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Broadband's Impact

Execs, Experts Say Broadband Policies Must Balance Competition, Access

ARLINGTON, Va., June 18, 2009 – Broadband policies must adapt to ensure both competition and quality service for all consumers, a group of industry executives and policy experts said Thursday during at the Pike and Fischer Broadband Policy Summit.

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ARLINGTON, Va., June 18, 2009 – Broadband policies must adapt to ensure both competition and quality service for all consumers, a group of industry executives and policy experts said Thursday during at the Pike and Fischer Broadband Policy Summit.

Lack of universal access and market competition are two reasons the U.S. lags in broadband, whether one believes “the glass is half full or half empty,” said Google Media and Telecommunications Counsel Richard Whitt.

“I think everybody agrees that the receptacle is not being used to its full capacity,” he quipped. But broadband deployment should not just be for the sake of building pipes, but to enable applications. Whitt cautioned: “Broadband is about online connectivity.”

Consumers are increasingly viewing broadband as a component of infrastructure and a utility, or not just a commercial service, said Free Press Policy Director Ben Scott. The $7.25 billion appropriated for broadband in the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act was a charge from Congress to develop programs based on a “robust broadband infrastructure.”

Scott noted prices for broadband service in some areas are 10 percent higher than others because of lack of competition. Solving this problem will require new telecommunications policies for a networked world based on “very different approach, a different set of expectations, and a different focus,” he said.

An overly aggressive regulatory approach will chill innovation in network technology, said Time Warner Cable senior vice president Steven Taplitz. Taplitz cited data from a Pew Internet & American Life research study as evidence that low adoption rates stem from a lack of interest, and not lack of availability.

“It’s unlikely that this gap exists simply because networks providers haven’t yet built out to those areas,” he said.

But in areas where build-out has not occurred, Taplitz said a “hard look” is needed to figure out the best solution to the problem. But he suggested public-private partnership would most efficiently allow companies to finally reach unserved areas.

A national broadband strategy will require attacks from multiple angles to solve multiple problems, said Roger Sherman, chief counsel to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. This would include private-public partnerships as well as government help, he said. “We need to recognize that the private sector does great work here and that our country is geographically diverse,” requiring a diverse set of solutions for broadband problems.

But reaching truly unserved areas –especially those in rural America – may require government help, he said. A robust broadband network is needed to foster developments in many Recovery Act programs including smart grid technologies, health care information technology and distance learning, he said.

Sherman said his boss, Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., is fully in favor of policies that encourage a universally accessible network that will enable those technologies.

“We need to look at infrastructure,” he said, including poles, towers, and rights-of-way. And expanding mobile broadband will rely heavily on better use of spectrum, he said. “We need to look at how to allocate that.”

Freeing up spectrum is necessary to encourage true platform competition, said Link Hoewing, assistant vice president for technology at Verizon Communications. While the U.S. has been “pretty successful” in building a broadband network, Hoewing said platform competition is necessary to continue to drive innovation. This can be best accomplished with aggressive use of current policies, he suggested.

Whitt added that any national broadband strategy must examine “three dimensions” of broadband: “Affordability, sufficiency of network capacity, and network integrity – particularly network neutrality.”

Governments have a “vested interest” in keeping communications infrastructure as open as transportation infrastructure, and keeping it as robust enough to serve as many consumers as possible, he said.

The Federal Communications Commission should adopt a minimum speed in its national plan, he said.

Broadband's Impact

New York City Broadband Housing Initiative Gets First Completed Project

The initiative is part of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s $157 million Internet Master Plan.

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BlocPower CEO Donnel Baird speaks at a press conference at Melrose Housing. Photo provided by BlocPower.

November 30, 2021 – BlocPower, Metro IAF, People’s Choice Communications, and pillars in the Bronx community in New York City gathered Monday at the Melrose Housing development to celebrate the first of five New York City Housing Authority community Wi-Fi projects completed by BlocPower.

Community members and other stakeholders were welcomed by Rev. Sean McGillicuddy, pastor of Immaculate Conception Church and leader at Metro IAF. “As the pandemic has shown us, internet is not just a luxury, it is a necessity,” he said. “We have internet now in Melrose Housing and we are celebrating with hundreds of Immaculate Conception Church parishioners.”

The build out to Melrose Housing and Courtland Avenue was part of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s $157 million Internet Master Plan, with a goal of connecting 600,000 additional New Yorkers considered underserved. A third of those underserved people are residents in New York City Housing Authority communities.

With these two projects completed, Melrose and Courtland Housing can now provide internet to their more than 2,500 residents spread across 1,200 apartments and ten buildings.

“We are incredibly excited today to bring this much-needed, low-cost wi-fi alternative to Melrose and Courtlandt Avenue,” said BlocPower CEO Donnel Baird. “What began as the by-product of our efforts to convert New York City’s aging, urban buildings into smarter, cleaner more eco-friendly ones, installing community-owned urban wi-fi networks has now become an important part of BlocPower’s expanded mandate – to help close the digital divide in America’s underserved communities.”

P.C.C. technicians were able to install antennas on roofs and wi-fi nodes on each floor. To have a sufficient workforce to accomplish this task, BlocPower trained local New Yorkers through the company’s “Pathways: Civilian Climate Corps” program.

Going forward, P.C.C. will be responsible for maintaining, billing, and customer service. Melrose and Courtland residents will, in turn, elect a board to represent them in matters of data governance, use of proceeds, and quality of service issues.

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Broadband's Impact

Craig Settles Talks Telehealth, FCC Mapping Issues on States, Broadband’s Impact on Critical Infrastructure

Craig Settles talks about the need for telehealth and ubiquitous broadband in a recent interview.

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Craig Settles, author of broadband deployment guide Building the Gigabit City

November 29, 2021 – Craig Settles, market researcher and author of broadband deployment guide Building the Gigabit City, spoke with Broadband Breakfast Deputy Editor Sarah Stirland in a Sunday profile that emphasized the need for communities to prioritize telehealth in broadband planning.

The profile in Broadband.Money, a broadband grant funding service that allows ISPs and community networks to discover, apply, and win broadband grants, discusses how the pandemic has changed stakeholder interest in broadband’s role in telehealth. Before COVID-19, “[n]o one would talk about medical reminders, or remote sensors to help children keep track of their elderly parents,” he said in the Sunday profile. The new national focus on telemedicine offers a new opportunity to save lives by improving connectivity speed and delivering critical information to health professionals.

Now, Settles works with stakeholders to provide broadband strategies that match local communities’ lifestyle and business needs. Settles’ work combines community-empowerment and broadband deployment strategies to deliver telehealth services to places in need.

“Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do,” Settles said. I think Henry Ford once said, ‘If I’d ask customers what they wanted, they would’ve told me a faster horse.’ People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

Settles will answer questions about broadband needs analysis and future broadband deployment in an Ask-Me-Anything session with Broadband.Money on Friday, December 3rd, at 2:30 p.m. ET. Settles’ work and analyses of when telehealth services makes sense can be found at his web site.

FCC mapping issues threaten broadband deployment

States and cities are unsure of where to put government broadband money because the maps are inaccurate, according to a Politico report Monday.

The lack of accurate nationwide maps that the Federal Communications Commission is working on improving is also threatening the efficient use of the $42 billion in broadband money going to states as a result of new infrastructure legislation signed into law two weeks ago.

Although the government won’t start distributing funds from the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act for at least another year, Politico reports, citing BroadbandNow data, that states and cities are already allocating $10 billion in federal relief without confidence in their ability to identify their communities’ dead zones.

The FCC’s maps, compiled from telecommunications providers, have drawn longstanding criticism from industry stakeholders, members of Congress, and the FCC itself because of its overreliance on the Form 477 method, which took data from internet service providers. Now, the problem has reached a new inflection point as states try to find coverage gaps — and even as the agency seeks other methods, including crowdfunded data, for better mapping.

Congress required that better maps should be used before the infrastructure money is spent, which could help states accurately fund the neediest areas when the $65 billion broadband package is made available.

In the meantime, towns and counties that need broadband funding most urgently will have to wait while states with more accurate data can better target funding. In Ohio’s Athens County, a speed test data from measurement company Ookla showed that at least 340,000 households in eastern Ohio had no home broadband, while the FCC estimated that, at most, 328,000 households in the entire state have connections too slow to fit its definition of broadband.

Cisco says broadband deployment will improve hard infrastructure

Cisco says that by adding broadband to the nation’s “critical infrastructure,” the United States will modernize our hard infrastructure.

More reliable connectivity will support our nation’s roads, bridges, and waterways, the company wrote to MarketScreener on Monday.

Cisco says digital networks, while using broadband connections, can “expand beyond broadband to support other forms of critical infrastructure.” Dubbed Operational Technology networks, or OT networks, digital systems will be able to monitor the nation’s hard infrastructure, like monitoring a switch to trigger a shutdown if a certain value in a water system is exceeded. Community safety commissions could also start monitoring bridges for unusual stresses, speeding awareness, and more efficient responding to maintenance needs. Further, public safety services could remotely change red-yellow-green light switches and alter traffic signals for emergency vehicles.

The company recommended that technology companies should leverage funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to secure and use OT networks. “Doing so can help drive greater efficiencies, faster response times and potential costs savings. It can also create more efficient opportunities as future technologies come online,” Cisco said. “By expanding beyond broadband to deliver OT networks with automation, machine learning and other innovative services (like those that support autonomous vehicles), we can build a more inclusive infrastructure that benefits everyone.”

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Broadband's Impact

Sunne McPeak: Achieving True Digital Equity Requires Strong Leadership and Sincere Collaboration

Collaboration between community leaders will be essential in ensuring success of the Biden infrastructure bill in California.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Sunne Wright McPeak

This week, President Joe Biden signed the infrastructure bill, which includes $65 billion for expanding broadband deployment and access for all Americans.

The national plan is described as the most significant infrastructure upgrade in the three decades since the Cold War. “This is an opportunity to create an Eisenhower national highway system for the information age,” says a former White House National Security Council senior director.

For California – the nation’s largest state – it means a minimum $100 million for broadband infrastructure that is designed to expand high-speed internet access for at least 545,000 residents, particularly in unserved and underserved communities, according to the White House. The federal funding will support California’s $6 billion broadband infrastructure plan.

Closing the digital divide and achieving true digital equity requires strong leadership and sincere collaboration among public agencies, internet service providers and civic leaders to seize this unique opportunity to achieve strategic priorities in education, telehealth, transportation and economic development. The 2021 USC-CETF Statewide Survey on Broadband Adoption highlighted that a significant number of Californians will be left behind because they are unable to access the internet and other digital functionality needed for vital activities.

Now, the question is how to ensure the public’s funds will be used as effectively and efficiently as possible. California must implement a thoughtful, aggressive strategy that will maximize immediate impact and optimize return on investment. Separately, for several years, CETF has been calling for broadband deployment as a green strategy for sustainability; that urgency only grows in the wake of the COP26 climate meetings. As leaders begin to make historic investments, they should embrace these key principles for action:

  • Prioritize and drive infrastructure construction to the hardest-to-reach residents — rural unserved areas, tribal lands, and poor urban neighborhoods — and then connect all locations, especially anchor institutions (schools, libraries and health care facilities), along the path of deployment.
  • Require open-access fiber middle-mile infrastructure with end-user internet speeds sufficient to support distance learning and telehealth.
  • Strive to achieve ubiquitous deployment in each region to avoid cherry picking for more lucrative areas.
  • Encourage coordination among local governments and regional agencies to streamline permitting and achieve economies of scale.
  • Develop an open competitive process to achieve the most cost-effective investment of new dollars by optimizing use of existing infrastructure that ratepayers and taxpayers already have built.

To learn more, please contact Sunne Wright McPeak at sunne.mcpeak@cetfund.org

Sunne Wright McPeak is President and CEO of California Emerging Technology Fund, a statewide non-profit foundation with 15 years of experience addressing broadband issues to close the Digital Divide in California. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC. 

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