April 29, 2021—While Democratic legislators advocate fore higher broadband speed standards, some experts condemn the short-term push for gigabit speeds as simply “marketing spin” by fiber advocates.
As the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association’s WISPAmerica 2021 event began its last day of events, a panel of experts in the broadband market convened to discuss the “Path to Gigabit Wireless.”
This event was hosted in the wake of many Democratic legislators advocating for new standards for “high-speed” internet. As it stands now, there is a bill in the house that would push for symmetrical service—when download and upload speeds are equal—and classify anything under 100 Megabits per second symmetrical service as low-tier service. According to this bill, anything between 100 Mbps symmetrical and one Gbps symmetrical would be considered mid-tier.
Gigabit speeds overhyped?
But some, like senior vice president of product management for Cambium Networks Scott Imhoff, claim that the rapid pursuit of gigabit speeds is overhyped. He described a paradigm that he believes will emerge over the next several years as data rates increase, but the actual demand on the networks remains very light. What this would mean for consumers, he explained, is that as they get charged more, their usage may not increase despite having the capacity to do so.
Imhoff believes that at least in part, the push for gigabit speeds is fueled by companies that primarily utilize fiber as a means of broadband deployment.
“I think [100 Mbps symmetrical service] is more marketing spin on behalf of the fiber industry than it is anything else.” Imhoff argued that the opportunities for the average consumer to fully take advantage of gigabit speeds are somewhat limited, and that often, they will be dissatisfied with the service they are receiving for what they are paying.
Some experts are critical of this view, however. Advocates of 100 Mbps and gigabit speeds point out that companies cannot be building infrastructure for the needs of today but must constantly be trying to anticipate the needs of the future.
The conversation has changed
Two years ago, few people could have anticipated how the COVID-19 pandemic would shift the way consumers use broadband. Since the pandemic began, consumer broadband use has risen sharply as more people have taken advantage of opportunities for telehealth and telework, and students have adjusted to use distance learning technology.
Additionally, there are now more devices connected to the internet than ever. As smart homes and cities become more widespread, the demand for greater connectivity is going to become more apparent. Even in rural areas, in the near future, consumers may decide that they want to utilize one of the myriad technologies that are becoming more common place today but did not exist a few years ago.
Whether that is something as commonplace as a Peloton bike that is dueling a consumer’s smartphone, or something more exotic like a companion robot battling a smart fridge; all these devices will be competing for Wi-Fi primacy.
The ways in which consumers engage with the internet have also changed over the course of the pandemic. While download capabilities have typically been higher in the U.S. to accommodate demand, more consumers are now uploading content to the internet than ever before. This discrepancy in service is no more obvious than in the Federal Communications Commission’s own definition of high-speed internet, which classifies it as 25 Mbps download and three Mbps upload; a ratio of around 8:1. Symmetrical service could be one of the solutions to address this shift in consumer behavior.
Imhoff believes that gigabit speeds will become more commonplace in the future but there is currently not sufficient demand to justify prioritizing them as heavily as many consumers do. But if the U.S. is going to build sustainable infrastructure for the next generation of consumers and technology, it would seem as though the effort should be viewed at as more than mere marketing spin.
Sinema Policy Advisor Says Infrastructure Bill’s Broadband Promise Balances Partisan Interests
And experts weigh in on the benefits of crowdsourcing data for better broadband maps.
WASHINGTON, October 27, 2021 — Ahead of a Halloween deadline for the House to vote on the infrastructure bill, the policy staff person of Senator Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, said he thinks the infrastructure bill’s broadband provisions balance competing interests between progressive and moderate Democrats, who disagree on the bill’s details.
“I think it’s a strong bill,” said Sinema’s policy advisor Chris Leuchten. Leucheten, who spoke in his personal capacity at a broadband infrastructure panel with the Federal Communications Bar Association on October 13, avoided saying whether Sinema would approve of the bill but said “balancing competing interests is important.”
Leucheten added that Arizona has 22 federally recognized tribes and that expanding broadband has been difficult for the state due to a lack of funding. Focusing on ensuring funding for tribal lands in Arizona “is a key piece for us,” Leuchten said. The bill includes $65 billion for broadband.
The House is expected to vote on the bipartisan bill on October 31, 2021.
Bipartisanship led to passage in the Senate
Tech advocates are eager for the broadband infrastructure bill to pass the House. Leuchten said he wants a positive outcome after his team’s hard work to build relationships in the Senate to get enough votes. “It took months on multiple levels of [Senate] staff to get it done in order to reach a bipartisan agreement here and have some honest discussions to put together a framework to the bill.”
Alexandrine de Bianchi, senior legislative assistant to Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nevada, said that her working bipartisan group “worked off a few bills to provide a foundation for the broadband section of the bill.” Previous broadband bills were “cobbled together” in order to get to finalized bill.
FCC should crowdsource data for better broadband maps
Panelists also discussed broadband mapping as a fundamental challenge to allocating the bill’s funding and suggested crowdsourced mapping to gather more data. “[The] maps are foundational to everything we have to do,” said Trey Hanbury, partner at Hogan Lovells. “The job is to direct funding to where it is needed.”
FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said during a symposium Friday that she is optimistic about the agency’s latest efforts at mapping and said crowdsourcing methods have proven to be highly effective.
The idea of crowdsourcing broadband coverage data reflects a shift in the broadband mapping philosophy by moving away from the FCC’s historical data collection methods.
“The FCC form 477 established in 2000 was the traditional way to collect mapping data,” said Kirk Burgee, chief of staff for the Wireline Competition Bureau. “[But we] had no view into what was happening on the census block level. To address the shortcomings in form 477, the 2020 Broadband Data Act created requirements for data collection that would address problems with the old form,” referring to the challenge process that allows others to challenge the FCC’s own information.
Advocates for crowdsourced broadband mapping believe that the public can make the FCC’s maps more accurate. Bryan Darr, vice president of smart communities at Ookla, said that the benefits of this method make crowdsourcing a long-term solution to mapping issues.
According to Darr, the volume of data captured is “exponential” relative to other efforts. He said there will be fewer spikes and troughs in data collection because of a loyal user base. The diversity of the users would “capture the many ways people use the internet” Darr said.
Additionally, years of data will allow for greater measuring of progress over time and strengthen the credibility of coverage targets. Combining the source of the data gives stakeholders a better idea of the digital divide than individual data sets themselves, said Jennifer Alvarez, CEO of Aurora Insight.
“The public needs to have a say [in mapping broadband]. Using these capabilities allowing people to report needs to be taken into account and part of what should be understood about broadband mapping. We’ve got to do it quicker than we have been doing it historically” said Darr.
Broadband experts agree that compiling and aggregating mapping data will produce a better picture of underserved and unserved communities.
FCC Announces Additional Details From Second Wave, Additional Money for First Wave, of Emergency Connectivity Fund
FCC said it disbursed an additional $269 million in the first round.
WASHINGTON, October 26, 2021 – The Federal Communications Commission announced additional details Monday about the second wave of funding from the Emergency Connectivity Fund, including additional money that has been allocated from the first filing window.
The agency, which allocated $1.1 billion earlier this month, said second wave applicants filed for nearly $1.3 billion from all 50 states. The second window was open for applications between September 28 and October 13.
The agency also announced that an additional $269 million was allocated for the first filing window applications, which disbursed $1.2 billion from the $7.17 billion program.
The applications submitted for the latest round will go to fund 2.4 million connected devices and over 564,000 broadband connections to benefit schools and libraries. The agency has so far committed a total of $2.63 billion from the fund.
These latest commitments mean more than nine million students will be connected with the money. The support provided from the funds is expected to make homework completion and virtual learning more possible for students with connectivity issues, as many schools continue to operate remotely.
“Clearly there still is a tremendous demand for help in our communities to meet the broadband needs of students and library patrons engaged in online learning,” said FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.
Why the Multiple Dwelling Unit May Well Be the Next Battleground of Broadband Access
Broadband Breakfast interviews Pierre Trudeau, president and chief technology officer of Positron Access, about reaching multi-tenant units.
October 26, 2021– Positron Access President and Chief Technology Office Pierre Trudeau discusses the current “fiber frenzy,” why multiple-dwelling units sometimes suffer because of uncertainty surrounding the costs of building and some of the solutions available to get better broadband to MDUs.
In this interview with Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark, Trudeau also explains how Positron Access provides fiber-builders with a solution to serve otherwise costly or difficult to deploy fiber infrastructure, through a device they refer to as “Gigabit Access Multiplexer,” or a “GAM” for short.
Positron Access Solutions manufactures carrier grade products that increase the bandwidth delivered by Tier-1 carriers and over 150 Tier- 2 / 3 Operators. Positron’s G.hn Gigabit Access Multiplexer (GAM) extends fiber or fixed-wireless Gigabit services over the existing in-building wiring in MDU and Multi-Tenant Units, as well as and over the outdoor existing wiring from the curb to the gateway in rural areas.
Don’t miss Broadband Breakfast Live Online on Wednesday, October 27, 2021, 12 Noon ET — “When Greenfield Fiber Meets Brownfield Multiple Dwelling Units”
Indeed, 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.
In the interview between Trudeau and Clark, the two discuss Positron Access and its role in solving the problem.
Positron Access delivers managed real-time non-blocking virtually symmetrical Gigabit speeds to each subscriber without the cost and construction disruption of installing fiber to each door (up to 800 feet over existing telephone pairs or 2,800 feet over existing RG6 coaxial cable and splitters). The GAM is auto-configured and supports user self-installation, eliminating the need to enter the premises. It is installed and activated in hours. Developed, manufactured and supported in North America.
Positron has adapted existing G.hn technology to function over telephone pairs and coaxial cables by developing proprietary software that effectively eliminates line born noise between cable pairs. In conjunction with this software, they developed a GAM device no bigger than a deck of playing cards known that can convert gigabit input to G.hn. Through this device consumers can receive gigabit services at a fraction of the cost of fiber.
This Broadband Breakfast interview is sponsored by:
- Sinema Policy Advisor Says Infrastructure Bill’s Broadband Promise Balances Partisan Interests
- Rosenworcel Hails FCC’s Efforts on Mapping, Said Country Needs More Wi-Fi Access
- FCC Orders China Telecom to Stop Providing Services in the U.S. Over National Security Concerns
- Verizon, Amazon Partner on Broadband, Farmers Need Broadband, Social Work Important to Close Digital Divide
- FCC Announces Additional Details From Second Wave, Additional Money for First Wave, of Emergency Connectivity Fund
- Biden Nominates Rosenworcel as FCC Chair, Sohn as 5th Commissioner and Alan Davidson as NTIA Head
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