AT&T will make good money on every schoolkid who signs up for the $15 "unlimited" wireless. The school will pay, saving collection costs. AT%T doesn't need to offer phone discounts or spend much on acquisition. It requires additional advertising spend. The only apparent gotcha is a modest slowdown for some homes in the (surprisingly few) times of actual congestion. The connection should still be fast enough for a live video class.

AT&T, like most telcos, has far more wireless capacity than it can sell. Since at least 2014, wireless capacity has improved at a ferocious rate. AT&T & Verizon both estimate cost per bit is going down at 40% per year. Meanwhile, traffic growth has plummeted to 20%-35% per year. Result: telcos have an increasing surplus of capacity while spending the same amount. Even with 5G upgrades, most carriers expect capex to be flat or down.

Between 75% and 90% of U.S. unconnected kids can be reached by the existing networks in 2-3 months at moderate cost. That simple fact should push just about every proposal to "span the digital divide" on the backburner. Many will be seen as wasteful, except towers and backhaul in the 5% of the US currently dependent on satellite, called unserved. Europe and many other areas probably have a similar situation, but I don't have confirmed research.

Verizon capacity margins 500This chart is from Verizon's CTO Kyle Malady. It shows the excess bandwidth (capacity margin) increasing in 2018 and 2019, despite slightly lower capex. AT&T and most other telcos in the developed world have similar capacity margins.

The marginal cost of a customer who will mostly be served by unused capacity is low, ~$3 per month for support calls and similar. If the current capacity is not enough, upgrading existing sites and backhaul will raise the marginal cost of adding a customer, generally to less than $7,

Networks, wireless or wired, are expensive to build. Once built, the cost of additional customers is low.

 Here's the pr

AT&T Enabling Connected Learning with Discounted Wireless Data Plans and Free Wi-Fi Hotspots

DALLAS, November 12, 2020



To Help Close Digital Divide for Nearly 17 Million Students, AT&T Offers Discounted Wireless Data Plans with Free Wi-Fi Hotspots and Makes $10 Million Commitment to Help Underserved Communities

Classrooms that take advantage of the offer receive free unlimited wireless service1 for teachers2; the new $10 million commitment helps students participate in connected learning by providing free devices and service

What’s the news? The COVID-19 pandemic has forced more than 50 million U.S. students to learn from home. Yet nearly 17 million children are unable to take part because their families don’t have an internet connection or device to support digital learning.

To help close the gap and enable connected learning, AT&T is offering discounted unlimited wireless data plans1 and content filtering services to more than 135,000 public and private K-12 schools, colleges and universities across the country for a limited time. Offer details include:

Schools can migrate existing AT&T lines or activate new lines for students on a qualified unlimited wireless data plan and content filtering service for $15 a month, with the additional option of an AT&T Moxee hot spot at no cost after bill credits.3 For every 24 qualified student activations above, schools can activate 1 line with the same services for a teacher at no cost after bill credits to help them do what they do every day as classroom superheroes.The offer is good through December 29, 2020 – schools that add at least one eligible line as part of this offer can also activate additional lines at the same price through December 29, 2022, at which point the promotional pricing ends.

In addition to the discounted plans for schools to connect their students, AT&T is making a $10 million commitment to support at-risk students disconnected from learning with internet connectivity and Wi-Fi hotspots. We will also expand availability of tech-enabled tools and learning resources for students, teachers, schools, and parents working across company resources, including WarnerMedia, for ongoing support for this initiative.

While the homework gap is not new, the pandemic and the critical need for remote learning has made it worse. This nationwide problem disproportionately impacts 1 in 3 students of color, as well as students with disabilities and students in rural and under-resourced neighborhoods. Additionally, 300,000 to 400,000 K-12 teachers live in households without adequate internet connectivity or home computing devices – roughly 10 percent of all public school teachers.4

What is AT&T doing for teachers beyond school-funded service? Teachers can still take advantage of our appreciation offer announced in July for exclusive savings on personal wireless service. This offer applies to both new and existing customers that are Kindergarten through post-secondary teachers, professors, instructors, and their families with a 25% savings on AT&T Unlimited Starter, Extra and Elite consumer wireless plans.5

How will AT&T’s $10 million commitment support education? Today, we’re committing $10 million to support our nation’s most vulnerable students, who don’t have adequate internet access and are disconnected from learning.  There are an estimated 17 million public K-12 students falling into the homework gap due to COVID-19 school closures.

Together with Connected Nation, a leading non-profit helping communities solve their broadband and digital technology challenges, we’ll work to close the homework gap for struggling students by providing WiFi hotspots and free AT&T internet service. School districts and non-profits across the U.S. will be invited to apply for support in the coming weeks.

This commitment comes alongside a collaboration with global HR services and solutions firm Randstad to refurbish and donate laptops and other devices to keep students connected.

AT&T has a long history of supporting communities where we live and work. This new commitment builds on the $10 million Distance Learning and Family Connections fund we launched at the start of this pandemic. We’ve committed $600 million since 2008 to advance education and create opportunity, particularly in historically underserved populations.

What about safety protocols for school-provided student access? We understand that schools need affordable options including services to support their online safety protocols like those in the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA).  That’s why we’ve included content filtering options, which will help schools deliver safer on-ramps for K-12 and higher education users/devices connecting to the Internet. For schools looking to add device management, an additional option is also available at a discounted rate.3

What else is AT&T doing about the connectivity challenges in America? We continue to expand our connectivity efforts while working with stakeholders to develop policies that will help sustain and expand reliable broadband connectivity for all Americans.

What are people saying?

“There are many challenges to providing high-quality education to children nationwide. Inequities and other impediments can mean millions of kids don’t get a fair shot at succeeding in school. We are helping to bring innovative solutions to remove the barriers to learning. That’s critically important to the future success of students,” Anne Chow, CEO, AT&T Business.

“Millions of kids are struggling with their schoolwork because they don’t have internet access at home. Without access, assignments are a daily challenge, and this disproportionately affects children of color and those living in rural areas. This is one of our greatest challenges as a country and it’s going to take the collective power of businesses, industry, public policy and non-profits to make a difference,” said Tom Ferree, Chairman & CEO of Connected Nation.

“Many students are locked out of the classroom because they don’t have reliable internet access and connected devices. Closing this widening gap is the most important issue of digital equity that we face as a nation,” said Christine Fox, Interim Executive Director, State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA). “SETDA has been a strong advocate for ensuring equitable digital learning opportunities for all students since its inception. We commend AT&T for its commitment to addressing the homework gap and their partnership in pushing for critical change so that all students can succeed.”

“We are excited to support our students here in Atlanta with the rollout of this new offer from AT&T,” said Olufemi Aina, Executive Director, IT, Atlanta Public Schools. “As a strong advocate for digital inclusion, we also applaud the commitment to closing the Homework Gap and ensuring students have the tools they need for success.”

"Covid-19 has shown us that at-home internet connectivity is no longer a nice-to-have. It is a must-have. Without it, many students face an uphill battle in their education," said Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy. "I am heartened by AT&T's commitment to provide connectivity to these students and their families, which will help bridge the gap and give countless young people the tools they need to succeed in school and beyond."

1 After 50GB of data use on a line, AT&T may temporarily slow data speeds if the network is busy.

2 Based on the average class size of 1 teacher to 24 students, schools will get one free (after bill credits) qualified line for a teacher for every 24 lines for students that are migrated to or activated on the qualified services.  Taxes and fees are extra.

3 Req’s new line on Special DataConnect for Education plan ($14/mo. after credits) w/ Enterprise Traffic Protector service ($1/mo.) or AccessMyLAN ($6/mo. after credits) and elig. data-only device. AT&T Moxee offer req’s new line and $85 on 0% APR 24-mo. agmt. Free after credits over 24 months. If data svc cancelled, data plan and device credits stop & device balance due. Other fees, taxes, and charges & restrictions apply. See offer details.

4 Common Sense Media, 2020

The world needs a good news source on Internet and telecom policy. I hope to create one. Catch a mistake? Email me please.  Dave Burstein


Professor Noam's "Many Internets"

Until about 2010, everyone agreed the Net was a "network of networks," not a monolithic entity. There was a central authority, ICANN, keeping track of domain names, but that was a minor administrative function.
Columbia Professor Noam suggests we might be better off accepting that some nations or groups might want to organize their networks differently. It's easy to see demand for an Internet with much more effective filters against material some think harmful to children. (Any 10 year old can easily find porn today. Many do.)
Internet translation is getting better very quickly. You might want an "Internet" that translates everything into your language. Google Chrome translation isn't perfect but I was able to research most of this story on Russian language sites. With a few more years progress, I might welcome an alternate that brings me everything in English, including caching for better performance.
De facto, Internet news is already split, as hundreds of millions only get their news from Facebook. Google AMP pages, including for news, also favor selected parts of the net
Centralizing the DNS doesn't prevent censorship, as the Chinese have demonstrated. There are many Jewish and Muslim fundamentalists who want to block what they consider blasphemy and limit free speech. See . More from Noam

Russia Orders Alternate Root Internet System
It's actually practical and not necessarily a problem.The Security Council of the Russian Federation, headed by Vladimir Putin, has ordered the "government to develop an independent internet infrastructure for BRICS nations, which would continue to work in the event of global internet malfunctions ... This system would be used by countries of the BRICS bloc – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa." RT
Columbia University Professor Eli Noam and then ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé have both said such a system is perfectly practical as long as there is robust interconnection.
Actually, the battle over ICANN and domain names is essentially symbolic. Managing the DNS is a relatively insignificant task, more clerical than governing. ICANN Chair Steve Crocker pointed out they had very little to do with policy.
Some will claim this is about blocking free speech but that's rhetoric. Russia doesn't need to fiddle with the DNS for censorship, as the Chinese have demonstrated. The wonders of the Internet will continue so long as the resulting nets" are robustly connected. The ICANN and U.S. policy goal should be to help create that system for interconnection.
I expect contentions that “The Russians are taking over our Internet” and “They are splitting the Internet.” The Internet is a “Network of Networks.” It is not a monolith so what would “splitting” it mean or do?
After the WCIT, China realized that ICANN and the DNS are side issues not worth bothering about. They have been building alternate institutions including the World Internet Summit in Wuzhan and the BRICs conferences.  The Chinese have put their main work where decisions that matter are made. Wireless standards are set by 3GPP, where nothing can be approved without China's consent.
The American battle at ITU is proving to be a historic mistake.
Why does Russia want an independent Internet?
They fear that Western sanctions on Russia could cripple the Russian Net. Communications minister, Nikolay Nikiforov, worries about, "a scenario where our esteemed partners would suddenly decide to disconnect us from the internet." I think that's highly unlikely but Nikiforov points out, “Recently, Russia is being addressed in a language of unilateral sanctions: first, our credit cards are being cut off; then the European Parliament says that they’ll disconnect us from SWIFT."
It makes sense for the Russians to be prepared for such a contingency as the Cold War has been warming up on both sides. "Britain's top military chief Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach just made headlines warning Russian subs "could CRIPPLE Britain by cutting undefended undersea internet cables." Much more

ICANN Continues Excluding Russia & China From the Board
No wonder Russia wants an alternate root. Three years ago, ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé promised "a seat at the table" to Chinese Premier Li. ICANN welched and this year added two more Americans.
Almost all the ICANN board is from the U.S. and close allies; only about 4 of the 18 board members are from countries on the other side of the North/South divide in Internet policy.  Claiming ICANN represents the Global Internet is inappropriate. China is 1/3rd of the Internet but has no representation on the board.
I know many of the board members. They are all basically honorable but generally share a strong opinion on North-South issues.
Larry Strickling of the U.S. government knew just what he was doing with the IANA transition. He handed over to a board with similar positions as the U.S. government.
"The system is unsustainable while it excludes half the world," I have been saying since 2012. More, including the transcript of Fadi's statements,

Sorry, Ajit Pai: Smaller Telcos Did Not Reduce Investment After NN Ruling
Pai justifies his NN choice with the claim, "The impact has been particularly serious for smaller Internet service providers." #wrong (Actually, NN has minimal effects on investment, up or down, I’m convinced. Competition, new technology, customer demand and similar are far more important.)
The two largest suppliers to “smaller ISPs” saw sales go up. Adtran's sales the most recent nine months were $540M, up from $473M the year before. 2016 was $636M, 2015 $600M. Calix the last nine months sold $372M, up from $327M. The full year 2016 was $459M, up from $407M in 2015. Clearfield, a supplier of fiber optic gear, was up 8% in sales in the smaller ISPs.
There is nothing in the data from others that suggests an alternate trend. Anyone could have found this data in a few minutes from the company quarterly reports.
The results in larger companies are ambiguous. I can "prove" capex went up or went down by selecting the right data. The four largest companies' capex - two/thirds of the total - went up from $52.7B in 2015 to $55.7B in 2016. The result remains positive after making sensible adjustments for mergers and acquisitions. That's as close to "proving" that NN led to increased spending as the facts chosen to prove the opposite.
Actually, whether capex went up or down in 2016 tells us almost nothing about the choice on neutrality. Everyone knows a single datapoint could be random or due to other causes. Much more, including the source of the errors

Elders Bearing Witness: Vint, Timbl, & Many More
Vint Cerf, Tim Berners-Lee, Steve Wozniak and more than a dozen true Internet pioneers wrote Congress to protect Neutrality. The best Congress money can buy didn't listen but I wanted to reproduce their letter.
I hope they are wrong believing "is an imminent threat to the Internet we worked so hard to create." My take is the impact will be moderate in the short run.
From the letter:
We are the pioneers and technologists who created and now operate the Internet, and some of the innovators and business people who, like many others, depend on it for our livelihood. ... The FCC’s proposed Order is based on a flawed and factually inaccurate understanding of Internet technology. These flaws and inaccuracies were documented in detail in a 43-page-long joint comment signed by over 200 of the most prominent Internet pioneers and engineers and submitted to the FCC on July 17, 2017.
Despite this comment, the FCC did not correct its misunderstandings, but instead premised the proposed Order on the very technical flaws the comment explained. The technically-incorrect proposed Order ... More, including the full list,