The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) yesterday approved a set of new rules for using the unused broadcast spectrum between television, otherwise known as "white space."
"As compared to the airwaves we released for unlicensed use in 1985, this 'white spaces' spectrum is far more robust -- traveling longer distances and through walls, making the potential for unlicensed spectrum much greater," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement.
"We know what the first major application will be: super Wi-Fi. Super Wi-Fi is what it sounds like: Wi-Fi, but with longer range, faster speeds, and more reliable connections. We can also expect, as we've seen now with Wi-Fi, enhanced performance from the mobile devices using licensed spectrum that we've come to rely on so heavily."
Microsoft applauded the FCC's decision, saying that their action will lead to greater broadband connectivity to consumers, while contributing to a new generation of wireless broadband technologies.
"With this vote, the commission is taking a forward-looking view of how to optimize spectrum allocation by capitalizing on evolving technologies," Craig Mundie, Microsoft's Chief Research and Strategy Officer, said in a blog post. "As a result, technology companies will be able to develop new applications that tap into the potential of white spaces networks.
Microsoft's own campus in Redmond already makes use of a prototype "White-Fi" systems, which Mundie says 'delivers more economical broadband Internet access employees traveling between buildings."
Broadband growth in the United States over the past year was the weakest since 2004, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center. Around 66 percent of the American adult population was found to have broadband access at home. Although broadband penetration among the adult population grew year-over-year, the rate of change was just 5 percent. It seems trivial compared to recent years when it hovered between 12 and 17 percent.
Another key finding is that a large number of people do not think that the issue of broadband penetration is important enough to figure prominently on the government's list of priorities. About 53 percent of those surveyed don't want the government to spend its resources on broadband.
As for factors responsible for slowing broadband growth, Aaron Smith, the report's author, blames “economic hard times, combined with a lot of barriers and general reluctance on the part of nonadopters.”
"The pool of people available to become adopters ... don't see a lot of relevance to online content and they're not particularly comfortable using the technology," Smith said. "The remaining people who don't have it are a little bit tougher sell at this point."
There was a silver lining, though. Broadband adoption among African-American adults increased considerably during the past year. It rose from 46 percent in April 2009 to 56 percent in May 2010.
There were rumblings last week that Verizon and Google had struck an unseemly deal to end net neutrality, but today the two companies have issued a statement clearing the whole matter up. The proposal for "an open internet" makes some bold suggestions, at least when you consider who's involved. For fans of net neutrality, it's encouraging, but still a bit of a mixed bag.
The policy proposal is based around two main points. First: "Users should choose what content, applications, or devices they use, since openness has been central to the explosive innovation that has made the Internet a transformative medium." This all goes to the idea that content cannot be preferentially treated online. This is a big step for Verizon in particular with their status as an ISP. The statement also calls for enforceable penalties for companies found to be violating these tenets.
The second tentpole here is a sentiment that "America must continue to encourage both investment and innovation to support the underlying broadband infrastructure." Along with this a recognition that wireless and wireline broadband are different, and may need different levels of regulation to continue to grow. Google and Verizon appear to be conceding the point that wireless bandwidth is too constrained for all parts of net neutrality to be enforceable right away. What they are encouraging, is transparency. What do you think of the proposal? Sound off in the comments.
The impact of long term exposure to cellphone radiation is still largely unknown, but all the evidence up until now lends credence to the fact that you probably have better things to worry about. San Francisco lawmakers disagree however, and a controversial new law that forced retailers to display radiation levels of different handsets has the CTIA pulling them into court. “The CTIA's objection to the ordinance is that displaying a phone's SAR value at the point-of-sale suggests to the consumer that there is a meaningful safety distinction between FCC-compliant devices with different SAR levels," it said in a statement.
According to CTIA officials the new law supersedes the FCC’s authority to regulate radio emissions, and is misleading for consumers who ultimately haven’t been properly educated as to what the SAR ratings actually mean. Some have been tempted to lump cellphone manufacturers in with the tobacco industry who lied to customers for years about the dangers of smoking, but this is a bit misleading as well. Independent labs have backed up the fact that cellphone radiation levels as they are mandated today are considered safe and in some cases might even be beneficial.
Only time will tell if the law will hold up in court, but at the end of the day perhaps it will encourage manufactures to voluntarily lower radiation levels. Studies show it probably won’t help, but it certainly can’t hurt.
Smartphones have whetted the appetite for mobile data to the point that additional spectrum is needed to keep up with explosive demand. As a matter of fact, data traffic is said to have already surpassed the volume of voice calls globally. To satiate this growing hunger for spectrum, the Federal Communications Commission is working on a plan to reclaim 300MHz of spectrum for wireless broadband over the next five years. But where is this spectrum going to come from?
Just after it unveiled the National Broadband Plan in March, the FCC made it clear that it plans to reclaim 120MHz of spectrum from TV broadcasters for wireless broadband services. The regulator is now eying 90 MHz of spectrum from the Mobile Satellite Service band to meet its goal.The FCC's Spectrum Force outlined its spectrum reallocation strategy on Friday. Besides reallocating some spectrum in the MSS band to wireless broadband services, it wants to ensure that the remaining spectrum is used more efficiently than before.
The FCC headed by Julius Genachowski has made it clear that Net Neutrality is a top priority. So much so that they intend to boost their authority in order to impose rules on all purveyors of IP data. Both AT&T and Verizon have voiced concern with the prospect of being weighed down by new regulations. The two are now pushing for Congress to intervene and come up with Net Neutrality compromise legislation.
The principal of Net Neutrality holds that an ISP should be required to treat all data in exactly the same way. For instance, an ISP could not filter torrent traffic and delay/ block it. By asking Congress to head the FCC off at the pass, the telecoms are hoping they can lobby their way to weaker regulations.
We're concerned that any congressional action would rules would likely be filled with loopholes enabling ISPs to continue non-neutral practices. Do you think the FCC should move ahead with making rules, or should the legislative branch tackle it?
The folks at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) quite clearly possess two passions, and two passions alone: ensuring broadband access for every American and sporadically astonishing everyone with the most incredible facts about broadband usage in the country. Last year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had claimed in a report that actual broadband speeds in the US trailed promised speeds by at least 50%. Now, a survey commissioned by the FCC has revealed that nearly 80% of broadband users are unaware of their connection's speed.
The survey conducted by the Abt/SRBI and Princeton Survey Research Associates International polled 3,005 adults. Men fared a little better than women, with a “whopping” 29% of male respondents aware of their broadband connection's speed as compared to only 10% of the women that were surveyed. When categorized based on their age, respondents aged 65 years or more were found to be the most ignorant of the lot.
“Today, most people just know that their home broadband speed is supposed to be ‘blazing fast.’ They need more meaningful information to know exactly what speed they need for the applications they want to run, and what provider and plan is their best choice,” said Joel Gurin, chief of the consumer and governmental affairs bureau of the FCC.
The FCC is enlisting the help of UK's SamKnows Limited to more accurately measure actual broadband speeds. In fact, SamKnows is currently on the lookout for up to 10,000 volunteers for this ambitious project. Each volunteer will have their broadband connection monitored using a special set-top box installed by the UK-based company. All those interested in volunteering can apply here.
It's a good idea to closely monitor your monthly cell phone usage, especially if you're on a family or some other kind of shared plan. Otherwise, you could end up with "bill shock" at the end of the month. As the FCC tells it, one out of every six Americans has been caught off guard with a higher-than-expected cell phone bill.
This stat comes as part of an FCC-commissioned study in which it was discovered that some 30 million Americans have been surprised at their phone bill. Out of those, 33 percent said their bill was $50 more than what they were expecting, while 23 percent said it was more than $100.
The FCC wants put into place new rules in the mobile phone industry that would prevent bill shock from happening, such as requiring carriers to notify customers when their cell phone bills start to get out of whack. In the meantime, treat the study as a reminder to keep tabs on how many minutes you and your family are chewing through every month.
The FCC took a stand back in 2003 saying that Selectable Output Control (SoC) was unnecessary, and could harm consumers. But a recent petition from the MPAA has resulted in a partial waiver, allowing SoC to be implemented in certain circumstances. SoC is an anti-counterfeiting technology that would force digital content to be output only to an HDCP compliant HDMI port.
The FCC will allow SoC to be used only on "high value" content. Specifically, any digital content (i.e. video on demand or streaming) that is not available on DVD or Blu-ray at the time, can be protected with SoC for up to 90 days. The rationale for this is a bit confusing. The FCC statement says, "Consumers simply cannot expect to be able to access something that does not yet exist." In short, the FCC doesn't need to fully protect people with older TVs because the expectation of getting this high value content is not assumed.
What this comes down to is that for owners of older TVs without an HDMI, you may be denied access to some special content that is made available before an official DVD release. Those with newer TVs however, may be able to get pre-release access to upcoming movies. How do you feel about this? Is it a reasonable trade-off, or should the FCC have held firm?
As FCC chair Genachowski moves toward an announcement on future broadband regulations, sources are indicating that he is leaning toward keeping the current system mostly intact. The turnaround comes in the wake of the recent U.S. Court of Appeals decision that the FCC overstepped its autority when it fined Comcast in 2008 for throttling torrent traffic. There were rumors that the FCC would attempt to reclassify broadband providers giving them more regulatory powers, but that course of action has apparently been ruled out.
Instead of an overhaul in regulation, only minor changes would be made. The exact policies were not detailed, but the goal would be to ensure the FCC has some roll in future policy discussions. The whole issue has left the FCC's net neutrality plans up in the air. It is unclear if they will have the clout to push many changes in the current climate.
Where should the FCC go from here? Is it just time to pack it in and get ready for more traffic shaping?