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Broadband's Impact

The Trans-Pacific Partnership: Preserving a Free and Open Internet



The Internet has been an engine of economic opportunity worldwide, but we cannot take its success for granted. As the free exchange of information and services across borders is increasingly threatened, trade commitments among countries can serve as a powerful tool to maintain the openness that has been the hallmark of the Internet’s success. And while much has been said recently about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, one piece is often overlooked: TPP has first-ever commitments that will promote a free and open digital economy and serve as a template for 21st century trade agreements going forward.

Twenty years ago, less than 1 percent of the world’s population was connected to the Internet. Today, more than 40 percent have Internet access. That extraordinary growth has continued in recent years — since 2009, global Internet users have more than doubled, from 1.5 billion to 3.2 billion. Data flows have nearly quintupled. These trends show no signs of slowing down.

The Internet’s growth — and its power to reshape how we connect, share ideas and exchange information with the rest of the world — is largely due to its design. It has been borderless, lowering the costs of transmitting information, supporting freedom of expression, exchange of information and giving our entrepreneurs an open canvas on which to innovate and a level playing field on which to compete.

Not everyone shares this vision for the future digital economy.

Not everyone shares this vision for the future digital economy. Countries are taking steps to fragment the Internet along national borders, legitimize content controls and arbitrary website blockage, force the use of local servers and deploy “cyber-nationalist” policies that could balkanize the Internet and distort innovation.

That’s where the Trans-Pacific Partnership can help, by requiring countries to sign on to principles necessary for a free and open Internet. TPP contains a comprehensive set of commitments to promote a free and open Internet, including provisions to:

Promote the free flow of data. TPP preserves users’ rights to access and move data, subject to safeguards, which helps ensure the flow of information and data that drive the Internet and the digital economy.
Combat forced localization of server capacity. TPP ensures that entrepreneurs will not have to build expensive and redundant data centers in every market they seek to serve. The economies of scale of the digital economy, where capital- and energy-intensive data centers serve multiple countries, depend on this flexibility.
Prevent forced tech transfer. TPP ensures that countries can’t force an innovator to hand over its technology or IP as a condition for gaining access to their market.
Enhance transparency and public participation. TPP promotes public participation and transparency in the development of laws and regulations — including those affecting the Internet — by providing opportunities for the public to view and comment on laws and regulations.
Strengthen consumer protection. TPP requires countries to adopt and maintain consumer protection laws related to fraudulent and deceptive commercial activities online, and similar measures to protect privacy; it also requires countries to maintain and enforce anti-spam and anti-fraud rules.
Open markets for digital goods and services. TPP opens markets for services and digital products; ensures tariffs are never imposed on digital transmissions; and prevents discrimination against online provision of products traded and transmitted electronically, through measures such as outright blocking or other forms of content discrimination.
Establish duty-free treatment for IT goods. TPP abolishes all tariffs in TPP countries on IT products, such as computers, tablets and smartphones, telecommunications equipment, fiber-optic cable, semiconductors and related goods.
Promote competitive telecom markets. TPP includes requirements to promote competition and ensure access to national telecom networks, helping to improve prices, quality and choices for users.
Facilitate digital trade and e-commerce. TPP includes requirements that TPP countries enable secure online payment options, allow express delivery services and take other measures — often particularly important for small businesses and individual entrepreneurs — to secure the necessary tools for trade in the digital environment.
Achieve a balanced approach to IP. Recognizing the role a strong and balanced approach to intellectual property plays in the growth of the digital economy, TPP countries have obligated themselves to continuously seek to achieve an appropriate balance in their copyright systems through, among other things, copyright exceptions and limitations for legitimate purposes, including those for the digital environment.
With these important steps in TPP, we will strengthen the coalition of countries defending the integrity of the Internet and the economic opportunities of its users. These first-ever provisions for the digital economy are extremely powerful for those seeking a world where everyone has the ability to participate in the global economy and safely access knowledge online.

These first-ever provisions for the digital economy are extremely powerful for those seeking a world where everyone has the ability to participate in the global economy and safely access knowledge online.

The Administration is committed to the principles that have allowed the Internet to reshape our world: Preserving the open and “borderless” character of the global Internet; guaranteeing users’ freedom to move, store and manage data; enhancing the growth of the digital economy; and promoting public-interest policies that protect privacy and deter cyber-crime, including theft of intellectual property, and abuse.

Covering 20 percent of the world’s Internet users and over a third of estimated Internet data flow, the Trans-Pacific Partnership is an unprecedented opportunity to move beyond advocacy. It would take concrete steps toward preserving a free and open Internet at a time when the Internet’s underlying principles are in question — but when its future has never been brighter.

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Alan Davidson of the U.S Department of Commerce puts forward a strong defense of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

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Broadband Breakfast is a decade-old news organization based in Washington that is building a community of interest around broadband policy and internet technology, with a particular focus on better broadband infrastructure, the politics of privacy and the regulation of social media. Learn more about Broadband Breakfast.

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Digital Inclusion

Lack of Public Broadband Pricing Information a Cause of Digital Divide, Say Advocates

Panelists argued that lack of equitable digital access is deadly and driven by lack of competition.



September 24, 2021- Affordability, language and lack of competition are among the factors that continue to perpetuate the digital divide and related inequities, according to panelists at a Thursday event on race and broadband.

One of the panelists faulted the lack of public broadband pricing information as a root cause.

In poorer communities there’s “fewer ISPs. There’s less competition. There’s less investment in fiber,” said Herman Galperin, associate professor at the University of Southern California. “It is about income. It is about race, but what really matters is the combination of poverty and communities of color. That’s where we find the largest deficits of broadband infrastructure.”

While acknowledging that “there is an ongoing effort at the [Federal Communications Commission] to significantly improve the type of data and the granularity of the data that the ISPs will be required to report,” Galperin said that the lack of a push to make ISP pricing public will doom that effort to fail.

He also questioned why ISPs do not or are not required to report their maps of service coverage revealing areas of no or low service. “Affordability is perhaps the biggest factor in preventing low-income folks from connecting,” Galperin said.

“It’s plain bang for their buck,” said Traci Morris, executive director of the American Indian Policy Institute at Arizona State University, referring to broadband providers reluctance to serve rural and remote areas. “It costs more money to go to [tribal lands].”

Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has only made that digital divide clearer and more deadly. “There was no access to information for telehealth,” said Morris. “No access to information on how the virus spread.”

Galperin also raised the impact of digital gaps in access upon homeless and low-income populations. As people come in and out of homelessness, they have trouble connecting to the internet at crucial times, because – for example – a library might be closed.

Low-income populations also have “systemic” digital access issues struggling at times with paying their bills having to shut their internet off for months at a time.

Another issue facing the digital divide is linguistic. Rebecca Kauma, economic and digital inclusion program manager for the city of Long Beach, California, said that residents often speak a language other than English. But ISPs may not offer interpretation services for them to be able to communicate in their language.

Funding, though not a quick fix-all, often brings about positive change in the right hands. Long Beach received more than $1 million from the U.S. CARES Act, passed in the wake of the early pandemic last year. “One of the programs that we designed was to administer free hotspots and computing devices to those that qualify,” she said.

Some “band-aid solutions” to “systemic problems” exist but aren’t receiving the attention or initiative they deserve, said Galperin. “What advocacy organizations are doing but we need a lot more effort is helping people sign up for existing low-cost offers.” The problem, he says, is that “ISPs are not particularly eager to promote” low-cost offers.

The event “Race and Digital Inequity: The Impact on Poor Communities of Color,” was hosted by the Michelson 20MM Foundation and its partners the California Community Foundation, Silicon Valley Community Foundation and Southern California Grantmakers.

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Broadband's Impact

USC, CETF Collaborate on Research for Broadband Affordability

Advisory panel includes leaders in broadband and a chief economist at the FCC.



Hernan Galperin of USC's Annenberg School

WASHINGTON, September 22, 2021 – Researchers from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School and the California Emerging Technology Fund is partnering to recommend strategies for bringing affordable broadband to all Americans.

In a press release on Tuesday, the university’s school of communications and journalism and the CETF will be guided by an expert advisory panel, “whose members include highly respected leaders in government, academia, foundations and non-profit and consumer-focused organizations.”

Members of the advisory panel include a chief economist at the Federal Communications Commission, digital inclusion experts, broadband advisors to governors, professors and deans, and other public interest organizations.

“With the federal government and states committing billions to broadband in the near term, there is a unique window of opportunity to connect millions of low-income Americans to the infrastructure they need to thrive in the 21st century,” Hernan Galperin, a professor at the school, said in the release.

“However, we need to make sure public funds are used effectively, and that subsidies are distributed in an equitable and sustainable manner,” he added. “This research program will contribute to achieve these goals by providing evidence-based recommendations about the most cost-effective ways to make these historic investments in broadband work for all.”

The CETF and USC have collaborated before on surveys about broadband adoption. In a series of said surveys recently, the organizations found disparities along income levels, as lower-income families reported lower levels of technology adoption, despite improvement over the course of the pandemic.

The surveys also showed that access to connected devices was growing, but racial minorities are still disproportionately impacted by the digital divide.

The collaboration comes before the House is expected to vote on a massive infrastructure package that includes $65 billion for broadband. Observers and experts have noted the package’s vision for flexibility, but some are concerned about the details of how that money will be spent going forward.

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Broadband's Impact

Technology Policy Institute Introduces Data Index to Help Identify Connectivity-Deprived Areas

The Broadband Connectivity Index uses multiple datasets to try to get a better understanding of well- and under-connected areas in the U.S.



Scott Wallsten is president and senior fellow at the Technology Policy Institute

WASHINGTON, September 16, 2021 – The Technology Policy Institute introduced Thursday a broadband data index that it said could help policymakers study areas across the country with inadequate connectivity.

The TPI said the Broadband Connectivity Index uses multiple broadband datasets to compare overall connectivity “objectively and consistently across any geographic areas.” It said it will be adding it soon into its TPI Broadband Map.

The BCI uses a “machine learning principal components analysis” to take into account the share of households that can access fixed speeds the federal standard of 25 Megabits per second download and 3 Mbps upload and 100/25 – which is calculated based on the Federal Communications Commission’s Form 477 data with the American Community Survey – while also using download speed data from Ookla, Microsoft data for share of households with 25/3, and the share of households with a broadband subscription, which comes from the American Community Survey.

The BCI has a range of zero to 10, where zero is the worst connected and 10 is the best. It found that Falls Church, Virginia was the county with the highest score with the following characteristic: 99 percent of households have access to at least 100/25, 100 percent of households connect to Microsoft services at 25/3, the average fixed download speed is 243 Mbps in Ookla in the second quarter of this year, and 94 percent of households have a fixed internet connection.

Meanwhile, the worst-connected county is Echols County in Georgia. None of the population has access to a fixed connection of 25/3, which doesn’t include satellite connectivity, three percent connect to Microsoft’s servers at 25/3, the average download speed is 7 Mbps, and only 47 percent of households have an internet connection. It notes that service providers won $3.6 million out of the $9.2-billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to provide service in this county.

“Policymakers could use this index to identify areas that require a closer look. Perhaps any county below, say, the fifth percentile, for example, would be places to spend effort trying to understand,” the TPI said.

“We don’t claim that this index is the perfect indicator of connectivity, or even the best one we can create,” TPI added. “In some cases, it might magnify errors, particularly if multiple datasets include errors in the same area.

“We’re still fine-tuning it to reduce error to the extent possible and ensure the index truly captures useful information. Still, this preliminary exercise shows that it is possible to obtain new information on connectivity with existing datasets rather than relying only on future, extremely expensive data.”

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