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Rep. Terry: Universal Broadband Offers Potential for Businesses and Residents

Representing a congressional district that includes Omaha, Nebraska, Republican Rep. Lee Terry knows first hand the benefits of advanced telecommunications. Omaha is home to four Fortune 500 companies and as highlighted in Stephen Colbert’s “Better Know a District,” Omaha is the teleservices capital of the country. Omaha is the teleservices capital not because Omahans lack of a notable accent as Colbert notes, but rather because Omaha has benefited from a very robust telecommunications network. In fact, Omaha has consistently maintained its place at the forefront of new telecommunications technologies. In the early 1980’s, Omaha was one of the first cities in the U.S. to develop a fiber optic cable network. By 1992, multiple carrier fiber optic networks provided service to the Omaha metro area, giving rise to a proliferation of teleservices operations in Omaha.

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Editor’s Note: Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., was the only member of Congress to speak at “America’s Digital Inclusion Summit ” on March 9, 2010, in Washington. The following guest commentary, which appears by special invitation of Broadband Census News, are his prepared remarks for the event.

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.

By Congressman Lee Terry, Republican from Nebraska

Thank you to Chairman Genechowski and the Knight Foundation for the opportunity to speak here today. As many of you know, I have been working on Universal Service reform for the better part of the past five years and it has been a real honor to have worked with Chairman Boucher along the way. We share a deep passion in ensuring that Americans continue to have access to advanced and affordable telecommunications.

Representing a congressional district that includes Omaha, Nebraska I know firsthand the benefits of advanced telecommunications. Omaha is home to four Fortune 500 companies and as highlighted in Stephen Colbert’s “Better Know a District,” Omaha is the teleservices capital of the country. Omaha is the teleservices capital not because Omahans lack of a notable accent as Colbert notes, but rather because Omaha has benefited from a very robust telecommunications network. In fact, Omaha has consistently maintained its place at the forefront of new telecommunications technologies. In the early 1980’s, Omaha was one of the first cities in the U.S. to develop a fiber optic cable network. By 1992, multiple carrier fiber optic networks provided service to the Omaha metro area, giving rise to a proliferation of teleservices operations in Omaha.

Omaha’s leadership in information technology has been enabled by one of the strongest telecommunications infrastructures in the nation with access to major north, south, east and west fiber optics networks, multiple points of presence and direct high-capacity connections. Reliable, state-of-the-art equipment assures that telecommunications transmissions run smoothly and accurately throughout the metro area as well as into and out of the city.

But while Omaha’s economy continues to grow because of increased broadband investment, most of rural Nebraska continues to struggle to keep up in an increasingly connected world. These broadband challenges are not unique to rural Nebraska. As more services including healthcare, education, and e-commerce rapidly move to broadband, millions of Americans in unserved markets are missing the opportunity to participate in this necessary sphere. Also, as globalization substantially increases competition for high-wage jobs and professional services, continued U.S. economic expansion demands that all Americans participate in the worldwide marketplace, something impossible without affordable access to broadband.

There are a number of great success stories that I would like to share with you about rural communities in Nebraska that have been greatly affected by having access to broadband:

An entrepreneur from Verdigre, Nebraska (population 519 in northeast Nebraska) who does work for Boeing designing computer chips is able to use the high capacity fiber to the home network in Verdigre to video conference in real time with other Boeing employees in Seattle and around the world without ever leaving the good life of small town U.S.A.

Nebraska is also seen as a leader and innovator for using broadband to expand educational opportunities to K-12 schools throughout the state. Thanks to federal and state funds, some of which come from the federal Universal Service Fund in partnership with the local telecommunication company’s civic and corporate dedication, it’s not uncommon to have schools being supplied with speeds up to 40 megabits-per-second. Such speeds allow kids and teachers in communities like Indianola, Nebraska (population 642) and Rushville, Nebraska (population 1,100 and 312 miles from Denver, 450 miles to Omaha, and 130 miles to Rapid City, S.D.) to expand their educational opportunities and retain teachers and salaries in small towns.

Nebraskans have also used broadband as a new tool to reenergize and rebuild the main streets that have been abandoned over the years. A veterinarian in Ewing, Nebraska (population 433) uses broadband to diagnose animals around the world. And we all know the story of a small meat locker in Diller, Nebraska who now sells boxed beef around the country out of their store front on Main Street in Diller (they deliver to the greater Washington metro area). Mr. Chairman, I’ll have to have you accompany me out to Diller sometime for a tour and a steak.

You can now begin to see why it’s imperative that Congress and the FCC commit to a policy that will deliver broadband to all Americans. While the stories highlight what Nebraskans are capable of if they have broadband, the reality is that only 90 percent of Nebraskans have access to high-speed broadband and that’s why we need to work on reforming the Universal Service Fund to deliver a nearly ubiquitous broadband network.

As the headline for today’s event properly notes, “Working together to expand opportunity through universal access” the Congress and the FCC must work together to take on the monumental task of reforming the Universal Service Fund. And I am pleased that soon, we’ll have a National Broadband Plan document that will kick start an overdue debate on how to improve the lives of millions of Americans living without broadband today.

On top of the $50 million derived from the Nebraska State USF, Nebraska received over $128 million from the Federal Universal Service Fund in 2009 and from this total $9 million was used to keep public schools and libraries across Nebraska connected to the internet, providing our kids with access to information and increased educational opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have. If USF was eliminated, a Nebraskan living in a rural area would pay an additional $235.41 on average each year to receive telecommunications services and I don’t think it is unreasonable to say that a monthly retail rate could top $500 for comparable broadband if there was no mechanism for reimbursement. The fact is that in many rural areas there is no valid retail rate to cover costs of rural broadband without USF, as there is no business case because there would be no customers. The costs of both capital construction and ongoing expenses in these areas for operations require that the USF support be ongoing.

As we move forward in reforming the USF, it is important to remember that the entire telecommunications network which includes wireless and voice over internet protocol (VOIP) uses the wireline network. The Universal Service Fund is critical to ensuring that this network remains efficient

As many of you know, I am not without an opinion with respect to reforming the Universal Service Fund. Congressman Boucher and I have identified a number of principles to guide us in our task to reform the Universal Service Fund. First, Universal Service must be updated to include broadband. The fact that it’s 2010 and broadband is still not a supported service is simply unacceptable. Second, the Fund must better target support to all consumers living in rural America. The current system of distributing support hurts consumers who are served by a carrier who also provides service in large metropolitan cities within the same state. Fixing this inequality will immediately provide support for carriers to deploy broadband networks to consumers who are desperately waiting for broadband. And third, the base of contributors must be expanded to ensure the Fund remains solvent and proper accountability measures must be adopted to protect the integrity of the Fund.

As an elected official who understands the importance of small business, I have a public duty to make sure that all of my constituents are given every tool necessary to participate and succeed in this 21st century global economy. I praise Chairman Genechowski for his hard work and for acknowledging that we must tackle the issue of USF reform within the framework of a national broadband plan for our country. I sincerely look forward to the upcoming debate on this topic as we move toward enactment reform.

The future will surely be an exciting time, as our country’s will to innovate and develop new technologies will continue to elevate society and transform the way in which we live and communicate with one another.

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Ookla Has Verizon as Fastest Q1 Fixed Provider, T-Mobile Takes Top Spot for Mobile

T-Mobile was also named the most consistent mobile operator and topped 5G download speeds.

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Image of Speedtest from May 2017 by Daniel Aleksandersen used with permission

WASHINGTON, April 18, 2022 – A market report released Friday by performance metrics web service Ookla named Verizon the fastest fixed broadband provider in the U.S. during the first quarter of 2022, and T-Mobile as the fastest mobile operator during the same period.

Verizon had a median download speed of 184.36 Mbps, edging out Comcast Xfinity’s speed of 179.12 Mbps. T-Mobile’s median mobile speed was 117.83 Mbps.

Verizon had the lowest latency of all providers, according to Ookla, well ahead of Xfinity’s fourth place ranking, yet sat at third for consistency behind both Xfinity and Spectrum.

T-Mobile was also the most consistent mobile operator during the first quarter, achieving an Ookla consistency score of 88.3 percent, which along with median download speed represented an increase from the fourth quarter of 2021.

The company also achieved the fastest median 5G download speed, coming in at 191.12 Mbps.

Verizon also notably increased its 5G download speed from its Q4 metric, attributed in part to the turning on of new C-band spectrum in January following deployment delays and protest from airlines. For mobile speeds, it stood in second behind T-Mobile, bumping AT&T to a standing of third. These rankings were the same for mobile measures of latency and consistency.

Yet on 5G availability, AT&T remains ahead of Verizon.

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra came in as the fastest popular device in the country, running at 116.33 Mbps.

Ookla is a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast.

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FCC’s Rosenworcel: Broadband Nutrition Labels Will Create New Generation of Informed Buyers

The FCC hopes companies will make it easier for consumers to choose a broadband plan that fits their needs.

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Photo of Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel speaking at the Mobile World Conference 2022 in Barcelona

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission’s broadband nutrition labels will usher in a new era where buyers have simple information about what they’re buying, agency Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said Friday.

Consumers should know what they’re signing up for when they spend hundreds “or even thousands” of dollars per year for internet service. She was speaking at Friday’s commission hearing on its so-called broadband nutrition label initiative.

The hearing comes on top of a public comment period on the initiative. Many providers are pushing for more flexible regulations on compliance.

When consumers choose a broadband provider for their household, Rosenworcel said may people make decisions with “sometimes incomplete and inaccurate information.”

“The problem for broadband consumers isn’t a total lack of information, but there’s loads of fine print,” Rosenworcel said. “It can be difficult to know exactly what we are paying for and these disclosures are not consistent from carrier to carrier,” which makes comparing prices and services harder and more time-consuming for consumers.

The comments built on other recent speeches by Rosenworcel promoting the initiative, encouraging state attorneys general’s ability to enforce companies’ commitments through their states’ consumer protection statutes.

The FCC began a plan in 2015 for broadband labels that was voluntary. The new initiative directed by last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law makes this effort mandatory for broadband providers.

Matt Sayre, managing director of cross sector economic development firm Onward Eugene, said residents in rural Oregon would benefit from simple information when considering broadband providers. During a time where dial-up and satellite-based offerings were primarily available, Sayre said his neighbors “never used terms like latency or packet loss.”

“These are important aspects of good internet service, but not easily understood by most people,” Sayre said. “Citizens understood they needed better service but were uncertain about what tier of service they needed. This is where broadband labels can be very helpful.”

The hearing was the agency’s first on the initiative.

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Small ISP Organizations Push FCC for Flexibility on Broadband Label Compliance

Advocates say strict compliance requirements may economically harm small providers.

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Photo of outgoing WISPA CEO of Claude Aiken from April 2018 by New America used with permission

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2022 ­­– In comments submitted to the Federal Communications Commission Wednesday, organizations representing small internet providers are pushing for flexible regulations on compliance with a measure that requires clear reporting of broadband service aspects to consumers.

The measure was adopted at a late January meeting by the commission, mandating that providers list their pricing and speed information about services in the format of a “broadband nutrition label” that mimics a food nutrition label. Congress’ bipartisan infrastructure bill enacted in the fall required that the FCC adopt such policy.

The organizations that submitted comments Wednesday say that strict compliance requirements for the new measure may economically harm small providers.

Among those leading the charge are trade associations Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association and America’s Communications Association as well as provider Lumen Technologies.

In comments, limited resources of smaller providers were cited as factors which could disadvantage them in terms of complying with the measure to the FCC’s standards and several organizations asked for small providers to be given extra time to comply.

In separate comments, internet provider Lumen said that the FCC must make multiple changes to its approach if it is to “avoid imposing new obligations that arbitrarily impose excessive costs on providers and undermine other policy goals.”

Last month, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said that she looks forward to increased coordination between the FCC and state attorneys general for the enforcement of the measure.

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