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

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Protecting Tomorrow's Internet

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The revolution in mobile healthcare continues to accelerate: More than 40 million smartphone owners now actively use at least one wellness or fitness app and by an overwhelming margin, they report that their health is improving because of it.

So why is the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) undercutting advances vital to this industry's progress?  And how quickly will Congress fix the problem?


Those two questions came to mind as I was reading a interesting new analysis of the FCC's recent vote to place the Internet under Title II utility regulations. With almost surgical precision, Internet analyst Larry Downes dissects the Commission's action, showing how the rules could violate multiple areas of federal law.


To give one example, the FCC redefined the entire Internet to make it part of the old, antiquated 1930s era telephone system and therefore subject the modern, dynamic Internet to these 1934 regulations.

As a result, Downes notes, every component on the Internet has been transformed into a telephone service and is therefore subject to utility regulation. The FCC, he warns, "can't rewrite the law by giving a key term an absurd new 'definition' [that contradicts] a consistent string of the agency's own precedents, and even basic rules of grammar."


The FCC's vote for Title II regulations will harm the Internet and, by extension, our access to new healthcare apps and services.


My hope is that Congress will work together to resolve these issues quickly so that needed improvements for both the Internet and telehealth technologies aren't delayed by the resultant legal uncertainties or by what is certain to be federal intrusion as, for the first time, layers of federal bureaucracy are added that impair innovators and their new ideas.

A Congressional action - narrowly focused to ensure Internet openness but without the overreach of Title II - would keep innovation moving.


Over the years, mobile and Internet-based healthcare services have emerged as an effective and affordable healthcare solution. As Commissioner Mignon Clyburn stated last fall, "Broadband-enabled solutions, can help communities better manage chronic disease, address language barriers, improve health literacy... and help improve overall population health and wellness."


While Commissioner Clyburn is right about the benefits of Internet healthcare, the FCC's decision to regulate the Internet under Title II authority will simply negate the progress made with these innovative services. That is why Congress must find a legislative solution that will combat the FCC's harmful policy and help mHealth programs become more effective.


The FCC's decision to regulate the Internet is a recipe for stale and uninspired innvovation. With the wireless Internet in particular, America is among the world's leaders and this has enabled our success in creating services to help seniors, people with chronic & debilitating diseases, and millions more who lack easy access to a doctor.


Congress has to both confirm and maintain America's leadership with online healthcare by working together to create and pass a law before the end of this year that extricates the Internet from Title II's overregulation but that permanently ensures an open Internet.

Congress must accept their responsibility to discourage and avoid the unnecessary years of legal wrangling with lawsuits after lawsuits that can be avoided. In the long run it is the consumers that will be the real winnner as innovators can return to what they do best - creating state of the art opportunities for consumers.




The Future of the Internet of Things (IoT)

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A dazzling future was on display in Washington, DC last week at a Congressional hearing on the "Internet of Things" (IoT). The IoT is a network in which objects - vehicles, healthcare services, consumer goods, to name a few - are connected to the Internet in order to provide more valuable and efficient services. These emerging technologies combine with traditional manufacturing to produce a surge in economic opportunity, benefits in healthcare, infrastructure and the environment.

There's just one thing that possibly stands in the way of expanding this innovative technology to virtually all Americans: the new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Internet regulation that could quite possibly inhibit innovation and investment in state-of-the-art Internet-based technologies both now and in the future.

The Committee heard testimony about developments taking place that would have seemed like science fiction 20 years ago: an automaker that wirelessly updates its cars' software to enable "self-driving," or a technology company that recently saw a $9 million return on a pilot program using connected machines to troubleshoot maintenance before problems arose.

As technology analyst Dan Castro testified that day, the IoT is a key to helping the U.S. upgrade its infrastructure. Investing in communications networks solves productivity and safety issues - in other words, helping to create jobs and improve our quality of life. Technology is clearly moving in a direction that plays to America's traditional economic strength: break-the-mold invention and innovation.

But there's a potential major problem confronting this progress: last month's FCC decision to place the innovative, fast-paced high-speed Internet - including the mobile web - under 80-year-old Title II utility style regulation. By its own admission, the FCC could not document a single violation since 2010 to justify regulating the Internet like a public utility. After decades of a bipartisan light touch that enabled the Internet to flourish to the Internet we enjoy today, this new federal micromanagement is unprecedented in Internet history.

That's why many are calling on Congress to intervene to both protect the Internet as we know it as well as to correct the FCC's overreach. Only an act of Congress would carry both the legal heft and certainty to protect the Internet and enable it's continue growth.  One of the driving catalysts of this call for legislative action is that the future build-out of America's high-speed Internet service will require tens of billions of private sector investment. Without this investment, consumers will not be able to experience the full benefits of the Internet of Things.

Facing the cold hard reality of many years of litigation as a result of the FCC's recent action, businesses will not have the certainty they need in order to invest this type of capital.

This new IoT revolution has the potential to touch and improve every part of the U.S. economy. At this critical time in our nation's technological advancement, our federal regulations should not be looking back just as the technology sector is working to move us forward.  If we are to see the full benefits these technological advances potentially promise, it's up to Congress to find a way to come together to move quickly and create a 21st century law for our 21st century Internet.

LJJ (@TechnicalJones)

mHealth: Top Apps

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mHealth App Breakout

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mHealth Peak

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mHealth User

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mHealth Direction

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Broadband Nation

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The National Telecommunications and Information Association (NTIA) recently released a report with great news for Americans.  After analyzing census and other data from more than 50,000 households, the NTIA concluded that almost 99 percent of the U.S. population now has access to broadband service.  The report also documented our rapid embrace of the mobile Internet, projecting double-digit annual growth rates in wireless web surfing, email and social media.

Back in 2008, President Barack Obama put forward the vision of a nation in which every American has access to the broadband Internet.  Now, for nearly the entire country, his 2008 goal is a reality.

The NTIA report's data offer several hopeful signs about Americans' broadband use, especially for demographic groups that have lagged in online adoption. Between 2011 and 2012, disparities in mobile phone adoption among whites, African-Americans and Latinos (ages 25+) largely disappeared. Usage among all three groups was between 87% and 88%.  Among seniors, home broadband use surged, increasing nearly 50% between 2007 and 2012.

More generally, evidence throughout the survey shows a remarkably consistent message: Faster broadband access is driving more usage, spurring job growth and social benefits.  NTIA cites studies showing that mobile apps sustain more than 750,000 jobs and that the typical consumer can save almost $9,000/year using smartphones in comparison to other devices.  The number of Americans who can access 6 Mbps mobile broadband - which allows for streaming HD quality video - increased from 24% in 2010 to 90% in 2012.

The benefits of modernizing our broadband networks have never been more important than they are today.  Our growing reliance on data-rich apps, particularly video, which is projected to be 84% of U.S. Internet traffic in four years, is impacting the most important aspects of our community.  The growth in home broadband among seniors, for example, has huge implications for our healthcare system. As the NTIA report notes, videoconferencing with a health care professional is well-suited for home-bound seniors and is a far less expensive option than assisted living.

Distance learning is ideally suited for broadband. California has already moved forward with an ambitious online streaming program to make college education more affordable. Georgia Tech offers an online master's program in engineering at an 80% discount to its on-campus rate.

But expanding these online opportunities requires an underlying network infrastructure that can meet users' demands.  This is the biggest Internet-related challenge we face in the coming years - the need to modernize and improve the vastly complex network systems necessary for faster, more accessible broadband.

Also important to note is that the success of President Obama's broadband policies are largely due to the bipartisan "light-touch" framework begun under President Clinton, and continued through what we have seen as the 'Internet revolution'.

It's important that we continue to implement the same policies that helped pave the way for our Internet-enabled world, and that will continue to promote innovation and infrastructure deployment.  While some have pushed for the outdated Title II approach to regulate our nation's Internet, NTIA's report clearly demonstrates the FCC should continue its successful stance of modest regulation. Only then will we be able to achieve that vision of an America in which every person has the broadband access they need to thrive in today's modern world.

LJJ (@TechnicalJones)

mHealth & Insurance

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mHealth Investment

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At a time when some U.S. companies are moving operations overseas, it's good to see many well-known companies still investing heavily here in the U.S.  This investment not only keeps millions of American working, it also creates opportunities for new services to improve our lives.


The scope of these combined investments is remarkable. According to a recent USA Today article, the 25 companies making the largest capital investments in the U.S. spent more than $150 billion on plants, property, and equipment here in 2013.  The article drew on data from a report issued this week by the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI).


These "investment heroes," as the PPI report calls them, are primarily in the telecom, energy and technology industries.  AT&T was the clear winner, investing almost $21 billion last year.  Verizon was second, spending about $15 billion.


The top 10 companies accounted for almost $100 billion of investment.  The telecom field led all other industries with four companies investing nearly $47 billion inside the U.S.


While this "investment heroes" report has telling conclusions about corporate investment last year, what's even more striking are the long-term figures.  Since 1996, according to an industry report this week, U.S. broadband providers have invested more than $1.3 trillion in network infrastructure. Total broadband investment grew to $75 billion in 2013, up almost 10 percent from 2012.


The key point about this investment involves far more than company balance sheets.  It goes to the heart of America's ability to generate new services and opportunities. This is especially clear when it comes to telecom investment.


For years, I've written and blogged about how people benefit when mobile technology and healthcare services merge.  The growth of mHealth offers the potential of huge improvements in both health care access and quality. For seniors in particular, new mHealth equipment offers an affordable way to continue living independently while still gaining real-time medical security.


Although this week's report did not break down investments into "wireless" and "wired" categories, there's little doubt that the industry spent billions last year to expand better, faster mobile services.  That investment makes possible the dramatic improvements in medical care, especially in underprivileged and rural communities where mHealth is becoming increasingly valuable.


Of course, the benefits of expanding high-speed Internet service, especially mobile broadband, aren't confined to health care.  Improved access to education and government services are two more clear-cut examples. Better wireless broadband also offers the potential of improved energy efficiency.


With economic insecurity still a concern for many, it is good to see that many companies still see the importance of investing in America.  It's especially good news that such a large part of that investment is going into communication networks that will be the foundation of so many future opportunities.

LJJ (@TechnicalJones)

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