Friday, May 17
Apple’s App Store, which launched in 2008, has already hit a massive number—and one lucky man received a big gift. Via Joanna Stern of ABC News:
Brandon Ashmore from Mentor, Ohio, hit the app jackpot Tuesday afternoon when he pressed the download button on a word game app called Say the Same Thing and sent Apple over the 50 billion app download mark, winning the $10,000 prize.
50 billion apps and counting. In an ecosystem that didn’t exist just five years ago. Wow.
Wednesday, May 15
Broadband is revolutionizing education across America. To coincide with today’s Technologies in Education Forum, hosted by The Atlantic, we put together the below infographic breaking down all the ways kids are using technology to excel in school.
An embed code so you can post the infographic on your own site is available here. And for more on broadband and education, check out our webinar with iNACOL’s Director of Policy, David Teeter, and Kwame Simmons, principal of Kramer Middle School in Washington, D.C.
You can also read Simmons’ op-ed for the Washington Post.
Monday, May 13
4G LTE is just starting to be widely adopted here in the States, but as Jon Russell of The Next Web reports, Samsung is already working toward the next big leap in mobile broadband:
The Korean tech giant says its 5G wireless technology will be capable of providing users with data speeds of “up to several tens of Gbps per base station”. That, it says, is “several hundred times faster” than even yet-to-be-released 4G LTE technology.
In practical terms, Samsung’s estimated speeds would allow a movie to be downloaded in under one second, and it could enable a host of new services that feed off the ability to transfer large files quickly.
Mobile broadband is just getting started.
At Read Write Web, Brian S. Hall writes about how “mobile is taking over the world,” as he puts it:
Figures published earlier this year from the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU), for example, reveal the amazing spread of mobile connectivity. According to the ITU’s “facts and figures” publication, mobile penetration rates are now about equal to the global population - including an 89% penetration rate in “developing countries,” which currently have the highest mobile growth rates.
In other words, nearly everyone on the planet has a mobile phone — or will have one soon enough.
Friday, May 10
It’s official: current Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski will be handing over the gavel on May 17th. While Commissioner Mignon Clyburn will lead the agency until Obama nominee Tom Wheeler gets confirmed and sworn in, it’s worth taking a look at the top two pressing issues Wheeler will face once he takes the helm of the Commission.
Agenda Item: IP Transition
The trend is undeniable. Americans are leaving their traditional phone service, dropping their standard connection in favor of wireless and IP-based phone connections. You’re probably one of them. If you have your home phone service bundled with cable, you might not even realize you no longer rely on the plain old telephone service (POTS) network.
With scores of people changing the way they communicate (some estimates peg the number at 500,000 people each month), network providers want to gradually sunset their old networks so they can concentrate billions in investment dollars to new, Internet-based services. In other words, they want to put their money where consumers want to go … and are going.
This transition to all-IP (Internet Protocol) networks won’t be as easy as flipping a switch. Ensuring everyone still has a reliable connection, especially seniors and those living in rural areas, is critical. That’s why AT&T submitted a proposal to the FCC for “beta trials” in select markets to identify potential pitfalls, an idea FCC Commission Ajit Pai strongly endorsed in a speech sponsored by the Hudson Institute back in March. As Pai said in his speech:
Right now, the most critical choice we face is whether to move forward with an All-IP Pilot Program. This program would allow forward-looking companies to choose a discrete set of wire centers where they could turn off their old TDM electronics and migrate consumers to an all-IP platform. Now, you may have noticed that when it comes to the IP transition, everyone has a prediction about what will or will not happen if carriers are allowed to provide services exclusively through an all-IP platform. But as we found out during yesterday’s “snowstorm”—what we Kansans call “weather”—predictions are no substitute for hard facts. Albert Einstein had it right: A “pretty experiment is in itself often more valuable than twenty formulae extracted from our minds.”
Fortunately, we don’t need to rely on formulae any longer. The FCC has sought and received comments on a proposal to create an All-IP Pilot Program. I’ve reviewed the record carefully. And having done so, I am proposing today that the FCC move forward with this program.
Going forward with beta trials is just part of the greater IP transition discussion Wheeler will no doubt be having as head of the FCC. Also on the burner will be regulations — specifically, what will be the regulatory framework in an all-IP world? The 1996 Telecommunications Act is by all accounts painfully outdated. Modernizing rules to keep pace with today’s technology in ways that encourage continued investment in network infrastructure and protect consumers will be critical for the IP transition to succeed. And Wheeler, from the driver’s seat of the FCC, will need to lead the discussion.
Agenda Item: Spectrum
Outgoing Chairman Julius Genachowski deserves a ton of credit for recognizing the coming “spectrum crunch” (as he’s coined it), but the FCC’s proposed solution to the problem — incentive spectrum auctions — is barely past the 50-yard line. The auctions are still being shaped, the details still being argued over. Some are pushing for limited involvement in the auctions by certain wireless providers. Others question whether enough broadcasters will participate to make a difference.
Meanwhile, thousands of Americans are adopting mobile broadband every day. They are firing up smartphones and tablets for the first time and pushing data into the ether. And all that data is joining the bits and bytes being pushed out from tens of millions of other people who are already relying on a wireless connection to the Internet for their daily activities.
To keep up with this flood of data traveling on their networks, wireless providers have been trying to make deals for spectrum left and right. But it’s still not enough, which means a lot will be riding on the FCC’s spectrum auctions. Will Wheeler and the other Commissioners successfully put together proceedings that are open to all qualified bidders? Auctions that maximize much-needed revenue for the Federal government? As my colleague Rick Boucher succinctly put it:
Only through truly competitive, open spectrum auctions will America’s wireless industry continue to thrive. After all, the best way to ensure competition is to encourage everyone to compete.
These are the two most critical issues Wheeler will face once he’s in charge of the FCC (and underlying both of those issues is the most important part of his job — increasing access for all Americans to participate in the technological revolution we are experiencing. High-speed access to the Internet only increases in importance as job searches, entrepreneurial opportunities, education and health care are all enhanced by being online). While some have criticized his selection given his past life running both the NCTA and the CTIA, such experience offers encouragement that he has the ability to successfully get the job done. As President Obama remarked during the announcement of his selection:
”If anybody is wondering about Tom’s qualifications… [He] is the only member of both the cable television and the wireless industry hall of fame.”
Here’s hoping Wheeler will one day be inducted into the FCC hall of fame as well.
Monday, May 06
In an op-ed for the Huffington Post, American Consumer Institute for Citizen Research President Steve Pociask worries the FCC may end up hurting consumers with its upcoming spectrum incentive auctions:
A basic principle of any well-designed auction process is that it is open and competitive. However, there are some unsettling news reports that this basic principle may be in jeopardy. For one, there has been some recent coaxing by the Department of Justice that the FCC may want to consider favoring its auction to benefit some small wireless providers over larger ones. Along the same lines, there have been suggestions that the FCC may consider rules to prevent the largest two wireless providers, AT&T and Verizon, from participating in the upcoming auctions. If recent headlines and comments from the FCC Chairman are any indication, Sprint and T-Mobile are “getting stronger” and the reality remains: “Every mobile operator out there, including the largest ones, needs more spectrum.”
Here is the problem—protecting competitors does not help competition, and that hurts consumers. Any action by the FCC that would intentionally benefit some competitors at the expense of others runs counter to the intent of Congress to constrain the FCC’s ability to limit participation in the upcoming spectrum auctions. When it comes to picking favorites in the market, that choice should stay with consumers, not regulators.
Back in February, our own Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher had similar thoughts on the FCC’s auctions:
History has shown that when the FCC has tried to pick winners and losers in the wireless market, American consumers have lost. Past attempts by the Commission to favor certain bidders and/or impose rigid regulations on auction winners have drastically diminished auction proceeds, left major blocks of spectrum unused, and led to what FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski himself has labeled “America’s looming spectrum crisis.”
Wednesday, May 01
Over at Rolling Out, our Co-Chairman Jamal Simmons has a piece on how technology can help lead to healthier lives, particularly in minority communities. Here’s a taste:
Broadband Internet access, especially mobile broadband, can go a long way in terms of achieving the goals of improved health care access and affordability. According to comScore, smartphone ownership is at 54 percent in the U.S. That’s a lot of iPhones and Androids in the pockets of Americans across the map, and when it comes to health care information, Pew Research reports more than half (52 percent) of the people owning these gadgets report using them to access health or medical information.
You can read Jamal’s full piece over at Rolling Out.
Tuesday, April 30
In a piece for Politic365, Hispanic Leadership Fund President Mario H. Lopez (HLF is an IIA Member) writes about how the Hispanic community is leading the charge in adopting mobile broadband:
The modern Hispanic community is not only going mobile, but it’s outpacing the general population in doing so. Survey data tells an incredible story of how far our community has come in a short time in adopting new technologies. ComScore tells us that in two years (2010-2012), Hispanic adoption of smartphones increased from 43 percent to 57 percent whereas adoption of smartphones among the general population increased from 36 percent to 46 percent. And as recent data from Pew shows, 76 percent of Hispanics are more likely to use their mobile devices to go online.
Mobile Internet connectivity gives Hispanics access to the civic, health, social, and entertainment content that they crave. At a time when economic growth and employment remains sluggish, mobile Internet access allows Hispanics to search for work and take advantage of online training and education. Mobile Internet also keeps Hispanic entrepreneurs and innovators connected to their customers.
Keeping this positive trend going, Lopez argues, will take smart regulatory policy:
Opportunities available to Hispanics are on the rise, and our community is leveraging the economic and social benefits of mobile broadband to make the most of them. Policymakers in Washington must recognize this growing trend and do everything in the power to support it. In recent years the FCC has made some progress on the spectrum front.
It will be important for successors to outgoing FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and Commissioner Robert McDowell to speed up that progress and act upon the need to free up more spectrum for commercial use. The use of broadband connectivity will continue to be a crucial factor in creating jobs and economic growth, spurring innovation, and generating educational opportunities for all Americans.
Wednesday, April 24
Over at CNN, Andrew Keen has a great story about innovation, mobile apps, and helping those with autism live better lives:
With $20,000 in prize money, the mobile app “Autism Speaks” hackathon , organized by AT&T and by the advocacy group Autism Speaks, attracted more than 25 teams of developers and was judged by panel of technology and autism experts (including myself).
The goal was to design apps to improve the lives of the one in every 88 children who, according to the American Center for Disease, are on the autism spectrum.
The goal was to hack autism.
The full, inspiring story is worth checking out.
Monday, April 22
Last week, satellite TV provider DISH announced it was making a play to purchase wireless provider Sprint for a price just north of $25 billion, or some $5 billion more than Japanese provider SoftBank had offered to buy the carrier. And as Phil Goldstein of Fierce Wireless reports, DISH is taking a patriotic angle to promote its bid:
Dish said its offer for Sprint “is better for the American consumer, better for Sprint’s shareholders, and better for U.S. national security than the SoftBank proposal.”
Dish’s comments are likely a reference to concerns about foreign ownership of domestic telecommunications companies as well as specific concerns that Sprint could use equipment from Chinese vendors ZTE and Huawei in its network.
Goldstein also reports that Sprint has formed a “special committee on its board” to go through DISH’s offer.
Friday, April 12
Via Dan Graziano of Boy Genius Reports, the New York City Police Department has embraced mobility in an effort to crack down on crime:
oughly 400 Android smartphones have been distributed to officers since last summer as part of a pilot program taking place in New York City, The New York Times reported. The phones are unable to make or receive calls and instead use a data connection to gain access to an individual’s arrest files. An application on the device can look up a person’s criminal history, verify his or her identity with a police photograph and even display information from the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Tuesday, April 09
Tossing the TV is more evidence in favor of phone companies transitioning to all-IP.
As Ryan Nakashima from the Associated Press recently reported, there’s a dramatic shift afoot in how people are consuming entertainment:
Some people have had it with TV. They’ve had enough of the 100-plus-channel universe. They don’t like timing their lives around network show schedules. They’re tired of $100-plus monthly bills.
A growing number of them have stopped paying for cable and satellite TV service and don’t even use an antenna to get free signals over the air. These people are watching shows and movies on the Internet, sometimes via cellphone connections.
According to Nakashima, these TV tossers have been given a name by the Nielsen group—“Zero TV” households—and their numbers are increasing. In 2007, there were just 2 million homes. Today? 5 million and counting.
While those numbers aren’t yet big enough for broadcasters and cable providers to hit the panic button, they show an undeniable trend. Things are changing fast, and consumers increasingly want more freedom in when and where they watch their favorite shows. The season premiere of Game of Thrones set a record for piracy, which tells you two things: HBO’s business model probably needs an overhaul, and more and more people are unwilling to wait to be entertained.
It’s easy to label millions of people illegally downloading a hit show as entitled, but they’re just the scouts in what will eventually be an all-out assault from consumers on traditional business models. And once the armada lands, we’ll need networks powerful enough to meet their demands.
Those networks will be all IP, or all Internet Protocol.
The transition to all IP networks will mean everything is done via the Internet — not just web surfing and streaming video, but home phone service as well. IP networks will also make viewing TV over the net more reliable and consistent, since it will give companies the ability to invest in upgrades without maintaining legacy networks people are increasingly abandoning.
This transition won’t happen overnight, nor should it. Millions of Americans still rely on traditional landlines, just as millions still happily pay for cable and watch broadcast TV over the air. Ensuring people can still depend on their home phones and watch their favorite shows is critical. The transition beta trials AT&T has proposed and the formation of the FCC’s Technology Transitions Policy Task Force to oversee regulatory concerns are good ways to step forward carefully.
The tide is definitely sweeping up toward an all IP future. The recent bump in TV viewers going online is just latest evidence. One day, we might all live in “Zero TV” households, and if everything goes smoothly — if government and industry work together — we won’t even notice how radically things have changed. The home phone will still be the home phone and TV will still be TV; the only difference will be how they’re delivered.
Monday, April 08
A recent agreement between Verizon and AT&T over spectrum holdings has inspired complaints from the usual suspects.
In the agreement, AT&T will pay close to $2 billion to acquire 39 of Verizon’s lower 700 MHz B-block licenses. While that sounds complicated, all it really means is two innovators in a highly competitive industry have found a neat way to solve mutual problems… You know, the free market in action. And as with any free market solution to a problem—especially in the wireless industry—there are other competitors and interest groups aiming to block the deal from going forward.
It’s no secret the wireless industry is scrambling to keep up with consumer demand. To the delight of chiropractors everywhere, we are now a nation of slouchers, spending our days hunched over tiny screens. All this activity on our devices creates data, and all that data needs spectrum to travel from point A to point B. As a result, the airwaves are getting more and more crowded—a problem outgoing FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski accurately labeled the “spectrum crunch.”
The Commission’s upcoming spectrum incentive auctions will hopefully go a long way toward easing this crunch. But let’s face it, government is about as nimble as an iceberg, which means wireless providers need more than years-away government action to meet the needs of their customers. Since it’s impossible for the regulatory grind to keep up with consumer habits, it will take free market solutions to keep wireless customers satisfied.
Few technologies have been as quickly adopted as mobile broadband, and as a result, the wireless industry is a victim of its own success. With government assistance in freeing up airwaves a minefield of red tape, blocking deals between providers for spectrum drags the entire industry down. Companies like Verizon and AT&T are motivated by the need to please their customers. The question is, what motivates those trying to block them from doing so?
Tuesday, April 02
Yesterday was Opening Day, that unofficial national holiday when the boys of summer take to the field in pursuit of a World Series title.
While baseball may be one of America’s oldest sports, Major League Baseball is actually at the forefront of technology, with its popular MLB At Bat mobile app providing fans with up-to-date scores, radio broadcasts, and even streaming video of games. And as Erica Ogg of GigaOm points out, yesterday the app paid off big:
Major League Baseball executives are celebrating a different Opening Day milestone: the skyrocketing popularity of the league’s official mobile app, At Bat. On Tuesday, MLB announced that the At Bat app, which is available for iOS, Android and BlackBerry, was accessed 6 million times on Monday, the first day of baseball’s 2013 season. That’s double the amount of use the app saw on Opening Day 2012.
Monday, April 01
The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve has released a new study that shows people are increasingly using their mobile devices to handle banking. From a press release:
As of November 2012, 28 percent of all mobile phone users and 48 percent of smartphone users had used mobile banking in the past 12 months. This is a significant increase from 21 percent in December 2011 for mobile phone users and 42 percent for smartphone users. While relatively less common, the use of mobile phones to make payments at the point-of-sale increased threefold over the same period, with 6 percent of smartphone owners having used their phone to make a purchase.
The Board’s full report is available here in a PDF.
Thursday, March 28
Speaking of the FCC, John Eggerton of Broadcasting & Cable has a short interview with outgoing Chairman Julius Genachowski. Here’s a taste, regarding the Commission’s upcoming spectrum auctions:
You mentioned incentive auctions. You are leaving with the incentive auctions still at the beginning of the process. What shape is it in?
In 2009, when I rang the alarm bell on a spectrum crunch, people said there was no spectrum crunch. In early 2010, when we introduced the incentive auction idea, people said that would never happen. The goals that I set out were to get the country focused on spectrum crunch, get the legislation passed and move forward on other steps to free up licensed and unlicensed spectrum. Things have moved much faster than anyone would have thought, and much more has gotten done than anyone would have predicted. Having said that, there are challenges ahead and they will be with us for a very long time. That is why one of the things I focused on was strengthening the agency so that it could continue to do the work of the American people for a very long time.
The full interview is worth checking out.
Wednesday, March 27
Over on his blog Maximum Entropy, Bret Swanson (who is one of our Broadband Ambassadors) digs in to the FCC’s latest Wireless Competition Report:
Each year the Federal Communications Commission is required to report on competition in the mobile phone market. Following Congress’s mandate to determine the level of industry competition, the FCC, for many years, labeled the industry “effectively competitive.” Then, starting a few years ago, the FCC declined to make such a determination. Yes, there had been some consolidation, it was acknowledged, yet the industry was healthier than ever — more subscribers, more devices, more services, lots of innovation. The failure to achieve the “effectively competitive” label was thus a point of contention.
This year’s “CMRS” — commercial mobile radio services — report again fails to make a designation, one way or the other. Yet whatever the report lacks in official labels, it more than makes up in impressive data.
For example, it shows that as of October 2012, 97.2% of Americans have access to three or more mobile providers, and 92.8% have access to four or more. As for mobile broadband data services, 97.8% have access to two or more providers, and 91.6% have access to three or more.
Swanson goes on to point out that the problem with the FCC not taking a stance on whether the wireless industry is competitive may have more to do with the definition of competitive:
The industry has grown so large, with so many interconnected and dynamic players, it may have outgrown Congress’s request for a specific label.
In a smart op-ed for Politico, former FCC official David Goodfriend and former White House senior member Brad Blakeman make the case that freeing up more spectrum for wireless and accelerating the transition to all-IP networks will be a boon for the American economy:
The FCC can build on the proven economic engine of wireless networks and address the current spectrum shortage by identifying additional spectrum that can be allocated and auctioned to wireless providers for their exclusive use to serve America’s mobile consumers. The agency also can move quickly to carry out a congressional mandate that recently relinquished broadcaster spectrum be made available at auction and re-purposed for consumer mobile broadband services. And just for good measure, it should speed its decision-making process for private spectrum transactions pending before the agency.
A vibrant digital economy requires a regulatory framework that promotes 21st-century wireless and wireline infrastructure. Today, incumbent local exchange carrier wireline networks remain stuck in the past century in terms of technology and regulation. These copper-based networks, first deployed in 1878, were designed primarily to provide voice telephone service when no other network or voice service was available to a consumer. While consumers today communicate using many alternative broadband services and providers — including voice over IP (or VOIP), wireless, email, text and gaming platforms — FCC rules require only incumbent telephone companies to maintain and operate two redundant networks — the old copper network and the advanced high-speed broadband IP networks to which millions of consumers are migrating.
The full op-ed is definitely worth checking out.
Tuesday, March 26
The app ecosystem, powered by widespread mobile broadband, is an undeniable success story. Case in point, courtesy of Kara Swisher from All Things Digital:
Earlier today, Yahoo said it had acquired the trendy and decidedly stylish news reading app Summly, along with its telegenic and very young entrepreneur Nick D’Aloisio.
Yahoo said it plans to close down the actual app and use the algorithmic summation technology that the 17-year-old D’Aloisio built with a small team of five, along with a major assist from Silicon Valley research institute SRI International, throughout its products.
You read that right. A 17-year-old whiz kid and a small team have just sold an app to one of the biggest online players. The kicker? Yahoo! paid $30 million for the app. Wow.
In a smart piece for Fierce Wireless, Anna-Maria Kovacs, Visiting Senior Policy Scholar at Georgetown University, looks at the FCC’s latest Wireless Competition report:
Of course, consumers have myriad other choices with regard to their wireless experience. They choose among various types of service plans: paid v. prepaid, individual v. family, limited v. unlimited, various mixes of voice/text/data. They also choose among hundreds of devices, a few operating systems, and millions of applications. By the time a consumer has chosen a carrier, a service plan, a device, and operating system, that individual has chosen among literally hundreds of possibilities. It is not surprising that this intense competition at various levels of the wireless ecosystem has provided Americans with the lowest prices and the greatest value in the world.
Kovacs’ analysis echoes our own take on the FCC’s report.