Digital Divide 2.0

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.

Higher broadband adoption? The FCC will find an app for that

 

Arent Fox LLP USA
http://www.arentfox.com/publications/index.cfm?fa=legalUpdateDisp&content_id=3261

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has established several broadband-centered initiatives in recent months that display the agency’s appreciation for the tangible societal potential of high-speed connectivity.

Whereas previously the aim of FCC broadband policy has been enabling service providers to increase the supply of telecommunications service, à la the notion of universal service (both lowercase and capital “u” and “s”), these more recent initiatives aim at increasing demand. It appears that Chairman Julius Genachowski wants not only to spur carriers to deploy broadband, but he also wants to ensure that businesses and consumers will use it.

This intent came to light first in the National Broadband Plan, in which the FCC devoted a significant amount of energy to ascertaining how many Americans forego getting broadband, and why. That issue was not overtly teed up in Congress’s mandate for a plan ensuring “access to broadband capability,” but exploring the question whether Americans would actually use that “access” seemed a reasonable part of the exercise. The answers alarmed the FCC: only 65% of Americans use broadband at home, for reasons having little to do with its retail availability. As a result, the Plan became as much about encouraging broadband adoption as about laying transport cables.

So the Commission has, in addition to revamping Universal Service funding for the broadband era, turned its attention to what drives broadband use: applications. First was the Open Internet Applications Contest announced in January of this year. Programmers were invited to submit white papers, research, or actual applications to tell consumers how their broadband connectivity is functioning on a real-time basis. The project, which essentially commissioned the invention of an electronic watchdog against deliberate traffic disruption, was created in furtherance of the December 2010 Open Internet Order. But the Open Internet Apps Context is not only an innovative way for the FCC to ensure rule compliance – it increases consumer demand by assuring would-be subscribers that they will actually get what they pay for.

A few weeks ago, Chairman Genachowski announced the winners of the Open Internet challenge. Netalyzer was an Open Internet Research Award Winner, and proposes a Java-based applet that will link a computer to remote servers to measure several aspects of broadband-related performance, including HTTP caching and DNS manipulation. Another Open Internet Research Award Winner was the DiffProbe (short for “differential probing”), which detects whether an ISP has deployed mechanisms such as prioritization commands that alter Internet traffic. MobiPerf won both the Open Internet Research Award and the People’s Choice Award, and enables mobile handset users (those with Android and iOS operating systems) to obtain network performance information, and compiles that information anonymously. According to the FCC contest page, the winners will present their work at FCC headquarters, with travel expenses paid up to $500 per person or $1500 per team, and the applications will be featured on the FCC website and social media outlets.

The Apps For Communities contest launched in April 2011, challenging developers to create an application that will make the Internet more attractive to users. With aspirational goals of a “personalized Internet” and obtaining “actionable information,” the contest is another vehicle for the FCC to put its expertise – and up to $100,000 in prize money – behind ensuring that if telecom companies build more broadband, people will in fact come to broadband. Entries are due August 31.

The FCC’s demand-side focus now also embraces the nation’s overall economic agenda: jobs, jobs, jobs. At an event held August 4 in Jeffersonville, Indiana, the Chairman announced a partnership with Jobs4America, a coalition of call center providers, to create 100,000 new call center jobs in the next two years that, he stated, will rely entirely on broadband connectivity. Coalition members located throughout the US will either build new centers or hire persons who, thanks to broadband, can train and work at home. The program seeks to bring these jobs back from foreign countries and give them to people who, for reasons such as a disability or lack of access to child care, need to work remotely. The announcement was a victory on many fronts, none the least of which was a clear message to industry that the FCC is working to prevent a repeat of the DotCom bust in 2000 that was sparked, in large part, by miles of stranded, unused telecommunications infrastructure.

These initiatives show that the FCC is not content to assume or to assert that the mere existence of broadband is a public good. Broadband as a theory will not play. It seems that unless measurable societal benefits are achieved through integrating broadband into our classrooms, our institutions, and our workforce, the Chairman will not feel that his broadband policy was a success. If the market cannot of itself create consumer demand sufficient to create these benefits, the FCC will find an app for that.

 

 

 

 

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