Broadband

Racy App Highlights Broadband Issue

By Mike Montgomery
As seen in SF Examiner 

At this very moment, somewhere in San Francisco, an innovative new product is being tested and refined. This product harnesses the power of smartphones, mobile broadband and mobile apps to … well … offer women around the world and their partners a new way to (ahem) connect.

The product is a smartphone app called Vibease (no, really), and it’s being billed as the world’s first “smart vibrator” (no, really). Rather than fumble through my own explanation of how Vibease works, I’ll just crib liberally from the company’s CrunchBase profile: Vibease is a private social network for couples with massager integration. Couples can use Vibease for chatting and share their moments. The best part is the woman’s partner can control her massager using an iPhone or Android phone even though they are separated by distance.

So there’s that.

But here’s the thing: Even if an app-driven vibrator doesn’t tickle your fancy, there does appear to be a market for it. Or at the very least, there are investors who believe there’s a market. Vibease is already $40,000 above its crowdsourced fundraising target on Indiegogo. It has also received seed funding from angel investors and $25,000 in venture funds. With that kind of startup capital, Vibease has to be taken seriously even if its product tends to incite giggles.

It also … and you better hang on to something, because I might lose you with my upcoming segue … it also highlights the need for smart spectrum policies from the Federal Communications Commission.

You see, while masturbazione (as the Italians call it) has been around since we were scribbling in caves, the widespread consumer adoption of mobile broadband is a relatively recent development. But much like the act of shôuyín (as it’s called in China), relying on our mobile devices to get online anytime and anywhere has become a major part of our daily lives. Some of us do it several times a day.

But the unprecedented popularity of mobile broadband faces, well, some obstruction. As Vibease has made clear, there seems to be no limit to what app developers will imagine, nor to what wireless customers will find helpful. This incredible demand for more mobile devices and more applications is where the problem emerges. It’s one thing when consumers have the power to check email and visit their favorite websites wirelessly. It rises to another level when consumers need to also power more data-intensive apps like streaming video (and … well, anything else you might want to stream) that require higher-spectrum resources.

The point of all this (and thank you for staying with me this far) is that when it comes to products and services powered by mobile broadband, we’re only beginning to scratch the surface. Ten years ago, smartphones did not yet exist as we know them, and the idea of a smart vibrator probably had never come up. The fact that smartphones are now everywhere and apps like Vibease are drawing serious interest from investors should be enough to tell us that truly anything is possible with mobile broadband. Whatever innovative ideas arise next, our wireless networks must be equipped with ample spectrum in order to be ready.

This means we cannot afford to impose artificial constraints on the opportunity for providers to obtain more spectrum. When designing its upcoming 2014 spectrum auction, the FCC needs to keep in mind that every wireless provider, both big and small, needs more spectrum capacity on their networks. If the spectrum auctions are encumbered with restrictions on eligible bidders, and all providers are not allowed to bid equally, then the FCC risks leaving millions of consumers … well, unsatisfied.

Mike Montgomery is the executive director of CALinnovates, which works as a bridge between technology communities in California and the public policy communities in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.

 

 

 

Time to invest in much-needed mobile infrastructure

By Mike Montgomery

Isn’t life quite a bit easier with apps on your phone and fast Internet connections? Broadband-high-speed Internet-has become a crucial tool for rural and urban residents alike.

Turlock is no stranger to the benefits of increased access to high-speed Internet. In Stanislaus County, broadband lets people join meetings in Los Angeles, take online calculus classes through the University of California, and enables veterans to consult with specialists through telemedicine at the VA’s Modesto Clinic. Want to renew your library book at the Stanislaus County Library? No problem. There’s an app for that, too.

Seventy percent of Central Valley residents now report that they have broadband at home, compared to 53 percent in 2008, according to Public Policy Institute of California. While this percentage trails the rates of other metropolitan regions of the state such as San Francisco and San Diego, the Central Valley has made significant strides in broadband adoption.

Read the Full Article.

Towards Universal Broadband: Flexible Broadband Pricing and the Digital Divide

Reaching Universal Access through Affordability at All Income Levels1

Driven by the conviction that the widespread use of broadband can support economic recovery and help the United States achieve other important national goals, President Obama has proposed that every American should have the opportunity to connect to broadband service. On his campaign web site, the President declared: “America should lead the world in broadband penetration and Internet access” and he promised to bring “true broadband to every community in America.”2 In enacting the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the Congress signaled its agreement by providing $7.2 billion in dedicated funding to advance broadband’s spread and by directing the Federal Communications Commission to develop a national strategy to achieve universal broadband.

Continue reading “Towards Universal Broadband: Flexible Broadband Pricing and the Digital Divide”

Wireless Overview

More than 95 percent of the U.S. population – those living in urban, suburban and rural America – are served by at least three competing carriers, and more than half live in areas served by at least five.  Eight years ago there were 100 million U.S. wireless customers. Today, there are more than 270 million, and in 2008 they used more than 2.2 trillion minutes – a tenfold increase since 2000.  At the same time, prices have declined precipitously.  Revenue per minute has fallen 89 percent since 1994, and U.S. wireless prices are much lower than in any other industrialized county.  And, while at&t and Verizon are currently the two largest wireless providers, the next two largest, Sprint and T-Mobile, have a combined 82 million customers, and the carriers that round out the top 10 have another nearly 20 million customers among them.

As wireless technology and services have grown exponentially in the last 25 years, California has been one of the prime engines of that growth.  Strategic partnerships between carriers and handset manufacturers, application developers and content providers, the private and public sector give consumers access to unparalleled innovation in the wireless space.

Today, more than 160 wireless service providers in the U.S. directly employ more than 257,000 workers who earn salaries totaling more than $12 billion each year.  This is in addition to the numerous early-stage companies, high-tech start-ups and small businesses in the wireless space that are also key contributors to the U.S. economy. California is home to one of the few areas where wireless start-ups cluster, Silicon Valley, where competition thrives, partnerships form and innovation flourishes.

According to the Federal Communications Commission, California serves the largest number of wireless users, 32,247,015, at the end of 2007.

The number of wireless users has more than doubled in California over the past 7 years.

K-12 High Speed Network

California has a strong K-12 research and education network infrastructure for public and private educational institutions. The K-12 High Speed Network program governs participation in the network and is funded by the California Department of Education. This program provides the K-12 system with a dependable source of high-speed internet services, data reporting, teaching and learning tools, and videoconferencing capabilities, among other features – at no additional cost to participating districts. These programs provide valuable support for teachers and students and help improve performance.  Currently 79% of California schools are connected – a noteworthy achievement. However, plenty of work remains to bring the benefits of the network to all California students.

CALinnovates believes the state should make expanding access to the K-12 High Speed Network a high priority. This program can reduce the achievement gap by methods of learning to students who otherwise might be left behind.  It also provides professional development opportunities for teachers by giving them new tools to complement their lesson plans. Also, the data capabilities provided by the network will make it easier for administrators to evaluate their schools in a number of categories.

The technology industry values its partnership with the education community and believes the potential of this partnership remains untapped. With approximately 1/3 of California students failing to graduate from high school and achievement lagging behind other states, we must find better ways of engaging students academically. Technology like the K-12 High Speed Network is a key ingredient of this.

Broadband

The term “broadband” refers to the high-speed internet service which allows users to access a large volume of data very quickly. Think of it like a highway: the more lanes there are, the more traffic that can pass through efficiently. For instance, a very narrow road (or single-band signal) only has the capacity for light traffic, or Morse Code, for instance. Larger bandwidth can handle more types of data – such as telephone communication or music on the radio. A broadband “highway” has the capacity to move more complex and larger data vehicles very rapidly.

When you refer to cable, DSL, wireless modems, and satellite internet service, you’re talking about different types of broadband service.

Broadband is becoming accessible to more consumers across the country as private companies work to develop and deploy the networks needed to handle the internet traffic. The Brookings Institution found that in the year 2000, there were only 4.1 million broadland lines in the United States. Six years later, the number of lines had increased by 1500% with nearly 54 million broadband lines across the country. With a broadband connection, users no longer need to wait for Web sites to load. You can send e-mail, download and view files, and conduct business very quickly. The deployment of new broadband lines also spurs job creation and narrows the “digital divide” that can leave some regions offline. Policies that continue to promote competition encourage providers to expand and improve their services, and give consumers more choice and better offerings.

CALinnovates supports reasonable deployment of the California Broadband Initiative.  For more information on the initiative, please visit http://www.calink.ca.gov/

What is broadband?

The term broadband commonly refers to high-speed Internet access.  Broadband can be simply defined as a fast connection to the internet that is always on.  It allows a user to send emails, surf the web, download images and music, watch videos, join a web conference, and much more.

Content provided by Broadband for America (http://www.broadbandforamerica.com/)

Universal Broadband To Unlock the Productivity of Government 2.0

Guest blog by Eric Jaye

The Blockbuster video store down the street from my house in San Francisco is now shuttered. I’m unsure of the exact day it closed, or even month. Because our family’s regular trip to the video store to argue over what movie to rent came to an end last year when we signed up for on-demand streaming from Netflix.

That’s the story of California’s economy. The fast – which almost always means the broadband enabled – survive.  And the brick and mortar economy continues to whither.

Just a mile down the road from the now-shuttered Blockbuster, the City and County of San Francisco is preparing to open a new “green” office building. The cost of the building on a square foot basis makes it one of the most expensive ever built in the city.  But it is not the cost of the brick and mortar that matters most – it is a government still trapped in a brick and mortar mindset.

 

The Productivity Surge

Driven in large part by investment in information technology, the average American worker is now 80% more productive then at the dawn of the personal computer era.  But while productivity has soared in the private sector, analysis shows productivity in the public sector is flat, or even falling.

As demands on government services grow during the lingering recession the productivity of the government workforce is an increasingly important issue.  And it is an issue that will not be addressed until government workers can fully employ information technology to do their jobs.

But unlike Netflix and other broadband-enabled innovators, productivity in government requires more than just technical advancement.  True Gov 2.0 also requires that we make sure no one is left behind by this technical change, which means the vital step of guaranteeing Universal Internet Access.

 

Government Can’t Leave Constituents Behind

When Netflix grows at the expense of Blockbuster, it is a boon for the broadband enabled and a loss for those without.  But movie choice is one thing – the vital services performed by government another story.

Because government must, and should, serve everyone in a way that everyone can access, government will not be able to fully embrace the staggering efficiencies of the web while our state remains separated by a digital divide.

According to a recent analysis, the savings generated by a more productive government workforce on a national basis measures in the trillions of dollars.  In California there are tens of billions of dollars to be gained by helping government workers use technology to match the productivity of their private sector counterparts.

And in a world in which students need the Internet to complete their homework and in which their parents can only apply for most jobs online – there is a growing recognition that Universal Internet Access is more than an efficiency tool, it is a civil right.

To address both this equality imperative and to gain the effectiveness dividends that an investment in Universal Access will generate – a new generation of web-savvy leaders are starting to make this part of their policy platforms.

Just one of leasers is San Francisco Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting, who has proposed a UniversalInternet Access plan at his www.ResetSanFrancisco.org online community.

Ting, with his business and civil rights background, may be one of the first to embrace this issue but there will soon be many others.  With basic civil rights and billions and billions of dollars of savings at stake, this is an idea ready to launch.

Eric Jaye runs Storefront Political Media in San Francisco.  His firm creates both traditional campaigns and new media for clients around the nation.

Wireless Service Taxes

In recent years, wireless users have become a favorite target for new state and local taxes.  Today, state and local taxes and fees average about 14 percent of consumers’ cell phone bills.  That’s almost double the cost of ordinary sales taxes.

Unfortunately, given ongoing state budget troubles, the rush to tax wireless consumers is becoming even more pronounced. Across the country, cities have been rewriting utility regulations to expand the list of taxable wireless services.  And some cities have successfully persuaded courts to impose new “business license taxes” on wireless services at rates as high as 10 percent. (By comparison, other business license taxes are typically about one percent.)

From a public policy perspective, this rush to tax is profoundly disappointing.  First, the government is supposed to use taxes to discourage behavior.  There are cigarette taxes to deter smoking, especially among the young.  Liquor taxes try to curb drunk driving and overdrinking.

But the development of cell phones and other services is one of the great successes in America’s economy, creating jobs and wealth.  It also provides a lifeline for Americans without traditional phone service.

This rush to tax mobile consumers also discourages use of wireless broadband options that can be vital to expanding options for tele-work and reducing greenhouse emissions.

The bottom line: Wireless users already pay more than their share in taxes.  Officials should stop adding to that burden.

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