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The Appetite for Measuring Broadband Service

June 7th, 2010 by Dave Vorhaus - Expert Advisor, Economic Opportunity

Last week, we announced that the FCC has begun recruiting volunteers for a landmark study of broadband performance in consumers’ homes. In conjunction with our partner, SamKnows, we launched the website www.testmyisp.com to inform people of the project and solicit volunteers. Individuals that are selected for the panel will be provided with a free, state-of-the-art custom router for their home network, secure access to all of their personal broadband performance data, and the opportunity to shape the future of broadband in America.

I am pleased to announce that the support we have gotten for this initiative thus far has been overwhelming. In less than a week, nearly 20,000 people have already volunteered! Moreover, major media outlets have taken note of this effort and its importance in the broadband marketplace. This is a clear indication that consumers are clamoring for more transparency and disclosure of broadband services, and that there is an appetite for the actual performance data that this project will deliver.

However, we are by no means done. We are still looking for more volunteers that represent a wide swath of ISPs, access technologies, service plans, and regions of the country. We’ve had a number of questions about whether consumers that are on a certain provider’s network or have a particular service plan are eligible to volunteer. The answer to all of those questions is “yes”! The more the merrier! So for those that have not done so already, please go to www.testmyisp.com and sign-up to be a part of this important effort.

Sign up to Shape the Future of Broadband

June 1st, 2010 by Dave Vorhaus - Expert Advisor, Economic Opportunity

Last month, we announced that the FCC had selected a third-party vendor to help conduct a scientific, hardware-based test of actual broadband speeds and performance delivered by ISPs to consumers’ homes. Along with our partner, SamKnows, we aim to provide greater transparency in the broadband market by gathering and publishing information on the service consumers get, rather than simply what is advertised. We’ll be measuring upload and download speeds, but also other important characteristics of broadband performance such as latency, jitter, availability, packet loss and more. This effort represents the first scientific, hardware-based, national test of broadband performance. 

Now that we’ve finished crossing the Ts and dotting the Is, we are ready to begin recruiting volunteers to help us with this critically important effort. The FCC and SamKnows will be constructing a panel of 10,000 volunteers that will form the Broadband Community that is the basis for this study. We’d like to encourage everyone that is interested to go to www.TestMyISP.com and sign up to participate. Don’t be fooled by the URL though; this is not your run-of-the-mill online speed test. After we have recruited a panel that runs the gamut of geographies, service providers and broadband packages, we will be shipping every selected participant a customized router that can be easily connected to your existing in-home network.

Once that hardware device is connected, you are off and running! This custom router will test your broadband performance at regular intervals, all day, every day, throughout the course of this study. Each participant will also be given access to a unique page with their individual broadband performance statistics, so you can see whether what you are getting matches what you are paying for. And in the aggregate, these data will be used to provide valuable information to the FCC, ISPs and the general public about how our broadband networks are performing across the country. Along with other items on the FCC’s Broadband Action Agenda that are improving data collection and transparency, this is a critical step in fostering competition and maximizing consumer benefits across the broadband ecosystem.

If this sounds like something you would like to be apart of, please sign-up as a volunteer for the panel.

A New Way to Measure Broadband in America

April 9th, 2010 by Dave Vorhaus - Expert Advisor, Economic Opportunity

One of the central components of the National Broadband Plan is to increase the amount of information consumers have about the performance of their broadband service.   Transparency makes markets more competitive as consumers are armed with the information they need to choose providers and understand the service they receive.  We have already started that process by posting tools on our website that can measure point in time speeds, and using comScore and 477 to show aggregate figures on broadband connections. However, speed measurements from these tools are often affected by many factors, including slow home computers, internet traffic patterns and network congestion.  As the New York Times and others have pointed out, consumers need to know what level of service their ISP is actually delivering, independent of other factors, and how that performance compares to the advertised maximums of a connection.

A few weeks ago we announced the first step in collecting that information for consumers, the solicitation of bids for a third-party to independently test absolute speeds that providers deliver.  We are pleased to announce that the bidding process resulted in the selection of SamKnows Limited to partner with the FCC on broadband testing.  SamKnows brings a wealth of experience in measuring and analyzing broadband speeds, having completed a similar project for Ofcom, the regulator in the United Kingdom, last year. In a couple of weeks, we will be asking for consumers from across the country to voluntarily install hardware in their homes (on an opt-in basis) that is capable of measuring broadband performance.  The measurements will give us results across a broad swath of providers, service tiers and geographic areas.  More details on how to volunteer will follow in the coming weeks. We are tremendously excited about this announcement, the next step in the process of increasing transparency and competition in the broadband market and better informing consumers about their broadband service.

The FCC will also release a Public Notice in the coming days with details on SamKnows’ technical approach and methodology to allow for comment and new ideas. We’d like to encourage everyone to provide us with thoughts and comments about the approach, both here on the blog as well as in direct response to the PN. And, of course, when the website is announced -- sign up to participate in the panel!

Public/Private Partnership to Help Small Businesses with Broadband

April 6th, 2010 by Dave Vorhaus - Expert Advisor, Economic Opportunity

When the National Broadband Plan was released last month, Chairman Genachowski emphasized that it was the beginning of a long process, not the end. But one of the plan’s recommendations on a timely topic is already coming to fruition.

Recommendation 13.3 in the Economic Opportunity chapter calls for the executive branch to develop a public/private partnership that can provide technology training and tools to bolster digital literacy, web usage, e-commerce, and online communications tools and expertise among small, disadvantaged businesses and small and medium-sized enterprises in low-income areas.  The Small Business Administration, SBA’s volunteer arm, SCORE, and many of the leading firms from within the tech sector have been working diligently to get this partnership off the ground, and are ready to unveil the plethora of training tools, services, applications, counseling and financial support they have marshaled to help drive broadband use by these small businesses.

The partnership effort will officially kick off with an event at The Ronald Reagan Building this Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. EDT. Chairman Genachowski, SBA Administrator Karen Mills and SCORE CEO Ken Yancey will all speak about the importance of broadband to small businesses in general and this consortium in particular. In addition, representatives from founding private sector partners AT&T, Best Buy, Cisco, Constant Contact, Google, HP, Intuit, Microsoft, Skype and Time Warner Cable Business Class will outline their visions for the small business market and explain how this effort will help see those through to reality. We’d encourage all those who are able to register for the event and join us in person, or watch the event live online at www.fcc.gov/live and join the conversation on Twitter feed using #BBplan.
 

Responses from Small Business Owners on Broadband

March 8th, 2010 by Dave Vorhaus - Expert Advisor, Economic Opportunity

We received many insightful responses, through Blogband and Twitter, to our prompt, “Small business owners – share your stories about how broadband has helped you.” Here are a few ways in which broadband has improved their lives:

Brett Glass said:

We’re a small, entrepreneurial business – an ISP. In fact, we were the world’s first WISP, or terrestrial wireless ISP, and have been deploying high speed Internet to unserved areas for more than 18 years. We have therefore been directly involved in hundreds of stories in which small businesses were helped by being connected to the Net -- from a furniture factory located in a remote area near the forests that provide its wood, to a horse ranch which we’re helped to auction horses via the Net, to an engineer who designs parts for automobiles all over the world from his house in a canyon far from town, to a breeder of world famous rodeo bulls. The stories are wonderfully varied, but they all have one thing in common: we’ve brought broadband to these businesses and the areas that surround them at the lowest cost per square mile of any type of terrestrial service.
 
Twitter user bretttarnutzer said:
 
CurbsideCupcake is using broadband to bring cupcake truck location info to the hungry masses in DC!
 
Mike said:
 
Trying to do updates and download drivers for customers’ PCs on dial-up would take forever - my DSL is about 60x faster than my dial-up ever was. That is the difference in 5 minutes and 5 hours - very significant.
 
Twitter user iPayStation said:
 
Our web-based app speeds transactions over dial-up systems. Transactions are completed in seconds! Very important to consumers…Our web-based application allows stores with PC & BB connection to transact walk-in bill payment service for their customers!
 
Finally, Warren Brown, owner of Cakelove, spoke at the March 4th FCC’s event showcasing the benefit of broadband for small business. He spoke about the ways broadband has revolutionized his business:
 
We are developing a mobile app for Cakelove to share recipes with people. … It helps with marketing…The online store has been a tremendous benefit. Staff was freed up to serve customers, and orders came through the web. It eliminates time spent on processing paper. …If a small business owner is out there, you don’t want to be chained to your desk, broadband can free up your life. You have more time to train staff…more freedom to conduct business from different locations…Social marketing, didn’t want to deal with it, but I’ve gotten into it. That’s where the people are. Everything is going towards broadband and being internet-based.
 
In all of these cases, broadband has been the underlying support system for small businesses by providing them with information, convenience, and the ability to stay competitive. Through our initiative, broadband will continue to improve the lives of small business owners everywhere.

The Power of Broadband for Small Business

March 3rd, 2010 by Dave Vorhaus - Expert Advisor, Economic Opportunity

Small businesses and entrepreneurs are the life-blood of the American economy. They create jobs, create wealth, and drive the country forward through innovation and ingenuity. Small businesses employ more than half of America’s workers and account for most of America’s net new job growth each year. Thus supporting these businesses with cutting edge connectivity and technology tools is not just a good idea; it is a vital national purpose.

But the story of broadband for small businesses and entrepreneurs is not just one of basic access and adoption, as the vast majority of businesses have a broadband connection of some fashion today. It is also a story of education and usage. Broadband is a tool, and like any tool, its utility is predicated on being applied correctly. In the case of broadband, this means allowing businesses to take advantage of new services, new applications and new business models that are only possible in a world of high-speed, reliable connectivity. Large businesses with dedicated IT staffs and broad resources can rise to this opportunity internally with tools such as e-commerce, knowledge sharing, online collaboration, videoconferencing and many others. But small businesses have more pressing concerns. The owner of a 15-person retail shop is worried about day-to-day operations, managing finances and keeping the business running. He doesn’t have time to research how an online inventory management system could improve his business’ efficiency and reduce his costs, much less install such a system.

For that reason, the National Broadband Plan is focusing on ways to increase knowledge, training and assistance for small businesses in using broadband. Rather than asking small businesses to seek out the tools that make broadband transformative to their businesses, we want to help lay those tools at their feet. Our working recommendations deal with counseling for small businesses, support programs and networks of assistance for entrepreneurs, and making broadband tools and training key cogs in the federal government’s existing small business support efforts. Working in close partnership with the Small Business Administration, the Economic Development Administration, the Department of Labor, and a myriad of leading private firms from all corners of the communications and technology industries, we aim to maximize the impact of broadband by helping small businesses put it to the optimal use.

Tomorrow, Chairman Genachowski and SBA Administrator Karen Mills will highlight these issues at 10:00 AM at the D.C. Department of Small and Local Business Development, Old Chamber’s Conference room. Joining them will be Warren Brown, CEO of CakeLove and Todd Sharp, President of Engage, Inc, two individuals who have first-hand knowledge of the profound effects that broadband can have on a small business. We hope to see you many of you there.
 



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