Clyburn Says She Won’t Vote to Ban Sponsored Data Offerings

FCC Commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn has always seen the bigger picture with regards to telecom issues and how they relate to and affect Americans who remain digitally divided. Recently, she once again stood up for those being left behind in our ever evolving digital world by stating her support of “sponsored data”

Sponsored data, or “zero-rated” content as the industry refers to it, are wireless service offerings in which service providers offer some services whose use is not counted against customers’ data usage plans. These plans have been criticized by some advocates of the FCC’s open Internet rules.

Clyburn has taken a more progressive and insightful approach to the issue. She sees it as an opportunity to once again get people online in the ways most accessible to them: mobile devices. Clyburn stated, “I usually don’t show my hand that explicitly but I’m doing so today.”

She continued, “Everyone in this nation should have the opportunity to lawfully express and expand themselves and their potential, and I think we have the capacity to continue to make that happen.”

Based on data from the Federal Communications Commission itself, 55 million Americans still lack broadband access at home. Many of those people are members of low-income communities, people of color, elderly, disabled, or people living in rural communities. It is untenable that nearly 20% of America’s citizenry lag behind their digitally connected counterparts.

Ms. Clyburn said that sponsored-data services are valuable because they could be “an affordable way for people to stream and connect with content” – including important services such as medical services – in “a non-economically punitive way.”

Critics fear that sponsored data or zero rating treads on Net Neutrality rules; however, Clyburn and other forward thinkers see sponsored data as a way to get smart-phone dependent Americans online without them having to worry about running up against data caps when they need access the most – medical services, education, employment, etc.

With regards to those who are wary of what sponsored data may look like Clyburn added that the FCC “will take a case-by-case approach” on sponsored-data offerings.  She also said that such offerings “could be the way for the next creative content provider that can’t get on the legacy platforms to do so.”

“We want product differentiation, we do not want any violation of open Internet rules,” she said, adding, “I think there is a way for us to walk and chew gum at the same time on that.”

How people actually get on board with new technologies

This article by Brian Fung originally appeared on The Washington Post.

imrsHow long will it be, do you think, until companies such as Amazon start delivering packages to you by drone?

If that prospect seems fantastical to you, you’re not alone. According to a survey published Tuesday by the U.S. Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General, 57 percent of people are either neutral about it or think it’s a bad idea. Seventy-five percent of people think drone delivery is five years away at best; the rest think it will take even longer, if it happens at all.

There are some good reasons to think this timeline is accurate, which we will get into below. But the survey also reveals something else: Our skepticism of the technology may be a factor. That finding, which has been expressed in policy as a relatively slow approach to drone testing, helps shed important light on how technology adoption works more broadly. Here’s how.

In its questions, the Postal Service OIG asked respondents how they’d feel about companies such as Amazon, United Parcel Serivce and even the Postal Service itself if they decided to offer drone deliveries today, right now. And the results were unequivocal: Every brand’s reputation would suffer, suggesting there is a long way to go before drone deliveries really take off with consumers.

No matter if you’re Amazon, Google or UPS, rolling out drone delivery would result in customers’ thinking less of your company, the data show.

If these numbers are right, it suggests that some of the biggest barriers to drone delivery may actually be perceptual as much as technological.

Even if a company said its drone delivery service were ready today, people would still reject it over a perception that it was not. But the thing is, many other countries are moving ahead with drone testing in a major way, while the United States only recently gave companies the green light to begin limited tests, according to Michael Drobac, a legal expert on drones at the law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.

“What appears to be science fiction or many years off is actually happening — just not here,” Drobac said.

This gap between public receptiveness to a technology on the one hand and the actual state of the technology on the other can be found in other industries, too.

Whether it’s drones, self-driving cars or even the Internet, the less someone has heard about a technology — and the more they think of it as new or unfamiliar — the less likely it is that they will view it positively. As a person learns about the technology, the more open to it that person becomes. Here are the Postal Service OIG’s findings on drones, for example:

With self-driving cars, studies by Kelley Blue Book and others have found that those with partly autonomous vehicles — a Tesla with autopilot, or even more basic safety features such as automatic lane-keeping and assistive cruise control — are more likely to view completely robotic cars more favorably.

“Familiarity breeds desire,” Rebecca Lindland, senior director of commercial insights at Kelley Blue Book, said in a recent interview.

It’s true that some technological and regulatory hurdles need to be overcome before drone delivery becomes a reality. For example, the U.S. government needs to draw up rules permitting companies such as Amazon to test their drones outside the visual range of the pilot — a steppingstone to true drone delivery.

But if the idea is to really take off, companies will need to convince consumers that it will actually improve their lives — or suffer a blow to their reputation.

“The usual history is people are pretty content with what they know, what they have, and adopting an innovation does take substantial effort,” said Ben Shneiderman, an expert on human-computer interaction at the University of Maryland. “The question becomes, ‘Which are innovations that may be more acceptable to people, and how might a manufacturer accelerate adoption?’”