Competition = Choice = Satisfaction

09/13/2010 by NextGenWeb

An opening panel at this year’s Fiber to the Home annual conference touched on a topic that is not new to NextGenWeb – competition in the broadband industry. According to Kevin Bourg of Enablence Systems, competition in the broadband market is all about understanding today’s subscriber.

According to Bourg, today’s broadband subscriber has more information at their disposal, is of a varying age group, relies on social networks, and utilizes new communications technologies including fixed and wireless broadband. Because of these four factors, consumers are more knowledgeable, forcing broadband providers to offer more and better services in order to stay ahead of the game.

But what does this really mean? Due to increasing competition in the American broadband industry (82% have a choice of at least two wireline broadband technologies), consumers are getting what they want, and are satisfied. Across the board, broadband providers are increasing service offerings. And it’s paying off. According a recent FCC survey, 91% of customers are “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with their broadband service.

During the audience Q & A, an interesting question was posed: With competition thriving, and consumers overwhelmingly satisfied, wouldn’t increased regulation only lead to uncertainty in the marketplace? We sure think so.

Industry Experts Debate Broadband Competition & Regulation

06/24/2010 by Shana Glickfield

Earlier this week, ITIF hosted a debate on broadband rankings , specifically focused on this resolution: “The US is lagging seriously behind other countries on broadband access and this is due primarily to a failure of U.S. telecom regulation.”  Of course, this is not the way that ITIF sees it (nor we at NextGenWeb), but this is what made the topic ideal for debate.

Proponents of the resolution, Matt Wood from Media Access Project and Sascha Meinrath from New America Foundation, argued there is a need for increased competitive pressure to achieve desired industry outcomes like lower prices and higher speeds.  However, Rob Atkinson from ITIF and George Ford from the Phoenix Center, were very convincing that the problem isn’t broadband access or affordability.  It’s that only 62% of homes in the U.S. have computers.  “We’d be ranked 6th if we had higher computer adoption like Japan and other countries,” Atkinson said.

Another issue that negatively affect the U.S. in broadband rankings is “urbanicity,” or the density of urban areas, since it’s is easier to reach many at a lower cost the more dense an area is, Atkinson also noted.  Nations like South Korea have an advantage since 50% of units are multi-dwelling, versus only 3% in the U.S. having more than 50 units.

These reasons suggest that competition and regulation are not the policies needed to improve upon broadband adoption.  To go even further, George Ford was adamant that adding another entrant to the market, particularly government as a provider, when there is currently so much intermodal competition would be a huge step backwards in where we should focus our energy.

Watch the video below for more from Rob Atkinson, President of ITIF.

AT&T Believes in the Importance of Small Businesses

05/25/2010 by NextGenWeb

Today, NextGenWeb listened to AT&T’s Cathy Martine as she spoke at the Phoenix awards luncheon held in honor of National Small Business Week. The Phoenix awards are given to three disaster recovery heroes whose efforts and contributions have enabled their businesses or communities to recover successfully from a disaster. The conference is a public/private sector event themed “Small Business Innovation” with around 700-800 small business attendees.

Ms. Martine was quick to point out the importance of small business on the national economy, particularly those cities and states trying to recover after a disaster. For success, small businesses need the best tools and technology that companies like AT&T make available. AT&T has invested $55 billion in recent years and plans to contribute another $19 billion that will expand even more America’s broadband networks that deliver the kinds of apps and innovations that consumers enjoy today.

Ms. Martine said, “Nearly two-thirds of small businesses could not survive, or it would be a very large challenge to survive, without wireless technology… small businesses are the heart and soul of the American economy.”

More solutions are made available to AT&T’s three-million small business customers on a daily basis. Those solutions help small business customers run more effective businesses and help further fuel America’s economic growth and innovation engine.

Clearly a win-win situation for all involved.

Small Business & Broadband Big Players in the U.S. Economy

05/13/2010 by NextGenWeb

Yesterday the House Small Business Committee held a hearing that examined the impact broadband is having on American small businesses. You don’t have to look far to find an economist that says both small business and broadband are crucial to the growth of the American economy. Committee Chairwoman Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) said that the number of jobs dependent on broadband are expected to grow by 25% over the next 10 years.

Long-time NextGenWeb contributor and small business owner Tom McDonald, CEO of BeSafe Technologies, was one of the panelists called to testify. McDonald told members that the broadband expansion America has witnessed over the past several years has been instrumental to the growth of his and other small businesses throughout the country. While he said it is tough out there on Main Street right now, that he is optimistic that the broadband explosion will continue in the years ahead. A caveat he added was that “certainty of the rules of the game” are critical and that he is worried about the uncertainty that could be created around the Title II issue unfolding at the FCC (more on that in our interview below). Ranking Member and Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO), cautioned that regulatory schemes which discourage investment in broadband infrastructure are not only harmful to small business, but also consumers.

Evan Burfield, (@eburfield) President and CEO of the Synteractive Corporation said in his testimony, “I know Congress and policy makers are paying close attention to ‘Net Neutrality,’ and the Members of this Committee are more attuned to the ongoing policy debate than I am. But as an entrepreneur, I would encourage policy makers to steer clear of foreclosing new business opportunities for small business, including our ability to partner with carriers.”

Concluding the Q&A portion of the hearing McDonald urged members to make sure that “today’s solution is not tomorrow’s problem” when it comes to facilitating continued growth in the broadband marketplace. He told committee members that the growth of broadband penetration is an American success story, and that while there is more work to do we shouldn’t invoke policies that could stifle the growth we’re already seeing.

Be sure to check our interview with BeSafe CEO Tom McDonald below outside the U.S. Capitol.

Understanding the Economics of the Internet

05/07/2010 by NextGenWeb

“The question should not be, ‘How do we divide the pie fairly?’ The real question should be, ‘How do we continue to grow the pie?’”

So said Richard Feasey, Public Policy Director of Vodafone, when presenting the findings of a report titled “The Economics of the Internet” on Thursday. The main crux of Feasey’s report focused on the economics of what has become known as the “Internet Ecosystem.”

According to Feasey, there is a lack of real understanding on the part of the global policy community when it comes to understanding the economics of the Internet. Most policy discussions are focused on the consumer side of things, while the majority of Internet revenue is actually generated in relatively obscure business-to-business transactions. These transactions include everything from hardware, software, devices and infrastructure.

Though Feasey’s report and overall tone took on a global characteristic, he did focus on the US by stating, “What happens in the US sets the pace for the rest of the world in terms of Internet policy.” This is why making informed policy decisions at home is so important, and understanding the true economics of the Internet can go along way in achieving that goal.

Finally, Feasey dove into specifics about revenue, investment and rate of return for different sectors of the Internet economy. One of the most interesting examples came when comparing online advertising revenue and broadband infrastructure investment. Feasey found that if all online ad revenue were given to broadband providers, it still would not be enough to fund their current levels of infrastructure investment. And those same broadband providers that are investing billions of dollars per year are receiving a return on investment that is below or equal to the vast majority of S&P 500 companies.

Simply put, the economy of the Internet would not be as valuable without America’s broadband providers who are investing billions in the infrastructure that has now delivered broadband to 95% of Americans. That is a good American story to tell.

AT&T’s Jim Cicconi Talks Broadband At Green Jobs Conference

05/06/2010 by Shana Glickfield

Among the headlining speakers that included Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, Sierra Club Executive Chair Carl Pope, and U.S. Senator John Kerry at the Good Jobs, Green Jobs National Conference was Jim Cicconi, AT&T’s Senior Executive Vice President for External & Legislative Affairs. AT&T offered a unique perspective among an array of green activists and politicians, by talking about the important contributions that broadband is making to our green economy and low carbon future.

Cicconi began by thanking fellow conference participants, including the Blue Green Alliance for their recent report, Networking the Green Economy: How Broadband and Related Technologies Can Build a Green Economic Future. The report talks about the potential of broadband to spur job growth through the development of smart buildings, smart grids, telehealth, teleconferencing, and digital education. Cicconi also referenced the Smart 2020 report, which found that the large-scale adoption of broadband in the United States can reduce CO2 emissions by 13 to 22 percent by 2020 “by transforming the way people and businesses use technology.”

Cicconi touted the $55 billion that AT&T has invested in their networks over the past three years, and outlined plans to invest between $18 and $19 billion this year, an increase of 5 to 10 percent over last year. It is precisely this level of investment that will power our green job future. Finally, Cicconi reminded the audience of the need to maintain the kind of climate conducive to these kinds of capital investments, which are so critical in increasing deployment and adoption of the green technologies that were highlighted at the event.

Click below to watch archived footage of Cicconi’s remarks.

Leading Economists Examine Best Role of Government in Innovation

04/09/2010 by Shana Glickfield

Yesterday morning the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) gathered several economic scholars to discuss the role that the government should have in U.S. innovation and economic policy.  Although broadband was not explicitly a topic, it certainly was implicit as the discussion focused on the best market environment to promote innovation and keep America competitive globally.

Without getting too deep into economic theory (I will tell you that neoclassical was mentioned quite a bit), panelists touted a market system that aligns both public and private interests.   Bob Lawrence, a professor at Harvard University, warned against the government isolating technologies rather than letting the private sector respond to market forces.

Robert Atkinson of ITIF agreed.  Noting the complexities, he believes that there is such a thing as good vs. bad industrial policy, urging that we recognize market impacts and also recognize national innovation opportunities and work with government to support and advance those.

What US Competitiveness Means to Business

04/01/2010 by NextGenWeb

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce gathered top economists and business leaders this week to discuss how America will compete in today’s global economy. While discussion ranged from economic theory (what is productivity and how do we define it) to corporate tax policy, the part we found most interesting dealt with government regulation in the private sector.

Verizon Executive Vice President Tom Tauke led this discussion, citing three things that he says are crucial for U.S. competitiveness and innovation: people, trade and capital. The attraction of capital is tied to regulation, he said, with heavy regulation the equivalent of a heavy tax—it will deter investment and stifle innovation. Asked about regulation specifically in the telecom sector, Tauke explained that the Internet marketplace has had such robust growth and private sector investment because of de-regulation during the Clinton Administration. The problem now, he said, is that some people want to apply an old, monopoly-style regulatory environment to a multiple-player, thoroughly modern industry. Although Tauke argued intervention is not needed at all, he also said Verizon is a good player who will stand by the rule of law, he just hopes that rule of law makes sense. If we are going to regulate the Internet, he warned, the rules should at least be as modern as the industry, and are best decided by Congress, as he outlined in a speech at NDN last week.

As members of Congress continue to mull over the FCC’s National Broadband Plan, the role of regulator and enforcer, and who should play it, will no doubt continue to be a topic of great discussion. Be sure to follow that debate right here on NextGenWeb, and click below to watch archived footage of Tauke’s remarks.

AT&T Innovation… Beyond The Networks

02/25/2010 by Shana Glickfield

Imagine watching video images of real time traffic of the locations of your choice on your TV before you leave the house for your morning commute.  Imagine 3-D TV for movies, sports, and nature programming in your living room, and still 200-400 premium channels to choose from as well.  Imagine interacting with that programming from your iPhone by throwing virtual tomatoes to appear on the screen or rotating photos for a home slide show.  These are just a few of the technologies that I got to experience firsthand at the AT&T Innovation Center.

Aside from home technologies, the AT&T Innovation Center featured demonstrations of how the company is embracing Second Life, augmented reality on mobile phones, assistive technologies like voice recognition, and so much more.

As you’ll see below in my interview with Dr. David Belanger, AT&T Labs Chief Scientist and Vice President for Information, Software and Systems Research, AT&T is not only bringing broadband to consumers, but an entire array of next generation technologies.  In this interview, Dr. Belanger explains how AT&T scientists work diligently to produce creative and innovative research, tools, and network technologies, which then combine to form the products that consumers enjoy.

Broadband – a Lighthouse in the Economic Storm

01/07/2010 by NextGenWeb

The economic downturn and credit crisis of the past two years taught us something – we can’t continue to do things the same way we did before. A 21st century approach is required to navigate the 21st century global business environment. That was the crux of a discussion on Thursday at CES titled “Staying Competitive in Turbulent Times.”

The discussion featured marketing officers from several different technology companies – including ATT, Cisco and Hewlett-Packard – who have been at the forefront of helping the U.S. right the ship in a rather turbulent economic storm. The message was clear – technology is the answer to a 21st century competitive economy.

When asked towards the end of the conversation what consumers can expect in 2010 and beyond, the answer was unanimous. Expect more video, more mobility, and more integration of products and devices consumers already enjoy. And what will drive this integration and interconnectedness?

Broadband.

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