NEW YORK, November 12, 2014 – The Internet Society of New York (ISOC-NY) and the Federal Communications Bar Association gathered at Brooklyn Law School’s Forchelli Center on a beautiful November day here. The views of Brooklyn from the 22nd floor, across to Staten Island and New Jersey, were breathtaking. The action was indoors in a marathon event covering all aspects of positively disruptive technology. ISOC member Joly MacFie posted a streaming video is available here.
Speaking first was James Dutcher, CIO of SUNY Cobleskill, located in the Adirondack Mountains west of Schenectady. Broadband competition is coming slowly to rural areas, and the agricultural and medical school just got a better deal on bandwidth because of “just the possibility of competition. The price dropped from $70,000 per year to $60,000 and the bandwidth rose from 200 Megabit per second (Mbps) to 1 Gigabit per second.
Dutcher pled with attendees to not think of broadband in rural areas as only connecting farms to the internet. He said the school just purchased 15 Google Glass devices for its medical and other programs and that Google provided an additional 15 devices for free. “We’re doing telemedicine in upstate New York,” Dutcher said.
Equality, Fairness, and Freedom
Tim Karr of the Free Press warned that censorship happens to citizen journalist protesters and credentialed journalists alike in New York, as well as in Kiev, Cairo, and Gezi Park in Turkey. He said that the issues of press freedom and freedom from censorship on the internet are becoming two aspects of one issue (as its of defining importance for Free Press.
Karr said his group also supports the USA Freedom Act, which would require an alliance of libertarian Republicans and anti-surveillance Democrats to pass, plus making additional radio frequency spectrum available on an unlicensed basis.
Karr said that households with $100,000 or more in annual income have high-quality broadband while 20 million Americans cannot get it at any price. Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, a 500 Mbps connection costs residents $25 per month, he said.
I asked whether any of Free Press’ policies had a chance in the new Congress. “Obama called for net neutrality today,” Karr replied. “We’ve been working on this for 10 years. We’re releasing a survey tomorrow, and a rewrite of the Telecom Act is on the table. It makes me giddy.”
He said, however, that local governments will play a critical role. They need to review and police local franchise agreements. He recommended Susan Crawford’s new book on that score.
Dave Burstein, a veteran telecom reporter and principal at Fast Net News said that the United States can do more for Africa. He said that Africa will soon have more internet subscribers than the U.S. thanks to smartphones, but that pricing in Africa is horrific.
The price of internet in Africa right now: $170 per megabit in Lagos. If SUNY Cobleskill faced that price, it would be paying $170,000 per year instead of $60,000. It would be easy for the U.S. to lower African prices, Burstein said. Tariffs on undersea cables to Africa are higher than similar cables to Europe and Asia that experience greater competition. While 10 percent of the continent is without power, but cell phone companies are learning how to build towers outside the electric grid.
Meanwhile, in the USA, Burstein warned that technology that could deliver 10 to 100 times the bandwidth currently available to cell phones may never be deployed. The problem is politics, not technology – and he blamed incumbent communications companies and their lobbyists for creating what he described as fictions regarding a spectrum shortage.
Internet service providers in the U.S. are not promoting multi-SSID routers in the home. In Paris, these dual-network wireless routers have created a city-wide Wi-Fi cloud.
Breaking out of the Pipe Jail
Bob Frankston, co-creator of the first spreadsheet software, VisiCalc, said that networks should be built from the bottom up, not the top down. He said that a wire running internet into your home “is like a loan that you’re never allowed to pay off.” There’s a fixed cost to building it, but you’re paying a high monthly price for it for the rest of your life.
He said it’s not just a bad deal: the builder has every incentive to limit your freedom and promote scarcity in order to protect its pricing. Telecom is a loan from someone who uses your payment to limit your freedom. “Telecommunications companies are in the business of preventing people from communicating in order to charge money. But Skype shows that the telecommunications companies cannot prevent the internet from providing free communications.”
He said that internet applications are built to use any and all facilities, whereas telecommunications companies want to ensure that their users need them. “Net neutrality is necessary only if we accept that someone controls the pipes.”
Frankston doesn’t want the networks to be built by municipalities because they would charge for it and the act of billing places the customer and network owner in an adversarial position. “I fear a new boss who will act just like the old boss. As long as we finance infrastructure as a profit center, infrastructure is an economic problem not a technology problem.”
A network owner deriving pricing power from scarcity will always fight innovation, he said.
Editor’s Note: Alexander Goldman is a recent graduate of Brooklyn Law School, and recently passed the New York Bar Examination. He worked at ISP-Planet and ISPCON, was Chief Analyst for CTI’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants, and had internships at the Federal Communications Commission and the Internet Division of the NY State Attorney General. At Brooklyn Law School, he was a Trade Secrets Fellow and won CALI awards in Contracts and Antitrust.
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?
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?
- 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 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. Drew brings experts and practitioners together to advance the benefits provided by broadband. He is also the President of the Rural Telecommunications Congress.
As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.
National Non-Profit to Launch Joint Initiative to Close Broadband Affordability and Homework Gap
EducationSuperHighway is signing up partners and will launch November 4.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com. The views expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.
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