Martha Buyer
Martha Buyer is an attorney whose practice is limited to the practice of telecommunications law. In this capacity, she has...
Read Full Bio >>

Martha Buyer | October 02, 2017 |


Changing Broadband Definitions

Changing Broadband Definitions It's hard to imagine that this is a political issue, but it's a very hot one!

It's hard to imagine that this is a political issue, but it's a very hot one!

Here's a question that's almost as old as the one about the chicken and egg. If too many kids are failing a test, is the test too hard, are kids not working hard enough, or are they not being taught sufficiently well to master the material necessary to pass? Across the spectrum from education to business to sports, and now to Internet access, this type of question gets asked thousands of times when, for any number of reasons (some of them even good ones), defined benchmarks are missed.

Dumbing Down
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai recently suggested that the commission's current standard for home broadband of 25 Mbps/3 Mbps , defined in the FCC's 2015 Broadband Progress Report, was perhaps unnecessarily high (making it costly to deliver in underserved areas). In its stead, he has proposed a mobile broadband standard of 10 Mbps/1 Mbps, which could be easier to deploy. So, rather than actually solving the broadband delivery problem and holding carriers accountable to existing standards, the FCC may be choosing to "make the test easier" for those providers. (Although the data is 20 months old, the FCC's 2016 map showing broadband deployment is very interesting. Take a look, and you'll see that the vast majority of the country's physical space -- as opposed to population centers -- at the time didn't have access to high-speed broadband.)

Section 706(a) of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (Pub. L. No. 104-104, ยง 706(a), 110 Stat. 56, 153) requires the FCC to determine whether broadband or "advanced telecommunications capability" is being deployed to all Americans in a "reasonable and timely" manner. If the FCC determines that this deployment is not occurring as required by law, it's required to "take immediate action to accelerate deployment of such capability by removing barriers to infrastructure investment and by promoting competition in the telecommunications market."

In August, the FCC issued a request for comments in its "Thirteenth Section 706 Report Notice of Inquiry. In the initial comment period, which ended Sept. 22, the commission received a whopping 22 million comments. The reply comments period runs until this Friday, Oct. 6. The volume of comments alone indicates just how critical the issue of broadband deployment is -- not only to consumers and the parties that represent their interests, but also the providers, which would love nothing more than a lower standard of service delivery that would be easier to achieve and less costly to deploy.

Historical Perspective
Some historical context will be useful. Internet speed and access is, as it turns out, a hot political issue (think powerful lobbyists and shareholder return on investment versus consumer interests). The FCC during George W. Bush's tenure accepted that broadband deployment was proceeding in this "reasonable and timely" manner, as noted in this piece by Ars Technica. However, under the Obama Administration, the FCC, under new leadership, believed that deployment was not proceeding at an acceptable speed -- particularly in rural areas. During this time, mobile broadband (10 Mbps/1 Mbps) was NOT considered to be an adequate substitute or replacement for an Internet connection provided by cable, fiber, or other possible technologies. This mobile standard is the one that the current FCC chair has suggested is acceptable. I suppose this standard is better than nothing, but the difference only serves to further separate rural subscribers from urban ones.

One of the most important -- and controversial -- elements of the Open Internet Order of 2015 classified broadband as a "telecommunications service" and not an "information service," thus subjecting broadband to additional regulatory burdens. As a "telecommunications service," broadband is subject to common carrier regulations that provide the FCC with the power to ban blocking, throttling and paid prioritization, among other tools to try to maintain a level playing field. With a new administration whose priority has been to potentially overturn the 'Net neutrality decision, this backing off of the rules may be the route the FCC takes. Commenters have been overwhelmingly negative to this approach.

Particularly in rural communities where the delivery of reliable broadband has been a challenge in the best of circumstances, a policy regression that this proposal represents is not a step forward. If you've ever waited for a page to load on a mobile device when you're used to high-speed service at home, it's easy to understand that this proposed changing of the rules is not only disappointing, but serves to further separate the digital "haves" from the "have nots."

Public Private Partnership
A couple of months ago, I wrote about the impact that J.D. Vance's book "Hillbilly Elegy" has had on my thinking about how broadband services are -- or should be --provided in the rural U.S. Three words -- "public private partnership" -- are essential to any successful broadband deployment in these areas, as Dale Mullen, a retired telecommunications consultant and fierce advocate for rural and municipal broadband, thoughtfully commented to me earlier this month. "Simply put, providers can't build a business case -- i.e., get a return on investment -- for rural broadband. Rural broadband justification is a combination of factors including lifestyle, education, health care, economic development, competition, and subsidy. Public funding has to build the infrastructure components and provide access to the publicly constructed infrastructure at reasonable rates so that sustainable broadband service can be delivered at a reasonable cost to consumers."

Is revising the definition downward to allow for a less robust product the answer? I can't imagine that anyone --with the exception of the providers that don't want to meet the standard -- thinks this is a good idea. Dumbing down the standard -- regardless of the field -- is rarely a good foundation for future growth and development.


October 24, 2018

With disparate workplaces and ever-expanding volumes of information to manage, the challenges for collaborating effectively are only intensifying. Many critical applications are not integrated, and

October 10, 2018

Businesses are growing across international borders quicker than ever, but scaling operations to follow suit can be a harder, longer process.

This webinar focuses on scaling your next-generat

September 26, 2018

Join Kevin Kieller, Microsoft UC&C expert, along with Ribbon Communications and Polycom, for an update on Microsoft Ignite, and a focus on critical things you need to know about your voice deployme

March 12, 2018
An effective E-911 implementation doesn't just happen; it takes a solid strategy. Tune in for tips from IT expert Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research.
March 9, 2018
IT consultant Steve Leaden lays out the whys and how-tos of getting the green light for your convergence strategy.
March 7, 2018
In advance of his speech tech tutorial at EC18, communications analyst Jon Arnold explores what voice means in a post-PBX world.
February 28, 2018
Voice engagement isn't about a simple phone call any longer, but rather a conversational experience that crosses from one channel to the next, as Daniel Hong, a VP and research director with Forrester....
February 16, 2018
What trends and technologies should you be up on for your contact center? Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center & Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2018, gives us the lowdown.
February 9, 2018
Melanie Turek, VP of connected work research at Frost & Sullivan, walks us through key components -- and sticking points -- of customer-oriented digital transformation projects.
February 2, 2018
UC consultant Marty Parker has crunched lots of numbers evaluating UC options; tune in for what he's learned and tips for your own analysis.
January 26, 2018
Don't miss out on the fun! Organizer Alan Quayle shares details of his pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon, TADHack-mini '18, showcasing programmable communications.
December 20, 2017
Kevin Kieller, partner with enableUC, provides advice on how to move forward with your Skype for Business and Teams deployments.
December 20, 2017
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, shares his perspective on artificial intelligence and the future of team collaboration.
December 20, 2017
Delanda Coleman, Microsoft senior marketing manager, explains the Teams vision and shares use case examples.
November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.