Tag Archives: FCC

Community Broadband Hearing at Columbia University on Dec. 11

UPDATE: This is a Community Broadband Hearing by Columbia University, not an FCC Field Hearing. Sorry for the confusion!

Friend Bruce Lincoln, Entrepreneur in Residence at Columbia Engineering’s Center for Technology, Innovation & Community Engagement, sent us an invite for a Community Broadband Hearing taking place next Friday, December 11 at Columbia. I’m planning to attend, and suggest those of you that fill the different roles outlined below attend as well.

If you are planning on attending, leave a comment so we can find you!

It is important that members of the local community have an opportunity to participate in the National Broadband Planning process which is currently underway in Washington.

Toward that end, I invite you to participate in an FCC Field Hearing on Friday, December 11, 2009 at Columbia University in New York. The meeting will be held in Davis Auditorium from 8:45 am until noon.

The field hearing will bring together policymakers, elected officials, not-for-profit organizations, small businesses, anchor institutions, public agencies, broadband providers, foundations, community-based organizations and community leaders, academicians, and researchers. Together we will share thoughts on how collectively we can ensure all New Yorkers have access to broadband and the educational, economic and social opportunities it can provide.

I hope you will be able to attend as a representative of your organization or constituency. To fully understand the importance of broadband access from all points of view, your participation is vital. The agenda includes a “community visioning session” where you will have an opportunity to share your thoughts, ideas, and concerns with the group.

You can confirm your attendance via e-mail to bl2317@columbia.edu.

Agenda

Friday, December 11, 2009
Davis Auditorium, Columbia University
8 am-noon

8:00 Registration and Breakfast
8:45 Welcome (Bruce Lincoln, Columbia Engineering)
8:50 Opening Remarks (Dean, Feniosky Pena-Mora, Columbia Engineering)
9:00 “An Overview of the New York State Broadband Vision and Strategy” (Edward Reinfurt, Executive Director, New York State Foundation for Science, Technology and Innovation, NYSTAR)
9:30 “Vision of New York City’s Broadband Future” (Gale Brewer, Chair, Committee on Technology and Government, New York City Council)
9:40 Short Break
9:45 Practitioners Panel Session
10:15 Audience Q&A
10:30 Community Visioning Session
11:30 Wrap-up
12:00 Adjournment

The Day The Telco Blinked

It happened so fast you may have missed it.  Late last week AT&T posted a change to its mobile data plan that indicated it would start throttling down peer-to-peer sharing.  This would affect phone-call apps like Skype. Within a day, after public outroar from customers like you, they apologized and retracted it.

Sound familiar?

First, yes, it’s similar to what happened at FaceBook–a company tries to pull something onerous, only to retract it after consumers find out.  That said, Facebook is a small, agile company.  This is AT&T, one of the most intractable telcos out there.  Historically it’s taken years of work in court to get AT&T to change its ways.

Second, it’s another battle in the fight for an Open Internet.   Last year, Comcast tried to throttle regular peer-to-peer applications like Skype, and the FCC called them on it. AT&T was mucking with its mobile data plan, but the motive is the same–force people to use the carrier’s more expensive services rather than letting them get their work done.

What AT&T and Comcast should be realizing is that this type of throttling is now on the wrong side of the economic debate.  An Open Internet keeps us productive and competitive.  Skype lets people make cheap phone calls.  Video sharing lets people do web-conferences.   Efforts to stifle communications strike at the heart of America’s productivity and competitiveness in the world.

The fight continues. Follow the story and let your representatives know this matters to you.  An Open Internet will ensure we can all get our work done and succeed.

Video of Has Divestiture Worked? A 25th Anniversary Assessment of the Break Up of AT&T now online

This is a little late, but the video of the presentations for the “Has Divestiture Worked? A 25th Anniversary Assessment of the Break Up of AT&T” event at which I presented is now available online.

The embedded video is from session 3, and the discussion about NYCwireless happens between 25:00 and 38:00.

http://www.youtube-nocookie.com/v/KUmZs9IEQV4&hl=en&fs=1&rel=0

Thanks to ISOC for getting these videos online!

Event: Has Divestiture Worked? A 25th Anniversary Assessment of the Break Up of AT&T

This announcement comes from our friend Bruce Kushnick, who’s one of the people putting on this excellent event. “Divestiture” and “Structural Separation” is something that NYCwireless has been fighting for almost since we started, since Verizon and AT&T’s vertically-integrated monopolies make it very hard for us to do some of the work that we do (and sometimes impossible). We hope lots of you come to the event, even if just to learn about what this stuff is all about!

DATE: FRIDAY, MARCH 6th, 2009 TIME: 6PM-9PM
LOCATION: New York University, Warren Weaver Hall (251 Mercer), Room 109
PRICE:  ADMISSION IS FREE. (RSVP requested, rsvp@bway.net )

In 1984, AT&T, then the largest company in the U.S., was broken up because of the monopoly controls “Ma Bell” had over telecommunications. Known as “Divestiture”, we have reached the 25th anniversary of the AT&T breakup and it is time to look carefully and critically at the deregulation of telecommunications to evaluate the effectiveness of this important economic policy.

Open Infrastructure Alliance, (OIA) together with the Internet Society, (ISOC) New York chapter, is convening a series of panels to dialog on the deregulation of the telecommunications industry. Among the key issues to be considered are:

  • Has divestiture worked? A careful examination of the consequences of divestiture and deregulation over the last 25 years.
  • America is ranked 15th in the world in broadband. What role does America’s closed broadband networks (e.g., Verizon’s FiOS and AT&T’s U-Verse) play in such a ranking? Do closed networks fulfill last mile requirements of the Telecom Act of 1996?
  • The Obama administration and Congress have put together a massive economic stimulus package, including broadband infrastructure projects. Does this new legislation address the major issues or are other steps necessary?

The dialogue will assess whether deregulation has helped or harmed America’s digital future. What role should a new, reconstituted FCC play? What policies and programs are needed to make America #1 again in technology, broadband and the Internet?

Confirmed Speakers: (More to Come)

  • Tom Allibone, LTC Consulting
  • Jonathan Askin, Esq, Brooklyn Law School
  • Dave Burstein, DSL Prime
  • Frank A. Coluccio, Cirrant Partners Inc
  • Mark Cooper, Consumer Federation of America
  • Alex Goldman, ISP Planet
  • Fred Goldstein, Ionary Consulting
  • Bruce Kushnick, New Networks Institute
  • Dean Landsman, Landsman Communications Group
  • Scott McCollough, Esq.
  • Joe Plotkin, Bway.net
  • David Rosen, Consultant

Market:

  • A 25 year analysis of the Age of the Bell companies.
  • How did America become 15th in the world in broadband?
  • What is the role of the cable and phone companies?
  • What happened to the price of phone service?
  • Is wireless overtaking wireline services?

Regulation:

  • Has deregulation helped or harmed the America’s digital future?
  • How do we deal with corporate controls over the FCC, or should we scrap the FCC?
  • How do we fund and create open, ubiquitous, high-speed networks?
  • What should happen next with wireless services?
  • What is the status of competition today, and what needs to be changed for the future?
  • What applications are going to drive the next generation?
  • Is it time for another divestiture or other regulatory changes?

For More Information:
Joe Plotkin
T: 646-502-9796
E: bwayjoe@bway.net
Internet Society, NY Chapter
E: president@isoc-ny.org

FCC Votes to Open TV White Spaces for Unlicensed Use

Lost in the (understandably) overwhelming media coverage about the new President of the United States, the FCC has voted to open “white spaces” between TV channels to unlicensed use. This is a big decision that will lead to more open devices and a big push for extending wireless internet access to areas where the internet was previously unavailable or limited.

NYCwireless supports this FCC decision, and we look forward to making use of white space devices to help bring more internet to all areas of New York City. You can read about it in the New York Times and Ars Technica.

After Tests, FCC Finds White Space Devices Don't Cause Interference

As a follow up to the City Council Hearing on White Space Devices, the FCC has completed their tests of devices that use spectrum white spaces, and concluded that they work well with the other existing devices using the same spectrum:

A report released yesterday by the Federal Communications Commissionconcluded that using empty airwaves to provide free wireless Internet would not cause major interference with other services, paving the way for FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin’s proposal to sell the airwaves at a federal auction.

NYCwireless Testimony for NY City Council Hearing: The Regulation and Use of the Unallocated Portion of the Radio Spectrum, Also Known as White Spaces

This is the testimony that I gave and submitted to the NY City Council:

NYCwireless New York City Council Testimony on White Spaces (pdf)

NYCwireless Testimony to the New York City Council
Regulation and Use of the Unallocated Portion of the Radio Spectrum, Also Known as White Spaces

Ladies and Gentlemen of the New York City Council and friends and guests, thank you for inviting me to speak. My name is Dana Spiegel, and I am the Executive Director of the non-profit NYCwireless, which builds free, public Wi-Fi hotspots in public spaces throughout New York City.

I come today not to talk about the FCC’s plans or the facts about white space devices. I also will not speak about Broadway and Off-Broadway, which is an important cultural resource for this great city. Nor will I speak about the company Shure and other wireless microphone manufacturers, who have admitted to spreading false information about the impact of white space devices on existing equipment. Other presenters here today will speak extensively about these subjects.

I wish to speak solely about the value of such white space devices for all of New York City, and draw some parallels to a similar technology, Wi-Fi, and its history. I believe there are enough similarities between white space devices and Wi-Fi that we can draw some realistic conclusions about what might actually happen when white space spectrum becomes available.

Wi-Fi uses radio frequency spectrum covered under the FCC’s Part 15, which allows companies to manufacture and sell certified devices that operate in the 2.4Ghz frequency range, and allows anyone to purchase such devices and operate them without applying for an FCC broadcast license. If you use Wi-Fi in your home, office or park, you are using a Part 15 device. The same goes for bluetooth headsets used with mobile phones, and baby monitors, garage door openers, and some cordless phones.

The precursor to 802.11 technology was invented in 1991, and since then has enjoyed tremendous success. You’d be hard pressed to find a computer user today who hasn’t used Wi-Fi at some point. But it was never imagined to be such a ubiquitous or widely used technology. It was always originally expected that Wi-Fi devices would be used in large office buildings only, and consumer use was never considered.

In 2000, in New York and a few other cities like Boston and Seattle, technologists started to use the Wi-Fi devices to do the unimaginable: share the internet with their neighbors. NYCwireless was founded in 2001 with the pioneering purpose of using this technology to broadcast internet access to local neighborhoods. One of the first public hotspots in the world was in our own Tompkins Square Park.

Back then, devices were neither easy to use nor cheap to purchase for consumers. If you had a laptop, you could buy a Wi-Fi card and access point each for a few hundred dollars. But if you went to Tompkins Square Park or Bryant Park, you could do something that no one else in the world could do: sit under a tree and surf the internet.

Since 2000, New York City has seen dozens of parks lit up by NYCwireless and others, and each year more parks and public spaces are brought online. New York City was host to the first ever wireless arts festival, called Spectropolis, in 2003 and 2004, held in City Hall Park. NYCwireless and others have lit up dozens of affordable housing residences, providing residents the ability to get online and have a critically important lifeline. None of these achievements would have been possible without the FCC enabling the free, unlicensed use of the 2.4Ghz spectrum range.

But even more impressive than these achievements has been the explosion of Wi-Fi usage throughout New York City. Just about every business, both big and small, makes use of Wi-Fi. Cafés, restaurants, bars, and coffee shops offer Wi-Fi to their customers, and a significant percentage of the over 8 million residents in this city use Wi-Fi in their homes.

With all of these people using Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, you don’t often hear about interference issues. Just about everyone makes use of Wi-Fi in their homes and businesses without issue. Bluetooth headsets work everywhere you walk. Baby monitors and cordless phones, devices that use the same tiny sliver of 2.4Ghz spectrum, work just fine too.

With all of its success, its surprising that Wi-Fi is in part utterly unlike the types of devices that the FCC is considering for use of white space frequencies. The biggest difference is that the proposed FCC rules for white space devices ensure they won’t interfere with existing spectrum users, and that devices will contain technology to move around the white space spectrum to ensure that they never interfere. These tested devices have successfully proved that such technology is achievable, as have Bluetooth devices which contain similar intelligence.

In discussing this history of Wi-Fi, and highlighting its achievements, I hope to paint a picture for the Council about what white space devices may mean for New York City. Such devices have the possibility of enabling larger scale internet broadcast, providing inexpensive or free access to whole neighborhoods from the central anchor of a park. More buildings will be able to be retrofitted with internet access, a current challenge for a number of older NYCHA buildings. Schools and libraries will become internet hubs for their neighbors. In short, the amazing things we’ve done with Wi-Fi will be amplified with the availability of white space devices.

The FCC already has proposed white space device rules in place that ensure non-interference. Indeed, New York City, and Broadway (who makes use of Wi-Fi in their theaters to provide internet access to stage and production staff), stand to benefit enormously from white space devices, even while continuing to use their existing technology. Imagine if, instead of just using wireless microphones for audio, we could have videos of performances could be broadcast and entire neighborhoods could participate in such events.

Additional Reading
New America Foundation Wireless Future Program
Free Press, White Spaces: Bringing the Internet to Everyone
GigaOm: 1 and 2
People’s Production House