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Broadband Roundup: Internet Tax Freedom Act, Report on Broadband Speeds, and AT&T on Gigabit Networks

in Broadband Data/Broadband Roundup/FCC/Gigabit Networks by

WASHINGTON, June 19, 2014 – The House Judicary Committee on Wednesday approved the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act this week by a vote of 30-4, according to a press release from the committee. The act banned state-imposed taxation of internet access or discriminatory taxes on e-commerce.

Originally enacted in 1998, the bill had previously been renewed three times, with only two “no” votes ever being cast.

“The internet increasingly serves as a daily requisite for millions of Americans, businesses and schools. It has transformed our economy and how we conduct business, communicate, educate, and live our lives,” said the joint statement from members of Congress including committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va..

“The Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act passed by the Committee today permanently bans taxes on internet access. This broadly bipartisan bill ensures that access to the internet is not burdened by unnecessary costs and that Americans can continue to access the Internet tax free.

The bill might have trouble passing the Senate as Democratic members recently approved an online sales-tax measure, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Ranking Democrat John Conyers of Michigan, for instance, has argued that the internet no longer needs as much protection and that state finances would be hurt by the inability to tax online sales.

For the internet to remain tax-free from local and state governments, Congress must pass the measure by November 1.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association wrote Wednesday that it was pleased with the FCC’s report on broadband speeds. The group said that the findings “refute the unsubstantiated allegations that cable operators routinely under-deliver and are solely responsible for any deficiencies in the performance experienced by consumers.”

More information is needed besides the information that has been revealed about access service provided by internet service providers, the association wrote. Other factors influencing the consumer experience beyond the control of ISPs include upstream congestion, performance limitations of computers or Wi-Fi routers.

In other news, AT&T has ratified a deal with a third city in North Carolina: Raleigh. As with Winston-Salem and Durham, AT&T will deploy “U-verse with GigaPower,” a 1 Gigabit per second-capable fiber platform, Multichannel News reported

The telecom giant is also pursuing Gigabit Networks in three other areas in North Carolina: Carrboro, Cary, and Chapel Hill. The telecom company is deploying Gigabit Networks to parts of Austin, Texas, with plans to expand to Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Kansas City, and Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, CenturyLink is trying to deploy its own Gigabit-capable broadband to Omaha and Las Vegas, according to Broadband Reports. The company sent postcards that it might consider service trials in Eagan, Minnesota.

Additionally, the company has told residents of Portland that they would receive guaranteed 1 Gbps service if they signed long-term contracts, which may be a competitive response to recent news that Google Fiber might be coming to Portland as well.

Google Launches Gigabit Network in Provo, Utah: Soon to Have Largest Number of Fiber Subscribers

in Broadband's Impact/Gigabit Networks/National Broadband Plan by

PROVO, UTAH, October 16, 2013 – This university town in the shadow of the Wasatch Front is poised to take the lead in the number of Google Fiber users that subscribe the search engine giant’s game-changing effort to bring Gigabit Networks to the United States.

With the launch of Google Fiber service to customers of the existing iProvo fiber network, this month Google began offering service to existing residential customers here who use the service. And, because the fiber network in Provo is nearly universal – reaching almost every home and multi-dwelling unit – Provo will quickly exceed Kansas City in the number of Google Fiber subscribers.

Almost six months ago, on April 17, 2013, Google announced that it would bring its Gigabit service to this city of 116,000, home to Brigham Young University, many of its graduates, and an increasing pool of internet and tech start-ups.

Google announcement that it would offer service in Provo and in Austin, Texas (announced about a week earlier, on April 8, 2013), signaled that the company wasn’t limiting its fiber-optic service to a single-market test bed in Kansas City, Kansas; and Kansas City, Missouri.

But unlike both Kansas City and Austin, where Google is building a Gigabit Network from scratch, its purchase of the iProvo fiber network gives this city the edge in being the first universally-available Gigabit Network by Google.

Additionally, here in Provo Google is offering an additional benefit to residents: unlimited access to free broadband of 5 Megabit per second (Mbps) download, and 1 Mbps upload, for the next seven years.

This service is available to Provo residents because of a municipal telecommunications fee of $5.35/month imposed in September 2011 to pay for the costs of building the iProvo. The free service is available to Provo residents for a one-time connection fee of $30.

For 1 Gigabit per second service, both download and upload, Google Fiber is using pricing similar to what it has charged in Kansas City: $70/month for Gigabit service, or $120/month for Gigabit service plus cable television.

Although owned by the city, the iProvo network had been operated by telecommunications company Veracity, which also offered customers retail broadband services.

Those customers will now get the first opportunity to sign up for Google Fiber here. Other Provo residents for whom the municipal fiber network was available, but who had chosen to subscribe to a private-company alternative, will have to wait until January to sign-up for service.

In a blog post by Google Fiber on the new service in Provo, the company wrote:

Veracity customers get the first crack at signing up for Fiber service — they’re already hooked up to our newly-upgraded fiber because they’ve been connected to the former iProvo network, so it will be efficient and quick to install Google Fiber for any of them who want to switch providers. This “first chance” opportunity is only for Veracity residential customers right now; other Provo residents and local small businesses can go to our website and sign-up to be notified when Fiber is coming to their area.

If you’re a Veracity residential customer, this means you’re eligible for Google Fiber service, including an Internet connection that’s up to 100 times faster than basic broadband. All you have to do is go to google.com/fiber/provo, enter your address, and select which Google Fiber package (Gigabit Internet, Gigabit + TV, or Free Internet) you want. In order to get this early access to Google Fiber, make sure you sign up before October 31.

Google has launched in Provo, Utah, which is nestled between Mount Timpanogos and Mount Cascade

Gigabit Fever Spreads from the Heartland Across the Nation; Giving Gigabit Credit Where Credit is Due

in Broadband's Impact/FCC/Fiber/National Broadband Plan/The Innovation Economy by

WASHINGTON, May 3, 2013 – It’s springtime across the country, the flowers are blooming, and Gigabit fever must be in the air.

Within the past month, several major companies and communities have announced plans for Gigabit-level deployments within their communities. Several major conferences have featured the Gigabit theme, including the Schools, Health and Library Broadband Coalition event here on Thursday and Friday.

Even the Federal Communications Commission has gotten in on the act: one of the last major initiatives of outgoing agency Chairman Julius Genachowski was the workshop on “Gigabit Community Broadband Networks,” on March 27, 2013.

As the Executive Director of Broadband Illinois, the statewide non-profit entity responsible for promoting internet engagement and broadband planning in the Land of Lincoln, we’re very heartened by this development.

Our governor, Gov. Pat Quinn, has been at the forefront of the benefits of better broadband for many, many years.

When it comes to promoting advanced internet connectivity, many public servants talk about the importance of Gigabit-level connectivity. Gov. Quinn has acted. Well over a year ago, Quinn announced the Illinois Gigabit Communities Challenge in his 2012 “State of the State” Address.

“Through this challenge, we want our neighborhoods to become Gigabit communities with Internet connections more than 100 times faster than today,” Quinn declared in the February 1, 2012, address. “Our goal is to build smart communities that will foster the job engines of the future.” The challenge allocated up to $6 million in funds for communities seeking an award.

The next step was an open and public competition, in which communities and providers were eligible to put forward applicants that would serve at least 1,000 end users to an ultra-high-speed broadband network. Applicants for the Illinois Gigabit Communities Challenge were encouraged to demonstrate ways to improve economic opportunities, foster economic development through the expansion of “smart communities,” increase the number of residents with college degrees, connect health care professionals with their patients, and position Illinois’ universities to continue leading the nation in research, innovation, and technology.

By the June 30, 2012, deadline, Illinois had received 40 applications, from communities and providers, for Gigabit connectivity. Thus far, three winners have been announced: Gigabit Squared on the South Side of Chicago — in a project that proposes to serve nine neighborhoods across the community; the City of Aurora, about an hour west of Chicago; and the City of Evanston/Northwest University, just north of Chicago. Additional award-winners have yet to be announced.

What does the activity in Illinois say about the viability of Gigabit connectivity?

Whether a proposed Gigabit project is on the metropolitan scale (as with Google Fiber’s builds in Kansas City, KS, and Kansas City, MO) or within a portion of a city (as with Gigabit Squared’s venture on Chicago’s South Side), Gigabit connectivity is the next major leap in broadband access.

Over the past four years, broadband speeds and availability have been steadily increasing. The maps that we produce at Broadband Illinois, at http://broadbandillinois.org/maps, and which feed into the National Broadband Map, demonstrate substantial progress on this front. This is due to the advanced DOCSIS 3.0 cable modems, to increased penetrated and speeds of the wireless LTE standard, to rural-friendly wireless internet service providers, and to co-ops and telecom companies that have been continuing updating their fiber plants.

Now, Gigabit-level connectivity is the next major step.

Google Fiber drew headlines for this issue through its “Think Big With a Gig” campaign in 2009. That led first to the selection of Kansas City.

Also highlighting the importance of Gigabit-level connectivity has been Blair Levin, the former director of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan in 2010. He’s taken the ambitious goals of that plan and worked to translate them into to action through the Gig.U. consortium of 37 universities seeking Gigabit-level connectivity in their surrounding communities.

Now, it seems like everyone is getting in on the act. On April 9, 2013, Google announced that Austin, Texas, was its next stop.  A few hours later, AT&T announced that it, too, would build Gigabit-level service in Austin. A little more than a week later, Provo, Utah, was in the spotlight. And just this week, the telecommunications company CenturyLink announced that it will tee up Gigabit service in Omaha, Nebraska.

All of this is a great testament to bringing the most advanced-level connectivity to cities throughout the State of Illinois, and to our country.

Google asked us to Think Big With a Gigabit. Gov. Quinn in Illinois took the next step in fostering the smart communities that will be the places for investment, jobs, and the commerce of the future.

Now, as Gigabit fever spreads across the nation, it’s time for us think even bigger.

For governors and mayors and businesses across the country, and for the next Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission: Let’s make high-capacity bandwidth the strategic advantage that America needs to tap into the talents of our communities, our manufacturers, our students and our entrepreneurs.

Drew Clark is the Executive Director of Broadband Illinois, a non-profit organization based in Abraham Lincoln’s Springfield. You can find him on Google+ and Twitter. He brings experts and practitioners together to advance Better Broadband, Better Lives. As the designed State Broadband Initiative entity, Broadband Illinois (officially known as the Partnership for a Connected Illinois) receives funds from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and the State of Illinois, as well as through private sector donations.

Sprint to Purchase Wirefree Spectrum

in Broadband Updates/Broadband's Impact/Spectrum/Wireless by

WASHINGTON, August 27, 2010 – Sprint Nextel has announced that it will purchase 10 megahertz of spectrum from Wirefree Partners. The spectrum will span 16 markets including Austin, Texas as well as Seattle and Cincinnati.

Sprint will pay upward of $105 million for the spectrum in the 1900 MHz band.

Wirefree obtained the spectrum in 2005 and deployed a network in 2008 but was never able to establish a successful business with it.

AeA Urges U.S. to Step Up Math and Science, R&D Tax Credit

in Broadband's Impact by

WASHINGTON, June 30 – The information technology industry continues to add jobs at good wages, even as the national economy verges on an slowdown, according to a report released last week by the electronics association AeA.

According ot the report, “Cybercities 2008,” high-tech industry wages are 87 percent higher than average private-sector wages. The report also found that 56 cities had wage differentials greater than 50 percent, and that three cities – Austin, San Diego and Sacramento – had differentials higher than 100 percent.

The United States has long schooled the world’s brightest minds, but domestic policies and practices have tended to send them back to their respective countries after graduation. The lack of success in fostering foreign talent has diminished the competitive advantage of the U.S. relative to other countries with a stronghold in math and science, such as Finland and Taiwan, according to the record.

“The negligence of our political leaders to improve on our education system [and] allow the best and brightest form around the world to work in the United States” presages an impending slide in our global competitiveness, said the report.

Fostering innovative foreigners will be what the U.S. will have to do in order to compete in the global economy, said the report.

Another policy prescription urged by AeA is for Congress to provide more funding for research and development and make the R&D tax credit permanent. The lack of an R&D tax credit discourages U.S. companies ability to plan for long term projects, said the group.

China, the report notes, has made such a policy permanent. The report also notes that U.S. federal R&D funding has been instrumental in developing technologies including the Internet, global positioning system and fiber optics.

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