Last week, the FCC released a report on the state of broadband in the U.S., concluding some disappointment in the current state of broadband access.
I was therefore interested to read a detailed article in Forbes from technology policy writer Larry Downes that presents a rather different perspective–that there is more than sufficient broadband access in the U.S.
Check out his article here: “Larry Downes: The FCC Scores a Hat Trick of Errors on Internet Regulation” (http://www.forbes.com/sites/larrydownes/2012/08/27/the-fcc-scores-a-hat-trick-of-errors-on-internet-regulation/)
I recently made my annual trek to Lansing, Michigan to serve as an instructor in the nationally-renowned Institute for Public Utilities Regulatory Studies Program. The two-week program, known as “Camp NARUC,” covers all aspects of the regulatory process and is designed for state commissioners, state commission staff, state consumer advocates and staff, and federal regulatory staff.
The session that I taught focused on how to protect utility customers in changing markets. In the past couple of decades there have been so many changes in energy and telecommunications markets, and as a result there have been new regulatory structures adopted at the state and national level. For consumers of energy services, there have been state restructuring initiatives with a mix of results for consumers. More recently, new technologies — smart grid and its smart meters — have led the way with exciting opportunities for energy efficiency and home energy management, while also raising the need to address questions about consumer cost and privacy.
Telecommunications consumers have seen tremendous growth in services and competition. Wireless, broadband, and mobile broadband have now changed the way consumers communicate. Over the past decade, federal and state regulations have shifted to adjust to the changes in consumers’ use of technology for communications services, and will likely continue to change as technology advances.
Most importantly, I believe it’s a top priority to continue to ensure that the interests of consumers are protected as both energy and telecommunications markets continue to evolve.
It’s that time of year again, when kids and teachers start to get ready for the new school year. This year, technology promises to play an even greater role in education. In an article in yesterday’s Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/teachers-learn-to-integrate-technology-into-curriculum/2012/08/19/393a8d66-e64c-11e1-936a-b801f1abab19_story.html, teachers are receiving training on how to use technology to enhance learning.
The use of technology in the classroom ranges from replacing printed textbooks with hand-held tablets in some schools, to using computer software that simulates dissection for biology classes. Technology adds a level of excitement to the education process that teachers are starting to embrace. “You’re able to teach and help a child understand something using different methods other than a worksheet,” said William Shulman, 10th grade Government class teacher at Northwestern High School in Prince Georges County, Maryland. “It gives a teacher the ability to find information and present information that might not necessarily happen with standard teaching.”
Technology is now recognized as a significant learning tool that can enhance the learning process for our increasingly high-tech kids. It’s great to read about the exciting new applications for the classroom.
The way we make our purchases has changed over the years, with many of us no longer using cash. Instead, many of our purchases are made with a credit or debit card. Now, we’re witnessing the next transition in how we make our purchases: mobile payments.
This CNN Money article, (http://money.cnn.com/2012/08/14/technology/startups/square-dorsey/), discusses the recent announcement that beginning this fall, Starbucks will start accepting payment though Square’s mobile app. This will be a great convenience for consumers who just have to hold up their smartphones at the register and Starbucks will be able to charge their purchases on their cards at the back end.
We are just in the early stages of a no-cash, mobile payments world for our purchases. It should add a world of convenience for consumers.
On August 15, AT&T announced a new effort in it’s no-texting-and-driving, “It Can Wait” campaign. The company is calling on drivers to take a pledge to stop texting while driving, and to share that pledge with others on Twitter and Facebook. This effort will lead up to a National Pledge Day on September 19th.
The public awareness campaign is an effort to save lives. In a Hillicon Valley article about the campaign, (http://thehill.com/blogs/hillicon-valley/technology/243757-atat-plans-national-day-against-texting-and-driving) AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson was quoted as saying that with over 100,000 automobile crashes a year while drivers are texting (according to the National Safety Council), at AT&T, “we want to spread the word about how deadly a single text can be. Texting and driving should be as unacceptable as drinking and driving.”
As part of its campaign, AT&T also offers the “Drive Mode” app to help prevent texting while driving. This free application, available for some devices, can automatically send a reply to incoming text messages. The reply message informs the sender that you are driving and cannot respond to the incoming text message, similar to an “out of office” email.
I watched some of the AT&T ads for the “It Can Wait” campaign during the Olympics and they were very powerful. I hope the message gets through to everyone out there who is tempted to pick-up their phones when they’re behind the wheel to text or email. For all our safety, IT CAN WAIT.
It’s official: more people now own a smartphone than a regular talk and text device. I just read an article on GigaOm (http://gigaom.com/mobile/carrier-data-confirms-it-half-of-us-now-owns-a-smartphone/) that cites a recent report from Chetan Sharma Consulting, which revealed that smartphone ownership exceeded 50% in the second quarter of 2012.
Additionally, a Nielsen study conducted a few months ago revealed similar findings that 50.4% of U.S. subscribers surveyed owned a smartphone. At this point you cannot deny that the growth of smartphones has been tremendous: in 2009, only 18% of U.S. subscribers had a smartphone. In the second quarter of 2012, smartphone sales have accounted for over 70% of all new sales.
Another interesting finding in the Sharma report is that the biggest boom in the market appears to be prepaid smartphone subscriptions. There are now 100 million prepaid subscribers in the U.S., accounting for more than one-third of the overall market. Prepaid subscribership is likely to increase now that prepaid operators (like Cricket and Virgin Mobile) have the iPhone.
We all know that Twitter and Facebook were quite busy with all the Olympic posts and news, with even the gold medal winners getting in the act and posting their great achievements almost the moment after reaching their glory! However, I found it interesting to note that according to some news and data, it appears that mobile phones — our smartphones — are the real “tech” winners at the Olympics.
Google data reveals that Olympic related searches over mobile phones increase ten-fold during the first week of the games. Last week, NBC reported that 45% of its online video streams of the Olympic games are being delivered to smartphones and tablets. The BBC reported that 41% of its video streams are going to mobile devices.
It’s amazing that we’ve almost reached the point in the U.S. when our use of mobile devices overtake PC’s as the way to connect to the Internet. Apparently, it’s already happened in China where there are now 388 million mobile Internet users and 380 million using a fixed-line connect to go online — and we’re not that far behind! Of course, with this information and data, the need for more spectrum as soon as possible is obvious!
In a new commitment to our world’s sustainability, AT&T has recently launched a consumer-friendly eco-rating label for devices to help consumers make informed purchasing decisions. According to an AT&T survey, 6 in 10 consumers indicated they would consider a eco-rating when making a purchase.
Devices will be marked with up to five stars to indicate how they fare on a eco-friendly rating. The star rating system is based on five general attributes of sustainability, including: hazardous substances, environmentally preferable materials, energy efficiency, responsible end-of-life treatment, and environmentally-responsible manufacturing.
This eco-rating will provide consumers with important information that has a real impact on the world — and it will help them with their purchasing decisions.
Check out AT&T’s video about the eco-rating system here.
It’s great to hear that technology is reaching all corners of America. The latest way is a software program, FarmLogs, that allows farmers to track all their field activities. As one farmer describes in an article about the software, he is able to take his iPad out to the farm field with him and make entries about his crops. “It’s a real timesaver.” There are other software programs similar to FarmLogs that are useful for those in the agriculture field. These software programs and broadband networks work together to enable agricultural business owners to operate their business more efficiently. Technology is opening new doors for rural communities.
This week I attended another interesting Hill program hosted by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) on the issue of spectrum. The panel topic was “Powering the Mobile Resolution: Principles of Spectrum Allocation,” which is also the title of a paper released by ITIF.
The author, Richard Bennett, kicked off the program with highlights from his ITIF paper, including ten principles — or factors — for spectrum allocation. The factors include spectrum sharing, application flexibility, facilities-based competition, promotion of new technologies, technology upgrade flexibility, development of redeployment opportunities, and several other principles.
A diverse panel of respondents then addressed the spectrum allocation issues. Commenting on spectrum sharing, CTIA’s Christopher Guttman-McCabe, said that putting all the eggs in one basket isn’t the best idea and that spectrum sharing doesn’t address the need for more spectrum in the short term. Tom Power, Deputy Chief Technology Officer,Telecommunications, for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, also said it is important to recognize and identify different tools and solutions for spectrum allocation. Morgan Reed, Association for Competitive Technology, emphasized how important spectrum is for all mobile consumers due to the explosion in mobile apps.
It’s great to have more information on this complicated subject — and to have experts available to offer their thoughts and insight on spectrum allocation issues.
To view the paper, please follow this link: http://www.itif.org/publications/powering-mobile-revolution-principles-spectrum-allocation