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U.K. Residents Support Priority Superfast Broadband Rollout to Rural Areas

LONDON, July 13, 2010 – The United Kingdom government is under pressure to increase funding for deployment of superfast broadband in rural areas following several public surveys confirming widespread support for positive discrimination in favor of the country’s remote communities. The “outside-in” approach of starting with rural areas first is supported by 62% of the population, according to the latest survey of 453 respondents by ISPreview.co.uk, an independent site dedicated to information about broadband services and providers. Furthermore 44% of all respondents wanted to go straight for fibre optic deployment in rural areas in a single hit, while only 20% agreed with the U.K. government’s plan to provide universal access at a basic rate of 2 Mbps first, with the aim of completing this by 2012.

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LONDON July 13, 2010 – The United Kingdom’s government is under pressure to increase funding for deployment of superfast broadband in rural areas following several public surveys confirming widespread support for positive discrimination in favor of the country’s remote communities.

The “outside-in” approach of starting with rural areas first is supported by 62 percent of the population, according to the latest survey of 453 respondents by ISPreview.co.uk, an independent site dedicated to information about broadband services and providers. Furthermore, 44 percent of all respondents wanted to go straight for fiber optic deployment in rural areas in a single hit, while only 20 percent agreed with the U.K. government’s plan to provide universal access at a basic rate of 2 Mbps first, with the aim of completing this by 2012.

“Most people clearly recognise the importance of using public money to help connect rural areas with the wider revolution in superfast broadband internet services,” commented ISPreview.co.uk’s founder, Mark Jackson. “The benefits of delivering a modern broadband infrastructure to rural areas, many of which struggle with slow speeds (0.5-1Mbps) or have no internet connectivity whatsoever, are often overlooked. Deploying superfast services would help them to keep pace with the modern world, improve communications, bring vital new services and offer local businesses a powerful platform for revolutionising local trade.”

Many people living in remote or hilly parts of the United Kingdom would like to have 2 Mbps access now, which would solve their immediate needs. European Union rules stipulate that cattle farmers for example must set up online passports for their animals, while sheep farmers will soon have to post readings from electronic tags, quite apart from the need to provide online access to customers for trade. Currently many of these people still have to manage with dial up modem connections at speeds around 40 Kbps, which was only state of the art 20 years ago and insufficient even to download PDFs of equipment brochures.

Jackson argued that bringing rural communities up to 2 Mbps will ensure that they continue to lag behind urban areas, putting their businesses at an increasing rather than diminishing competitive disadvantage. Just as dial up communications are inadequate now, so will basic broadband be in a decade or less, said Jones.

Meanwhile the UK’s recently elected coalition government has yet to commit more money to rural communities, with Prime Minister David Cameron recently talking up the idea of encouraging communities to band together through schools and libraries to pull in broadband pipes, perhaps via a single fiber optic connection, and then perhaps fan out over DSL or wireless links. It is true that even in the United Kingdom, where distances are much less than in the United States, it will not be feasible in the immediate future to deliver fiber to every rural doorstep.

A range of other innovative solutions are now being discussed both by the U.K. government and rural communities, one being the recently emerging broadband over power line technology for transmitting radio frequency and microwave signals over the power distribution network as an alternative last mile technology. This would again mean that rural communities could be serviced by a single fiber running in to the area, which in many cases has already been done to hook up the local exchange to the national carrier BT’s core network. Broadband over powerline is more economically feasible in Europe than the United States because of historical differences in the electricity grids, and has potential advantages, notably access from almost every home and the ability to plug equipment such as TVs to broadband services via power sockets.

Among other options being tried by remote communities in the United Kingdom are various wireless technologies making use either of Wi-Fi or 3G networks in area where coverage is available and yet distances from telephone exchanges make it impossible to deliver adequate bandwidth via DSL. With plenty of options becoming available, there is the prospect that rural communities could catch up with urban regions, but only if governments concentrate their broadband budgets on them. As ISPpreview’s Jackson noted, the cities will look themselves and attract private funding for super-fast broadband anyway, because the business case is easy to establish.

Philip Hunter is a London based technology reporter specialising in broadband platforms and their use to access high speed services and digital entertainment. He has written extensively for European publications about emerging broadband services and the issues surrounding deployment and access for over 10 years, with a technical background in ICT systems development and testing.

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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Broadband's Impact

New Report Recommends Broadening Universal Service Fund to Include Broadband Revenues

A Mattey Consulting report finds broadband revenues can help sustain the fund used to connect rural and low-income Americans.

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Carol Mattey of Mattey Consulting LLC

WASHINGTON, September 14, 2021— Former deputy chief of the Federal Communications Commission Carol Mattey released a study on Tuesday recommending the agency reform the Universal Service Fund to incorporate a broad range of revenue sources, including from broadband.

According to the report by Mattey’s consulting firm Mattey Consulting LLC, revenues from “broadband internet access services that are increasingly used by Americans today should contribute to the USF programs that support the expansion of such services to all,” it said. “This will better reflect the value of broadband internet access service in today’s marketplace for both consumers and businesses.”

Mattey notes that sources of funding for the USF, which are primarily from voice revenues and supports expanding broadband to low-income Americans and remote regions, has been shrinking, thus putting the fund in jeopardy. The contribution percent reached a historic high at 33.4 percent in the second quarter this year, and decreased slightly after that, though Mattey suggested it could soar as high as 40 percent in the coming years.

“This situation is unsustainable and jeopardizes the universal broadband connectivity mission for our nation without immediate FCC reform,” Mattey states in her report, “To ensure the enduring value of the USF program and America’s connectivity goals, we must have a smart and substantive conversation about the program’s future.”

According to Mattey’s data, the assessed sources (primarily voice) of income will only continue to shrink over the coming years, while unassessed sources will continue to grow. Mattey’s report was conducted in conjunction with INCOMPAS, NTCA: The Rural Broadband Association, and the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition.

“It is time for the FCC to take action, and to move away from the worst option of all – the status quo – that is jeopardizing the USF which is critical to connecting our nation,” the report said.

John Windhausen, executive director of SHLB, echoed the sentiments expressed by Mattey in her report, “We simply must put the USF funding mechanism on a more stable and sustainable path,” he said, “[in order to] strengthen our national commitment to broadband equity for all.”

Mattey report uniform with current recommendations

Mattey’s research is generally in line with proponents of change to the USF. Some have recommended that the fund draw from general broadband revenues, while others have said general taxation would provide a longer lasting solution. Even FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr suggested that Big Tech be forced to contribute to the system it benefits from, which the acting chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said is an “intriguing” idea.

The FCC instituted the USF in 1997 as a part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The fund was designed to encourage the development of telecom infrastructure across the U.S.—dispensing billions of dollars every year to advance the goal of universal connectivity. It does so through four programs: the Connect America Fund, Lifeline, the rural health care program, and E-Rate.

These constituent programs address specific areas related for broadband. For example, the E-Rate program is primarily concerned with ensuring that schools and libraries are sufficiently equipped with internet and technology assistance to serve their students and communities. All of these programs derive their funding from the USF.

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Digital Inclusion

Outreach ‘Most Valuable Thing’ for Emergency Broadband Benefit Program: Rosenworcel

FCC Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel said EBB will benefit tremendously from local outreach efforts.

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Internet Innovation Alliance Co-Chair Kim Keenan

WASHINGTON, September 13, 2021 – The head of the Federal Communications Commission said Monday that a drawback of the legislation that ushered in the $3.2-billion Emergency Broadband Benefit program is that it did not include specific funding for outreach.

“There was no funding to help a lot of these non-profit and local organizations around the country get the word out [about the program],” Jessica Rosenworcel said during an event hosted by the Internet Innovation Alliance about the broadband affordability divide. “And I know that it would get the word out faster if we had that opportunity.”

The program, which launched in May and provides broadband subsidies of $50 and $75 to qualifying low-income households, has so-far seen an uptake of roughly 5.5 million households. The program was a product of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

“We gotta get those trusted local actors speaking about it because me preaching has its limitations and reaching out to people who are trusted in their communities to get the word out – that is the single most valuable thing we can do,” Rosenworcel said.

She said the FCC has 32,000 partners and has held more than 300 events with members of Congress, tribal leaders, national and local organizations, and educational institutions to that end.

“Anyone who’s interested, we’ll work with you,” she said.

EBB successes found in its mobile friendliness, language inclusion

Rosenworcel also preached the benefits of a mobile application-first approach with the program’s application that is making it accessible to large swaths of the population. “I think, frankly, every application for every program with the government should be mobile-first because we have populations, like the LatinX population, that over index on smartphone use for internet access.

“We gotta make is as easy as possible for people to do this,” she said.

She also noted that the program is has been translated into 13 languages, furthering its accessibility.

“We have work to do,” Rosenworcel added. “We’re not at 100 percent for anyone, and I don’t think we can stop until we get there.”

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