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Microsoft President on Broadband Accessibility, New Hampshire Partnership, ‘Corrupted’ Consumer Advisory Committee

Jericho Casper

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Photo of Microsoft President Brad Smith by Stephen McCarthy used with permission

Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, called for closing the broadband gap during a Thursday Axios webinar on leadership and the future of broadband.

“Even post-COVID, the importance of the broadband gap is not going abate one bit,” Smith said, “it will remain just as important to our future as it is right now.”

Smith compared internet connectivity to a utility as important as electricity.

He detailed that universal access is key to Microsoft’s vision and reported that the company is working with partners to bring broadband access to residents in Ferry County, Washington.

In order to distribute broadband services to residents, Microsoft created a receiver device which taps unused spectrum from TVs to bring record speeds to-the-home.

“It’s important to put the entire country on a level playing field,” said Smith, adding, its “amazing what people can accomplish with financial support.”

Smith said the project aims to reach people who want to progress, who otherwise may not be able to access the resources to.

Microsoft, which owns LinkedIn, is also aiming to give people more opportunities to succeed by providing free digital learning opportunities on the website.

The company recently created new courses offered on LinkedIn to improve individuals interviewing practices over the computer. The courses utilize artificial intelligence which gives people direct feedback.

“This is just one example of how we can put digital tech to work, to succeed in the digital environment,” detailed Smith.

“It’s crucial that people have the skills necessary for the decades ahead,” said Smith, who further advised “data can help us with everything we do.”

Public private partnerships aim to connect 8,000 New Hampshire residents

Consolidated Communications recently broke ground on a fiber-to-the-premises network that aims to reach every home and business across five New Hampshire cities, which collectively have 8,000 residents.

Public private partnerships are fueling the construction of the broadband network.

The projects carry a total price of nearly $13 million, which includes a $4 million investment by Consolidated Communications. The towns plan to raise capital for the remaining portion of the project through bond funding.

“These partnerships ensure rural towns are getting the broadband access their residents need without increasing taxes, and ensuring they have some control in the planning process,” said Rob Koester, senior vice president of consumer products at Consolidated Communications.

Koester told Telecompetitor that such partnerships are a big deal for Consolidated Communications, as they enable the company to build broadband where it would not otherwise be feasible.

“We are proud to be working alongside these forward-thinking towns and helping to pave the way for further growth and innovation ahead,” he said.

The FCC’s 'Corrupted' Consumer Advisory Committee

Many members of the current Federal Communications Commission Consumer Advisory Committee gained their position through corrupt measures, according to Bruce Kushnick, executive director at New Networks.

In a recent publication in Medium, Kushnik points out how the majority of members appointed to the FCC’s CAC have significant financial ties to big telecom providers, like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Charter.

Kushnik argues that the CAC, a committee that is supposed to represent consumers, has been corrupted and captured by these controlling members, whose priorities often directly counter public interest.

“They won’t actually take on the companies doing the harm as they don’t want to take on their cash cow. It is a conflict of interest that, as we’ve seen, does more harm than good,” wrote Kushnik.

He goes on to detail recorded instances of astroturfing, or the practice of creating fake grassroots consumer groups to make it appear as though messages originate from grassroots participants.

One CAC member, the Internet and Television Association, originally the cable association, sponsors a slew of astroturf groups, including Broadband For America, which amasses almost $300,000 annually, he wrote.

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