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FCC and Connect to Compete provide solutions for Cost of Broadband Adoption

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WASHINGTON, Thursday November 10th 2011,  The Federal Communications Commission’s Chairman Julius Genachowski announced what the Commission is touting as the “Biggest effort ever to help close the Digital Divide.”  Following up on the launch of the Connect to Compete  private and non profit sector partnership a couple of weeks ago, yesterday’s announcement at Langley Education Campus in Northeast Washington DC laid out specific initiatives to drive broadband adoption for students and low income communities.

The Chairman’s began by addressing the huge issue that is our digital divide.  68% of American households are not connected to broadband in their home.  If the broadband adoption gap were fully closed, the size of America’s online market would increase by 50%.  Mr. Genachowski stressed that landing many jobs today require digital skills and students with computers in the home are better situated to compete in school and in the eventual workplace.

Genachowski reiterated some of the findings from a Pew Study on adoption and mentioned that the three reasons given for non adoption were lack of understanding and relevance, lack of digital literacy, and cost.

“Four weeks ago, along with leaders of businesses and non-profits, we announced the creation of ‘Connect to Compete,’ a first-of-its-kind national effort to address the barriers to broadband adoption. The focus in that announcement was on improving digital literacy and closing the skills gap. As part of that effort, many major companies made significant commitments to tackle digital literacy and promote adoption. For example, Best Buy announced it will put its 20,000 Geek Squad Agents to work beginning in 20 cities to train Americans in basic digital literacy.” Said Genachowski.

“Today, we are taking on the difficult challenge of cost – the primary obstacle to adoption for tens of millions of Americans, especially minorities and those hardest pressed in these challenging economic times.”

National Cable & Telecommunications Association and a coalition of cable providers are addressing the cost of adoption issue by offering a low cost internet service option for families with children eligible for the National School Lunch Program.  This low cost broadband for low income families will be available for $9.95 a month, which is approximately a 70% discount.

Michael Powell, President and CEO of NCTA released a statement later in the day saying, “Cable broadband providers reaching 86 percent ofU.S.households with broadband service have committed to participate in C2C or some other complementary program. They’ll offer a discounted promotional rate of no more than $9.95 a month (plus tax) for high-speed Internet access to qualifying families with kids in grades Kindergarten through 12 who receive free lunch under the National School Lunch Program.  Participating companies will waive installation fees in the case of standard or self-installation.  They’ll throw in a cable modem free of charge during the length of the program, or offer to sell one for a deeply discounted fee.  And those who sign up for the program will enjoy, at a minimum, download speeds of up to 1 Mbps, while some may receive faster speeds.”

Powell added, “The program will launch in 2012, in the back-to-school period for the 2012-13 school year.  There will be a sign-up window of three years.  And any family that qualifies and signs up can stay in the program for up to two years.”

Genachowski continued “Ten bucks a month for broadband. That’s great, but most of the families who don’t have broadband at home don’t have a computer either, and it doesn’t help if you have broadband but don’t have a device to get online.”

The second major announcement was that Redemtech, a technology refurbishment company has committed to offering refurbished laptops or desktops for $150.  Microsoft has also committed to offering a new set of laptops and desktops designed for students that start at $250.  Additionally Morgan Stanley has committed to developing micro financing plans to help low income families take advantage of these low cost offers.

Genachowski announced the further partnerships of a number of non profit, private sector and government actors who are committed to building the skills necessary to operate in a digital world.  Some of these partners include, United Way World Wide, Common Sense Media, Opportunity Nation, iKeepSafe, America’s Promise, oDesk, Appalachian Regional Council, Delta Regional Authority, Glassdoor.com, Indeed.com and the Learning Express.

TheJointCenterfor Political and Economic Studies will be tracking the effectiveness and promoting accountability along the way.

Pat Esser President of Cox Communications pledged his full support to the Connectr to Compete program and said, “Cox has launched its own community-based broadband adoption initiatives in California, Virginia and other markets so we have seen first-hand how the comprehensive approach of attacking the entire broadband adoption challenge – from digital literacy to affordability to relevance – is vitally important to making the connection a success.

Sig Behrens, Mircosoft’s General Manager of U.S. Education noted in his released remarks that, “Access to world class learning through the power of technology can help kids stay in school, graduate, get better jobs and contribute to economic growth. As part of the FCC’s ‘Connect to Compete’ initiative to accelerate opportunities for low income students and their families, starting early next year, Microsoft with its hardware partners will offer a series of affordable, high-quality education computers starting at $250 that include Windows and Office.”

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.

Broadband's Impact

Broadband Breakfast on October 27, 2021 — When ‘Greenfield’ Fiber Meets ‘Brownfield’ Multiple Dwelling Units

What options do owners of, operators in, and tenants within MDUs have for better-quality broadband?

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Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place on Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. You can watch the October 27, 2021, event on this page. You can also PARTICIPATE in the current Broadband Breakfast Live Online event. REGISTER HERE.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021, 12 Noon ET — “When Greenfield Fiber Meets Brownfield Multiple Dwelling Units”

Bringing fiber to the premises is sometimes only half the battle. For example, bringing fiber to an MDU may not mean that every tenant will get better-quality broadband. In the case of multiple dwelling units or multi-tenant housing, it isn’t easy to completely rewire an existing building with fiber-to-the-unit. Further, the Biden Administration and the Federal Communications Commission are pushing real estate owners to eliminate or minimize exclusive MDU broadband contacts. What options do the owners of, operators in, and tenants within MDUs have to enjoy both competitive and better-quality broadband?

Panelists:

  • Kevin Donnelly, Vice President, Government Affairs, Technology and Strategic Initiatives, National Multifamily Housing Council
  • Jenna Leventoff, Senior Policy Counsel, Public Knowledge
  • Pierre Trudeau, President and Chief Technology Officer, Positron Access
  • Other Guests have been invited
  • Drew Clark (moderator), Editor and Publisher of Broadband Breakfast

Kevin Donnelly is Vice President for Government Affairs, Technology and Strategic Initiatives at the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) and represents the interests of the multifamily industry before the federal government focusing on technology, connectivity, risk management and their intersection with housing policy. Kevin is a part of NMHC’s Innovation and Technology team and leads its Intelligent Buildings and Connectivity Committee.  Kevin has spent over 15 years in the public policy arena at leading real estate trade associations and on Capitol Hill. Kevin received his BA from Rutgers University and his Masters in Public Management from Johns Hopkins University.

Jenna Leventoff is a Senior Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge, where she focuses on broadband deployment and adoption. Prior to joining Public Knowledge, Jenna served as a Senior Policy Analyst for the Workforce Data Quality Campaign (WDQC) at the National Skills Coalition, where she led WDQC’s state policy advocacy and technical assistance efforts on state data system development and use. She also served as an Associate at Upturn, where she analyzed the civil rights implications of new technologies, and as Manager and Legal Counsel of the International Intellectual Property Institute, where she led the organization’s efforts to utilize intellectual property for international economic development. Jenna received her J.D, cum laude, and B.A from Case Western Reserve University.

Pierre Trudeau is President and Chief Technology Officer, Positron Access.

Drew ClarkEditor and Publisher of Broadband Breakfast, also serves as Of Counsel to The CommLaw Group. He has helped fiber-based and fixed wireless providers negotiate telecom leases and fiber IRUs, litigate to operate in the public right of way, and argue regulatory classifications before federal and state authorities. He has also worked with cities on structuring Public-Private Partnerships for better broadband access for their communities. Drew brings experts and practitioners together to advance the benefits provided by broadband. He is also the President of the Rural Telecommunications Congress.

WATCH HERE, or on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook

As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.

SUBSCRIBE to the Broadband Breakfast YouTube channel. That way, you will be notified when events go live. Watch on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook

See a complete list of upcoming and past Broadband Breakfast Live Online events.

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National Non-Profit to Launch Joint Initiative to Close Broadband Affordability and Homework Gap

EducationSuperHighway is signing up partners and will launch November 4.

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Evan Marwell, founder and CEO of Education Super Highway.

WASHINGTON, October 18, 2021 – National non-profit Education Super Highway is set to launch a campaign next month that will work with internet service providers to identify students without broadband and expand programs that will help connect the unconnected.

On November 4, the No Home Left Offline initiative will launch to close the digital divide for 18 million American households that “have access to the Internet but can’t afford to connect,” according to a Monday press release.

The campaign will publish a detailed report with “crucial data insights into the broadband affordability gap and the opportunities that exist to close it,” use data to identify unconnected households and students, and launch broadband adoption and free apartment Wi-Fi programs in Washington D.C.

The non-profit and ISPs will share information confidentially to identify students without broadband at home and “enable states and school districts to purchase Internet service for families through sponsored service agreements,” the website said.

The initiative will run on five principles: identify student need, have ISPs create sponsored service offerings for school districts or other entities, set eligibility standards, minimize the amount of information necessary to sign up families, and protect privacy.

The non-profit said 82 percent of Washington D.C.’s total unconnected households – a total of just over 100,000 people – have access to the internet but can’t afford to connect.

“This ‘broadband affordability gap’ keeps 47 million Americans offline, is present in every state, and disproportionately impacts low-income, Black, and Latinx communities,” the release said. “Without high-speed Internet access at home, families in Washington DC can’t send their children to school, work remotely, or access healthcare, job training, the social safety net, or critical government services.”

Over 120 regional and national carriers have signed up for the initiative.

The initiative is another in a national effort to close the “homework gap.” The Federal Communications Commission is connected schools, libraries and students using money from the Emergency Connectivity Fund, which is subsidizing devices and connections. It has received $5 billion in requested funds in just round one.

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Broadband's Impact

Steve Lacoff: A New Standard for the ‘Cloudification’ of Communications Services

The cloudification of communications services makes it easy to include voice, data, SMS, and video within any existing service.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Steve Lacoff, general manager of Avalara for communications

The line of demarcation between what has traditionally been considered a telecommunications service was once very clear. It was tangible – there were wires, end points, towers, switches, facilities. Essentially, there was infrastructure required to relay voice or data from point A to point B.

Today that line is fuzzy, if not invisible. The legacy infrastructure remains, but an industry of cloud-based services that don’t require the physical connections has exploded. Voice, data, SMS, and video conferencing can now be conveniently delivered OTT. Enabled by simple API integrations, businesses can embed just one of these services or a complete communications platform-as-a-service (CPaaS) into an app, service, or product.

Cloudification is a game changer

This “cloudification” of communications services makes it easy to include voice, data, SMS, and video within any existing application, product, or service. These are essential components for many business models.

Consider these services we have come to rely on in our daily lives: food or grocery delivery, ride services, and business and personal communications. These require multiple methods of communication with shoppers, drivers, co-workers, watch party groups, and external business partners.

The exciting news is there is no end in sight. Use cases will continue to evolve and growth will continue to skyrocket. The scale cloud delivery accommodates is massive. These untethered, easy to embed communications services are a critical differentiator for both business-to-business and business-to-consumer buyers, and the lifeblood of the businesses providing both the end user subscriptions and the APIs.

In fact, one industry juggernaut saw H1 YoY video application service demand grow nearly 600% in 2020.

Not surprisingly, as business demand for these services increases smaller CPaaS players continue to enter the market to quickly snag market share. According to a recent IDC study, “the global market revenue for CPaaS reached $5.9bn in 2020, up from $4.26bn in 2019, and is expected to reach $17.71bn by 2024.”

Merger and acquisition activity is aligned with this hockey stick growth forecast. Large telcos, SaaS providers, and even other CPaaS providers are all on the hunt. Whether they want to add additional features to punch up their products or eliminate the competition in a very tight, nuanced market, the end game is clear – as the market expands, the players will ultimately contract leaving only the most competitive offerings.

Don’t let communications tax take you by surprise

One of the least understood risks when adding cloud-based voice, data, SMS, or video conferencing to an existing product or service is new eligibility for and exposure to the complex world of communications taxation. Making mistakes can get costly very quickly.

Here are some of the key pitfalls to keep an eye on:

  • Expanded nexus: Understanding communications tax nexus is different – and exceptionally more complicated – than sales tax. There are approximately 60,000 federal, state, local, and special taxing jurisdictions, each with uniquely complex rules that tend to change at their own pace. Rules are very different for each service.
  • More complex calculations: The more communications services you provide via API, the more complicated communications taxes will be. Each feature can be taxed at different rates in each individual jurisdiction, or the whole bundle can be taxed at one rate. It’s critical to monitor monthly to avoid audit issues.
  • Maintaining overall compliance: Just as tax rates and rules need to be maintained, so must tax and regulatory filing forms in each jurisdiction. Some of these are very long and require significant detail.  They must be filed in a timely, accurate cadence to avoid additional audit risk.

Bottom line: Don’t assume, be prepared! As these communications services become more pervasive a larger swath of technology providers will find themselves liable for communications tax. The more your business falls behind, the more it can cost you.

It pays to be proactive and prepared. Tax and legal advisory experts can help determine your level of risk, and tax and compliance software providers can help you keep up with changing rules and regulations. Don’t underestimate the ongoing value of networking with peers who are either struggling to answer the same questions or have already overcome the hurdles you’re facing today.

Steve Lacoff is General Manager of Avalara for Communications. With a focus on data, VoIP, and video streaming, Steve has spent 15 years in various product and marketing leadership roles in communications and technology industries, including Disney’s streaming services and Comcast technology solutions. Steve now drives business strategy on today’s changing industry landscape and associated tax impacts. 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 expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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