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The Journey of a Million Miles Begins With Basic Broadband Research

PHILADELPHIA, Penn., February 3, 2010 – Investment in broadband infrastructure, most believe, is essential to our nation’s future economic health.

In an information economy, the race is to the swift: those who can quickly access more, better information will innovate, communicate, and transact at a far greater rate than those who cannot. That’s how the argument goes. As our nation prepares to invest billions in broadband infrastructure, it appears that “We the People” have accepted that argument.

One nagging question remains: is the argument valid?

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Editor’s Note: The following guest commentary appears by special invitation of Broadband Census News. Neither BroadbandCensus.com nor BroadbandBreakfast.com endorse the views in the commentary. We invite officials, experts and individuals interested in the state of broadband to offer commentaries of their own. To offer a commentary, please e-mail commentary@broadbandcensus.com. Not all commentaries may be published.

PHILADELPHIA, Penn., February 3, 2010 – Investment in broadband infrastructure, most believe, is essential to our nation’s future economic health.

In an information economy, the race is to the swift: those who can quickly access more, better information will innovate, communicate, and transact at a far greater rate than those who cannot. That’s how the argument goes. As our nation prepares to invest billions in broadband infrastructure, it appears that “We the People” have accepted that argument.

One nagging question remains: is the argument valid? Absent corroborating data, it’s just a plausible hypothesis…and many such arguments have been disastrously wrong. History is littered with them: the South Sea Bubble, Tulipomania, the Laffer Curve, and last but not least, the Internet Bubble of the 1990’s.

Looking to history is one way to test for the accuracy of the argument. However, we lack a valid comparison for broadband connectivity. As technological innovations go, the Internet and the World Wide Web are unprecedented.

Trains, planes, and the telegraph machine were all astonishing, transformational technologies. The Internet, however, is more on the level of the taming of fire for human use or the invention of the wheel.

Thus, when an academic study comes along that appears to find a correlation between broadband access and positive outcomes – even one that carries with it many caveats, people pay attention. Such was the case with a study authored by Jed Kolko of the Public Policy Institute of California, published on January 12, 2010.

The study, entitled “Does Broadband Boost Local Broadband Development?,” used traditional economic research methods to examine the relationship between broadband availability and economic growth in parts of California. The next day, Kolko and research consultant Davin Reed presented the results to about fifty people at the New America Foundation’s headquarters in Washington.

On the dais were Kolko, Joanne Hovis, President of CTCnet and president-elect of NATOA; Sascha Meinrath, Director of NAF’s Open Technology Initiative; and Benjamin Lennett, Policy Analyst at NAF.

Video of the full meeting is available on YouTube.

The presentation lasted a little over two hours, and included an overview of the study, a headline-level description of its results, and a lively discussion with the clearly well-informed audience.

A quick summary follows:

  • The official headline is that in some areas of California, there is a strong, positive correlation between broadband access and employment growth—particularly in areas with a strong technology sector and low population density.
  • There are many caveats, about which Kolko was forthcoming. With this kind of research it is quite impossible to rule out all sources of error without constructing a study that has no relevance to the real world. By describing the limitations of the research, Kolko did what any responsible researcher would do. This does not imply, however, that the audience expressed much interest in them. There appeared to be a rush to generalize from a few locations in California to the world at large, which leads us to the next point
  • The unofficial headline, far more salient than Kolko’s study and far more urgently felt among the audience, was hunger for data about the impact of broadband on the economic health of communities, as well as what some call “externalities.” “Externalities” are things that really matter, such as safe housing, good health, and a living wage. They are central to the quality of life, but are often intangible—in other words, they are “external” to economists’ ability to measure them.
  • As some noted, it would behoove the U.S. to relinquish its need to see itself as superior and instead look to other countries that have led in broadband investment, the opening of access and the encouragement of adoption.
  • Simultaneously, there was little awareness among this group of the research that has been done in fields outside of economics, and public policy. For instance, there was no awareness of the research showing that for certain chronic behavioral syndromes, such as compulsive gambling, smoking, and overeating, Internet-mediated treatment is highly effective and may be more appealing to patients who feel uncomfortable publicly disclosing the nature of their problems.

This last discussion was, if anything, the clearest piece of evidence pointing to the need for something Paul Budde, one of the architects of Australia’s ambitious Internet program, terms “trans-sectoral” thinking.

This is thinking across the boundaries long held in tightly bound organizational silos and not permitted to ‘fraternize’ Budde believes that the greatest gains from connectivity will come when people learn to venture beyond their narrow silos of expertise and begin to share, with mutual curiosity and respect, the ways their discipline would approach a problem, how it would ensure that the remedy was appropriate and measure outcomes.

For the first time in history, we have the machinery that could make that possible. When this comes to fruition, the ‘real’ world and the world online will enjoy that rare state of being greater than the sum or their parts. And we will be the beneficiaries.

The Behavioral Economics Consulting Group, LLC is a full service management consulting firm with particular expertise in market strategy, innovation, and empirically based organizational development. Founded in 2003 by Dr. Sara Wedeman, BECG's approach draws not only on her 25 years of experience in consulting, research and clinical practice, but also on that of fellow 'explorers' in the nascent fields of economic psychology and behavioral economics.

Broadband Data

TPRC Conference to Discuss Definition of Section 230, Broadband, Spectrum and China

Broadband Breakfast briefly breaks down the topics to be discussed at the TPRC conference.

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Photo collage of experts from TPRC

WASHINGTON, September 17, 2021 – The TPRC research conference on communication, information, and internet policy is right around the corner and it is set to address some of the most pressing issues facing Big Tech, the telecom industry, and society at large. We cover some topics you can expect to see covered during the conference on September 22 to 24.

If the recent election cycle and the Covid-19 pandemic have taught us anything, it is that the threat of misinformation and disinformation pose a greater threat than most people could have imagined. Many social media platforms have attempted to provide their own unique content moderation solutions to combat such efforts, but thus far, none of these attempts have satisfied consumers or legislators.

While the left criticizes these companies for not going far enough to curtail harmful speech, the right argues the opposite— that social media has gone too far and censored conservative voices.

All this dissent has landed Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996—once a staple in the digital landscape—in the crosshairs of both Democrats and Republicans, as companies still scramble to strike a compromise to placate both sides of the aisle.

Definition of broadband

The future of broadband classifications is another topic that will also be touched on during the conference. This topic quickly became relevant at the outset of the pandemic, as people around the country began to attend school and work virtually.

It became immediately clear that for many Americans, our infrastructure was simply insufficient to handle such stresses. Suddenly, legislators were rushing to reclassify broadband. Efforts in Washington, championed primarily by Democrats, called for broadband standards to be raised.

The Federal Communications Commission’s standing definition of 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload appeared to become unpopular overnight, as calls for symmetrical service, like 100 x 100 Mbps speeds, and even gigabit speeds became a part of the conversation.

Many experts were quick to strike back, particularly those operating in the wireless community, arguing that the average consumer does not need 100 Mbps symmetrical speeds, let alone one gigabit, and such efforts only amounted to fearmongering that would hurt the deployment of broadband infrastructure to unserved communities.

These experts contend that shifting the standards would diminish the utility and viability of any technology other than fiber, as well as delaying when unserved communities (as they are currently defined) can expect to be served. Broader topics surrounding rural broadband and tech-equity will also be prominently featured—addressing many of the questions raised by Covid-19 across the last year and a half.

Future of spectrum

Finally, the quest for spectrum will be discussed at the conference.

As ubiquitous 5G technology continues to be promised by many companies in the near future, the hunt is on to secure more bandwidth to allow their devices and services to function. Of course, spectrum is a finite resource, so finding room is not always easy.

Indeed, spectrum sharing efforts have been underway for years, where incumbent users either incentivized or are compelled to make room for others in their band—just like we saw the military in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service band, and more recently between the Department of Defense and Ligado in the L band.

Even though these efforts are ongoing, there is still disagreement in the community about how, if at all, sharing spectrum will impact users in the band. While some argue that spectrum can be shared with little, if any, interference to incumbent services, others firmly reject this stance, maintaining that sharing bandwidth would be catastrophic to the services they provide.

On China

China is also going to be a significant topic at the conference. Due to the competitive nature of the U.S.-China relationship, many regard the race to 5G as a zero-sum game, whereby China’s success is our failure.

Furthermore, security and competition concerns have led the U.S. government to institute a “rip and replace” policy across the country, through which Chinese components—particularly those from companies such as Huawei—are torn out of existing infrastructure and substituted with components from the U.S. or countries we have closer economic ties with. The conference will feature several sessions discussing these topics and more.

Register for TPRC 2021

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Broadband Breakfast on Wednesday, September 15, 2021 — A ‘Consumer Confidence’ Survey for Broadband

BroadbandNow launches a “consumer confidence” survey.

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Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place every Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. You can watch the September 15, 2021, event on this page. You can also PARTICIPATE in the current Broadband Breakfast Live Online event. REGISTER HERE.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021, 12 Noon ET — BroadbandNow Presents a ‘Consumer Confidence’ Survey for Broadband

As part of its efforts to provide the latest research on the social, economic and political issues contributing to the digital impact and the impact of broadband on everyday life, BroadbandNow is launching a new survey among broadband leaders enthusiasts. Think of this as a “consumer confidence” survey for broadband.

Recently, there have been many changes regarding broadband at the federal, state, local and industry levels. BroadbandNow and Broadband Breakfast aim to launch the survey at a presentation during Digital Infrastructure Investment 2021, a mini-conference at the Broadband Community Summit in Houston, Texas, from September 27-30, 2021.

Join us on September 15, 2021, for this special Broadband Breakfast Live Online preview of the survey with John Busby, Managing Director of BroadbandNow, and Drew Clark, Editor and Publisher of Broadband Breakfast.

Panelists for the event:

  • John Busby, Managing Director of BroadbandNow
  • John B. Horrigan, Senior Fellow, Benton Institute on Broadband & Society
  • Drew Clark (moderator), Editor and Publisher of Broadband Breakfast

Panelist resources:

  • John Busby is the Managing Director of BroadbandNow.com, where millions of consumers find and compare local internet options and independent research is published about the digital divide. Prior to BroadbandNow, John held senior leadership positions at Amazon and Marchex. John holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Northwestern University.
  • John B. Horrigan, Ph.D., is Senior Fellow at the Benton Institute on Broadband & Society, with a focus on technology adoption and digital inclusion. Horrigan has served as an Associate Director for Research at the Pew Research Center and Senior Fellow at the Technology Policy Institute. During the Obama Administration, Horrigan was part the leadership team at the Federal Communications Commission for the development of the National Broadband Plan (NBP).
  • Drew Clark, Editor and Publisher of Broadband Breakfast, also serves as Of Counsel to The CommLaw Group. He has helped fiber-based and fixed wireless providers negotiate telecom leases and fiber IRUs, litigate to operate in the public right of way, and argue regulatory classifications before federal and state authorities. He has also worked with cities on structuring Public-Private Partnerships for better broadband access for their communities. As a journalist, Drew brings experts and practitioners together to advance the benefits provided by broadband, and – building off his work with Broadband Census – was appointed Executive Director of the Partnership for a Connected Illinois under Gov. Pat Quinn. He is also the President of the Rural Telecommunications Congress.

BroadbandNow is a data aggregation company helping millions of consumers find and compare local internet options. BroadbandNow’s database of providers, the largest in the U.S., delivers the highest-value guides consisting of comprehensive plans, prices and ratings for thousands of internet service providers. BroadbandNow relentlessly collects and analyzes internet providers’ coverage and availability to provide the most accurate zip code search for consumers.

See also:

WATCH HERE, or on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook

As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.

SUBSCRIBE to the Broadband Breakfast YouTube channel. That way, you will be notified when events go live. Watch on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook

See a complete list of upcoming and past Broadband Breakfast Live Online events.

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Broadband Data

New Broadband Mapping Fabric Will Help Unify Geocoding Across the Broadband Industry, Experts Say

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Photo of Lynn Follansbee from October 2019 by Drew Clark

March 11, 2021 – The Federal Communications Commission’s new “fabric” for mapping broadband service across America will not only help collect more accurate data, but also unify geocoding across the broadband industry, industry experts said during a Federal Communications Bar Association webinar Thursday.

Broadband service providers are not geocoding experts, said Lynn Follansbee of US Telecom, and they don’t know where all the people are.

The new fabric dataset is going to be very useful to get a granular look at what is and what is not served and to harmonize geocoding, she said.

AT&T’s Mary Henze agreed. “We’re a broadband provider, we’re not a GIS company,” she said. Unified geocode across the whole field will help a lot to find missing spots in our service area, she said.

The new Digital Opportunity Data Collection fabric is a major shift from the current Form 477 data that the FCC collects, which has been notoriously inaccurate for years. The effort to improve broadband mapping has been ongoing for years, and in 2019 US Telecom in partnership with CostQuest and other industry partners created the fabric pilot program.

That has been instrumental in lead to the new FCC system, panelists said. It is called a “fabric” dataset because it is made up of other datasets that interlace like fabric, Follansbee explained.

The fabric brings new challenges, especially for mobile providers, said Chris Wieczorek of T-Mobile. With a whole new set of reporting criteria to fill out the fabric, it will lead to confusion for consumers, and lots of work for the new task force, he said.

Henze said that without the fabric, closing the digital divide between those with broadband internet and those without has been impossible.

Digital Opportunity Data Collection expected to help better map rural areas

The new mapping can help in rural areas where the current geolocation for a resident may be a mailbox that is several hundred feet or farther away from the actual house that needs service, Follansbee said.

Rural areas aren’t the only places that will benefit, though. It can also help in dense urban areas where vertical location in a residential building is important to getting a good connection, said Wieczorek.

The fabric will also help from a financial perspective, because of the large amount of funding going around, said Charter Communications’ Christine Sanquist. The improved mapping can help identify where best to spend that funding for federal agencies, providers, and local governments, she said.

There is now more than $10 billion in new federal funding for broadband-related projects, with the recent $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Benefit program as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act in December 2020 and the new $7.6 Emergency Connectivity Fund part of the American Rescue Plan that President Joe Biden signed into law Thursday.

The new FCC task force for implementing the new mapping system was created in February 2021, and is being led by , led by Jean Kiddoo at the FCC. No specific dates have been set yet for getting the system operational.

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