Tag Archives: Broadband

Dig Once, Gain Broadband Later

Here’s a simple, bipartisan idea for spreading broadband to more places.

When broadband providers construct a network, they need to string wires along utility poles or bury them underground in protective tubing called conduit. And providers want to minimize the disruption to residents caused by these big builds. “Dig once” policies mandate the installation of an oversized conduit bank by any new network builder within the right-of-way, to accommodate future users when new roads are being built or opened for maintenance and conduit is not already in place.

The expense and complexity of digging up streets to install new networks may increase the cost and slow the pace of broadband network investment and deployment. In the context of the U.S. federal highway system, the U.S. GAO points out that “dig once” policies can save up to 25–33% in construction costs in urban areas and roughly 16% in rural areas. Not only is this an attractive option to providers who save the time and expense of digging, but it has the added benefit of reducing future disruption for local citizens (who probably don’t want to deal with a future road closure if it can be avoided). 

Last week, Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) introduced the Broadband Conduit Deployment Act of 2015. This follows the introduction of the Streamlining and Investing in Broadband Infrastructure Act in the Senate by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Steve Daines (R-MT), and Cory Gardner (R-CO). The bills both focus on the adoption of “dig once” policies for federal highway projects. The goal of the bills is important -- to reduce barriers to broadband deployment and further infrastructure investment, including in rural areas of the country.

Deploying a large-scale broadband network from scratch is hard. It requires considerable planning, negotiations with municipal officials, property owners, incumbent network and utility providers, contract reviews, etc. And all that has to happen before a network builder can put a shovel in the ground or string a wire.

From the White House to the state house and throughout communities across America, policymakers are increasingly focused on what it takes to deploy high-speed broadband networks. “Dig once” is one great way of doing that.

Furthering Broadband Abundance in America

When we broke ground on Google Fiber in our first group of cities, we ran shovel-first into the old saying that “you never know what you’ll find until you start digging.” Literally, because geological data hasn’t been fully collected in most communities. In early 2014, we created the Google Fiber City Checklist to help cities address this problem by cataloging key data assets ahead of any buildout. While our checklist has helped cities become more fiber-friendly, it doesn’t cover the countless impediments that might be encountered when laying down fiber.

On Monday, the White House released a report drafted by the twenty-five agencies of the Broadband Opportunity Council, outlining specific actions, incentives, and regulatory processes that the federal government can undertake to accelerate broadband deployment and adoption in the United States.

The White House report focuses on four particular areas that are of vital importance and were reflected in the hundreds of comments that the Department of Commerce received back in June:

1. Modernizing federal programs to expand program support for broadband investments. (e.g. expanding USDA and HUD grant programs to include broadband).

2. Empowering communities with tools and resources to attract broadband investment and promote meaningful use. (e.g. the provision of BroadbandUSA best practices, guides, and technical support to cities).

3. Promoting increased broadband deployment and competition through expanded access to Federal assets. (e.g. the DOT creation of a broadband rights-of-way policy for broadband on federal highways, agency-level implementations of “Dig Once” policies, etc.).

4. Improving data collection, analysis and research on broadband. (e.g creating an online data inventory of federal broadband assets).

As we wrote back in June, “The U.S. shouldn’t settle for less than ubiquitous, abundant broadband access” and there is still more work to be done for the U.S. government to successfully implement policies that can make the U.S. fiber ready, wireless ready, and consumer ready.

We see firsthand how the power of abundant broadband access can empower and uplift local communities, and we know people all around the country want to see their government work on what matters to them, modernizing infrastructure and expanding their opportunities. It’s great to know that 25 federal agencies as diverse as the Department of Agriculture, Small Business Administration, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, will now do more to prioritize broadband abundance. 

The Broadband Opportunity Council report, its objectives, and timelines are an excellent starting point toward action that will focus that leadership and move forward on enabling broadband for all Americans in the months and years ahead.

Creating Value For Consumers From Unused TV Channels

Modern wireless devices, from smartphones to tablets to wearable technologies, often rely on access to both a licensed cellular connection and unlicensed Wi-Fi for access to the Internet. Indeed, this access to both licensed and unlicensed airwaves has powered the mobile revolution to date.

That’s why we’re happy that as the FCC moves forward with its plan to auction more airwaves for licensed mobile use in the 600 MHz band, it has also made progress toward the goal of making three channels in this band available nationwide for unlicensed use. Once the FCC completes its work--including ensuring access to adequate spectrum in areas where a broadcaster may be placed in the “duplex gap” between wireless uplink and downlink, and fully implementing shared access to Channel 37, which is not used for television--these rules will ensure that unlicensed white spaces devices have opportunities to operate as spectrum is recovered from broadcasters and repurposed for wireless broadband.

By adopting a balanced approach to spectrum use that includes both licensed and unlicensed spectrum, the FCC helps ensure that consumers can get online, communicate, connect their devices, and have a quality experience on devices they choose, no matter where they are. Access to this new, low-frequency unlicensed spectrum means far better wide-area Wi-Fi connectivity for streaming a movie to any TV in your home, changing your thermostat settings no matter where you are, transferring photos from your camera to your computer, or answering your door from anywhere using your smartphone.

People rely more and more on Wi-Fi every day to live a connected life. In 2013 Wi-Fi, today’s most commonly used unlicensed technology, contributed over $6.7 billion to the U.S. GDP. The FCC’s order, released this week, recognizes the value to the economy of investments in unlicensed as well as licensed technologies.

How policymakers can support broadband abundance

Nearly three years ago, Nick Budidharma, an 18­ year­ old game developer, drove with his parents from Hilton Head, S.C., to live in a “hacker home” that’s connected to the Google Fiber network. Synthia Payne relocated from Denver to launch a startup that aims to let musicians play together in real­-time online. Kansas City -- America’s first Google Fiber city -- has been transformed.

Today, Google Fiber continues to make the Internet faster and more accessible to more people across the country. Michael Slinger, Director of Google Fiber Cities, will testify today before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology to urge policymakers to play a more active role in expanding nationwide broadband abundance.

Today’s hearing will highlight the expansion of broadband deployment, recent infrastructure developments, and policies that will encourage investment in broadband expansion. Michael will share our experience building out Google Fiber to present ideas for how policymakers can support greater broadband abundance:

“Policymakers’ top broadband goal should be achieving broadband abundance — which requires reducing the cost of network buildout and removing barriers that limit providers’ ability to reach consumers. The key is to focus on competition, investment, and adoption.”

When lawmakers successfully support broadband infrastructure and development, Americans will have more choices at higher speeds, small businesses will have the opportunity to expand, and local economies will grow. Post content

Encouraging Innovation: Wi-Fi and LTE in Unlicensed Spectrum Bands

In the 20 years since the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) first made spectrum available on an unlicensed basis, technologies such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth have flourished. Innovation in unlicensed spectrum has given people more opportunity to access the Internet, when and where they need it.

Carriers are also innovating in licensed spectrum, deploying Long Term Evolution (“LTE”) networks that enable the delivery of data traffic faster and more efficiently than previous generations of technology such as 3G. Indeed, a spectrum policy that balances licensed and unlicensed opportunities has allowed expansive growth of the wireless economy, benefiting consumers, innovators, and investors.

With the rapid growth of data services and high bandwidth applications, mobile operators need more capacity than ever. One way to meet the need is to move traffic from their licensed network to the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz unlicensed bands, known as “Wi-Fi offloading”. Offloading benefits carriers and consumers: carriers find additional capacity to relieve congestion on their network and consumers have a high-quality experience.

In recent months, several carriers and suppliers have announced plans to deploy LTE, a technology historically deployed only in licensed frequencies, in the 5 GHz unlicensed band as a means for providing additional capacity to customers. One part of the LTE stream operates in a licensed frequency, and the mobile operator has the flexibility to determine whether to send other portions over licensed or unlicensed frequencies. This arrangement provides licensed operators access to additional spectrum without the expense of obtaining a license, while allowing them to maintain the quality of service expected for licensed services. This form of LTE cannot be used without access to licensed spectrum.

However, LTE over unlicensed — at least as currently conceived — presents new challenges for coexistence with other unlicensed technologies. A new white paper by Google engineers, which we filed with the FCC this week, summarizes our initial investigation into the issue of coexistence between license-anchored LTE and Wi-Fi in the 5 GHz band. The paper shows that in many circumstances, LTE over unlicensed coexists poorly with Wi-Fi.

Although all players in the wireless ecosystem should have the ability to utilize unlicensed spectrum within the FCC’s rules, LTE over unlicensed has the potential to crowd out unlicensed services. Holders of licensed spectrum shouldn’t be able to convert the unlicensed 5 GHz band into a de-facto licensed spectrum band, and certainly they should not have the ability to drive out other unlicensed users.

The ability for diverse technologies to operate together in the unlicensed bands has typically been resolved through cooperation and without regulatory intervention. Providers of unlicensed services share an incentive to make sure that players are able to deliver services in the band without fundamentally degrading other unlicensed activity. The incentives to coexist may be different when providers can fall back to licensed spectrum in the event of conflicts in unlicensed spectrum. But there is still time for the industry-led cooperation that enables technologies like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to coexist successfully.

A potential solution that would avoid coexistence problems in the 5 GHz band is for carriers instead to utilize newly available spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band for additional capacity. The FCC recently identified the now-underutilized 3.5 GHz band spectrum as ideal for this kind of use.

The entire wireless ecosystem should be concerned about allowing one innovation to block others — past and future. The best way to stimulate innovation without regulatory intervention is for the industry to maximize use of all available spectrum and develop workable coexistence and coordination mechanisms that encourage widespread access to unlicensed spectrum. 

Creating Broadband Abundance

Over the last few years, we've started to see gigabit Internet service transform communities. It has provided a platform for economic development and new ways to use technology to improve citizens’ lives. What’s more, where there is competition, it is driving a race between broadband providers, giving consumers higher speeds, greater choice, and lower prices.

The U.S. shouldn’t settle for less than ubiquitous, abundant broadband access. Unfortunately, many consumers don’t have much choice in broadband providers and for most, gigabit Internet is still a dream. Market-based solutions are critical to closing the gap, yet regulation on the federal, state, and local levels has not kept pace with technological innovation. Some regulations, such as those addressing access to infrastructure, fail to remove — and sometimes worsen — barriers to broadband deployment. Policymakers’ top broadband goal should be abundance, which can be brought about by competition, investment, and adoption.

Earlier this year, the Obama Administration created a “Broadband Opportunity Council” of federal government agencies to examine how each agency could remove barriers to broadband deployment. Today, we’re sharing our ideas with the Council in a filing with the U.S. Commerce Department.

Google has always invested in making online content and applications more widely available. We’re also creating more abundant broadband access through services like Google Fiber and wireless projects. Our experience has given us some ideas for how government officials can implement policies to make the U.S. fiber ready, wireless ready, and consumer ready.

Fiber Ready 
One of the biggest challenges facing new broadband entrants, including Google Fiber, is accessing existing infrastructure. Policymakers can help reduce delays associated with obtaining adequate information, attaching to existing utility poles, and increasing access to existing conduit and rights of way. Moreover, we can streamline processes that pole owners and existing attachers use to get poles ready for a new provider (known as “make-ready” work).

Another challenge for new broadband entrants is unreasonably high rates for access to video programming. The FCC's policy of allowing non-cost based discounts under the guise of permitted volume discounts undermines broadband entry and deployment. The policy should be revised to require covered programmers to justify how their discounts for the biggest incumbents relate to actual cost savings. Most consumers want to buy Internet and video programming in one package. Encouraging the competitive availability of video services can spur the deployment of high-speed networks, resulting in more consumer choice.

Wireless Ready 
Wireless service plays a critical role in bringing broadband to rural areas where low population densities and challenging terrain make traditional deployments prohibitively expensive, and to underserved areas that lack robust infrastructure. Whether a consumer uses a DSL, cable or fiber connection, she likely is using Wi-Fi as the last link for connectivity. To promote broadband abundance, policymakers can ensure that sufficient spectrum is available for Wi-Fi and other unlicensed technologies and adopt policies to enable sharing of underused spectrum.

Consumer Ready 
About 30 percent of Americans still don’t use the Internet at home, leaving them at a disadvantage when it comes to education, job opportunities, and social and civic engagement. Google Fiber has committed to address digital inclusion and adoption with community partners and local leaders, but a broader effort is needed to bring all Americans online. As part of our filing with the Commerce Department, we propose a number of ideas for how the government can further broadband adoption and digital inclusion.

These proposals include expanding digital literacy programs; driving public awareness about why the Internet matters; and modernizing the Lifeline program to shift the responsibility for determining eligibility away from carriers to enable consumers to choose connectivity services that meet their needs. These ideas are an essential complement to the work of Google and others to make the Internet faster and more affordable for more people across the country.

A successful agenda to increase broadband deployment and bandwidth abundance will benefit consumers, small businesses and the economy. We hope that the new Broadband Opportunity Council will remove barriers, give Americans more choices at higher speeds, and help reach the goal of nationwide broadband abundance.

Spectrum Sharing: The Next Generation

As a child, my sisters and I loved when our father let us use his CB radio. We memorized the code of conduct: Rule #1 - be respectful, listen before speaking and don’t hog the channel. And we had humorous “handles” long before Twitter. CB radios gave me and my family a way to communicate over short distances, and we didn’t need a license for use of the radio waves.

Flash forward to today. We’ve come a long way from CB radios, and we all have more and more devices in our homes and offices connected to Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, the airwaves allocated for this purpose have become congested.  

The good news is that the Federal Communications Commission (or “Friendly Candy Company” in CB lingo) today took a step toward addressing this problem, by creating a new “Citizens Broadband Radio Service,” that makes some spectrum available for shared wireless broadband use in the 3.5 GHz spectrum band.  

The FCC established three tiers of access in the 3.5 GHz band. The first tier is for incumbent access, including both federal and non-federal incumbents (like U.S. Navy radar operations and Fixed Satellite Service earth stations, respectively); the second is for “priority access licensees,” who will gain access by bidding for rights to use small chunks of spectrum for short periods of time; and the third tier is for unlicensed spectrum users in the new Citizens Broadband Radio Service.

Users of the spectrum might deploy “small cell” networks that can carry heavy loads of data in high-traffic areas -- such as crowded stadiums -- or offer fixed wireless broadband services in rural areas. Unlike the large scale infrastructure necessary to operate cellular networks that you see mounted on towers or tall buildings, these small cells are easy to deploy.

A key component to sharing in this band is the Spectrum Access System, which utilizes database technology to protect important federal government uses of spectrum. These systems will ensure that neither priority access or general consumer users interfere with the existing government and private users who will continue to need 3.5 GHz spectrum in a limited number of areas. They also will allow new users to share effectively with each other. Google has been a leader in using databases to free-up available spectrum, and we are one of the companies working to develop a sharing system for the 3.5 GHz band.
The additional spectrum that is now available in the 3.5 GHz band will help relieve Wi-Fi congestion – improving the experience of consumers accessing the Internet over wireless broadband. The Commission recognized today that we don’t have to allocate spectrum for only a single purpose the way the government did in the 1950s. This action will have an impact far beyond what we can imagine today. Creating this “innovation band” by opening the spectrum on a shared basis will advance the goal of wireless broadband abundance.  

Catch ya on the flip-flop. We’re down’n gone.

Posted by Staci Pies, Senior Policy Counsel, Google