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Leroy Jones, Jr. is the creator of Talking Technology with Leroy Jones, Jr.

Moving Forward with Rural Broadband

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Recently, the website The Conversation, which bills itself as a forum for academic analysis, posted a fascinating article on the implications of America's changing demographics. 


Authored by two Penn State professors whose research was funded by the NIH, the article begins by noting that, "Racial and ethnic diversity is no longer confined to big cities and the east and west coasts of the United States."

 

Specifically, the authors show how this trend toward greater diversity "is not limited to urban America. Dramatic increases are evident in rural places as well." Ninety percent of rural areas in the U.S. became more diverse between 1990 and 2010, they write.

 

The points raised in their article are particularly timely given the FCC's recent vote to promote rural broadband. As demographic profiles of small towns and communities continue changing, these communities' needs change too.  This makes their need for broadband access and connection speeds comparable to urban areas especially important.

 

Thankfully, it looks like Washington understands this. Last week, the FCC unanimously approved launching the second phase of its Mobility Fund, which funds expanding wireless voice and broadband services in underserved areas. The FCC also approved the next step in its Connect America Fund auction, which supports voice and broadband service deployment in under-served high-cost areas. 

 

The Mobility Fund order provides up to $4.53 billion during the next decade ($453 million per year for ten years) to expand 4G LTE coverage to areas that lack this service. The service will have at least a median speed of ten megabits per second (Mbps), which is enough to stream HD movies.

 

Interestingly, rather than using grants, the FCC chose to distribute these funds through a "reverse auction" system.  The plan is to have wireless companies compete against each other by submitting bids on rural coverage based on the number of square miles its service will cover. Commissioner Mignon Clyburn called the new system "a framework that will bring reasonably comparable mobile service to those who have been without."

 

While the goal is laudable and the implementation seems workable, the FCC's action does raise a legitimate concern over its likelihood of success.  As FCC Commissioner Michael O'Reilly noted in his endorsement, "While I certainly want to maximize the [benefits], if the requirements are unrealistic, we run the risk that potential bidders will decide not to participate or that providers will have to return funding several years from now."

 

This sort of auction problem would not be new to the FCC.  In the 1990s, when the FCC conducted its spectrum auction for PCS services, it implanted unrealistic guidelines and as a result, more than half the licenses from that auction were later returned for non-payment. This set back U.S. development of mobile broadband for years.

 

The FCC's Connect America Fund vote also involves an incentive auction.  The Commission voted to spend nearly $2 billion in incentives for fixed and wireless rural broadband deployment.

 

But overall, the FCC has taken an important step forward to support rural broadband. Chairman Ajit Pai has made expanded broadband access for all a signature goal of his Chairmanship and this is a tangible step forward.


LJJ

(TechnicalJones)

Mobile Tech: What happens in 2017?

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MobileTech_Feb 2017.jpg
What do you think will be going on within the world of mobile tech in 2017?

Looks like things will be real interesting!


"Mobile technology in 2017 will have a heavy concentration on simplicity, speed, and ease of use."



mHealth: Will you wear it?

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Wearables_Feb 2017.png
Will you wear it?

Seems that the mHealth wearables market keeps growing!

Check out this interesting news:


"Boosted by the remote patient monitoring industry and provider acceptance of digital health devices in the home, shipments of remote monitoring wearables are expected to increase by more than 400 percent by 2021."


(via @mHealthIntel)


mHealth: Digital Assist

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Remote_Monitoring.jpg

Would you trust or feel comfortable with this?

Take a look at the article below:
 

"Powered by AI and enhanced by the IoT, digital assistants have the potential to connect consumers to mHealth services in the home - if a few bugs can be worked out first."





FCC: Brand New Hope

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Now that this year's Consumer Electronics Show is over, the tech press gets to engage in its favorite pastime of picking the show's winning products.  There's CNN's "Coolest Tech Products from CES," CNet's "Hottest Products" and Wired's "10 Sharpest Designs."

 

But this focus on neat designs and thin screens misses a bigger and more important issue: the rapidly accelerating use of "fifth generation" mobile broadband technology that underpins these revolutionary products.  Our national transformation to 5G is moving faster than even the most optimistic predictions a year ago. New mobile technology is powering advances from self-driving cars to connected health care.

 

This is important given next week's change in Administrations, particularly the FCC's coming leadership changes. The wireless marketplace is once again proving itself a dynamic and competitive industry that in 2015 alone attracted $32 billion in capital investment.

 

That investment translated into jobs - lots of jobs. According to a 2016 jobs survey, the mobile app economy last year employed 1.66 million Americans - or about the entire population of Philadelphia -- up from about 750,000 in 2013.

 

Hopefully, the magnitude of these numbers gives the new Administration's FCC appointees pause as they look to support the mobile economy. Continued growth in jobs and wireless investment is not preordained. In fact, if the capex numbers from 2016 are any indication, wireless investment actually dropped about 10% compared to 2015.

 

A major reason for this decline is almost certainly the FCC's 2015 decision to regulate mobile broadband like a public utility, a move that deserves an immediate burial, as Republican Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael Reilly have both urged.

 

But correcting mistakes made by the current FCC is only part of the solution.  The new FCC should focus on helping spur faster deployment of 5G mobile.  That means helping the industry, where possible, with the setting of 5G standards.  It means paying greater attention to reducing impediments to broadband deployment.

 

Most of all, it means becoming more of a partner to the mobile industry instead of trying to dictate to it.  That was the current FCC's key failing - specifically, a lack of appreciation for how technology and consumer demand are changing the mobile industry.

 

In December, the Center for Disease Control released figures showing that 49% of U.S. households are considered "wireless only," and nearly 65% are what the authors call "wireless mostly."

 

Clearly, the mobile revolution in the form of advanced 5G technology is poised to bring benefits across the country.  But this change still needs FCC help. New commissioners and staff should recognize the 5G promise and the benefits to be had from more cooperative policy stances.


LJJ

(TechnicalJones)


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