Broadband

Let’s Stop Treating The Internet Like A Utility

By Kish Rajan

What do the iPhone, the “Internet of Things” and solar panels all have in common? They’re all fantastic technologies that make our lives better, and none of them were invented by utility companies.

They could have been. People consider phone companies to be utilities. Same with electric companies. But thanks to decades of heavy regulations, these sectors have had little to no incentive to innovate due to outdated laws and regulations that stifle rather than encourage investment and competition.

Those disrupters have been able to move quickly and build innovative new companies, thanks to the internet, which has arguably been the single largest engine for growth in this country since the auto industry.

It’s safe to say that the internet does not behave like a utility, but too often, it is treated as one. Until a few weeks ago, the same committee in the California Assembly that dealt with utilities also handled internet issues. The Utilities and Commerce Committee handled everything from ride-sharing issues to the transition to renewable energy. Last session it was overwhelmed by 140 bills.

Kudos to Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon for spearheading a new alignment for that committee. It is now two different groups: the Communications and Conveyance Committee and the Utility and Energy Committee.

This new division more closely reflects the reality of the internet. It’s not a utility – it’s a technology.

It’s an important distinction.

The internet is often lumped in with utilities when it really shouldn’t be. Take the California Public Utilities Commission, for example. The PUC has oversight of California’s utilities – including the internet. Four years ago the Legislature concluded that the PUC was holding back the development of internet phone service. It moved oversight of that industry to the Legislature, and since then it has flourished.

Last year we were supportive of Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s efforts to disband the PUC (though his bill might have been a step too far). That bill ultimately failed, but it had the right idea. There are utilities and then there is technology, and the two shouldn’t be regulated in the same way.

That’s not to say that the Legislature should take a completely hands-off approach to the internet. We need regulations, but they need to be smart regulations that promote innovation, investment and competition.

Regulations should suit the demands of our technology-reliant world. They should promote broader access to fast internet, help close the shrinking digital divide and make sure our emergency systems are operating at the highest level of security and reliability.

The more we think about the internet as a utility, the more we’ll slow progress. And that’s not what anyone wants.

Kish Rajan is chief evangelist at CALinnovates and former director of Gov. Jerry Brown’s GOBiz initiative. He can be contacted at [email protected]

Originally published in the Sacramento Bee 

 

New Report Shows Californians Are More Connected Than Ever

California’s communications industry is currently in a period of astonishing growth, with the promise of an even brighter future to come. You might even call it a broadband boom. A recent study by Dr. David W. Sosa bears this out. Sosa is a principal at the Analysis Group, an economics consulting firm. His research shows that Californians are embracing the wireless lifestyle.

From 2008 through 2015, California’s total wireless subscriptions jumped by 9.5 million, or 29 percent. At the same time, broadband voice residential connections increased by 220 percent, or 4.9 million users. Meanwhile, legacy wireline users dropped by 36 percent. California’s embrace of broadband and wireless is helping keep the state at the center of the growing technology industry.

To read more about this topic, click here to read a recent op-ed by CALinnovates Chief Evangelist Kish Rajan.

Allow Municipalities the Chance to Build Broadband Networks

After all, who better to know what a community needs than a local government? If elected officials recognize a need for better broadband access in their state, shouldn’t voters have the final say as to who gets to build and maintain its broadband networks?

Every corner of the country deserves access to high-speed Internet.

Read more on The Huffington Post

 

A Tale of Three Cutting-Edge Cities

“The road to failure is often paved with good intentions,” famed writer Samuel Johnson might have said.

Just ask Riverside, California. Back in 2006, the city set out to build a municipal Wi-Fi network for its citizens. But a severe lack of interest from customers prompted the city’s original communications partner to pull away from the project.  The city scrambled to find resources to build and maintain the network, ultimately costing residents more than $700,000 per year for a network to live up to the hype.  the Wi-Fi network never even reached two-thirds of the population and has been described as obsolete.

In other words, the good intentions from Riverside officials have resulted in a costly, and failed, experiment on the taxpayer’s dime.

Read the full article on Tech Zulu

Connectivity Needed to Build Stronger Merced, Region

As featured in The Sacramento Bee
By: Mike Montgomery

Can Merced be the next Silicon Valley?

According to a recent study from the Pew Research Center, 70 percent of Americans now subscribe to broadband Internet service at home, and an additional 10 percent of Americans have broadband access at home via a smartphone.

While that’s the good news, there are still some communities in America that lack some kind of broadband or Internet access at home. About 7 percent of Americans say they lack Internet access altogether.

Read the full article here.

 

Racy App Highlights Broadband Issue

By Mike Montgomery
As seen in SF Examiner 

At this very moment, somewhere in San Francisco, an innovative new product is being tested and refined. This product harnesses the power of smartphones, mobile broadband and mobile apps to … well … offer women around the world and their partners a new way to (ahem) connect.

The product is a smartphone app called Vibease (no, really), and it’s being billed as the world’s first “smart vibrator” (no, really). Rather than fumble through my own explanation of how Vibease works, I’ll just crib liberally from the company’s CrunchBase profile: Vibease is a private social network for couples with massager integration. Couples can use Vibease for chatting and share their moments. The best part is the woman’s partner can control her massager using an iPhone or Android phone even though they are separated by distance.

So there’s that.

But here’s the thing: Even if an app-driven vibrator doesn’t tickle your fancy, there does appear to be a market for it. Or at the very least, there are investors who believe there’s a market. Vibease is already $40,000 above its crowdsourced fundraising target on Indiegogo. It has also received seed funding from angel investors and $25,000 in venture funds. With that kind of startup capital, Vibease has to be taken seriously even if its product tends to incite giggles.

It also … and you better hang on to something, because I might lose you with my upcoming segue … it also highlights the need for smart spectrum policies from the Federal Communications Commission.

You see, while masturbazione (as the Italians call it) has been around since we were scribbling in caves, the widespread consumer adoption of mobile broadband is a relatively recent development. But much like the act of shôuyín (as it’s called in China), relying on our mobile devices to get online anytime and anywhere has become a major part of our daily lives. Some of us do it several times a day.

But the unprecedented popularity of mobile broadband faces, well, some obstruction. As Vibease has made clear, there seems to be no limit to what app developers will imagine, nor to what wireless customers will find helpful. This incredible demand for more mobile devices and more applications is where the problem emerges. It’s one thing when consumers have the power to check email and visit their favorite websites wirelessly. It rises to another level when consumers need to also power more data-intensive apps like streaming video (and … well, anything else you might want to stream) that require higher-spectrum resources.

The point of all this (and thank you for staying with me this far) is that when it comes to products and services powered by mobile broadband, we’re only beginning to scratch the surface. Ten years ago, smartphones did not yet exist as we know them, and the idea of a smart vibrator probably had never come up. The fact that smartphones are now everywhere and apps like Vibease are drawing serious interest from investors should be enough to tell us that truly anything is possible with mobile broadband. Whatever innovative ideas arise next, our wireless networks must be equipped with ample spectrum in order to be ready.

This means we cannot afford to impose artificial constraints on the opportunity for providers to obtain more spectrum. When designing its upcoming 2014 spectrum auction, the FCC needs to keep in mind that every wireless provider, both big and small, needs more spectrum capacity on their networks. If the spectrum auctions are encumbered with restrictions on eligible bidders, and all providers are not allowed to bid equally, then the FCC risks leaving millions of consumers … well, unsatisfied.

Mike Montgomery is the executive director of CALinnovates, which works as a bridge between technology communities in California and the public policy communities in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.

 

 

 

Time to invest in much-needed mobile infrastructure

By Mike Montgomery

Isn’t life quite a bit easier with apps on your phone and fast Internet connections? Broadband-high-speed Internet-has become a crucial tool for rural and urban residents alike.

Turlock is no stranger to the benefits of increased access to high-speed Internet. In Stanislaus County, broadband lets people join meetings in Los Angeles, take online calculus classes through the University of California, and enables veterans to consult with specialists through telemedicine at the VA’s Modesto Clinic. Want to renew your library book at the Stanislaus County Library? No problem. There’s an app for that, too.

Seventy percent of Central Valley residents now report that they have broadband at home, compared to 53 percent in 2008, according to Public Policy Institute of California. While this percentage trails the rates of other metropolitan regions of the state such as San Francisco and San Diego, the Central Valley has made significant strides in broadband adoption.

Read the Full Article.

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