Explaining the networking technology that makes the Internet possible. High Tech Forum editor Richard Bennett regularly interviews Internet pioneers about the details behind the high-tech magic we interact with everyday.
High Tech Forum Podcast
This is the second and final part of our conversation with Will Rinehart on broadband infrastructure plans. (First part is here.)
We discuss some of the biases, information gaps, and challenges that have to be overcome in order to extend high-quality broadband to all populated parts of rural America. We also discuss the fact that broadband inclusion isn’t really a problem the nation can solve through construction projects alone.
The broadband portion of the infrastructure bill is a huge improvement over some of the early plans floated by Democratic progressives because it has a focus on immediate steps that can and must be taken for the sake of immediate progress.
Rather than building for a far distant future that may never come to pass, Congressional spending on the problem of encouraging people to connect to current networks solves 80% of the inclusion problem. The economics of competition work very differently in markets with high fixed costs. These markets work better with a consumer welfare focus than with the competition focus.
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H.R.3684 – the House Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act – includes a $65B kicker for broadband networks in its trillion dollar appropriation package. This funding will extend broadband to unserved areas using a formula based in the ratio of unserved areas in the various states.
Funding is in the form of grants to states to be administered according to specified guidelines. The definition of broadband in the bill – 25 mbps down, 3 up, and reasonable latency – is conservative but realistic.
The bill is not bad, but it could have been worse. Today’s podcast, recorded in July, is a reminder of the progress made in the debate. Initial plans floated by some members of Congress focused on ultra-high-speed symmetrical plans that would have taken the better part of a decade to build.
The current package recognizes that some broadband installed today is better than a futuristic system that may never be installed. Economist Will Rinehart, an expert on the economics of bridging the digital divide, is the special guest. If you’re interested in broadband, competition, digital inclusion, and how public policy moves from idea to appropriation this is for you.
Part two is here.
High Tech Forum Podcast
Tom Evslin and Richard discuss Tom's experience with Starlink and his battle with the Vermont legislature to clear Starlink for subsidies to benefit low income Vermonters.
John Horrigan on Digital Inclusion
High Tech Forum would like to offer you a Christmas present: Internet for everyone. Episode 57 of our podcast series features distinguished guest Dr. John Horrigan, the leading scholar in the field of digital inclusion.
John has been researching the gap between the number of people who have broadband Internet available to them and the number who actually subscribe. It’s easy to confuse the two distinct poles of digital inclusion – deployment and adoption – but he’s having none of that.
Digital inclusion in the areas where broadband is available is driven by a number of factors: ability to pay, computer ownership, digital literacy and trust in the idea that Internet is something worth having. Programs that simply throw money at the problem are rarely successful, but comprehensive approaches that tackle all the dimensions can be successful.
Evangelists, Librarians, and Navigators
Horrigan has learned that librarians play a crucial role as the helpdesk for those new to the Internet. While it’s fairly straightforward to use common apps such as Facebook and Netflix, searching for work, applying for benefits, and doing school assignments can be tricky.
Research by our friends at ITIF indicates that government-provided mobile apps generally fall short of full functionality. So new users often rely on public libraries to help them walk through complex applications.
People are reluctant to sign up for low-cost services such as Internet Essentials because they fear the price will go up, but these fears can be quelled by local Internet evangelists.
Digital navigators – a new profession – help newbies with technical problems that would otherwise stymy them.
New Technology Lowers Prices and Increases Coverage
Digital inclusion isn’t simply a poor people’s problem, it affects rural folks across the spectrum of education and income. The subsidy programs that support rural networks lack a stable source of funding, but this is a solvable problem.
Watch and listen to see how!
High Tech Forum podcast
A discussion of zero-trust architecture with Dr. Lisa J. Porter
High Tech Forum Podcast
Phoenix Center scholars George S. Ford, PhD, and Lawrence Spiwak discuss the Open Technology Institute's Cost of Connectivity report
Great learning opportunity
This podcast is a unique glimpse into the tech & internet world. It is so interesting to hear from the innovators and the early creators -- and how technologies are used today. First podcast about creation of internet was fascinating. Keep them coming!