Go to Appearance > Menu to set "Primary Menu"

Bringing you the latest in Gigabit Networks, broadband usage, wireless and more

Tag archive

Telecommunications Reports International Inc.

Regulators, Officials Debate Need for National Broadband Policy, Fund

in Broadband Data by

Editor’s Note: The following story was published in TR Daily on September 26, 2008, and is reprinted with the permission of Telecommunications Reports International, Inc. This article is and remains Copyright 2008 Telecommunications Reports International, Inc.

By Carrie DeLeon, Telecommunications Reports

A national broadband infrastructure fund should include the involvement of state regulators and focus not only on the extension of broadband service into unserved areas, but also on the adoption rate of broadband service by consumers, according to California Public Utilities Commissioner Rachelle Chong.

During a keynote address this morning at the Broadband Census for America Conference in Washington, Commissioner Chong advocated for the implementation of a national broadband infrastructure fund, and suggested that the Universal Service Fund be reformed to shift the focus from traditional wireline to advanced services.

“More assertive national leadership on broadband policy is not only necessary, but critical,” Commissioner Chong said.

In addition, the former FCC regulator said that while some states, including California, have been successful in their efforts to map broadband data, a national mapping of broadband data could be helpful to states by enabling them to compare their broadband efforts with other states.

Other participants in the conference, which was held at the Washington office of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, also saw the need for national leadership in some aspects of broadband policy, but said that ultimately states are responsible for broadband deployment.

Jane Smith Patterson, executive director, e-NC Authority, asserted that states are the most qualified to collect broadband data. “Assistance from the federal government is great, but ultimately the states are responsible for their own economic development,” Ms. Patterson said.

Similarly, Larry Landis, a member of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, pointed out that states have an “imperative to develop broadband that does not exist at the national level.”

On the other hand, William Lehr, an economist and researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said that certain data needs to be collected at the federal level in order to validate the states’ efforts. The federal government is also more equipped to assist with resources and information sharing, “so a leadership role from the federal government is necessary,” he said.

In shifting the discussion to what a national or state broadband mapping project should look like, Commissioner Chong said it is very important to analyze the “take rate.” She said that if the take rate in certain areas is low, then policymakers need to determine what factors are causing that low adoption rate and think of solutions to address the problem.

“Getting broadband access is really just the first step,” Commissioner Chong said. “The affordability of that broadband access is the next big factor.” Jeffrey Campbell, senior director at Cisco Systems and a member of the California Broadband Task Force, agreed. “It doesn’t do any good to have broadband if no one is using it,” he said.

Mr. Campbell also stressed the importance of gathering broadband data at the household level. “It’s the kind of level of data we just have to have. You wouldn’t say 98% of people have electricity. Two percent do not … guess where they are,” Mr. Campbell said.

Several of the speakers during the conference discussed the need for a leader – whether it be the state legislature, the governor, or a community group on the local level – to champion for broadband and mapping. Commissioner Chong said that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R.) “really put the spotlight on broadband” by forming a broadband task force and initiating the state broadband mapping project.

According to Commissioner Chong, it’s important to convince government leaders and lawmakers that broadband is a necessary part of the infrastructure. “If you don’t have broadband you’re not going to have a state-of-the-art business economy,” Commissioner Chong said. “We firmly believe that broadband is infrastructure, just like schools or levees are part of the infrastructure. So is broadband.”

“The leadership of the governor is very important. I also had to lobby the legislature,” Commissioner Chong said. “Lawmakers told me, ‘I think the Internet is a luxury so why should I tax consumers’ phone bills,’ and I had to convince them otherwise.”

The other huge challenge for state regulators is that they don’t regulate the Internet, Commissioner Chong pointed out. “So all I can do is encourage them to build out and try to provide incentives,” she added.

- Carrie DeLeon, carrie.deleon@wolterskluwer.com

TR Daily, September 26, 2008

Copyright © 2008, Telecommunications Reports International, Inc.

Proprietary Data Cited as Challenge for Broadband Mapping

in Broadband Data by

Editor’s Note: The following story was published in TR Daily on September 26, 2008, and is reprinted with the permission of Telecommunications Reports International, Inc. This article is and remains Copyright 2008 Telecommunications Reports International, Inc.

By Lynn Stanton, TR Daily

State and federal government programs to develop maps of broadband service availability at a granular level must overcome objections by carriers to revealing what they view as proprietary information, although carriers may actually find the resulting maps beneficial, panelists at the Broadband Census for America Conference said today.

Speaking at the conference held at the Washington office of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Art Brodsky, director-communications at Public Knowledge, criticized the carriers’ objections to broadband mapping projects by questioning the proprietary and competitive value of information on where carriers have already deployed broadband services. He noted that carriers are not being asked about future deployment plans, which would more clearly involve competitive concerns.

Drew Clark, executive director of BroadbandCensus.com, which was one of the sponsors of the conference, noted that the FCC and carriers have objected to attempts to obtain underlying carrier data on broadband deployment submitted to the FCC, arguing that disclosure causes competitive harm by permitting new entrants to better target those areas lacking broadband competition. Because the data submitted to the FCC has not been made publicly available, BroadbandCensus.com and others, including the Communication Workers of America’s Speed Matters program, have resorted to obtaining information directly from consumers, a process Mr. Clark termed “crowd-sourcing.” By submitting information on their own service at a particular location, and taking download and upload speed tests, individual users can participate in the development of broadband maps or databases.

Mr. Clark said the three purposes of BroadbandCensus.com are to aid the process of competition, serve policy-makers, and aid consumers.

Mark McElroy, chief operating officer of Connected Nation, said that a mapping program will be beneficial if it’s relevant to consumers, in that the map can tell them if they can get broadband at home; if it’s relevant to providers, in that it can let them know where and why they should extend their networks; and if it’s relevant to increased digital literacy, in that it can be used in conjunction with an effective demand stimulation effort.

Debbie Goldman, coordinator of the CWA’s Speed Matters, said that in developing broadband mapping and deployment policies, “the states are the laboratories because unfortunately we don’t have a national policy.”

Kenneth Flamm, a professor of public affairs the University of Texas-Austin, said that collecting information on broadband use “is a job actually for the federal government and the federal statistical agencies,” but that they lack adequate funding and don’t do a good job of keeping up with relatively new services. “There shouldn’t be an argument about whether the government going out to try to measure the state of the market is somehow infringing [on private companies] . . . There’s no private-public conflict here,” he added.

A member of the audience suggested the Internal Revenue Service and private online tax-filing companies could capture information on broadband connection rates with an “opt-in” speed-test at the time of filing. Mr. Flamm said that was a “clever idea.”

Speaking during the closing keynote, Eamonn Confrey, first secretary-information and communications policy at the Irish Embassy in Washington, explained his country’s broadband initiatives, which include its broadband.gov.ie website. The overall purpose of the site is to help consumers and small business, he said. While customers cannot order broadband service on the site, it does include links to broadband providers in their area. It also has a tool to check if digital subscriber line (DSL) service – the principal nonmobile broadband technology in Ireland – is available at the user’s fixed-line phone number.

The website also allows consumers “to register their demand for broadband,” so providers can see where there is demand.

“Initially, there was a lot of resistance from larger providers” to listing their services on the website, which is a voluntary process for providers, Mr. Confrey said. Eventually, however, they came to see it as a competitive disadvantage not to be listed there. The website “has proved to be a win-win for provider and consumer alike,” he added.

The government also recently launched a national broadband scheme to reach the remaining 10% of the population that does not have broadband service available, Mr. Confrey said. The government provides funding to induce broadband in those areas while setting requirements to ensure that “the winning company won’t be able to cherry-pick” within the contracted area.

Mr. Confrey emphasized that the Irish government views broadband deployment as “an economic competitiveness issue for us,” as the country seeks to retain employers like Yahoo, Inc., and Google, Inc., that are attracted by an English-speaking, “fairly well educated” workforce in Europe. “You simply won’t retain that kind of investment without the infrastructure,” he added.

- Lynn Stanton, lynn.stanton@wolterskluwer.com

TR Daily, September 26, 2008

Copyright © 2008, Telecommunications Reports International, Inc.

Go to Top