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Broadband Roundup: FCC to Police Dispute Between Netflix and Verizon, Michael Powell Defends FCC Chief

in Broadband Roundup/Net Neutrality by

WASHINGTON, June 16, 2014 – In the midst of Netflix’s quarrels with Verizon Communications, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement Friday that the commission will investigate slowdowns in traffic to ascertain whether there’s harm to consumers.

“To be clear, what we are doing right now is collecting information, not regulating. We are looking under the hood. Consumers want transparency. They want answers. And so do I,” Wheeler said.

“The bottom line is that consumers need to understand what is occurring when the Internet service they’ve paid for does not adequately deliver the content they desire, especially content they’ve also paid for.  In this instance, it is about what happens where the ISP connects to the Internet. It’s important that we know – and that consumers know.”

The commission has requested information from both internet service providers and content providers. Specifically, they’ve sought out the agreements between Netflix and Comcast, and Netflix and Verizon.

In a C-Span interview, National Cable & Telecommunications Association President Michael Powell defended Wheeler’s actions on net neutrality, arguing that the issue has been blown out of proportion and that it hasn’t even been made clear what “fast lane” really is.

“Chairman Wheeler is not proposing that we should have fast lanes,” the head of the cable lobby NCTA and former FCC chairman said on last weekend’s episode of The Communicators. “Chairman Wheeler is dealing with the boundaries of the law as interpreted by the court, and I think he is personally trying to create the strongest net neutrality rule he can within the parameter of what the law provides.”

According to the National Journal, Netflix has recently been connecting directly to broadband providers’ networks because of massive increases in data. The video company, however, says providers are breaking net neutrality by demanding “tolls.” Netflix has asked FCC to intervene by mandating free interconnection.

Wheeler is also recusing himself from the AT&T IP transitions trials decision, Broadcasting & Cable reported.

Instead, the commission is calling on the aid of a third party “to insure no bias” in AT&T’s tests to retire traditional circuit-switched service in two wire centers (in Alabama and Florida). AT&T’s fiber and wireless replacement services aim to address legacy services like 911, health monitoring, credit card processing, and fax services.

Lastly, The Washington Post reported that AT&T experienced a security breach in which hackers broke into an undisclosed number of wireless customers’ accounts.

AT&T said in a statement that the attack was not intended to steal personal information or commit financial fraud, but merely allow the hackers to unlock old, used handsets.

The telecom company offered its apologies and a year of free credit monitoring to all customers.

“We have taken steps to help prevent this from happening again,” the company said in a statement to The Washington Post. “We are notifying affected customers, and we have reported this matter to law enforcement.”

NTIA Commenters Say Broadband Projects Should Meet Multiple Needs

in Broadband Stimulus/NTIA/NTIA Comments by

WASHINGTON, April 4, 2009 – Among the commentators weighing in on the Commerce Department’s broadband technologies grants on April 1, several suggested that programs should be able to meet multiple needs as part of the $7.2 billion in broadband stimulus funds being offered.

The comments are available on the web site of the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, at http://www.ntia.doc.gov/broadbandgrants/comments.cfm

Brad Bowman of Access Delray, based in Gulfstream, Florida, championed municipal Wi-Max, specifically in the 3.65 GigaHertz (GHz) band. Bowman states that America should cut the cord and go wireless as much as possible, and go straight to municipalities. He said, “It is a fact that there is no room for a middle man in the offering of core network access and services as evidenced by Earthlink’s and AT&T’s retreat from the Muni-Wireless marketplace.” http://www.ntia.doc.gov/broadbandgrants/comment.cfm?e=88EB9581-8025-40EA-B81A-13A50B707C9E

Gene Stone of Rabbit Internet Services, states that he “would prefer that NTIA grants not require 20% funding by those receiving grants.” http://www.ntia.doc.gov/broadbandgrants/comment.cfm?e=8CF86ADB-1B70-4124-A9D9-75D0C060ADE8

Charles Benton, of the Benton Foundation, said that the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program should focus on projects that will enhance long term economic opportunity, and not just short-term jobs. Multi-purpose projects can help leverage available funds and should be prioritized, he said. The program should also enhance opportunities for indigent communities. Synergies between the Agriculture Department’s RUS and NTIA should be taken advantage, leveraging RUS’ experience in infrastructure by using NTIA to focus on outreach. http://www.ntia.doc.gov/broadbandgrants/comment.cfm?e=FB593BBE-8098-4503-8CCD-8C886C22F023

The Ad Hoc Telecom Manufacturers Coalition, including AC Photonics, ACD Telecom, FiberControl, Minerva Networks, Sandvine, Sunrise Telecom and Vermeer Corp., answered the joint request for information questions directly, suggesting exact criteria for many parameters, such as the percentage of funds that should go to unserved and underserved communities. ACD recommended that funds be split as follows: 15percent to unserved, 5 percent to underserved, 15 percent to education, 25 percent to public safety, and 15 percent to demand stimulation.

Like Benton, ACD and the ad-hoc coalition believe that projects should meet multiple needs. States should not be able to approve/disapprove grants, but should have some role in the program. Program criteria should include: Minority-owned businesses, technical approach and depth of research to the project, and the qualifications and capabilities of the person applying. The coalition said that broadband mapping should be at the city level. http://www.ntia.doc.gov/broadbandgrants/comment.cfm?e=3E09B2AA-FB67-45A7-BBDA-ACDB186B0D44

State and Local Regulators Say 'Relevance' Needed For Successful Broadband Adoption

in Universal Service by

WASHINGTON, April 4, 2009 – Making broadband applications more relevant in underserved and unserved communities could be a better use of stimulus funds than building infrastructure, a group of state and local regulatory officials Friday at a cable industry show here.

The lack of relevance to users is definitely the “largest barrier to broadband adoption,” said John Horrigan, associate research director at the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Dealing with the issue properly will require infrastructure programs to be combined with “training and support” initiatives to improve overall digital literacy, said Horrigan.

In addition to focusing on rural areas, California Public Utility Commissioner Rachelle Chong said that “urban disadvantaged” communities is an area in which her state is actively involved through the California Emerging Technology Fund. The fund paid for computer refurbishing programs and technology training in low-income communities.

But California has bigger plans, she said, including a “digital literacy” policy for the state’s entire education system.

One “big think” project that could come next year is the distribution of laptop computers to all students in the lowest performing middle schools, along with appropriate technology training for teachers, students, and their parents. Chong later said California could possibly submit “dozens” of broadband-adoption applications to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s grants program.

Tampa mayor John Marks said policies to foster adoption could come on a local level, but said he was concerned about potential conflicts with state and national policymakers. A national broadband strategy would help drive decision making, he said. “We need to have that kind of comprehensive policy… to tell us which way we want to go.”

Washington, D.C., Public Services Commission Chairman Betty Ann Kane said that some urban areas could be deemed unserved.

While acknowledging that D.C. has its infrastructure built up, Kane called the idea that broadband is available in all urban areas a “myth.” But “people do not come” in many places where it is available because of cost and lack of options compared to other services with higher adoption rates. “There is clearly an affordability issue,” she said.

Kane said D.C is considering many solutions, including opening up the city’s municipal Wi-Fi network as well as the Federal Communications Commission’s proposed Universal Service pilot project. The project would expand the Life Line and Link Up programs to include broadband.

But simply expanding broadband to libraries and community technology centers runs the risk of creating a new digital divide, she said. And as more government services migrate online, Kane warned that divide would only expand.

Programs for encouraging adoption must stay locally-focused to be successful, said Mary Beth Henry, Deputy Director at the Portland, Ore., Office of Cable Communications and Franchise Management. In addition to thinking locally, success requires “compelling content that would drive people to want to use the Internet,” she said.

Marks questioned the efficacy of focusing on computers as the primary on-ramp to the Internet. “Some people will never have a laptop in their home,” he said, “but they will have a big screen TV.” And broadband applications don’t require a laptop, he said. Under a successful national policy, “everybody should be able to benefit,” he said.

Public-private partnerships should play a major role in deployment and adoption programs, said Virginia State Delegate Joe May. But Kane warned that many previous partnerships are often one-time, “charity” programs. That practice must stop and give way to sustainable initiatives, she said.

And telecommunications companies must stop their opposition to municipal networks, she said. While municipal Wi-Fi can’t match the speeds of broadband offered by some land-based carriers, Wi-Fi could allow people to gain access to broadband and become “future customers” for broadband providers, she said.

Partnerships are “essential,” but should not preclude local government action if the private sector cannot or will not provide adequate services, said Marks.

But May pointed out that Virginia had ended up in “standoff” with incumbent carriers, who tried to ban municipal broadband.

The conflict resulted in public-private partnerships emerging as a “compromise” solution, he said. While municipalities should go forward in the absence of private sector action, May said it was important to make sure private business always get the “first crack” at broadband opportunities.

Chong pointed out that the “delicate balance” struck in the 1996 Telecommunications Act favored of competition. Municipalities may attempt their own solutions after a market failure, Chong said, but stressed that they should not be allowed to go first.

CWA Publishes State-by-State Download Speeds. How About Carrier-by-Carrier Speeds?

in Expert Opinion by

Blog Entries

August 15 – The Communications Workers of America’s Speed Matters blog this week published its state-by-state report on download speeds in the United States.

According to the report, the median download speed for the nation was 2.3 Megabits per second (Mbps), which it compared to median download speeds in Japan (63 Mbps), South Korea (49 Mbps), Finland (21 Mbps), France (17 Mbps) and Canada (7.6 Mbps). The median upload speed for the United States was 425 Kilobits per second (Kbps), which the report notes is “far too slow for patient monitoring or to transmit large files such as medical records.”

The CWA report was prepared based upon 229,000 tests in the United States from May 2007 to May 2008 – a truly impressive total.

BroadbandCensus.com is also taking speed tests as part our effort to map out broadband availability, competition, speeds, prices and service quality. While we have collected thousand of speed test results since we launched our web site in January 2008, we are still far short of the numbers of Speed Matters.

The new Speed Matters total tests compares with 80,000 speed tests taken from September 2006 to May 2007 and used in CWA’s July 2007 report.

The July 2007 report found a median download speed of 1.97 Mbps, and a median upload speed of 371 Kbps. The slight improvement from 2007 to 2008 means that “at this rate, it will take the United States more than 100 years to catch up with current Internet speeds in Japan,” according to the August 2008 report.

This current CWA report broke its current totals down state-by-state, from California, with 22,000 tests, to North Dakota, with 231 such tests. It used median download and median upload speeds to rank the states.

In terms of downloads, the top ten states in the CWA report were: Rhode Island (6.8 Mbps), Delaware (6.7 Mbps), New Jersey (5.8 Mbps), Virginia (5.0 Mbps), Massachusetts (4.6 Mbps), New York (4.1 Mbps), Florida (4.0), Maryland (4.0 Mbps), Georgia (3.0 Mbps), and the state of Washington (3.0 Mbps).

The internet company Akamai has also produced a state-by-state report about download speeds, ranking the percentage of states with greater than 5 Mbps for the first quarter of 2008. Five of CWA’s top-10 download states also made Akamai’s top-10 list: Delaware (1st place, at 60 percent), Rhode Island (2nd, at 42 percent), New York (3rd, at 36 percent), Massachusetts (8th, at 29 percent) and Maryland (9th, at 27 percent).

The remaining top-10 Akamai states were: Nevada (4th, at 34 percent), Oklahoma (5th, at 33 percent), Connecticut (6th, at 32 percent), New Hampshire (7th, at 30 percent), and the District of Columbia (10th, at 27 percent).

In terms of measuring broadband availability, competition, speeds, prices and service quality, BroadbandCensus.com believes that the next crucial step is to break those speed totals down not only by geography, but also by carrier.

In other words, it is good to know the difference between the download speeds in Connecticut and in California. But it would be great to know the difference between the actual download speeds of Verizon Communications, AT&T, Comcast, etc., within different locations in Connecticut and in California.

That’s what BroadbandCensus.com is currently working on. We don’t have enough data to have a reasonable gauge of carrier-specific data on a state-by-state, or county-by-county, or ZIP code-by-ZIP code basis.

But based on the results from those of you who have Taken the Broadband Census and speed test, we do have preliminary data about carrier-specific download speeds and upload speeds. We also can gauge the difference between carriers’ promised speeds and their actual speeds. This information is based, again, upon the bottom-up, or “crowdsourcing,” of information by those of you who have Taken the Broadband Census!

We’re putting together a report based on this information as part of partnership with the Pew Internet & American Life Project. That report will be released later this year.

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