Monday, June 29, 2009

Pew Study: Home Broadband Adoption 2009

I've been watching the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project reports for a while now and their latest report has some interesting information. According to Pew, for the period between December 2007 and December 2008 high-speed adoption was stagnant between 54% and 57% in the United States. This past year we've seen a jump - home broadband adoption stood at 63% of adult Americans as of April 2009, up from 55% in May, 2008.

Here's more from the report:

The Pew Internet Project’s April 2009 survey interviewed 2,253 Americans, with 561 interviewed on their cell phones.

The greatest growth in broadband adoption in the past year has taken place among population subgroups which have below average usage rates. Among them:

Senior citizens: Broadband usage among adults ages 65 or older grew from 19% in May, 2008 to 30% in April, 2009.

Low-income Americans: Two groups of low-income Americans saw strong broadband growth from 2008 to 2009:
- Respondents living in households whose annual household income is $20,000 or less, saw broadband adoption grow from 25% in 2008 to 35% in 2009.
- Respondents living in households whose annual incomes are between $20,000 and $30,000 annually experienced a growth in broadband penetration from 42% to 53%.

Overall, respondents reporting that they live in homes with annual household incomes below $30,000 experienced a 34% growth in home broadband adoption from 2008 to 2009.

High-school graduates: Among adults whose highest level of educational attainment is a high school degree, broadband adoption grew from 40% in 2008 to 52% in 2009.

Older baby boomers: Among adults ages 50-64, broadband usage increased from 50% in 2008 to 61% in 2009.

Rural Americans: Adults living in rural America had home high-speed usage grow from 38% in 2008 to 46% in 2009.

Population subgroups that have above average usage rates saw more modest increases during this time period.

Upper income Americans: Adults who reported annual household incomes over $75,000 had broadband adoption rate change from 84% in 2008 to 85% in 2009.

College graduates: Adults with a college degree (or more) saw their home high-speed usage grow from 79% in 2008 to 83% in 2009.

Notably, African Americans experienced their second consecutive year of broadband adoption growth that was below average.
- In 2009, 46% of African Americans had broadband at home.
- This compares with 43% in 2008.
- In 2007, 40% of African Americans had broadband at home.

Last year, the average monthly bill for broadband internet service at home was $34.50, a figure that stands at $39.00 in April 2009.

Download the full Pew report PDF file here.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Impressions: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the Iranian Revolution

Saturday, June 20, 2009, was a fairly typical day for me. The only thing different than most Saturdays was we woke up early and dropped my daughter off at the airport for a graduation gift trip with her friends. On the way home my wife, younger daughter and I decided to stop at the mall and have the Apple store take a look at my daughter's busted power button on her iPod touch. We made a reservation at the Apple Genius Bar and ended up with about an hour and a half to kill walking around the mall. My wife and daughter ended up doing most of the shopping and I ended up peeking at my Twitter feed on my iPhone. I noticed a lot of tweets tagged #iranelection and decided to start following those tags.

Like tens of thousands of others for the rest of the day I watched a revolution tweet by tweet - described in 140 characters or less on Twitter. The Iranian government had pretty much shut down traditional media (television feeds, reporters, etc) but that did not matter - they could not shut down the web. As Secretary of Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, the Iranian government "could not draw the net tight enough to stop everything" It was evident when I got home and turned on the TV - guess where the major networks (CNN, Fox, etc) were getting their updates on Saturday - Twitter, Facebook, YouTube......

The ability to read, watch and experience through the eyes of others what was happening in real time was something I had never experienced before. The closest think I can compare it to was was it felt like like watching a live battle - not through the eyes and interpretation of a reporter or camera person - but through the tweets of the individual soldiers.

For the past few days there are reports the Iran government has been confiscating laptops, cell phones, etc and analyzing historical information on the devices. It is very simple to pull historical information off cell phone SIM cards (for example) and they will be able to track down some of the posters this way. It has also been reported the government is taking a close look at those videos on YouTube and will be identifying some of the protesters this way too. There are also reports of looking at things like Twitter names and tracing IP addresses to ID people. There also may have been a counter attack using social media, hacking Moussavi's Facebook page and posting incorrect information to confuse and upset his supporters.

What can be done? Not much without shutting the entire country down from the rest of the world. I'm guessing tsomeone is taking a serious look at cell phone signal jammers that could shut down cellular communications when things start to get out of control. Sure things can be shut down temporarily but a jammer is not going to stop a user from tweeting or recording video and then posting the content when they do get a connection. It will be very difficult to shut this stuff down for extended periods of time.

So many really smart people have told me they just don't get social media apps like Twitter and I struggle sometimes describing why and how I use them. I'm hoping a lot of people are getting it a little more after the past weekend. Saturday will stick with me and I'll remember it in a way that I remember the first time I saw a color television, used a modem, sent an email and searched the web.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Pokemon Video Game Championship Series

A couple of weeks ago I got up early to drive down to the Pokemon Video Game Northeastern Championship Series in King of Prussia (outside Philadelphia) with my daughter. Nintendo runs these competitions around the U.S. and Japan, culminating in a World Championship event being held this year in San Diego on August 14.

Nintendo splits the competition into two age groups - a Juniors Category for players born on or after January 1, 1997 and a Seniors Category for players born on December 31, 1996 or earlier. I've always found the age grouping odd - you often have 12 year old kids competing against much older adults which, to me as a parent, is a little bit creepy.

The competitor selection process is also setup in an odd way. There are only 128 competition slots in each age group with players randomly selected. We arrived around 7:00 and waited for registration to open - by the time registration ended there we're close to 500 people signed up for the 128 place older age group lottery. Names were randomly pulled and 128 people were selected to compete. Yes, there were 40-plus year old adults competing with 12 year old kids. There were also a lot of discouraged kids (and parents) who traveled some long distances only to not have their name pulled.

I ended up sitting for a while with a guy in his late thirties who had competed in the first round of the seniors category and lost. He told me he had not spent much time preparing for the competition and was really only there to throw his name into the lottery for a chance at the give-aways only the people that compete get. He was extremely proud of the DS (game) sticker he had "won" telling me "Only the people that compete get these special stickers".

I asked him if it bothered him that he had taken a competition slot from a 12 year old who had likely spent a lot more time preparing than he did - he told me "No, not at all".

My Flickr picture set for the event is linked here

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Simulation and Modeling in Technology Education (SMTE) Project

This is pinball game demonstrating the type of simulation we'll be using for the Survival Master game for STEM learning .

You can follow along via the project website at

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

FCC National Broadband Plan: Defining Access

It's a busy time of year with my daughter graduating from high school, the end of the semester, etc, etc, etc. Things are settling down now and I wanted to get back to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Notice of Inquiry (NOI) to develop a modern national broadband plan that will seek to ensure that every American has access to broadband capability.

As I've written in the past, the NOI is currently open for comment until June 8 with FCC reply to comments on July 7. In my last post I took a look at Defining Broadband Capability. Today let's look at Defining Access to Broadband as described in the 59 page report. I've listed selected items the FCC is seeking comment on, followed by my comments.

The FCC seeks comment on what it means to have access to broadband capability. For instance, the FCC seeks comment on whether the determination of availability should take into consideration the provision of broadband at locations, such as at home, at work, in schools, in transit, in libraries and other similar community centers, and at public Wi-Fi hotspots.

Broadband capability needs to be everywhere. Prioritizing (for example, saying a library requires more bandwidth per user than a home) makes little sense. We need to make broadband available to everyone.

The FCC seeks comment on whether to interpret the capability term differently
depending on the technology used or whether it is used in a fixed, nomadic, or mobile context.

A minimum definition should be set that all technologies should meet and then categories should be broken out. For example, a fiber to the home (FTTH) fixed technology connection is going to have considerably more capability than a mobile wireless connection.

The FCC seeks comment on whether (and if so, how) the Commission should evaluate the term “access”
with certain basic consumer expectations in mind.

In 2005 the Commission adopted an Internet Policy Statement in which it committed “to preserve and promote the vibrant and open character of the Internet as the telecommunications marketplace enters the broadband age” by incorporating four consumer-based principles into its ongoing policy making activities. (1) “consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice”; (2) “consumers are entitled to run applications and use services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement”; (3) “consumers are entitled to connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network”; and (4) “consumers are entitled to competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers.”

I believe these 4 principles are critical as we move forward and these principles should be turned into rules (through a rulemaking).

To what extent should the Commission consider price or marketplace competition for broadband as it considers whether people have access to broadband capability?

Competition is key if we want bandwidths from different providers to leapfrog and prices to drop. In Massachusetts we've seen fierce competition in the eastern part of the state as Verizon (FiOS) and the cable companies go back and forth with each other. In Western Massachusetts (where I live) FiOS is not available and we are seeing little competition when compared.

Areas where there is only a single provider typically have to wait for long periods of time to see new broadband delivery technologies. More competition in under-served areas is critical areas or these areas will continue to fall further behind. I'd like to see the national broadband plan focus stimulus money on these areas with limited competition and capability.

What benefits to consumers are unique to differentbroadband technologies? How should the Commission consider the different qualitative features discussed in the definition of broadband, such as latency, peak download speed, and mobility?

We must set these features aggressively and at a level that does not just compete but leads the rest of the world - this must be our goal. The OECD maintains a portal that provides access to a range of broadband-related statistics gathered by the OECD. The OECD has indentified five main categories which are important for assessing broadband markets - Penetration, Usage, Coverage, Prices, and Service & Speeds. For example, fiber is the dominant connection technology in Korea and Japan and now accounts for 48% of all Japanese broadband subscriptions and 43% in Korea. With fiber comes lower latency, higher peak download speeds and (yes) even more mobility.

The FCC also seeks comment on the extent to which access hinges on affordability.

Simply put, it needs to be fast and it needs to be cheap. Referring to the OECD portal again and as an example, on average, subscribers in OECD countries pay 15 times more per advertised megabit of connectivity than Koreans. We must be faster and cheaper than Korea if we want to compete with the rest of the world.

The FCC seeks comment on what it means for a person with disabilities to "have access" to broadband capabilities.

The report references the Assistive Technologies Act of 2004, supporting state efforts to improve provision of assistive technology to individuals with disabilities; the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990,requiring common carriers to provide telecommunications relay services for deaf and speech-impaired individuals; and the Amendment of the Commission’s Rules Governing Hearing Aid-Compatible Mobile Handsets; Petition of American National Standards Institute Accredited Standards Committee C63, that focuses on adopting hearing aid compatibility requirements for mobile wireless devices.

Higher bandwidths and lower costs per megabit will drive innovation and applications that help and support people with disabilities. That said, assistive technologies must continue to be regulated and ratcheted up as bandwidth and access continues to improve.

I believe residential broadband (to the home) is key in our country. Homes in our broadband equation are the lowest common denominator. Lots of inexpensive and reliable bandwidth to everyone's home will drive bandwidth up and costdown at work, libraries, public Wi-Fi hotspots, etc. We must set our residential broadband bar higher than the rest of the world in each of the five OECD portal categories.