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Broadband Roundup: Standard-Option Encryption, Madison Fiber Build, and the House of Wheeler

in Broadband Roundup/Broadband's Impact by

WASHINGTON, October 1, 2014 – Smartphones are about to become “NSA-proof,” according to the Washington Post. In the wake of continued stream of information about surveillance by the National Security Agency, Google and Apple are making device encryption a standard feature in their newest software releases in an effort to ease consumer concern about government agencies prying into their personal lives.

Enhanced encryption in Apple’s iOS 8 keeps the tech manufacturer from handing over any of the data on a person’s device, as all the device data is under protection of the user’s passcode. Similarly, Google’s upcoming Android L software will enable encryption by default. Even if federal officials go to the company seeking a consumers’ data, the company wouldn’t be able to give it to them, since the encryption is device specific.

FBI officials, see this as a disturbing marketing push tells people that they are above the law. Others say that the claim of data being “NSA-proof” is just bogus. Chief technologist for the Center for Democracy and Technology Joseph Lorenzo Hall said, “If they [NSA] want it, they can get it.”

Madison Looks to FCC to Bridge Digital Divide with Municipal Broadband

Local government officials in Madison, Wisconsin, are exploring the possibility of building their own municipal fiber-to-the-home broadband network. Alderman Scott Resnick, currently the a 27 year-old President Pro Tem of the Madison Common Council, sees municipal broadband as a way to bridge the community’s “digital divide” for those who cannot afford high-speed internet access.

“We are doing one-fifth of what other communities are doing to try to cross the digital divide,” says Resnick, who works in the tech field at Hardin Design & Development. “We are failing Madison’s residents. I know that’s not a positive statement, but that’s the reality,” reported Isthmus.

The two main private broadband providers locally, AT&T and Charter, have laid “middle mile” fiber, but the “last mile” cables that run to the households do not enjoy bandwidth speeds to users of the network. Madison is technically well positioned for a community fiber network, as it owns 132 miles of fiber for its Metropolitan Unified Fiber Network that connects universities, colleges, hospitals and other anchor institutions.

However, municipalities must obtain competitive local exchange carrier certification under state law. This requires cities offering triple-play service – internet, television and telephone to run each service as independently profitable.

Comcast Answers

Comcast and Time Warner Cable responded to filings that argued against the proposed merger of the two companies in a submission to the FCC entitled “Applicants’ Opposition to Petitions to Deny and Respond to Comments,” according to a summary by the Benton Foundation’s Kevin Taglang.

The companies reiterate their claims that the acquisition is in the public interest because it would increase the quality of services to a greater number of people, encourage competing providers to innovate and invest more in their own networks and allow for greater investment and innovation due to the larger scale and reach of the combined company, especially when it comes to the deployment of higher broadband speeds and services. They specifically cite the ability to spread their Internet Essentials adoption program “to millions of additional low-income families throughout the acquired systems.” They argue that there are no “credible rebuttals” in any of the critical filings with the FCC.

Politico wrote that many of the merger opponents made “self-interested requests” of Comcast, “almost always with an express or at least an implicit offer to support” its Time Warner Cable bid if the demands were met. One of these requests came from Netflix, whic asked for a free interconnection deal between itself and the combined cable company–a practice called peering that has historically only happened between huge networks due to high rates of equal traffic going across the two–instead of the current paid interconnection deal–a practice called transit that occurs between access providers like Comcast and hosting providers like YouTube or Netflix when traffic between the two is more one-sided.

The House of Wheeler

The New York Times published a great piece on FCC Chairman Wheeler’s background. It touches on his history as a lobbyist and investor in the tech industry, as well as events from his current tenure in the FCC. As a lobbyist, he pushed for the E-Rate program despite it directly benefitting the cellular industry, and he opposed the potential merger Sprint and T-Mobile out of concern for less competition. Both flattering and critical, it’s a great, all-encompassing look at the man at the helm of the FCC.

 

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