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Broadband's Impact

U.S. Broadband Coalition Working Group Urges Federal Involvement to Stimulate Adoption

WASHINGTON, November 16, 2009 – A working group of the non-profit U.S. Broadband Coalition on Friday released a report in which the group called for the federal government to “play an active role in stimulating adoption and use of advanced broadband connections.”

The group, one of six committees of the U.S. Broadband Coalition – which had gathered more than 160 organizations to push for a national broadband strategy – presented its finding at the Federal Communications Commission, after introductory remarks by Blair Levin, director of the FCC’s national broadband plan.

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WASHINGTON, November 16, 2009 – A working group of the non-profit U.S. Broadband Coalition on Friday released a report in which the group called for the federal government to “play an active role in stimulating adoption and use of advanced broadband connections.”

The group, one of six committees of the U.S. Broadband Coalition – which had gathered more than 160 organizations to push for a national broadband strategy – presented its finding at the Federal Communications Commission, after introductory remarks by Blair Levin, director of the FCC’s national broadband plan.

The coalition’s leadership spoke very positively about the prospects of inter-industry cooperation and identifying points for possible improvement. But the group generally avoided specifics about what should be done to fix these problems. The FCC’s Levin pointed out, “Our work is about gathering data…we’re not talking about solution sets right now, we’re putting that off until December.”

The U.S. Broadband Coalition presented its report on September 24, 2009, but the Adoption and Use Working Group sought further time to collect its thoughts into an extensive 54-page report on the subject.

In addition to promoting federal involvement in broadband adoption, the group urged “federal and state support should include programs, grants, subsidies, and other measures that foster broadband connectivity, computer access, education and training and that address barriers to effective use of broadband.”

The report sought to break the subject into the following five areas:

  • Bridging the Digital Divide
  • Addressing the Broadband Adoption Gap for People with Disabilities
  • Increasing the intensity of Broadband Use in Core Sectors of Our Economy
  • Raising the Bar on Skills and Ease of Use
  • Accelerating Innovation

“As leaders clearly understand the benefits of broadband, other sectors will follow,” said Harry Roesch of Rural Telecommunications Congress.

The U.S. Broadband Coalition began its work long before the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act created a mandate for the FCC to develop a National Broadband Plan by February 17, 2010.

Since the passage of the legislation in February 2009, the coalition has focused on helping the FCC in its work. The coalition addressed the importance of interoperability alongside the other four “I” principles they find most integral to the expansion of broadband in the United States: inclusion, integration, interoperability, investment, and innovation. The policy presented by the coalition on Friday seek to promote these principles.

Panelists discussed different sectors where broadband is applicable, including education, healthcare, and public safety. They stressed the benefits of an industry where broadband effectively integrated into operation.

One example was the 911 emergency response system, which is currently a voice centric system that only utilizes analog voice technology. A switch to broadband could allow people in accidents to send texts, videos, or pictures to the response center. This would not only increase options for those in accidents, but would improve the information that emergency responders have to deal with.

“Broadband impacts every single step of that process… so there’s significant real-time broadband opportunities for public safety,” said Patrick Halley of the National Emergency Number Association. “There’s also non-real time opportunities training. We just hosted an event yesterday. We had a couple hundred public safety agencies connected online doing training about geographic information systems. So there’s non-real time benefits too,” he said.

The report’s co-chairs were Charles Benton, of the Benton Foundation; Link Hoewing, of Verizon Communications; Kenneth Peres, of Communications Workers of America; and Karen Archer Perry, of the Knight Center for Digital Excellence.

Officials at the event also commented on the timetable for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s process for broadband grants.

Recipients for the first round of funding should be named sometime mid-December. Comments on the request for information concerning the second round of funding are due November 30.

The FCC has also asked for public feedback on a series of questions about broadband adoption. Responses to this request are due December 2.

Editor’s Note: Comments on the request for information concerning the second round of broadband stimulus funding are due November 30, not November 23, as was previously stated. The article has been corrected.

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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Digital Inclusion

Outreach ‘Most Valuable Thing’ for Emergency Broadband Benefit Program: Rosenworcel

FCC Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel said EBB will benefit tremendously from local outreach efforts.

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Internet Innovation Alliance Co-Chair Kim Keenan

WASHINGTON, September 13, 2021 – The head of the Federal Communications Commission said Monday that a drawback of the legislation that ushered in the $3.2-billion Emergency Broadband Benefit program is that it did not include specific funding for outreach.

“There was no funding to help a lot of these non-profit and local organizations around the country get the word out [about the program],” Jessica Rosenworcel said during an event hosted by the Internet Innovation Alliance about the broadband affordability divide. “And I know that it would get the word out faster if we had that opportunity.”

The program, which launched in May and provides broadband subsidies of $50 and $75 to qualifying low-income households, has so-far seen an uptake of roughly 5.5 million households. The program was a product of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

“We gotta get those trusted local actors speaking about it because me preaching has its limitations and reaching out to people who are trusted in their communities to get the word out – that is the single most valuable thing we can do,” Rosenworcel said.

She said the FCC has 32,000 partners and has held more than 300 events with members of Congress, tribal leaders, national and local organizations, and educational institutions to that end.

“Anyone who’s interested, we’ll work with you,” she said.

EBB successes found in its mobile friendliness, language inclusion

Rosenworcel also preached the benefits of a mobile application-first approach with the program’s application that is making it accessible to large swaths of the population. “I think, frankly, every application for every program with the government should be mobile-first because we have populations, like the LatinX population, that over index on smartphone use for internet access.

“We gotta make is as easy as possible for people to do this,” she said.

She also noted that the program is has been translated into 13 languages, furthering its accessibility.

“We have work to do,” Rosenworcel added. “We’re not at 100 percent for anyone, and I don’t think we can stop until we get there.”

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