The Internet faces the dark side of the Force

9 January 2013 by Steve Blum
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International telecommunications diplomacy isn't a pretty business.

“It was a little bit like the Star Wars bar scene,” said FCC commissioner Robert McDowell, as he described his experience as a U.S. representative at last month's World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai.

He was part of a delegation that included private sector companies, like Google, as well as a boat load of diplomats and policy wonks. They were up against a solid wall of countries that wanted the International Telecommunications Union – a United Nations organization – to get into the business of regulating the Internet.… More

FCC commissioners push to quickly rewrite rules, free spectrum

9 January 2013 by Steve Blum
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Collegial commissioners at CES.

As plain old telephone service migrates to mobile and Internet protocol platforms, new regulations to match technology shifts and more wireless spectrum are the top priorities for the FCC this year.

Four of the five commissioners talked about what's ahead at a CES panel session this afternoon. Chairman Julius Genachowski made a solo appearance earlier, and his colleagues endorsed his plan to move ahead quickly with freeing up government spectrum in the 5 GHz band for unlicensed use.… More

More unlicensed spectrum coming soon, says FCC chairman

9 January 2013 by Steve Blum
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Tired of slow WiFi at the airport.

Julius Genachowski is a popular guy at CES today. The FCC chairman announced that the commission is moving ahead with freeing up spectrum that's currently assigned to government agencies for WiFi and other unlicensed uses.

“This is unlicensed spectrum. This is in 5 GHz. It's time to move to do it,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do with federal agencies that have this spectrum. We're moving forward with it and we're going to work out the problems as we go.… More

New CPUC map eases the burden on CASF applicants

CPUC’s mobile broadband field testing results show lower-than-claimed performance and significant gaps.

The latest California interactive broadband availability map is up, and it has some pleasant surprises. Working with Chico State University, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) scrapped the Flash based platform it launched on last year and rebuilt it using modern technology. Performance is blazing.

Not so fast, though, are mobile broadband speeds around the state. At least not as fast as the mobile carriers would have you believe.… More

Metro broadband: without the political cards, you're not playing with a full deck

Political value: the need for speed at the San Leandro public library.

There’s an argument to the effect that the prices charged for broadband service by telcos and cable companies in urban areas are higher than necessary to provide that service and make a reasonable profit.

It’s not crazy talk. You can make a case that more densely populated areas have lower per household costs – opex and capex – and that more affluent areas have higher profit margins.… More

Congresswoman Eschoo pushes for more broadband spectrum

Silicon Valley congresswoman Ann Eschoo wants to shake up the way that Washington manages and assigns spectrum. The goal is to free up a total of 500 MHz for wireless communications purposes. Much of that would come from turning over frequencies held by government agencies to public use. But some of it would come, willingly or not, from the private sector.


“We have to make freeing up spectrum a top priority,” she said at Joint Venture Silicon Valley's second annual wireless symposium, held on 2 November 2012 at Marvell Semiconductor Inc.… More

The broadband stimulus pool is nearly dry

14 September 2010 by Steve Blum
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BTOP might have $442 million in the kitty, although almost certainly not. Or $257 million or $15 million or zilch. For BIP, I can’t even estimate what’s left, but my best guess is that money is already gone.

First, I want to give credit where credit is due. Fred Dyste, via his Digital West blog, has been the gold standard for tracking BTOP (Broadband Technology Opportunities Program) and BIP (Broadband Initiatives Program) stimulus grant applications and awards.… More

Policies, partnerships and common goals attract broadband investment to communities

Capital expense, operating expense and revenue are the basic parameters of a business plan. With broadband-specific incentives that improve those metrics – even marginally – local governments and economic development agencies can attract private broadband investment into underserved areas.

Public policies can be tailored to significantly reduce construction costs. Uniform, broadband-friendly right of way and permit procedures eliminate a huge source of uncertainty for business planners. The more certain they are of their estimates, the more likely they are to invest.… More

Getting back to business with broadband investment

The federal stimulus program overshadowed private sector funding for new broadband infrastructure for more than a year. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration and, to a somewhat lesser extent, the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) threatened to wash out broadband venture opportunities with billions of dollars of grants and loans. Some projects will absorb federal money instead of private risk capital. Most won’t and the surviving opportunities will become evident over the next few months.

demand study
Price points, service benchmarks and likelihood
to buy are key data for revenue projections
Local agencies and economic development organizations still have the job of attracting that investment.… More

The stimulus was fun while it lasted, now back to work

It’s time to look past the stimulus program, and re-adjust community broadband planning assumptions. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) and the Rural Utilities Service’s (RUS) Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) encouraged local groups to roll themselves up into regional alliances and propose magnificent projects that would meet any conceivable need and serve every user imaginable.

It made sense, because that’s where the money was. NTIA and RUS made some dreams real in the first round last year, and are on track to fulfill a few more fantasies in the second round.… More