AT&T $15 Unlimited for School Kids

AT&T will make good money on every schoolkid who signs up for the $15 “unlimited” wireless. The school will pay, saving collection costs. AT%T doesn’t need to offer phone discounts or spend much on acquisition. It requires additional advertising spend. The only apparent gotcha is a modest slowdown for some homes in the (surprisingly few) times of actual congestion. The connection should still be fast enough for a live video class.

AT&T, like most telcos, has far more wireless capacity than it can sell. Since at least 2014, wireless capacity has improved at a ferocious rate. AT&T & Verizon both estimate cost per bit is going down at 40% per year. Meanwhile, traffic growth has plummeted to 20%-35% per year. Result: telcos have an increasing surplus of capacity while spending the same amount. Even with 5G upgrades, most carriers expect capex to be flat or down.

Between 75% and 90% of U.S. unconnected kids can be reached by the existing networks in 2-3 months at moderate cost. That simple fact should push just about every proposal to “span the digital divide” on the backburner. Many will be seen as wasteful, except towers and backhaul in the 5% of the US currently dependent on satellite, called unserved. Europe and many other areas probably have a similar situation, but I don’t have confirmed research.

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Net Neutrality is Coming Back. So What Will That Change?

Bringing back Net Neutrality is a high priority for Biden, which is great. However, it will make little practical difference for the next few years. There have been no abuses of Net Neutrality with a big impact, although AT&T should never have favored HBO in its wireless plans.

Legendary AT&T lobbyist Jim Cicconi years ago said they could give up NN so long as gov didn’t force prices down. Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, Charter and the other dominant carriers do not want DC to make new rules on fees. So they have behaved and avoided controversy on neutrality.

The US has the highest Internet prices in the developed world and claims otherwise have been exposed as politicians’ truths. Pai, who has made smart moves on spectrum, has completely failed on his promise of affordable broadband for all. I’d like to think the Dems will do better, but they didn’t under Obama.   

I’ve supported what we call Net Neutrality since 1999, when I had a very public disagreement with Jeff Waldhuter of Verizon. I’m glad it’s coming back. 

Any competent engineer could connect 80%+ of the unserved schoolkids to 25/3 in 2 or 3 months. Wireless technology has been improving so rapidly the carriers have massive unused capacity. So do the cablecos. Chicago is doing it, at a total cost of 1/2 of 1% of the school budget.

It’s criminal we haven’t done that already.

Goodbye Marilyn Cade

Marilyn CadeMarilyn Cade was an exceptionally hardworking, always gracious leader in ICANN and IGF. She was a strong supporter of U.S. interests at ITU and a member of the US delegation at the WCIT.

Dozens have spoken of her at a memorial site, including Vint Cerf: 

“Marilyn was an elemental force in the ICANN, IGF and policy worlds. She was an advocate who could be counted upon to speak passionately for the causes to which she was dedicated. As I read all the “Marilyn stories” in these comments, I cannot help but think that we should say these things to our friends while they are still with us. I wish I had known of her health challenges sooner and now, of course, it is too late. She will be missed but not forgotten by the communities that knew her and benefited from her dedication.”

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