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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.

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney at The CommLaw Group. He has closely tracked the trends in and mechanics of digital infrastructure for 20 years, and has helped fiber-based and fixed wireless providers navigate coverage, identify markets, broker infrastructure, and operate in the public right of way. The articles and posts on Broadband Breakfast and affiliated social media, including the BroadbandCensus Twitter feed, are not legal advice or legal services, do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client privilege, and represent the views of their respective authors.

Digital Inclusion

Digital Inclusion Leaders a Critical Step to Closing Digital Divide: National League of Cities

The National League of Cities said government leaders need to have ‘multiple points of engagement’ with communities.

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Lena Geraghty, National League of Cities director of urban innovation

WASHINGTON, January 20, 2022 – To understand the digital divide, cities need to include digital equity leaders in their broadband needs assessment programs, the National League of Cities said at an event on community connectivity challenges Wednesday.

A broadband needs assessment would allow city leaders to explore the extent of the digital divide in their communities, said Lena Geraghty, the National League of Cities’ director of urban innovation.

“[A needs assessment] enable city leaders to dig into who’s being excluded, what’s currently available in your city, and what solutions city leaders can use” to close the digital divide, she said.

“The community is going to know best about where access exists, where gaps exist, and the needs that will make connectivity better,” Geraghty said. To get the best picture of a community’s need, stakeholders must find and include the community’s digital equity leaders in the data-gathering process, she added.

“These could be people that are knowledgeable about digital equity or people that are experiencing the digital divide,” she said. “Think really broadly about what it means to be a leader and the type of information these folks can bring to bear in solving the digital divide in your communities.”

Geraghty said it may be useful to formalize the leaders’ work by creating a broadband working group or ad hoc committee led by the city’s government. “Giving some roles and responsibilities can help everyone move in the same in direction, there’s agreement, and really clear goals and outcomes.”

Geraghty added that it’s important for government leaders to establish multiple points of engagement for the community. “It’s not enough to gather data or information from people once,” she said. “The state of access to the internet and devices is always changing,” so leaders should create multiple touch points for community input.

The National League of Cities released its Digital Equity Playbook for cities in December, walking readers through how they can promote digital equity in their cities. The playbook has a four-step process on how to get started with digital equity.

By walking readers through the process of connecting with the community, evaluating the connectivity landscape, gathering foundational information and reporting on findings, city leaders will be prepared to target broadband funding to unserved and underserved areas in their communities.

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Environment

FCC Commissioner Starks Says Commission Looking into Impact of Broadband, 5G on Environment

Starks sat down to discuss the promise of smart grid technology for the environment.

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FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks

WASHINGTON, January 19, 2022 – Former and current leaders within the Federal Communications Commission agreed Thursday that it is important to make sure the FCC’s broadband efforts support the nation’s goals for the environment.

On Thursday, during a Cooley law firm fireside chat event, Robert McDowell, a former FCC director, and current FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks discussed how broadband expansion and next-generation 5G mobile networks will affect the environment.

Starks said that the commission is currently focusing on answering that exact question and are evaluating the current attempts to protect the environment, as more money is expected from the federal government and as broadband infrastructure expands. That includes putting more fiber into the ground and erecting more cell towers, but also allowing for a broadband-enabled smart grid system that will make automated decisions on energy allocation.

Smart grid systems, for example, provide real-time monitoring of the energy used in the electrical system. These systems can help to reduce consumption and carbon emissions, Starks said, by rerouting excess power and addressing power outages instantaneously in the most efficient and environmentally friendly manner. The smart grid systems will monitor “broadband systems in the 900 MHz band,” said Starks.

Starks also noted the Senate’s “Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation” initiative, which would set apart $500 million for cities across America so they can begin working on ways to lower carbon emissions.

FCC also focused on digital discrimination

Starks said the commission is also focusing on “making sure that there is no digital discrimination on income level, race, ethnicity, religion, national origin,” and that it all comes down to funding and who needs the money.

He stated that the first step is to finalize the maps and data that have been collected so funding can be targeted to the areas and people that need it the most. Many have remarked that the $65 billion allocated to broadband from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will not be divvied out until adequate maps are put in place.

Starks noted that broadband subsidy program Lifeline, although fundamental to some people’s lives, is significantly underutilized. Starks stated that participation rates hover around 20 percent, which led the FCC to explore other options while attempting to make Lifeline more effective. For example, the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program – which provides monthly broadband subsidies – has been replaced by the Affordable Connectivity Program, a long-term and revised edition of the pandemic-era program.

Starks and McDowell also stated their support for the confirmation by the Senate of Alan Davidson as the permanent head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and expressed that Davidson will be a key player in these efforts.

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Broadband's Impact

CES 2022: Public-Private Partnerships Key to Building Smart Cities, Tech leaders Say

Public-private partnerships will increase the community benefit of infrastructure projects, leaders at Qualcomm and Verizon said.

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Panelists on the “Smart Cities and Public-Private Partnerships” CES session on Friday.

LAS VEGAS, January 12, 2022––Telecommunications industry leaders said Friday at the Consumer Electronics Show that public-private partnerships will pave the way to realizing the future of smart cities.

Raymond Bauer, director of the domain specialist group that connects governments to Verizon’s telecommunications services, said the government needs private partners to improve its infrastructure efforts.

Referencing the recent passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Bauer said governments should look forward to partnering with private technology companies to improve upcoming infrastructure projects.

“There’s a once in a lifetime opportunity from IIJA,” Bauer said. “We should find common ways to work in a way we haven’t in the past. There are certain goals and use cases to leverage the infrastructure we have,” he said.

The $1.2 trillion bipartisan legislation funds physical and digital infrastructure projects, including $65 billion for the expansion of broadband across the country.

Bauer said communities have a chance to monetize the services Verizon offers to communities if Verizon builds infrastructure for broadband access in underserved areas. “By bridging the digital divide, underserved communities get the services they need,” he added.

Ashok Tipirneni, head of smart cities and connected spaces at Qualcomm, said that cities should be thinking about how technology can improve much-needed infrastructure projects.

“Cities are growing faster than available utility,” he said, citing global issues of housing, water, and equity for vulnerable populations. “How do we ensure access for all citizens? And how can cities be in lock step with new technology, whatever it is?” he asked.

Qualcomm’s Smart Cities Accelerator Program delivers internet of things ecosystem products and services to member cities and local governments.

“New Orleans, Miami, and Los Angeles has local governments asking how they can do better,” he said. “They offer opportunities for partnerships that wouldn’t have been the case a few years ago.”

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