More US broadband would create 2.4 million jobs and have $134 billion economic impact

An amazing set of stats came out from a study by Connected Nation and was reported in PC World.

It cites that a 7 percent increase in broadband adoption would create 2.4 million jobs across the U.S., would save $662 million in health-care costs and $6.4 billion in vehicle mileage, among other savings, according to the study, released by Connected Nation, a nonprofit group focused on improving broadband adoption across the U.S.

These stats are for a 7 percent increase in broadband adoption. Imagine if 50% of the Americans not on broadband had access to it. Do the math and you’ll realize how a free broadband service like M2Z could profoundly benefit America….

The full study is available on Connected Nation.


Think tank: FCC, Bush have failed on broadband reform

Some strong criticism has come from a well respected Washington DC think tank regarding the lack of progress in the US on broadband deployment …

“The result of administration neglect, industry intransigence and the incompetence of the Federal Communications Commission … has left the American people and most policymakers with no clear idea where broad services are deployed in the US,” said Lloyd, who is also an affiliated professor at Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute.

You can read the full article here on MacWorld

Australia is planning tough web rules to protect kids online

The BBC and a couple other news sources have reported on the fact that Stephen Conroy, the Australian Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy has announced that Australia is planning tough new rules to protect children from online pornography and violence. Follow the link to the article: Australia plans tough web rules – BBC Article

The plan will require ISP level filtering to ensure that a “clean” connection is delivered to schools and homes. And Australians wanting unfettered access to the web will be able to contact their supplier to opt out.

Critics have accused the Australian government of being oppressive. But according to reports, Mr. Conroy has been unmoved by the arguments of critics:

“The minister stressed that if people equated freedom of speech with watching child pornography then he would always disagree with them.”

What a novel idea … government mandated ISP level network filtering to protect minors from online pornography and violence — while giving adults the right to opt out. M2Z has voluntarily offered to filter out obscene material at the network level for our proposed free and anonymous service. And for adult consumers verifying their age, the filter can be turned off by request.

It’s interesting to see that Australia’s leadership is coming to the inevitable conclusion that this is the right approach. How long before the US will as well?

Verizon makes about face on position regarding open network

Big headlines today as Verizon announced its intent to open its network by the end of 2008. This is clearly a 180 degree change from Verizon’s previous position whereby it strongly advocated against open networks in filings before the FCC. Currently, customers must use phones and applications and other software that only Verizon Wireless provides for its network.

See their press release at:

Verizon Wireless to Introduce ‘Any Apps, Any Device’ Option For Customers In 2008

Critics might suggest that Verizon’s announcement is opportunistic and merely a tactic to win favor at the FCC or scare rivals from bidding in the upcoming 700 MHz auction. Others might suggest that Verizon is just late to recognizing the pent up demand in the market for open networks and that serving as gatekeeper will only harm their interests in the long term.

Regardless of the motivation factor for the about face, if the announcement is sincere, then we’re glad to see that Verizon finally sees the light. Ever since M2Z first submitted our proposal on May 5th of 2006 — to offer the nation a free, nationwide, wireless broadband service, we’ve advocated for an open network and made it clear that M2Z will operate this way.

M2Z believes operating this way serves the public interest, levels the playing field for competing service providers, application providers, and device manufacturers. We see it as good business which will open up the communications ecosystem and spur far greater innovation.

In fact, in a written Ex Parte filing before the Federal Communications Commission on 8-29-07, we reiterated our commitment to a meaningful, nondiscriminatory wholesale offering and a commitment to operate our network on an “open devices” platform. Considering that M2Z made this commitment May of 2006 and that Verizon will only be implementing such strategies the end of 2008, one might say that it’s nice to see that the incumbent telephone carriers are only 2.5 years behind the innovators.

And while it’s sure nice to be right — it’s unfortunate that lack of competition in the US communications industry means that American consumers must suffer for 2.5 years until others finally “get it.”

Muni Wi-Fi spirals downward

In 2006, as we first started educating people about the merits of M2Z’s plan to build a nationwide, free, wireless broadband network, many skeptics suggested that the broad deployment of municipal Wi-Fi systems would reduce the appeal of M2Z.

To the contrary, we suggested that muni Wi-Fi projects would only work in limited circumstances and that the vast majority of American cities would not have the technical, financial, and human resources to deploy, maintain, and upgrade such projects — so M2Z could be a readily available nationwide alternative.

Today, the hype is clearly gone from municipal Wi-Fi projects. Anyone watching the headlines over the past couple months will notice a pattern — plans for large ambitious projects to cover a city in Wi-Fi are stalling or being shelved. The concept that an open, unlicensed ecosystem with no financial champions or sustainable business model could somehow be converted into a city-wide (often free) and easily accessible service is flawed. The headlines and reports in the press speak to the problems:

Cleveland rethinks citywide Wi-Fi (Nov 7: MuniWireless)

Cleveland, Ohio, Mayor Frank Jackson has announced the city will reject bids requiring anchor tenancy and focus, instead, on a “phased approach” to deployment.

Cleveland is the latest in a string of cities that have balked at making anchor tenant commitments. Anchorage, Alaska, Toledo, Ohio, Portland, Oregon, and Corona, Calfornia have had similar reservations.

Comment: “Anchor tenancy”ensures that someone pays for continued use of some part of the network, thus providing investors with incentive to build the network.

Reality check finds Wi-Fi city is full of holes (Nov 5: Sacramento Bee)

Sacramento’s effort, like many around the nation, is struggling for financing, as The Bee reported last month. But even in Mountain View, where technology leader and Nasdaq fat cat Google has built a system to blanket the city with Wi-Fi coverage, the network rarely penetrates walls.

“It will cost a lot more than most cities had planned to build a network that provides robust, consistent indoor coverage,” added Glenn Fleischman, editor of Wi-Fi Networking News.

Plano scaling back plans for free wireless Internet (Nov 3: Dallas Morning News)

Stoked earlier this decade by the prospect of free Internet at little expense, the dream of installing citywide Wi-Fi here and elsewhere has collided with high installation costs and other market realities.

Those dynamics have forced local governments in North Texas and beyond to take a hard look at their efforts and have dispelled assumptions that such projects come easy or free.

On a separate front, telecommunications firms have lobbied against free citywide coverage in an effort to protect their market shares.

A proposal put before the Legislature in 2005 would have included Wi-Fi in an existing statute that prohibits municipalities from offering certain telecom services. That bill died in committee.

Comment: Interesting to note that the telecommunications firms are working to lobby against the competition.

Vindu’s View: Wireless Silicon Valley getting little support (Nov 4: San Jose Mercury News)

The fate of Silicon Valley’s ambitious but troubled project to blanket the community with wireless Internet services now rests on a single question: Does anyone believe in the vision enough to invest $500,000 for two pilot sites that would show us what the network can do?

But government officials – wisely – aren’t going to pledge taxpayer dollars until they see some proof that the project is more than just a dream conjured up by the optimists at Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network, the public-private group that is spearheading the project.

Comment: This is certainly one of the more ambitious projects falling by the wayside and no doubt ironic that it’s happening in the heart of one of the innovation and venture capital centers of the country – Silicon Valley.

Rush for municipal Wi-Fi runs out of steam (Oct 29: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

So is muni Wi-Fi dead? Not yet. But “there’s been a reality check,” said Sally Cohen, an analyst with Forrester Research Inc. “And it all stems around, ‘What’s the business model, and who’s going to pay for it?’ “

AT&T Scales Back St. Louis Wi-Fi Plan (Oct 27: Associated Press)

AT&T Inc. has scaled back its plan to blanket the city’s 62 square miles with Wi-Fi signals, the wireless Internet service now found in airports and coffee shops.

Instead, AT&T said Friday it will build a Wi-Fi pilot project in the downtown core and expects to have it in service early next year.

“It’s a setback,” said John Sondag, vice president of external affairs for AT&T Missouri. “We’re disappointed. But we will still learn something.”

S.F. Wi-Fi plans lost in a fog (Oct 24: RCR Wireless News)

After more than two years, a plan to blanket San Francisco with seamless wireless Internet access at no cost to consumers is back where it started. All that stands in the wake of the failed citywide Wi-Fi effort now is a mountain of paperwork.

Once considered by many cities and towns to be the roadmap to offer high-speed Internet access for all, wide-spread use of the unlicensed technology is now less certain.

San Francisco’s deal was already largely considered dead in late August when EarthLink Inc. rescinded its proposal to cover the estimated $14 million to $17 million cost of building the citywide Wi-Fi network.

EarthLink, which was planning to team up with Google for the municipal Wi-Fi network in San Francisco, fired 900 employees following the news, including Don Berryman, the executive who led the company’s municipal Wi-Fi division. It closed offices in Orlando, Fla.; Knoxville, Tenn.; Harrisburg, Pa.; and San Francisco, and also said it will substantially reduce its presence in Pasadena, Calif., and Atlanta.

Celebrate Mediocrity?

A colleague sent me a PR Newswire release about a new study funded by the U.S. Department of Education under the auspices of a grant to the Ready to Learn Partnership (RTLP), which painted an upbeat picture on the state of technology adoption by lower income households. The headline read:

“New Study Funded by U.S. Department of Education Shows Digital Divide Is No Longer as Prevalent”

And the body of the release stated:

“This new research suggests that given the proliferation of media across the socioeconomic spectrum, although significant differences do exist by income level, a stark digital divide no longer captures the relationship between income and technology ownership and that technology is integrated into children’s lives, regardless of their families’ income.”

So, the positive news is that”significant” differences do exist by income level but they are no longer “stark.” How comforting.

The actual report had this to say in the summary section:

“Regardless of how one assesses the current state, it is clear that, given the proliferation and increased affordability of media technologies,
the metaphor of the “digital divide” no longer adequately characterizes the complex relationship between income and ownership of media technology. The current state is perhaps best described as a “digital continuum.”

I took a look at the supporting stats in the study and it showed clearly that in households earning $75,000 per year, 97% have a computer in contrast to 37% in households earning less than $25,000 per year. That’s a 60% spread.

The study also showed that household internet access connection differed by type (dial-up vs broadband).

For those of us tracking broadband deployment, we can easily extrapolate these numbers to see that overall, 16% of lower income (<$25k/annum) households have broadband access in contrast to 77% in higher income (>%75k/annum) households. That’s a 61% spread.

So maybe that’s not “stark.” But it certainly seems severe and for children living on the wrong side of that 60% or 61% spread, it certainly seems unfair.

But mostly it’s tragic because it’s totally unnecessary. The technology, capital, talent and experience necessary to help make that gap a historical footnote is poised and ready to act — the only missing ingredient is a tiny bit of cooperation from our government.

Walt Mossberg likens big cellphone carriers to “Soviet ministries”

Walter Mossberg, who co-produces and co-hosts D: All Things Digital, a major high-tech and media conference and who also writes and edits for the Wall Street Journal recently wrote a damning column (October 22) in the WSJ which points out how government and big cellphone carriers stifle innovation at the expense of consumers.

You can read the article here:

or in the Wall Street Journal:

Some of his observations are real zingers:

“A shortsighted and often just plain stupid federal government has allowed itself to be bullied and fooled by a handful of big wireless phone operators for decades now. And the result has been a mobile phone system that is the direct opposite of the PC model. It severely limits consumer choice, stifles innovation, crushes entrepreneurship, and has made the U.S. the laughingstock of the mobile-technology world, just as the cellphone is morphing into a powerful hand-held computer.”


And here’s another:

“That’s why I refer to the big cellphone carriers as the “Soviet ministries.” Like the old bureaucracies of communism, they sit athwart the market, breaking the link between the producers of goods and services and the people who use them.”

Mossberg concludes with an analogy to the wired phone network of the 70’s and states:

“I suspect that if the government, or some disruptive innovation, breaks the crippling power that the wireless carriers exert today, the free market will deliver a similar happy ending.”

We agree with Mossberg on this point. And if given the chance, M2Z would certainly like to help deliver a pro-consumer happy ending in wireless broadband.

75-yr-old vigilante hammers Comcast

Interesting article in the Washington Post about 75 year old Mona Shaw who – after being repeatedly mistreated – went to her local Comcast office and started whacking away with a hammer.

While we wouldn’t advocate violence or vigilantism, most everyone can sympathize with her emotions. To us, it’s further evidence that we need more competition and more providers in the marketplace. Increased competition brings down prices and increases service level quality – and consumers win.

The porn-at-work phenomenon

A recent USA Today report indicates that companies are growing increasingly concerned by the fact that wireless access to the Internet appears to be giving the porn-at-work phenomenon a boost.

You can read the story here:

Further, it appears that 65% of US Companies use software to block worker’s access to inappropriate websites. 16% of men and 8% of women admit to visiting porn sites while at work. Clearly, the network-level filter proposed by M2Z will not only benefit parents in letting their children safely surf the net but also benefit US Corporations who want to avoid lawsuits and other harassment risks faced by porn surfing employees.

Stitching up the Net and The Seattle Times

On October 14, Washington State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-Seattle; chair, Senate Labor, Commerce, Research & Development Committee; member, K-20 Education Network Board; Olympia) wrote a Letter to the Editor in the Seattle Times to comment on the Seattle Times Column written by M2Z’s CEO, John Muleta. The text to Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles’ Letter to the Editor is below …

A barrier to free flow

John Muleta identifies a real problem in “FCC fiddles while nation’s broadband falls behind” [guest commentary, Oct. 3]. As a country — and as a state — we cannot remain competitive without widespread access to broadband. Americans have every reason to be concerned about current service levels — especially to those Americans living in rural and low-income areas.

Muleta is correct that the ultimate determinations for increasing access to broadband is made by the FCC, but states can nudge the agency along by illustrating the scope of the problem.

This year, lawmakers included funding in the state budget to conduct a study to collect and interpret statistically reliable geographic, demographic and telecommunications information to identify any broadband-deployment disparities in the state.

In addition, the study will produce a profile of households and businesses, determining factors relating to those with no available broadband access, those with access but who haven’t purchased an option, and the purposes for which broadband is used by those who have access.

There is no question that the digital divide is a barrier to education and economic opportunities. We simply can’t afford such a divide, and lawmakers — both state and federal — must continue to make it harder for the FCC to sit idly by and allow this gap to persist.

— Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle; chair, Senate Labor, Commerce, Research & Development Committee; member, K-20 Education Network Board; Olympia