Tag: "fcc"

Posted March 16, 2010 by christopher

The FCC has released its National Broadband Plan and I have perused it, in anticipation of digging into it. The vast majority of reactions seem to agree that it has some good parts and some disappointments. Karl Bode summarizes the plan nicely (as does Glenn Fleishman). From our perspective, it is good on a million details but disappointing on its solutions.

As is usual for me, I'll focus on wired networks.

This plan will not lead to the meaningful competition we all want. It will further cement the power of incumbent providers who have refused to invest -- especially in rural areas. However, it does encourage Congress to "clarify" that the public should be able to build and own networks via local governments and other arrangements. This is the closest we come to a victory.

This is what they have to say about the matter (page 153):

Tribal, State, Regional and Local Broadband Initiatives In addition to Tribal, federal, and state efforts to support broadband deployment, local governments and regions often organize themselves to support deployment in their communities. According to recent market research, as of October 2009, there were 57 fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) municipal deployments, either in operation or actively being built, in 85 towns and cities in the United States. These deployments collectively serve 3.4% of the FTTP subscribers in North America.

Not all government-sponsored networks serve consumers directly. Several government-sponsored entities, such as NOANet in the Pacific Northwest and OneCommunity in Ohio, are major providers of backhaul capacity in areas that benefit community institutions and local broadband service providers. Their networks are often “constructed” by patching together and opening up to wider use fiber and other connections that might originally have been built for single-purpose institutional needs, such as the needs of government offices and local transportation. By offering up that existing capacity to wider use, including the service provider community, these efforts can benefit an entire community, not just one institution.

While it is difficult to measure the impact of many local...

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Posted January 11, 2010 by christopher

The FCC asked for comments on its plans to make rules to protect the open Internet [pdf] from companies that may exert more control over the sites you want to visit in order to boost their profits.

Free Press made the video below to encourage people to comment before the deadline. Though we believe Network Neutrality provisions would be unnecessary with policies that encouraged public ownership and open access, the reality of networks today dictates rules that do not allow Comcast or AT&T to turn the Internet into the wasteland of FM radio today.

SavetheInternet.com makes it easy to comment if you don't have a lot of experience with FCC notices.

Photo used under Creative Commons license from AdamWillis.

Posted November 20, 2009 by christopher

Tropos is a California-based company that sells wireless networking gear, frequently to municipalities. They filed comments with the FCC regarding the National Broadband Plan in response to the request: "Comment Sought on the Contribution of Federal, State, Tribal, and Local Government to Broadband."

We fully support their framing of the issue:

Municipalities that own and control their wireless broadband networks, operate public services more efficiently, prioritize broadband traffic for emergencies, and put unused bandwidth to use to attract new businesses, afford educational opportunities to students and in many cases, provide free broadband access to unserved or underserved residents.

Tropos calls for an end to preemption on community networks.

Congress should not adopt legislation that would prohibit local governments from building and operating broadband networks to provide services within a community. Local governments should have the freedom to make decisions on how they want to provide broadband within their community.

And finally, Tropos harkens back to the same political battles from one hundred years ago:

A century ago, when inexpensive electricity was available to only a small fraction of the U.S. population, incumbent suppliers of electricity sought to prevent the public sector from offering electricity for many of the same reasons incumbent broadband providers now argue against community broadband deployment and services. Back then, incumbents sought to limit competition by arguing that local governments didn’t have the expertise to offer something as complex as electricity. They argued that their own businesses would suffer if they faced competition from cities and towns. Local community leaders recognized that their economic survival and the health and welfare of their citizens depended on wiring their communities. They understood that it would take both private and public investment to bring electricity to all Americans. Fortunately, they prevailed. Just as municipal electric systems proved critical to making access to electric service universal in the 20th Century, municipal networks can be part of the solution in making broadband access universal in the 21st Century – and should be included in the build-out of a national broadband infrastructure.

The...

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Posted November 18, 2009 by christopher

As the FCC continues to formulate a National Broadband Plan, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance has submitted comments [pdf] about publicly owned networks in response to the Request for Comments #7: "Comment Sought on the Contribution of Federal, State, Tribal, and Local Government to Broadband." In our comments, we highlight the importance of publicly owned broadband networks by noting many success stories and offering details on networks from Chattanooga, Burlington, Monticello, and Powell, Wyoming. We also offer some comments about middle-mile networks and networks that connect core anchor institutions, like libraries and schools.

Posted November 4, 2009 by christopher

The FCC is asking for comments on the contribution of federal, state, tribal, and local government to broadband [pdf]. Comments are due on Friday, Nov 6.

Take a look at the comment request above (it is only 5 pages long) and pick one of the areas in which they are interested - readers here may be most interested in #2 - "Government broadband initiatives."

a. Governments have engaged in various initiatives to increase broadband deployment and adoption in certain geographic areas. With regard to specific examples of federal, state, tribal, or local broadband initiatives, how did the initiatives come to fruition from start to finish? Please describe cost information, including planning, equipment, training, labor, and conclusion of the initiatives, as well as barriers that were overcome. What elements of the initiation, planning, or implementation were most critical to the success of the project? What factors impacted the technological choices made in the planning and implementation of the project? Were the projects sustainable, and have the projects continued beyond their initially conceived timeframes? What were the costs and the resulting empirically demonstrable benefits or harms of the implementation? How did costs and benefits differ from the original plan and why?

b. What conclusions should be drawn from any particular experiences (e.g., what efforts or practices should be replicated or avoided)?

c. Please provide examples of governments aggregating demand to encourage broadband deployment. Are such programs sustainable? Do these programs cause the deployment of network infrastructure that otherwise would not have occurred? Please provide data when possible.

d. How can successful broadband solutions be more widely shared or publicized to enable other governments to benefit? What should be the role for the federal government (and specifically, this Commission) in fostering the widespread adoption of ideas and initiatives that have worked?

e. Is there a role for non-profit or private sector partnerships in governmental broadband solutions?

Please provide examples from real-life initiatives.

You do not have to answer everything - feel free to just pick one aspect you want to bring to the FCC's attention and then:

  1. Go to the...
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Posted October 9, 2009 by christopher

We finally have a realistic estimate of the cost of bringing 100Mbps to every home in America... and Light Reading labeled the cost "jaw-dropping."

Want to provide 100-Mbit/s broadband service to every U.S. household? No problem: Just be ready to write a $350 billion check.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) officials shared that jaw-dropping figure today during an update on their National Broadband Plan for bringing affordable, high-speed Internet access to all Americans. The Commission is schedule to present the plan to Congress in 141 days, on Feb. 17.

Don't get me wrong, I agree that $350 billion is a lot of money. On the other hand, we spent nearly $300 billion on surface transportation over 4 years from 2005-2009. $350 billion buys a fiber-optic network that will last considerably longer. Additionally, such a network will generate considerably more revenue than a highway. In fact, these networks will pay for themselves in most areas if they can access to low-interest loans.

Consider the comments of Deputy Administrator Zufolo (of the Rural Utilities Service) from my recent panel at NATOA:

Zufolo explained the RUS decision to use its $2.5 billion in funds primarily to subsidize loans and not provide grants, as the agency's best opportunity to make the more efficient use of the federal money and have maximum impact. Because the default rate on RUS loans is less than 1% and the subsidy rate is also low, only about 7%, it costs the government only $72,000 to loan $1 million for rural network development, she said.

Let's say that RUS decides to embark on getting 100 Mbps to everyone in a rural area - some of the projects will be riskier than the standard portfolio, so let's assume it costs the federal government $100,000 to loan $1 million (makes it easier math too). In order to spur the $350 billion investment for these networks, the government would have to put up $35 billion.

But it would probably be more than that because some areas - Montana, Alaska, Wyoming, and other beautiful places will need...

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Posted September 23, 2009 by christopher

The Chair of the Federal Communications Commission has taken a stand for network neutrality - the founding principle of openness of the Internet. In short, network neutrality means the entity providing you access to the Internet cannot interfere with the sites you choose to visit - it cannot speed them up or slow them down in order to increase their profits. See video at the bottom of this post for a longer explanation.

FCC Chair Julius Genachowski recently spoke at the Brookings Institution [pdf] on the importance of an open Internet. He started by noting many of the ways we depend on services delivered over the Internet:

Even now, the Internet is beginning to transform health care, education, and energy usage for the better. Health-related applications, distributed over a widely connected Internet, can help bring down health care costs and improve medical service. Four out of five Americans who are online have accessed medical information over the Internet, and most say this information affected their decision-making. Nearly four million college students took at least one online course in 2007, and the Internet can potentially connect kids anywhere to the best information and teachers everywhere. And the Internet is helping enable smart grid technologies, which promise to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by hundreds of millions of metric tons.

However, because most Americans get access to the Internet from large, absentee-owned profit-maximizing companies who are often de facto monopolies, we have to beware the gulf between community interests and the narrow interests of these companies.

A second reason [for network neutrality rules] involves the economic incentives of broadband providers. The great majority of companies that operate our nation’s broadband pipes rely upon revenue from selling phone service, cable TV subscriptions, or both. These services increasingly compete with voice and video products provided over the Internet. The net result is that broadband providers’ rational bottom-line interests may diverge from the broad interests of consumers in competition and choice.

For this reason and others, the Chair suggested adding two new "freedoms" to the four Internet freedoms [pdf]...

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Posted September 15, 2009 by christopher

This is a slightly older story, but I wanted to make sure it made the rounds.

In "FCC Hires Industry Shill to Develop US National Broadband Plan," OpenLeft.com's Chris Bowers details the shady history of Scott Wallstein, the economics director of the FCC broadband task force.

His past affiliations and quotes regarding the state of broadband in the U.S. are quite troubling. He has said that the U.S. does not have a broadband problem and has a long history of working with "coin operated" think tanks like Progress and Freedom Foundation (so named because they tend to produce reports justifying whatever their corporate funders desire).

This is deeply troubling as his past positions run directly counter to many of the values espoused by President Obama and his FCC Chairman, Julius Genachowski - particularly on the important issues of open access and network neutrality.

Posted September 9, 2009 by christopher

The FCC recently asked for comments about how broadband should be defined. There was a marked difference between those who put community needs first and those who put profits first. Companies like AT&T and Comcast were quick to argue that the FCC should not change the definition of broadband for reasons ranging from too much paperwork to the suggestion that rural people have no need for VoIP. The honest approach would have been for these companies to say they do not want a higher definition because it will change their business plans, likely requiring them to invest in better networks for communities, and that will hurt their short term profits.

On the other side were groups that argued for a more robust definition of broadband - something considerably less ambitious than our international peers but an improvement over the current FCC definition.
NATOA's comments [pdf] focused on issues like the need for measurements based on actual speeds rather than advertised and symmetrical connections (or at least "robust upstream speeds to facilitate interactivity" - which we think captures the importance of symmetric connections without getting lost in debates about absolutely symmetric connections).

The key metric for broadband should be the applications and needs that drive consumer requirements and choices. In this way, broadband should be understood as a connection that is sufficient in speed and capacity such that it does not limit a user’s required application.

Their magic broadband number is a reasonable and doable 10Mbps symmetric connection for residential and small businesses as well as a 1Gbps level for enterprise users. Importantly, they note that a single broadband connection supports far more than a single computer or use - these connections are shared, often among many wired and wireless devices.

Compare these comments to those of the NCTA [pdf] (lobbying organization for cable companies) that argue broadband is nothing more than an "always on" connection regardless of the speeds or user experience. This is how they justify maintaining the international laughingstock definition of 768kbps/200kbps.

It is this basic “...

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Posted August 20, 2009 by christopher

There are so many interesting articles recently (some are actually a bit older than recent, I guess).

  • How did Sweden get so connected? BuddeBlog took a look at how Sweden has invested so greatly into advanced fiber networks. This short post looks at factors from geography to government policy that have helped.

  • Andrew Cohill, an advocate of both fiber and wireless networks, offers a simple explanation for why wireless can only be part of the solution to the problem of universal broadband. Wireless just cannot provide the same high reliability and speeds of wired connections.

  • Following up on yesterday's call on the FCC to stop ignoring muni broadband, Karl Bode observes:

    Interestingly, of the 51 "constituents" brought in for the 8 most recent workshops, just five don't work for a corporation -- and zero of them act as witnesses for consumer interests (so clearly, you've got your work cut out for you).

  • And finally, Timothy Karr at Free Press has been unmasking astroturf groups funded by major carriers. Learn more with this fun widget (available here).

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