Introducing the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

By the Executive Director

Broadband has quickly emerged as the most transformative technology of our generation — delivering opportunities and strengthening communities. As broadband’s capability to transform lives and society has grown, so too has it become the driving mission of the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society.

Connecting our entire nation through High-Performance Broadband will bring remarkable economic, social, cultural, and personal benefits. In the Digital Age, open, affordable, robust broadband is the key to all of us reaching for — and achieving — the American Dream.

Since the mid-1990s, the U.S. has struggled with a persistent dilemma called the digital divide — the unfortunate reality that for too many people, meaningful connectivity is out of reach. As we enter a new decade, America encounters three inter-locking challenges:

Closing the Geographic Divide. In both rural and urban areas, millions of Americans are waiting for the deployment of robust broadband networks. Broadband is advancing in some places, which is good, but the fact is we don’t have an accurate count of how many people are on the wrong side of the digital divide and where they live. What we know is that places without robust broadband are falling further and further behind. We cannot let where we live determine our potential to connect.

Harnessing Competition. Even in areas that are served by adequate broadband networks, consumers lack choice of providers. Without competition, consumers are threatened with artificially high prices, lower-quality service, and little innovation. We cannot let lack of choice harm consumers.

Boosting Affordability & Adoption. For too many people, the cost of broadband is too high and the digital skills needed to use broadband effectively are absent. The result is people disconnected from continuing their education, gaining new job skills, and finding employment. We cannot let high prices divide people from opportunity.

Confronting these divides requires bold leadership and informed solutions.

Continue reading HERE.

Advertisements

Broadband Is Too Important for This Many in the US to Be Disconnected

For the vast majority of us, broadband has become so commonplace in our professional, personal, and social lives that we rarely think about how much we depend on it. Yet without broadband, our lives would be radically upended: Our work days would look different, we would spend our leisure time differently, and even our personal relationships would exist differently.

But if broadband is an essential part of daily American life in the 21st century, how can we be comfortable with the fact that over 19 million households do not have a mobile or in-home subscription? Imagine if an electricity outage like the 2003 Northeast blackout occurred every day. Or if the Flint water crisis impacted the entire states of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin. That’s the scale of broadband disconnect this country experiences.

Simply put, the country needs to make an aggressive case to reach universal broadband adoption. But what does that even mean? Compared to electricity and water, do we understand all the ways broadband impacts individual and community wellbeing? Based on an initial scan of academic and applied research, the short answer is no.

With communities all across the country exploring ways to overcome the digital divide, and with Congress sending clear signals about the importance to address rural disconnect, now is an opportune time to help policymakers and practitioners understand the benefits of pursuing new infrastructure, public policies, and training programs. For us, that process begins with understanding where the current state of knowledge is clear and where it falls short.

Continue reading at Brookings.edu

 

Federal Reserve Bank Report on Broadband Digital Divide

The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City released its report Disconnected: Seven Lessons on Fixing the Digital Divide on July 31st at a State Broadband Leaders Network Meeting.

CONCLUSION: THREE OPPORTUNITIES FOR ACTION

The digital divide is wide and complex. No one group can bridge the divide alone—not government, banks, businesses or community organizations. Each of these groups, however, must play a role if the divide is to be narrowed.

This report identified three specific opportunities for action, which align with the three legs of the digital 1inclusion stool:

1. Research and evaluate the impact of policy on broadband expansion.

Good policy requires good data. Throughout this project, we found research related to the economic affect broadband has on communities. The studies documented the correlation between broadband and economic opportunity, but questions remain as to what policies best encourage broadband expansion. Policies vary greatly from one state to the next, especially as it relates to which types of entities—large carriers, small independent for-profit providers, municipalities and cooperatives—are allowed to build and operate networks. Elected officials would find it easier to make informed decisions if they had access to research on the effectiveness of these policies on boosting broadband deployment and improving affordability. Broader research on improving affordability and adoption would also help inform the field.

2. Support and expand workforce development programs focused on digital skills training.

Digital skills are a must for the in-demand jobs of today and tomorrow. Innovative approaches to preparing workers can provide a pathway to living-wage jobs that don’t require a four-year degree, or, in many cases, even a two-year degree. Simply training workers on basic office-related programs like email and word processing can boost their employability. Registered apprenticeship programs can further expedite the process of developing and onboarding qualified workers. Workforce development programs targeting LMI individuals may also attract interest from banks seeking CRA-related activities, as outlined in Engaging Workforce Development: A Framework for Meeting CRA Obligations by the Federal Reserve Banks of Dallas and Kansas City.

3. Support computer donation programs targeting those in need.

Businesses, government agencies, universities and other anchor institutions frequently replace computers in two-year to four-year cycles. Surplus computers have little monetary value, typically just pennies on the dollar. When donated, though, they can make a significant difference—whether the computer goes to a low-income mom pursuing her education, or a student learning to code. A donated computer can be a low-cost, high-impact way to change one’s economic trajectory. Such initiatives, particularly when targeting LMI populations and combined with workforce training programs, could also attract interest from banks seeking CRA-related activities.

The full report, with a long section on rural broadband, including a sidebar on mapping issues, can be downloaded HERE.

Broadband Speed and Unemployment Rates: Data and Measurement Issues

 

Study finds high-speed internet reduces Unemployment. Justification for making sure your community has high-speed access.

Abstract

We examine the effects of broadband speed on county unemployment rates in the U.S. state of Tennessee. We merge the older National Broadband Map dataset and the newer FCC dataset in lengthening our broadband access data over the period 2011-2015. Extending the dataset improves the precision of the estimates. Our panel regressions control for potential selection bias and reverse causality and show that broadband speed matters: unemployment rates are about 0.26 percentage points lower in counties with high speeds compared to counties with low speeds. Ultra-high speed broadband also appears to reduce unemployment rates; however, we are unable to distinguish between the effects of high and ultra-high speed broadband. We document beneficial effects of the early adoption of high speed broadband on unemployment rates. Better quality broadband appears to have a disproportionately greater effect in rural areas.

The full report can be downloaded HERE.

 

Broadband subscriptions are up, but too many households are still disconnected

Brookings Study:

The American economy has gone digital and broadband is the connective tissue enabling that transformation. Two decades into the 21st century, it’s impossible to categorize broadband as anything but essential infrastructure.

However, broadband doesn’t yet look like the country’s other essential systems. Unlike water and energy, which reach almost all households, broadband subscription gaps are sizable and build barriers to economic opportunity in the process. Whether it’s consumers who are forced to pay higher prices at a local store than online, children who must travel to do web-based homework, or job seekers missing out on employment openings, Americans who lack a private broadband subscription shoulder substantial costs.

It’s vital, then, to track how broadband subscriptions look across the country—both nationally and in individual communities. Over the past four years, the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) has asked households whether they have access to the Internet “using a broadband (high speed) Internet service such as cable, fiber optic, or DSL service….” The answers reveal where subscriptions are ticking up and where gaps persist.

Full Report is HERE

FCC Moves Toward Auction of Airwaves Useful for Fast 5G Service

Todd Shields writing at Bloomberg

U.S. regulators set rules for gear operating in a swathe of airwaves that may be useful for fast 5G networks, helping to set the stage for an auction of the frequencies to mobile carriers.

The Federal Communications Commission with a 4-0 vote Thursday said equipment used in the 24 GHz airwaves must be capable of operating across all parts of that airwaves band. The requirement is designed to support full use of the airwaves.

[. . .]

The action should lead to an early 2019 auction that could fetch $3.2 billion, according to a note Thursday from Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Matthew Kanterman. The sale would follow an auction of 28 GHz licenses late this year.

[. . .]

High frequencies such as 24 GHz and 28 GHz are considered ideal for the short-range, high-capacity requirements of the internet of things, a term for the millions of connected devices from cars to refrigerators that are expected to take advance of the speedy 5G connections.

Source: Bloomberg

At present, 24GHz is an unlicensed frequency that can be used for microwave point to point wireless backhaul communication. Typically for short-range communications under 2 miles. However, the appearance of the foliage in the path of the signal can play a significant role in the quality of service (QoS) for wireless communications. Discrete scatterers such as the randomly distributed leaves, twigs, branches and tree trunks can cause attenuation, scattering, diffraction, and absorption of the radiated waves. This attenuation will severely constrain the design of modern wireless communication systems. When wind and rain are present in the signal path these common conditions can induce an additional reduction in quality of service.

It is clear that the use of 24GHz in rural forested regions will present some significant challenges for usersm 5G is not a rural friendlycommunication technology.

 

 

How Big Wireless Made Us Think That Cell Phones Are Safe: A Special Investigation

The Nation has a long article on cell phone safety and the impact of 5G radiation.

The article is HERE. After a long argument against the use of the cell phone the article concludes:

The wireless industry’s determination to bring about the Internet of Things, despite the massive increase in radiation exposure this would unleash, raises the stakes exponentially. Because 5G radiation can only travel short distances, antennas roughly the size of a pizza box will have to be installed approximately every 250 feet to ensure connectivity. “Industry is going to need hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of new antenna sites in the United States alone,” said Moskowitz, the UC Berkeley researcher. “So people will be bathed in a smog of radiation 24/7.”

There is an alternative approach, rooted in what some scientists and ethicists call the “precautionary principle,” which holds that society doesn’t need absolute proof of hazard to place limits on a given technology. If the evidence is sufficiently solid and the risks sufficiently great, the precautionary principle calls for delaying the deployment of that technology until further research clarifies its impacts. The scientists’ petition discussed earlier urges government regulators to apply the precautionary principle to 5G technology. Current safety guidelines “protect industry—not health,” contends the petition, which “recommend[s] a moratorium on the roll-out of [5G]…until potential hazards for human health and the environment have been fully investigated by scientists independent from industry.”

No scientist can say with certainty how many wireless-technology users are likely to contract cancer, but that is precisely the point: We simply don’t know. Nevertheless, we are proceeding as if we do know the risk, and that the risk is vanishingly small. Meanwhile, more and more people around the world, including countless children and adolescents, are getting addicted to cell phones every day, and the shift to radiation-heavy 5G technology is regarded as a fait accompli. Which is just how Big Wireless likes it.

My question is if the use of cell phone is increasing across the US, is brain cancer rates increasing in parallel? From the graphic below, brain cancers show a slight decline, while cell phone use has been increasing.

brain cancer stats

https://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/brain.html

Is The Nation article valid, or just more scaremongering?  If brain cancer and cell phone use are connected, brain cancers should be increasing.  Your thoughts?

Brookings CTI: Building a Secure 5G Network Without Nationalization

According to news reports, President Trump’s National Security Council staff has proposed government ownership of a 5G wireless network as a solution to the cybersecurity challenges presented by the new technology. Former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler calls the suggestion “mind boggling” and argues that it may dampen investment in 5G infrastructure.

Full Article HERE

 

 

Internet use at home soars to more than 17 hours per week

Since the internet became mainstream less than 20 years ago, faith in traditional institutions and consumption of traditional media has also been displaced by faith in newer, digital institutions and consumption of newer, digital media, according to the 15th annual Digital Future Report recently produced by the USC Annenberg Center for the Digital Future.

In the years since the USC Annenberg Center for the Digital Future published its first Digital Future Report in 2000, the internet has evolved from a secondary medium to an essential component of daily life.

Over the course of that time:

Overall internet penetration has increased from 67 to 92 percent.
Total hours per week online has steadily increased from 9.4 to 23.6.
Internet usage at home has risen from 3.3 to 17.6 hours per week.

The effect on our relationships, to media and each other

Perhaps the largest change affecting our online behavior over the life of the report was the introduction of the iPhone and other smartphone technologies in 2007, which increased the internet’s always on — and always with us — technology capabilities.

Since 2010 alone:

  • People who use their phone to access the internet has skyrocketed from 23 to 84 percent.
  • Use of smartphone email has nearly quadrupled from 21 to 79 percent.
  • The use of mobile apps increased from 49 to 74 percent.
  • GPS location service use has gone from 12 to 71 percent.
  • The percentage of people who stream music on their phone has increased from 13 to 67 percent.

Since 2001, the internet has also had an indelible impact on our relationship to physical media, and not just evidenced by the shuttering of Borders, Blockbuster Video stores and so many newspapers. In one of the most dramatic changes to occur over the life of the report, the ratio of print-to-online news consumption for all ages has gone from 85-15 in 2001 to near-parity at 51-49 in 2016.

The center also found that social networking impacted offline relationships — 62 percent said the internet was important or very important for maintaining social relationships.

Source: USC News

These numbers are for those fortunate enough to have internet which is fast enough to encourage use. Many families living in rural communities have no internet or very slow internet that will only support email and limited surfing. These number could be even higher if everyone had access to high-speed internet.

RF Energy to Treat Alzheimer

There has been a lot of concern and some brew ha ha about the danger of cell phone radiation. Details here and here.

Here is another view on the potential benefits of cell phone radiation.

Radio Amateur’s Invention to Treat Alzheimer’s Patients Going to Clinical Trials

Inveterate inventor and radio amateur Eric Knight, KB1EHE, may be on the cusp of medical history as a device he developed in collaboration with a prominent Alzheimer’s disease researcher enters clinical trials this month. Both are hoping that the device, which essentially saturates the brain with low levels of RF, may prove to be a viable treatment for the dreaded disease affecting millions.

“Sometimes breakthroughs happen in ways that are unexpected,” Knight told ARRL.

Knight learned of experiments that world-renowned Alzheimer’s researcher Dr. Gary Arendash was carrying out on mice specially bred to have the disease, exposing them to low levels of RF. Knight said the effects were dramatic, sometimes even reversing the disease’s effects in the mice. Borrowing some concepts from his early experiments with small rockets and avionics, he set about developing, and later patented, a device that could provide the requisite RF exposure to the human head.

“In the early 2000s, we were trying to figure out then how to make antennas that would wrap around the airframes of the rockets we were designing,” he said, noting that the diameter of his group’s space vehicle was about the same as that of a human head. Knight learned that Arendash was attempting to extend his investigations in a similar vein, and eventually they collaborated.

“He came at it from mice and science, I came at it from an aerospace and hobby perspective,” said Knight, who patented a device based on a bicycle-type helmet. At the same time, Arendash was developing a similar wearable — a fabric cap resembling an old-time aviator’s headgear. Both devices are embedded with small antennas to bathe the brain in electromagnetic radiation in the 900 MHz spectrum set aside for Industrial, Scientific, and Medical (ISM) applications — some 100 MHz higher than a cell phone’s frequency.  [Editor emphasis added]

“Ironic for sure,” Knight said. “Who would imagine that cell phone radio waves could be a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease?”

Knight, who has no medical background, said the device to be used in the clinical trials consists of the cap plus a palm-sized transmitter and wiring harness worn on the arm. The resulting combination has been dubbed the NeuroEM 1000. Participants will get doses of RF twice a day.

From the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) standpoint, the clinical trials aim primarily to show that the technology is safe, but Knight said he and Arendash are also looking for data that might demonstrate that the device could be beneficial in treating Alzheimer’s. The protocol they’ve developed goes further than what the FDA requires and includes before-and-after baseline data, with cognitive testing, assays of spinal fluid and blood, and PET scans.

“The hope is that there is a tiny bit of efficacy. Then we can work to refine it,” Knight said, adding, “No one is expecting a magic cure.”

H/T ARRL Newsletter 12/21/17