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Broadband's Impact

Google Shakes Up Broadband Landscape With Fiber Build Initiative

WASHINGTON, February 10, 2010 – Google shook up the broadband world on Wednesday with the announcement, on its blog, that it plans to offer super-fast broadband, at speeds of up to 1 Gigabit per second, to up to 500,000 homes.

Google framed its entrance into the marketplace to deploy fiber-optic services as a “testbed” to understand more about the way that consumers and businesses use internet applications when truly high-speed services are available.

“We’ll deliver Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today with 1 gigabit per second, fiber-to-the-home connections,” said Minnie Ingersoll and James Kelly, project managers at Google. “We plan to offer service at a competitive price to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people.”

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WASHINGTON, February 10, 2010 – Google shook up the broadband world on Wednesday with the announcement, on its blog, that it plans to offer super-fast broadband, at speeds of up to 1 Gigabit per second, to up to 500,000 homes.

Google framed its entrance into the marketplace to deploy fiber-optic services as a “testbed” to understand more about the way that consumers and businesses use internet applications when truly high-speed services are available.

“We’ll deliver Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today with 1 gigabit per second, fiber-to-the-home connections,” said Minnie Ingersoll and James Kelly, project managers at Google. “We plan to offer service at a competitive price to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people.”

“Imagine sitting in a rural health clinic, streaming three-dimensional medical imaging over the web and discussing a unique condition with a specialist in New York,” the post continued. “Or downloading a high-definition, full-length feature film in less than five minutes. Or collaborating with classmates around the world while watching live 3-D video of a university lecture.”

Additionally, Google said wanted to understand and share lessons about the deployment of fiber-to-the-home networks, and that Google’s fiber networks will be “open access” network.

That last point puts Google’s approach to broadband on a collision course with the major network providers, including AT&T, Comcast and Verizon Communications, who oppose Google’s efforts to impose “network neutrality” rules upon broadband providers.

Reactions from Carriers and the FCC

Major broadband providers, including Verizon and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, downplayed the significance of the announcement.

“The internet ecosystem is dynamic and competitive, and it’s delivering great benefits to consumers,” said Verizon spokesman David Fish. “Google’s expansion of its networks to enter the access market is another new paragraph in this exciting story.”

“We look forward to learning more about Google’s broadband experiment in the handful of trial locations they are planning,” said Brian Dietz, vice president of communications for NCTA.

“The cable industry has invested $161 billion over the past 13 years to build a nationwide broadband infrastructure that is available to 92 percent of U.S. homes, and we will continue to invest billions more to continually improve the speed and performance of our networks and provide tens of millions of consumers with the best possible broadband experience,” he said.

Other officials, including Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski, were more effusive: “Big broadband creates big opportunities,” Genachowski said in a statement.

“This significant trial will provide an American testbed for the next generation of innovative, high-speed Internet apps, devices, and services,” Genachowski continued. “The FCC’s National Broadband Plan will build upon such private-sector initiatives and will include recommendations for facilitating and accelerating greater investment in broadband, creating jobs and increasing America’s global competitiveness.”

Google’s entrance into the fiber access market comes at time that the Obama administration is in the midst of handing out checks, as part of its $7.2 billion broadband stimulus, to help build broadband into unserved and underserved communities. Fiber-optic services are among the major beneficiaries, among the projects announced thus far.

Additionally, the FCC’s broadband plan is being finalized, and is due to Congress on March 17.

In a separate post, Google Washington Telecom and Media Council Rick Whitt said that the announcement built its recommendation, as part of the FCC’s national broadband plan, that the agency “should build ultra high-speed broadband networks as testbeds in several communities across the country, to help learn how to bring faster and better broadband access to more people.”

Whitt said, “We thought it was important to back up our policy recommendation with concrete action, so now we’ve decided to build an experimental network of our own.”

Whitt also compared the project to Google’s advocacy for free Wi-Fi networks – including its own, public, Mountain View, Calif.-based network – as well as seeking “open access” within the 700 Megahertz band of radio frequencies, and seeking to pipe broadband over the vacant television channels currently allocated to television broadcasters.

“We plan to incorporate the policies we’ve been advocating for in areas like network neutrality and privacy protection,” said Whitt. “Even on a small scale, building an experimental network will also raise other important legal and policy issues, from local environmental law to rights-of-way, so we’ll be working closely with communities, public officials, and other stakeholders to make sure we get this right.”

Many non-profit groups also praised the announcement.

“Google’s proposed experiment with building ultra-fast, open broadband pipelines in a handful of communities follows a trail already blazed by Verizon’s FiOS network, which has fiber optic cables capable of speeds comparable to what Google proposes,” said Ben Scott, policy director for Free Press.

“The FCC should use these examples to set forward-looking goals for the future of broadband throughout the United States. In the coming years, all Americans should have access to a world-class broadband network,” said Scott.

Markham Erickson, Executive Director of the Open Internet Coalition, stated: “An ultrafast and open broadband will not only provide a new and exciting platform for the next generation of Internet services and apps, but will hopefully inject new life into the extinct third party ISP marketplace.” Google is also a member of the coalition.

“Google’s fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network sets a new standard for speed and transparency,” said Sascha Meinrath, director of the Open Technology Initiative of the New America Foundation.

“The network should have open, symmetrical architecture that facilitates high-speed communication for users within the network, including schools, hospitals and the local government and data collection to spur Internet research,” said Meinrath. “The benefits of one Gigabit-per-second connectivity are not maximized simply by getting data in and out of the community, but by creating vibrant digital commons that supports applications, resources, and communication within the local network.”

There are strong operational ties between Google and the New America Foundation. Eric Schmidt, the Chairman and CEO of Google, is also Chairman of the New America Foundation, and has given more than $1 million to the non-profit group.

Additionally, the foundation is one of the key players in the Measurement Lab consortium, founded by Google, New America and PlanetLab at Princeton University.

Measurement Lab was launched in 2009. Like the BroadbandCensus.com speed test and user-generated survey, Measurement Lab allows individuals to diagnose their internet connections using Internet2’s open-source Network Diagnostic Tool.

Independent observers also praised the Google fiber initiative.

“One of the really tremendous impacts of Google’s announcement is that it hopefully transforms our national conversation,” said Joanne Hovis, president of Columbia Telecommunications Corp. “When a company of this stature, that understands technology the way Google does, establishes a symmetrical Gigabit as the standard for broadband all the way to the home and business, it hopefully enables a broader conversation about the need for big bandwidth.”

Hovis continued: “Other than the open municipal fiber-to-the-home networks, this is the first significant foray into open access over fiber, and will serve as an incredibly important demonstration of the technical and financial feasibility of enabling competition through openness.” CTC is an engineering company that has supported a number of fiber-optic developments.

Said Danielle Coffey, vice president of government affairs for the Telecommunications Industry Association: “TIA members, and the public, will surely benefit from Google’s initiative. As the manufacturers and suppliers of broadband platforms and broadband-enabled products and services, we are pleased to see added competition and increased investment in our nation’s next-generation infrastructure.”

Tonya Rideout, acting executive director of the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors, also praised the initiative: “NATOA and its members are pleased to see Google’s significant commitment to working with localities to take steps toward solving the nation’s broadband deficit.”

“Having provided high quality, high speed Internet service to Rural America for the past five years, IBEC applauds Google’s recognition that rural America needs and wants optimum, high speed broadband service,” said Alyssa Clemsen Roberts, government affairs coordinator for the International Broadband Electronic Communications, Inc., which provides broadband over power lines.

“IBEC continues to strive to provide more access at higher speeds and we look forward to working with Google and other technology leaders in serving rural America,” she said.

As part of its announcement, Google issued a formal Request for Information from local communities, and from individual residents. The internet giant seeks to enlist local officials and individuals in selecting the communities that will be the recipients of the Google Gigabit networks.

Responses may be offered to Google until March 26, 2010, and the communities that Google selects will be announced later this year, said Google.

Digital Inclusion

Doug Lodder: How to Prevent the Economic Climate from Worsening the Digital Divide

There are government programs created to shrink the digital divide, but not many Americans know what’s out there.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Doug Lodder, president of TruConnect

From gas to groceries to rent, prices are rocketing faster than they have in decades. This leaves many American families without the means to pay for essentials, including cellphone and internet services. In fact, the Center on Poverty and Social Policy reports that poverty rates have been steadily climbing since March. We’re talking about millions of people at risk of being left behind in the gulf between those who have access to connectivity and those who don’t.

We must not allow this digital divide to grow in the wake of the current economic climate. There is so much more at stake here than simply access to the internet or owning a smartphone.

What’s at stake if the digital divide worsens

Our reliance on connectivity has been growing steadily for years, and the pandemic only accelerated our dependence. Having a cell phone or internet access are no longer luxuries, they are vital necessities.

When a low-income American doesn’t have access to connectivity, they are put at an even greater disadvantage. They are limited in their ability to seek and apply for a job, they don’t have the option of convenient and cost-effective telehealth, opportunities for education shrink, and accessing social programs becomes more difficult. I haven’t even mentioned the social benefits that connectivity gives us humans—it’s natural to want to call our friends and families, and for many, necessary to share news or updates. The loss or absence of connectivity can easily create a snowball effect, compounding challenges for low-income Americans.

The stakes are certainly high. Thankfully, there are government programs created to shrink the digital divide. The challenge is that not many Americans know what’s out there.

What can be done to improve it

In the 1980s, the Reagan administration created the federal Lifeline program to subsidize phones and bring them into every household. The program has since evolved to include mobile and broadband services.

More than 34 million low-income Americans are eligible for subsidized cell phones and internet access through the Lifeline program. Unfortunately, only 1 in 5 eligible people are taking advantage of the program because most qualified Americans don’t even know the program exists.

The situation is similar with the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program, another federal government program aimed at bringing connectivity to low-income Americans. Through ACP, qualifying households can get connected by answering a few simple questions and submitting eligibility documents.

Experts estimate that 48 million households—or nearly 40% of households in the country—qualify for the ACP. But, just like Lifeline, too few Americans are taking advantage of the program.

So, what can be done to increase the use of these programs and close the digital divide?

Our vision of true digital equity is where every American is connected through a diverse network of solutions. This means we can’t rely solely on fixed terrestrial. According to research from Pew, 27% of people earning less than $30,000 a year did not have home broadband and relied on smartphones for connectivity. Another benefit of mobile connectivity—more Americans have access to it. FCC data shows that 99.9% of Americans live in an LTE coverage area, whereas only 94% of the country has access to fixed terrestrial broadband where they live.

Additionally, we need more local communities to get behind these programs and proactively market them. We should see ads plastered across billboards and buses in the most impacted areas. Companies like ours, which provide services subsidized through Lifeline and ACP, market and promote the programs, but we’re limited in our reach. It’s imperative that local communities and their governments invest more resources to promote Lifeline, ACP and other connectivity programs.

While there’s no panacea for the problem at hand, it is imperative that we all do our part, especially as the economic climate threatens to grow the digital divide. The fate of millions of Americans is at stake.

Doug Lodder in President of TruConnect, a mobile provider that offers eligible consumers unlimited talk, text, and data, a free Android smartphone, free shipping, and access to over 10 million Wi-Fi hotspots; free international calling to Mexico, Canada, South Korea, China and Vietnam; plus an option to purchase tablets at $10.01. 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 expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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Broadband's Impact

Senate Bill Subsidizing U.S. Semiconductor Production Clears House, Going to White House

Bill aims to strengthen American self-reliance in semiconductor chip production and international competition.

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Photo of Sen. John Hickenlooper, D-Colorado, during Tuesday's press conference

WASHINGTON, July 29, 2022 – A $54 billion bill to subsidize U.S-made semiconductor chips passed the House Thursday on a 243-187, and moves to President Biden for his expected signature.

Dubbed the CHIPS Act for Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors Act for America Fund, the measure is expected to incentivize domestic semiconductor manufacturing and also provide grants for the design and deploying of wireless 5G networks. It also includes a $24 billion fund to create a 25 percent tax credit for new semiconductor manufacturing facilities.

Advocates of the measure say that it will also improve U.S. supply chain, grow U.S. domestic workforce, and enable the U.S. to compete internationally to combat national security emergencies.

The measure passed the Senate Wednesday on a 64-33 vote.

Congressional supporters tout benefits

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J., voiced his support on the House floor, calling it “a win for our global competitiveness.”

The CHIPS Act of 2022 provides a five-year investment in public research and development, and establishes new technology hubs across the country.

Of the funds, $14 billion goes to upgrade national labs, and $9 billion goes to the National Institute of Standards and Technology research, of which $2 billion goes to support manufacturing partnerships, and with $200 million going to train the domestic workforce.

In a virtual press conference on Tuesday, Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennett said that America’s semiconductor industry has lost ground to foreign competitors. “Today, only 12% of chips are manufactured in the United States, down from 37% in the 1990s.”

He said relying on cheaper products produced in China and overseas for so long, it has caught up with the United States.

Bennet suggested to move manufacturing labs to Colorado, where it can support it due to the plenty of jobs in aerospace and facility and infrastructure space.

“We don’t want the Chinese setting the standard for telecommunications. America needs to lead that. This bill puts us in the position to be a world leader,” said Bennet. “We are at a huge national security disadvantage if we don’t do this.”

Sen. John Hickenlooper, D-Colorado, joined his Rocky Mountain state colleague in support: “There is a real sense of urgency here to compete not only to re-establish the U.S. to make their own chips, but to compete internationally.”

He said that semiconductor chips are vital to almost every business and product, including phones, watches, refrigerators, cars, and laptops. “I’m not sure if I can think of a business that isn’t dependent on chips at this point.”\

“This is a space race,” he said. “We cannot afford to fall behind.”

Industry supporters say measure is necessary

The U.S. has lost ground to foreign competitors in scientific R&D and in supply chain industry during a recent semiconductor crisis, said France Córdova, president of the Science Philanthropy Alliance, at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation event on July 19. The U.S. only ranks sixth best among other prominent countries in the world for research and development, she said.

“The CHIPS Act of 2022 and FABS Act are critical investments to even the global playing field for U.S. companies, and strategically important for our economic and national national security,” said Ganesh Moorthy, president and CEO of Microchip Technology Inc.

Bide expected to sign measure

With the Biden’s Administration’s focus to tackle the semiconductor shortage and supply chain crisis through the Executive Order made in February, the Biden administration has been bullish on the passage of the CHIPS Act, in a Wednesday statement:

“It will accelerate the manufacturing of semiconductors in America, lowering prices on everything from cars to dishwashers.  It also will create jobs – good-paying jobs right here in the United States.  It will mean more resilient American supply chains, so we are never so reliant on foreign countries for the critical technologies that we need for American consumers and national security,” said Biden.

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Health

Providers Call for More FCC Telehealth Funding as Demand Grows

‘I think obtaining funding from the Universal Service Fund would go a long way.’

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Photo of FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

WASHINGTON, July 26, 2022 – Health care providers in parts of America say they are struggling to deliver telehealth due to a lack of broadband connectivity in underserved communities, and recommended there be more funding from the Federal Communications Commission.

While the FCC has a $200-million COVID-19 Telehealth program, which emerged from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, some providers say more money is needed as demand for telehealth services increases.

“The need for broadband connectivity in underserved communities exceeds current availability,” said Jennifer Stoll from the Oregon Community Health Information Network.

The OCHIN was one of the largest recipients of the FCC’s Rural Health Care Pilot program in 2009. Stoll advocated for the need for more funding with the non-profit SHLB Coalition during the event last week. Panelists didn’t specify how much more funding is needed.

Stoll noted that moving forward, states need sustainable funding in this sector. “I am hoping Congress will be mindful of telehealth,” said Stoll.

“The need for telehealth and other virtual modalities will continue to grow in rural and underserved communities,” she added.

Brian Scarpelli, senior global policy counsel at ACT, the App Association, echoed the call for FCC funding from the Universal Service Fund, which subsidizes basic telecommunications services to rural areas and low-income Americans. “I think obtaining funding from the Universal Service Fund would go a long way.”

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