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Broadband's Impact

FCC Eyes Apple’s Blockage of Google Voice

WASHINGTON, August 6, 2009 – A top Federal Communications Commission official sent letters of inquiry on Friday to Apple, AT&T and Google over Apple’s move to block Google’s voice technology on the iPhone.

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WASHINGTON, August 6, 2009 – A top Federal Communications Commission official sent letters of inquiry on Friday to Apple, AT&T and Google over Apple’s move to block Google’s voice technology on the iPhone.

James Schlichting, acting chief for the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, asked Apple Vice President Catherine Novelli why Apple had rejected Google’s Voice application and removed related third-party applications from its app store. He also asked Novelli to identify which third-party applications had been removed or rejected.

Schlichting also asked whether Apple had acted alone or in consultation with AT&T and whether or not there were any contractual or non-contractual conditions with AT&T affecting Apple’s decision.

In his letter to James Cicconi, senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs at AT&T, Schlichting asked similar questions and whether any devices operating on AT&T’s network allow use of the Google Voice application. He also inquired whether other applications have been rejected for the iPhone and whether consumers’ access to and usage of Google Voice is disabled on the iPhone but permitted on other handsets such as Research in Motion’s BlackBerry devices.

According to a report by Jason Kincaid in TechCrunch, John Gruber, a technical writer and technology pundit, “has confirmed with a trusted source that AT&T is to blame for the Google Voice ban.”

This allegation has met with some skepticism.

According to a report by Om Malik on Gigaom, this allegation that AT&T is behind Apple’s blocking of Google Voice is “flat-out wrong.”

“If it were true,” said Malik, “then Google Voice would be banned on BlackBerry devices that use AT&T as well….As of this morning, everything is working fine on my AT&T-connected Bold.

Malik also noted that AT&T’s voice network is needed to send and receive Google Voice calls.

Accord to a report by Marin Perez on Information Week, AT&T states that it does not manage or approve applications for the App Store.

“We have received the letter and will, of course, respond to it,” said AT&T spokesman Michael Balmoris.

Schlichting also sent a letter to Richard Whitt, Washington telecom and media counsel member at Google, asking whether an explanation was given for Apple’s rejection, whether Apple has approved any Google applications for the Apple App Store, what services they provide, and whether Google has any other proposed applications pending with Apple.

“We will continue to work to bring our services to iPhone users, for example by taking advantage of advances in mobile browsers,” said Google Global Communications and Public Affairs spokesman Dan Martin.

“We will be supplying the information that the commission has requested,” he said.

“Consumers everywhere should be pleased at the quick response of the Federal Communications Commission to the reports that Apple was blocking access to the Google Voice application, said Public Knowledge President Gigi Sohn.

“This is exactly the type of aggressive, pro-consumer, pro-competitive action that we want to see from the FCC, and which has been long mission from the commission’s policy agenda,” she said.

Sohn said she looks forward to reading the official responses to the commission’s letters from Apple and AT&T.

The letters are part of a trend showing that the FCC is trying to craft a more open market where consumers can access mobile networks easier, said Charles Golvin, analyst with Forrester Research.

According to a report by AP technology writer Michael Liedtke on ABCNews, just days after the letters were sent, Google CEO Eric Schmidt resigned from the Apple board, “because of the companies’ conflicting interests as competition between the one-time allies heats up.

Broadband's Impact

USC, CETF Collaborate on Research for Broadband Affordability

Advisory panel includes leaders in broadband and a chief economist at the FCC.

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Hernan Galperin of USC's Annenberg School

WASHINGTON, September 22, 2021 – Researchers from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School and the California Emerging Technology Fund is partnering to recommend strategies for bringing affordable broadband to all Americans.

In a press release on Tuesday, the university’s school of communications and journalism and the CETF will be guided by an expert advisory panel, “whose members include highly respected leaders in government, academia, foundations and non-profit and consumer-focused organizations.”

Members of the advisory panel include a chief economist at the Federal Communications Commission, digital inclusion experts, broadband advisors to governors, professors and deans, and other public interest organizations.

“With the federal government and states committing billions to broadband in the near term, there is a unique window of opportunity to connect millions of low-income Americans to the infrastructure they need to thrive in the 21st century,” Hernan Galperin, a professor at the school, said in the release.

“However, we need to make sure public funds are used effectively, and that subsidies are distributed in an equitable and sustainable manner,” he added. “This research program will contribute to achieve these goals by providing evidence-based recommendations about the most cost-effective ways to make these historic investments in broadband work for all.”

The CETF and USC have collaborated before on surveys about broadband adoption. In a series of said surveys recently, the organizations found disparities along income levels, as lower-income families reported lower levels of technology adoption, despite improvement over the course of the pandemic.

The surveys also showed that access to connected devices was growing, but racial minorities are still disproportionately impacted by the digital divide.

The collaboration comes before the House is expected to vote on a massive infrastructure package that includes $65 billion for broadband. Observers and experts have noted the package’s vision for flexibility, but some are concerned about the details of how that money will be spent going forward.

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Broadband's Impact

Technology Policy Institute Introduces Data Index to Help Identify Connectivity-Deprived Areas

The Broadband Connectivity Index uses multiple datasets to try to get a better understanding of well- and under-connected areas in the U.S.

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Scott Wallsten is president and senior fellow at the Technology Policy Institute

WASHINGTON, September 16, 2021 – The Technology Policy Institute introduced Thursday a broadband data index that it said could help policymakers study areas across the country with inadequate connectivity.

The TPI said the Broadband Connectivity Index uses multiple broadband datasets to compare overall connectivity “objectively and consistently across any geographic areas.” It said it will be adding it soon into its TPI Broadband Map.

The BCI uses a “machine learning principal components analysis” to take into account the share of households that can access fixed speeds the federal standard of 25 Megabits per second download and 3 Mbps upload and 100/25 – which is calculated based on the Federal Communications Commission’s Form 477 data with the American Community Survey – while also using download speed data from Ookla, Microsoft data for share of households with 25/3, and the share of households with a broadband subscription, which comes from the American Community Survey.

The BCI has a range of zero to 10, where zero is the worst connected and 10 is the best. It found that Falls Church, Virginia was the county with the highest score with the following characteristic: 99 percent of households have access to at least 100/25, 100 percent of households connect to Microsoft services at 25/3, the average fixed download speed is 243 Mbps in Ookla in the second quarter of this year, and 94 percent of households have a fixed internet connection.

Meanwhile, the worst-connected county is Echols County in Georgia. None of the population has access to a fixed connection of 25/3, which doesn’t include satellite connectivity, three percent connect to Microsoft’s servers at 25/3, the average download speed is 7 Mbps, and only 47 percent of households have an internet connection. It notes that service providers won $3.6 million out of the $9.2-billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to provide service in this county.

“Policymakers could use this index to identify areas that require a closer look. Perhaps any county below, say, the fifth percentile, for example, would be places to spend effort trying to understand,” the TPI said.

“We don’t claim that this index is the perfect indicator of connectivity, or even the best one we can create,” TPI added. “In some cases, it might magnify errors, particularly if multiple datasets include errors in the same area.

“We’re still fine-tuning it to reduce error to the extent possible and ensure the index truly captures useful information. Still, this preliminary exercise shows that it is possible to obtain new information on connectivity with existing datasets rather than relying only on future, extremely expensive data.”

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Broadband's Impact

New Report Recommends Broadening Universal Service Fund to Include Broadband Revenues

A Mattey Consulting report finds broadband revenues can help sustain the fund used to connect rural and low-income Americans.

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Carol Mattey of Mattey Consulting LLC

WASHINGTON, September 14, 2021— Former deputy chief of the Federal Communications Commission Carol Mattey released a study on Tuesday recommending the agency reform the Universal Service Fund to incorporate a broad range of revenue sources, including from broadband.

According to the report by Mattey’s consulting firm Mattey Consulting LLC, revenues from “broadband internet access services that are increasingly used by Americans today should contribute to the USF programs that support the expansion of such services to all,” it said. “This will better reflect the value of broadband internet access service in today’s marketplace for both consumers and businesses.”

Mattey notes that sources of funding for the USF, which are primarily from voice revenues and supports expanding broadband to low-income Americans and remote regions, has been shrinking, thus putting the fund in jeopardy. The contribution percent reached a historic high at 33.4 percent in the second quarter this year, and decreased slightly after that, though Mattey suggested it could soar as high as 40 percent in the coming years.

“This situation is unsustainable and jeopardizes the universal broadband connectivity mission for our nation without immediate FCC reform,” Mattey states in her report, “To ensure the enduring value of the USF program and America’s connectivity goals, we must have a smart and substantive conversation about the program’s future.”

According to Mattey’s data, the assessed sources (primarily voice) of income will only continue to shrink over the coming years, while unassessed sources will continue to grow. Mattey’s report was conducted in conjunction with INCOMPAS, NTCA: The Rural Broadband Association, and the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition.

“It is time for the FCC to take action, and to move away from the worst option of all – the status quo – that is jeopardizing the USF which is critical to connecting our nation,” the report said.

John Windhausen, executive director of SHLB, echoed the sentiments expressed by Mattey in her report, “We simply must put the USF funding mechanism on a more stable and sustainable path,” he said, “[in order to] strengthen our national commitment to broadband equity for all.”

Mattey report uniform with current recommendations

Mattey’s research is generally in line with proponents of change to the USF. Some have recommended that the fund draw from general broadband revenues, while others have said general taxation would provide a longer lasting solution. Even FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr suggested that Big Tech be forced to contribute to the system it benefits from, which the acting chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said is an “intriguing” idea.

The FCC instituted the USF in 1997 as a part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The fund was designed to encourage the development of telecom infrastructure across the U.S.—dispensing billions of dollars every year to advance the goal of universal connectivity. It does so through four programs: the Connect America Fund, Lifeline, the rural health care program, and E-Rate.

These constituent programs address specific areas related for broadband. For example, the E-Rate program is primarily concerned with ensuring that schools and libraries are sufficiently equipped with internet and technology assistance to serve their students and communities. All of these programs derive their funding from the USF.

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