Telecom

broadband network

A Model Broadband Ecosystem

Europe’s telecom woes are “coming home to roost.” An article in the September 14th issue of The Economist discusses European Union Digital Commissioner Neelie Kroes’ call for major reforms to the European telecom system to address the poor performance of broadband networks on the Continent. This is just the latest effort by EU regulators to address a broadband system that lags well behind the U.S. and Asia, hampering economic growth and technical innovation.

As the article notes, “Only a quarter of the European Union’s people have access to new 4G networks, according to the European Commission. In America a single company, Verizon…reaches nine out of ten.”

Unfortunately, The Economist article does continue a misleading argument that has been used by some activists to denigrate U.S. broadband successes and justify the European model despite its obvious flaws. “Americans may have faster networks, but they pay a lot more.”

In fact, America enjoys the second lowest prices in the OECD for introductory level broadband. The U.S. does have higher relative prices for faster broadband, but this is not, as some critics have claimed, because of relatively higher profits. Among OECD nations, profits … 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

5a FCC

How Much Broadband Choice Do Americans Have?

Subtitle: A Tale of Two Pictures.

There’s an ongoing debate about the number of Americans with meaningful choice among broadband providers. The answer depends on how you define the terms; it can range from less than half all the way up to 98 percent, although the low numbers demand some creative exclusions. If we limit broadband to wired systems provided by major providers, the answer the National Broadband Map provides is 85 percent, but this depends on a fairly loose definition of “broadband” in some cases. If you’re willing to include fixed wireless, you would have to count WISP connections and Clearwire, but there aren’t any good data on them. If you include mobile broadband, the number goes up to 98 percent, but you’re including service plans that currently have usage caps of 2 – 4 GB/month, which makes them challenging for video streaming but acceptable for web browsing and email. Throw increasingly capable satellite in the mix (Wild Blue now offers 12 Mbps over satellite for a low intro price of $50, but there’s a data cap) and we’re at 99 percent.

The FCC’s Internet Access Services: Status Read the rest

A mobile phone

Obamaphone in the Crosshairs

Here we go again. Some members of Congress are irate over the so-called “Obamaphone” program, initiated under President Bush, that provides poor people with subsidized mobile phones. They’re making it out to be a Welfare Cadillac plan that provides the undeserving with fancy phones at taxpayer expense. Karen Tumulty explains the high points of the issue in today’s Washington Post:

In the 31/2 years after false rumors started that the Obama administration was giving free cellphones to poor people — and six months after a racially charged video about it went viral — a once-obscure phone service subsidy is getting renewed scrutiny on Capitol Hill.

There are growing calls in Congress to end or drastically cut back Lifeline; later this month, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing that could help determine its fate.

“The program has nearly tripled in size from $800 million in 2009 to $2.2 billion per year in 2012,” the senior Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee wrote in a March 26 letter to the Democratic minority. “American taxpayers — and we as their elected representatives — need

Read the rest

Crawford Has a Dream

At the Free Press annual conference in Denver today, the shameless Susan Crawford delivered one the most amazing speeches in the history of American tech policy, comparing herself to Martin Luther King, Jr. and demanding that President Obama appoint her to head the FCC.  Either one of these claims would be remarkable in its own right, but the combination of the two was simply breathtaking in its arrogance and narcissism. It hardly needs explaining that it’s an insult to the memory of Doctor King to compare him to a self-interested job seeker whose grasp of the subject matter required of the job she seeks ranges somewhere from slim to none, and whose respect for the facts of history is virtually non-existent.

Broadband, the Internet, telecom, media censorship and the other issues within the jurisdiction of the FCC are certainly important issues, and if they weren’t, organizations like ITIF and a host of others would not devote the time and trouble it takes to conduct painstaking research into the facts that define them. But to compare these issues to the civil rights movement is to trivialize the suffering brought on people … Read the rest

UnionJackMirror

Britain in America’s Rear View Mirror

Ofcom, the UK’s FCC, has published a broadband scorecard comparing Britain’s broadband networks to those of the other large European economies: France, Germany, Spain, and Italy. The report compares broadband deployment, subscription, use, and price in the five European nations that are most comparable and offers limited but interesting insight on performance.

The Brits are taking some stick from European critics who wanted Ofcom to produce a more comprehensive ranking against the entire EU-27 and especially speed merchants Latvia, Netherlands, Bulgaria, Romania, and Sweden. In Ofcom’s defense, the report does include an appendix that provides data on the rest of the EU.

The report is especially interesting as it comes on the heels of our report, The Whole Picture: Where America’s Broadband Networks Really Stand, on the ranking of U. S. broadband versus other nations, especially those in the EU and the OECD.

The UK is the only nation other than the U. S. to publish SamKnows data on broadband speed, so the limited data it has on performance is directly relevant for us. As readers of our report will know, there are many methods of measuring broadband speed, … Read the rest

Infographic showing broadband choices in the US

Reacting to the Rankings

Ars Technica is the first blog to publish a point-by-point review of our report on America’s standing in the international broadband rankings, so we congratulate them on their timeliness if not their accuracy.  This is to answer questions they raised about sources and to suggest a better way to analyze the broadband problem than the one they offer.

Our figures on the pricing of entry-level plans come from the survey conducted by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU,) “Measuring the Information Society 2011.” In 2008 and 2010, ITU collected responses from 165 nations that place the U. S. 2nd in 2008 and 4th in 2010 in low prices for entry-level broadband plans as a percentage of average income. This price point is important because it shows how low the barrier is for getting poor kids online (without exposing them to fast food.) We’re not the first to highlight America’s low prices for basic service; Yochai Benkler’s Berkman Center report “Next Generation Connectivity,” accepts that the U. S. has low prices for basic service as well. It’s not a controversial finding in the research community, even … Read the rest

An Inconsistent Mandate

Would you rather see bad policy applied uniformly or selectively? That’s the question raised by a letter from four House Democrats to the FCC proposing a “single technology mandate” for some cell networks but not for others.

We’ve previously written and filed FCC comments on cell phone mandates in the 700 MHz band, explaining the reasons that the Verizon and AT&T branded iPhones and Androids aren’t fully interoperable; we’ve also suggested things the FCC can do to increase the range of handset choices for subscribers to small, rural cell companies. Technology mandates amount to under-the-table subsidies paid by the customers of big cellular companies and received by the customers of smaller ones and therefore aren’t desirable as they simply rob Peter to pay Paul.

Adding support for additional bands and channels in a cell phone adds to the recurring cost of hardware in the form of additional circuits and antennas, increases power consumption, increases size and weight, and exposes the phone to more interference, especially from TV channel 51. If there were a regulatory requirement for interoperability among all phones sold by all carriers, consumers would not only pay … Read the rest

Captive Audience

Captive Policy

Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age, Susan Crawford’s long-awaited tome on the Comcast/NBC merger, will be officially released tomorrow in what may be the publishing industry’s biggest anticlimax of the year. The book has an engaging, novelistic style, offering a gritty description of the atmosphere and the players at a Senate Antitrust Subcommittee hearing on the merger in early 2010, but the gripping drama of the Congressional hearing doesn’t excuse Crawford’s shallow analysis of its subject matter.

Beyond the lively exposition of the hearing, the book relies on a series of anecdotes and strained historical analogies – and precious little hard data – to make a case for Crawford’s pet policy prescription, “broadband unbundling.” Unbundling would be a new status quo, reducing broadband service providers to the smallest possible role in communications services, that of a wiring plant maintainer lacking the power to move a single bit on its own. This would put both the financial and the technical bases of broadband in a severe bind, of course. Experiments with unbundling have shown that it can reduce consumer prices only temporarily, … Read the rest

China Military Parade

Authoritarians Win, Internet Loses in Dubai

efore Thanksgiving, we released a report on the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai, warning that some bad things were likely to happen at this obscure confab of the 193 nation ITU. We were particularly worried about four things:

  1. Attempts to impose international interconnection fees, similar to PSTN practice.
  2. Attempts to expand censorship and surveillance in autocratic states
  3. China’s desire to convert ITU-T “Recommendations,” which are voluntary technical standards today, into mandatory regulations.
  4. Russia’s desire to transfer the management of Internet addresses and assigned names  and numbers from ICANN to the ITU.

Most other people were worried about the outcome of WCIT, but a few were full of sunshine and roses all along: … Read the rest