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An Active Debate Over Whether Wireless Broadband Must Also Play Under Net Neutrality Rules



WASHINGTON, September 29, 2014 – Whether or not mobile Internet providers will be subject to the same net neutrality rules as wired broadband providers has become an increasingly prominent factor in the current debate over net neutrality rules.


The proposal laid out by the Federal Communications Commission in May would only be applicable to wired internet service providers, although the Commission did ask for public comments about what to do on the subject of mobile broadband. In its prior Open Internet Order of 2010, the FCC decided against including rules on wireless broadband. Instead, the agency said only that wireless providers could not block services directly competed with their own services. 

Now many technology companies, plus consumer and advocacy groups, have voiced their support for wireless services being covered by net neutrality rules.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler highlighted Microsoft’s comments in his speech at CTIA this year: “There is no question that mobile broadband access services must be subject to the same legal framework as fixed broadband access services.”

Google – which opposed including wireless services under net neutrality four years ago – this year switched sides regarding wireless inclusion in net neutrality: “These rules should apply regardless of whether you’re accessing the internet using a cable connection, a wireless service, or any other technology.”

Many in the wireless industry are nervous about new net neutrality rules. Meredith Baker, CEO of the wireless industry association CTIA, said that different rules should govern wired and wireless broadband. She made these comments both in her speech at the GSMA Mobile 360 summit on September 22 and in comments made in June. Wireless companies have continued to argue against this “platform parity” since “mobile broadband depends on public airwaves known as spectrum, which is a finite commodity with limited capacity,” said The New York Times.

“Our objective should be to preserve an Open Internet, not artificially impose the same set of rules on all platforms. Forcing all platforms under a single set of rules was rejected in 2010, and should be rejected again now.”

– CTIA CEO Meredith Baker

On Tuesday September 16, FCC held roundtable discussions on net neutrality, including one on mobile broadband. Wireless carriers reiterated their 2010 arguments that net neutrality rules would impair their ability to effectively manage their networks to maintain performance.

For example, AT&T throttles data speeds of customers with legacy unlimited data plans for the remainder of the billing cycle after they exceed 3GB of data. Droid-Life first reported that Verizon Communications will start performing “Network Optimization” on its top 5 percent of data users (those who use more than 4.7 gigabytes of data a month) with unlimited data plans in congested areas, similar to what T-Mobile and Sprint are already doing.

A legacy Verizon unlimited data plan costs $29.99 per month. $30 per month will now only get a customer 500 megabytes of data per month, and it costs $70 for a 4 GB plan. These prices don’t even take into account the $40 line access charge. Wheeler expressed his concern that throttling unlimited data plans could be about increasing revenue and not managing congestion back in the end of July in a letter to Verizon’s CEO, and followed up later by writing to all the major carriers to ask about their network management policies.  

In his CTIA speech, Wheeler said he knows that there has been “significant changes in mobile marketplace since 2010.” Earlier this month, he said that all options are still on the table. That may mean that net neutrality rules will be the same across both wired and wireless broadband platform, or the possibility of new, separate rules for the mobile internet.


Public Safety

Lack of People Opting Into Emergency Alerts Poses Problems for Natural Disaster Scenarios

Disaster protocol experts remarked on lessons learned from fire outbreaks in Boulder County, Colorado.



Photo of Lori Adams of Nokia discussing emergency communications response to Colorado wildfires at Mountain Connect by Drew Clark

KEYSTONE, Colorado, May 26, 2022 – A lack of people opting into local emergency alerts poses a severe challenge for public officials during natural disasters, a panel of experts said Tuesday.

The panel remarked on just how significant the number of people not subscribed to emergency alerts is during a panel on disaster preparedness at the annual Mountain Connect conference.

In Boulder, getting emergency alerts is on an opt-in basis, whereas in other areas, it is opt-in by default.

The specific focus of the panel was on lessons learned from the outbreak of fires in Boulder County, Colorado this past December.

Fires presented challenges for providers

Several challenges of managing a response to the fires were recounted.

Blake Nelson, Comcast’s senior director of construction, stated that some of his company’s underground broadband infrastructure buried at a considerable depth was still melted from the heat of the fires to cause service outages for customers. Thomas Tyler, no stranger to disaster response as Louisiana’s deputy director for broadband and connectivity through several hurricane responses, pointed out that it is quite possible local officials may be skilled in responding to one type of disaster such as a hurricane but not another like a tornado.

Screenshot of Blake Nelson, Jon Saunders, Wesley Wright and Thomas Tyler (left to right)

The panel also spoke to the challenges of coordination between essential companies and agencies if people do not have personal relationships with those who work at such entities other than their own.

Successful emergency responses to service outages during disaster serve as models for the future, with Nelson stating the internet provider opened up its wireless hotspots to temporarily increase service access and Tyler saying that standing up Starlink satellite internet access helped bring broadband to Louisiana communities only accessible by bridge or boat during their periods of disaster.

Conversation moderator Lori Adams, senior director of broadband policy and funding strategy at Nokia, suggested keeping town servers not in municipal buildings but rather off site and Wesley Wright, partner at law firm Keller and Heckman, recommended the Federal Communications Commission’s practice of developing strong backup options for monitoring service outages.

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Education Executives Tout Artificial Intelligence Benefits for Classroom Learning

Artificial intelligence can help fill in gaps when teacher resources are limited, an event heard.



Screenshot of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation event

WASHINGTON, May 25, 2022 – Artificial intelligence can help fill in gaps when teacher resources are limited and provide extra help for students who need individualized teaching, experts said at an event hosted by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation on Tuesday.

As policy makers weigh the options for a structure for AI in the classroom, panelists agreed on its benefits for both teachers and students. Michelle Zhou, CEO of AI company Juji Inc., said AI technology in the classroom can be tools and applications like chatbots for real-time questions during class, and post-class questions at home for when the teacher is not available.

Lynda Martin, director of learning strategy for strategic solutions at learning company McGraw Hill, said AI provides the extra help students need, but sometimes are too shy to ask.

When a teacher has a high volume of students, it is difficult to effectively help and connect with each student individually, Martin said. AI gives the teacher crucial information to get to know the student on a more personal level as it transmits the student’s misconceptions and detects areas of need. AI can bring student concerns to the teacher and foster “individualized attention” she added.

Privacy and security concerns

Jeremy Roschelle from Digital Promise, an education non-profit, raise the privacy and security concerns in his cautious support of the idea. He noted that there needs to be more information about who has access to the data and what kinds of data should be used.

Beside bias and ethical issues that AI could pose, Roschelle cautioned about the potential harms AI could present, including misdetecting a child’s behavior, resulting in potential educational setbacks.

To utilize the technology and ensure education outcomes, Sharad Sundararajan, co-founder of learning company Merlyn Minds, touched on the need for AI training. As Merlyn Minds provides digital assistant technology to educators, he noted the company’s focus on training teachers and students on various forms of AI tech to enhance user experience.

There is an “appetite” from schools that are calling for this, said Sundararajan. As policy makers contemplate a strategic vision for AI in the classroom, he added that AI adoption in the classroom around the country will require algorithmic work, company partnerships, and government efforts for the best AI success.

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Closing Digital Divide for Students Requires Community Involvement, Workforce Training, Event Hears

Barriers to closing the divide including awareness of programs, resources and increasing digital literacy.



Screenshot of Ji Soo Song, broadband advisor at the U.S. Department of Education

WASHINGTON, May 24, 2022 – Experts in education technology said Monday that to close the digital divide for students, the nation must eliminate barriers at the community level, including raising awareness of programs and resources and increasing digital literacy.

“We are hearing from schools and district leaders that it’s not enough to make just broadband available and affordable, although those are critical steps,” said Ji Soo Song, broadband advisor at the U.S. Department of Education, said at an event hosted by trade group SIIA, formerly known as the Software and Information Industry Association. “We also have to make sure that we’re solving for the human barriers that often inhibit adoption.”

Song highlighted four “initial barriers” that students are facing. First, a lack of awareness and understanding of programs and resources. Second, signing up for programs is often confusing regarding eligibility requirements, application status, and installment. Third, there may be a lack of trust between communities and services. Fourth, a lack of digital literacy among students can prevent them from succeeding.

Song said he believes that with the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, states have an “incredible opportunity to address adoption barriers.”

Workforce shortages still a problem, but funding may help

Rosemary Lahasky, senior director for government affairs at Cengage, a maker of educational content, added that current data suggests that 16 million students lack access to a broadband connection. While this disparity in American homes remained, tech job posts nearly doubled in 2021, but the average number of applicants shrunk by 25 percent.

But panelists said they are hopeful that funding will address these shortages. “Almost every single agency that received funding…received either direct funding for workforce training or were given the flexibility to spend some of their money on workforce training,” said Lahasky of the IIJA, which carves out funding for workforce training.

This money is also, according to Lahasky, funding apprenticeship programs, which have been recommended by many as a solution to workforce shortages.

Student connectivity has been a long-held concern following the COVID-19 pandemic. Students themselves are stepping up to fight against the digital inequity in their schools as technology becomes increasingly essential for success. Texas students organized a panel to discuss internet access in education just last year.

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