Wednesday, November 13
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.
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
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
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
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.
Wednesday, October 09
Speaking of the government shutdown, just before doors were locked and websites turned off, we released a new report on competition in the telecommunications industry. To access the report itself, hit the feature spot above. Below is the summary post from last week. — IIA
Earlier today, IIA released a new report authored by Dr. Anna-Maria Kovacs titled “Telecommunications Competition: The Infrastructure-Investment Race.” In the report, Dr. Kovacs finds that outdated regulations that force companies to build and maintain obsolete copper-based legacy telephone networks are unnecessarily diverting investment away from modern broadband networks and services that 95% of U.S. households prefer, desire and use.
The report also finds that the overwhelming majority of U.S. consumers have a plethora of choices to meet their voice, video, and Internet-access communications needs. They rely on the use of smart wireless devices, cellphones, wired Internet-enabled VoIP services, and over-the-top Internet-enabled applications (i.e. Skype), far more than on traditional telephony to stay connected in today’s digital age. These choices are available over different platforms—wireline, cable, wireless, and satellite—that compete on the basis of different economics and different technical characteristics. Those differences enable these platforms to innovate to satisfy a variety of consumer needs, to serve different customer segments, and to make their competition sustainable.
Dr. Kovacs also notes that 99% of all U.S. communications traffic is now carried over these platforms in Internet Protocol, while legacy circuit-switched traffic is now less than 1% of traffic and likely to further decrease to a small fraction of 1% by 2017. Additionally, at year-end 2012, 38% of Americans relied on wireless exclusively, 4% relied on VoIP exclusively and only 5% relied on traditional plain-old-telephony (POTS) exclusively. Another 53% relied on wireless in combination with either POTS (29%) or VoIP (24%).
To illustrate how the current regulatory framework is slowing investment in broadband infrastructure, Dr. Kovacs looks at the incumbent telephone companies’ capital expenditures during the 2006 through 2011 period. She estimates that the incumbents spent a total of $154 billion on their communications networks. More than half of that was spent on maintaining fading legacy networks, leaving less than half to upgrade and expand their high-speed broadband networks. In contrast, cable providers, who are free from legacy network rules, spent a total of $81 billion in capital expenditures over the same six-year period, and were free to dedicate all of it to their broadband infrastructure.
Those are just some of the highlights. Read the full report to get the entire picture of how outdated regulations are unnecessarily diverting investment from broadband. To get a snapshot, check out the video below, which features a number of slides Dr. Kovacs put together to illustrate the report.
Friday, October 04
As Detroit prepares to choose a new mayor and City Council, teachers are preparing their students for the future. The new school year is now in full swing, and kids and teachers are settling into a routine of classes, friends, lunch menus and after-school activities. Students who are lucky enough are likely discovering how technology can enhance their lessons and expand learning beyond the classroom.
The Motor City, and indeed the entire country, are facing a tough time. Cuts are being proposed at every level of government, but there’s one essential learning tool that shouldn’t be on the chopping block: high-speed Internet. Access to this resource is increasingly necessary for students. More than a simple learning tool, access to broadband has the potential to transform education in America, afford our students new opportunities and give them the ability to transform their own communities. To see the numerous benefits of high-speed broadband, however, policy-makers and regulators must implement policies that will deliver this essential educational resource.
Advancing STEM education in America is an important and oft-discussed issue, and 21st Century broadband networks can help move forward this educational goal. Fast, reliable broadband connectivity makes individualized, interactive learning possible. This technology can enhance and supplement traditional classroom learning by engaging students in ways that can ignite a lifelong passion for knowledge. High-speed Internet service creates opportunities for educational enrichment and distance learning and can reduce inequities that exist between schools across the state or country.
High-speed Internet also makes possible blended learning, in which students and teachers collaborate to combine traditional classroom instruction with online lessons and tools. All of these benefits are possible with robust, advanced communications networks. Basic broadband access has proved to be an invaluable educational resource, but basic access alone can’t meet today’s capacity and speed requirements, much less tomorrows.
Schools and libraries across the country connect to the Internet largely because of a little-known government program run by the Federal Commissions Commission. E-rate, the nation’s largest education technology program, created in 1996, essentially funds Internet connectivity in our country’s classrooms and public libraries. The current program, however, has failed to keep pace with changing technology and the needs of students and schools. Today’s average classroom Internet connection is insufficient to support the educational innovations and learning tools of the 21st Century. According to a recent government survey, nearly half of schools and libraries reported connectivity speeds that were slower than the average American home , even though they typically serve 200 times as many users.
The dilemma of improving broadband access is a challenge not unique to our schools and libraries. Modern high-speed Internet remains out of reach for too many Americans. Schools and libraries, however, play a vital role in serving as a gateway to knowledge and providing access to broadband technologies in communities across the nation.
Efforts are now under way to expand the availability of high-speed broadband in our nation’s schools and libraries. President Barack Obama announced his ConnectED initiative in June. It calls on the Federal Communications Commission to modernize the existing E-rate program and would expand high-speed, high-capacity broadband service to 99% of K-12 students within five years. FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel has proposed going further, by outlining specific capacity and speed goals for a revised E-rate program, E-rate 2.0.
These efforts can ensure that our students have the resources they need to become tomorrow’s leaders. Broader access to next-generation broadband services, however, is also crucial for our entire nation. Thankfully, the federal government is now working with the private sector on how to best modernize and upgrade our antiquated telephone networks to bring high-speed broadband connectivity to every corner of the country.
Each child must have equal opportunity to develop and hone the skills necessary to navigate the technologies of tomorrow. Political, business and nonprofit leaders must support and encourage measures that expand access to 21st Century broadband in Detroit and the entire country.
This op-ed was originally published in the Detroit Free Press.
Thursday, September 26
by Neal Neuberger
Technological advances have brought many improvements to modern life, and today’s broadband networks can actually deliver health care and health information that saves lives. The lightning-fast evolution of broadband technology has indeed begun a revolution in health care—one that can benefit us all.
Innovations in broadband technologies have also raised questions about how health care providers and institutions alike can maximize the benefits of this technology, both today and into the future. The Eighth Annual National Health IT Week, held this year from September 16th–20th, presented an opportunity for policymakers and health care industry leaders to gather and discuss solutions and craft policies and strategies to ensure continued adoption and development of these health IT innovations.
Over the course of just a few years, broadband-enabled health care technologies, including telemedicine and mHealth, have presented new possibilities to hospitals, medical personnel, and patients. The ability to access and transmit health records, information, and diagnostic images at unprecedented speeds allows easier, more effective collaboration between medical personnel, resulting in quicker diagnoses and better results. Video teleconferencing is now being used to connect patients in rural or remote areas with specialists who can perform consultations remotely. Across the country, hospitals and clinics are using innovative technologies and methods to expand access to care and to deliver that care in cost-effective ways.
Increased access to high-speed broadband has given patients access to technologies and solutions that are more convenient, as well. With modern networks and connectivity, it’s now possible for patients with chronic conditions—including diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and asthma—to receive care in their own homes, via wireless devices that can collect and transmit medical data directly to health care professionals. These methods eliminate the need for some office visits, keeping costs down, and they also empower patients to take charge of their health and participate in their own treatment. New developments in wireless health devices are helping seniors and people with disabilities to enjoy a higher quality of life and to live independently in their own homes. Innovative new wireless devices, wearable biosensors, and mobile apps make it possible for patients and doctors to work together to achieve better health and wellness, both within and outside of medical facilities.
Modern networks allow hospitals and medical personnel to reach individuals and communities that have traditionally struggled to gain access to health care, often due to geographical, financial, or cultural barriers. Reducing health disparities that affect certain populations is an important goal, and broadband-enabled health care technologies can help achieve that goal by making patient-centered, cost-effective care available to more people and communities.
Access to modern broadband networks and speeds has already begun to transform and improve today’s health care. The resulting innovations offer exciting possibilities for enhanced health and wellness, improved quality of care, expanded access to health care, and better treatment options. To continue this progress and these impressive results, we will need enhanced, upgraded broadband networks in place across the country. The theme of this year’s Health IT Week was “One Voice, One Vision.” That’s fitting, because I believe we all share a positive vision of advancing health care technologies that lead to better outcomes. It is clear that increased and expanded access to high-speed broadband can extend the reach of doctors and hospitals, delivering better care and better access to care.
Neal Neuberger is President of Health Tech Strategies, LLC, a Virginia-based consulting firm focused on the public and private sector policy environment with regard to research, development and implementation of emerging health care technologies.
Thursday, September 19
The U.S. Investment Heroes of 2013, courtesy of the Progressive Policy Institute.
Today, the Progressive Policy Institute released its 2013 list of Investment Heroes. This year, like last year, the telecom and cable sector is a big winner.
AT&T and Verizon once again lead the way in domestic investment, and telecom is second only to the booming energy sector in total U.S. investment. PPI shows that these two companies combined invested nearly $34.5 billion to build-out nationwide high-speed broadband networks and infrastructure. AT&T alone invested almost $19.5 billion. As a sector, telecommunications and cable invested $50.5 billion last year, over a third of the nearly $150 billion invested by the Fortune 150 last year. Such levels of investment are remarkable, but not surprising. With each passing day, Americans witness and benefit from the emergence of the nation’s “data-driven economy,” all driven by U.S. telecom and technology company capital investment. Our data-driven economy is at the forefront of creating new jobs in entirely new industries — like mobile apps — and is a driving force in improving cost structures and the delivery of services in sectors such as healthcare, education, and agriculture.
Broadband providers have done their part to improve the path to economic recovery, demonstrated by their significant investments in America. The progress we’ve seen, however, needs to continue. Billions of dollars of additional private investment is necessary to bring ubiquitous high-speed broadband to every American.
For this to take place, government should adopt policies that create an environment for sustained investment. As PPI notes, government can ensure that upcoming FCC wireless spectrum auctions proceed in an open manner and allow all carriers to bid equally and without restrictions. No one company should be given favored treatment to the disadvantage of its competitors. Moreover, government can also proactively promote additional investment by eliminating existing regulatory barriers and helping to speed the upgrade and modernization of our nation’s antiquated telephone networks, so that more Americans can benefit from the high-speed Internet and video services that next generation broadband networks offer.
It is uncertain that the nearly $50.5 billion in existing telecom and cable investment will continue unless government helps promote additional regulatory and business certainty by adopting wise and timely pro-market investment policies. In the meantime, we owe our gratitude and thanks to the tech and telecom companies who invest in America and help spur innovation, create jobs, and contribute the nation’s economic growth.
Top 25 Nonfinancial Companies by Estimated U.S. Capital Expenditure
1. AT&T - $19.5 billion
2. Verizon Communications - $15.0 billion
3. Exxon Mobil - $12.2 billion
4. Chevron - $10.7 billion
5. Intel - $8.8 billion
6. Walmart Stores - $8.3 billion
7. Occidental Petroleum - $7.6 billion
8. ConocoPhillips - $6.1 billion
9. Exelon - $5.8 billion
10. Comcast - $5.7 billion
11. Duke Energy - $5.4 billion
12. Hess - $4.7 billion
13. Sprint Nextel - $4.3 billion
14. Union Pacific Railroad - $3.7 billion
15. General Motors - $3.7 billion
16. Enterprise Products Partners - $3.6 billion
17. Time Warner Cable - $3.1 billion
18. Microsoft - $3.0 billion
19. Amazon - $2.9 billion
20. CenturyLink - $2.9 billion
21. Ford Motor - $2.7 billion
22. Walt Disney - $2.7 billion
23. FedEx - $2.6 billion
24. Apple- $2.6 billion
25. Target - $2.3 billion
Total Economic Investment - $149.8 billion
Wednesday, September 18
It’s no secret that I have high hopes for the benefits of high-speed Internet access in schools and libraries. President Obama and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also recognize that high-speed broadband access is a vital educational tool that will help our students compete and succeed. That’s why the President recently announced his “ConnectED” initiative to modernize the FCC’s existing E-rate program to deliver next-generation broadband connectivity to more students in more areas, advancing modern education.
This week, the FCC begins gathering public input on the value of high-speed broadband deployment as it begins to consider how it can accelerate modern broadband access to 99 percent of K–12 students in the next five years.
Government policies aimed at advancing high-speed broadband connectivity in our nation’s schools are critical to providing today’s students with the essential learning tools and experiences necessary for success in the 21st century economy. High-speed broadband access can enhance traditional classroom learning by honing students’ digital skills and enabling them to use those skills to solve problems, examine sources and data, and find information. Students can thus achieve and learn, while simultaneously developing the skills they’ll need to take their places in the “real” world as our future leaders.
Students at every level and in every community would benefit from the easier collaboration and research that faster connectivity affords. Teachers can use this technology to help students interact with their global peers, as well as to incorporate important national and international events into lessons as they unfold in real time. The Internet can help foster strong reading comprehension and writing skills. For advanced or hands-on STEM subjects, broadband is a gateway to educational videos and online lessons to supplement classroom instruction. Adding digital learning tools like streaming videos, blogs, wikis, and podcasts to their teaching toolkits will enable educators to offer meaningful, individualized teaching and learning experiences.
Clearly high-speed broadband has much to offer our nation’s schools. That’s why I’m thrilled that our legislators and policy makers have begun talking seriously about how to expand modern broadband connectivity to all of our schools and libraries. Industry leaders, policymakers, and everyday citizens should recognize that broadband is an essential learning tool which can enhance American education and our quality of life. Getting that advanced connectivity to all of our schools and libraries is critical and must be a national priority.
The effort to expand modern broadband access, however, should not stop at our local schoolhouse or library doorstep. When the school bell rings at the end of the day, no student should be without access to the benefits that high-speed broadband provides. David Karp, the founder of Tumblr, started his first internet company from home at 15 years old. America can give every student the opportunity to dream big and engage the world if we expand access to reach every household, community, and individual nationwide.
Government can’t do this alone. It can, however, create an environment that encourages private sector investment and helps speed the upgrade of antiquated telephone networks to modern broadband technologies capable of offering high-speed Internet and video services to all Americans.
We can achieve all that and more by acting now to increase and expand access to modern high-speed broadband services in our nation’s schools and libraries, and move swiftly to set policies that encourage increased private sector investment and accelerated deployment of modern broadband networks nationwide. With the right infrastructure in place across the country, people everywhere can benefit from 21st century connectivity. Let’s work together to make it happen.
Monday, August 19
Be careful where you swing the regulatory hammer, or you might kneecap an entire industry.
That’s just one of the takeaways from a must-read an op-ed in Roll Call penned by Martin H. Thelle and Bruno Basalisco of Copenhagen Economics. Titled “Europe’s Internet Handcuffs Show U.S. How Not to Regulate,” the piece makes a strong case against miring America’s broadband industry in the regulatory muck.
If you’re looking for the duo’s argument in a nutshell, it can be found in the third paragraph:
Since the late 1990s, the U.S. and the European Union have taken two very different paths on broadband policy. While the U.S. has focused on infrastructure-based competition, the EU has forced service-based competition through government regulation, with the primary objective of lowering prices.
According to Thelle and Basalisco, that focus on service-based competition has been near disastrous for the EU when it comes to investment in broadband. How disastrous? Try this on for size:
As with any communications service, investment in infrastructure is needed to provide consumers with the quality services they demand. A decade after unbundling in Europe, per capita investment in telecommunications infrastructure now lags the U.S. by more than 50 percent.
Now that’s a regulatory knee-capping — so much so that Thelle and Basalisco are genuinely surprised that some here in the States want to take a page out of the EU’s model. As they write:
Clearly, the cautious U.S. decision to refrain from applying EU-style unbundling on providers has spurred competition and investment in the American broadband market, thus enabling huge advances in Internet technology.
Reversing that decision would risk hindering further advancements in all services using broadband infrastructure.
Heading down a path of EU-style, interventionist broadband regulation could severely harm U.S. investments in necessary communications infrastructure, darkening U.S. competitiveness globally.
That right there is what those of us against leveling more regulations on the broadband industry have been arguing all along. Even from across the Atlantic, Thelle and Basalisco recognize that the U.S. model is working quite well. The question is, will regulators here recognize the EU’s model isn’t working well at all?
Tuesday, August 06
The broadband sky is definitely not falling.
That’s the conclusion Ev Ehrlich, former undersecretary of commerce for the Clinton administration, comes to in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal [LINK] Calling his piece “The Myth of America’s Inferior Broadband,” Ehrlich takes a direct shot across the bow of those calling for heavy-handed regulations in the U.S broadband industry. And he relies on facts rather than rhetoric to do it.
On the oft-cited global broadband ranking, Ehrlich writes:
The Internet company Akamai, which produces international speed rankings, has the U.S. currently at No. 9, up from No. 22 in 2009—faster than in France, Germany and Britain. A recent report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation notes that the U.S. has the second-lowest entry-level broadband prices (behind Israel) in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, despite ranking No. 27 among OECD countries in population density, a key driver of cost.
A jump from #22 to #9 in just four years is a success, any way you slice it. Especially given the state of the economy during that same stretch. And a big reason for that success, Erhlich notes, is the $250 billion U.S. broadband companies have invested in networks since the global recession started in 2008. How does that match up to other countries? According to Ehrlich, quite well:
Compare this with Europe, where in most countries Internet service providers lease aging wires from incumbent, often state-sanctioned telephone companies. This may have created instant infrastructure for Europe, but because the ISPs do not own the underlying infrastructure, they have no incentive to invest in it. The incumbent phone companies, in turn, are often directly or indirectly subsidized heavily by taxpayers.
There’s much more in Ehrlich’s piece, but I’ve already used my allotment of block quotes, so head on over to the Wall Street Journal and read his full op-ed. SPOILER ALERT! Anyone hoping America embrace European-style regulations of the broadband industry are going to be a bit shocked.
Wednesday, July 10
This is a guest post from UK consumer site Choose. — IIA
From 2009 to 2012, the UK spent about £24 million (about $36 million USD) on a big, co-ordinated effort to get people online for the first time.
The project – culminating in 2011 with an initiative called Race Online 2012 – appointed a prominent former businesswoman as a ‘digital champion’, partnered with large UK businesses and encouraged existing charities to undertake digital inclusion work.
Less Digitally Divided
Between 2009 and 2013 the number of UK adults who had never been online fell from 21% to 14%.
A million people had gone online for the very first time by May 2013.
The EU’s Digital Agenda aims for 15% inclusion by 2015, so the UK is already well ahead of most European peers.
Right now in the UK, 99% of 16 to 24 year olds have been online, compared to just 34% of adults over the age of 75.
But if Race Online in particular had any impact it was on the older segment of the population. In that big push in 2011 over 180,000 people aged over 75 age went online. Digital inclusion also increased in the 65-74 age range (to 60%) and the 55-64 age range (to 80%).
Race Online projects targeted older people through partnerships with charities such as Age UK, which organised community computer skills workshops. How far such projects are responsible for the increase in digital inclusion is in dispute, however, since it can obviously be put down partially to natural demographic change. The oldest people are far more likely to be excluded but they’re also, increasingly not counted in the statistics. Meanwhile, those moving into the age bracket are far more likely to have gone online at some point already.
Digital by Default
These campaigns have been highly publicised and supported in the highest levels of the UK Government partly because of an overall ‘digital by default’ agenda.
Putting welfare information and other public services online would, by some estimates, save the Government millions of pounds a year. Yet the most vulnerable people – the elderly, those living in poverty and those with disabilities – are also the most likely to be digitally excluded.
“There is far to go before digital becomes everyone’s chosen means of accessing public services,” the National Audit Office warned last year. “There are still significant numbers of people who cannot, or do not wish to, go online.”
For further information and research into the reasons for the digital inclusion of older people, please visit the Choose website.
Friday, June 21
In an op-ed for The New York Times, Verizon chairman and chief executive Lowell C. McAdam argues that a light regulatory touch has kept America’s wireless industry booming, and that if we’re going to continue leading the world in mobile broadband, that light regulatory touch needs to continue:
Fifty-six percent of American adults have smartphones that give them access to mobile broadband data and video. Our country is the center of a booming mobile ecosystem in which new devices and applications are being used to do everything from personal health monitoring and e-commerce to tracking deliveries and saving energy.
Contrast this with the European Union, where innovation and investment in advanced networks have stagnated under an onerous regulatory regime that limits investment and innovation, and where today only about 2 percent of households have access to broadband networks with 100-megabit-plus speeds. “Once, Europe led the world in wireless communication: now we have fallen behind,” Neelie Kroes, the European Union official responsible for broadband policy, said in a speech in January. “Europe needs to regain that lead.”
Friday, June 14
As my colleague Rick Boucher has already stated, the spectrum-related initiatives President Obama announced this morning are a “great step” toward getting mobile broadband providers the airwaves they need in order to meet the demands of their customers. That’s the first nugget of good news.
The second nugget of good news, which was also included in this morning’s announcement, is the White House’s report on the state of broadband, which highlights just how far our country has come in providing high-speed Internet access to citizens. Some bullet points from the report:
• In the year 2000, 4.4% of American households had a home connection to broadband; by 2010 that number had jumped to 68%.
• Broadband networks at a baseline speed of >10 megabits per second now reach more than 94% of U.S. homes.
• Overall, average delivered broadband speeds have doubled since 2009. In 2012, North America’s average mobile data connection speed was 2.6 Mbps, the fastest in the world, nearly twice that available in Western Europe, and over five times the global average.
• Annual investment in U.S. wireless networks grew more than 40% between 2009 and 2012, from $21 billion to $30 billion, and exceeds investment by the major oil and gas or auto companies; investment in European wireless networks remained flat during this time period, while wireless investment in Asia (including China) rose only 4%.
• There are over 500 million Internet-connect devices now in American homes and businesses.
Those are some impressive numbers, especially on the investment front, and they underscore just how vibrant and competitive the U.S. wireless market really is.
The numbers also tell us that in order to keep the party lights on, the Federal Communications Commission must pursue policies that encourage investment and innovation. Currently the FCC has two issues burning up its docket. The first is the upcoming spectrum incentive auctions, which need to be transparent and open in order to get the most out of those airwaves. Competition is important – which is already occurring in the telecom market – and so is raising as much money as possible for the U.S. Treasury. Also, we need to ensure companies that can quickly put new spectrum to work powering mobile broadband are in the mix.
The other issue facing the FCC is the upgrade of America’s wired networks so they are better suited for the Internet age. While the baseline speed of >10 megabits per second cited in the White House’s report is good, we can do better. The upgrade to all-Internet based networks will mean substantially faster broadband in more places, but getting there will require substantial investment. It will also mean a close examination — and potential overhaul — of regulations currently governing our nation’s networks.
Neither of these issues is insurmountable, but it will take continued partnership between the government and private industry to keep America at the forefront of both wired and mobile broadband. The numbers in the White House report are encouraging. The President’s push to free up more government spectrum is inspiring. Smart policies when it comes to spectrum auctions and network upgrades will help us hit the trifecta.
Wednesday, June 12
Via Clint Boulton of the Wall Street Journal, GE is making a big investment in eHealth:
General Electric Co. Tuesday said it is investing $2 billion over the next five years to build software that could improve operational and clinical processes in the health care industry.
Hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake as hospitals upgrade their computer systems in order to mee new federal guidelines mandated by the Affordable Health Care Act. GE is hoping to cash in on some of those upgrades by jump-starting the development of health care systems and applications.
Friday, June 07
The National Telecommunications & Information Administration (or NTIA, if you’re into acronyms) has released its U.S. Broadband Availability Report, and overall it it shows an increase in broadband speeds and penetration. Some highlights:
• Basic Availability: Ninety-eight percent of Americans have access to wired or wireless broadband at combined advertised download speeds of 3 Mbps or greater and upload speeds of 768 kbps or greater (referred to as 3/768 here).
• Wireline: Just over 93% of Americans have access to advertised wireline broadband at speeds of at least 3/768, and almost 93% of Americans have access to at least 6 Mbps. Ninety-one percent of Americans have access at 10 Mbps, but access drops to 78% at 25 Mbps.
• Wireless: Approximately 81% of Americans can access mobile wireless download speeds of 6 Mbps or greater. Nearly 26% of the population can access fixed wireless download speeds at 6 Mbps.
While most Americans now have access and better speeds, the report concludes that more investment will be needed in order to meet the demands of consumers going forward:
Broadband service at basic speed levels is now widely available, but even for basic speeds, gaps still persist between rural and urban communities. These gaps between rural and urban broadband availability become larger as speeds increase; and as speeds increase, the overall level of broadband availability decreases, regardless of whether the user is located in an urban or rural area. Similarly, far more providers compete for customers when the service offering is at the lower broadband speeds tiers. Cable dominates the provisioning of broadband service at the higher speed tiers, followed by fiber to the premises. The implication of this finding is important because in areas where the technology deployed today is not capable of providing broadband service at speeds of 50 Mbps, 100 Mbps or a 1 Gbps, most companies or communities will need to significantly upgrade their infrastructure to offer these speeds when consumers, businesses or institutions demand them.
The full report is available at the NTIA website.
Monday, May 20
Via Zack Colman of The Hill, Ben Bernanke is bullish on the tech sector:
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke touted innovation and information technology as drivers of economic change in a Saturday commencement speech at Bard College in Massachusetts.
“Humanity’s capacity to innovate and the incentives to innovate are greater today than at any other time in history,” he said.
Bernanke also touted advancements in biotech, health care, and clean energy as helping keep the tech boom from becoming a bubble.
Thursday, April 25
In a must-read opinion piece for the National Journal, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai makes the case that America should be making a big push to transition to all IP-based networks:
America is in the midst of a technological revolution, what some call the IP Transition (“IP” stands for the Internet Protocol, which is the technical foundation for all these changes). IP-based networks are different from the copper-based networks of yesteryear in a fundamental way: They were not designed for voice service alone. Instead, IP-based technologies break down every kind of communication (voice, video, e-mail and more) into digital bits and transport those bits more efficiently and cheaply than ever before.
Despite these vast changes in the communications marketplace, the Federal Communications Commission hasn’t caught up. We still view the world as if consumers were at Ma Bell’s mercy, relying on copper lines to get basic voice service. As a result, we have a lot of obsolete rules on our books. (Just two months ago, the FCC finally repealed a rule first adopted by its Telegraph Division during the Great Depression!) These old rules aren’t just harmlessly yellowing with age. They are affirmatively discouraging companies from investing in next-generation networks.
You really should read the whole thing at the National Journal.