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Senate Committee Passes Public Safety Spectrum Bill

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WASHINGTON, June 9, 2011 – The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation passed a deficit reducing measure Wednesday to reallocate the D-Block spectrum to public safety and gain federal funding to realize a nationwide, interoperable public safety broadband network.

The measure, known as the Strengthening Public-safety and Enhancing Communications Through Reform, Utilization, and Modernization (SPECTRUM) Act of 2011, is seen by proponents as a way to both reduce the federal deficit and honor first responders who lost their lives due to communications network failures during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The D-Block is a 10 MHz section of broadband spectrum in the 700 MHz frequency range and is highly sought after by mobile broadband carriers as the optimal frequency for their communications networks to operate on.

The bill would establish a framework that would give public safety professionals a nationwide, interoperable wireless broadband network on par with private sector network by reallocating D-Block spectrum to public safety. It would also direct the FCC to establish standards on how public safety officials would lease capacity to non-public safety entities with ability to reclaim the network when needed for public safety use.

“As I’ve made clear, passing this bill is my top priority this year. This bill marries smart spectrum policy with good public policy,” said Committee Chairman Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). “We can bring first responders’ communications capability into the 21st century. We can give them the ability to share and disseminate information quickly, including fingerprints, floor plans of burning buildings and photos and videos, instantly.”

The bill would also keep the option of voluntary incentive auctions on the table by providing the FCC with incentive auction authority. Voluntary incentive auctions allow for private stakeholders to elect to auction all or part of their licensed spectrum in exchange for a portion of the auction proceeds.  The bill would direct the estimated $10 billion of surplus revenue from spectrum auctions to the U.S. Treasury for deficit reduction.

Committee Ranking Member, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), echoed Rockefeller’s call for improved spectrum policy and an improved public safety nationwide communications network in what both members called a bipartisan agreement.

“Our bill will spur job creation, generate hundreds of billions in economic activity, and drive research and development while bringing down the national deficit.”

Onlookers greeted the 21-4 vote of approval as a step in the right direction for the D-Block spectrum. In addition to deficit reduction and public safety communications innovation, a looming spectrum crunch concerns the private sector and government alike.

“This action couldn’t come soon enough. Cisco recently projected that the “traffic from wireless devices will exceed traffic from wired devices by 2015,” said U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra on the White House Blog.

Others are merely satisfied that action is being taken to move legislation forward on the issue. In a statement by the Public Safety Alliance released on the day before the meeting, PSA spokesman Chief Christopher Moore expressed urgency in his desire to see the bill move forward.

“It’s long overdue for this bill to move out of committee,” said Moore.. “The votes [at the hearing] will demonstrate who believes the safety of the American people is what’s most important in this debate.”

Georgetown, Columbia Programs Gather Experts To Discuss National Broadband Plan

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WASHINGTON March 21, 2011 – The Columbia Institute for Tele-Information and Georgetown University’s Communication Culture and Technology Program gathered government officials and industry experts Friday to debate the federal government’s implementation of the National Broadband Plan.

Former Executive Director of the FCC’s Omnibus Broadband Initiative, Blair Levin, kicked off the event calling the broadband plan “a set of ideas, not a blueprint.” Levin compared the plan to a novel that was then being made into a movie, while the main ideas of what needs to be done were articulated, the details would change based on the realities of the day.

“Having high speed broadband will not guarantee success,” Levin said, “but not having it will lead to failure.” He went onto say that the speed of the network needs to be relative to the activity that will take place on it.

Levin commented that “going from narrowband to broadband brought about great advantages, but it’s unknown what the next great leap in speed will bring.”

He highlighted the iPhone’s meteoric rise in popularity using a relatively slow, but widely-accessible network. As the device was able to access the faster 3G network, however, it was able to harness new speed and innovators developed new applications.

While many plans focused on speed, Levin was proud of the fact that the U.S. plan looked beyond simple network expansion to include application and adoption.

Aneesh Chopra, Chief Technology Officer of the United States, reiterated Levin’s praise of the national purposes section, saying that it showed how broadband could be used in expanding education, promoting public safety and improving energy savings. These, he said, are the areas where the economy will gain the most value.

“Many sectors of the economy have not yet embraced high-speed broadband to improve their productivity, but the Obama Administration is trying to push them to adopt new policies which will harness the power of high speed access,” Chropa said. “One of the key proposals within the health care reform act was the digital health records which will allow doctors to share information more easily via safe and secure networks.”

Chopra acknowledged that there are barriers for many sectors to fully embrace broadband, but the administration is trying to knock those barriers down by working with industry and lawmakers to change policy.

“The broadband plan has legislative actions, rulemaking ideas and just general suggestions. What we have been trying to do is push this forward by not only working with Congress, but also convening open meetings to bring together private industry and non-profits to find solutions,” said Chopra.

National Telecommunications and Information Administration Chief of Staff, Thomas C. Power, provided the group with an update on the broadband technology opportunities program. Many of the grantees, he said, have begun to deploy their networks and numerous last-mile providers have been in contact with middle-mile projects with attachment inquiries.

“We have also commissioned a multi-year study on our grants to see how they are affecting the community in which they have been deployed in,” Powers said. “We want to know how these projects are promoting broadband adoption along with their overall effect on the community.”

Powers then offered an overview of the recently released National Broadband Map, adding that, “since the launch of the map many providers that would not initially provide data on their availability have come forward and are now asking to have their networks included.”

Presenting a non-governmental view, Rebecca Arbogast, Managing Director of Stifel Nicolaus & Co., called the national broadband plan ambitious. She said that before the plan came out, many investors were worried that the FCC would recommend that cable companies have their networks unbundled to expand access. This unbundling would have allowed independent Internet Service Providers access to use the cables installed by the cable companies, similar to regulation that first allowed independent telephone companies access to existing phone lines.

“The plan was respectful of existing investment and the private sector,” Arbogast said, “and it provided new areas where broadband could be applied.”

Investors were pleased that the goal of the plan was not just expanding the network, but to get people to do more on broadband. Abrogast echoed statements made by Levin and Chopra, saying that the economic value of broadband lays in the applications that run on top of it.

In regards to the broadcast spectrum, Arbogast said that investors were split on the issue.

Joseph Waz, Senior Vice President External Affairs & Public Policy Counsel at Comcast, said that while improving network speed was not the sole goal of the broadband plan, by showing how broadband applied to various applications networks would improve to meet those new needs.

Waz went onto say that cost is no longer one of the largest limiting factors for adoption, but rather applicability.

“We hope through the Comcast Broadband Opportunities Program [a condition of the Comcast-NBC Universal Merger] we can help people learn the value of broadband,” said Waz.

Goolsbee and Chopra Highlight Administration Innovation Policies

in Intellectual Property/Patents by

WASHINGTON March 9, 2011 – The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation brought government officials and business executives Wednesday to discuss the Obama administration’s innovation policies.

“Investments we make today will affect the success of our economy tomorrow,” said Council of Economic Advisors Chairman Austan Goolsbee as he began the talk.

Goolsbee then went on to outline the President’s goal of improving science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. Improving STEM education, he said, is a necessary factor to create the innovators of the future. He then compared the President’s plan to expand wireless access to the infrastuctrue projects of the 1920s

“Having nationwide wireless access to the internet,” said the Chairman, “will spur on innovation in the same way that electricity did.”

In addition to improving the education system, Goolsbee supported the need for patent reform, saying that the current application system, which can take as long as 3 years to process, is “just unacceptable.”

Bill Nuti, CEO of NCR Corporation, agreed, saying that waiting three years for patents “makes them essentially obsolete”.

“We rely on patents and global intellectual property protections to continue to grow our business,” said Microsoft’s Vice President of Technology Policy and Strategy, Daniel Reed.

Chief Technology Officer of the United States, Aneesh Chopra, also spoke at the event, highlighting the administration’s commitment to innovation through its plans to extend the Research and Development Tax credit. Chopra also reiterated the need for expanding STEM education.

‘Text4Baby’ Reported in Washington Post; Four Months After Broadband Breakfast Club

in Broadband Updates/Broadband's Impact/National Broadband Plan by

WASHINGTON, February 10, 2010 – The Washington Post on Tuesday reported about “Text4baby,” a new service offered by the government allowing expectant mothers to opt-in to receiving tips and text messages relating to their pregnancy. Participants of the Broadband Breakfast Club learned about the pending program four months ago, at the October 2009 breakfast forum.

The service, according to Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra, is “a historic collaboration between industry, the health community and government.” To participate, women send a text message with the word “baby” to the number 511411, and receive messages up to three times a week with tips and advice timed to the future mother’s expected date of delivery.

At the Broadband Breakfast Club on October 13, 2009, one of the participants previewed the then-pending service:

Ron Poropatich, a doctor and colonel in the U.S. Army , said that physicians dealing with returning active members of the military suffering from traumatic brain injuries or post-traumatic stress syndrome find that art of text messaging has become a vital source of scheduling and reminding.

“[Physicians] would send e-mails to patients in the military of when their appointments would be and the e-mail would be sent back because their e-mail boxes are full,” said Poropatich. “When we would ask them about it, they would say, ‘oh, just send me a text.’”

This advancement has been applied in other contexts, too. For example, expecting mothers are able to benefit from text messages about the need to obtain check-ups, exams, and even set up the bedrooms of their future babies, said Poropatich.

Click here to watch the FREE video of the October Broadband Breakfast Club. Click here to register for the March Broadband Breakfast Club.

High Speed Connections Vital to Promote Telemedicine, FCC Panelists Say

in FCC Workshops/National Broadband Plan by

WASHINGTON, September 15, 2009 – Most hospitals are unable to effectively use telemedicine because of the lack of a truly high-speed connection, said Douglas Van Houweling, CEO of Internet2, speaking at the Federal Communications Commission broadband workshop on September 15.

Van Houweling explained that even with a T1 connection, generally dedicated bandwidth of 1.5 Megabits per second (Mbps), it takes 10 hours to send a 500 megabyte image scan coast-to-coast from an MRI or PET scan. By contrast, hospitals which are connected with universities that have Internet2 access, are able to send the same information in under a minute. The ability to send crucial information quickly is a vital portion of telemedicine.

Traditionally telemedicine is thought of only to help those in rural America. However, with advanced broadband connections not only to the hospitals but also to the home, individuals will be able to be diagnosed from home. This ability to see a doctor quickly and without infecting others will help the spreading of disease and allow for easy follow up from medical professions to citizens.

Distance education for medical students using telepresence technology is one of the other major benefits discussed at the workshop. Instead of having students crowd around a doctor while a procedure is being conducted; the instructor wears a camera on their head while students from around the country, and the world, watch remotely.

The main impediment to developing a high-speed network for telemedicine is cost. The monthly cost of a high speed multi-gigabit system for a hospital is approximately $12,000, and current commercially-available networks aren’t able to handle the speeds and reliability needed by hospitals. Many of the panelists felt that the best solution for hospitals was to build out their own dedicated networks, which would be used only to connect hospitals, health centers and other medical facilities.

Others participating on the panel to talk about the role the high-speed broadband brings to the healthcare community included Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra and Karen Rheuban, external affairs medical director in the Office of Telemedicine at the University of Virginia and President of the American Telemedicine Association.

Workshop presentations and video.

About BroadbandCensus.com

BroadbandCensus.com was launched in January 2008, and uses “crowdsourcing” to collect the Broadband SPARC: Speeds, Prices, Availability, Reliability and Competition. The news on BroadbandCensus.com is produced by Broadband Census News LLC, a subsidiary of Broadband Census LLC that was created in July 2009.

A recent split of operations helps to clarify the mission of BroadbandCensus.com. Broadband Census Data LLC offers commercial broadband verification services to cities, states, carriers and broadband users. Created in July 2009, Broadband Census Data LLC produced a joint application in the NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program with Virginia Tech’s eCorridors Program. In August 2009, BroadbandCensus.com released a beta map of Columbia, South Carolina, in partnership with Benedict-Allen Community Development Corporation.

Broadband Census News LLC offers daily and weekly reporting, as well as the Broadband Breakfast Club. The Broadband Breakfast Club has been inviting top experts and policy-makers to share breakfast and perspectives on broadband technology and internet policy since October 2008. Both Broadband Census News LLC and Broadband Census Data LLC are subsidiaries of Broadband Census LLC, and are organized in the Commonwealth of Virginia. About BroadbandCensus.com.

Warner Says Virginia's Broadband Maps Put State 'Ahead of the Curve'

in Broadband Data/Broadband Stimulus/NTIA by

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., July 27, 2009 — The Obama administration’s broadband stimulus program “has not been marketed well,” Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said at the kick-off to a Monday morning event at which top federal and state officials were speaking on it.

Striking a politically moderate note at a time when national Republicans – and Virginia gubernatorial candidate Robert McDonnell – have criticized the fiscal stimulus as wasteful, Warner said that “only Democrats” would characterize a program with “$300 billion in tax cuts as a spending program.”

He was speaking at the Virginia Summit on Broadband Access at the Piedmont Virginia Community College here.

In addition to one-third for tax cuts, another third of the stimulus funding is for state programs, and the final third is for new federal programs, such as the broadband stimulus program addressed by Monday’s summit.

In his remarks, Warner touted Virginia’s preparation for the stimulus funding, through public-private partnerships and fiber builds in rural regions of Virginia, and through its advanced work in broadband mapping.

“We’re certainly further along than other states,” Warner said in an interview with BroadbandCensus.com. Broadband mapping “gives communities a guide to know where there is or is not service available. It’s helpful, whether you’re applying to the RUS [Rural Utilities Service] or the NTIA [National Telecommunications and Information Administration].”

Such activities have put Virginia “ahead of the curve” and “in a good position to take advantage of” broadband stimulus funds, Warner said.

Warner, along with current governor Tim Kaine (D), guided extensive investments in broadband as governor of Virginia from 2002 to 2006.

Additionally, Warner and Virginia’s then-Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra co-chaired an extensive broadband mapping initiative in 2006. In his remarks, Warner highlighted the broadband “toolkits” they put together for unserved communities, as positive tools for development.

Chopra is now Chief Technology Officer for the Obama admnistration.

“Since we put the toolkits together, we’ve had two objectives: one, to build infrastructure, and two, to create sustainable business models,” he said in an interview. “As a result, it has aggregated demand and business.” In his opinion, an open, updated broadband map allows communities to target their applications and find the best uses for stimulus money.

In Report to Congress, NTIA Details Broadband Grant Procedures

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From BroadbandCensus.com Weekly Report

WASHINGTON, May 25, 2009 – By June 30, the NTIA intends to hire an outside contractor to help administer its broadband grants program, release rules for $4.7 billion in grants, and issue two separate notices of funds availability.

Those details emerged from the quarterly report to Congress, dated May 18, that the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration released on either May 21 or May 22.

NTIA also said that it “anticipates making grant awards beginning in the final quarter of the calendar year 2009,” or potentially as soon as October 1. That date differed from what the White House’s recovery.gov web site said.

[more…]

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Senate Committee Likely to OK Strickling as NTIA Head, Chopra as CTO

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WASHINGTON, May 19, 2009 – With little questioning or controversy, the Senate Commerce Committee appeared poised ready after a Tuesday hearing to submit to the full Senate for confirmation the nominations of two key technology officials in the Obama administration.

Lawrence Strickling has been nominated to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Telecommunications and Information, and head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Aneesh Chopra has been nominated to be the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer.

As head of the Commerce Department agency responsible for the bulk of the $7.2 billion broadband stimulus, Strickling would be poised to play a key role in the administration’s de facto broadband policy.

Of the total, $4.7 billion will run through Commerce, and $2.5 billion through the Agriculture Department. The program is designed to expand broadband access to unserved and underserved American communities.

NTIA is also responsible for the nation’s final transition to digital television.

“President Obama was elected to bring change to our nation,” said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. “Advancing these shared goals of progress and prosperity will require your best efforts,” he told the nominees.

Warner saved a great deal of praise for Chopra, who currently serves as Virginia Secretary of Technology, a position in which Warner said Chopra has “performed admirably.”

Warner and Chopra recently served as co-chairs of Virginia’s Broadband Roundtable, which Warner called “an effort to expand rural broadband access so that no region would be left behind in a global economy.”

If confirmed, Strickling would bring a quarter-century of experience in both the public and private sectors to the NTIA. He began his career in the telecommunications industry as a legal adviser to Ameritech, one of the nascent “Baby Bell” companies created after the 1983 breakup of AT&T’s local phone service monopoly. He later served at the FCC as Chief of the Common Carrier Bureau (now the Wireline Competition Bureau) during the Clinton administration, from 1998-20000, under Chairman Reed Hundt and later William Kennard.

Chopra and Strickling both stressed the importance of expanding Americans’ access to broadband service during their prepared remarks. “Technology and innovation are hallmarks of the American story,” Chopra said. Encouraging adoption of technology can make America “more competitive, communications more affordable, broadband more abundant…and Americans more safe and secure,” he said.

“We must do everything we can to ensure that all Americans have access to modern communications services,” Strickling said. “The internet plays such an important role in the day-to-day lives of so many of us that those…who are not connected risk being left behind,” he said.

Also appearing before the committee were the President’s nominees for the head of the Federal Aviation Administration, Deputy Secretary of Transportation, and Undersecretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs.

With little to no opposition expressed by those Senators present, it is expected the Committee will vote to advance the slate of nominations to the full Senate during a markup tentatively scheduled for 3 p.m. Wednesday.

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