Milo reminds: Affordability needs more than Net Neutrality

Milo MedinPrices in the U.S. have only gone up since 2004 when George Bush promised “affordable high-speed Internet access available to all Americans by 2007.” Barack Obama made the same promise in 2008 and prices kept rising. In 2006, a low end DSL connection cost $15. Today at Verizon, the cheapest offering is $70+. That’s a prime reason people in DC called Obama’s first FCC Chair, “An empty suit with an important part missing.” 

The Internet should be for everyone, I believe, and for the last five years I’ve been concentrating on things that drive prices up – competition failures, high royalties, wasteful design. Milo Medin has been among the most respected broadband engineers since he built the U.S. cable networks as CTO of @Home in the 1990’s. He’s now The Guy at Google. “No consumers are seeing higher speeds than before the order was passed; no consumers are paying less for their Internet services than what they were paying for; no consumers are seeing higher volume caps that they had before; and no consumers have additional choice of providers than they had before,” Medin said. “The openness of the Internet may have been preserved, which is really important, but the Internet options consumers can choose from have not changed and will not change because of what was passed in that order.”

Sean Buckley at Fierce has more from Milo’s Comptel speech in an article worth clicking to.  Milo notes “We still don’t have a policy to place conduit along new highway builds.” My block was recently torn up for new gas lines, a brutally expensive task in Manhattan. ($50K just to cut the curb in some cases. It’s ridiculous that Verizon didn’t drop fiber in alongside the gas lines. 

Obama’s latest bit from White House.gov. Karl Bode at DSL Reports points out Obama shouldn’t be giving himself kudos for 98% LTE coverage. I reported in 2009 – and the industry knew – that Verizon by itself was going to 97-98%. Their business model, which includes covering cars, trucks and smart power grids, requires them to cover as much of the country as practical. AT&T is close behind (95%) while Sprint and T-Mobile hope to match in 12-18 months. Obama is telling politician’s truths on this one. In 2011, Obama, counseled by Larry Strickling, “set the ambitious goal of providing 4th Generation (4G) mobile broadband to at least 98 percent.” (White House, below,)  Obama’s further goals, for 2015 & 2020 broadband coverage, could have been taken right of the company’s press release on what they would do. The big missing is a fast 2015 upstream speed,  Brian Roberts of Comcast promised the broadband planners he would increase upstream as well but has since welshed on the deal.   

FACT SHEET: Next Steps in Delivering Fast, Affordable Broadband (From whitehouse.gov)

 “Twenty-first century businesses need 21st century infrastructure — modern ports, and stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest Internet…I intend to protect a free and open Internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world.”

                                                                        -President Obama, State of the Union, 2015

In January, the President traveled to Cedar Falls, Iowa to announce his plan to promote “Broadband that Works,” a public-private effort to help more Americans, in more communities around the country, get access to fast and affordable broadband.  Making good on the vision he outlined in his State of the Union Address means promoting investment and rewarding competition. Today, the Administration announced progress since January and new steps in that effort, including:

Reaching the National Goal of Providing 98 Percent of Americans with Access to High-Speed, Mobile Broadband.  In 2011, the President challenged the public and private sector to work together to expand wireless access and set the ambitious goal of providing 4th Generation (4G) mobile broadband to at least 98 percent of Americans.  Today, based on newly released data from the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), we are announcing that through significant private investment we have reached that goal — nearly two years ahead of schedule.  The Obama Administration put in place policies that have helped drive progress toward this milestone, and will continue to promote robust investment in wireless broadband connectivity, including:

  • Initiating the Most Successful Mobile Spectrum Auction in American History. Setting in motion the highest-grossing auction of mobile spectrum in American history — raising more than $41 billion. Freeing up this spectrum for private investment will lead to better mobile connectivity while funding important priorities like a first-responders network and reducing the deficit. This success will keep the momentum for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s upcoming “incentive auction” of television broadcast spectrum slated for early 2016.
  • Continuing to Free Up Wireless Spectrum. Concerted government efforts to successfully free up wireless spectrum previously held by government agencies have, to date, formally recommended or otherwise identified 335 Mhz of Federal and non-Federal spectrum for potential reallocation.
  • Expanding Access to Broadband in Rural and Underserved Areas.  Over $7 billion of Recovery Act funding went to increasing broadband connectivity, including to under-served areas, which is the foundation of high-speed wireless service.  In all, these efforts have installed or upgraded over 174,000 miles of high-speed broadband infrastructure.  The Administration will also continue to support the FCC’s Universal Service Fund (USF), which has invested over $25 billion since 2008, to encourage investment in high-cost and rural broadband, both fixed and mobile.

Standing up the Broadband Opportunity Council.  Today the President signed a new Presidential Memorandum making good on his promise in Cedar Falls to stand up a new Council singularly focused on increasing broadband investment and adoption. 

  • The Council, co-chaired by the Secretaries of Commerce and Agriculture, includes over twenty-five different government agencies and components, all united around clear policy objectives to:
    • Engage with industry and other stakeholders to understand ways the government can better support the needs of communities seeking broadband investment;
    • Identify regulatory barriers unduly impeding broadband deployment or competition;
    • Survey and report back on existing programs that currently support or could be modified to support broadband competition, deployment or adoption; and
    • Take all necessary actions to remove these barriers and re-align existing programs to increase broadband competition, deployment, and adoption.
  • The Council will report back to the President, within 150 days, with the steps each agency will take to advance these goals, including specific regulatory actions or budget proposals.
    • These steps will build on and expand several actions agencies have already taken during this Administration, such as developing a common application form for wireless broadband providers to lease space for their rooftop antennas, sharing of best practices for “dig once” policies by state and municipal governments nationwide, and offering new online tools for finding and leasing federal assets available for broadband networks.

Building on the FCC’s Landmark Decision to Promote Local Choice. The FCC last month independently decided to take action against two of the nineteen state laws that restrict communities from deciding what broadband solutions fit their needs.  This step forward helped unserved and under-served communities, many of whom have no way to stay economically competitive absent a municipal provider of broadband. 

  • As a result, communities in two states — Tennessee and North Carolina — will no longer be held back from setting up municipal networks like successful examples in Chattanooga and Wilson, where those networks affordably deliver broadband speeds around 100 times the national average.

Continued Support to Communities & Competitors Expanding Broadband Offerings. The Administration continues to build on the momentum we began earlier this year with the standup of Commerce’s BroadbandUSA program. Later this year, the Department of Agriculture will reopen a revamped broadband loan program, which offers financing to eligible rural carriers that invest in bringing high-speed broadband to unserved and under-served rural areas.

  • Today the Department of Agriculture is announcing a total of $35 million in broadband infrastructure loans in Arkansas, New Mexico, and Iowa to deliver enhanced services to help attract and grow businesses, as well as to improve educational and health care services.  Time and again, studies show that affordable broadband offers increased economic opportunities in rural areas, which is why Rural Development is committed to delivering high-speed Internet service to these communities.
  • Through the BroadbandUSA program, the Department of Commerce has followed through on its promise to support more communities seeking to learn from the experts on how to increase broadband investment and competition — including through municipal broadband. Since January, Commerce has provided ongoing one-on-one advice to communities across the U.S. including in Ohio, Kansas, Florida, California, and West Virginia; organized a regional summit in Jackson, Mississippi; and held a national webinar to introduce BroadbandUSA and present the new Guide to Public-Private Partnerships for Broadband Investment.

Announcing the Community Broadband Summit.  To carry forward the momentum, help communities leaders learn from one another, and report out the progress of our broadband initiatives, the White House will in June host the Community Broadband Summit.  Details will follow soon at WhiteHouse.gov.

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