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Author Archive

Announcing “The Broadband Availability Gap” Staff Analysis

April 21st, 2010 by Rob Curtis - Deployment Director, Omnibus Broadband Initiative.

By Rob Curtis - Deployment Director and Steve Rosenberg - Manager of Infrastructure, Omnibus Broadband Initiative.

In the Plan, we wrote that 14 million Americans in 7 million homes do not have access to broadband service offering actual download speeds of 4 Mbps and actual upload speeds of 1 Mbps.  We found closing this gap would cost approximately $24 billion. The Plan recommended closing the gap by fundamentally refocusing the FCC universal service fund.

These figures are based on our analysis of the best available data inside the FCC and available from 3rd party sources.  Today, we release The Broadband Availability Gap, a staff technical paper detailing the methodology and model we used in our calculations. This is one of the most extensive, data-driven, detailed, and comprehensive analyses of broadband networks to date.  We believe it uses the best possible approach in light of the data currently available.  Releasing the detailed documentation of this effort also makes this one of the most transparent network analyses ever undertaken.

While complicated, the model we developed for the Plan essentially does two things.

First, it estimates the areas of the country in which 4/1 Mbps is not likely to be available in the next several years.  Our approach uses public and commercial data and relies in part on a statistical model to estimate the availability of broadband in every census block in the country.  This analysis focuses on the capabilities of the “last-mile” infrastructure (the access network), not on either subscribership or retail offerings. As we learn more from better FCC data gathering and state broadband data collection funded by NTIA, these estimates will improve. 

Second, it estimates the cost of bringing 4/1 Mbps to those unserved areas and the revenues that could be earned by doing so.  In doing so, it is conservative and technology-neutral.  We only modeled technologies—wireless, cable, satellite, and DSL—that are commercially-deployed today or will be in the near future. We wanted the model to inform practical solutions, not rely on promises of future breakthroughs.

While those steps sound straightforward, this paper shows that the task itself is complex. The financial model includes thousands of inputs, ranging from estimated signal propagation of wireless networks in particular geographies to the density of soil for trenching fiber optic cable in others.

The FCC has multiple servers supporting the model, and doing a run takes as much as 12 hours; the output from one such run produces roughly 4-5 gigabytes of data (and sometimes more).  The calculations required to reach the $24 billion gap require 10 model runs. Needless to say, a lot of time, sweat, and yes, on occasion, tears have gone into developing, building and supporting this model.

In developing the Plan, we are committed to openness and transparency. To this end, on May 6 at 3:00 pm, we will host a forum at the FCC to present an overview of our analysis and answer questions.  We stand behind our assumptions and conclusions in the technical paper. We look forward to feedback and discussion so that this analysis informs the policy process in the most impactful way.

The Second and Middle Mile Challenge

October 8th, 2009 by Rob Curtis - Deployment Director, Omnibus Broadband Initiative.

Many of you may be familiar with the telecom term the "last mile"-the connection between your home (or wireless device) and your broadband service provider.  Somewhat less familiar, however, are the terms "second mile" and "middle mile," the connections between your broadband service provider and the Internet.  A Public Notice (PN) that we released today seeks comment and data on the pricing of second and middle mile connections to the Internet, and we hope that its release will inform us on the crucial-if not gating role-that these connections play.

As we noted in our mid-term presentation to the FCC last week, these connections-effectively high-speed "on-ramps" to the Internet-are critical links between communities and the broadband Internet.  Our workshops have indicated that in rural areas, calling these links a "second" and "middle mile" is somewhat of a misnomer, as these high capacity, multi-megagbit per second connections can be tens, if not hundreds of miles long-and can be very costly.  As a result, any plan to ensure broadband access for all Americans must examine closely whether these on-ramps are adequately available, reasonably priced, and efficiently provided in all areas of the country.

middle mile 2

The PN seeks comment in five general areas:

  • The Network Components of Broadband Availability, which focuses upon the needs and technology options for these second and middle mile links.
  • Availability and Pricing of these high-capacity circuits, based on technology and regulatory treatment.
  • Pricing of Internet Connectivity, which focuses upon the cost of access to the Internet backbone networks and whether that pricing is higher in rural areas.
  • Economics of Deployment, which asks about the extent and cost of self-provisioning and potential pro-active steps that government might be able to do to spur more deployment.
  • Nature of Competition and Availability of Alternatives, which asks questions on the nature and extent of competition for middle and second mile connections.

If you have examples and data that could contribute to the Commission's knowledge on this subject, please read the PN and file comments using either ECFS Express or, if you need to attach a file, our standard submission page.  Please note that your comments are responding to Public Notice #11.  You can also post comments on Blogband, and they will be included in the record for the National Broadband Plan.

Blogband post – Deployment Hearings

August 18th, 2009 by Rob Curtis - Deployment Director, Omnibus Broadband Initiative.

Last week, the Omnibus Broadband Initiative held a series of 7 panels addressing issues fundamental to bringing broadband to every American - the technologies that can supply broadband, and how they can and should be deployed.  Our team was thrilled to be able to glean wisdom from world-class experts like Columbia University's Henning Schulzrinne and Sanford Bernstein's Craig Moffett on a wide variety of issues that will impact the ultimate shape of the plan.  In addition, the insightful questions we received from citizens from across the country were a testament to both the importance of getting the plan right and to the remarkable power of broadband itself, since many of them were delivered via the Internet.

From my perspective, several messages rang out loud and clear.  First, panelist after panelist reminded us that getting the broadband plan will not only be a matter of plugging bitrates and marginal costs into a formula to yield a number, but also considering the challenge holistically and attempting to capture the entire economic impact of broadband.  Second, whether your family or small business has "broadband" is not simply a matter of the peak speeds you can attain over your connection, if you currently have one; rather, it incorporates a host of other considerations, like latency and reliability, that impact the performance of applications like VoIP and collaborative office software.   And finally, many of our experts on wireless technology emphasized the importance of spectrum to our national wireless future - both improving the efficiency of existing spectrum and exploring making spectrum available in frequencies currently occupied by other technologies.  Technological efficiency could help free bandwidth for broadband in other pipelines to the home, including coaxial cable, where the conversion to digital cable television could free bandwidth now used for analog cable TV.

As the clock ticks down to the National Broadband Plan, our whole team looks forward to gathering many of your ideas (and your data!) regarding how we can ensure the deployment of a network that meets the needs of all Americans and will enable even more innovative uses of broadband in our shared future. As the billboards say, "watch this space" - there'll be much more to come.

-Rob Deployment Director



Capture The Phone Numbers Using Your Camera Phone

If you have a camera and a 2D matrix code reader on your mobile phone, you can capture the FCC Phone numbers right to your phone by following these three easy steps:
Step 1: Take a photograph of one of the codes below using the camera on your mobile phone.
Step 2: Use your phone's Datamatrix or QR Code reader to decode the information on the photograph. Please note, these code readers are device specific and are available to download on the internet.
Step 3: Store the decoded address information to your phone's address book and use it with your Maps or GPS application.

Datamatrix and QR FCC Phones