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National Broadband Plan

Broadband Speeds Matter Just as Much as Internet Access, Say New Yorkers

NEW YORK, December 13, 2009 – Broadband speeds matter just as much as does internet access, in order to ensure educational, economic and social opportunities for individuals of all incomes and ethnic backgrounds, participants in a community broadband hearing here agreed on Friday.

Policy officials, not-for-profit organizations, small businesses, community-based organizations and others came together Friday for to discuss how New York fits into the national broadband plan currently being developed by the Federal Communications Commission in Washington.

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NEW YORK, December 13, 2009 – Broadband speeds matter just as much as does internet access, in order to ensure educational, economic and social opportunities for individuals of all incomes and ethnic backgrounds, participants in a community broadband hearing here agreed on Friday.

Policy officials, not-for-profit organizations, small businesses, community-based organizations and others came together Friday for to discuss how New York fits into the national broadband plan currently being developed by the Federal Communications Commission in Washington.

The event was organized by Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science and taped for FCC review and consideration.

The FCC’s year-long survey of the nation’s internet infrastructure was mandated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which included broadband initiatives intended to accelerate broadband deployment across the United States.

The stimulus package “will be the driving force in this country for many years to come” as it relates to science and technology, Edward Reinfurt, executive director of the New York State Foundation for Science, Technology and Innovation.

In New York, Gov. David Paterson has appointed the New York State Broadband Development and Deployment Council, which is holding its first meeting December 14 as his designated entity coordinating broadband stimulus activities.

The council is helping New Yorker seek federal stimulus funding. Council members and other New York officials see broadband as a means to achieve greater educational capabilities, internet access and economic development. New York’s broadband adoption rate averages around 54 percent – below the national average. An April 2009 survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project said some 63 percent of adult Americans have broadband Internet connections at home,

“That’s probably where I see the synergies the most: how important broadband access and speed is to economic development in the state,” Reinfurt said.

In the portions of this story included below as Premium Content, BroadbandBreakfast.com provides further analysis of Reinfurt’s remarks, reports on the comments by New York City Councilwoman Gail Brewer, plus comments from non-profit and industry officials testifying at the hearing.

[Private_Free Trial][Private_Premium Content]Not only is broadband essential to rural areas in order for those communities to participate in the global community, but super-high-speed access is also essential, officials argued. And it’s not just rural areas that are underserved on this front, they said –but cities, too.

Reinfurt pointed to the Kauffman Foundation’s 2008 State New Economy Index, which shows that New York still only ranks among the third quartile – one range below the top – when graded on indicators in categories such as knowledge jobs, globalization, economic dynamism, transformation to a digital economy, and technological innovation capacity.

It ranks ninth in the nation when taking all of these factors into account, but 38th in online population, 37th in technology in schools, 24th for online agriculture, 21st in health information technology and 22nd in high-tech jobs. It ranks seventh for broadband telecommunications.

“We’re not keeping up … this is serious and we need to understand this,” Reinfurt said, adding that New York is hoping to receive another round of stimulus funds in 2010 that can help improve its broadband speeds, in particular.

New York City Councilwoman Gale Brewer, chair of the city council’s Committee on Technology and Government, noted that a 2006 survey conducted by the city showed that while internet service is readily available in New York, lower income population adoption rates are about half that of higher income – plus there is an absence of computer literacy skills among this group.

“Still, there is a lack of understanding of the value of broadband in children’s education,” she added.

Large businesses in the city are served well with broadband, but industrial and manufacturing entities have limited service options, she said. Many older owners feel they don’t even need computers. But still, city officials want to ensure the opportunity is there. New York is also pursuing ways to install wireless internet services in more public spaces throughout the city, including parks.

“We get very excited when we have one park in Brooklyn wired – it’s pretty frustrating,” Brewer said.

Expanded broadband service can be particularly helpful in the public health sector, Brewer continued. For example, a resident signing up for Medicaid should not have to fill out forms 27 times. Brewer hopes increased broadband services will allow more of these functions to be carried out online. But that will only work if people have access.

“The city’s going in that direction with a lot of applications, but you need the speed and the affordability to be able to do it at home,” she said.

Brewer hailed President Obama and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski for being “extremely innovative” in thinking outside the box in terms of how to wire more parts of the country.

Other state and city groups also vocalized the merits of having more broadband coverage – including everything from teaching school children and their parents all the Internet has to offer, to connecting often isolated senior citizens to their friends and family who live far away, to helping communities of color transition to a green economy, to training laid-off or unemployed workers for jobs in the new economy.

The not-for-profit Per Scholars in the South Bronx, for example, has for 15 years provided over 80,00 computers and support to low-income families and nonprofits, and trained more than 3,000 New York City and Miami residents for careers in information technology.

“Many of our families … understand the importance of the Internet. They understand the importance of broadband and technology and understand it can have a profound impact on their lives. They just don’t know how to get it,” explained organization President Plinio Ayala. “The digital divide, the broadband divide, is not just giving someone a computer – it needs to be a comprehensive solution.”

Andrea Taylor, who directs the community affairs North America program for Microsoft, noted that New York has lost nearly 250,000 jobs in the financial sector alone in the past few years, and many workers won’t return to those jobs because they either don’t exist anymore, or they require a new skill set.

To address this, a joint venture of Microsoft and the National Governors Association will soon be introduced in New York. The effort offers e-learning training for workers to prepare them for sustainable jobs. The program has already been introduced in Washington state and Illinois. At least 10 million to 20 million Americans are in need of skill upgrades, Taylor added. And high-speed, widespread broadband is critical to the program’s success, she said.

“The real hunger and demand among adults to upgrade their skills and broadband is a part of that solution because of people don’t have access they can’t do the kind of training and prep that’s needed,” Taylor said. “It’s a critical process” needed for those people “who want to get skills and get the country moving again from an economic perspective.”

Brewer’s committee will hold a hearing this Wednesday in New York’s City Hall, which will focus on how small business and technology can work together in a way that ensures startups have the same opportunities as larger businesses.[/Private_Free Trial][/Private_Premium Content]

Broadband Mapping

In Discussing ‘Broadband and the Biden Administration,’ Trump and Obama Transition Workers Praise Auctions

Liana Sowa

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Screenshot from the November 2 Broadband Breakfast Live Online webcast

November 22, 2020 – In the event that the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden seeks substantial funding for broadband infrastructure, there is a strong likelihood that such monies would be channeled through a reverse-auction mechanism, said panelists at the Broadband Breakfast Live Online event on November 11.

See more from Broadband Breakfast Live Online, including “Broadband and the Biden Administration, Part II,” on December 2, 2020.

In a discussion with Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark, two broadband policy experts who served on the transition teams for Donald Trump and Barack Obama, respectively, championed the role of such a mechanism as efficient and fair.

Previous attempts to run funding through other selection processes provided funds only to the well connected, claimed to Mark Jamison, research and education director at the University of Florida, and who served on then President-elect Trump’s 2016 transition team.

Places with a Democratic governor or a congressman of either party that sat on a powerful committee were funded more often compared to other regions, Jamison said.

Whether or not funding mechanisms were in fact biased in that way, both Jamison and Technology Policy Institute President Scott Wallsten both praised the transparency and economic efficiency of the Federal Communications Commission’s reverse-auction funding mechanism.

Wallsten, an economist who was involved in the transition for then President-elect Obama, and who also served on the National Broadband Plan implemented in the first year of the Obama administration, criticized the Rural Utility Service and the old funding process of Universal Service Fund. Both said under these mechanism, a lot of money is spent without good information about how such funds are awarded or distributed.

Wallsten and Jamison agreed that more data would help make broadband funding more effective, they also said that the FCC was right to move forward with its Rural Digital Opportunity Fund auction on October 29 – part of the new auction-based approach to the Universal Service Fund – despite imperfect mapping.

In part, this was because any inadequacy of mapping data can be resolved in the challenge process, said Wallsten. Additionally, it is not clear that auctions like RDOF, or the Connect American Fund auction in 2018, would have yielded better results had the FCC waited to update their maps.

Jamison and Wallston also projected how the Biden administration might tackle net neutrality, Section 230 and antitrust regulation.

Jamison said that if the Biden administration reinstitutes net neutrality, it will quickly see that that won’t work very well.

Wallsten said that if it’s reinstituted the debate will be different than in the past. A large part of net neutrality is paid prioritization where third parties can pay ISP’s to put their content “at the front of the line.” He said that the pandemic has demonstrated why no paid prioritization may be a mistake, as many people need guarantees of stable connection for their schooling and telehealth applications.

Wallsten also noted that many made doom and gloom forecasts when the Trump administration FCC removed net neutrality protections in December 2017. None of those predictions came to pass, he said.

Both also agreed that the FCC should not be involved the regulation of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects tech platforms from liability for user-generated comments.

They also were wary of changes to the consumer welfare standard governing antitrust because, said Jamison, “If you’re not regulating for consumers, who are we regulating for?”

See “Broadband Breakfast Live Online on Wednesday, November 11: Broadband and the Biden Administration,” Broadband Breakfast

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National Broadband Plan

National Broadband Plan Has Held Up Well, With Notable Downsides, Say Authors

Elijah Labby

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Photo of Blair Levin, former executive director of the National Broadband Plan, by New America used with permission

June 29, 2020 — The National Broadband Plan has been successful, despite notable downsides, said panelists in a Federal Communications Bar Association webinar on Friday.

The plan, first released ten years ago, aimed to increase competition, provide lower-cost service to more Americans and decrease regulatory barriers to broadband rollout.

“Ten years in this space in terms of technology is remarkable,” said Rebekah Goodheart of Jenner & Block. “At the time only 15 percent of people had access… of 25 megabits… The fact that this plan was able to stand up through time shows how visionary it really was.”

“All the stuff that we’re taking for granted now are things that came out of recommendations from the plan,” she added.

Participants noted that, despite broadband access deficiencies amid the coronavirus, “overall broadband adoption rates [are] going up reasonably well right now,” said John Horrigan, Senior Fellow at the Technology Policy Institute.

But there are still significant barriers to unfettered telework capabilities, he said.

“We’re also waking up to the fact that smartphones, as useful as they are, have significant limitations for completing homework,” he said.

Ruth Milkman of Quadra Partners agreed.

“There’s a lot of stuff you can’t do on a smartphone,” she said. “It’s hard to read papers… and there are data caps, and it can be quite expensive if you try to use it in the same way that you would use a fixed wireline network.”

Blair Levin, non-resident Fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Project of the Brookings Institution, said that sections of the National Broadband Plan held up remarkably well, even ten years later.

“In the healthcare section which says, ‘We really need to utilize telehealth because someday there’ll be a pandemic’… it does look very prophetic,” he said.

Despite the proactivity of the policy, Levin said, it has certain shortcomings that the FCC should address.

“We’ve become much more aware in this society of different ways in which our institutions do not include everyone and lead to inequalities,” he said. “I would argue that absolutely needs to be a new plan… now it’s more important than ever because we recognize the importance of closing that digital divide.”

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Digital Inclusion

Authors of the 2010 National Broadband Plan Say That a ‘Refresh’ Should Not Only Be Up to FCC

Adrienne Patton

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Photo of INCOMPAS policy summit panelists discussing the National Broadband Plan by Adrienne Patton

WASHINGTON, March 4, 2020 – Panelists at the INCOMPAS policy summit Tuesday looked back with fondness on the Federal Communication Commission’s National Broadband Plan that was released 10 years ago this month. They agreed that if the plan is refreshed, the FCC should not be the lone agency to lead in the changes.

The 10-year-old plan was designed to “ensure robust competition” and “maximize the benefits of broadband,” while fostering the spread of broadband across the country, said INCOMPAS General Counsel Angie Kronenberg.

New Street Research Policy Analyst Blair Levin, who led the plan’s development, called it a “three-act play.”

The first act was the hiring people. The second act was holding hearings and acquiring data. The third act was an extensive writing process, Levin said.

When asked how the United States is doing in regards to the plan, Levin said there have been great improvements and some complications.

Mattey Consulting Principal Carol Mattey who worked on the plan, said it was a “long and evolutionary process,” that often required “nitty gritty details” from complex concepts.

Technology Policy Institute Senior Fellow John Horrigan, who also worked on the plan, said that while the statistics do not show a large increase in Americans that have wireline broadband at home, smart phones and mobile devices have made a huge difference.

Even so, Horrigan admitted that for children who have to do homework at home, smart phones are not enough.

However, Horrigan said the way that policy makers understand and think about the digital divide has improved.

A decade ago, city mayors were not concerned about digital inclusion, and now that has changed, said Horrigan.

Levin disclosed his frustration with the “metrics” section of the plan. The availability of bandwidth should not hinder economic growth, said Levin. But, “fundamentally we’ve made progress,” Levin admitted.

“The regulatory process is too slow to catch up,” and legislators are hesitant to look so far in the future while also considering cost concerns, said Mattey.

Looking ahead to a possible refresh of the plan, Horrigan said the FCC should not be the sole organization reworking the document.

Levin agreed and added that broadband has changed over the past decade as well. He called broadband a “mixed bag.”

The whole federal government should be thinking about how to revive the plan and take into consideration cybersecurity and privacy, Levin advised.

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