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Internet Protocol Transition a Critical Step To Ensuring Public Safety, Say Senate Hearing Witnesses

in Broadband Mapping/FCC/Fiber/Public Safety by

WASHINGTON, June 11, 2014 – Even the quickest and best-designed networks can succumb to Mother Nature when a hurricane or tornado strikes a community. And when thousands of people dial 911 at the same time, modern-day networks simply aren’t equipped to handle traffic of such tremendous scale.

That was the message delivered at a Thursday hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet. Hurricane Sandy proved this point when thousands of people were left without the means to call for help. But network providers have learned a lot since then as they gear up for the internet protocol transition, testified Gigi Smith, president of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials.

The subcommittee hearing last week sought to find the best ways to create networks that aren’t just fast, but reliable in massive-scale catastrophes.

The need for better technology was especially close to the hearts of people in Arkansas and Mississippi, whose homes were ravaged in April by tornadoes, said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.

“Despite the devastation, we can be thankful for the technology that provided critical information ahead of time, alerting people to take shelter and save hundreds of fellow citizens,” Wicker said. “The swift action of our weather forecasters, local officials, and first responders validated the importance of technology and communication when disaster strikes.”

But still it’s not enough, Wicker said. Communications networks are being modernized. The switch from existing copper telephone line infrastructure to high-speed fiber and wireless broadband “is expected to maximize the benefit of IP broadband networks to all Americans.” Next generation 911 services, robust data transfers, and more efficient voice services are all part of the IP transition’s end goal.

The move to modern broadband networks holds “great promise” for quicker communications and reliable networks, said US Telecom Association Senior Vice President Jonathan Banks. The transition isn’t a matter of “if,” but “how” to best manage the upgrades.

Ninety-two percent of the population have access to “robust wireline infrastructure” and 99 percent have access to mobile service, Banks said. But with so many people being able to use the same networks, modern IP-based networks need to brace themselves for large-scale emergency traffic. Anyone should be able to reach first responders and dispatchers immediately and reliably.

“The rollout of IP networks will involve multiple components serviced by multiple companies, which will require a new level of coordination and associated procedures to ensure rapid service restoration,” said Smith of APCO International, the public safety group. “Response plans should include appropriate priority for public safety communications.”

“IP-based networks, when properly designed and implemented, should be both logically and physically redundant,” Smith said.

Switching from copper to fiber would also yield the benefit of increased durability to certain extreme cases like flooding, said FCC Chief Technology Officer Henning Schulzrinne.

Banks did concede that it’s very challenging to build networks in rural communities inhabited by few people. In many cases, he said, people simply don’t see the value in adoption.

“Ensuring that broadband and mobile networks reach everywhere throughout our country is a goal we must continually strive to meet,” Banks said. “In most rural areas of our country, this will require governmental support because there is no private business case that can support building and operating broadband networks in these areas.”

TPRC Panelists Discuss Backhaul Issues’ Impact on Broadband Expansion

in Broadband Data/Broadband's Impact by

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a series of panelist summary articles that BroadbandCensus.com will be reporting from the Telecommunications Policy Research Conference, September 25-27, at George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, Va.
ARLINGTON, Va., September 25, 2009 – Mobile broadband is the fastest growing segment of the broadband market. According to Jonathan Banks, who directs policy development for the telecommunications industry association US Telecom, the number of wireless broadband users is expected to grow 130% between 2008 and 2012.

These wireless networks rely on special access networks to connect cell towers to the network. This market also consists of financial institutions sending customer information from branches to main offices, as well as businesses processing credit card transactions.

The majority of these networks are run by incumbent local exchange carriers, which are often the sole provider of “special access” services, and which allows them to charge high rates for a relative low level of speed. The average connection speed is around 1.5 Megabits per second (Mbps) with a monthly cost of $390.

Panelists and participants in the event gravitated toward the position that the solution to this problem seems to be increased regulation by the Federal Communications Commission.

Currently, the FCC does regulate the special access market but only puts price controls on about one-third of it; while another one-third is able to have some price flexibility; the rest of the market is allowed to change prices, but is subject to FCC oversight.

Special access providers say that there is currently competition in the U.S., and that the FCC was correct in its decision to deregulate this market. By contrast, the users of the networks claim that in areas of full deregulation – where providers are able to change their prices – the prices never seems to decrease. True competition, they say, does not exist for the last mile.

Panelists for this event included:

  • Dale Hatfield,Executive Director, Silicon Flatirons Center (Moderator)

Adjunct Professor, University of Colorado
Former Chief Engineer, Federal Communications Commission

  • Charles McKee, Vice-President, Government Affairs, Federal & State Regulatory, for SprintNextel Corporation.

McKee is responsible for Sprint’s advocacy before the FCC and state public service commissions for all non-spectrum related regulatory matters.

  • Jonathan Banks directs the USTelecom’s policy development, advocacy and legal work before the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission and the courts. Prior to joining USTelecom, Banks handled federal policy matters for BellSouth, and, prior to BellSouth, he worked on competition matters for the Federal Trade Commission.
  • Colleen Boothby is a partner in the firm of Levine, Blaszak, Block & Boothby, LLP, which specializes in the representation of enterprise customers and providers of emerging information technologies. She joined the firm after ten years of service with the FCC, specializing in telecommunications issues.

White House Official to Headline Broadband Stimulus National Town Hall Meeting on June 4

in Broadband Calendar by

A special live Webcast event presented by TV Worldwide, National League of Cities TV, TV Mainstream and BroadbandCensus.com

Press Release

WASHINGTON, June 3, 2009 – Jim Kohlenberger, Chief of Staff in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, has confirmed that he will headline the Broadband Stimulus National Town Hall Meeting, live on the Internet, on Thursday, June 4, from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET.

The free webcast is being produced by BroadbandCensus.com, in cooperation with TV Worldwide, National League of Cities TV, and TV Mainstream.

Registration is available at http://www.nlctv.org/events/broadbandstimulus_thm/090604

With the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) scheduled to release their first Notices of Funds Availability (NoFA) by the end of June, the topic of broadband stimulus remains extremely timely. Applicants will be expected to know and understand the landscape as they prepare their submissions.

This June 4 webcast is the first of two planned town hall meetings on the broadband stimulus. The second, a the Broadband Stimulus Workshop Webcast, is planned for Thursday, July 9, 2009, from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. That is after the expected release of the NoFA.

Registration for the June 4 event is available at http://www.nlctv.org/events/broadbandstimulus_thm/090604

The webcast will be jointly hosted by Drew Clark, Executive Director of BroadbandCensus.com and Marty Stern, Partner at K&L Gates. This webcast will focus on three areas with discussion by the following speakers:

Special Introductory Remarks

  • Jim Kohlenberger, Chief of Staff, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

The Broadband Stimulus and Tribal Initiatives

  • Deswood Tome, Executive Director, Navajo Nation Telecommunications Regulatory Authority

Scoring Grants – The latest thinking on how projects will be evaluated. What we know and what we’ve learned from other grant programs that can be applied to the broadband stimulus:

  • Joanne Hovis, Columbia Telecommunications Corporation
  • Lisa Scalpone, Vice President of Legal and Government Affairs, WildBlue
  • Scott Wallsten, Vice President, Research, Technology Policy Institute
  • Rich Wonders, Vice President, Strategic Marketing, Alcatel-Lucent

Show me the Money – What sources of private financing are available to help capitalize broadband stimulus projects

  • John Badal, CEO, Sacred Wind Communications
  • James Owen, Director, Bank Street Group
  • Tim Nulty, Chairman, ECFiberNet, the East Central Vermont Community Fiber-Optic Network

Public Private Partnerships – What are they expected to look like and how important will they be to a successful grant application

  • Jim Baller, President, Baller Herbst Law Group
  • Jonathan Banks, Senior Vice President, Law and Policy, US Telecom Association
  • John Goodman, President and CEO, A-Vu Media
  • Dan Gillison, National Director, State and Local, and Public Safety Sales, Sprint Nextel Corporation

For individuals  whose schedule do not permit attendance during the live broadcast, archived recordings of the event will be available on TV Mainstream.

Logistical Details

Date:
Thursday, June 4, 2009 from 2:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. ET

Location:
Online Webcast

To register: Click here to register for the webcast

Questions about Broadband Data Swirl at Broadband Policy Summit

in Broadband Data by

WASHINGTON, June 12 – Questions about the availability and detail of broadband data featured prominently in presentations and in discussions at Thursday’s sessions of the Broadband Policy Summit IV, which was sponsored by Pike & Fischer.

“I have been long lamented that we don’t have a national broadband policy,” said Jeff Campbell, senior director of technology and communications policy at Cisco Systems. “If we did have a national broadband plan, we would have to define what exactly is the problem that we are attempting to solve.”

For example, Campbell said during the summit’s first panel – on the regulatory outlook for broadband – more information was needed on the number of households that have Internet connections, the speeds at which they are available, and how many subscribers take up such services.

“We just don’t have the basic building blocks of the data to size the problem” and propose solutions to it, said Campbell. He applauded the work of the California Broadband Task Force, which produced address-level data about both broadband available and promised speeds. The California report did not list broadband data by carrier.

Larry Landis, a commission with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission on the same panel, agreed. “There is a heightened need for actionable data,” both about where broadband is and where it isn’t. He said that state regulatory officials aim to get more involved in assessing availability, speeds and broadband competition.

Joe Waz, senior vice president of external affairs for Comcast, addressed the cable company’s aggressive efforts to roll out DOCSIS 3.0, a higher-speed version of cable modem served that promises 50 megabits per second (Mbps) download speeds, and 5 Mbps upload speeds, “in front of 20 percent of our homes by the end of this year, and to just about all homes by the end of 2009.”

On the data collection front, Waz praised the work of Connected Nation, which is mapping out information about broadband availability in many states.

James Cicconi, senior executive vice president at AT&T, applauded the Federal Communications Commission’s March 19 data-collection order.

The second panel, on U.S. broadband deployment, also probed further into data-policy issues. Scott Wallsten, vice president for research and senior fellow at the Technology Policy Institute, critically dissected a recent study, by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, showing the U.S. broadband penetration at 15th globally.

The OECD numbers skew U.S. performance because of the country’s relatively large household size, Wallsten said. Further, the OECD results implausibly exclude business use of broadband in its rankings. The bottom line, he said: “relax, we’re fine” on broadband availability and speeds.

Jonathan Banks, senior vice president of law and policy at the trade association US Telecom, said that the technology, media and telecom (TMT) industries had become a significant driver of the U.S. economy. “We see broadband connections being essential to the TMT ecosystem.”

Scott Deutschman, an adviser to FCC Commissioner Michael Copps (who gave an earlier keynote address), also noted the need for better data-gathering, and was cautiously optimistic about the FCC’s March 19 change. “We are headed down the road to colecting better data, that will allow to make better policy-making going forward,” said Deutschman.

Deutschman also called for the FCC to act as a clearinghouse, or a collector of general broadband strategies and ideas.

Mark McElroy, chief operating officer for Connected Nation, touted the importance of public-private partnership in assembling broadband data and creating “e-community leadership teams” to help promote awareness of broadband and encourage subscription.

Daniel Mitchell, vice president of legal affairs for National Telecommunications Cooperative Association, which represents small telecommunications cooperatives, said that Network Neutrality could grow in significance as a political issue if there is not greater competition among broadband providers.

Editor’s Note:

I was able to make a number of contributions to the Broadband Policy Summit. In addition to submitting a written paper about BroadbandCensus.com, I was able to ask a number of questions, and highlight the contribution that our free Web service is playing in the broadband data debate.

As I have said in other forums, knowing where broadband is and isn’t available is the first step toward making sure that broadband truly is accessible to all Americans, but it is only the first step.

Next, consumers and policy-makers must have access to information about broadband competition, speeds and prices. This is best done by publicly linking the data to broadband carriers.

Putting all of this information available, for free, in one readily accessable place is the goal of BroadbandCensus.com. By including the names of carriers, and by allowing consumers to rate their service quality, BroadbandCensus.com will enable Internet users to make true head-to-head comparisons. We believe that these types of comparisons are an essential part of understanding broadband, and of building a national broadband strategy for America.

-Drew Clark, Editor, BroadbandCensus.com

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