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Broadband Plan Anniversary: Some Goals Met but More Work Needed

 

Yesterday, March 16, marked the fourth anniversary of the National Broadband Plan.  When it was released four years ago, this plan was lauded as the FCC's roadmap to universal broadband access, intended to expand access and bring affordable, high-speed broadband connectivity to Americans in every corner of the country.  This connectivity is essential for us all, and in particular for women and women-owned businesses - without it, full participation in our global economy and modern life is virtually impossible. 

 

Here at WIPP, we've long advocated for increased access to affordable broadband service because of the critical role Internet-based networks fulfills for women, as well as for our businesses and loved ones.  Access to fast, modern high-speed broadband connectivity means access to professional opportunities, distance learning classes, telework jobs, civic engagement, and even health care.  It delivers growth opportunities to businesses, helping those businesses run more efficiently and competitively in the global marketplace.  Broadband connectivity also delivers much greater possibilities for higher education, job training, and professional networking. 

 

In the plan, the FCC identified broadband as "the great infrastructure challenge of the 21st century," and set important goals designed to meet that challenge, many of which line up with our own tech principles.  In only four years, the private sector and the FCC have already made incredible progress toward meeting those goals, and we applaud those efforts.  Additionally, the upcoming spectrum incentive auction is a chance to make underused spectrum available to wireless carriers, thereby easing the strain on mobile networks while also funding FirstNet (a nationwide public safety broadband network for first responders) with auction proceeds. 

 

The National Broadband Plan also recognized the vital role that private investment plays in the work to expand access and enhance broadband service.  The plan explained that the old-fashioned "Plain Old Telephone System" network infrastructure was incapable of meeting future needs, and that maintaining that obsolete network required carriers to spend money on lines that hardly anyone relied on anymore.  Meanwhile, consumer demand and continued tech innovation have driven private investment into modern, lightning-fast broadband network infrastructure.  Investment in our country's broadband infrastructure has been substantial: Estimates report that this investment totaled $1.2 trillion between 1996 and 2011. And last year, a White House report said since 2009, private sector investment into these networks came in at over $250 billion. In fact, the top two wireless carriers last year led all companies in all sectors in investing in our nation's future.  

 

Four years ago, the FCC presented a path that leads to expanded access, and those efforts are starting to pay off.  But achieving truly universal access to broadband will not be possible without significant additional private investment.  In order to achieve that goal, smart telecom regulations must be put in place; companies must have regulatory certainty.  Rules that both encourage investment into next-generation networks and that accelerate the movement forward to an all-broadband future will enable continued innovation, economic growth, and universal access for all Americans.  We encourage the FCC to study and learn the realities of today's marketplace, and ensure that any policies and regulations in the future accurately reflect today's dynamic and competitive ecosystem.

 

After President Barack Obama's State of the Union address in January -- in which he called for the build-out of broadband in the classroom and the need for more internet connectivity in education settings -- the Federal Communications Commission followed up with announcements that it was recalibrating the way the E-rate program garners funds from users in order to maximize the money available to fulfill Obama's goal. A modernization of the program will certainly have to take all three into account, and will require the government to work with technology companies to ensure efficient network build-out. As per Juliana Kenny's blog, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler made comments in January about how the Commission intends to bring the program to life without reworking the entire infrastructure of the program, while trying to make it more efficient.

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News to watch today includes this Free State Foundation blog post penned by Randolph May on the breaking story that two Los Angeles television stations--KLCS and KJLA--will pair with CTIA to undertake the "first U.S. spectrum channel sharing pilot project." May writes that the pilot project is "very welcome news," as "ultimately, the success of the spectrum incentive auction depends on having broadcasters decide to offer up some of their spectrum for auction."

 Initiation of this pilot project is very welcome news because, ultimately, the success of the spectrum incentive auction depends on having broadcasters decide to offer up some of their spectrum for auction, which spectrum then would be available to be auctioned for use by others -- presumably, wireless broadband providers -- in what's called a forward auction. If spectrum sharing along the lines contemplated in the pilot project proves feasible, then the chances for a "win-win-win" in the incentive auction increase substantially.

 The WIPP  Economic Blueprint calls out telecommunications principles, which urge policy makers to ensure broadband access to all and keeping the internet free from cumbersome regulations.  We join others in applauding KLCS and KJLA for taking steps towards broader deployment of broadband.   Among those who could possibly benefit from this pilot are women entrepreneurs.

A recent New York Times article U.S. Struggles to Keep Pace in Delivering Broadband Service by  EDWARD WYATT   may be an article of interest to WIPP entrepreneurs.   It features reports from both the World Economic Forum and the White House that provide startling information; namely, the United States is not keeping pace in delivering broadband service. 

The World Economic Forum ranked the United States 35th out of 148 countries in Internet bandwidth, a measure of available capacity in a country. The United States, the country that invented the Internet, is falling dangerously behind in offering high-speed, affordable broadband service to businesses and consumers, according to technology experts and an array of recent studies.

One example compares Riga to San Antonio. San Antonio is the seventh-largest city in the United States, a progressive and economically vibrant metropolis of 1.4 million people sprawled across south-central Texas. But the speed of its Internet service is no match for the Latvian capital, Riga, a city of 700,000 on the Baltic Sea. Riga's average Internet speed is at least two-and-a-half times that of San Antonio's, according to Ookla, a research firm that measures broadband speeds around the globe. In other words, downloading a two-hour high-definition movie takes, on average, 35 minutes in San Antonio -- and 13 in Riga. And the cost of Riga's service is about one-fourth that of San Antonio.

In terms of Internet speed and cost, "ours seems completely out of whack with what we see in the rest of the world," said Susan Crawford, a law professor at Yeshiva University in Manhattan, a former Obama administration technology adviser and a leading critic of American broadband.  Ms. Crawford, who is also a co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard, said that American cities should take on some of the responsibility for building fiber-optic networks and providing broadband service.  It is a necessity similar to electricity, she said, "something that no neighborhood or private company would have an incentive to provide on its own to everyone at reasonable prices."

The Obama administration effectively agrees. "While this country has made tremendous progress investing in and delivering high-speed broadband to an unprecedented number of Americans, significant areas for improvement remain," said Tom Power, deputy chief technology officer for telecommunications at the White House. But as the Obama administration warned in a report this year: "To create jobs and grow wages at home, and to compete in the global information economy, the delivery of fast, affordable and reliable broadband service to all corners of the United States must be a national imperative."  WIPP members who run growing small businesses completely agree.

There is ample evidence that faster broadband spurs economic growth. The White House report cites a study of 33 of the largest national economies worldwide, which found that from 2008 to 2010, doubling a country's broadband speed increased gross domestic product by 0.3 percent. In its report, "Four Years of Broadband Growth," the Obama administration says that since 2002, Internet access has contributed an average of $34 billion a year to the economy, or 0.26 percent of G.D.P. growth.  

WIPP applauds the White House understanding of the importance of improved internet services.  Our own Economic Blueprint speaks to broadband access being essential to the success of most small businesses.  

Watching TV Is Becoming Obsolete

12:59 PM December 13, 2013

TV ratings have been dropping for more than two years reports MoneyTalks News Blog.   How does this affect our WIPP women business owners?  Where are you putting your marketing dollars?   With more demand than ever on video, how will spectrum and broadband speeds be impacted?     Watching TV Is Becoming Obsolete

 

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