By one recent estimate about 8.9 percent of Americans, or about 29 million people, lack access to wired home “broadband” service, which the Federal Communications Commission defines as an internet access connection providing speeds of at least 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. Even where home broadband is available, high prices inhibit adoption; in one national survey, 33 percent of non-subscribers cited cost of service as the primary barrier. Municipally and other community-owned networks have been proposed as a driver of competition and resulting better service and prices.
[Commentary] It’s easy to get caught up in the simplistic debate that often dominates the surveillance conversation: that this is about balancing national security and individual privacy. But the binary argument over security vs. privacy ignores the other negative impacts of National Security Agency surveillance on our national interests.
The US cloud computing industry -- a fast-growing and American-dominated market -- could lose anywhere from $22 billion to $180 billion in the next few years as companies lose customers abroad and here at home. US tech companies are facing declines in overseas sales due to the backlash, while foreign governments are blaming the NSA for decisions to drop American companies from huge contracts.
Plus, there’s growing evidence that certain NSA surveillance techniques are actually bad for cybersecurity.
[Commentary] A year ago, President Barack Obama unveiled the ConnectED initiative, declaring that his goal was to connect virtually every school in the United States to high-speed Internet by the end of the decade.
A key piece of the Administration's plan is reforming the Federal Communications Commission's E-rate program, which subsidizes communications services for schools and libraries across the country.
Earlier in June, a diverse coalition of over 100 organizations from the education sector, technology, and business communities (including the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute and Education Policy Program) sent a letter to the FCC urging the agency to modernize and expand the E-rate program. The letter outlines a series of joint recommendations which include upgrading E-rate to provide schools and libraries not just with Internet connectivity but also sufficient capacity to use new digital learning tools; prioritizing funding to support both high-speed broadband to the premises and ubiquitous Wi-Fi connectivity over other, outdated technologies; incentivizing schools and libraries to purchase connectivity more efficiently; and simplifying the program to streamline the application process.
The letter also urges the FCC to set clear targets for connectivity moving forward, to improve data collection practices and program transparency, and to commit to reviewing E-rate's goals every four years. The proposed reforms would address some of these concerns but not all. Focusing on infrastructure investments is the key to E-rate's ability to meet the goal of providing a gigabit of capacity per 1,000 students by the end of the decade.
While Wi-Fi upgrades are needed so that students, teachers and library patrons can access the Internet on their individual devices, these improvements must be made in conjunction with significant investments in broadband infrastructure that increase overall capacity at their institutions.
[Kehl is a policy analyst; Morris is a senior policy counsel, for the Open Technology Institute at the New America Foundation]
[Commentary] If you want a glimpse into what the speed of your Internet connection might look like under the newly proposed Open Internet rules, take yourself back to the last uncomfortable hour of a long plane flight.
You know the feeling. You're back in economy class wondering if seats have actually gotten smaller these past few years (they probably have), and amazed when you glance up front and see how appealing business class has become.
That's what the Internet could look like soon. With all the talk about fast lanes and paid prioritization recently, the Federal Communication Commission's proposed rules could lead us down a path where regular and premium service levels make Internet service look a lot more like air travel.
Tiered service has been common in air travel for years, with airlines offering special amenities and improved service for those who can afford to pay more, while everyone else gets crammed into regular seats. Although almost everyone would prefer to travel more comfortably and wait in faster security and boarding lines, it's often challenging for airlines to convince people to pay the premium for first class: It can cost up to ten times more to fly business instead of economy on a trans-Atlantic flight, and both seats get you to the same destination.
So while airlines try to make first class more appealing with new amenities and personalized attention, they simultaneously have an incentive against improving the quality of "regular" service as a way to protect their higher-end business. And as airlines have struggled financially in recent years, it appears they may even be actively degrading economy class options.
What's more, this tactic has the added benefit of increasing the appeal of premium options while still maintaining the premium price. This nuance is critical because it illustrates the incentives for airlines not only to make more seats available by reducing their size, but to increase the disparity between economy and premium seats to make the premium seats even more attractive to flyers.
[Morris is the Senior Policy Counsel and Kehl is a Policy Analyst at New America's Open Technology Institute]
[Commentary] In Brazil, network neutrality was officially codified at the beginning of the NETMundial conference, a multistakeholder Internet governance convening in Sao Paolo in late April 2014.
The signing of the Marco Civil da Internet -- commonly referred to as Brazil’s Internet bill of rights -- was a huge victory for advocates of a free and open Internet, who have been pushing for the bill to pass with strong language for years.
According to the final language, ISPs are not allowed to “offer services in non-discriminatory commercial conditions” and must “refrain from anti-competition practices.”
The progress made in Brazil and the EU stands in stark contrast to what’s happening here in the US. After the court struck down the Open Internet rules in January 2014, it seemed like the Federal Communications Commission had a clear path to reinstate net neutrality: reclassify broadband as a Title II telecommunications service.
Reclassification would allow the FCC to treat broadband providers as common carriers, meaning it could implement clear and strong new rules that would prevent discrimination, blocking, and could even address paid prioritization issues. Instead, a watered down set of proposed rules was leaked to the press in April, which would address some discrimination issues but would create an even larger loophole for ISPs to charge for fast lanes.
[Kehl is a policy analyst with the Open Technology Institute at the New America Foundation]