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Broadband Roundup: Digital Inclusion Often Falls Short, Rumble Over Roomba Spectrum, Deal Over Education SuperHighway

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Photo of Burcu Baykurt courtesy the University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Most attempts to close the digital divide through smart city digital inclusion fall short of their overpromising corporate rhetoric, argues Burcu Baykurt for the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society.

Digital inclusion is “the idea that nobody in the city should be deprived of digital technologies.” However, as smart city innovation grows, digital inclusion has been falling by the wayside.

For example, high-tech development in San Jose and Seattle has resulted in relocation and rising housing prices. LinkNYC promised 7,500 Wi-Fi kiosks, but installed kiosks in neighborhoods that already had internet access.

While following smart technologies in Kansas City, Baykurt noticed a difference in the city’s approach to closing the digital divide: Actual inclusion. “After Google Fiber spotlighted the racial-spatial divide of Kansas City, many civic leaders focused on expanding access, and a Digital Inclusion Coalition was established in 2014.”

Indeed, collaboration across interests and groups allowed for the formation of the Digital Equity Strategic Plan. However, there is still a digital divide for low-income homes.

Baykurt suggests three answers to the “persistent failure” in smart city digital inclusion.

First, technology cannot remedy deep-seated division in “educational success, poor transportation, and the lack of trust between public officials and low-income, minoritized populations.”

Second, Baykurt said that blaming a shortage of connectivity on “a lack of interest among low-income residents in smart technologies” is a “grave misunderstanding.” Low-income residents want access to devices, but they cannot pay for home internet access or device maintenance.

And finally, low-income residents are wary of privacy infringement. Baykurt writes; “Digital kiosks or smart streetlights ostensibly promise better connectivity for residents, but they also indiscriminately aggregate and analyze various sources of public and private data without any clear explanation of how it will be used or accessed.”

Spectrum battles bringing utilities and robotic manufacturers into the fray

The ever-present spectrum battle continues as electric and water providers, Boeing, and even Roomba contend over the 6 GigaHertz (GHz) band, reports John Eggerton for Broadcasting and Cable.

Edison Electric Institute serves over 200 million customers, using the midband frequencies for much of its utility member internal communication needs.

Although Federal Communications Chairman Ajit Pai said current 6 GHz users would be protected if the spectrum were opened up for unlicensed Wi-Fi use, incumbents are concerned.

Roomba worries that spectrum sharing could cause interference and inhibit its robotic vacuums from effectively working. Roomba wants the FCC to split the spectrum, dedicating part of the band to ultra-wideband and the other portion to Wi-Fi.

Boeing suggested the FCC allow their aircrafts access to the 6 GHz band for in-flight Wi-Fi hotspots.

Although the FCC has not finalized its policy on 6 GHz, Pai touted the possibility of unprecedented positive impacts for consumers.

“It will boost WiFi’s massive indoor dominance. And surely — with the help of emboldened entrepreneurs everywhere — it will bring low-cost WiFi (and unlicensed) connectivity to places where it has never been,” said Pai.

Education SuperHighway strikes deal with Connected Nation

Connected Nation  has been selected by Education SuperHighway, a non-profit devoted to internet accessibility in schools, to ensure state and school district leaders have the information they need to improve school broadband connectivity.

The groups are launching a new tool, Connect K-12, that aims to equip school leaders with information and analytics needed to improve school broadband access in their communities.

It is anticipated that the free Connect K-12 tool will launch later this year, and will provide the broadband data and pricing information for school districts and state leaders to upgrade their bandwidth to the FCC’s 1 Megabit per second (Mbps) per student goal.

Founded in 2012, Education SuperHighway said it has reached its goal of connecting 99 percent of schools to internet connections that provide at least 100 Kilobits per second (Kbps) of bandwidth for every student by 2020. Education SuperHighway plans to pass off its work to Connected Nation.

The Connect K-12 tool will also report national and state connectivity trends to ensure that the E-rate program continues to effectively support school broadband access, said Connected Nation.

Funds For Learning, a professional firm specializing in the federal E-rate program, has been selected as the technology partner to manage the data readiness and software elements of the tool.

Adrienne Patton was a Reporter for Broadband Breakfast. She studied English rhetoric and writing at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. She grew up in a household of journalists in South Florida. Her father, the late Robes Patton, was a sports writer for the Sun-Sentinel who covered the Miami Heat, and is for whom the press lounge in the American Airlines Arena is named.

Broadband Mapping & Data

Ookla Fourth Quarter Report Puts T-Mobile as Fastest, Most Consistent Wireless Provider

T-Mobile ranks fastest mobile provider, improving on third quarter performance.

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T-Mobile president Mike Sievert

WASHINGTON, January 18, 2022 — Metrics company Ookla reported Tuesday that speed test data from the fourth quarter of last year show that T-Mobile was the fastest and most consistent mobile operator, the Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max is the top device in terms of popularity and download speeds, and Google is the top manufacturer when it comes to download and upload speeds.

The latest report, for the months of October, November and December, showed T-Mobile’s median download speed was 90.65 Megabits per second, while runner-up AT&T had a median download speed of 49.25 Mbps and Verizon came in at 44.67 Mbps. The District of Columbia had the fastest median mobile download speeds in the United States with 100.38 Mbps, with T-Mobile being the fastest mobile provider in 42 states.

T-Mobile also had a significant jump in terms of 5G performance, said the Tuesday report. In the third quarter, T-Mobile’s median 5G download speed was 135.27 Mbps, while Tuesday’s report shows their median 5G download speed was 187.12. Verizon came second with a median speed of 78.2 Mbps and AT&T was third with a median speed of 68.82 Mbps.

In the United States, the fastest popular device manufacturer was Google. Google’s median download speed was 60.82 Mbps, Samsung’s was 52.80, and Apple’s was 52.76.

However, the iPhone 13 Pro Max was the most popular and fastest device overall, with a median download speed of 90.58 Mbps and the iPhone 13 Pro following closely behind at 89.61 Mbps.

In the report, only Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile were mentioned as internet providers, and Apple, Google, and Samsung were the only device manufacturers included.

Each month, Ookla collects data from Speedtest users to report the internet speed at their location, and the data from those tests are used to generate their quarterly reports.

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Broadband Mapping

NTIA National Broadband Availability Map Expands to New States and Territories

Nevada, Louisiana, American Samoa and Puerto Rico will join.

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WASHINGTON, December 29, 2021 – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration said Tuesday it will expand its National Broadband Availability Map to include Nevada, Louisiana, American Samoa and Puerto Rico.

The NBAM, which now includes 38 states and two U.S. territories, is a geographic information system platform that allows for visualization and analysis of federal, state and commercially available data on broadband availability.

It is designed to better inform administrators’ broadband projects and funding decisions in their states.

Additionally, it includes five federal agencies: the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Economic Development Administration and the Appalachian Regional Commission.

In June, the NTIA also released to the public a digital map that includes key indicators of broadband needs across the U.S. This “Indicators of Broadband Need” tool “is the first interactive, public map designed to bring multiple third-party data sources together to help” public understanding of the digital divide and broadband affordability issues, the NTIA said.

The map shows overall great need for broadband access in the rural western U.S. compared to areas of the country such as the northeast and many parts of the Midwest.

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Broadband Mapping & Data

Broadband Experts Agree on Multiple Datasets, Disagree on Level of Granularity for Maps

Two broadband experts on a Broadband Breakfast live event discussed data collection and specificity of mapping.

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Drew Clark (top-left), Scott Wallsten (top-right), Jim Stegeman (bottom-left), Bill Price (bottom-right) from live event December 22.

WASHINGTON, December 27, 2021 – Some experts are concerned that there is an overemphasis on the granularity of maps needed to rollout broadband in the country.

“I do not believe that trying to map every structure in the U.S. is the way to go,” said Scott Wallsten, president and senior fellow at the Technology Policy Institute, during a Broadband Live Online event on December 22.

“Broadband maps cannot actually be fixed once and for all,” Wallsten said. “The information is always changing and the sorts of things we want to know are also changing.”

Several federal departments and agencies have broadband mapping tools, with the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration working on improving the accuracy and the specificity of their maps.

Wallsten recommended that data commissioners make very clear what questions are being asked and draw data from several datasets.

Wallsten argued that if the only question at hand is an attempt to determine the general trends of broadband adoption, existing FCC maps are likely already sufficient. “You can learn a lot more from data that is already available than most people realize.”

If the question relates to which specific regions and areas need investment, then more data is needed.

“We learn more by combining data in different ways,” he said. “I do not think we are doing enough of that.” Wallsten said that to get a fuller picture and understand trends and needs, stakeholders need to draw from many different sources.

“Do not expect any dataset – or any combination of data sets – to have all the answers,” Wallsten said. “We do not want to create a situation where we tell governments there is one master dataset.”

President of CostQuest Associates Jim Stegeman echo Wallsten’s statements on using multiple different datasets “to really zero in on the issues.”

But he dissented slightly from Wallsten on granularity. Stegeman stated that CostQuest had a proof of concept demonstrating address level service reporting to provide data on a location basis rather than the broader census block basis and the “one served, all served” mentality that the FCC maps have historically been dependent on.

According to CostQuest’s proof of concept, Stegeman said that future maps could have access to the “location of every broadband serviceable point in the country – the latitude and longitude of the building – to where we believe broadband service needs to be delivered.”

Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place on Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. You can watch the December 22, 2021, event on this page. You can also PARTICIPATE in the current Broadband Breakfast Live Online event. REGISTER HERE.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021, 12 Noon ET — When Will the Broadband Maps Get Fixed?

Now that the Infrastructure Investment Act of 2021 has been passed, states can expect to see the $65 billion for broadband infrastructure dripped out over the coming years. But to effectively allocate their resources, states must understand the full picture and be able to discern underserved communities from served communities and identify those communities that are completely unserved. During this event, we will discuss the current state of broadband mapping across the country and what needs to be done to improve it and ensure that this opportunity for historic infrastructure funding is not squandered.

Panelists for this Broadband Breakfast Live Online session:

  • Scott Wallsten, President, Technology Policy Institute
  • James Stegeman, President/CEO, CostQuest Associates
  • Bill Price, Vice President, Government Solutions, LightBox
  • Drew Clark (moderator), Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast

Panelist resources:

Scott Wallsten is President and Senior Fellow at the Technology Policy Institute and also a senior fellow at the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy. He is an economist with expertise in industrial organization and public policy, and his research focuses on competition, regulation, telecommunications, the economics of digitization, and technology policy. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from Stanford University.

James Stegeman, as President/CEO of CostQuest Associates, has been a major force behind the development of the latest generation economic cost models used by cable, telco, tower and wireless companies and state and government agencies in support of broadband deployment analysis. He led the design, coding and implementation of the Broadband Analysis Model (“BAM”) that was used by the FCC to develop and support the economic findings in the National Broadband Plan. He led the design, coding and implementation of the Connect America Cost Model (“CAM”, “CACM”, “A-CAM”) that is being used by the FCC to disburse more than $3 billion annually to fund broadband deployment and to set the reserve price in the RDOF and CAF II auctions. And most recently, he is leading the internal development of the Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric, which was awarded to CostQuest by the FCC.  This national fabric will provide the underlying locational dataset for the upcoming FCC Broadband Data Collection effort and resulting national broadband map.

Bill Price, Vice President of Government Solutions, is responsible for LightBox broadband data and mapping solutions for government. Bill has more than 40 years in telecommunications and technology services development and operations. His track record includes delivering the Georgia statewide location level broadband map, the first fiber metropolitan area network in the U.S., and launching BellSouth’s internet service. LightBox combines proven, leading GIS and big data technology to transform how decisions are made in broadband infrastructure planning and investment.

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney. Drew brings experts and practitioners together to advance the benefits provided by broadband. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, he served as head of a State Broadband Initiative, the Partnership for a Connected Illinois. 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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