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The Year in Broadband, 2012: BroadbandBreakfast’s Guide to the Top 10 Events

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December 18, 2012 – The year 2012 has provided significant progress in broadband within the United States. Whether through policy developments, or through technologies advancing the rate of internet speeds, the business case for making use of those higher speeds is also progressing in a meaningful way.

It’s almost as if the presidential and other federal elections – dominated as they were by issues other than broadband and technology – allowed the breathing room for practitioners, in Washington and outside of Washington, to make progress on bringing the nation better broadband.

Here’s the list of the 10 most significant events for broadband. We’ll soon follow up with 10 broadband developments to watch for in 2013.

1. Revisions to the Universal Service Fund.
At the end of 2011, the Federal Communications Commission began a major overhaul of the decades-old Universal Service Fund. Through an order of more than 700 pages, the agency created three major new funds: the Connect America Fund, the Mobility Fund, and a much smaller Remote Areas Fund, for extremely rural areas, particularly in Alaska. Throughout 2012, the FCC undertook Phase I of both the Connect America Fund and the Mobility Fund. The Mobility Fund has been particularly successful. In September, the FCC held its first “reverse auction” for $300 million in subsidies for mobile broadband: awards went to the mobile providers willing to serve the most unserved census blocks at the lowest prices. By contrast, the Connect America Fund, for wireline providers, was undersubscribed; over the summer the FCC awarded $115 million to large so-called “price cap” carriers, including CenturyLink and Frontier. The agency had been looking to spend $300 million; it will soon begin the process for $185 million of awards in Phase 2.

2. LTE Reaches the Mass Market.
Even though major wireless carriers such as Verizon Communications began promoting its fourth-generation wireless standard dubbed LTE (for long-term evolution) for more than two years, in 2012 LTE became a reality for middle America. Verizon has been quicker than AT&T, but AT&T has expanded more rapidly over the past year. From November 2011, when Verizon Wireless boasted coverage in 190 markets to AT&T’s 15 markets, one year later Verizon Wireless offers service in 441 markets, serving 250 million people. AT&T now offers 190 markets, and is available to 150 million people. Plus, with the launch of the Apple iPad 3 in March of 2012, the first Apple device with LTE technology, consumers could now obtain real-world download and upload speed in excess of 10 megabits per second. For the first time it begins to be possible to envision wireless as a substitute for DSL or cable connectivity, provided that consumers adapt to metered charges for mobile data consumption.

3. Gigabit Fiber Initiatives at the Local Level.
In Illinois, Gov. Patrick Quinn (D) announced the Illinois Gigabit Communities Challenge in the State of the State address on February 1, 2012. The challenge offered $6 million in funding to broadband companies and public-private partnerships proposing gigabit-level connectivity to at least 1,000 residents within their community. Illinois joined a number of other locations, including Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Lafayette, Louisiana, with “big broadband” projects designed to bring economic enhancement through super-fast connectivity. Following a competition which that spurred 40 applicants in Illinois, the first two Gigabit awards – to Gigabit Squared, the University of Chicago and several neighborhoods on the South Side of Chicago; and to Aurora, Illinois – were announced on October 16.

4. DOCSIS 3.0 Rolls Out Nationwide.
Early in the year, cable giant Comcast announced that it had completed its DOCSIS 3.0 expansion for its entire footprint in the United States.  DOCSIS 3.0 is the name for the next version of cable modem technology. The move brings the possibility of promised speeds of 100 megabits per second to all of Comcast’s 52 million household subscribers, although consumers need to subscribe to them. Additionally, consumers need DOCSIS 3.0 hardware in order to take the service, and somewhere between 43 percent and 77 percent of the nation’s cable subscribers had that upgrade. The cable industry’s push for DOCSIS 3.0 stands in contrast with Verizon’s decision to stop the expansion of its Fiber Optic Service and AT&T’s November 7, 2012, announcement that it will begin to favor investments in wireless technology over uVerse investments. Traditional telephone giants may be leaving the wireline field to their former cable competitors.

5. Gig.U. and Gigabit Squared Strike Deals.
One of the most creative of broadband initiatives over the past several years is Gig.U, or the University Community Next Generation Innovation Project. The goal is to leverage the bandwidth needs of the communities around world-class universities. Think of it as an ultra-high-speed form of “aggregating demand.” Spearheaded by Blair Levin, chief architect of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan of March 2010, Gig.U. has assembled 37 world-class universities seeking to entice investment by major and new telecom entrants. In May, the consortium announced a $200 million commitment from Ohio-based Gigabit Squared, promising to build infrastructure in six of the 37 communities. The first to be announced was on the south Side of Chicago, in partnership with Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s Gigabit Challenge, and the second was announced last week, with the University of Washington and the city of Seattle, Washington.

6. Google Fiber Goes Live.
The original big new entrant to the fiber community was none other than search engine giant Google. Way back in February 2010, in the midst of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Google announced a competition to build gigabit connectivity. The competition, dubbed by some a “third round” of the federal stimulus, following the two-stage process followed by the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Agriculture, generated 1,100 applications. Ultimately, selected cities were Kansas City, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri. The first fibers there went live July 2012. For $70/month, consumers are eager, and companies are chomping to envision the attention and innovation associated with mass-market gigabit connectivity.

7. U.S. IGNITE Catches Fire.
Fiber developments like FiOS, GigabitSquared and Google sometimes prompt the following question: if consumers aren’t making use of 25 megabits per second now, why would anyone need 40 times that speed? The national non-profit U.S. IGNITE aims to provide an answer to that question. Seeded by the National Science Foundation, U.S. IGNITE seeks to build the business case for these highest-bandwidth applications. In an Executive Order issued in June, the White House put its stamp of approval on the program, and said that it would help “create a national network of communities and campuses with ultra-fast, programmable broadband services, operating at speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second. This network will become a test-bed for designing and deploying next-generation applications to support national priorities.”

8. Connect2Compete Gets Real.
While U.S. IGNITE works on promoting broadband on the ultra-high-speed scale, another national non-profit, Connect2Compete, is beginning to hit its stride in promoting what broadband can do for all Americans, including low-income individuals who lack money, computer equipment, and digital skills necessary to tap into what the internet can offer. The basic concept is for foundations like the Instituto Carlos Slim, the Knight Foundation and the Wasserman Foundation to partner with computer and software companies like GoodPC and Microsoft, and with training entities, to connect consumers with broadband providers. Predominantly cable-industry led, the initiative also provides a model for revamping the FCC’s Lifeline/Linkup program of the Universal Service Fund.

9. Exede Excedes Expectations.
To some fanfare at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2012, ViaSat, which bought satellite broadband provider WildBlue in 2009, unveiled its new service, Exede. With $400 million in a new satellite, plus ground stations and terrestrial fiber networks, the company wants to change the image, and the expectations associated with, satellite broadband. Not to be outdone, HughesNet Gen4 has also upped its increased speeds to 15 Mbps. While it remains to be seen whether rural America will adopt, the new satellite services provide new options for areas without access to fiber, cable or wireless broadband services.

10. The Chicago Broadband Challenge.
On September 24, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel – the first Chief of Staff to President Barack Obama – melded the importance of broadband with his top priority investments. Elected as mayor in February 2011, his broadband challenge invited the public and providers to participate with ideas and insight as to how Chicago can tap into existing broadband infrastructure and potential uses for future expansion of broadband access. In an interview on the program, Chicago Chief Technology Officer John Tolva highlighted the need to drive business broadband with lower prices.

Drew Clark is the Chairman of the Broadband Breakfast Club, the premier Washington forum advancing the conversation around broadband technology and internet policy. You can find him on  and Twitter. He founded BroadbandCensus.com, and he brings experts and practitioners together to advance Better Broadband, Better Lives. He’s doing that now as Executive Director for Broadband Illinois, based in Abraham Lincoln’s Springfield.

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney at The CommLaw Group. He has closely tracked the trends in and mechanics of digital infrastructure for 20 years, and has helped fiber-based and fixed wireless providers navigate coverage, identify markets, broker infrastructure, and operate in the public right of way. The articles and posts on Broadband Breakfast and affiliated social media, including the BroadbandCensus Twitter feed, are not legal advice or legal services, do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client privilege, and represent the views of their respective authors.

Broadband Data

TPRC Conference to Discuss Definition of Section 230, Broadband, Spectrum and China

Broadband Breakfast briefly breaks down the topics to be discussed at the TPRC conference.

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Photo collage of experts from TPRC

WASHINGTON, September 17, 2021 – The TPRC research conference on communication, information, and internet policy is right around the corner and it is set to address some of the most pressing issues facing Big Tech, the telecom industry, and society at large. We cover some topics you can expect to see covered during the conference on September 22 to 24.

If the recent election cycle and the Covid-19 pandemic have taught us anything, it is that the threat of misinformation and disinformation pose a greater threat than most people could have imagined. Many social media platforms have attempted to provide their own unique content moderation solutions to combat such efforts, but thus far, none of these attempts have satisfied consumers or legislators.

While the left criticizes these companies for not going far enough to curtail harmful speech, the right argues the opposite— that social media has gone too far and censored conservative voices.

All this dissent has landed Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996—once a staple in the digital landscape—in the crosshairs of both Democrats and Republicans, as companies still scramble to strike a compromise to placate both sides of the aisle.

Definition of broadband

The future of broadband classifications is another topic that will also be touched on during the conference. This topic quickly became relevant at the outset of the pandemic, as people around the country began to attend school and work virtually.

It became immediately clear that for many Americans, our infrastructure was simply insufficient to handle such stresses. Suddenly, legislators were rushing to reclassify broadband. Efforts in Washington, championed primarily by Democrats, called for broadband standards to be raised.

The Federal Communications Commission’s standing definition of 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload appeared to become unpopular overnight, as calls for symmetrical service, like 100 x 100 Mbps speeds, and even gigabit speeds became a part of the conversation.

Many experts were quick to strike back, particularly those operating in the wireless community, arguing that the average consumer does not need 100 Mbps symmetrical speeds, let alone one gigabit, and such efforts only amounted to fearmongering that would hurt the deployment of broadband infrastructure to unserved communities.

These experts contend that shifting the standards would diminish the utility and viability of any technology other than fiber, as well as delaying when unserved communities (as they are currently defined) can expect to be served. Broader topics surrounding rural broadband and tech-equity will also be prominently featured—addressing many of the questions raised by Covid-19 across the last year and a half.

Future of spectrum

Finally, the quest for spectrum will be discussed at the conference.

As ubiquitous 5G technology continues to be promised by many companies in the near future, the hunt is on to secure more bandwidth to allow their devices and services to function. Of course, spectrum is a finite resource, so finding room is not always easy.

Indeed, spectrum sharing efforts have been underway for years, where incumbent users either incentivized or are compelled to make room for others in their band—just like we saw the military in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service band, and more recently between the Department of Defense and Ligado in the L band.

Even though these efforts are ongoing, there is still disagreement in the community about how, if at all, sharing spectrum will impact users in the band. While some argue that spectrum can be shared with little, if any, interference to incumbent services, others firmly reject this stance, maintaining that sharing bandwidth would be catastrophic to the services they provide.

On China

China is also going to be a significant topic at the conference. Due to the competitive nature of the U.S.-China relationship, many regard the race to 5G as a zero-sum game, whereby China’s success is our failure.

Furthermore, security and competition concerns have led the U.S. government to institute a “rip and replace” policy across the country, through which Chinese components—particularly those from companies such as Huawei—are torn out of existing infrastructure and substituted with components from the U.S. or countries we have closer economic ties with. The conference will feature several sessions discussing these topics and more.

Register for TPRC 2021

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Broadband Breakfast on Wednesday, September 15, 2021 — A ‘Consumer Confidence’ Survey for Broadband

BroadbandNow launches a “consumer confidence” survey.

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Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place every Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. You can watch the September 15, 2021, event on this page. You can also PARTICIPATE in the current Broadband Breakfast Live Online event. REGISTER HERE.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021, 12 Noon ET — BroadbandNow Presents a ‘Consumer Confidence’ Survey for Broadband

As part of its efforts to provide the latest research on the social, economic and political issues contributing to the digital impact and the impact of broadband on everyday life, BroadbandNow is launching a new survey among broadband leaders enthusiasts. Think of this as a “consumer confidence” survey for broadband.

Recently, there have been many changes regarding broadband at the federal, state, local and industry levels. BroadbandNow and Broadband Breakfast aim to launch the survey at a presentation during Digital Infrastructure Investment 2021, a mini-conference at the Broadband Community Summit in Houston, Texas, from September 27-30, 2021.

Join us on September 15, 2021, for this special Broadband Breakfast Live Online preview of the survey with John Busby, Managing Director of BroadbandNow, and Drew Clark, Editor and Publisher of Broadband Breakfast.

Panelists for the event:

  • John Busby, Managing Director of BroadbandNow
  • John B. Horrigan, Senior Fellow, Benton Institute on Broadband & Society
  • Drew Clark (moderator), Editor and Publisher of Broadband Breakfast

Panelist resources:

  • John Busby is the Managing Director of BroadbandNow.com, where millions of consumers find and compare local internet options and independent research is published about the digital divide. Prior to BroadbandNow, John held senior leadership positions at Amazon and Marchex. John holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Northwestern University.
  • John B. Horrigan, Ph.D., is Senior Fellow at the Benton Institute on Broadband & Society, with a focus on technology adoption and digital inclusion. Horrigan has served as an Associate Director for Research at the Pew Research Center and Senior Fellow at the Technology Policy Institute. During the Obama Administration, Horrigan was part the leadership team at the Federal Communications Commission for the development of the National Broadband Plan (NBP).
  • Drew Clark, Editor 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. As a journalist, Drew brings experts and practitioners together to advance the benefits provided by broadband, and – building off his work with Broadband Census – was appointed Executive Director of the Partnership for a Connected Illinois under Gov. Pat Quinn. He is also the President of the Rural Telecommunications Congress.

BroadbandNow is a data aggregation company helping millions of consumers find and compare local internet options. BroadbandNow’s database of providers, the largest in the U.S., delivers the highest-value guides consisting of comprehensive plans, prices and ratings for thousands of internet service providers. BroadbandNow relentlessly collects and analyzes internet providers’ coverage and availability to provide the most accurate zip code search for consumers.

See also:

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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New Broadband Mapping Fabric Will Help Unify Geocoding Across the Broadband Industry, Experts Say

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Photo of Lynn Follansbee from October 2019 by Drew Clark

March 11, 2021 – The Federal Communications Commission’s new “fabric” for mapping broadband service across America will not only help collect more accurate data, but also unify geocoding across the broadband industry, industry experts said during a Federal Communications Bar Association webinar Thursday.

Broadband service providers are not geocoding experts, said Lynn Follansbee of US Telecom, and they don’t know where all the people are.

The new fabric dataset is going to be very useful to get a granular look at what is and what is not served and to harmonize geocoding, she said.

AT&T’s Mary Henze agreed. “We’re a broadband provider, we’re not a GIS company,” she said. Unified geocode across the whole field will help a lot to find missing spots in our service area, she said.

The new Digital Opportunity Data Collection fabric is a major shift from the current Form 477 data that the FCC collects, which has been notoriously inaccurate for years. The effort to improve broadband mapping has been ongoing for years, and in 2019 US Telecom in partnership with CostQuest and other industry partners created the fabric pilot program.

That has been instrumental in lead to the new FCC system, panelists said. It is called a “fabric” dataset because it is made up of other datasets that interlace like fabric, Follansbee explained.

The fabric brings new challenges, especially for mobile providers, said Chris Wieczorek of T-Mobile. With a whole new set of reporting criteria to fill out the fabric, it will lead to confusion for consumers, and lots of work for the new task force, he said.

Henze said that without the fabric, closing the digital divide between those with broadband internet and those without has been impossible.

Digital Opportunity Data Collection expected to help better map rural areas

The new mapping can help in rural areas where the current geolocation for a resident may be a mailbox that is several hundred feet or farther away from the actual house that needs service, Follansbee said.

Rural areas aren’t the only places that will benefit, though. It can also help in dense urban areas where vertical location in a residential building is important to getting a good connection, said Wieczorek.

The fabric will also help from a financial perspective, because of the large amount of funding going around, said Charter Communications’ Christine Sanquist. The improved mapping can help identify where best to spend that funding for federal agencies, providers, and local governments, she said.

There is now more than $10 billion in new federal funding for broadband-related projects, with the recent $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Benefit program as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act in December 2020 and the new $7.6 Emergency Connectivity Fund part of the American Rescue Plan that President Joe Biden signed into law Thursday.

The new FCC task force for implementing the new mapping system was created in February 2021, and is being led by , led by Jean Kiddoo at the FCC. No specific dates have been set yet for getting the system operational.

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