In a 5G world, can an individual be their own bank?

A thought ….

That Covid-19 has sped up the exposure of workers to the possibility of automation replacing them is a saying that is becoming almost cliché. Television commercials remind us that we are “all in this together” and that we should wear masks and safely social distance. Meanwhile, telecommunications companies are promoting 5G technology that when fully deployed will help alleviate the downsides of working from home with a technology that moves data faster and can help connect all your devices and appliances so that you can better manage the data flowing through your home. But what if, in addition to connecting your mobile phone to your refrigerator which may allow you to determine whether to buy more milk, that 5G also helps to turn you into a micro bank by taking a real-time audit of the assets in your possession and using them as a basis for issuing your own coin?

The thought came to me today while conversing with two friends about the probability of Facebook becoming its own “nation.” Facebook, the world’s largest social media platform, is backing a group that plans to issue a cryptocurrency next month called Diem. Diem will hopefully help people send money around the world almost instantaneously. Unlike other cryptocurrencies, Diem will be a “stable coin” meaning it will be backed by reliable fiat currencies like the U.S. dollar or the euro.

But what if we could take the Facebook macro-model and make it micro to you? For example, with 5G-driven internet of things and block chain technology, why couldn’t a real time audit of a person’s possessions be taken and instead of the individual issuing digital fiat currency or even stable coin, the individual could issue their own personal currency. Tom Steyer, for example, could digitally tally up his cash, land, securities, and other holdings and issue a digital certificate that could be used in the digital marketplace. A man of his wealth could take a position in a number of different currencies but should he choose to engage exclusively in the digital world on his own dime, he could do so without any rules or regulations that come along with currency issued by a nation-state, a social media platform, or a corporation.

The advantages to such a scheme compound when more people with the material means decide to go digital and trade either the social media platform’s coin or, if affluent enough, their own coin. This would be true personal banking.

Broadband consumption increase 38-fold over a decade

Sponsored content

by IIA

DECEMBER 9, 2020

Internet data and analytics company DecisionData used historical data from FCC annual reports to map out the rapid increase in broadband consumption over the past decade. Their analysis found that the average household is using 38x the amount of internet data they were 10 years ago and 3.5x that of five years ago. If this trend continues, DecisionData estimates that within the next three years average household usage is likely to exceed 1 TB of data per month – an almost 200% increase from 2020’s estimated monthly average.

Much of this rapid growth is attributed to the growing popularity of streaming video services and proliferation of connected devices.

Couldn’t gather with the family during Thanksgiving? Internet innovation made alternatives possible….

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by IIA

DECEMBER 2, 2020

The ongoing pandemic forced many families throughout the U.S. to forgo their traditional Thanksgiving family gatherings and opt instead for virtual celebrations through platforms such as Zoom. Cable broadband usage saw a year-over-year 45% jump on Thanksgiving Day, according to broadband management and analytics company OpenVault.

The company’s monitoring tools show that average broadband consumption per subscriber on Thanksgiving Day was 15.59 GB, up from an average of 10.77 GB in 2019. Traffic peaked between 9AM and 2PM CT and coincided with the holiday suspension of Zoom conferencing limitations, which normally limit their free conferencing service to 40 minutes.

Source: OpenVault

Election night saw increase in internet usage

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by IIA

NOVEMBER 11, 2020

On election night, intense interest throughout the country in the results of the 2020 election drove a significant increase in broadband usage. During prime time on November 3 (5pm to 8pm CT), broadband management and analytics company OpenVault estimated a 7% increase in broadband usage compared to previous Tuesdays. Usage was up even more for cord cutters, where OpenVault reported an increase of 16.4% from previous weeks.

Section 230: America is about trade. Information should be subject to markets …


Alton Drew

I see a lot of waste in America. For an example, just take a look at e-mails exchanged within and between corporate departments. It is hard to believe that American MBA holders are racking up e-mail threads with one or two liners that effectively amount to suggesting changes in a word or adding a period to a sentence. About 25% percent of this e-mail exchange usually entails Worker One telling Worker Two that Worker One is going on vacation and will be out of touch. Ironically, Worker One makes it a point somewhere during his two-week vacation to a place he will likely never visit again to send a picture from the beach where he is sitting with a laptop across his thighs.

Americans stay busy for the sake of being busy or worse, spend a lot of time looking busy. This busy-body, chatty-catty approach to production is adding to the noise in the work place that may be drowning out the true information, the true surprise. True information should have us bolting out of our folding recliners on the beach and doing backflips on the sand. I am not seeing this and at times wonder if Americans have the capacity to provide any more surprise moments.

Some may argue that the internet is one of those surprise moments and I would remind them that the surprise is now an echo reverberating from over fifty years ago. The internet has now become a commodity, the advanced communications platform supporting more than just voice communications. Today I can review documents to determine their level of confidentiality and privilege from my home office. I can use my computer screen to watch news programming, movies, or television shows accessed from content delivery networks operating on the internet. I can meet with colleagues and receive updates on case progress or to simply have a virtual happy hour via video services on the internet.

But I still see more waste than value. I don’t see an increase in value, just tasks that were done one way in analog being done another way in digital. Social media, the internet’s most recognized application, has torn the scab off of American narcissism. The “democratization of information content” promised by internet proponents is devolving into 25-year old women and men taking Instagram booty shots, hoping against all odds to be the next sexy sensation, in a digital world crawling with other sexy sensations.

Democratization of the internet has made data that was always available but harder to find easier to find but of less value. Inaccessibility made the hunt fun. A search premium that captured the inaccessibility variable created a lucrative business for the information broker or trader. Information should be subject to market forces. The internet in general and social media in particular are destroying the market mechanism for trading information.

Social media in particular has introduced severe imbalances in the information markets where a social media subscriber’s information is acquired under the rule of discovery, swimming around unbound like Moby Dick waiting for Captain Ahab to put a spear in him. This problem could be resolved by making social media and other interactive computer access services or internet portals bear the burden of liability where the capture and use of information results in harm to the subscriber and third parties that are exposed to it.

Removing the liability shield provided by Section 230 of the Communications Act of 1934 as amended by the Communications Decency Act of 1998 would force interactive computer access services to provide the public with a business model that better replicates the interchange one should see in a market.

On a base market tier, for example, an interactive computer access service would offer a subscriber access to its posting services in exchange for use of the subscriber’s data and permission to edit subscriber content where publication of the content violated community mores of decency or would otherwise expose the interactive computer access service to claims of defamation or liability.

On a prime market tier, the subscriber would pay the interactive computer access provider for the privilege to post content, grant the interactive computer access service the right to collect and use certain subscriber proprietary information, and accept damages stemming from claims of liability or defamation brought by a third-party.

One upside to this approach would be the reduction in noise occurring on the internet as a result of the democratization of content. Fewer subscribers over all would post content that raises the specter of liability. Depending on the tier of services offered, interactive computer services would be free to edit content that did not meet their platform guidelines while protecting themselves from third-party liability or receive a premium from subscribers that can be used to insure the interactive computer access service from claims of liability or defamation.

Information should flow freely, like the bulls of Pamplona, but the markets should discipline their exchange. Government, as a facilitator of markets, can encourage more market behavior for information by repealing Section 230 and allowing contract to regulate the market between interactive computer access services and subscribers.

5G technology is a hog in the US. Investment in more infrastructure is needed …

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by IIA

OCTOBER 28, 2020

A new report from Opensignal found that in September 2020, 5G users in the U.S. consumed almost twice as much data as 4G users – 16.5GB compared to 8.7GB respectively. This difference in data consumption between 5G and 4G users is even more prominent on a global scale, where 5G users average 2.7 times the data consumption as 4G users.

“Opensignal data shows that 5G users on average consumed much higher amounts of mobile data compared to 4G users, suggesting that, by having a better experience, users consumed more content on their smartphones, or similar amounts of content at higher quality and resolution.” – Francesco Rizzato, Principal Technical Analyst, Opensignal

Source: Opensignal

Broadband: Innovation in T-shirts may be good for your heart.

Sponsored Content

by IIA

OCTOBER 23, 2020

Smart materials company KYMIRA recently developed a t-shirt that can accurately measure heart rates by printing an ECG (electrocardiogram) into the shirt fabric. The shirt is also equipped with Bluetooth, which enables the uploading of heartbeat data to a cloud where algorithms can be used to process the data and detect lifesaving heart irregularities.

Learn more about this heart monitoring t-shirt here.

Lifeline programs are more important than ever…


Originally published in Multichannel News

by Rick Boucher

OCTOBER 13, 2020

The nation’s only program aimed at helping low-income American families afford mobile communications is known as Lifeline for a reason. Through a federal subsidy of $9.25 per month, Lifeline helps those most in need obtain the phone or broadband service that the pandemic has made a necessity of everyday life.

Unfortunately, the program is so tied up in red tape that it’s cumbersome and expensive to administer, which reduces the number of participating providers and makes it difficult for consumers to access the benefit. Because of the shortcomings, the program is substantially underutilized, evidence that Lifeline in its current form is inadequate for making broadband available to the less financially fortunate. The Federal Communications Commission’s Universal Service Administrative Co. estimates that there are about 38.6 million Lifeline-eligible households, but only around 9.6 million participate, meaning that only one in four eligible households is taking advantage of the program subsidy.

Modernizing and simplifying the Lifeline Program could extend the benefit to more families in need and open up the program to many more competitive service providers, such as cable broadband operators.

A multitude of companies offers telecommunications services in the United States. They range from small, local companies such as the Hot Springs Telephone Co. in Hot Springs, Montana, to large industry leaders like AT&T and Verizon Communications. American consumers have a buffet from which to choose, but because many companies have decided not to participate in the program, Lifeline beneficiaries order from a limited menu.

Costly Middleman Mandate

The program saddles service providers with the burden of acting as middlemen between the federal government and consumers, an unnecessary and costly responsibility that has greatly reduced the number of participating carriers. Companies are discouraged from taking part by a broad list of Lifeline regulations, including multiple annual audits, many years of required record-keeping, and the necessity of filing reimbursement claims to the Lifeline program for each customer served. Participating providers are also required to bill customers directly and then seek reimbursement from the Lifeline program. This cumbersome and costly process is totally unnecessary.

A structural change could make the Lifeline program far more useful and let it play a larger role in closing the digital divide. The monthly benefit should be converted and greatly simplified, opening the door to use of the program by a larger number of service providers and Lifeline beneficiaries.

Beginning in 2014, I began advocating for the current Lifeline structure to be scrapped. Service providers should no longer be required to engage in extensive record-keeping and submit invoices to the government for reimbursement. Instead, the monthly Lifeline benefit should be provided directly to consumers in the form of a “Lifeline Benefit Card,” a debit-like card that would automatically reload each month. Consumers could then use the benefit card to shop among carriers in order to select the carrier and specific services that best meets the consumers’ needs, and they could choose between telephone service or broadband service or some combination of the two with the monthly benefit defraying all or a portion of the total bill.

SNAP Offers a Model 

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is proof that the provision of government benefits through a debit card is highly workable. Not only would a direct-to-consumer Lifeline Benefit Card empower subsidy recipients to shop among providers, it would also make the program far more attractive to carriers by eliminating the carrier costs associated with record-keeping, auditing and billing. More carriers would be willing to participate, and more participating carriers would increase competition in the marketplace, benefitting consumers by substantially expanding their range of service provider choices.

With internet access now required for working from home, learning virtually, shopping on e-commerce websites and being entertained through the ever-expanding program offerings of a variety of streaming services, subscribing to a broadband service has never been more necessary for everyday living. The Lifeline program can help to provide that essential service to millions more American homes — but only through a modernized program that attracts more carriers and is more accessible to low-income Americans.

Rather than clearly promoting telehealth, Trump’s messaging yesterday was aimed at elderly voter fear.

President Donald Trump yesterday held a press briefing on the status of the United States’ efforts to control spread of COVID-19.  What gave me pause was the President’s cloudy description of advanced communications and the lost opportunity to promote broadband.  The President said this about technology and connecting people:

“Nursing homes in higher-risk areas will be receiving more funding.  This money can be used to address critical needs, including the hiring of additional staff, increasing testing, and providing technology support so residents can connect their families and they can connect to their families.  They are having a tremendous time.  They want to be with their loved ones.  They can’t do it, so what we’re doing is we’re working it so that we can connect — have them connect with their families if they’re not able to visit.”

According to the President, $5 billion would be allocated to nursing homes from the Department of Heath and Human Services provider relief fund.  Mr Trump’s statement implied that some of this funding would go toward connecting nursing home patients and their families.  But a review of HHS allocation targets did not identify any amounts going toward nursing homes for additional communications facilities.  The Administration’s signaling of this intent does not appear to be included in the actual allocation program.

Mr Trump may have had an eye on applying political messaging to secure votes from the elder population in general and the nursing home population in particular given controversy around a directive by Governor Andrew Cuomo, Democrat of New York, to not prohibit the placement of patients in nursing homes based solely on the possibility of having COVID-19.  Critics of the Governor’s actions have been quick to point out the risk to elderly non-infected nursing home residents.  Hours after Mr Trump’s remarks on the elderly and COVID-19, Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, referred to Governor Cuomo’s decision to locate infected patients in nursing homes as a “disastrous decision” that amounted to an impeachable offense.

That an opportunity for promoting public policy, in this case broadband for telehealth, may have been lost due to prioritizing political messaging is unfortunate.  The loss could have been mitigated by using specific terminology and definitions in one or two sentences rather than using a broad term such as technology. It is another lesson to readers of and listeners to political messaging to remain aware of as much of the existing political environment when assessing the value of political statements.


How is COVID-19 impacting student access to the internet?


A new analysis by Common Sense Media and Boston Consulting Group shows that the homework gap is even larger than previously understood and that the problem has been amplified during the coronavirus pandemic as many schools have shifted to connected learning.

The analysis found 15-16 million K-12 public school kids live in households without a sufficient device or internet connectivity to adequately learn from home, and over half of those students lack both adequate internet and devices. School closures during the pandemic have put these students at significant risk of learning loss.

This problem touches every state and type of community, but is more prominent in rural communities and for Black, Latinx, and Native American households. As shown, there are 16% more students in rural households that lack sufficient internet connectivity than students from urban households. And while 18% of students from White households lack sufficient internet, about a third of students from Black and Native American households lack adequate access.

Source: Common Sense Media and BCG