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Broadband's Impact

Google Exec: Incumbent Telcos Welcome On Our Gigabit Network

LAFAYETTE, La., April 22, 2010 – Incumbent communications companies are welcome to set up shop on Google’s experimental super-high speed internet service once it’s up and running, one of the company’s executives said Wednesday during a discussion about rolling out fiber networks.

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What Happens When You Can Get a Gigabit of Information Per Second In and Out of Your Home?

LAFAYETTE, La., April 22, 2010 – Incumbent communications companies are welcome to set up shop on Google’s experimental super-high speed internet service once it’s up and running, one of the company’s executives said Wednesday during a discussion about rolling out fiber networks.

“We definitely inviting the Comcasts, the AT&T service providers to work with us on our network, and to provide their service offering on top of our pipe – we’re definitely planning on doing that,” said Minnie Ingersoll, Google’s product manager and co-lead for alternative access. “Our general attitude has been that there’s plenty of room for innovation right now in the broadband space, and it’s great what the cable companies are doing, upgrading to DOCSIS 3.0, but no one company has a monopoly on innovation.”

“We’re looking for other service providers to be able to come in and offer their service on top of our network so that residents have a choice when they open up their accounts,” she said. “They get the connection from us, and then they have a choice as to who they subscribe to.”

Ingersoll made the remarks at FiberFete, an invitation-only conference held in Lafayette that drew the top minds in telecommunications from around the world. Analysts and engineers flew in to discuss the impact that such high-speed connectivity would have on municipalities, and how cities and companies can re-invent themselves in such high-bandwidth environments.

Lafayette is on track to complete the build out of its own municipal fiber-to-the-home network this year. It offers businesses internet connectivity of up 100 megabits per second (mgps) and residents up to 50 mgbps. The city’s leaders are looking to the network to help drive its economic growth, and to grow new kinds of information-age businesses that diversify its economy away from the painfully cyclical oil and gas industry.

Early this February, Google announced that it plans on building one gigabit per second fiber-to-the-home internet connections in communities around the country. It solicited input from the public on where it should build such networks. Its criteria were fairly scanty: All they required at the time was that the community have a minimum of 50,000 or a maximum of 500,000 residents.

“Our goal is to experiment with new ways to help make Internet access better and faster for everyone,” read the blog post making the announcement.

“We want to see what developers and users can do with ultra high-speeds, whether it’s creating new bandwidth-intensive “killer apps” and services, or other uses we can’t yet imagine.”

The company also said that it wants to learn about fiber deployment techniques and how to improve them.  Additionally, its goal is to make its experimental networks adhere to the “open access” and net neutrality principles that it has advocated for so long in Washington.

Telecommunications companies have historically opposed formalized “open access” rules that would have forced them to open up their networks to competing service providers.

Ingersoll said more than 1,100 communities and nearly 200,000 private individuals have asked Google to build the networks in their municipalities.

She’s been busy reviewing the applications with two criteria in mind: the efficiency with which such networks could be rolled out, and how the targeted communities could benefit from the roll-out of such a network.

“A lot of what we roll out will be dependent on the conversation we have with the communities,” she said. “What are the residents’ attitudes towards this service? Obviously when you’re deploying this in the streets, and you’re blocking the traffic it can’t be disruptive. So we’re looking for a community that’s excited to have this in their neighborhoods.”

“We’re really trying to figure out how to make the communities that we deploy in models of that wholesale open ecosystem that we want to help foster,” she said.

Editor’s Note: Travel and accomodations for this series of stories was provided by the organizers of FiberFête.

Sarah Lai Stirland was Contributing Editor for BroadbandBreakfast.com until April 2011. She has covered business, finance and legal affairs, telecommunications and tech policy for 15 years from New York, Washington and San Francisco. She has written for Red Herring, National Journal's Technology Daily, Portfolio.com and Wired.com. She's a native of London and Hong Kong, and is currently based in San Francisco.

Digital Inclusion

Lack of Public Broadband Pricing Information a Cause of Digital Divide, Say Advocates

Panelists argued that lack of equitable digital access is deadly and driven by lack of competition.

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September 24, 2021- Affordability, language and lack of competition are among the factors that continue to perpetuate the digital divide and related inequities, according to panelists at a Thursday event on race and broadband.

One of the panelists faulted the lack of public broadband pricing information as a root cause.

In poorer communities there’s “fewer ISPs. There’s less competition. There’s less investment in fiber,” said Herman Galperin, associate professor at the University of Southern California. “It is about income. It is about race, but what really matters is the combination of poverty and communities of color. That’s where we find the largest deficits of broadband infrastructure.”

While acknowledging that “there is an ongoing effort at the [Federal Communications Commission] to significantly improve the type of data and the granularity of the data that the ISPs will be required to report,” Galperin said that the lack of a push to make ISP pricing public will doom that effort to fail.

He also questioned why ISPs do not or are not required to report their maps of service coverage revealing areas of no or low service. “Affordability is perhaps the biggest factor in preventing low-income folks from connecting,” Galperin said.

“It’s plain bang for their buck,” said Traci Morris, executive director of the American Indian Policy Institute at Arizona State University, referring to broadband providers reluctance to serve rural and remote areas. “It costs more money to go to [tribal lands].”

Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has only made that digital divide clearer and more deadly. “There was no access to information for telehealth,” said Morris. “No access to information on how the virus spread.”

Galperin also raised the impact of digital gaps in access upon homeless and low-income populations. As people come in and out of homelessness, they have trouble connecting to the internet at crucial times, because – for example – a library might be closed.

Low-income populations also have “systemic” digital access issues struggling at times with paying their bills having to shut their internet off for months at a time.

Another issue facing the digital divide is linguistic. Rebecca Kauma, economic and digital inclusion program manager for the city of Long Beach, California, said that residents often speak a language other than English. But ISPs may not offer interpretation services for them to be able to communicate in their language.

Funding, though not a quick fix-all, often brings about positive change in the right hands. Long Beach received more than $1 million from the U.S. CARES Act, passed in the wake of the early pandemic last year. “One of the programs that we designed was to administer free hotspots and computing devices to those that qualify,” she said.

Some “band-aid solutions” to “systemic problems” exist but aren’t receiving the attention or initiative they deserve, said Galperin. “What advocacy organizations are doing but we need a lot more effort is helping people sign up for existing low-cost offers.” The problem, he says, is that “ISPs are not particularly eager to promote” low-cost offers.

The event “Race and Digital Inequity: The Impact on Poor Communities of Color,” was hosted by the Michelson 20MM Foundation and its partners the California Community Foundation, Silicon Valley Community Foundation and Southern California Grantmakers.

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Broadband's Impact

USC, CETF Collaborate on Research for Broadband Affordability

Advisory panel includes leaders in broadband and a chief economist at the FCC.

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Hernan Galperin of USC's Annenberg School

WASHINGTON, September 22, 2021 – Researchers from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School and the California Emerging Technology Fund is partnering to recommend strategies for bringing affordable broadband to all Americans.

In a press release on Tuesday, the university’s school of communications and journalism and the CETF will be guided by an expert advisory panel, “whose members include highly respected leaders in government, academia, foundations and non-profit and consumer-focused organizations.”

Members of the advisory panel include a chief economist at the Federal Communications Commission, digital inclusion experts, broadband advisors to governors, professors and deans, and other public interest organizations.

“With the federal government and states committing billions to broadband in the near term, there is a unique window of opportunity to connect millions of low-income Americans to the infrastructure they need to thrive in the 21st century,” Hernan Galperin, a professor at the school, said in the release.

“However, we need to make sure public funds are used effectively, and that subsidies are distributed in an equitable and sustainable manner,” he added. “This research program will contribute to achieve these goals by providing evidence-based recommendations about the most cost-effective ways to make these historic investments in broadband work for all.”

The CETF and USC have collaborated before on surveys about broadband adoption. In a series of said surveys recently, the organizations found disparities along income levels, as lower-income families reported lower levels of technology adoption, despite improvement over the course of the pandemic.

The surveys also showed that access to connected devices was growing, but racial minorities are still disproportionately impacted by the digital divide.

The collaboration comes before the House is expected to vote on a massive infrastructure package that includes $65 billion for broadband. Observers and experts have noted the package’s vision for flexibility, but some are concerned about the details of how that money will be spent going forward.

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Broadband's Impact

Technology Policy Institute Introduces Data Index to Help Identify Connectivity-Deprived Areas

The Broadband Connectivity Index uses multiple datasets to try to get a better understanding of well- and under-connected areas in the U.S.

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Scott Wallsten is president and senior fellow at the Technology Policy Institute

WASHINGTON, September 16, 2021 – The Technology Policy Institute introduced Thursday a broadband data index that it said could help policymakers study areas across the country with inadequate connectivity.

The TPI said the Broadband Connectivity Index uses multiple broadband datasets to compare overall connectivity “objectively and consistently across any geographic areas.” It said it will be adding it soon into its TPI Broadband Map.

The BCI uses a “machine learning principal components analysis” to take into account the share of households that can access fixed speeds the federal standard of 25 Megabits per second download and 3 Mbps upload and 100/25 – which is calculated based on the Federal Communications Commission’s Form 477 data with the American Community Survey – while also using download speed data from Ookla, Microsoft data for share of households with 25/3, and the share of households with a broadband subscription, which comes from the American Community Survey.

The BCI has a range of zero to 10, where zero is the worst connected and 10 is the best. It found that Falls Church, Virginia was the county with the highest score with the following characteristic: 99 percent of households have access to at least 100/25, 100 percent of households connect to Microsoft services at 25/3, the average fixed download speed is 243 Mbps in Ookla in the second quarter of this year, and 94 percent of households have a fixed internet connection.

Meanwhile, the worst-connected county is Echols County in Georgia. None of the population has access to a fixed connection of 25/3, which doesn’t include satellite connectivity, three percent connect to Microsoft’s servers at 25/3, the average download speed is 7 Mbps, and only 47 percent of households have an internet connection. It notes that service providers won $3.6 million out of the $9.2-billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to provide service in this county.

“Policymakers could use this index to identify areas that require a closer look. Perhaps any county below, say, the fifth percentile, for example, would be places to spend effort trying to understand,” the TPI said.

“We don’t claim that this index is the perfect indicator of connectivity, or even the best one we can create,” TPI added. “In some cases, it might magnify errors, particularly if multiple datasets include errors in the same area.

“We’re still fine-tuning it to reduce error to the extent possible and ensure the index truly captures useful information. Still, this preliminary exercise shows that it is possible to obtain new information on connectivity with existing datasets rather than relying only on future, extremely expensive data.”

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