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Broadband Breakfast Serves a Thanksgiving Leftover Wrap-Up

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WASHINGTON, November 25 2011 – As we all sit and digest post Thanksgiving, Broadband Breakfast can finally wrap up some stories that we have been interested in over the past couple of weeks but have not had time to get around to.  We wanted to draw attention to a couple of the stories below and provide you all with some summaries and quotes to go with your leftovers.

AT&T/ T-Mobile Merger Being Put To the Test of the Public Interest

On Tuesday, November 22, a couple of days before the shot clock ran out on the review of the AT&T/ T-Mobile merger, FCC Chairman Genachowski circulated an order around to each of the Commissioner’s offices suggesting that the $39 billion dollar deal between the two companies does not meet the public interest and raises some serious questions of fact.

The order calls for the deal to be referred to an administrative law judge for a “trial type hearing” where AT&T will have the burden of proof of showing that the deal meets the public interest, accelerates deployment of mobile broadband and creates jobs.

In a private phone conference with some members of the press on Tuesday FCC officials, concluded that the deal violates antitrust law and does not meet the public interest because it would lead to massive job losses.  Officials also added that the hearing will not take place till after the United States District Court in Washington hears the Department of Justice’s suit to stop the merger.

The last merger that the FCC referred to an administrative law judge trial was Direct TV/ Echostar back in 2002.

How Many Geeks does it take?

In Chattanooga, Tennessee, The Gig Tank, part start up accelerator and part think tank is holding a competition in the summer of 2012 and asking budding entrepreneurs and techy college students around the country “what would you do with the world’s fastest internet.”  The details of the competition can be found here.

The best gigabit ideas, apps and businesses created during the summer’s GigTank will be awarded up to $300 K in cash prizes and investment capital.

This public private partnership backed by companies like Alcatel-Lucent and EPB, Chattanooga’s publicly owned electric power system, is an effort to foster new innovative technology ideas, create jobs and take advantage of the country’s first 1 gigabit-per-second fiber optic network.

As of several month’s ago only a handful of local residents and businesses have signed on to receive the $350 a month service which require special gigabit routers to deliver wireless signals.  The network however can deliver 1Gbps speeds to over 150,000 homes in a 600 square mile area.

Perhaps the GigTank will be successful in creating the added value to spur citywide adoption.

In Sebastopol CA, Sonic.net is testing a 700 home network and laying out fiber lines delivering speeds close to 1Gbps for 69.99 a month.  Read more here

The question remains, what will Google’s fiber network in Kansas City look like and how much will it run for?

Turkey Award Goes To…

Louisiana!

Earlier this month the Commerce Department pulled an $80 million dollar stimulus grant that was awarded to the Louisiana State University Board of Regents to extend Louisiana’s statewide research fiber network to the northeast corner of the state.  The funds would have created 900 miles of cable over 21 parishes and would have brought affordable 100Mbps to high schools across that region.

NTIA apparently pulled the funds because they were concerned about last minute changes to the plan that lacked technical and financial details as well as concerns about the ability to complete the plan before the January 2013 deadline. The grant which was originally approved to extend broadband infrastructure into unserved parts of the state, became a plan to provide long term leases to private companies.

Louisiana Commissioner of Administration, Paul Rainwater defended the state’s actions by saying, that even though private companies were going to be hired, state intervention would be needed that would have competed head to head with other private providers.

About a week ago, NTIA rejected the pleas of Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) to reinstate the stimulus funding.  Landrieu has called out Louisiana Governor Jindal for “fumbling the ball on this one.”

Broadband Breakfast’s friend and former Expert Opinion Contributor Geoff Daily wrote about this issue on his blog

He ended with these thoughts,

“I’m truly appalled at how this whole thing’s gone down, though I wish I could say I’m surprised. We continue to have officials at all levels of government refusing to acknowledge the basic tenant of rural broadband: you’re either subsidizing deployment or profits.

You’re either spending public dollars on building out public infrastructure, or you’re spending public dollars on trying to make rural areas profitable enough to entice private providers to build out their own infrastructure.

Has telecommunications traditionally been an area where services were delivered by the private sector? Yes, but isn’t the reason rural America isn’t connected yet because of a breakdown in this reliance on market-driven forces?

In my opinion the number one question on policymakers’ minds should be: “How do I get my communities connected enough to be competitive in the global digital economy?”

 

Smarter Cable Set Top Boxes for Everyone.

Last week the cable industry announced that CableLabs® – Energy Labs a new arm of the cable industries research and development consortium will launch a new initiative to improve the energy efficiency of consumer set to boxes and develop advanced services  designed to promote innovative consumer energy conservation measures.

According to their press release, “The energy initiative will promote the development, testing, and deployment of technologies that will enable cable subscribers to reduce and manage energy consumption in the home, including establishing new requirements for both cable video devices and network support systems.”

New cable specification will enable cable set top boxes to have “sleep” capabilities to reduce energy consumption when good old Uncle Buck falls asleep in front of the TV watching football after your Turkey Day meal.

The Cable industry has noted that by 2013 90% of set top boxes will be ENERGY STAR 3.0 devices.

The CableLabs® – Energy Lab will leverage the expertise and capabilities of CableLabs to build industry consensus on projects that will enhance current energy conservation efforts.  The CableLabs® – Energy Lab will:

  • Design and maintain a consistent and accurate energy tracking program for measuring and reporting energy consumption and efficiency improvements of new set-top boxes. Procedures for testing and advancing the energy efficiency of set-top boxes and energy conserving software will also be established.
  • Serve as a testing and development facility for designers of energy efficient software and hardware.
  • Create energy efficiency specifications for semiconductor and hardware suppliers and the network operations systems that support cable devices.
  • Assist in developing applications and products that will help consumers manage their overall residential energy consumption.
  • Showcase and demonstrate current and future energy savings products and power monitoring capabilities.

 

Former and Current Congressmen Talk 2012 Tech Policy and Beyond

Last week National Journal hosted a panel discussion on 2012 Technology and Beyond.  Although we did not cover this discussion immediately there were a couple of comments and shared thoughts that are worth re posting in a quick summary.

Bruce Gottlieb, General Counsel for National Journal began the first part of the morning moderating a discussion between former Congressman Rick Boucher (D-VA), now Partner at Sidley Austin LLP and Congressman Lee Terry (R-NE).

Not surprisingly there was a lot of talk about spectrum.  Terry reiterated the opening statement of CTIA’s President and CEO Steve Largent, by saying “this is all about spectrum, we are moving to a mobile society and we will stifle innovations that come with mobility without the spectrum.  What barriers do we have to remove and what level of spectrum do we need to provide?”

Boucher added that “incentive auctions are a no brainer.”  He believed that in many cities where the spectrum crunch is the greatest there would be a number of broadcasters that will find greater value in their spectrum being sold.

Boucher also commended FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, by pointing out that the Net Neutrality rule was carefully negotiated.  “Stakeholders had major role in coming to terms with it, there was broad agreement… even Verizon really did not disagree on the substance.  I think the FCC handled it in an adroit way.”

Boucher and Terry both noted that in terms of USF, they had structured a comprehensive recommendation for statutory reform of USF that enjoyed broad stakeholder support.  Boucher mentioned that in legislative hearings, telephone companies large and small as well as the cable industry all endorsed the legislation that contained notable advancements that FCC has currently adopted including reverse auctions, transition to broadband  and denying support to incumbent LEC in situation where there is competition in offering voice services within that local exchange.

Boucher then brought up the need for another Telecom reform. “The last one in 1996 was about analog telephone and basic telephone services.  Today we have a transition to digital technology and the IP platform to deliver voice video and data.  We also now see companies that have historically offered different products offering the same products, a combination of voice video and data, and competing with each other.  A new era law would recommend a transition to digital technology and an IP platform for delivering all communications and would adopt functional regulations as opposed to industry specific regulations.  Today you treat cable different than phone and wireless when in reality they are all offering the same services that are competing with each other.”

Terry admitted to having same discussion in his office. “The FCC was built on silos, but as technology develops they are all moving to one platform.” – having discussions in office not yet ready for hearings – do we really need the wireless video and voice all segmented and regulated differently when it is all delivered the same way.

When asked about broadband infrastructure in rural America, former Rep Boucher the once champion of the public interest community, stated that the AT&T T-Mobile merger needs to be approved in order to allow for efficiencies in innovation build out and spectrum use to bring broadband to rural communities.  After a giant digital gasp from the public interest world Boucher did admit that his current firm is representing AT&T.  Still a 180 degree turn nonetheless.

The video from the event which includes a follow up panel discussion with Antoinette Bush, Partner at Skadden, Arap, Slate, Meagher and Flom LLP, Ambassador David Gross, Partner at Wiley Rein, Larry Irving, Principle of the Irving Group and Bruce Mehlman, Partner at Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti, Inc can be seen here.

As Deputy Editor, Chris Naoum is curating expert opinions, and writing and editing articles on Broadband Breakfast issue areas. Chris served as Policy Counsel for Future of Music Coalition, Legal Research Fellow for the Benton Foundation and law clerk for a media company, and previously worked as a legal clerk in the office of Federal Communications Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein. He received his B.A. from Emory University and his J.D. and M.A. in Television Radio and Film Policy from Syracuse University.

Congress

House Democrats Fight Against Anti-Crypto Measures in Senate-Passed Infrastructure Bill

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Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif.

August 20, 2021 – Pro-crypto House Democrats pushed back against the Senate Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s inclusion of crypto regulatory language, seeking to make it less broad.

The additions of cryptocurrency taxes aim to generate revenue to pay for part of the infrastructure spending. Its authors intended to reduce fraud in reports to the IRS.

Democratic California Reps. Ro Khanna, Eric Swalwell, and Anna Eshoo joined cryptocurrency enthusiasts Rep. Bill Foster, D-Illinois, and Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla., in urging to amend the infrastructure bill in the House.

In a letter released on August 12, Eshoo advocated to Pelosi that the House should “amend the problematic broker definition,” describing the existing language as “imposing unworkable regulations.”

But there is some feeling that amendments to the bill in the House may not be necessary. According to a Treasury Department official, the agency plans to clarify its definition of a “broker” to be more specific.

Any amendments to the House would force the infrastructure measure back to the Senate.

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Digital Inclusion

Senators Reintroduce Bipartisan Digital Equity Act

Sen. Murray re-introduces bi-partisan that would provide grants to states pushing for digital equity.

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Patty Murray, D-Washington

June 14, 2021– Three Senators have introduced legislation that would provide grants to states that create digital equity plans.

The proposed legislation, reintroduced on Thursday by Patty Murray, D-Washington, Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Angus King, I-Maine, would set-aside $60 million to establish a State Digital Equity Capacity Grant within the Department of Commerce that would “promote the achievement of digital equity, support digital inclusion activities, and build capacity for efforts by States relating to the adoption of broadband by residents of those States.”

The funds from the Digital Equity Act in the Senate would be made available to all states, foundations, corporations, institutions, or agencies. The bill was first introduced by Murray in 2019.

Each state will receive a different grant amount depending on a formula that includes population and access to broadband across the state, to be spent within 5 years of receipt.

In addition to funding for states, the bill creates a  $125-million Digital Equity Competitive Grant Program. This program is also for state agencies and institutions but is more specifically geared toward those that are responsible for “adult education and literacy activities.”

Infrastructure portion

A final pillar of the bill is to create more infrastructure and resources for future development of policies that will continue to promote a bridging of the digital divide.

During a press conference on the bill, Murray told the Broadband Breakfast that she believes the bill will be successful because it gives states and local communities the ability to decide what their needs are. “We cannot dictate that in D.C.,” she remarked.

When asked why the bill will create more permanent solutions, she stated that it, “Provides for the diversity of needs that are going to continue to be out there.”

The senators co-sponsoring the bill said they are confident it will make its way into any infrastructure legislation passed by Congress.

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Infrastructure

Senate Committee Hears High Symmetrical Internet Speeds, Up-To-Date Technologies For Future Of Rural America

NTCA’s Shirley Bloomfield on driving improvements for rural broadband.

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Shirley Bloomfield

May 19, 2021– The head of the NTCA — Rural Broadband Association told a Senate Finance Committee that there are a number of improvements that can be made to broadband services and infrastructure for rural Americans, including higher symmetrical internet speeds, up-to-date network technologies, and better coordination of government funding to avoid overbuilding.

Shirley Bloomfield provided six different types of actions at Tuesday’s hearing that the government should take to improve broadband coverage in rural markets.

Bloomfield’s first suggestion was to build networks to last. She argued that building networks that provide insufficient speeds or utilize technology that is already outdated will not be sufficient to address the broadband needs of the future generation. During her testimony, Bloomfield specifically voiced support for 100 Mbps symmetrical service.

“We have a once in a generation opportunity—on the investment side—to do this right—to aim higher and to do better,” she said.

Her second suggestion was to take steps to limit overbuilding. To do this, she suggested that state and local governments coordinate with existing programs that provide mapping and funding for broadband projects. She clarified during her testimony that those without broadband service need to be prioritized before those with insufficient broadband service. She argued that the best way to do this would be ensuring that there is coordination with federal and state regulatory bodies with access to mapping data.

Bloomfield’s third suggestion was that network maintenance must be prioritized, and that modern networks will only stay modern and efficient if they are kept working and up to date.

Bloomfield also recommended clearer standards for broadband providers and that un(der)served rural communities should not be treated as “test labs” for new technologies. She stated that technologies should not be deployed until they have been sufficiently tested and established as viable strategies to serve communities in need of broadband. This includes not just the current needs of the communities in question, but also the projected needs of future generations.

Her sixth recommendation was to encourage consumers to look for local ISPs to provide broadband service. She noted that these smaller, local ISPs have cultivated relationships with the communities they serve, and those who work for the ISP often live among those they serve. She stated that it is this intimate connection that has allowed them to navigate the unique issues that these rural communities face.

Finally, Bloomfield encouraged the Committee to push for lower barriers to entry for broadband expansion projects, stating that bureaucracy and costs associated with many projects are simply too high. She also stated that a concerted effort must be made to sure-up supply chain issues that are currently applying significant pressure to ISPs and hampering expansion.

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