Monday, March 17
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.