regulations could have on investment and the Internet ecosystem as a whole. An excerpt:

Imposing public-utility style regulation on Internet access would dampen innovation and investment in more, faster broadband. We propose the FCC implement the same case-by-case process to adjudicate discrimination complaints it has established for cable companies to broadband providers.

It’s not just investment from traditional ISPs that could be negatively effected, Singer and Litan also warn. Many companies that provide services on the Internet could also find themselves among those regulated under Title II:

Reclassifying Internet access as a “telecommunications service” under Title II, as supplemented by the provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, opens up the possibility that other tech services meet the same test. The clearest example would be Google’s ultra-fast broadband service, Google Fiber, which the company is gradually rolling out. But it does not stop there. There is a very slippery slope from subjecting ISPs as common carriers to including other forms of Internet transmissions, because they arguably use “telecommunications services,” the legal hook in Title II for its application.

For example, why not then include within the ambit of a telecommunications service the linkage to an advertiser’s website that Google and Microsoft provide for users of their search engines? By clicking on links, the search engine uses the Internet backbone; if Internet access is a “telecommunications service,” because it provides “transmissions,” then so, too, are the search engines. The same logic potentially applies to Amazon’s Kindle book reader device and service, because its owners are able to download books from Amazon, but only because they are connected to a wireless provider of Internet access in the process. Indeed, what would stop the FCC from classifying as Title II common carriers all device makers that have a connection to an ISP?

It’s not all concern and dire warnings in Singer and Litan’s paper, however, as the duo argue the FCC should focus its efforts on something already within its power:

[W]e think the FCC should eschew the heavy-handed approach of Title II regulation, and lean instead on its Section 706 authority to regulate potential abuses by ISPs on a case-by-case basis. Investment across both edge and content providers will be greater compared to Title II, and the FCC can avoid any unintended consequences such as creeping regulation that encompasses content providers or other ISP services.

Check out the full paper, “The Best Path Forward on Net Neutrality,” over at the Progressive Policy Institute.

Monday, August 04

Irving Talks Title II

By IIA

Last week, our Co-Chairman Larry Irving appeared on Government Matters to discuss Title II and the very real risks it could have on investment, innovation, and the entire Internet ecosystem. Check it out.

Friday, July 18

Let’s Get Nerdy — Episode 3

By IIA

This is the second installment of our “Let’s Get Nerdy!” series, where we take tech policy issues that are currently top of mind in our nation’s capital and explain how they are relevant to Americans across the map.

In this installment, our Co-Chairman Larry Irving discusses the effect reclassifying Internet service under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act will have on investment and innovation.

Ready to get nerdy? Let’s go!

How could Title II affect investment?

Could Title II regulations impact the Internet ecosystem on a large scale?

What is the best path for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take in terms of net neutrality?

Our thanks to Irving for sharing his thoughts. Check out the previous episodes of “Let’s Get Nerdy.”

Thursday, July 17

More Harm Than Good

By Brad

In a must-read piece for GigaOm, Richard Bennett, the co-inventor of Wi-Fi, argues that Title II would do much more harm than good to the Internet. An excerpt:

Technology regulators must be humble, only intervening in commercial squabbles as a last resort. For all its warts, the permissive broadband approach to internet regulation is the better way forward. The FCC should free broadband networks from the specter of telephone-era regulations and nudge them in the direction of even higher performance, including expedited delivery services for applications that need them, such as immersive video conferencing, HD voice, and other real-time applications.

Read the entire piece over at GigaOm.

Thursday, July 10

Save the Date!

By Brad

ChamberEvent.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Thursday, June 26

Heavy Investors

By Brad

Via Mike Dano of Fierce Wireless, a new report predicts that investment in wireless networks won’t be slowing down anytime soon — assuming policymakers don’t throw a wrench in a well-oiled machine, that is. As Dano writes:

According to a new report from the Telecommunications Industry Association, U.S. wireless carriers will spend a total of $159.3 billion on wireless network equipment and infrastructure during the next four years, up fully 40 percent from the $113.9 billion in cumulative spending during the previous four years.

Wireless carriers have been some of the biggest investors in America’s economy for years now, which is one of the reasons placing heavy-handed regulations on the industry is a really bad idea.

Tuesday, June 24

It was 80 years ago…

By Jamal Simmons

624_Simmons.jpg

Eighty years ago this month, the Telecommunications Act of 1934 was created to regulate America’s nascent telephone service.  At the time, only about 12 percent of U.S. families had phone service and rotary phones were the norm. Touch-tone phones wouldn’t appear for another three decades. This was the era of “party lines” and operators memorialized in movies sitting in front of large switchboards connecting callers to “KLondike 5-1234.”

As we mark the law’s 80th anniversary, now is not the time to slap the modern, high-speed, innovative and entrepreneur embracing Internet with rules that Congress designed for rotary telephones.

Keeping the Internet available to everyone is the right goal. However, applying Title II of the 1934 law, which treated traditional phone service as a public utility, to broadband could bring the pace of entrepreneurism and investment on the Internet to a crawl. Since 1996, when Congress last updated telecommunications laws, ISPs have invested more than $1.2 trillion. The average Internet connection speed in the U.S. has just hit a remarkable 10 Mbps, which is more than enough to stream an HD movie.

Suddenly putting the Internet under Title II could result in too much innovation needing pre-approval by the FCC. Instead of today’s “bottom up” dynamism in which consumer demands drive change, the web could become hostage to the federal government’s timetable. The spirit and freedom to innovate could depend on Congressional and FCC action.

Today’s Internet is the most free and accessible it’s ever been.  That’s getting lost in the push for Title II regulation. America’s broadband deployment continues to rise and 70% of us now have broadband connections at home, according to Pew. People are spending more time online, enjoying real-time benefits with education, healthcare and entertainment.

The less drastic solution is reflected in the FCC’s two existing efforts to balance legitimate consumer interests with the need to maintain the Internet’s dynamism. The FCC’s 2005 Open Internet Policy Statement and its 2010 Open Internet Order both struck that balance.

Yes, the DC Court of Appeals overturned parts of the 2010 Order. But crucially, major ISPs continue to abide by the openness policies, which shows that they recognize the value of providing the freedom that Net users demand.

Belligerents making hyperbolic arguments from opposing corners dominate too many debates in Washington. Ensuring an open Internet doesn’t have to be one of those fights. Nobody wants to turn what we used to call the “information superhighway” into a four-lane toll road with federal monitors stationed at every onramp. Nor should there be an HOV lane only accessible for the wealthiest that leaves the rest of us stuck in a slow moving traffic jam.

Now is the time for common sense rules that are fair to consumers and companies and ensure high speed Internet access to individuals and entrepreneurs without the unintended consequences of 1930’s rotary phone era regulation.

Monday, March 17

The National Broadband Plan, Four Years Later

By Jamal Simmons

31714_Simmons.jpg

Any architect will tell you that it’s impossible to build a house without a blueprint. This is true even more in telecom. Fortunately, the country just celebrated the fourth birthday of the National Broadband Plan, our blueprint for the future of broadband.

Often, government reports sit on shelves gathering dust. Thankfully, this one did not. Acting on a request from Congress, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) produced a report that was a vision for a connected future of universal broadband and a clarion call to move forward with innovation rather than letting America fall behind other countries.

The Plan started with a clear vision: every American deserves broadband. Not only that, every American needs broadband as it becomes increasingly critical for applying for jobs, learning new skills, communicating with others, and accessing our government. As the report said, “broadband can be our foundation for economic growth, job creation, global competitiveness and a better way of life.”

Over the last four years, there has been great progress. When the report was adopted, over 100 million Americans did not have broadband and 14 million Americans did not even have access to infrastructure that would enable broadband applications. Now, those numbers are significantly smaller, thanks to private sector investment and government’s continued focus. According to a White House report from last June, “about 91 percent of Americans have access to wired broadband speeds of at least 10Mbps downstream, and 81 percent of Americans have access to similarly fast mobile wireless broadband.”

In fact, that 2013 report notes that the definition of “broadband” has essentially shifted to speeds greater than 10 Mbps rather than the government’s historic definition of broadband beginning at 3 Mbps, which is good enough for one user at a time to load photos onto Facebook in a household, but not fast enough to download HD video from Netflix. Average delivered broadband speeds have doubled since 2009 to keep up with consumer needs.

This is only a beginning: President Obama’s recent State of the Union set a goal that 99% of students would have access to ultra-high speed broadband in schools and libraries over the next four years.

That kind of achievement only happens with massive levels of private sector investment, and the private sector has begun doing its part. Over the last four years, tens of billions of dollars of investment from the private sector have been directed towards expanding broadband access and increasing broadband speed. Investment in wireless broadband alone jumped over 40% between 2009 and 2012.  In fact, two companies in this sector – AT&T and Verizon – were named “Investment Heroes” by the Progressive Policy Institute for their commitment to America’s telecommunications future. This is appropriate as the Plan stated that “broadband is the great infrastructure challenge of the early 21st century.”

To meet that challenge, government must encourage more private investment, while ensuring equitable access for every American to benefit from all that broadband has to offer. As the report stated, “the role of government is and should remain limited.” 

As with many such efforts, this won’t happen without effort. The National Broadband Plan made clear that the nation would eventually have to make the transition from the aging telephone network to a system based on new broadband technologies. An FCC technology task force made the point even more clearly – that transition must happen over the course of this decade.

In fact, most consumers have already made this transition voluntarily. Less than one-third of residential consumers still use “plain old telephone service” at home (U-verse or Skype anyone?). The FCC has recently approved trials for these next-generation networks, which is a major step forward towards the all-broadband future foreshadowed in the Plan.

Four years after the National Broadband Plan, we have a vibrant, robust, cross-platform competitive system in which more and more Americans are gaining access to faster and faster broadband every day. There is more work to do, so let’s keep moving forward and not inhibit it through policies and regulations that would slow investment rather than increase it. If we want to be sure that every American has access to broadband, we should follow the vision set out in the National Broadband Plan for universal broadband, and move quickly toward the transition to modern high-speed broadband networks and services. 

Wednesday, February 19

Putting the ‘Europe is Better’ Argument to Rest

By Bruce Mehlman

21914.jpg

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.

Investing on the Upswing

By Brad

The numbers are in, and when it comes to CAP EX spending, cable and wireless providers are once again stepping up this year, according to Investor’s Business Daily. The majority of that investment will be going to improving and modernizing networks, whether it’s fixed or mobile broadband. Good news for consumers, and even better news for the economy as a whole.

 

Tuesday, February 04

Pledging to Connect

By Brad

The Obama administration has long made connecting schools with high-speed Internet a priority. Now, following the most recent State of the Union address when President Obama announced a private-public partnership to do just that, everything is starting to come together. As Justin Sink of The Hill reports:

President Obama is set Tuesday to announce more than $750 million in charitable commitments from technology and telecom companies for a new effort to bring high-speed Internet to the classroom.

Speaking at a middle school in suburban Maryland on Tuesday, Obama will announce “major progress toward realizing the ConnectED goal to get high-speed Internet connectivity and educational technology into classrooms, and into the hands of teachers trained on its advantages,” the White House said in a statement.

Among those contributing are major providers AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint — each pledging up to $100 million — along with tech companies Apple, Microsoft, and more. From AT&T’s statement announcing their contribution:

“The most important investment we can make to drive long-term prosperity for our country is finding smart new ways to make technology work for schools, teachers and students,” said Jim Cicconi, senior executive vice president, AT&T external and legislative affairs. “Providing access to mobile broadband for educational purposes and the tools teachers need to help their students excel is a foundational building block to improving educational results.”

Given that at least 70% of American schools are unable to offer all their students access to high-speed Internet, this is a pretty big deal.

Friday, January 17

Broadband at Home & Abroad

By Rick Boucher

11714_Boucher_Small.jpg

Just before the end of 2013, the New York Times published the article “U.S. Struggles to Keep Pace in Delivering Broadband Service,” a piece that compared broadband deployment in the States with the likes of the Latvian capital of Riga and Seoul, South Korea.

The problem is, the article failed to do justice to the success of U.S. broadband providers in serving customers. It was also misleading in its use of Riga and Seoul as the standard for broadband measurement; the article could as easily have cited Kansas City, with its 1 gigabit speeds, and found the rest of the world to be inadequate in comparison.

Here’s a better gauge of broadband deployment: The National Telecommunications and Information Administration reports that the U.S., despite its vast geography and dispersed cities, has higher average speeds and lower prices than Europe generally. In fact, entry-level broadband pricing in the U.S. is the second lowest globally, behind Israel, according to the International Telecommunications Union.

I wasn’t the only one baffled by the Times’ approach. At this morning’s AEI Tech Policy Summit, Roslyn Layton, Ph.D. of the Center for Communications, Media and Information Technologies — who also lives in Denmark — tackled the Times’ article directly, telling attendees, “I always hear that everything is better in Europe… there are pockets of next-generation service, but it’s hardly a ‘utopia.’”

Layton also highlighted the fact that U.S. broadband investment is two times greater than investment in the European Union, and that, as she put it, “The U.S. is getting one quarter of all the money being invested in broadband networks across the world.”

That’s a lot of investment, and as a result of all that private money flowing into networks, America now has both fixed and wireless broadband systems that are fast, robust, and affordable – all thanks to a light-touch regulatory framework that encouraged some $1.2 trillion in investment since 1996, with billions more expected as more spectrum is made available for wireless broadband. In contrast, Europe’s highly-regulatory, leased access regime has limited broadband infrastructure investment and slowed deployment of next-generation networks.

Riga and Seoul may have faster speeds, but when it comes to deployment of broadband, they’re anomalies rather than benchmarks. Contrary to the inference in the Times’ article, the U.S., with its pro-investment regulatory policy, has eclipsed all of Europe in both network speed and affordability. That’s not a struggle, it’s a success.

Tuesday, January 14

Playing Both Sides of the Street

By Bruce Mehlman

11414_BM.jpg

Wall Street and K Street are separated by a mere 225 miles, but for many companies they are worlds apart. In particular, industry observers would do well to compare everything said to policymakers with statements by the same competitors made to Wall Street investors. Defense companies, for example, warned policymakers that sequestion would spell the death of the defense industry, yet defense stocks more than doubled since the law prescribing the spending cuts was passed and defense players figured out how to deal with the changes, as they promised Wall Street they would. Telecom companies likewise present sometimes radically-divergent world views on K Street and Wall Street.

Take Sprint. In a January 7 filing at the FCC, Sprint argued that the special access market “in almost every part of the country does not support competition for core DS-1, DS-3 and similarly sized Ethernet channel termination facilities [.]” Sounds pretty dire. Unfortunately, in its conversation with the FCC, Sprint failed to include some other important facts it shared with its understandably-bullish investors. Specifically:

• Two years ago, Sprint entered the market for competitive alternatives for their back haul services to replace incumbent telephone company special access in its network – under the project name “Network Vision.”;

• Sprint initiated a competitive bidding process for its “Network Vision” project that it expected to have 25-30 “significant backhaul providers.”

• Following the competitive bid process, Sprint awarded numerous contracts for their backhaul services to competitive backhaul providers. In fact, in a filing at the FCC, Verizon confirmed that it bid for Sprint’s backhaul business in this process, yet was awarded only 6% of Sprint’s backhaul sites in Verizon’s incumbent telephone company footprint.

• Sprint recently provided details regarding its Network Vision project to the Securities and Exchange Commission, and noted in its 2013 10-K filing that “Network Vision will encompass approximately 38,000 cell sites. We have more than 13,500 sites on-air and have launched LTE in 88 cities. Further deployments of Network Vision technology, including LTE market launches and enhancements of our 3G technology, are expected to continue through the middle of 2014. We expect Network Vision to bring financial benefit to the Company through migration to one common network, which is expected to reduce network maintenance and operating costs through capital efficiencies, reduced energy costs, lower roaming expenses, backhaul savings, and reduction in total cell sites.

• In short, Sprint told the SEC not only that Network Vision was proceeding but that it expected further deployments through 2014.

Investors will reasonably conclude that the market is competitive for what Sprint terms “core DS-1, DS-3, and similarly sized Ethernet channel termination facilities.” And Sprint seems to have a reasonable competitive position and strategy that is proceeding apace. Good news for customers and investors, but tougher news for those aiming to perpetuate the perception that our highly-competitive telecommunications network lacks competition in the special access market.

Wednesday, November 13

Save the Date!

By Brad

Next Tuesday, IIA is teaming up with RocketSpace for a discussion on the future of communication in America. We’re calling it “Next-Gen Networks: Impact on Innovation, Education, Regulation & Economy,” and it will feature some rather heavy hitters in the tech and policy space. How heavy? Well, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel for one, Bill Coughran of Sequoia Capital for two, and Vivek Wadhwa, Vice President of Research and Innovation at Singularity University for three.

Our own Jamal Simmons will be moderating.

It all happens Tuesday, November 19 from 12-1:30 pm at RocketSpace, which is located at 344 Pine Street in San Francisco. If you’re the area and want to attend, you can RSVP here.

Dynamic & Competitive

By Brad

Entropy_Map_Small.png

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A new report from Bret Swanson of Entropy Economics (Swanson is also one of our Broadband Ambassadors) looks at the current state of competition in the online space and what that competition means for regulations. Titled “Digital Dynamism: Competition in the Internet Ecosystem,” the report is a lean 20 pages but packed with some startling facts and figures. Some examples:

• Private sector investment in high-speed Internet over the past 15 years amounts to $1.2 trillion.

• As a result of that investment, competition is strong and the U.S. broadband networks rank high globally when it comes to speed, and only South Korea generates more traffic than Americans.

• Due to how dynamic and unpredictable the industry is, top-down regulatory oversight is a major challenge, which highlights the need for a new approach from regulators.

Swanson’s paper also contains a graphic breaking down all the ways communication has changed since 1984. The full graphic is available here, but the image above is worth highlighting. Remember when communication meant phone-to-phone? Well things have certainly changed…

You can check out Swanson’s full report at Entropy Economics.

Friday, November 01

Why Tomorrow’s Internet Demands Today’s Federal Action

By IIA

APAICS1.png

This is a guest post from Floyd Mori, President & CEO of the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies, which is an IIA Member.

At the U.S. Capitol last week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers addressed the changing means of communications in our nation. As consumer preferences move increasingly toward Internet-based communications, so full advantage can be taken of the plethora of new and exciting applications, the network of old is going by the wayside.

The Congressional hearing focused on whether the federal regulations that for decades governed the monopoly, single-carrier era of the old, non-broadband phone system are still necessary in an age where consumers have their choice of any number of communications modes, including cell phones and smartphones, Skype, text apps, wired home VoIP, say from your cable provider, among others.

The timing is important. These regulations are based on federal communications laws that stretch back generations and were last updated in 1996, the reflection of a bygone-era, pre-mobile Internet and high-speed connections. That year, as I recall, the cutting-edge products were Compaq PCs with built-in 3Com modems that let us use our telephone lines to dial into AOL — remember the catchy noise that went along with it? 

According to the Pew Research Center, 87 percent of English-speaking Asian-Americans use the Internet compared to 74 percent of all adults. However, there are still millions of Americans, particularly minorities, members of the Asian-American community included, who do not adopt or have access to broadband, falling on the wrong side of the digital divide. 

But today, as technology modernizes to become better, faster, more capable and dynamic through “Internet Protocol” (IP) technology, outdated regulations hold back progress, and more importantly, increased availability and access to high-speed broadband. As tens of millions of consumers drop their landlines, regulations need to be modernized to free up short-term, unproductive investments in that service in order to deliver new benefits based of the IP system.

What became abundantly clear from the hearing is that federal regulators need to move faster to promote this transformative technology. A good way to start would be for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to move expeditiously on a recent request from AT&T to conduct “test-runs” in a few limited markets, under the oversight of the agency.  These closely-controlled areas would see a complete communications modernization to all-broadband, complete with all the attendant economic, healthcare, education, and civic participation benefits.  During the process, policymakers and stakeholders would work together to monitor progress and ensure that basic consumer protections continue.

For the Asian-American community, this is far more than a technological debate, as the transition to Internet-based communications technology has been shown to have a massive positive impact on issues ranging from healthcare, higher education, the environment, local economies, and civic participation.

Engagement in all areas of government and policy – and community activism at all levels of the political process (a benefit of a connected society) – are integral to diverse communities across the country.  In today’s knowledge-based culture, broadband is serving to empower our citizens, giving us the ability and opportunity to elevate and advocate for society’s needed changes on a national and even global platform.

Washington needs to move this process forward, beginning with the FCC’s approval of the trials, so we can all have the opportunity to reap the benefits of a connected, digital world.

Wednesday, October 23

A Step in the Right Direction

By Rick Boucher

102313_Boucher.jpg

Earlier today, the House Communications Subcommittee held a hearing on what’s commonly known in the tech industry as the “IP transition.”

That may sound like a rather dry affair, but the issues being discussed are anything but dry or boring. In fact, when it comes to our nation’s communications infrastructure — and, really, the health of our vital tech economy — conversations like the one held today are critical.

While the hearing itself was short on fireworks, it was not without surprises. Both Public Knowledge’s VP Harold Feld and AT&T’s Senior VP Jim Cicconi agreed on much – for example, that well-constructed trials are needed and that as the transition moves forward, certain principles must continue to be adhered to. As Cicconi testified:

[T]his transition from the old to the new should consider things we’ve all come to see as fundamental — universal connectivity, consumer protection, reliability, public safety, and interconnection.

The fact that Feld and Cicconi agree not just on the importance of those “things we’ve all come to see as fundamental,” but on the importance of moving forward with the transition itself, shows just how much things have changed in a short amount of time.

The legacy copper telephone network that has served our country so well for over a century is rapidly being abandoned by consumers, who are increasingly choosing wireless and VoIP for their communication needs. At the same time, providers like AT&T and Verizon are required to continue investing billions maintaining the network of old.

This point was not lost on Rep. John Dingell, who stated during the hearing that the billions now spent on legacy networks “would be better spent on the IP backbone of the future.”

But the IP transition is about more than the direction of investment dollars. As Cicconi told the Subcommittee:

Four years ago the FCC issued a National Broadband Plan as directed by the Congress. That plan concluded that bringing modern broadband services to all Americans is vital, and that to do so we must have communications policies rooted in the future, not the past.

Put another way, if we’re ever going to achieve the goals of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan, the IP transition needs to be encouraged through smart policies. That starts with looking at regulations crafted in 1996 or earlier that no longer apply to — and may in fact hold back — the vast array of choices consumers now have.

Put still another way, the IP transition is really a national broadband goal. The only question, which today’s hearing started to address, is how best to get there.

For AT&T’s part, the company has already put forward a plan with the FCC to conduct “test trials” akin to the one conducted during the transition to digital broadcasting in order to identify any potential problems as the legacy network is upgraded and the few customers who still have legacy service move to modern connections. As Cicconi testified:

We feel trials are critical. As careful as our planning is, no one can anticipate every issue that may arise when we actually transition off the legacy wireline infrastructure. Trials will help us learn while we still have a safety-net in place. And as we learn, all of us — industry, government, customers and stakeholders — can then work together over the coming years to address any problems we find.

 
On this point too, Public Knowledge’s Feld agreed, although his organization’s vision for how the trials should be conducted differed from AT&T’s. And encouragingly, Rep. Dingell also stated the FCC should “work with AT&T to set IP trials in motion,” adding that the trials would be an “invaluable case study for businesses, government, and consumers.” Rep. Shimkus and Rep. Waxman agreed that we should move forward with the trials, as well.

As Cicconi noted during his testimony, the transition is already well underway, but it won’t be a quick process. Nor should it be, because every time we make a great leap forward, we should know exactly where we’re going to land. Now is the time for all parties to work together on ensuring the transition goes as smoothly as possible. That’s what today’s hearing was about.

Any time you have industry, government, and consumer groups in agreement on something, you know it’s time to act. Today’s hearing was just one of many discussions yet to come on the IP transition, but it was a critical step in the right direction.

Thursday, October 10

Holman Jenkins Gets It

By Bruce Mehlman

101013_BM.jpg

Once again Holman Jenkins offers terrific insight into the dynamic broadband marketplace, highlighting the true forces driving investment (competition) and the forces holding back progress (outdated regulations). Referring to Google’s much-celebrated fiber investments in key cities Jenkins observes in the Wall Street Journal:

“Google’s real innovation was to tunnel under the regulatory morass that inhibits physical broadband deployment. Why is Google introducing Google Fiber in Kansas City and not its native California? Google’s own Milo Medin has explained repeatedly that regulatory brambles make California ‘prohibitively expensive.’”

Jenkins turns to the FCC’s failure to launch reasonable proposals to allow carriers to shift investment from older technologies carrying increasingly less traffic, to newer technologies carrying an exponentially growing volume of voice, video and data. The need for modernizing our regulations becomes even more critical when one reads a study authored by Dr. Anna-Maria Kovacs, a visiting scholar at Georgetown’s Center for Business and Public Policy. Dr. Kovacs’ analysis estimated that incumbents telcos spent a total of $154 billion on their communications networks, with more than half maintaining fading legacy networks that carry less than 1 percent of all data.

While so much else is crippled by Washington paralysis, broadband deployment should be freed.

Page 1 of 7 pages  1 2 3 >  Last »

« Back to Blog Home