WASHINGTON, July 18, 2009 – The possible benefits of extending broadband to anchor institution, rural areas, and individual homes is well worth the effort and financial investment, a panel of industry experts and non-profit representatives agreed during a Friday panel discussion.
“We are beginning to see some really promising applications” of technology for bridging broadband divides, such as software which is “approaching the effectiveness of an actually tutor” students, said Thomas Kalil, associate director for policy at the White House Office of Science and Technology.
Kalil spoke in a keynote address at “Broadband Stimulus and The National Broadband Plan: What They Mean for Communications, Technology, and Innovation,” sponsored by the Media Access Project.
Kalil focused on the benefits and applications of broadband technology in a variety of areas, including educational training.
Additionally, technology can also be used to help transition to a low carbon economy and create green jobs, Kalil said.
In order to develop this technology effectively, it is important to get multiple perspectives on whether or not a policy will work in a multi-stakeholder forum, he said.
One way the government can use its fund for broadband technology efficiently is by establishing “ambitious” and concrete goals for technology projects and by offering generous rewards for the teams that reach the goal first.
The government would only pay those teams which successfully meet the goals, he said.
Kalil gave an example from the University of Berkeley, where he started a program providing students with funding and support for technology projects. One student was able to generate $7.1 million in savings by identifying the environmental impact of the campus.
“That was not a bad return of investment for $3,000,” he said.
Lisa Zaina, chief of staff at the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service, referred to the $2.4 billion in grants and loans from the broadband stimulus in the round of funding for which applications are due on August 14.
From taxpayer resources of $2.5 billion allocated to RUS, the agency will be able to award up to $9 billion in grants and loans, she said.
John Windhausen, coordinator of the Schools, Health, and Libraries Broadband Coalition, said that anchor institutions such as libraries are an important way to spend the broadband stimulus funds.
These institutions, said Windhausen, serve millions of people. By getting a high-enough capacity broadband link, such an application can be a “jumping off point” for community broadband – if it is an open connection.
“You can get a fiber connection into every single library for less than $1 billion,” and Sweden has already made the equivalent of a $30 billion investment in broadband, he said.
Joanne Hovis, president of Columbia Telecommunications Corporation, agreed with Windhausen on the importance of anchor institutions. She added that some of the stimulus money should go to big bandwidth projects in rural areas.
Fiber to the home in poor areas, said Hovis, could improve the quality of life in those communities. It could also save people money by providing high quality video for health care and high quality video conferencing, she said. By contrast, lower-speed technologies, such as digital subscriber lines, might not be enough to keep the U.S. competitive in the global economy.
In order to reach the goal of getting fiber to every home and small business in the United States, “we are going to need every potential provider,” including new ones, “to be part of the solution,” she said.
The problem with many private sector providers, said Hovis, is that they are going to “the most desirable of the rural areas,” while many of the less desirable ones are being left out.
“A wide range of different communities will need government solutions,” and the local governments of these areas understand what their constituents want and need, she said.
Ken Eisner, managing director of One Economy Ventures, spoke of the need to create a national digital literacy program. He said that public housing should be rewired with broadband connections.
Ted Hearn, vice president of communications at the American Cable Association, agreed with Eisner on the need for such a program, but added that funding “should be set up in a separate program.”
Eisner said that the government should not “step in and provide resources,” but should recognize needs and promote partnerships between companies that can meet those needs.
Hearn also emphasized the important of the so-called “middle mile” as the link between last-mile broadband systems – like cable networks – and the Internet’s backbone. Many middle mile connections are still slow and expensive T-1 lines.
Broadband stimulus funding should be doled out to improve middle mile connections, and “we don’t care who gets the funding for it,” he said.
Senate Advances Legislation Creating Office of Internet Connectivity Within Commerce Department’s NTIA
WASHINGTON, March 12, 2020 – The Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday voted to advance a version of legislation creating a new office with the Commerce Department, and re-authorizing the Federal Trade Commission’s authority to protect consumers from deceptive internet marketing.
One bill would establish an Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth within the National Telecommunications and Infrastructure Administration of the Commerce Department.
While senators approved both the reauthorization of the US SAFEWEB Act and the Advancing Critical Connectivity Expands Service, Small Business Resources, Opportunities, Access, and Data Based on Assessed Need and Demand Act by voice vote.
The ACCESS BROADBAND Act requires the administrator of NTIA to establish a new Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth within 180 days of the bill’s enacting date, with the aim of coordinating and streamlining the process of applying for various federal broadband support programs.
However, the amended version of the bill includes language authored by Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., which specifically excludes the Universal Service Fund’s programs from the office’s mandate.
The bill would also require the new office to create a single application for the various federal programs under its auspices, as well as a website which would be a one-stop shop for individuals and institutions seeking to learn more about federal programs for expanding broadband access.
In her opening remarks before the committee began consideration of the bill, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., the committee’s ranking member, praised the “good bipartisan work” that went into drafting it.
“Closing the digital divide that so many communities particularly in our rural communities face is a priority for many members on this committee, and this bill is an important step in addressing that challenge,” she said.
“And I would I would say that this coronavirus is also a very strong learning lesson for us, as it relates to the gaps in broadband because you certainly need it as it relates to so many aspects of delivering on education and healthcare during this time period.”
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., later added that the bill, which she co-sponsored, will be helpful to Arizonans living in rural areas who may need help accessing better broadband services.
“Nearly 25 million Arizonans living in rural areas do not have access to high speed internet, so it’s crucial for Arizona that rural communities are afforded the same opportunity to stay connected as our urban areas, and the ACCESS BROADBAND Act moves us in the right direction,” she said. “It’s an essential step to help us close the digital divide and ensure everyone in my state and across our country can access quality, high speed internet and the opportunities that come with it.”
Panelists on NTIA Broadband Webinar Say Smart Buildings Boost Civic Resiliency and Public Health
WASHINGTON, January 16, 2020 – Speakers advocated civic resiliency and better public health through smart building infrastructure in a webinar discussion hosted by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration on Wednesday.
Limor Schafman, senior director of Smart Buildings Programs at the Telecommunications Industry Association, said as buildings digitize, human experience will improve.
“A smart building uses an interoperable set of technology, systems and infrastructure to optimize building performance and occupant experience,” said Schafman. Smart buildings are not just for megacities. Rather, everyone shares resiliency and wellness concerns, and smart buildings are the answer, she said.
The purpose of a broadband-focused smart building is to digitize the infrastructure while maintaining occupants’ needs at the forefront of the innovation. Smart building infrastructure includes a focus on basic infrastructure, connectivity, power and energy, data, interoperable systems, and intelligence and cognition, said Schafman.
Smart buildings function through wireless or fiber connection and streamline data sharing across departments, combating or inter-departmental stagnation.
Wireless infrastructure also solves the problem of spaghetti wiring, said Benny Lee, Councilman and Director of San Mateo County Public Wi-Fi, in Northern California.
While wired building need dozens of switches on every floor, wireless buildings only need one or two.
Most 5G deployments using higher radio frequencies pose problems because such signals cannot travel through walls, said Lee. The “FCC has been discussing adding 6 [GigaHertz] spectrum to Wi-Fi, which promises connectivity speeds upwards of 5 [Gigabits per second]s,” he said.
Jiri Skopek, of a group called 2030 District Networks, argued that smart buildings save money while improving occupants’ quality of life. Speaking of smart buildings, he said, “we expect them now to respond to our needs, and even our wishes.”
Productivity increases, he said, because users can control the environment: lighting, air quality, temperature, occupancy sensing, shade control, white noise control, etc. These factors foster health and convenience.
Because smart buildings operate through microgrids, Skopek said, they run on direct current, which can integrate renewable energy.
In the case of natural disasters or emergencies, first responders can arrive quicker and know where the exact danger area is.
Schafman said municipalities can view the status of the building’s infrastructure because it has a virtual image. The buildings can also be run remotely, added Skopek.
Speaking at Commerce Department Symposium, Federal Agencies Doubt Benefits of Spectrum Plan
WASHINGTON, September 10, 2019- Federal agencies speaking at radiofrequency symposium hosted on Tuesday by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration Symposium expressed doubts that any kind of a national spectrum strategy would be useful.
Addressing speculation that the Commerce Department’s NTIA might unveil such a national spectrum strategy, the officials each seemed focused on their doubts that such a strategy would be beneficial for their respective agencies.
Spectrum management needs to meet constantly changing demands, said R. J. Balanga, senior regulatory and policy adviser at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Increased spectrum usage and higher data-rate transmissions are required for human and robotic operations in space.
NASA’s main objective, he said, is to enhance interoperability by further cooperation with the commercial space industry and its international partners.
The Department of Defense occupies a great number of spectrum bands, said Colonel Frederick Williams, director of spectrum policy and programs at the Pentagon. He said spectrum has becoming increasingly congested.
Agencies must work together to combat spectrum issues, he said. The Citizens Broadband Radio Service, for instance, was established by the Federal Communications Commission as a way for shared wireless broadband use of the 3.5 GHz band.
Karen Van Dyke, principal technical adviser for Global Positioning Systems at the Department of Transportation, said that spectrum affects all modes of transportation. Therefore, it’s important that GPS are protected from harmful radio-frequency interference.
Furthermore, she said, close cooperation with private industries is required to best utilize spectrum innovation.
The government has so many layers of spectrum management that it’s difficult to determine the exact process, said Ian Atkins, director of the Federal Aviation Administration spectrum strategy and policy.
The FAA is committed to utilizing the least amount of spectrum possible, he said. However, what the agency is looking for is a return of investment to make sure that valuable spectrum programs are enacted.
With 5G approaching mass deployment, efficient spectrum management is key.
Dynamic spectrum sharing as well as extended range millimeter waves are going to dramatically increase 5G deployment, said Dean Brenner, senior vice president for spectrum strategy and technology policy at Qualcomm.
The hype surrounding the deployment of wireless 5G technology demonstrates that the public often gravitates its focus on a single set of technologies, said Christopher Szymanski, director of product marketing and government affairs at Broadcom. But there needs to be focus on the backhaul and wireless aspects of spectrum as well.
Cisco has projected increased usage of unlicensed spectrum in the coming years, said Szymanski. However, the U.S. lacks enough channels of spectrum to keep up with demand.
Hence why spectrum and infrastructure policies are necessary on both the state and federal level, said Hank Hultquist, vice president of federal regulatory for AT&T.
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