All posts by Richard Bennett

Broadband vs. Dialup

95% of America’s Young Adults Use Broadband at Home

The latest survey of America’s home broadband subscriptions by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project reveals some surprising trends that you probably haven’t heard before. The fact that 95% of America’s young adults use broadband at home really jumps out:

Adding smartphone ownership to home broadband use, we see that the proportion of young adults who have ”home broadband” under this definition increases from 80% to 95%, while including smartphones has no discernible impact on access rates for seniors—the 46% of seniors who have broadband or a smartphone is little different from the 43% who have broadband at all.

Buying into a personal broadband account is mainly an age thing, which is to say it’s mainly an interest thing. Pew defines “young adults” as those aged 18 – 30, the wide swathe of the population that encompasses everyone who has come of age since the Internet was opened up to the general public (by Al Gore) in the mid ’90s. As a group, younger people tend to have less wealth than older people, and they tend to be better educated. Wealth, education, and ethnicity correlate with broadband … Read the rest

crawford

Crawford Misuses the Survey Data

This is the second installment of a two part series of posts on Susan Crawford’s 8300 word post, Responding to Distorted Op-Eds Published by the New York Times. In the first installment, we looked at primarily at the technical claims that Crawford got wrong and her general framing of the issues. In this one, we’ll examine factual claims Crawford makes on the basis of her foray into actual research. As noted previously, this blog post is Crawford’s first attempt to buttress her analysis of U. S. broadband policy on research data; her book, Captive Audience, relied on blog posts and news articles for its references, not exactly reliable sources.

Common Research Errors

Just as Crawford makes technical errors about the differences between fiber, cable, and DSL, she makes research errors with respect to broadband deployment (AKA “buildout”) and adoption (AKA “uptake”.) For example:

Crawford says: “The FCC recently reported that only 0.3% of DSL connections in America provide speeds of 25 Mbps or higher.” There is no source for this claim, but the most recent data from NTIA & FCC is cited in the White House’s June, 2013 report … Read the rest

crawford

Crawford Misses the Mark

Susan Crawford has written an 8,300 word blog post defending her claims that American broadband is a second rate monopoly against criticisms of her facts, methods, and findings recently published as op-eds in the New York Times; it’s titled Responding to Distorted Op-Eds Published by the New York Times and is published in the Roosevelt Institute’s web site.

This is the first installment of a two part response; it deals with the technical claims Crawford makes for Fiber to the Home (FTTH,) her belief that the fastest network always wins (except when cable does) and a few miscellaneous observations. The second part will deal with Europe. So here we go.

While it’s remarkable to see such a lengthy response to a couple of 700 word op-eds, the more unusual feature of Crawford’s blog post is its use of actual research reports to bolster her claims;  her book Captive Audience leaned on blog posts and articles from the popular press for authority, second- and third-hand sources at best, but the blog links to an FCC report, a European Commission report, and an OECD Communications Outlook report. If nothing … Read the rest

Shaping the Digital Age: A Progressive Broadband Agenda

A Progressive Broadband Agenda

Ev Ehrlich, a former  Clinton Administration Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs, has outlined an Internet policy agenda for progressives in a paper sponsored by the Progressive Policy Institute. The paper, titled “Shaping the Digital Age: A Progressive Broadband Agenda,” argues that progressives have a choice to make regarding broadband and Internet regulation. While the Clinton Administration’s Internet policy was focused on competition and innovation, in recent years there’s been a concerted effort by some who would lay claim to the progressive mantle to discard this essentially deregulatory approach in favor of a framework that pours Internet policy into the bottle made to contain the monopoly telephone network in the 1930s.

Arguments for “net neutrality” and “common carriage,” limits on spectrum transactions and mandated spectrum sharing are actually attempts to treat the broadband network infrastructure as if it were the same sort of seamless monopoly that telephone service was in the 30s. They can only succeed to the extent that their advocates can convince regulators that the old “stovepipe” systems that applied a unique set of rules on each communications technology from application to network still make sense. This … Read the rest

Telephone Operators at Work

The State of (Rural) Wireline Communication

The Senate Commerce Committee’s Thursday hearing is titled “State of Wireline Communications” but it’s going to have a heavy rural bias. This is par for the course in the Senate, where rural Americans have more power than the urban majority. When your district is defined by geography rather than population, that’s going to happen. The witness list includes the subsidized rural carriers, CLECs, Public Knowledge CEO Gigi Sohn, and Larry Downes.

The actual focus of the hearing is going to be the phase out of Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS.) Senators are worried about this, as rural folks aren’t at all comfortable with the broadband Internet and the rumors they’ve heard about POTS going away. To be fair, if you want the fastest and cheapest broadband service, you don’t move to cattle country, you find yourself a high-rise in a major Internet city such as San Francisco where you can get fiber service for a rock bottom price.

Rural telecom carriers live on subsidies from the Universal Service Fund’s “High Cost Fund” and termination (interconnection) fees from urban carriers. As POTS is allowed to go extinct in the cities, rural … Read the rest

Villians and victim

Post-Sandy Telecom Melodrama

How about a little cheap melodrama?

An AP story (Homeowners in Sandy’s path angered by phone companies’ refusal to restore copper landlines) is making the rounds today about an 85 year old heart patient – the victim – who can no longer connect his pacemaker to his doctor from his home in Mantoloking, N. J. because Verizon – the villain – has replaced his wired telephone service with a wireless equivalent:

Robert Post misses his phone line.

Post, 85, has a pacemaker that needs to be checked once a month by phone. But the copper wiring that once connected his home to the rest of the world is gone, and the phone company refuses to restore it.

In October 2012, Superstorm Sandy pushed the sea over Post’s neighborhood in Mantoloking, N.J., leaving hundreds of homes wrecked, and one floating in the bay. The homes on this sandy spit of land along the Jersey Shore are being rebuilt, but Verizon doesn’t want to replace washed-away lines and waterlogged underground cables. Phone lines are outdated, the company says.

Mantoloking is one of the first places in the country where the

Read the rest

EU Advertised vs. Real Speed

Europe Promises More Than it Delivers

The long-awaited SamKnows study of European broadband speeds and promises is out, and it confirms what we suspected: broadband subscribers in Europe do not get the performance they pay for. SamKnows first uncovered a major discrepancy between advertised and actual speed in the UK, and has now published a study of the 27 EU countries plus Norway, Iceland, and Croatia that confirms the problem is endemic to the entire continent:

It’s been long known that advertised broadband speeds rarely match up to the reality, but it turns out the disparity across Europe is in the region of 25 percent.

Consumers across the continent get on average three-quarters of the “up to” headline broadband speed advertised by their ISP, according to figures released on Wednesday by the European Commission. The EC survey involved more than 9,000 users in the 27 EU member states, as well as Croatia, Iceland and Norway, in March last year.

Surprisingly, UK advertised broadband speeds are no closer to reality than they’ve ever been; SamKnows says that xDSL users in the UK get 44.7% of advertised speed during peak hours, worse than economically-challenged Greece but better … Read the rest

450px-Cell-Tower

Rationalizing Government’s Spectrum Use

This Thursday, June 27, the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will hold a hearing on government spectrum use (titled “Equipping Carriers and Agencies in the Wireless Era,”) at 10:30 a.m. Invited witnesses include two from the government side, Teri Takai from DoD and Karl Nebbia from NTIA, and two from the civilian side, Dean Brenner from Qualcomm and  Chris Guttman-McCabe from CTIA.

According to the hearing memo, the questions to be asked will include:

How can Congress meet the needs of Federal agencies while addressing carriers’ spiraling demand for spectrum in the age of the smartphone? Americans increasingly expect—and our economy increasingly depends on—the ability to access information, enjoy content, and conduct commerce from a mobile device nearly anywhere in the country. And with most of the “low-hanging fruit” exhausted, the conversation is once again turning to spectrum currently used by Federal agencies to fill the breach. But government reliance on wireless technology shows no sign of diminishing, either. What tools are available to maintain and even improve Federal agencies capabilities while freeing spectrum for commercial use? How much would various approaches costs, and how long would

Read the rest

deadend

Broadband Policy Contest: US vs. EU

We had an interesting discussion about broadband policy today, International Broadband Quality: How’s that Policy Working?

For several years, policy wonks have debated the merits and demerits of two competing broadband policies, the “facilities-based competition” policy we have the U. S. and the “wholesale unbundling” or “open access” policy the Europeans favor. For a long time, it was thought that unbundling would yield lower prices at the expense of ongoing investment while robust facilities-based competition would yield better quality at higher prices.

Things are roughly going that way, but there’s an additional issue in terms of value for money. The average cell phone/broadband bill is lower in the  EU, but the quality is so much lower that the value per dollar tilts in favor of the U. S. even though the bill is a little higher. Americans consume four times as many cellular minutes and twice as much data usage over mobile networks than Europeans. We also have faster speeds.

On the wireline side, our speeds are higher than those all all but three EU nations: Latvia, Sweden, and the Czech Republic. Prices for middle tier broadband packages are lower … Read the rest

U. S. Broadband Speed Slightly Better in Latest Akamai Report

Akamai published the Q4 2012 edition of their State of the Internet report yesterday, and it’s pretty much as expected: the trends that have been evident since 2010 are continuing. Globally, Internet connections are growing incrementally faster, and we see this trend in the U. S., where connection speeds are increasing somewhat faster than they are in other high-speed nations.

  •  The U. S. has picked up one place in the “Average Peak Connection Speed” that’s the best measurement of network capacity, rising from 14th to 13th as the measured peak connection speed increased from 29.6 Mbps to 31.5 Mbps.
  • In terms of the “Average Connection Speed,” widely cited by analysts who don’t know what it means, the U. S. remains in 8th place world-wide. but we’re no longer tied for it as we were in the previous quarter; Sweden is right behind us on this one.
  • In terms of “High Speed Broadband Adoption”, the proportion of IP addresses with an Average Connection Speed greater than 10 Mbps, we remain in 7th place, but now we’re tied with  Sweden.

Another notable trend is the continued increase in mobile traffic, about which … Read the rest