One of the unfortunate consequences of events like the Northeast “Frankenstorm” is the speed with which they’re exploited for various kinds of gain. When food and water are short, vendors show up on street corners selling goods at exorbitant prices, looters rob stores of computers and that sort of thing. After the fact, many people with a policy ax of some sort will point to various things that happened as examples of tragedies and inconveniences that could have been avoided if only they’d had their way in the policy process. The National Association of Broadcasters jumped on Frankenstorm with a rather thin argument to the effect that the storm proves their networks are great for communication, despite their one-way nature. Another example of this phenomenon that struck me as particularly odd was a blog post written by Harold Feld on Wetmachine before the storm had even hit: If your cell tower loses power, be sure to thank CTIA and the D.C. Circuit. Feld argues that the FCC needs broad Title I authority over Title III cellular networks to keep them running after hurricanes strike:
As we hunker down to wait
The United Nations Broadband Commission’s new report, The State Of Broadband 2012: Achieving Digital Inclusion For All is worth a read for all broadband policy wonks. It highlights the benefits that Next-Generation Broadband Networks (NGN) bring to economies and to citizens, explores the value of mobility, and celebrates the dramatic progress that nations are making in bringing high speed, “always-on” connectivity to everyone. By the UN’s estimate, there are nearly 6 billion mobile devices in the world already, which exceeds the world’s over-14 population by a billion or so.
Roughly 80 per cent of these connections are narrowband (voice and text only,) so we still have a long way to go in terms of universal broadband. Wireline broadband connections to the home continue to increase worldwide as more people buy computers and carriers offer low-price plans with correspondingly low usage limits, and many carriers price broadband on a pre-paid basis to reach lower income groups. This strategy has worked for cellular quite effectively, so there’s little doubt it will work for wired broadband as well.
By the U. N.’s forecast, the market for machine-to-machine connections may be as high as … Read the rest
Compartmentalization is one of the things people do best. Life is complicated, so it’s a lot easier to deal with its troubles and travails in little pieces. As Scarlett O’Hara said when she lost Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind: “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.” Compartmentalization plays a large role in both engineering and Internet policy. Engineers and policy makers can influence the nature of the Internet in countless ways by developing new features and enacting new policies that affect its overall behavior. On the one hand, we’re all tempted to make the Internet better by addressing its various shortcomings, and on the other we’re tempted to leave it alone because it’s produced so many benefits. So we tend to reserve our creativity for the problems that we deem most critical and leave the rest alone. Besides, it’s hard to change the Internet, so every new feature or regulation is likely to cause side effects that we don’t like even if there are net benefits.
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The polemic begins with a superficial look at on-line retailing, arguing that the poor are unable to enjoy shopping deals because they lack wired broadband connections in their homes. The fact that the poor are not notoriously big spenders doesn’t perturb the conclusion: Crawford insists that poor people’s relatively high reliance on mobile networking cuts them off from digital shopping’s … Read the rest
Depending on the next steps, this could either be a good thing or a bad thing. The decision to assign rather than auction is based on faulty assumptions about the best way to meet public safety needs, but sometimes good things can happen for bad reasons. The public safety lobby insists that they have unique requirements that standards-based commercial networks can’t meet – especially for reliability and security – but also insists that it will embrace the LTE standard for the construction of a new network. We’ve examined the “unique requirements” previously, and have found … Read the rest
I suppose this was inevitable. The Internet Society, the non-profit that oversees the development of Internet technical standards and generally promotes Internet adoption, has decided to play politics. ISOC issued a press release last week commenting on the Arab Spring, the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and efforts around the world to enlist technical help in dealing with the problem of Internet-enabled crime. As one might expect of good Western adherents of the principles of diversity, inclusion, and human rights, ISOC endorsed the view that the Internet only enables good things, so it has to be left alone by mere national governments concerned with petty “economic, security, or political objectives.”
In particular, the release took aim at the “DNS blocking and filtering” mechanisms that are used to limit spam and which have been proposed as means to limit access to malicious phishing sites, sites that sell counterfeit drugs, and those that deal in pirated movies. The release essentially equates these practices with surveillance technology and the suspension of Internet access.
Not only has ISOC departed from its mission in a very significant way, it has embarked on a slippery … Read the rest
Oddly, the FCC docket for the transaction (WT 11-18) is full of objections. Before we get to them, here’s the background: Qualcomm originally bought their spectrum licenses in order to operate an innovative mobile TV system called FLO TV. The previous owner had bought them at auction, so the transfer to Qualcomm was relatively straightforward (except for some complications that arose from a special bidding credit the previous … Read the rest
The use of Big Data should not be confined to just the private sector; data offers incredible new opportunities to the public sector as well. Policymakers have the opportunity to use Big Data to improve government in areas such as public safety, public health, public utilities and public transportation. ITIF has discussed many of these opportunities before.
Consider the following:
- Electric power utilities can use data analytics and smart meters to better manage resources and avoid blackouts,
- Food inspectors can use data to better track meat and produce safety
One of the hottest issues in mobile broadband policy today is the nature of the national public safety network that’s been under discussion since the 9/11 Commission examined the shortcomings in the systems currently used by first responders. The Commission’s report highlighted the incompatibility of emergency response networks used by the Fire Department of New York, the Port Authority, and the New York Police Departments, recommending improved information sharing. Subsequently, Congress and the FCC have struggled with the problem of creating a unified, nationwide emergency response network that would replace the existing incompatible systems and enable first responders to act in concert with one another. Their conclusion is that the public safety network should employ the emerging LTE standard that’s in the process of rolling out on commercial mobile broadband networks operated by MetroPCS, Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint in the U. S. and by other commercial carriers around the world.
Joshua Topolsky’s column in today’s Washington Post (“Want better wireless service in America? Socialize it”) describes an alternate reality in which cell phone callers can’t call their friends on different networks, can’t surf the Web, and can’t … Read the rest
The FCC released an important new report Tuesday, Measuring Broadband America, which shows how actual broadband speeds compare to advertising claims. You can read the report and download the data the FCC collected here. The report is the result of a year of work by the FCC, its contractor Sam Knows, and a diverse group of people from the FCC, industry, universities, and public interest advocacy. The report follows a year after a quick snapshot of broadband speeds conducted during the development of the National Broadband Plan that used a different (and inferior) methodology. This report is significant because it’s both comprehensive and rigorous, as I said at the release event at Best Buy in Washington on Tuesday.
It’s also significant because the methodology was hammered out by the stakeholder group and the raw data is public, including the source code for the measurement devices. The system was developed in public, the data is public, and the code is public. There can’t be any legitimate doubt as the accuracy and reliability of the data, certainly not by people in Washington who were free to work with the … Read the rest