Toward the end of last year, the Pew Internet and American Life Project released a study saying that African Americans and Hispanics were among the highest users of wireless Internet. During his State of the Union address, President Obama shared his vision of connecting 95% of Americans with high-speed 4G wireless broadband. And over the past few months, broadcasters and Internet Service Providers have been in discussions with the Federal Communications Commission about the impending spectrum shortage and how best to accommodate the increasing demand for wireless Internet access.
It’s clear that wireless is the hot ticket in town when it comes to getting folks online. But what surprises me about some of the discussions of late is the seeming lack of focus on what’s best for the consumer, the end-user of wireless technologies. Broadcasters are up in arms because they’re afraid of sacrificing their much-coveted (but often unused) spectrum. ISPs insist that more spectrum must be acquired in order to meet consumer demands for faster speeds and more reliable service. So why not compromise, because it seems to me that the consumers’ interest lies between the two.
Study after study has shown that wireless access is rapidly becoming the preferred mode of connecting to the Internet, especially for younger people, folks living on fixed incomes, and people who are from traditionally unserved and underserved communities. If we know that by getting these folks wireless access, we can practically ensure their adoption of broadband – that technology that’s so vital to our 21st century innovation economy – then what’s the hold up?
Should broadcasters play nice with their spectrum – yes! Can they be compensated to play the game – sure why not. Do we want ISPs to more efficiently manage traffic online so that we can have the best user experience possible – definitely. Ought getting spectrum (i.e. better, stronger, faster networks) to the people be a top priority – absolutely!
There’s more than one way to skin a cat. And a whole spectrum of solutions abound when it comes to solving the wireless adoption equation.
As we all know, President Obama set the stage for change in his SOTU address where he made the bold claim that the country will have access to broadband for everyone. I’m sure that when people heard the speech that night, it was assumed that the execution on that vision would not start for some time.
Well, on February 8th the FCC took a step and voted to overhaul the Universal Service Fund so that those funds can be directed at extending broadband to underserved areas. I have already seen a lot of commentary about this topic, some in favor of these changes and others that see the change as negative. But many of them are not looking at this step as the game changer that it will be.
Every single day I am reminded of examples of how people are being left behind in the digital age. And while people bicker over issues in DC, the gap continues to widen for the rest of the population outside of the Beltway. It’s a powerful statement for the FCC to be willing to make the changes necessary to serve the people who don’t have a voice. The opportunities for job creation due to broadband deployment will be able to increase in multiple areas of the country. The amount of jobs and opportunities that will result from a broadband build out will be amazing: With extension into rural areas long distance training for the digitally literate job seekers will help them land their dream job or even create new business from the comfort of their home.
We need to promote the real value of this execution, and true winners will be the underserved. David Sutphen did a better job than I could ever do explaining the history of the regulations and why its important for them to be changed in his Op-ed on the hill.com. I’m just excited to see such fast movement on the issue of putting the power of broadband into everyone’s hands.
I’ve said for some time now that there are ideas in the minds of people, in urban and rural areas, that need access to the constant stream of information and resources that an Internet connection provides. With the FCC pushing the initiative past idea and into action, we will soon see those untapped ideas become our new reality.
The National Broadband Plan: What’s in it for Businesses?
I found an article that asked that very question. It mentions how even though the plan is primarily focused on boosting broadband adoption it does create some benefits for the enterprise. The key benefit they focus on increased telecommuting options for employees and companies. The plan will do this by effectively increasing broadband speeds for all and extending broadband into rural areas where employees currently have long commutes to work. I agree that this is a great benefit to both companies looking for ways to improve their bottom line and employees working to improve their work/life balance. The article brought a few other benefits to mind that the article did not cover. They are listed below:
These are just a few that came to mind. Can you think of any others?
I don’t think anyone is surprised by the two broadband-related studies released in the last several days. An FCC survey concluded “affordability” is one of the main reasons why nearly one-third of Americans do not have broadband at home. And the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies found “lower income groups continue to lag in their internet use.” Don’t get me wrong. Research is helpful, but we need to move on to the solutions. Some people are. Like David Sutphen, co-chair of the Internet Innovation Alliance.
Stuphen recently said, “The new FCC study underscores the need to remain focused on closing the digital divide by addressing the American public’s attitudes about broadband and reinforces the IIA’s belief that digital literacy must be a key component of the National Broadband Strategy, due to Congress (this month). In a 2009 survey of 900 African Americans and Hispanics by Obama pollster Cornell Belcher, 43 percent of respondents cited not knowing how to use the Internet or not seeing the need for the Internet as the reason why they are not online, and 44 percent of those same minorities polled said they would be more likely to subscribe to Internet services if they were provided free lessons on how to use the technology. Bridging the digital divide and getting every American online should be our top priority—broadband Internet is the great enabler and the great equalizer.”
I’ll be interested to see if the FCC provides any training or lessons on how to use the technology. And, as the survey points out, there must be relevant content on the Internet. Otherwise, minorities will continue to find little reason to invest in Internet access, and the gap will not be closed. Who out there is creating thought-provoking content for the minority communities that is driving traffic to their sites every day, especially content that is inspiring and motivating our next generation?
As we approach the Thursday, January 14, 2010 deadline to comment on the FCC’s proposed rules for Network Neutrality, I’m reminded of the marbled halls of the FCC and the relative frenzy that has consumed our nation’s capital, and all of the politicians, lawyers and lobbyists who are involved in this contentious issue. But really, my mind is somewhere else today.
Today, I’m thinking of the young woman in Detroit who has a dream of a better life, the young man in Chicago who has an idea that will uplift his community, and the inner-city entrepreneurs, from Los Angeles to Atlanta, who know that their vision can change the world. It’s not just make-believe, these people are real, and there are many more like them from every city town, borough and corner of the country that you can think of. What is the common thread? None of them can make their dreams happen without broadband access. But that same broadband access that is so essential to their growth and success will be threatened if the government enacts policies that create greater costs for families, especially low-income ones, to obtain and use those services, or if those policies erode the incentives to invest in the networks upon which we so heavily rely.
The FCC, through this link, http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/upload/display?z=izmxi, provides an opportunity for public comments on this issue for those who want to weigh in on network regulation, or the so-called “net neutrality” proceeding. You are certainly free to make up your own mind after careful consideration and research, but I personally can’t agree with any set of policies that could possibly increase the digital divide, or make it more different for minorities and low-income people to fully participate in the social and economic life of this country. Over the past few months, I’ve made my opinions clear on this issue, and I intend to do so for the foreseeable future, so if you are unclear on the issue or have questions for me, drop me a note in the comment thread.
Here’s my final thought for the day: Is it just me, or does anyone else see the irony that low-income people and minorities – the folks who could benefit the most from broadband – are less likely to be able to weigh-in on this issue because they lack broadband access in the first place? Why does is seem like the FCC is favoring the opinions of bloggers and people who clearly have broadband connections, and why is the system they’ve set up likely to disregard or further disenfranchise the voices of the people who really need the services enabled by high-speed Internet connections? Our focus needs to be on creating opportunities for broadband adoption and use, not in limited the terms of access so much so that adoption and use or made more unaffordable for the people who need it the most. Tell me your thoughts. I’m looking forward to the conversation…
This is part 3 of my series “Creating the next generation of entrepreneurs.” You can read part 1 and part 2 here as well. First, let me say thank you for all the feedback on my earlier posts. I don’t pretend to know everything, but I have been blessed with some great experiences and I feel compelled to share what I have learned from them with the hope that they help you in some way or at least get you thinking about these topics. I plan to write more often as the New Year begins. As you get ready for the holiday many of us will have some down time on our hands, so I wanted to share some things to think about during that time. I also know that we will all start the New Year with new resolutions, and my hope is that many of you make the resolution to start your own business (specifically a web business). In the hopes that you do, I wanted to share the advice below.
Once you have made the decision to start on the journey, I believe there are 3 things that are crucial for you to think about.
1. You have to do your homework so that you’re bringing your “A” game. Someone else has thought of almost any idea you have come up with. The difference between you and them is knowledge and execution. True story: I met with some potential clients and they shared their idea with me. They wanted to launch a dance site where people could upload dance videos; they could have contests and create a community. They were ready to spend money and work on launching the product. I asked them who they thought their competition was, and they said they felt Myspace was their only competition. I quickly asked if they had ever heard of DanceJam, McHammer’s dance site that has been live for over a year. They replied “ I’ve never heard of that.” My point is that if you don’t research what is already out there, how can you create something unique (and that’s just one of the things you need to think about)? There is a lot that goes into starting a company, raising capitol and scaling that company Before you make a move spend some time reading sites that talk about this process. Here are a few places that I frequent and a good place for you to start
• Both Sides of the table: This blog is written by an entrepreneur who is now a venture capitalist. He gives a no-nonsense approach to what to takes to be an entrepreneur.
• A VC: Fred Wilson, A leading venture vapitalist gives great advice to start-ups on a regular basis
• Venture Hacks: A great site that offers advice to start-ups
• 37signals blog: This company wrote a book called “Getting Real” (that you have to read), launched basecamp to become one of the leading project management services online without any outside investment, and -oh yeah- one of the founders created Ruby on Rails ( the language that was used to build Twitter)
• The small business and Start-up pages of Alltop.com: Lists current content from a whole bunch of sites
2. Immerse yourself in the space: I spend some time everyday reading about start-ups. I’ve watched start-ups go from inception to growth and sometimes to failure on sites like Techcrunch, Mashable, and Blackweb20. Each time I read about a company, I go to their site and see what changes they have made, how they are communicating with their audience. I look at each story for a chance to educate myself. It’s also good to see that success is possible and that people are winning. You need to find motivation anywhere you can because it’s easy to think there’s no upside.
3. Believe in yourself, and Let your haters be your motivators: I was going to write a whole post about this but decided it fit better here. Almost every site I mentioned that talks about what it takes to be successful will tell you that you need tenacity and the ability to be able to turn a “no” into a “yes.” But I want to speak about the doubt that will surround you throughout the process. From people close to you asking, “what are you thinking?” or “This will never work, you should just get a job,” to people you don’t know who will knock, criticize or downright blast your efforts for whatever reasons they have. I heard a sermon from TD Jakes not too long ago about turning your haters into your motivators. Use those people to fuel your motivations and press on. If you have done items 1 and 2 in this list and you have an idea your passionate about, then don’t let anyone stop you from having the faith to see it through. And lastly, we have to identify one last person who can de-motivate you. YOU!!! There are going to be many times when you are going to tell yourself it’s time to quit, it’s too hard or nothing seems to be working. I’m here to tell you that’s its at that moment that you are just around the corner from your next success. You just have to turn the corner to find it. There is a great book I read called “founders at work and another called “Once you’re lucky, Twice your good” that give great examples of this.
So as you get ready to plan for the New Year do your homework, get your focus, and get ready to take 2010 by storm. That’s what I’m planning to do. Have a blessed Holiday.
As we watch video on our iPhone, catch a TV show on Hulu, watch a live-streaming movie on Netflix, or while our children play games online through Xbox, take a second to think about how people actually connect to the Internet in order to achieve these activities. Then, watch this video.
This reminded me of when I had to manage a corporate network and had to deal with all of the challenges that would arise. If we are to be educated about any issue, we need to look at both sides of it. This video explains the idea of the “Exaflood” and really breaks it down, so let me know your thoughts.