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Congress Seeks Winning Design for Proposed Spectrum Auctions

in FCC/Mobile Broadband/National Broadband Plan/Wireless by

WASHINGTON, June 2, 2011 – The Subcommittee on Communications and Technology explored legislation Wednesday that would encourage the voluntary participation of broadcast companies and wireless providers in spectrum auctions.

“There is a looming spectrum crisis, and we must get additional spectrum into the marketplace,” said Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA)

Witnesses before the subcommittee testified if a solution is not adequately devised, increasing consumer demand for mobile broadband products potentially threatens to overcrowd spectrum to the point where it is unusable and innovation is stifled.

“Today, the United States is the world’s clear leader in wireless broadband,” said Chris Guttman-McCabe, Vice President of Regulatory Affairs for CTIA-The Wireless Association during his prepared remarks. “Although the United States is home to just 4.6 percent of the world’s population and 5.8 percent of global wireless subscribers, the U.S. claims 20.4 percent of global high-speed wireless broadband (3G and 4G) subscribers.

“The growth in the demand for mobile broadband and the corresponding need for additional spectrum has been well-documented both by the government and respected private sector parties like the Yankee Group, CODA, and Kleiner Perkins,” said McCabe.

Subcommittee members and witnesses alike expressed the need to design legislation for successful spectrum auctions.  The subcommittee and the witnesses agreed that voluntary incentive auction that would benefit consumers, broadcasters, the government and the general economy.

“Authorizing the FCC to conduct incentive auctions should be the foundation of our spectrum policy efforts,” said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA). “We should take full advantage of the FCC’s world-class expertise on auction design and give the agency the ability to work with auction experts to set up the best possible incentive auction.”

“Spectrum legislation presents a tremendous opportunity to promote wireless broadband, spur economic growth, create jobs, and generate significant revenue for the American taxpayer,” said Subcommittee Chairman, Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), in his opening remarks.

Walden, a former radio broadcaster, while acknowledging the need for smarter spectrum policy, did not seem to agree that incentive auctions were the only answer.

“I would like to see a partnership between broadcasters and wireless companies on spectrum,” said Walden after the hearing. “Part of the reason we held this hearing was to tease out the new technologies. HDTV has only been out for two years, and the companies have put in a lot of work. Now they’re starting to explore what else you can do with that spectrum and mobile TV is certainly a piece of that.”

Witnesses from broadcast companies expressed support for a broadband solution as called for in the National Broadband Plan, but also voiced their concerns. Broadcasters wanted assurance that they would be protected in the potential legislation.

“There is only so much that the laws of physics will allow us to do without crippling our capability to serve our local communities now and in the future,” said Todd Schurz, President and CEO of Schurz Communications.

Schurz outlined four points to serve as a baseline for protecting broadcasters.  Broadcasters, he said, should not be forced to inferior spectrum bands, nor should they be subject to increased interference.  Additionally, if broadcasters are repacked they should not bear the cost and after repacking their signal footprint should not decrease.

Repacking is a means by which broadcasters are moved to different spectrum bands and compressed to free up more contiguous spectrum.

Broadcasters also hope to gain from the increased spectrum demands of consumers.

“To borrow a sports analogy, you go where the puck is going,” said Bert Ellis, President of Titan Broadcasting. “This is where the consumer is going, and we want to be able to go there as well.”

At a time when the U.S. budget deficit is the talk of the town, voluntary incentive auction legislation could provide a method to reduce the budget deficit; the U.S. Treasury would reap the majority of the money from the auctions.

“The FCC incentive auction would likely generate large revenues for the government, perhaps in the range of that generated by the 700 MHz auction [in 2008], which generated close to $19 billion,” said Duke University Dr. Michelle Connolly, an economics professor at Duke University. “More importantly for the overall U.S. economy, it will help move a scarce resource to a more valuable use to our economy and society.”

Connolly cautioned, however, that the auction rules must provide a measure of certainty to licensees and the public.

“As important as the impact of rules imposed on the spectrum being auctioned, is the impact of uncertainty. Rules that increase uncertainty for bidders will also lead to lower bids,” said Connolly.

Every party involved, however, regardless of whether they would participate in a voluntary incentive auction, expressed certainty that meeting the needs of the American consumer was central to their service or proposal.

Cyberattacks May Also Be Acts of War

in Cybersecurity by

WASHINGTON, June 1, 2011 – Cyberwar is war and the United States will treat it as such, reported The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.

“If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks,” said an unnamed military official, according to the report.

The report comes days ahead of the release of the Pentagon’s first formal cyber strategy. According to Defense officials who have read the report, The Laws of Armed Conflict apply in cyberspace as in traditional war. A 12-page unclassified version will soon be available to the public sometime in June.

The President’s National Security Strategy lists the use of force as an option in the event of a cyber attack. Deterrence is one of the goals of the warning, but the Pentagon also invokes a doctrine of ‘equivalence’ in its justification.

“A cyber attack is governed by basically the same rules as any other kind of attack if the effects of it are essentially the same,” said Charles Dunlap, a retired Air Force Major General and professor at Duke University law school.

If a cyber attack shuts down commerce, for example, it will be viewed in the same manner as a naval blockade.

The warning comes in the wake of a major attack on Lockheed Martin’s computer systems on May 21. Also, last week on Wednesday, a Chinese military spokesman admitted to the existence of a cyberwarfare unit.

Broadband Breakfast Club on Collecting and Using Data Now Online

in Broadband Data/Broadband Stimulus/Broadband TV/FCC/National Broadband Plan by

WASHINGTON, February 11, 2010 – Broadband Census News LLC on Thursday released, for FREE, the full-length video of the Broadband Breakfast Club event on February 9, 2010: “Setting the Table for the National Broadband Plan: Collecting and Using Broadband Data.”

The event is available on BroadbandBreakfast.com at the following link.

The event featured a keynote speech by Paul de Sa, Chief, Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis, Federal Communications Commission. Following de Sa’s  remarks, he joined a panel with other educational experts including:

  • Jeff Campbell, Senior Director, Technology and Trade Policy of Global Policy and Government Affairs, Cisco Systems
  • Michelle Connolly, Associate Professor of Economics, Duke University; former Chief Economist, Federal Communications Commission
  • John Horrigan, Director, Consumer Research, Omnibus Broadband Initiative, Federal Communications Commission
  • Brian Webster, WirelessMapping.com

Don’t Miss the next Broadband Breakfast Club on Tuesday, March 9, 2010: “Setting the Table for the National Broadband Plan: Where to From Here?” Registration is available at http://broadbandbreakfast.eventbrite.com.

The Broadband Breakfast Club is sponsored by the International Broadband Electric Communications, Inc., the Telecommunications Industry Association, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, and the Benton Foundation.

For further information about sponsorship, contact sylvia@broadbandcensus.com, or call 646-262-4630. The Broadband Breakfast Club is Copyright © Broadband Census News LLC.

Broadband Data Collection and Validation Must Be Rethought, Experts Say at Breakfast Club

in Broadband Data/National Broadband Plan/Transparency by

WASHINGTON, February 10, 2010 – The head of the Federal Communications Commission’s internal “think tank” said Tuesday that the agency was taking a fresh look at all aspects of its broadband data-collection processes: collection, validation and analysis, and dissemination.

Speaking to a roomful of panelists and telecom officials who attended Tuesday’s Broadband Breakfast Club in spite of the snow, Office of Strategic Planning Chief Paul de Sa said that the agency was sensitive to the need to balance proprietary information with the desire for transparency in its data-collection processes.

In a keynote on the topic of “Setting the Table for the National Broadband Plan: Collecting and Using Broadband Data,” de Sa began by asking questions that frame the work of the agency on broadband data.

He outlined aspects of the data collection process: the staff must ask themselves whether they are collecting the right data, they must validate and analyze the data, and then create a process to disseminate the data. He added that there is also an inherent struggle between the principle of transparency and protecting proprietary data.

“ We are not trying to solve problems by creating immediate policy,” said de Sa, after outlining aspects of the agency’s data-collection processing. Effective use of broadband data involves defining the problem to be solved, coming up with a hypothesis, analyzing the data and either creating policy or reassessing the hypothesis.

Some major policy issues to be addressed in the broadband plan that will be released on March 17, 2010, include deployment, adoption as well as choice and competition.

The data that the FCC is looking at to solve some of these include data from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s mapping efforts, the FCC’s Form 477 data, which has been collected from carriers since 2000, periodic surveys, plus data from American Indian tribes, and crowd sourced data.

Drew Clark, Editor and Executive Director of BroadbandBreakfast.com, moderated the discussion and began by asking the panelists to explain what the Form 477 database is, and to discuss whether it was still a meaningful data source for broadband information?

Michelle Connolly, associate professor of economics at Duke University, explained that the FCC requires broadband providers to report the number of subscribers within a given Zip code. Connolly also said that the requirement to provide such data was not enforced.

Connolly said that the Form 477 database was the only systematic nationwide data-set. Additionally, the information is useful to asses historical data.

Connolly proposed that broadband providers be given identity numbers so that their coverage area over time could be tracked without revealing their identities.

Jeffery Campbell, senior director of technology and government affairs at Cisco Systems, said that the data about providers was readily discoverable. A consumer can go to any internet service provider’s web site, plug in their Zip code and see if they can receive service.

The more important question to focus on, said Campbell, is who does not have broadband at a household level?

But Connolly said that the cost of including address-level data would be too great a burden upon providers.

Broadband mapping experts Brian Webster said that measurements conducted using the U.S. national grid system allow coverage areas to be shows at levels even better than the Census block without the need for cooperation from carriers. Address-level data, he said, was frequently imprecise.

(Editor’s Note: Webster and his WirelessMapping.com firm are partners with BroadbandCensus.com, the sister company of BroadbandBreakfast.com, in offering states, counties and broadband stimulus applicants with Census-block-level information about broadband providers, technologies, speeds and prices.)

John Horrigan, director of consumer research for the FCC’s omnibus broadband initiative, addressed the challenges of constructing and merging consistent data-sets.

Horrigan said that expanding Form 477 would be analytically useful, “if there is harmonization in data sets then there is a position for rich data analysis.” Horrigan went on to discuss the survey conducted of non-adopters and small businesses in the fall of 2009. The data will be released soon after the release of the national broadband plan, said Horrigan.

Clark asked the panelists their perspectives on coordinating with the NTIA on broadband data.

De Sa said that data collected from disparate sources could be merged into the same format — it will just take a lot of comparisons and hard work.

Connolly said that Congress went about broadband data collection in a strange way. “Why not have one company do this job properly as opposed to having a bunch of them do it wrong?”

Campbell agreed that it makes more sense to collect this data once and collect it the right way. “We need to rethink what we need to know.” He believes that the right data is out there, and efforts should be made to work with providers to find out how they are collecting their data.

Webster added that there is a lot of private-sector data-sets available for purchase with valuable broadband information.

A member of the audience that represented a small wireless provider in a rural state worried about the disclosure of broadband data spurring anticompetitive behavior. This provider said that his company had submitted Form 477 data but has not complies with the NTIA’s mapping efforts for fear that such data would be made public.

Connolly and Campbell countered that withholding such data is not necessary, because competing telephone incumbents can observe the same information through observation.

Connolly – leaving early to catch a flight back to North Carolina – ended her comments by posing a question to the panel about the importance of collecting data about small businesses, not just consumers.

Horrigan agreed: it is very useful to survey businesses and find out how small business are using broadband. Webster noted that when surveying business it is important to note the differences in industries, where some types of businesses are more broadband-driven than others.

Horrigan stressed the great research being done in the academic community. When it cames to these researchers, having low-cost data is very important.

Campbell said, however, that “we need data with a clear public purpose [focused on] whether consumers have affordable quality broadband available to them.”

If the FCC and the NTIA stray from such a clear public interest focus, and instead seek information that will be primarily of benefit to private-sector providers, then very few broadband providers will be willing to provide broadband data, he said.

The video-recording of the February 9 Broadband Breakfast Club will be available on BroadbandBreakfast.com, for FREE, within the week.

A Cast of Data Experts to Speak at February 9 Broadband Breakfast Club

in Broadband Calendar/Broadband Data/National Broadband Plan by

WASHINGTON, February 2, 2010 – A cast of key experts on the issue of collecting and using broadband data -including two key officials at the Federal Communications Commission, plus a former agency chief economist – have confirmed their participation in the Broadband Breakfast Club on Tuesday, February 9, 2010, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.

The event is titled “Setting the Table for the National Broadband Plan: Collecting and Using Broadband Data,” and will be keynoted by Paul de Sa, Chief of Office of Strategic Planning & Policy Analysis at the FCC. The division is widely regarded as the agency’s internal “think tank” on dealing with forward-looking issues, particularly broadband.

In addition to de Sa, who will join the panel upon the conclusion of his presentation, confirmed experts at the event will include:

  • Jeff Campbell, Senior Director, Technology and Trade Policy of Global Policy and Government Affairsm Cisco Systems
  • Michelle Connolly, Associate Professor of Economics, Duke University; former Chief Economist, Federal Communications Commission
  • John Horrigan, Director, Consumer Research, Omnibus Broadband Initiative, Federal Communications Commission
  • Brian Webster, WirelessMapping.com

Registration for the program, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., is available here.

The discussion, which will be moderated by Drew Clark, Executive Director of BroadbandCensus.com and Editor of its news operations, BroadbandBreakfast.com, will engage on the topics of the FCC’s authority over the issue of broadband data, the role that public and transparent data plays in the development of the National Broadband Plan, as well as the role that specific databases – such as Form 477 – may be harnessed and utilized. The issue of consumer survey, both by the FCC and by third parties, will also be discussed.

Interested observers seeking to weigh in on the discussion of broadband data may reply to the “Question of the Week“ on BroadbandBreakfast.com:

“How Can the FCC Help Collect and Release Better Broadband Data?”

The Broadband Breakfast Club is Sponsored by:

Telecommunications Industry Association

International Broadband Electric Communications, Inc.International Broadband Electric Communications, Inc.

National Cable and Telecommunications Association

Benton Foundation

Top FCC Official on Broadband Adoption is New Addition to December 8 Broadband Breakfast Club

in Broadband Calendar/Broadband TV/National Broadband Plan by

WASHINGTON, December 2, 2009 – The director of the Federal Communication Commission’s task force dealing with broadband adoption and usage will give the keynote remarks at the Broadband Breakfast Club on Tuesday, December 8, 2009. Registration for the program, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., is available here.

Brian David, who is the Adoption and Usage Director for the FCC’s Omnibus Broadband Initiative, will offer remarks kicking off December’s discussion, which is “Setting the Table for the National Broadband Plan: Bridging the Digital Divide.”

With so much activity happening in the past 24 hours on the broadband adoption front – the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s new grant to the American Library Association, and the NCTA’s “Adoption Plus” program – there’s never been a better time to discuss the subject.

Adoption and Usage is one of three sub-groups of the FCC’s broadband initiative, which is due by February 17, 2010. The other two are broadband deployment and national purposes.

David, who has held senior management positions where he helped build several entrepreneurial technology and communications companies, has also covered media and telecom clients as a strategy consultant and investment banker. His posts on the FCC’s Broadband.gov blog are available at http://blog.broadband.gov/?authorId=10373

Also, an interview of Brian David by David Weinberger is available at http://broadbandstrategyweek.com/?p=75.

David also ran business development and sales for Visage Mobile, ran consumer marketing and worked in strategy and business development for data services company NorthPoint Communications, and handled business development for Moxi Digital. Prior to his operating experience, he was a media banker at Goldman Sachs and a consultant to telecommunications clients at Bain & Company. He earned an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and a B.A., cum laude, from Duke University.

The Broadband Breakfast Club is Sponsored by:

Telecommunications Industry Association

International Broadband Electric Communications, Inc.International Broadband Electric Communications, Inc.

National Cable and Telecommunications Association

Benton Foundation

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