Category Archives: Wireless Technology

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

CALinnovates Lauds Senate Confirmation of Wheeler and O’Rielly to FCC

Encourages new FCC Chairman and Commissioner to tackle spectrum auctions and IP Trials

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 30, 2013 — CALinnovates today issued the following statements in light of the unanimous Senate approval of Tom Wheeler to be Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Michael O’Rielly for FCC Commissioner.

Executive Director Mike Montgomery said:

I’m delighted that Tom Wheeler has finally been confirmed as FCC Chairman. He’s a well-regarded tech veteran who takes the wheel at a critical time for the Commission.  His experience will no doubt serve him well. I also look forward to seeing the many talents of Commissioner Michael O’Rielly in action in his new position.

With California’s economy increasingly dependent upon the tech industry, I hope Wheeler and O’Rielly will apply new energy and focus on two critical issues: The transition to next-generation high-speed broadband networks, and freeing up more airwaves via open spectrum auctions that allow all carriers to bid equally and without restriction.  Both of these issues are essential to the ongoing health of our economy — not just in California, but nationwide. Quick work is vital if we are going to keep the app economy thriving.

Barbara O’Connor, Ph.D., a CALinnovates Advisory Board Member, Emeritus Professor on Communication at California State University, Sacramento and an Officer and Director of the California Emerging Technology Fund, says Wheeler is an expert at working with all government agencies to shape a coherent administration policy:

My experience in working with Tom Wheeler is that he is skilled at consensus-driven policymaking by working with all interested parties.  Chairman Wheeler has the opportunity to tackle great challenges, including expanded access to high-speed broadband.  Our country is fortunate to have him at the helm of the FCC.

CALinnovates Advisory Board Member Josh Becker, CEO of Lex Machina, applauds the Senate for approving the appointment of Wheeler:

Silicon Valley and the entire California technology community welcome the confirmation of Mr. Wheeler as Chairman of the FCC.  This is an important first step in moving the commission forward on a variety of issues that will ultimately lead to greater innovation and increased opportunities for all Americans.

About CALinnovates

CALinnovates serves as a bridge between the thriving and fast paced technology communities based in California and the slower moving but equally important public policy communities in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. Our members include C-level executives, political leaders, entrepreneurs, techies and California consumers interested in keeping up with the latest in public policy and innovation.

Strange Bedfellows

By: Mike Montgomery
As featured on The Huffington Post 

There have been many-storied rivalries in American history. In the 1800s, the bitter political rivalry between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton was settled with a famous duel. Later that century, the Hatfields started warring with the McCoys, leaving behind epic tales still told today. Two-hundred years later, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird staged heated battles on the basketball court, and actors Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie remain bitter rivals in the battle over Brad Pitt’s heart. Despite the intensity, the rivalries were all ultimately settled. Burr shot Hamilton dead, the Hatfields and McCoys hugged it out, Magic and Larry became friends, and Brangelina became the “it” couple while Aniston is engaged to be married, hopefully putting an end to the tabloid-style coverage of the matter.

Rivalries exist everywhere in life, even in the exciting world of communications policy. Communications and technology company AT&T and public interest group Public Knowledge are widely known to lock horns on matters of public policy, often bitterly. But it seems this rivalry may have a little more Magic-and-Bird vibe to it than Hamilton-and-Burr. Of late, the communications company and the advocacy group seem to have put aside their differences and locked arms in solidarity over the vision for the future of next generation communications infrastructure. Perhaps this doesn’t have the drama of some of the other famous feuds, but in the communications policy world, when something like this happens, it’s worth paying attention to because it must be important.

Specifically, AT&T found common ground with a white paper Public Knowledge released about the transition from antiquated telephone networks to the advanced high-speed broadband networks of the future. In this paper, Public Knowledge articulated five principles to govern the transition:

1) Service to all Americans
2) Interconnection and Competition
3) Consumer Protection
4) Network Reliability
5) Public Safety

For those not regularly knee deep in matters of communications policy, these five principles are basically a distillation of the ideas that have always guided communications in America, which is undoubtedly why AT&T agrees with them. As a recent post on the company’s Public Policy Blog states:

There were several points in Public Knowledge’s white paper that we could have written ourselves at AT&T. First, the transition has to occur. Our old reliable TDM technology is obsolete and defined by two words: “Manufacturer discontinued.” Second, the fundamental principles of universal connectivity, consumer protection, reliability and public safety — all hallmarks of our Nation’s centuries old commitment to communications — should not be lost in this transition.

Indeed, it appears maintaining this central principle — that everyone should remain connected — was the goal of AT&T’s petition with the Federal Communications Commission to conduct regulatory “beta trials” in select markets as the outdated copper networks are upgraded and modernized. The idea behind these trials is that by ironing out potential issues in its micro stages, the transition will go much more smoothly when taken macro.

AT&T notes that some 70 percent of households in the company’s wireline footprint have already ditched their traditional landline. It is precisely the inevitability of this transition to next generation high-speed broadband networks that makes the AT&T and Public Knowledge accord less surprising. It is obvious technology is evolving and it is equally as obvious that people are choosing to communicate in new, innovative ways. The five principles represent the shared universal goals to pursue as policy and regulation try to modernize to keep up with the speed of technological innovation.

The idea of modernizing our infrastructure with next generation broadband networks isn’t at all new or controversial; consumers, consumer groups, and corporate America have spoken, and they’re all saying the same thing. The only question is whether government agencies can work with the various stakeholders to make such a monumental upgrade to our nation’s communications infrastructure quickly enough, while ensuring sufficient consumer protection. If the AT&T/Public Knowledge cease-fire teaches us anything, feuds and rivalries come and go. When common sense prevails, progress is a certainty.

Competitive Field of Spectrum Bidders Benefits Everyone

As featured on Daily Kos 
By: Mike Montgomery

$12 billion.

That’s a lot of clams, even to the federal government. But that’s approximately how much the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will be leaving on the table if they restrict some bidders during their upcoming spectrum incentive auctions, according to economists Robert J. Shapiro, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, and Coleman Bazelon. In their study published by Georgetown University, “The Economic Implications of Restricting Spectrum Purchases in the Incentive Auctions,” the trio warn that limiting just two participants — Verizon and AT&T — from taking part in spectrum auctions could “reduce auction revenues by about 40 percent.”

But wait, there’s more. The group also estimates that forcing certain providers to watch from the sidelines could raise consumer bills by 9 percent. In short, the federal government will be refusing money, and consumers will be paying more money for their wireless service.

If that sounds backward to you, you’re not alone.

The fact of the matter is providers big and small desperately need more spectrum to meet the customers’ demands. The unprecedented popularity of smartphones and tablets — and all the mobile data their owners use — are taxing networks. It’s a problem former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski called “America’s looming spectrum crisis.” And unless more airwaves are freed up for wireless use soon, the word “looming” will no longer apply.

Congess’ bold incentive auctions — which, in a nutshell, will enable broadcasters to voluntarily sell their spectrum holdings in exchange for compensation — are aimed at helping alleviate this problem. On paper, the auctions could be a boon for both the broadcasters and the federal government, and wireless providers will be able to breathe a bit easier knowing their networks won’t suddenly seize up due to overcapacity. Call it a win-win-win.

Actually, call it four wins. The tech industry will also benefit, since more spectrum will mean more powerful and reliable wireless network capabilities. Bigger pipes, as they say, for bigger ideas.

But in order for us to rack up all these wins, the FCC must ensure the same rules apply to every bidder across the board. Restricting some carriers from being able to purchase the spectrum they need at auction won’t foster competition; if anything, it fosters the spirit of uncompetitive behavior.

Whatever framework the FCC decides upon should depend on two factors: getting the most bang for the spectrum buck, and perhaps more importantly, ensuring that those bidding are able to put newly acquired spectrum to use quickly and efficiently. After all, airwaves purchased and locked in the vault won’t help anybody.

That’s what makes the idea of restricting some providers from fully participating in the spectrum auctions about more than the potential loss of billions in much needed revenue for the federal government. In the end, consumers — the very ones the FCC are theoretically trying to help — will end up losing the most, either through higher prices or declining service quality. Those are two consequences consumers shouldn’t have to face.

View the article on the Daily Kos website here

Two Days With Touré

As a strong proponent of preserving the Internet as a platform for communication and commerce kept free from burdensome regulation, I geeked out when I knew I would be spending time with the guy I perceived as leading the charge against our virtuous, sacred Internet.

I refer, of course, to the head of the International Telecommunication Union (“ITU”), Dr. Hamadoun Touré, who convened the World Conference on International Telecommunication (“WCIT”) late last year. I expected Dr. Touré to be the Internet’s equivalent of a goose farmer cultivating foie gras, force-feeding regulation down the Internet’s throat.

But for all the criticism heaped upon the ITU for its goals and process before, during and after the WCIT, I was surprised by a few of the notes Touré struck during his visit to Stanford University. During his keynote speech, Touré advocated for every single draconian proposed change to the world’s telecommunications laws, which was exactly what I expected from him. But what really stood out to me was his recognition of the need for updated communications infrastructure.

Touré spoke of all-IP (Internet protocol) networks springing up around the world and the need to embrace this technological advance as the next frontier in a hyper-connected world. He told the sold-out crowd that nations around the world are installing these IP networks with great success, spawning the creation of exciting micro-economies that didn’t previously exist. Touré implied that the U.S. has an opportunity to lap the rest of the world in terms of installing all-IP networks. Extrapolating on Touré’s statement, the U.S. must speed the transition in order to continue to stay ahead of the curve domestically while retaining our competitive edge globally.

Interestingly, while Dr. Touré seems to prescribe regulation as the solution to virtually every problem facing the Internet, his answer to the question of how to encourage faster and greater deployment of IP networks stands in stark contrast to that position. Oh the irony! He says the way to go is “light-touch regulation,” which limits the extent to which government should intervene with the management of the Internet ecosystem.

Obviously, I didn’t agree with everything Dr. Hamadoun Touré had to say over the course of the two-day Stanford symposium. However, I was thrilled to learn that the leader of the ITU is a vocal opponent of heavy regulations when it comes to transitioning the United States to the IP future we so desperately need.

Follow Mike Montgomery on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@calinnovates

There’s Something Crazy in the Air

Bananas.

That’s the best way to describe the current state of the wireless industry. Absolutely bananas.

Smartphones, tablets, LTE-enabled laptops, wirelessly connected cars… each day brings some new gadget, some new device tapping into the power of wireless networks. There are north of 300 hundred million people in the U.S., and according to Pew some 85% of them now own a cellphone. Of that group, 58% have upgraded to a smartphone. Do a little scribbling on the back of an envelope and you get something around 135 million people walking around with a wireless connection to the Internet in their pocket.

That’s a lot of people pushing out a lot of data. Billions of bytes, 24 hours a day. And all that traffic, all those bits and bytes and gigs, they all require spectrum to travel from points A to B, which is why wireless providers are currently on major shopping sprees. Investing billions to acquire more airwaves. Swapping frequencies in different markets. Working with the government to free up more spectrum in order to keep up with demand.

Earlier this month, T-Mobile merged with smaller provider MetroPCS. Early last week, satellite TV provider DISH Network pitched north of $25 billion to acquire wireless provider Sprint — a bid above what Japanese company SoftBank had also offered for the company. And those are just the two most recent moves. As mobile broadband continues to explode in popularity, there are going to be many more deals to come.

Call it a free market frenzy. A wireless lollapalooza, even. As the Federal Communications Commission continues to creep toward its proposed spectrum incentive auctions — which will, hopefully, free up a ton more spectrum for wireless use — providers aren’t waiting around. They can’t afford to. The wireless industry is one of our most vibrant sectors, and a big reason for that is competition. Even the biggest players are constantly forced to invest billions in order to meet the demands of their customers.

In such a highly competitive environment, the best thing the government can do is keep things from slowing down. That starts with ensuring the FCC auctions are open to every player willing to make the investment in — and quickly put to use — newly freed up airwaves. Hitting that mark will bring the government the most bang for its spectrum buck. It will also provide customers and the tech community with more robust networks. Ones that are able to keep up with innovations just around the corner.

The government can also help by encouraging wireless providers to work together in order to meet the challenge of ever increasing demand. As DISH’s flirting with Sprint shows, there’s no shortage of players hoping to get into the provider game. But even with the FCC’s auctions, it will take providers striking deals with each other to keep connections strong and the industry growing.

By focusing on smart oversight, regulators can protect consumers and maintain a vibrant wireless industry at the same time. That way, when it comes to the future of the industry,bananas will be just the beginning.

Follow Mike Montgomery on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@calinnovates

Mike Montgomery: President Obama’s State of the Union Address Should Offer Hope for the New Economy

Today, speechwriters in the West Wing will put the finishing touches on President Obama’s State of the Union address. The State of the Union provides every President an unparalleled opportunity to showcase his policy priorities. And the opportunity is never more valuable than in an inaugural year, when it can set the tone for the next four. This year I hope the President speaks to the digital economy and, specifically, California’s burgeoning tech sector.

In my dream scenario, the President’s speech will sketch a blueprint for building a stronger future for America. To me that means focusing some policies on Silicon Valley and San Francisco, still the headquarters of the new economy, a fact that Washington seems to forget from time-to-time. Tech-friendly policy initiatives will directly benefit the new economy, California, and the U.S. Take these, for example:

Give the app economy a boost. As consumers and businesses use more and more data, California’s burgeoning app economy could use a digital infrastructure upgrade, which could be accomplished by moving to all-IP networks across the country. A new Brookings Institution book by Robert Litan and Hal Singer, The Need for Speed: A New Framework for Telecommunications Policy for the 21st Century, offers a potential roadmap for a regulatory re-think that could help expedite the delivery of broadband to consumers and keep the new economy humming. Meanwhile, the federal government, under President Obama’s leadership, needs to speed the reallocation of underutilized spectrum, the invisible radio waves over which our connected devices communicate. If our telecommunications infrastructure clogs up like our freeways at rush hour, either because of inadequate spectrum or insufficient private investment, then our app economy will suffer.

Read the Full Article on the Daily Kos

CALinnovates and California-Based Tech Groups Ask FCC to Speed Modernization of Nation’s Communications Networks

CALinnovates and California-Based Tech Groups Ask FCC to Speed Modernization of Nation’s Communications Networks

Comment supports petition seeking national conversation on speeding up transition to all-IP based networks with beta trials to measure consumer benefits

 

SAN FRANCISCO – CALinnovates, a tech advocacy organization, along with eight other California-based tech groups-Alphabird, Appallicious,At The Pool, Avetta, ,iSideWith, Lex Machina, MySocialCloud, and the Silicon Valley Italian Executive Council–have jointly filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) expressing support for a petition currently pending at the Commission.

The petition, submitted last year by AT&T, asks the FCC to work with the private sector to begin geographically-limited beta tests to examine the complex technical and policy issues associated with the transition away from existing legacy voice networks to modern IP-based networks. The guidelines provided in the petition propose a framework that will allow the private sector and the government to address the operational, technical and policy issues related to the transition to new IP-based networks in an open and transparent process.

“Startups in-and-around Silicon Valley need reliable, forward-looking high-speed networks to deliver for our customers,” said Chase Norlin, CEO of Alphabird. “Supporting the rapid development of communications infrastructure will allow us to maintain a free and open Internet, encourage private investment, and support innovation and free flowing ideas.”

“Existing regulations mandate continued investment in outdated, 20th century networks that consumers are using less and less,” said CALinnovates Executive Director Mike Montgomery. “Old school networks can’t offer the infrastructure needed for seamless communication of voice, data, video, and Internet applications among various devices.”

Montgomery continued, “This petition is a first step in determining how the FCC and the private sector can work together to upgrade the country’s communications infrastructure beyond the limited capabilities of networks designed for voice-only communication. The new communications ecosystem no longer operates solely through telephone companies. This filing is about updating a regulatory environment that promotes access to new technologies, protects consumers, and enhances our economic productivity.”

“The beta trials deploying IP-enabled networks will help accelerate the evolution of technology and drive increased connectivity and innovation, while fostering immense capital investment,” said Montgomery. “Investing in stronger and faster IP networks will provide substantial benefits to consumers and businesses nationwide ranging from job creation to greater access to education, healthcare, training, and public safety.”

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Contact: Mike Montgomery
[email protected]
415-494-8626

 

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$14 Billion Additional Investment in Broadband Networks Means Big Things for Consumers and Innovators

For Immediate Release
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Contact: Mike Montgomery
[email protected]
415-494-8626

 

$14 Billion Additional Investment in Broadband Networks Means Big Things for Consumers and Innovators

CALinnovates’ new infographic says evolving consumer behavior demands private sector investment to expand communications infrastructure and support tech innovation

 

SAN FRANCISCO – California’s economic recovery will be bolstered by a recent announcement that AT&T plans to invest an additional $14 billion to expand and enhance its wired and wireless Internet Protocol (IP) broadband networks.  For Californians looking for expanded access to the benefits of the Internet, this development signals great optimism for the future of communications, according to CALinnovates, a San Francisco-based high-tech advocacy group.

According to their 3-year investment plan, 300 million people will be covered by AT&T 4G LTE by the end of 2014, and millions more will have access to next-generation wireline IP broadband networks.  CALinnovates Executive Director Mike Montgomery stated, “Connecting virtually everyone in the U.S. with high-speed Internet is a long stride in the right direction toward meeting the goal of President Obama’s National Broadband Plan.  And we know that high-speed Internet connections, both wired and wireless, create the kind of jobs we urgently need right now.”

“Consumers, entrepreneurs and people everywhere are clamoring for more connectivity and faster speeds.  It takes this kind of multi-billion dollar private sector investment to give people the high-speed connections they want and need,” said Montgomery.  “Investment is the linchpin to staying ahead of the massive growth in consumer demand for speed, data capacity and devices and apps that are now central to our lives.”

A new CALinnovates infographic on its website documents how consumers are driving the market that is revolutionizing communications and creating skyrocketing demand for new technology that can handle more data than ever before.  In describing the infographic, Montgomery said, “Consumers today want to be connected everywhere in every way possible.  But, we can’t take for granted the robust high-speed networks that are necessary to carry the innovations that are driving the economy and improving our lives.  Those networks require mega investments to keep them growing and improving.”

“Continued investment to build the communications infrastructure of the future is what will keep the U.S. and Silicon Valley ahead of the innovation curve,” he said.

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A New Era in Communications: Evolution of Consumer Habits [INFOGRAPHIC]