Several recent news stories have focused on broadband related issues or companies delivered broadband service. One of these stories involved a merger between two of the largest cable and broadband companies in the United States. Comcast will acquire Time Warner Cable for $45 billion, in a deal which will create a huge force in the United States cable and broadband markets. The cable industry has been rapidly increasing its share of broadband consumers and cable television viewers. The combined Comcast/Time Warner company will have over 33 million cable subscribers, and nearly as many broadband customers.
However, the deal is not without its critics. Some consumer groups are against the new mega cable company, while others support deal. What is undisputed though is the terms of the deal will be scrutinized by federal regulators. Both Comcast and Time Warner estimate the deal will take less than a year to approve. Others say it will take longer because of the consumer issues which need to be assessed.
Comcast Pleads its Case for Acquiring Time Warner Cable:$45 billion deal will create largest U.S. cable and broadband company
One issue closely related to the Time Warner/Comcast merger is the issue of net neutrality, which recently was on center stage as Comcast and Netflix reached a deal to allow Netflix video traffic to stream to Comcast customer's devices at faster speeds. Netflix reached a similar agreement with Verizon earlier in the month.
In early February, President Obama visited Buck Lodge Middle School in Adelphi, Maryland to announce changes to the FCC's ERate program. According to a White House press release announcing the visit, Buck Lodge Middle School was selected as one of four Prince Georges County Public Schools to integrate tablets into the classroom through a program called the Transforming Education through Digital Learning project. Each student receives a tablet as a learning tool to allow access to digital instructional content. The school also leverages two computer labs to round out its technology education.
President Obama said the following during his visit:
"Now, here at Buck Lodge, you are showing how we can use technology to teach our young people in innovative ways. And by the way, the principal told me that part of how this got started was some of the stimulus dollars that we put in place almost five years ago now. But every student here has access to their own iPad. And you don't just write papers or take tests; they're animating movies, they're designing blogs, they're collaborating on multimedia projects. In the world of an 8th grader, Annie Gomez, she says, "You can learn even more, you can take in more, and then you know more about the world."
In addition to doubling the size of its existing E-Rate fund to connect U.S. schools to high speed broadband connections, President Obama also announced several partnerships with tech companies to solve the broadband connectivity problem in schools, and ensure that schools have sufficient access to technology.
The E-Rate fund is part of the FCC's universal service fund dedicated to bringing broadband Internet connections to schools and libraries. President Obama committed to connecting 99% of all schools within 5 years.
According to the fact sheet from The White House:
The ConnectED initiative would jump-start the effort to connect American students to today's modern broadband connections, and help them keep pace access across the country.
• Upgraded Connectivity: The ConnectED initiative will, within five years, connect 99 percent of America's students, through next-generation broadband (at speeds no less than 100Mbps and with a target of 1Gbps) to, and high-speed wireless within, their schools and libraries. The President is calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to modernize and leverage the existing E-Rate program, and leverage the expertise of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to deliver this connectivity to states, districts, and schools.
• Leveling the Playing Field for Rural Students: Rural communities will experience some of the greatest benefits of new education technologies, as ConnectED will help provide new learning opportunities to level the playing field for rural students. The Universal Service Fund has been transformative in the past twenty years providing rural communities with telephone services, and now broadband. The Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) has helped us connect under-served community anchor institutions. ConnectED builds on those efforts, with greater returns for communities finding it difficult to attract broadband investment.
Widely credited with helping to significantly expand Internet access in Schools and Libraries, the FCC E-rate program has been due for an overhaul for awhile. Senator John D. Rockefeller (D-WV) recently announced his desire to expand access to the program while increasing broadband speeds in schools and libraries.
In the first year E-Rate was available Internet access was available in slightly over half of public schools. That percentage has climbed to over 94%. The FCC program has resulted in 48,000 applications seeking over $5.2 billion in funding for schools and libraries in 2012.
President Obama recently hinted at ERate reform in his State of the Union address, and the White House framed up the problem of broadband access in schools like this:
"Driven by new digital technologies, the future of learning is increasingly interactive, individualized, and full of real-world experiences and information. Unfortunately, the average school has about the same connectivity as the average American home, but serves 200 times as many users, and fewer than 20 percent of educators say their school's internet connection meets their teaching needs. And our teachers do not get enough training and support to integrate technology in their classroom and lessons, despite the fundamental and increasing importance of those skills."
The Federal Communications Commission today launched a broad set of voluntary experiments meant to ensure that the nation's communications networks continue to provide the services consumers want and need in this era of historic technological transformations.
The FCC said the action was driven by developments in the marketplace, technology transitions in communications networks are already well underway. They include, for example, the transition from plain old telephone service delivered over copper lines to feature-rich voice service using Internet Protocols, delivered over coaxial cable, fiber, or wireless networks.
The FCC also listed four fundamental values which should be preserved during this technological transitions:
- Public safety communications must be available no matter the technology
- All Americans must have access to affordable communications services
- Competition in the marketplace provides choice for consumers and businesses
Consumer protection is paramount
In addition to the FCC action, a report published by RNCOS analyzes telemedicine trends over the past six years:
Earlier this month the U.S. Court of Appeals said the FCC had the legal authority to regulate broadband access but failed to demonstrate that it has a mandate to impose the anti-discrimination rules on broadband providers.
The Obama Administration reasserted its support of the FCC in statement from the White House:
"The President remains committed to an open Internet, where consumers are free to choose the websites they want to visit and the online services they want to use, and where online innovators are allowed to compete on a level playing field based on the quality of their products."
Read more about Net Neutrality:
The FCC approved the first "white space" device for accessing broadband in 2010. White space broadband uses the spectrum bands between television stations, left after television signals went digital. The white space ruling was considered a victory for Microsoft, Dell, Motorola, Google, and several other large companies in the broadband industry, who widely supported the measure. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski hailed the ruling as a way to provide "unique opportunities for innovators and entrepreneurs.
According to former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski at the time of thew FCC's white space announcement, "With today's approval of the first TV white spaces database and device, we are taking an important step towards enabling a new wave of wireless innovation."
White space for broadband is just one of many new ways of providing broadband to remote areas.
Spectrum availability and use continues to be a top priority for the NTIA because of the concern that emerging applications and devices will demand most newly found spectrum. Large carriers such as AT&T and Verizon have already moved to metered usage, and bill subscribers according to their actual usage, making bandwidth a hot commodity.
In April, 2013, Verizon Executive VP and Chief Technology Officer Anthony Melone outlined the company's broadband business strategy in Orlando. Melone said that all of Verizon's future services will be centered around four key platforms. At the time, it wasn't too surprising to conference attendees that one of those platforms was the company's vast 4G/LTE network, which now reaches 90% of the U.S. population.
The second key platform listed by Verizon was fiber-to-the-premises, which certainly aligns with recently announced service offerings:
According the FCC's most recent Internet Access Services report, the number of broadband connections and overall subscribership are rising.
Two broadband announcements were made by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding broadband and data collection efforts.
In June 2013 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took a step closer to taking over the responsibility of maintaining the National Broadband Map from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) n late 2014.
In addition to assuming this responsibility the FCC is also reviewing its own Form 477 Data Collection Program, which forms the basis for an annual report on the state of broadband deployment in the United States. Both the mapping responsibilities and the Form 477 Data Program are closely aligned in measuring the level of broadband availability in the U.S. Although the current data collection plans do not include reporting on broadband pricing, the FCC has not ruled this out.
A survey for the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) stated that 17% of respondents thought that building new airports would benefit the UK economy while 43% thought extending broadband to all households in the UK would boost economic development more.
This report comes on the heels of another published by The Economist Intelligence Unit in the UK which challenged the popular assertion that ultrafast broadband speeds deliver increased economic benefits. With Google and Verizon also investing heavily in fiber broadband networks designed to deliver superfast broadband service, and several studies reporting the impact of broadband deployment and higher speeds on levels of economic development, this report will surely raise some eyebrows from broadband industry analysts.
The United Kingdom set some rather ambitious goals even before the United States began writing the National Broadband Plan. How far along are they in reaching their goals, and is the report cited above a relevant correlation between broadband speeds and the economy, or an assessment of the UK's readiness to adopt high speed broadband?
While the United Kingdom analyzes the impact of broadband on economic development, the State of Maine released a report emphasizing the benefits: