Universal Broadband

Smartphones help blacks, Hispanics bridge some – but not all – digital gaps with whites

Blacks and Hispanics remain less likely than whites to own a traditional computer or have high-speed internet at home, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in fall 2016. But mobile devices are playing important roles in helping to bridge these differences.

Roughly eight-in-ten whites (83%) report owning a desktop or laptop computer, compared with 66% of blacks and 60% of Hispanics. There are also substantial racial or ethnic differences in broadband adoption, with whites more likely than either blacks or Hispanics to report having a broadband connection at home. (There were not enough Asian respondents in the sample to be broken out into a separate analysis.) But despite these inequalities, blacks and Hispanics have mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers in shares similar to whites. There are differences between Hispanics born inside and outside the U.S.: 88% of native-born Hispanics own a smartphone, compared with 62% of Hispanics born abroad. About three-quarters of whites and blacks own a smartphone. Mobile devices play an outsize role for blacks and Hispanics when it comes to their online access options. About two-in-ten Hispanics (22%) and 15% of blacks are “smartphone only” internet users – meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone. By comparison, 9% of whites fall into this category. In addition, blacks and Hispanics are also more likely than whites to rely on their smartphones for a number of activities, such as looking up health information or looking for work.

Chairman Pai's Response to Senator Peters and Senator Stabenow Regarding the GAO Report on the Lifeline Program

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai sent letters to Sens Gary Peters (D-MI) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) on August 21, 2017, to respond to their letter expressing concern with the Lifeline program and asking for information relating to the Government Accountability Office Lifeline report. Pai provided information on enforcement and compliance mechanisms for oversight of the program, resources for determining program eligibility, the projected timeline for testing and implementing the National Verifier system and resources available for reviews and audits.

Chairman Pai's Response to Rep Hanabusa Regarding Oversight of the Universal Service Fund High-Cost Program

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai sent a letter to Rep Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI) on August 21, 2017, in response to her letter regarding communications service to the Hawaiian Home Lands residents and the Commission's investigation of Sandwich Isles Communications. Pai responded to Hanabusa’s questions on whether Universal Service Funds have been paid to SIC since the suspension of payments by USAC in 2015, whether SIC was certified by the Hawaii PUC as an ETC at the time USF funds were suspended, if SIC remains eligible for the receipt of 2015 funds and the total amount of USF funds withheld from SIC in 2015.

Kansas City Was First to Embrace Google Fiber, Now Its Broadband Future Is 'TBD'

Five years after hooking up its first Kansas City customers, expansion of Google Fiber has come to a screeching halt. Thousands of customers in KC who had pre-registered for guaranteed service when Google Fiber made it to their neighborhood were given their money back earlier in 2017, and told they may never get hooked up. Google Fiber cycled through two CEOs in the last 10 months, lost multiple executives, and has started laying off employees. Plans to expand Google Fiber to eight other American cities halted late in 2016, leaving the fate of the project up in the air. I recently asked Rachel Hack Merlo, the Community Manager for Google Fiber in Kansas City, about the future of the expanding the project service there, and she told me it was "TBD." Kansas City expected to become Google's glittering example of a futuristic gig-city: Half a decade later, there are examples of how Fiber benefitted KC, and stories about how it fell short. Thousands of customers will likely never get the chance to access the infrastructure they rallied behind, and many communities are still without any broadband access at all. Many are now left wondering: is that it?

Op-ed: Internet access is essential

[Commentary] There is a national conversation taking place on how to get broadband providers to go the last mile, and strike a balance with electric utilities to utilize their existing or planned infrastructure. And, private investment remains an essential component to any broadband buildout. The Energy and Commerce Committee, of which I am a member, is currently considering legislation to streamline federal permitting processes, create common contracts for siting wireless facilities on federal properties, and create an inventory of federal assets. One of the key roles of Congress is to facilitate policy and programs that help unserved or underserved communities. The infrastructure bill that will likely be debated later this year must include provisions for rural broadband deployment.

Many bureaucrats in Washington simply don’t understand the challenges we here in Eastern and Southeastern Ohio face. We will not be left behind anymore. There’s a lot of intellectual capital here in rural Appalachia…and, America needs to start tapping into it.

Rural America Is Building Its Own Internet Because No One Else Will

Here, a look at three rural counties, in three different states, demonstrates how country folk are leading their communities into the digital age the best way they know how: ingenuity, tenacity, and good old-fashioned hard work.
The 'Silicon Hollow', Letcher County (KY)
Internet on the TV, Garrett County (MD)
Ahead of the Curve, Coshocton County (OH)

USTelecom’s Deep Dive on FCC Broadband Data: 90% Can Get 25 Mbps, 10% Can Get a Gigabit

Ninety percent of US housing units had fixed wireless or landline broadband service at speeds of 25 Mbps downstream/ 3 Mbps upstream available to them as of mid-2016, according to an analysis of Federal Communications Commission broadband data conducted by USTelecom and CensusNBM. Ten percent of housing units could get service at downstream speeds of 1 Gbps (and any upstream speed), USTelecom/ CensusNBM said. If fixed wireless is not included in the analysis, both numbers drop by one percentage point.

The numbers also vary when urban and rural areas are broken apart. Just 64% of people in rural areas can get 25/3 Mbps fixed wireless or wired service, while 97% of people in non-rural areas can get service at those speeds, according to the report, titled “U.S. Broadband Availability Mid-2016.”

Financial Implications of Opelika's (AL) Municipal Broadband Network

Beginning in 2013, the city of Opelika (AL) became the state’s first “Gig City,” offering broadband Internet services to its 11,000 households over a $43 million fiber-optic network constructed and operated by the city’s electric utility, Opelika Power Services (“OPS”). How is Opelika’s system doing financially?

According to Mayor Gary Fuller, the city’s network, in its fourth year of operation in 2016, is “on pace with our five-year plan to be at break even.” As explained in this perspective, this rosy assessment is entirely at odds with the city’s own books. The city’s telecommunications service has experienced large and continuing financial losses through 2016, accumulating millions in financial losses during its four years of operation. Before “break even,” these millions in losses must be recovered and the $42 million in debt paid. In this persepective, I conduct an analysis of the OPS broadband network’s financial health using the city’s financial statements. By any meaningful financial metric, OPS’s broadband network is unlikely ever to be “profitable.”

Don't Forget Rural America In Open Internet Debate

[Commentary] The Federal Communications Commission’s proposal to reclassify broadband as an information service – the status it had for nearly two decades under which the internet grew and flourished -- has received over 20 million comments expressing views on both sides of the issue. Amid all the noise, it’s important to ensure that one aspect of the rulemaking not be overlooked: its huge impact on rural America.

The best way to ensure that all corners of the country get the connectivity they need is for the FCC to restore the classification of broadband as an information service. Thereafter, Congress should enact legislation that codifies open internet rules and at long last puts to rest a debate that has raged for more than a decade.

[Rick Boucher was a Democratic member of the US House for 28 years and chaired the House Communications Subcommittee. He is honorary chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA) and head of the government strategies practice at the law firm Sidley Austin.]

West Virginia’s Broadband Abyss Spurs Solutions Across Ideological Divide

With high-speed internet access in West Virginia’s rural areas seriously wanting, Sen Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) is pushing policy proposals favored by players on the right and left. According to the Federal Communications Commission, the Mountain State ranks 48th in the nation for broadband coverage. That helps explain why Capito co-chairs the Senate’s Rural Broadband Caucus, and why she’s willing to try practically anything. Last week, Sen Capito joined Sen Kirsten Gillibrand, (D-NY), in introducing the Broadband Connections for Rural Opportunities Program Act, which would channel as much as $50 million in grants annually to build out broadband infrastructure through a Department of Agriculture entity, the Rural Utilities Service.

The legislation introduced by Sen Gillibrand would provide as much as 75 percent of the construction and select deployment costs of a high-need broadband project, and it mentions prioritizing applicants such as state, local and tribal government stakeholders and nonprofits. Typically, low-interest loans and grants made through the Rural Utilities Service have gone to local co-ops and utilities.