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Broadband's Impact

Walter B. McCormick Addresses Broadband Adoption Conference


WASHINGTON, June 22, 2010 – Walter B. McCormick, President and CEO of USTELECOM, delivered the first keynote address at the Roadmap to Broadband Adoption conference hosted by Broadband for America, the US Internet Industry Association, and NetLiteracy today.

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WASHINGTON, June 22, 2010 – Walter B. McCormick, President and CEO of USTELECOM, delivered the first keynote address at the Roadmap to Broadband Adoption conference hosted by Broadband for America, the US Internet Industry Association, and NetLiteracy today.

McCormick’s speech followed remarks by Don Kent, the Chair of Net Literacy.  During his remarks, Kent laid out a detailed set of prescriptions for how broadband adoption should be expanded, while warning against particular shortfalls and extolling the benefits of existing models. Kent specifically focused on two elements of what he saw as a successful broadband expansion plan: firstly,  “demanding that broadband adoption investments are efficient and have a return on investment,” and secondly, “the importance of using a community-based approach.”

Walter B. McCormick, President and CEO of USTELECOM

“While we need a mix of models since increasing broadband adoption is not a cookie cutter process, I believe that some models are inherently more effective than others, such as community-based programs in mobilizing a digital literacy corps,” Kent said. “I believe that a bottom-up approach to increasing broadband adoption to the tens of thousands of groups that have low broadband adoption is a more effective approach that will provide stronger adults and a higher ROI [Return on Investment] than a top-down approach.”

McCormick delivered his speech in broader strokes, and focused on the transformative power of Broadband technology, while taking a skeptical view of the regulatory process as a potential roadblock to innovation. At the outset, McCormick noted that , United States broadband adoption and telecommunications-related technological efficiency was still the most advanced at the global level.

“Indeed, when thinking of the internet, one is hard-pressed to think of significant innovations that have taken place beyond our borders,” McCormick said. “The first goal of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan is to increase the availability of fix-line broadband access from 95% to 100%, but the goal itself of reaching that final 5% implicitly highlights the accomplishment has has already been achieved in broadband coverage reaching 95% of American consumers and 97% of American businesses.”

Continuing on this note, McCormick noted that access to broadband coverage has been expanding at unprecedented levels among consumers, having become near-ubiquitous after about 9 years, relative to previous and what he saw as equally significant technological developments. “It took personal computers and cable television 20 years to reach this tipping point. It took cell phones sixteen years,” McCormick said. “Broadband is occurring at an unprecedented rate.”

Having begun by explaining the status quo, McCormick then moved to addressing the question of why broadband is not universal. His remarks touched on a variety of factors, while stressing that none of them is a universal cause for lack of access. McCormick especially saw price and access as lesser concerns.

“Certainly price and access matter, but for many these factors are not determinitive, and simply addressing price is not a panacea,” McCormick said. “Nearly 40% of those who choose not to have broadband say it’s because it’s simply not relevant in their lives.”

“The statistics from the FCC’s National Broadband Plan demonstrate the important impact that the positive, bipartisan, pro-investment regulatory environment has had on broadband deployment,” McCormick said. “But last week, the FCC proposed to dramatically change that environment. In a 3-2 vote that unfortunately split along party lines, the FCC began a proceeding that proposes to regulate broadband internet along 20th century monopoly regulation.”

“The good news is this: These are issues that all of us can get behind – the FCC, the administration, leaders in both parties in Congress all see quite clearly the potential that greater broadband adoption has for jobs, for our information economy, and for improving our quality of life,” McCormick said.

Mytheos Holt recently graduated from Wesleyan University with a B.A. in Government and History, receiving high honors in Government. He served as a weekly columnist at the Wesleyan Argus, Wesleyan University's campus-wide newspaper, and founded the Wesleyan Witness political commentary magazine. He is originally from Big Sur, Calif., and currently resides in Washington, D.C.

Broadband's Impact

New York City Broadband Housing Initiative Gets First Completed Project

The initiative is part of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s $157 million Internet Master Plan.

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BlocPower CEO Donnel Baird speaks at a press conference at Melrose Housing. Photo provided by BlocPower.

November 30, 2021 – BlocPower, Metro IAF, People’s Choice Communications, and pillars in the Bronx community in New York City gathered Monday at the Melrose Housing development to celebrate the first of five New York City Housing Authority community Wi-Fi projects completed by BlocPower.

Community members and other stakeholders were welcomed by Rev. Sean McGillicuddy, pastor of Immaculate Conception Church and leader at Metro IAF. “As the pandemic has shown us, internet is not just a luxury, it is a necessity,” he said. “We have internet now in Melrose Housing and we are celebrating with hundreds of Immaculate Conception Church parishioners.”

The build out to Melrose Housing and Courtland Avenue was part of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s $157 million Internet Master Plan, with a goal of connecting 600,000 additional New Yorkers considered underserved. A third of those underserved people are residents in New York City Housing Authority communities.

With these two projects completed, Melrose and Courtland Housing can now provide internet to their more than 2,500 residents spread across 1,200 apartments and ten buildings.

“We are incredibly excited today to bring this much-needed, low-cost wi-fi alternative to Melrose and Courtlandt Avenue,” said BlocPower CEO Donnel Baird. “What began as the by-product of our efforts to convert New York City’s aging, urban buildings into smarter, cleaner more eco-friendly ones, installing community-owned urban wi-fi networks has now become an important part of BlocPower’s expanded mandate – to help close the digital divide in America’s underserved communities.”

P.C.C. technicians were able to install antennas on roofs and wi-fi nodes on each floor. To have a sufficient workforce to accomplish this task, BlocPower trained local New Yorkers through the company’s “Pathways: Civilian Climate Corps” program.

Going forward, P.C.C. will be responsible for maintaining, billing, and customer service. Melrose and Courtland residents will, in turn, elect a board to represent them in matters of data governance, use of proceeds, and quality of service issues.

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Broadband's Impact

Craig Settles Talks Telehealth, FCC Mapping Issues on States, Broadband’s Impact on Critical Infrastructure

Craig Settles talks about the need for telehealth and ubiquitous broadband in a recent interview.

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Craig Settles, author of broadband deployment guide Building the Gigabit City

November 29, 2021 – Craig Settles, market researcher and author of broadband deployment guide Building the Gigabit City, spoke with Broadband Breakfast Deputy Editor Sarah Stirland in a Sunday profile that emphasized the need for communities to prioritize telehealth in broadband planning.

The profile in Broadband.Money, a broadband grant funding service that allows ISPs and community networks to discover, apply, and win broadband grants, discusses how the pandemic has changed stakeholder interest in broadband’s role in telehealth. Before COVID-19, “[n]o one would talk about medical reminders, or remote sensors to help children keep track of their elderly parents,” he said in the Sunday profile. The new national focus on telemedicine offers a new opportunity to save lives by improving connectivity speed and delivering critical information to health professionals.

Now, Settles works with stakeholders to provide broadband strategies that match local communities’ lifestyle and business needs. Settles’ work combines community-empowerment and broadband deployment strategies to deliver telehealth services to places in need.

“Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do,” Settles said. I think Henry Ford once said, ‘If I’d ask customers what they wanted, they would’ve told me a faster horse.’ People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

Settles will answer questions about broadband needs analysis and future broadband deployment in an Ask-Me-Anything session with Broadband.Money on Friday, December 3rd, at 2:30 p.m. ET. Settles’ work and analyses of when telehealth services makes sense can be found at his web site.

FCC mapping issues threaten broadband deployment

States and cities are unsure of where to put government broadband money because the maps are inaccurate, according to a Politico report Monday.

The lack of accurate nationwide maps that the Federal Communications Commission is working on improving is also threatening the efficient use of the $42 billion in broadband money going to states as a result of new infrastructure legislation signed into law two weeks ago.

Although the government won’t start distributing funds from the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act for at least another year, Politico reports, citing BroadbandNow data, that states and cities are already allocating $10 billion in federal relief without confidence in their ability to identify their communities’ dead zones.

The FCC’s maps, compiled from telecommunications providers, have drawn longstanding criticism from industry stakeholders, members of Congress, and the FCC itself because of its overreliance on the Form 477 method, which took data from internet service providers. Now, the problem has reached a new inflection point as states try to find coverage gaps — and even as the agency seeks other methods, including crowdfunded data, for better mapping.

Congress required that better maps should be used before the infrastructure money is spent, which could help states accurately fund the neediest areas when the $65 billion broadband package is made available.

In the meantime, towns and counties that need broadband funding most urgently will have to wait while states with more accurate data can better target funding. In Ohio’s Athens County, a speed test data from measurement company Ookla showed that at least 340,000 households in eastern Ohio had no home broadband, while the FCC estimated that, at most, 328,000 households in the entire state have connections too slow to fit its definition of broadband.

Cisco says broadband deployment will improve hard infrastructure

Cisco says that by adding broadband to the nation’s “critical infrastructure,” the United States will modernize our hard infrastructure.

More reliable connectivity will support our nation’s roads, bridges, and waterways, the company wrote to MarketScreener on Monday.

Cisco says digital networks, while using broadband connections, can “expand beyond broadband to support other forms of critical infrastructure.” Dubbed Operational Technology networks, or OT networks, digital systems will be able to monitor the nation’s hard infrastructure, like monitoring a switch to trigger a shutdown if a certain value in a water system is exceeded. Community safety commissions could also start monitoring bridges for unusual stresses, speeding awareness, and more efficient responding to maintenance needs. Further, public safety services could remotely change red-yellow-green light switches and alter traffic signals for emergency vehicles.

The company recommended that technology companies should leverage funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to secure and use OT networks. “Doing so can help drive greater efficiencies, faster response times and potential costs savings. It can also create more efficient opportunities as future technologies come online,” Cisco said. “By expanding beyond broadband to deliver OT networks with automation, machine learning and other innovative services (like those that support autonomous vehicles), we can build a more inclusive infrastructure that benefits everyone.”

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Broadband's Impact

Sunne McPeak: Achieving True Digital Equity Requires Strong Leadership and Sincere Collaboration

Collaboration between community leaders will be essential in ensuring success of the Biden infrastructure bill in California.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Sunne Wright McPeak

This week, President Joe Biden signed the infrastructure bill, which includes $65 billion for expanding broadband deployment and access for all Americans.

The national plan is described as the most significant infrastructure upgrade in the three decades since the Cold War. “This is an opportunity to create an Eisenhower national highway system for the information age,” says a former White House National Security Council senior director.

For California – the nation’s largest state – it means a minimum $100 million for broadband infrastructure that is designed to expand high-speed internet access for at least 545,000 residents, particularly in unserved and underserved communities, according to the White House. The federal funding will support California’s $6 billion broadband infrastructure plan.

Closing the digital divide and achieving true digital equity requires strong leadership and sincere collaboration among public agencies, internet service providers and civic leaders to seize this unique opportunity to achieve strategic priorities in education, telehealth, transportation and economic development. The 2021 USC-CETF Statewide Survey on Broadband Adoption highlighted that a significant number of Californians will be left behind because they are unable to access the internet and other digital functionality needed for vital activities.

Now, the question is how to ensure the public’s funds will be used as effectively and efficiently as possible. California must implement a thoughtful, aggressive strategy that will maximize immediate impact and optimize return on investment. Separately, for several years, CETF has been calling for broadband deployment as a green strategy for sustainability; that urgency only grows in the wake of the COP26 climate meetings. As leaders begin to make historic investments, they should embrace these key principles for action:

  • Prioritize and drive infrastructure construction to the hardest-to-reach residents — rural unserved areas, tribal lands, and poor urban neighborhoods — and then connect all locations, especially anchor institutions (schools, libraries and health care facilities), along the path of deployment.
  • Require open-access fiber middle-mile infrastructure with end-user internet speeds sufficient to support distance learning and telehealth.
  • Strive to achieve ubiquitous deployment in each region to avoid cherry picking for more lucrative areas.
  • Encourage coordination among local governments and regional agencies to streamline permitting and achieve economies of scale.
  • Develop an open competitive process to achieve the most cost-effective investment of new dollars by optimizing use of existing infrastructure that ratepayers and taxpayers already have built.

To learn more, please contact Sunne Wright McPeak at sunne.mcpeak@cetfund.org

Sunne Wright McPeak is President and CEO of California Emerging Technology Fund, a statewide non-profit foundation with 15 years of experience addressing broadband issues to close the Digital Divide in California. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC. 

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