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Google and Verizon Announce Joint Net Neutrality Policies

WASHINGTON, August 9, 2010- Google and Verizon have announced a joint statement of principles on network neutrality and hosted a conference call Monday to outline their effort to the press. Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg announced that this new policy calls for an open and transparent wireline internet with special conditions given to the “burgeoning wireless market.”

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WASHINGTON, August 9, 2010- Google and Verizon have announced a joint statement of principles on network neutrality and hosted a conference call Monday to outline their effort to the press. Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg announced that this new policy calls for an open and transparent wireline internet with special conditions given to the “burgeoning wireless market.”

This announcement comes after a week of speculation that Google would receive priority service on the Verizon network; a statement which both CEOs claim is false. In fact, a key element in their statement is that paid prioritization should be banned. Additionally, these principles are simply a joint statement of an adoption of new policies and not a business agreement made between the firms.

Primarily, the proposal calls for an open internet enabling users to run their choice of applications. They support the FCC’s current openness principles and said the commission should have the authority to enforce them. The filling proposes a fine of up to $2 million for violators.

In order to enforce the openness, consumers must be given more information about their service.

“Broadband providers would be required to give consumers clear, understandable information about the services they offer and their capabilities. Broadband providers would also provide to application and content providers information about network management practices and any other information they need to ensure that they can reach consumers,“ according to the proposal. This would be a requirement of both the wireline and wireless services.

They also recognize that with the growth of the infrastructure, new services will become available which should have to follow these rules. Specifically they highlighted a smart grid and television services. This led to a fair bit of confusion during the call when reporters asked what these new services would be and why they would not be on the open internet. Seidenberg gave the example of possibly offering 3-D television service, which would be so intensive that they would use special access on the network and not be on the open internet.

Additionally, in the policy statement they distinguish educational and healthcare applications along with gaming as possible “purpose specific” applications which may choose not to be on the open internet. This leaves the possibility for giving these applications special access with faster speeds over networks.

Wireless access however is something which should not be subject to the open internet rueles. The firms both believe that due to its technical differences and the fact that the networks are still being established. They propose having the Government Accountability Office review the state of the wireless networks to determine if users are facing discrimination.

Their final proposal is supporting the idea that broadband should be included in the Universal Service Fund. “We strongly believe that it is in the national interest for all Americans to have broadband access to the Internet. Therefore, we support reform of the Federal Universal Service Fund, so that it is focused on deploying broadband in areas where it is not now available,” the executives said.

When asked if other internet service providers were consulted about their proposal, Seidenberg said they told others about the joint statement but no other firm choose to join them. Additionally, they met with the FCC about this agreement and are waiting for the agency response.

In a blog post, Susan Crawford, former special assistant to the president for science, technology and innovation policy, said this deal is the result of a policy vacuum due to inaction by the FCC. “The key takeaway from today’s announcement is that it underscores the urgency of FCC action to ensure that it has jurisdiction to speak to American companies about high-speed Internet access. As someone told me today – snappy line – the agency is being disintermediated.”

Public Knowledge released a statement which said in part: “Under the Google-Verizon definition of network neutrality, wireless companies would only have to be transparent about their network practices – meaning that they could block any application, content or service so long as they told consumers they were doing so. And while there would be no pay for priority on the best efforts Internet, there are almost no limits on so-called “managed services,” other than that they would need to be “distinguishable in purpose and scope,” from the Internet. Thus, it is conceivable under the agreement that a network provider could devote 90 percent of its broadband capacity to these priority services and 10% to the best efforts Internet. If managed services are allowed to cannibalize the best efforts Internet, whatever protections are agreed to for the latter become, for all intents and purposes, meaningless.”

Rahul Gaitonde has been writing for BroadbandBreakfast.com since the fall of 2009, and in May of 2010 he became Deputy Editor. He was a fellow at George Mason University’s Long Term Governance Project, a researcher at the International Center for Applied Studies in Information Technology and worked at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. He holds a Masters of Public Policy from George Mason University, where his research focused on the economic and social benefits of broadband expansion. He has written extensively about Universal Service Fund reform, the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and the Broadband Data Improvement Act

Expert Opinion

Kate Forscey: Mobile Broadband Gap Needs to Be Remedied, Too

A recent study by CostQuest suggests that 37,000 more towers are needed to bring mobile coverage up to speed nationwide.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Kate Forscey, contributing fellow for the Digital Progress Institute

It’s no longer a question: Whether it’s launching a new business, keeping up with friends, or finding the cheapest gas station nearby, the Internet is quintessential to the extent we don’t even think twice—until we don’t have it.

While Internet in America’s cities and suburbs weathered COVID’s storm, rural and low-income Americans have struggled to get any Internet access for decades.  The well-known stories of parents taking their kids to McDonald’s parking lots to do their homework haven’t ended—far too many Americans still lack access to the broadband they need.

The federal government, however, is taking steps to change the story.  The FCC’s Universal Service Fund has awarded billion dollars to deploy fiber and fixed wireless service to unserved areas through an alphabet soup of programs like the ACAM, the CAF, the HCLS, and the CAF BLS.  The most prominent of these is the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund that auctioned off $9.2 billion in federal support to connect 5.2 million unserved homes with high-speed broadband.

Congress has stepped up, too, with the bipartisan Infrastructure, Investment, and Jobs Act.  That legislation sent $42.45 billion for states to build out fixed, high-speed broadband.  In addition, Congress created the Affordable Connectivity Program, allocating $14.2 billion to reduce the cost of broadband for low-income households.

Policymakers recognize the problem and their responsibility to do something, and they are taking action on a bipartisan basis.  This is good.  But it’s not enough.  All of this funding is directed at one broadband gap—fixed connections to the home.

Mobile connectivity gap remains unresolved

There is another broadband gap—mobile connectivity—that’s unresolved.  A recent study by CostQuest suggests that 37,000 more towers are needed to bring mobile coverage up to speed nationwide.

Mobile broadband is central to the daily goings-on of families and businesses as we leave our houses with the fading of the pandemic.  That’s especially true for rural communities where commutes are longer, educational opportunities are sparse, and precision agriculture is necessary to stay in business.

To be fair, work is underway.  The FCC allocated $9 billion in 2020 for its 5G Fund, a support program to bring high-speed mobile connectivity to unserved Americans.  But that’s only a fraction of the funding needed to close the mobile gap.  And the FCC cannot move forward with the 5G Fund until it finishes updating its broadband coverage maps, which it’s been working on since 2019 and should be ready this fall.

So what to do?  Well, the FCC can move forward with its 5G Fund.  The auction model for that fund, as the Commission has proposed, would work—the RDOF used a similar model, costing the federal government $6.8 billion less than the FCC originally estimated.  And that $6.8 billion in savings could be redirected to the 5G Fund now that Congress is working to close the fixed-broadband gap.  The only downside is that the 5G Fund is a long-term solution—it will likely take several years before the funding is awarded.

Private companies are bringing new solutions to bear

In the interim, private companies are bringing innovative solutions to bear.  For example, AST SpaceMobile is building the first space-based cellular broadband network, allowing existing mobile phones to jump seamlessly from their terrestrial service to the company’s satellites and back again.  If the FCC were to fully authorize the service, it could expand the reach of existing towers and lower the cost of building out 5G to the far reaches of America.

Following in AST’s footsteps, SpaceX’s Starlink just announced a technology partnership with T-Mobile to enable connectivity to mobile phones in areas that don’t currently have access. Amazon’s Project Kuiper has similarly partnered with Verizon to extend the reach of mobile networks.

The advantage of these immediate solutions is they don’t require granular mapping or government funding to get started—they just need the FCC’s okay.  And while they don’t solve the problem entirely (satellite service works much better in Kansas cornfields than in the forested hills and hollers of West Virginia), they can quickly close the mobile gap where they do work well.

I remain hopeful that we can and will close the mobile gap.  Just as Congress and the FCC have relied on a variety of solutions to connect every household, we’ll need a multi-pronged approach to bring mobile connectivity to every American.  That means moving forward on government solutions like the 5G Fund as well as private solutions that give companies the flexibility to serve new customers.

Connectivity is having a bipartisan moment—let’s make it last.

Kate Forscey is a contributing fellow for the Digital Progress Institute and principal and founder of KRF Strategies LLC. She has served as senior technology policy advisor for Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo and policy counsel at Public Knowledge. 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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Mobile Broadband

Policymakers Urge Better Broadband Maps, Seek Funding for ‘Rip and Replace,’ and Tout Open Radio Networks

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Screenshot of Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi

October 23, 2020 — Policymakers called for more accurate broadband maps, continued progress against robocalls, and the use of an open radio access network for advanced wireless communications at the Competitive Carriers Association’s policy forum on Wednesday.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, emphasized new broadband maps in his speech. Wicker noted that Congress recently passed Broadband Data Act, which he authored, requiring the FCC to change the way broadband data is collected.

“Current data claims Mississippi has 98 percent mobile broadband coverage,” said Wicker, adding that the claim is “ridiculous.”

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, D-New Jersey, addressed the achievements of the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act in battling robocalls in his keynote. He thanked CCA members for their help in passage of the measure.

Pallone also called for the passage of the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act, which aims to fund small providers replacing Chinese-made telecommunications equipment in their networks. The program is often dubbed “rip and replace.”

“Replacing Chinese-made gear is going to cost billions, anywhere from to $1.6 to 1.8 billion,” said Pallone, “Congress needs to provide monetary assistance” to small carriers.

Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Brendan Carr championed the use of open radio access networks during his keynote, saying that for CCA members, the unbundling that open RAN technology requires will result in increased competition in the marketplace.

Competitive Carriers Association represents more than 100 wireless carriers and stakeholders.

CCA CEO Steven Berry thanked CCA members for rising to the circumstances presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. He said many members extended service to users and waived fees to keep consumers connected.

Berry said wireless connectivity “has given people exactly what they need” during these times of hardship.

“Small carriers serving remote and rural areas need to have a seat at the table in Washington D.C.” to influence government policies that directly affect industry operations, such as the ability to access spectrum, said Berry.

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FCC

Broadband Roundup: Mobile World Congress Cancelled, Yang Bows Out, Ajit Pai at Wind River Tribe

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Photo of Ajit Pai at Wind River Indian Reservation by the FCC

The world’s largest trade show for mobile communications was canceled Wednesday due to the organizers’ uncertainty that it could guarantee the health of its attendees, according to a CNBC article.

The move was prompted by high-profile dropouts from the conference announced earlier in the day.

Amazon, Sony, Nokia, and Intel were among the biggest names to announce that they would ultimately not be sending representatives to the Barcelona-based conference because they were not willing to risk the health of their employees.

“With due regard to the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona and the host country today, the GSMA has cancelled MWC Barcelona 2020 because the global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, making it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event,” GSMA said in a statement.

The conference was originally scheduled to begin on Monday, February 24.

2020 hopeful and tech whiz Andrew Yang bows out of presidential race

2020 hopeful and former tech CEO Andrew Yang ended his contest in the 2020 presidential election after disappointing results in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary.

Yang built a small but loyal following referred to as the “Yang Gang.” They and others supported his flagship platform of providing a “freedom dividend,” or universal basic income, of $1,000 for every American family every month.

“We have touched and improved millions of lives and moved this country we love so much in the right direction. And while there is great work left to be done, you know, I am the math guy, and it is clear tonight from the numbers that we are not going to win this race,” he told supporters on Tuesday night.

“I am not someone who wants to accept donations and support in a race that we will not win. And so tonight I am announcing I am suspending my campaign for president.”

Prior to running for president, Yang founded Venture for America, a nonprofit that matched recent graduates with startups. Prior to that, he was CEO of a test preparation company called Manhattan Prep., which he sold to Kaplan and for which he made millions.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai monitors tribal broadband growth during visit to Wind River Reservation in Wyoming

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai met with leaders of the Arapaho Tribe in Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming to see firsthand the areas in which the FCC is investing $4.1 million for gigabit-speed broadband deployment.

These funds come from the Connect America Fund Phase II auction that is providing speed service to 849 homes and businesses in the reservation.

“Bringing high-speed connectivity to rural Tribal lands can be a game-changer,” said Chairman Pai.  “That’s why bridging the digital divide is my top priority.”

During his visit, Chairman Pai also discussed with Arapaho leaders the Tribal Priority Window.  The FCC opened up the Tribal Priority Window earlier this month to enable federally recognized tribes to apply for spectrum in the 2.5 GigaHertz (GHz) band.

This band—the single largest band of contiguous spectrum below 3 GHz—offers favorable coverage and capacity characteristics for next-generation mobile services, such as 5G.  Through this priority window, tribes can obtain 2.5 GHz spectrum without charge before a commercial auction.  The Rural Tribal Priority Window will close on August 3, 2020.

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