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Broadband's Impact

Consumers Should Be Better Informed on Factors Throttling Download Speeds

Consumers should know what they are purchasing and what they are getting with internet speeds.

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WASHINGTON, April 27, 2022 – As the Federal Communications Commission embarks on crafting labels that clearly outline internet speeds consumers purchase, experts at a Broadband Breakfast event said last week that consumers should get to know the difference between advertised and actual download speeds.

“I think speed tests are part of the problem in this area because we have set the bar really, really high,” said Luke Deryckx, chief technology officer at data analytics company Ookla, a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast. “When you get a gigabit connection, if you take a speed test and you don’t see 900+ gigabits you think ‘what’s wrong?’ That’s not the right answer. The right answer is to look at all the things you can do with that connection.”

The internet speeds that consumers purchase won’t always be what they get. Those theoretical speeds – say that gigabit connection – may be throttled by a number of variables, including the number of devices sharing the network and whether the devices are using either a wireless connection (Wi-Fi) – which may experience signal loss as it must penetrate walls – or a hard-wired connection, which provides speeds closest to what the consumer purchased.

Consumers who have trouble with their internet connection, therefore, are potentially looking at an in-home network problem, according to panelists at the event.

“I think the distinction is important here because router-based speed tests are misleading at best and don’t reflect the consumer experience using devices connected wirelessly,” said Jeff Gavlinski, global vice president of telecom and wireless associations at Plume, a software company.

“We should really think about this from the perspective that there are two distinctly different networks serving a premise,” Gavlinski said. “One to the outside of the premise or router and then one wireless network inside the premise. Perception of the overall quality for both networks, however, is based on the in-premise wireless network.”

The conversation surrounding the problems of in-premise wireless connections comes at a time when the Federal Communications Commission is implementing “broadband nutrition labels” that list information on the pricing and speeds of internet service that internet service providers provide. People within the industry have argued that these labels must be kept simple for consumers, as many don’t understand the intricacies of Wi-Fi connections.

“I’m not sure a lot of consumers today actually want to take the time to understand this [Wi-Fi],” Gavlinski said. “We all do because we’re in the industry. Furthermore, the generation that’s coming up now only cares about whether they do or don’t have a good connection,” said Gavlinski.

At an event earlier this year, Vint Cerf, an early developer of the internet architecture, said episodic measurements of speed using speed tests often yield “skewed data” because people only really run it when they get poor performance. He posited whether there can be a way to “distinguish between poor performance as a consequence of badly configured Wi-Fi versus a poorly performing internet access point or internet access to the ISP.”

This photo was taken at the event.

At a separate FCC consumer advisory meeting on Tuesday, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said, “I believe that transparency is the best disinfectant. And so, we need to make sure that consumers have the information they need to be making informed choices.”

Carr added, however, that the labels made by the FCC need to balance how much information is provided to consumers.  “I think within that statutory structure, [we should] focus as much as possible on information that is going to benefit people – not be irrelevant, not be distracting – to find ways that people can quickly and efficiently get the information they need to make that beneficial, informed choice.”

Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place on Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. You can also PARTICIPATE in the current Broadband Breakfast Live Online event and REGISTER HERE.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022, 12 Noon ET — Broadband Mapping and Data: In-Home Connections

Even with massive improvements to broadband infrastructure, many customers continue to face trouble transmitting internet signals within their homes. How much of consumers’ complaints about low bandwidth performance can be attributed to poor Wi-Fi transmission or slow computing speeds within the home? And equally important, how will actual speeds factor into the Federal Communications Commission’s and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s updated broadband maps and data? Join us for a continuation of the Broadband Breakfast’s ongoing series about Broadband Mapping and Data.

Panelists:

  • Jeff Gavlinski, Global Vice President of Telecom & Wireless Associations, Plume
  • Luke Deryckx, Chief Technology Officer, Ookla
  • Robert Ballance, Founder, The Center for Internet as Infrastructure, LLC
  • Drew Clark (moderator), Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast

Panelist resources:

Jeffrey Gavlinski is currently Global Vice President of Telecom & Wireless Associations at Plume Design.  He is responsible for the strategic alignment of Plume’s industry Association partnerships globally.  He is also the owner and CEO of Mountain Connect LLC, a company facilitating a broadband development conference that services the U.S. and is hosted in Colorado since 2011.

Luke Deryckx has focused his career on creating, improving, and measuring broadband connectivity of all kinds. He has over two decades of telecommunications and technology industry experience, including time spent with major national service providers, local and regional ISPs, and broadband measurement and analytics technology. In addition to Luke’s work as the Chief Technology Officer for Ookla, he serves on the FCC’s precision agriculture task force in a working group focused on measuring and mapping connectivity in rural and agricultural lands.

Throughout his career, Bob Ballance has helped people and organizations to integrate, optimize, and deploy rapidly-evolving computing systems and new technologies. Bob served as a White House Presidential Innovation Fellow (1/2016-4/2017) when he worked with the BroadbandUSA program at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).  Prior to his assignment in Washington DC, he was a Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff at Sandia National Laboratories.

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.

Photo of a router from Ctrl blog

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As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.

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See a complete list of upcoming and past Broadband Breakfast Live Online events.

Health

Digital Literacy Training Needed for Optimal Telehealth Outcomes, Healthcare Reps Say

Digital literacy should be a priority to unlock telehealth’s potential, a telehealth event heard.

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Photo of telehealth consultation from Healthcare IT News

WASHINGTON, May 18, 2022 – Digital literacy training should be a priority for providers and consumers to improve telehealth outcomes, experts said at a conference Tuesday.

Digital literacy training will unlock telehealth’s potential to improve health outcomes, according to the event’s experts, including improving treatment for chronic diseases, improving patient-doctor relationships, and providing easier medical access for those without access to transportation.

Julia Skapik of the National Association of Community Health Centers said at the National Telehealth Conference on Tuesday that both patients and clinicians need to be trained on how to use tools that allow both parties to communicate remotely.

Skapik said her association has plans to implement training for providers to utilize tech opportunities, such as patient portals to best engage patients.

Ann Mond Johnson from the American Telemedicine Association agreed that telehealth will improve health outcomes by giving proper training to utilize the technology to offer the services.

The Federal Communications Commission announced its telehealth program in April 2021, which set aside $200 million for health institutions to provide remote care for patients.

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Digital Inclusion

W. Antoni Sinkfield: To Succeed in 21st Century, Communities Need to Get Connected Now

One of the primary responsibilities of being a faith leader is to listen to your community and understand its problems.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Reverend W. Antoni Sinkfield, Associate Dean for Community Life at Wesley Theological Seminary.

One of the primary responsibilities of being a faith leader is to listen to your community, understand its problems, and provide support in challenging times. Particularly during the pandemic, it has been hard not to notice that my parishioners, and folks across the country, are divided into two groups: those with access to the internet, and those without.

In 2022, digital inclusion is still something we strive for in poor and rural areas throughout America. The lack of reliable internet access is an enormous disadvantage to so many people in all facets of their lives.

To fully participate in today’s society, all people, no matter who they are and no matter where they live, must have access to the internet. Think of the remote learning every child had to experience when schools were closed, and the challenges that families faced when they didn’t have access to a quality connection.

It’s a question of plain fairness.

Politicians have been talking for decades about bringing high-speed internet access to everyone, however many families continue to be left behind. More than 42 million people across the country lack affordable, reliable broadband connections, and as many as 120 million people who cannot get online are stuck with slow service that does not allow them to take advantage of everything the internet has to offer.

People of color are disproportionately affected by lack of broadband access

Lack of broadband disproportionately affects communities of color, as well: 35 percent of Americans of Latino descent and 29 percent of African-Americans do not have a broadband connection at home.

Every person in rural towns, urban neighborhoods, and tribal communities needs and deserves equal and full economic and educational opportunities. Studies show that students without home access to the internet are less likely to attend college and face a digital skills gap equivalent to three years’ worth of schooling. Small businesses, which are the cornerstone of rural and urban communities alike, need broadband to reach their customers and provide the service they expect.

Simply put, having access to the internet in every community is vital to its ability to succeed in the 21st century.

Fortunately, we have an opportunity to take major steps toward a solution. Last year, Congress passed President Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which provides $65 billion to expand broadband access and affordability. It is essential that we use this money to connect as many unserved and underserved communities as we can – and as quickly as we can.

Different places need different options to bridge the digital divide

As we bridge the digital divide, we must listen to those who have been left behind and make sure that we deploy solutions that fit their needs. Different places need different options – so it’s important that all voices are heard, and the technology that works best for the community is made readily available.

All people need access to broadband to learn, work, shop, pay bills, and get efficient healthcare.

When I talk to my parishioners, they speak about how much of their lives have transitioned online and are frustrated about not having reliable access. They do not care about the nuances of how we bring broadband to everyone. They just want to have it now – and understandably so.

This means that we must explore all solutions possible to provide high-speed broadband with the connection and support they need, when they need it, regardless of where they live.

Now is the time to meet those struggling where they are, stop dreaming about bridging the divide, and just get it done. Our government has a rare opportunity to fix an enormous problem, using money already approved for the purpose. Let’s make sure they do so in a manner that works for the communities they’re trying to help.

Rev. W. Antoni Sinkfield, Ph.D., serves as Associate Dean for Community Life at Wesley Theological Seminary, and is an ordained Itinerate Elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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Broadband's Impact

Biden Delivers Remarks on Free Broadband to Qualified Households

Biden compared the value of broadband to telephone service, and drew parallels to the historic effort to connect the country.

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Screenshot of President Joe Biden delivering remarks at the White Hose Rose Garden

WASHINGTON, May 9, 2022 – President Joe Biden emphasized the essential nature of broadband during a public appearance on Monday.

Biden delivered remarks at the White House Rose Garden on the day’s earlier announcement that the federal government would work with both regional and national broadband providers to provide essentially free broadband to qualified households.

“Too many Americans simply cannot afford to get connected even if there is access to get connected. So, they go without high-speed internet, or they sacrifice other necessities in order to make it work,” Biden said.

“High-speed internet is not a luxury any longer – it is a necessity,” Biden said. “That is why the bipartisan infrastructure law included $65 billion to make sure we expand access to broadband internet in every region of the country.”

Biden also laid out the criteria for eligible households to take advantage of Affordable Connectivity Program, which when paired with the effort by ISPs to keep 100 Mbps download services under $30, provides free internet to consumers.

“If your household income is twice the federal poverty level or less – that is that’s about $55,000 per year for a family of four – or $27,000 for an individual – or a member of your household is on Medicaid or supplementary [social] security income or a number of other programs – you are eligible.”

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