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 email@example.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.
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.
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.
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.
Broadband Breakfast on Wednesday, September 15, 2021 — A ‘Consumer Confidence’ Survey for Broadband
BroadbandNow launches a “consumer confidence” survey.
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
- “Access and Impacts: Exploring how internet access and home and online training shape people’s online behavior and perspectives about their lives,” by John Horrigan
- For BroadbandNow’s open data set on availability, affordability and speed: https://github.com/broadbandnow
- To contribute or to ask questions about the BroadbandNow survey, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 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.
- Broadband Breakfast Interview with Tyler Cooper and Jenna Tanberk about Open Data Set from Broadband Now, November 20, 2020
- Broadband Breakfast Interview with BroadbandNow about Gigabit Coverage and Unreliable FCC Data, December 27, 2020
- Broadband Breakfast Interview with BroadbandNow about Lower Costs and Lower Latency, February 25, 2021
- Broadband Breakfast Interview with John Busby of BroadbandNow About FCC Data Errors, July 1, 2021
As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.
New Broadband Mapping Fabric Will Help Unify Geocoding Across the Broadband Industry, Experts Say
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.
- Hytera and Huawei Respond to FCC Blocking Chinese Equipment as U.S. Players React
- Rosenworcel Talks Spectrum Strategy, Book on Broadband Policy Failure Released, Lifeline Awareness Week
- Topic 3 at Digital Infrastructure Investment 2021: Public Private Partnerships for Broadband
- Wednesday, September 22, 2021 — Join the Moderators on Last Call for Digital Infrastructure Investment 2021
- Microsoft Executive Calls For Improved Information Sharing Between Governments and Companies
- More RDOF Money Approved, Blue Ridge Replacing Coax with Fiber, YouTube Premium Growing Slowly
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