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Broadband's Impact

Chairman Genachowski Outlines FCC Goals at Consumer Electronics Show

LAS VEGAS, January 10, 2011 – FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski highlighted the Commission’s successes in the 111th Congress and looked to its goals in the 112th during a discussion with at the Consumer Electronics Show on Friday.

The conversation between the Chairman and the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) CEO, Gary Shapiro, took place in front of a crowd of hundreds of tech industry representatives, analysts and journalists at the Las Vegas Convention Center and focused almost entirely on the need for sound, progressive mobile broadband policy.

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LAS VEGAS, January 10, 2011 – FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski highlighted the Commission’s successes in the 111th Congress and looked to its goals in the 112th during a discussion with at the Consumer Electronics Show on Friday.

The conversation between the Chairman and the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) CEO, Gary Shapiro, took place in front of a crowd of hundreds of tech industry representatives, analysts and journalists at the Las Vegas Convention Center and focused almost entirely on the need for sound, progressive mobile broadband policy.

During his brief introductory remarks, Genachowski promoted a sense of urgency with respect to protecting and advancing America’s place in the global mobile broadband race through making radio spectrum more available for mobile broadband use and promoting the build-out of mobile broadband infrastructure.

“The consumer electronic industry is going wireless,” said Genachowski, citing a projection that anticipates growth by a factor of 35 in the coming five years for mobile broadband use.  “The future success of this wide-ranging industry and others depends on whether our government acts quickly to unleash more spectrum – the oxygen that sustains our mobile devices.”

The FCC’s plan to free up radio spectrum for mobile broadband use includes both reallocating spectrum from other uses and making more efficient use of existing spectrum.  As part of the National Broadband Plan (NBP), the Commission’s aim is to reallocate 500Mhz of spectrum to mobile broadband over the next 10 years.

“If we do [free up more spectrum],” said Genachowski, “we can drive billions of dollars in new private investment, fueling world-leading innovations, creating millions of new jobs, and enabling endless new products and services that can help improve the lives of all Americans.”

Genachowski continued, using the CES discussion to highlight one of the primary modes of reallocating spectrum that the FCC has promoted: voluntary incentive auctions.  In an incentive auction, an existing licensee would be encouraged on a strictly voluntary basis to offer part or all of its licensed bandwidth to the FCC for auction to another licensee in exchange for monetary compensation.  The plan is primarily directed at over-the-air broadcasters, who frequently hold licenses for more bandwidth than they use.  The incentive auction plan, which the National Association of Broadcasters opposes, may not proceed until Congress gives express approval.

Additionally, the Chairman called on the tech industry to drive mobile broadband adoption by consumers and entrepreneurs, while promising to pursue policies that facilitate the faster build-out of next-generation mobile networks.

During his discussion with Shapiro, Genachowski commended the policies and programs that enabled the deployment of the telephone network in the U.S., calling them integral to the rise of the country as an economic superpower, but insisted that it is necessary to move beyond those policies for future growth.  He referenced the Universal Service Fund (USF), which in part helped fund the build-out of the telephone system and continues to provide subsidies for rural telephone service.

“Universal service for communications is very important,” said the Chairman, “but the USF focuses on phone; we need to focus on broadband.”

As part of the NBP, legacy programs under the USF would be replaced by broadband deployment under the Connect America Fund.

Though the conversation focused primarily on the issue of mobile broadband spectrum, at one point it diverged to the controversial Open Internet Order handed down by the Commission in December.  Shapiro posed the question of whether, with expanding availability mobile broadband, more competition and market forces would obviate the need for FCC regulation on Net Neutrality.  Major telecommunications companies, such as Verizon Communications and AT&T – both of which are part of the CEA – have been vocal critics of the order.  Genachowski declined to make a projection on the matter.

Jonathan began his career as a journalist before turning his focus to law and policy. He is an attorney licensed in Texas and the District of Columbia and has worked previously as a political reporter, in political campaign communications and on Capitol Hill. He holds a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Washington and a J.D. from Villanova Law School, where he focused his studies on Internet and intellectual property law and policy. He lives in Washington, D.C., where he roots for Seattle sports teams and plays guitar in his free time.

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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