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rey ramsey

National Cable and Telecommunication’s ‘Adoption Plus Program’ Born on Discussions with FCC Chiefs

in Broadband Stimulus/Broadband's Impact/National Broadband Plan by

WASHINGTON, December 2, 2009 – The nation’s cable television and internet providers are once again making an aggressive push for broadband stimulus funds to be spent on “demand-side” programs as the National Cable and Telecommunications Association announced a pilot program for “Adoption Plus” – a proposal to promote broadband adoption for nearly 3.5 million children of middle school age.

The children targeted by the program live in around 1.8 million low-income households that are eligible for the National School Lunch Program and do not receive broadband services.

The program, called “A+,”  for short, is detailed in filings NCTA submitted Monday to both the Federal Communications Commission and National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and found its genesis during extensive discussions between NCTA and the offices of FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and Omnibus Broadband Initiative Executive Director Blair Levin.

Genachowski and Levin both have history of support for using schools in the battle against the digital divide. Each played prominent roles in the development and implementation of the FCC’s “E-Rate” program in the wake of the 1996 Telecommunications Act. The program – which still operates to this day – created a pool of funding to connect schools and libraries to the Internet.

During those discussions, all the parties realized there is “no silver bullet” for increasing broadband adoption, said NCTA president Kyle McSlarrow. “Our view…was that you needed to attack the problem in a way that was comprehensive.”

The A+ program, as proposed, would use federal funding to take aim at multiple barriers that have been identified as inhibiting broadband adoption, McSlarrow said. Each identified barrier would be attacked head on with digital literacy training for children, along with programs to provide discounted computers capable of internet access – as well as subsidizing the access itself. NCTA members have committed to providing cable modem service to eligible homes at a 50 percent discount over the next two years during the “pilot” phase of the program.

Genachowski was full of praise for NCTA and the A+ program. “Ensuring that all Americans have access to affordable broadband service is a national priority,” he said Tuesday in a statement.  He echoed McSlarrow’s assessment that there is “no silver bullet for promoting sustainable adoption,” and  called A+  “a program that will bring the benefits of broadband to millions of middle school-aged children in low-income households across the country.”

The NCTA proposal drew immediate statements of support from Members of Congress. Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Community Reinvestment Task Force, said he “applauds efforts to develop public-private partnerships to expand access to broadband services, especially for children in economically-impacted communities where such access is very limited.” And Rep Linda Sanchez, D-Calif, said A+ “will help level the playing field for the children of working families who are currently being left behind in the digital revolution.”

Other stakeholders – including longtime advocates of “demand-side” broadband programs – were full of praise for the NCTA proposal. One Economy CEO Rey Ramsey called A+ “a bold and thoughtful approach to expanding broadband adoption to those who need it most,” and pledged his organization’s support. “One Economy will join forces with industry, government and other institutions to ensure that this initiative is the success it deserves to be.”

Family Online Safety Institute CEO Stephan Balkam said his organization would support A+ “particularly due to the focus on digital literacy.” And Internet Keep Safe Coalition president Marsaki Hancock hailed the A+ proposal as a “public-private partnership promoting broadband adoption includes comprehensive digital citizenship education, including security and media literacy training, through a scalable model to provide the skills and infrastructure necessary to create a generation of responsible, ethical, and resilient digital citizens.”

Broadband People Column: Rey Ramsey to Leave One Economy for TechNet

in Broadband's Impact/Premium Content by

WASHINGTON, November 19, 2009 – Rey Ramsey, the head of non-profit organization One Economy Corp., is leaving to head the technology industry fundraising organization, the group said Thursday.

Ramsey will assume his new leadership role beginning in January. TechNet’s former president, Lezlee Westine, left the organization in May to head the Personal Care Products Council.

As the CEO of One Economy Corporation, a global nonprofit he co-founded in 2000 that works to leverage the power of technology to improve the lives of low-income people. He plans to continue to serve as chairman of the board for One Economy. Moustafa Mourad, who is currently president of One Global Economy, will serve as acting president of One Economy during the transition.

In the portions of this article included as Premium Content, the column reports further details about Ramsey’s new role at TechNet, plus news about the Federal Trade Commission, Google picking up a former Microsoft employee, plus news about the non-partisan independent project Expert Labs.

[Private_Premium Content][Private_Free Trial]Ramsey is co-author of the book ManagingNonprofits.org: Dynamic Management for the Digital Age. Prior to his work for One Economy, Ramsey practiced law and served as the state director of housing and community services in the cabinets of two Oregon governors. He holds a bachelors degree in political science from Rutgers University and is a graduate of the University of Virginia Law School.

In his new role at TechNet, Ramsey will be based in Washington, D.C., and will oversee the organization’s day-to-day operations, strategic planning and implementation of the group’s public policy and political agenda.

TechNet, a bipartisan network of CEOs that promotes the growth of technology industries, also announced Thursday that TechNet members Paul Otellini, president and CEO of Intel, and Eric Schmidt, chairman and CEO of Google, are joining the group’s executive committee.

Ohlhausen To Lead’s Firms FTC Practice

Maureen Ohlhausen is joining the Washington, D.C., communications law firm Wilkinson Barker Knauer as a partner. In her new role she will lead the firm’s Federal Trade Commission practice. Ohlhausen spent 11 years at the FTC including as director of the FTC’s Office of Policy Planning from 2004 to 2008. She last served as technology policy counsel for the Business Software Alliance.

Ohlhausen has been on the adjunct faculty at George Mason University School of Law and is a member of the American Bar Association Task Force on Competition and Public Policy.

Google Nabs ex-Microsoft Employee

Google has hired Dan Dodge who was recently laid off by Microsoft where he served as director of business development, he announced on his blog. Dodge spent nearly five years with Microsoft.

“I hope I played a small part in making Microsoft more approachable, friendly to startups, and easier to work with. Microsoft is a different company, a better company, than when I joined 5 years ago. There are more new people who joined Microsoft in the last 5 years than all the previous employees combined. However, laying off 5,000 people when you have $37 [billion] in cash and huge profits is not cool. But hey, thanks for pushing me on to the Next Big Thing,” wrote Dodge.

Dodge said he was contacted by Google 90 minutes after the news of his layoff broke. “That fast decisive action was refreshing, and such a contrast to the slow, secretive, bureaucracy at Microsoft,” he wrote.

Dodge’s job at Google will be helping developers and startups build great products and services using Google technology and platforms. He also noted in his blog that he is moving from Microsoft Outlook to Gmail, from Microsoft Office 2007 to Google Docs, from Microsoft Windows Mobile 6.5 to Google Android, and from Microsoft Internet Explorer to Google Chrome.

Anil Dash To Lead Expert Labs

Anil Dash will be leading Expert Labs, a nonpartisan, independent project that aims to improve the policy-making process by engaging experts and technologists, according to the New York Observer. The project is getting its support from a $500,000 grant from the MacArthur Foundation, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and their Policy Innovation Network.

Dash is the co-founder and “chief evangelist” for Six Apart, a company that creates the most popular blogging software in the world including the software that runs President Barack Obama’s blog.[/Private_Premium Content][/Private_Free Trial]

National Broadband Plan: Serving the Last, the Least and the Lost

in Broadband's Impact/FCC Workshops/National Broadband Plan by

October 8, 2009 – The national broadband plan needs to focus on “the least, the last and the lost,” according to panelists participating in the Federal Communications Commission’s field hearing on mobile applications and radio-frequencies Thursday in San Diego, Calif.

The “least” would include those in the lower income bracket, while the “last” are those in the outer limits of technology, panelists said.

Education and literacy is probably the main key to reaching the “lost,” who are mainly the people who have not understood the value of broadband in their lives.

Rey Ramsey, president of the non-profit group One Economy, added that mobile applications enable people to improve their lives using broadband.

“We need a purposeful approach to involve minorities in the national plan, since these groups have been slow in the adoption of the technology,” Said Ramsey. More work also needs to be done to build awareness on the benefits of broadband.

The national broadband plan currently under consideration by the FCC should also focus on maximizing opportunities for populations that have previously not been using broadband, panelists said.

High rates of internet connectivity can be used to improve consumers’ compliance with environmentally-friendly choices.

“We need to ask ourselves what we need to do in order to help lift the low income people through connection to broadband,” Ramsey said.

Egil Gronstad, vice president of technology planning for Leap Wireless – whose company sells voice and data to low-income and younger users – said that almost half of their subscribers have not previously purchased voice or data.

“This could be due to the high costs, but we are selling to them at lower costs, with a monthly subscription of up to $40 being quite affordable for even those in the lower income bracket,” Gronstad said.

There is a growing appetite for  mobile data as new applications hit the market, he said. The amount of data consumed is expected to double every year per subscriber and this will in turn put a lot of stress on the existing network even with existing mobile enhancements.

“The new applications call for additional spectrum to sustain it and improve its speed,” said Gronstad. He also asked the FCC to avail spectrum to smaller and mid-size internet providers in order to promote the provision of  high quality internet services to consumers.

Doing so would be especially useful in order to serve the tribal communities that are mostly in the rural areas that are unreached essential services such as the Internet, he said.

Adoption is Key for Minority Groups Focusing on Broadband Expansion

in Broadband Data/Broadband's Impact/FCC/National Broadband Plan by

WASHINGTON, July 21, 2009 – The coordinator of the national broadband plan at the Federal Communications Commission, Blair Levin said Monday he is less optimistic about the broadband efforts than he was when he accepted the job.

The Minority Media and Telecom Council today brought together both public and private broadband representatives, where Levin stated that after reading more than 8,000 pages of comments in the FCC’s broadband proceeding that the agency received from the public, he is “much less optimistic as when Chairman Copps asked me to come in.”

Levin wasn’t quite jovial in his statements, either. He said that the comments – bar a few – have primarily criticized FCC policy and history, or asked for money. But few have offered a real plan to achieve ubiquitous broadband coverage.

There is “very little in the 8,000-something pages that moves the ball forward…. The insight has to be tied to an exact government action,” he said.

Levin himself said, “I don’t really know anything” when it comes to the current state of broadband in the United States, or what it may look like in the future.

Levin pointed out the need for granular, sophisticated data in order to make educated decisions, something the FCC hopes to possess within the next year – long before the fruition of the Broadband Data Improvement Act, as implemented by the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Special Assistant to the President for Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy Susan Crawford agreed that the government needs data- and demand-side information in order to create data-driven policy.

Such knowledge can develop “comprehensive approach to broadband adoption,” said Crawford.

Individuals at the conference citing statistics for the percentage of minorities not adopting broadband varied from 20 percent to 37 percent. Reasons cited ranged from fear of internet safety, incomplete knowledge of the tools, to computers being unaffordable. The MMTC hopes to held address these problems.

Crawford spoke of “increasing the pool of investment” in order for small business to get in on the money while the time is opportune.

“We can’t guarantee the result, but we can guarantee the result,” said Crawford.

Chairman and CEO of One Economy Foundation Rey Ramsey said that his organization was focused on bringing broadband knowledge to those who need it most.

“A baby was born” at the conference today, with the announcement of the Broadband Opportunity Coalition, newly formed coalition of civil rights and minority groups.

The coalition was formed “to ensure not only for this round of stimulus dollars but for as long as it takes[for broadband to be] adopted by people of color in every corner of the country,” said Ramsey.

Ramsey said that the industry needed not “build a bridge to nowhere,” or a bridge without people on it. Joining Levin and Crawford’s statements on the need for data, Ramsey highlighted both mediocre demand, and real uncertainty about what incentive there is to develop high-cost infrastructure in unserved or underserved areas.

“Relevant content is one of the most important elements of demand,” said Ramsey.

However, that discussion took place earlier in the day, Google Policy Counsel Harry Wingo said that Google has been providing pertinent content through services such as Gmail, Google Earth, and – on Monday – Google Moon.

Wingo said the current administration has taken a strong lead to encourage broadband adoption. “Absolutely on Government 2.0…. It saves costs and show leadership,” he said.

Joseph Waz, senior vice president at Comcast, said, “I would hope that the One Economy program will be the breeding ground for the next generation of entrepreneurs.”

Many at the conference voiced concerns over funding and gaining capital for investment. Blair Levin said that the FCC “is no Santa Clause.”

He said that applicants in all groups need to show a real plan for broadband development.

Levin said that the FCC has developed a unique process for issuing these grants, being innovative in receiving and publicizing comments and tools for reviewing applications. But “if all we have is a great process, in the end we will fail. We need good ideas.”

The Internet: More Than Digital Voice or High-Definition Television

in Broadband Stimulus/Broadband's Impact/NTIA/Weekly Report by

From BroadbandCensus.com Weekly Report

DALLAS, May 4, 2009 – Broadband is and must be more than better-quality voice signals, higher-definition television, and more digital products bundled together, internet visionary David Isenberg said at the Broadband Properties conference here.

In a keynote address during the three-day conference last week, Isenberg – creator of the annual Freedom to Connect conference – attempted to take “the 30,000 foot view about why the work that we do is important.”

To Isenberg, Broadband needs to be about more than duct-work and fiber-optic splices and electrical engineering
protocols. It must include person-to-person communications. In short, broadband needs to be about the Internet.

[more...]

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Definition of Innovative Programs at Issue at NTIA Roundtable

in Broadband Stimulus/NTIA by

News | NTIA-RUS Forum | Day 1, Session 3

WASHINGTON, March 17, 2009 – Broadband adoption is widely viewed as spurring innovation, but $7.2 billion had stakeholders gathered at Monday’s public meeting on broadband funding to offer comments on what sort of “innovative programs” could make best use of the funding.

American Telemedicine Association CEO Jonathan Linkous said his organization was pleased that the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service were “taking the lead” on an issue he said had previously been spread between about a dozen federal agencies.

Telemedicine, which Linkous said could be “very broadly defined,” has potential to expand broadband services not just among health care facilities, but to homes of unserved and underserved populations as well. With the fiscal stimulus legislation providing money not just for broadband, but specifically for telemedicine, Linkous predicted a boon for his industry.

Telemedicine is traditionally associated with applications like remote links between rural clinics and major medical centers. But Linkous suggested that broadband should be brought to the home to enable better in-home care as a growing elderly population “ages-in-place.” That will require assistance that overwhelms current nursing facility capacity. “I suspect… you will see an even broader variety [of applications] than you have ever seen before.”

But those applications must coordinate with existing programs at the Health and Human Services Department and other agencies in order to be built into deployments, and not simply be “taped on,” he said. It’s important to not duplicate services or approve projects that “work against each other,” he urged, but to “bring all of them together.”

While Linkous argued for a diversity of connection endpoints for the network, American Library Association Executive Director Emily Shekatoff urged greater investment in public capacity at libaries, which she called “the premier public computer centers in America’s communities.”

Libaries are the sole source of free access in 73 percent of America, she said. And as librarians are among the most “highly trusted” groups in America, Shekatoff said they could effectively implement training programs.

Even with the access provided by the FCC’s e-Rate program, libraries still have too little bandwidth – despite needing far more than an average residence, she said. Of libraries, 60 percent report that their connections are too slow. Shekatoff said the lack of bandwidth deprives patrons of the “information hubs in [their] communities.”

The advantages of broadband to libraries only multiply with well-connected community colleges, said Jim Hermes, senior legislative analyst at the American Association for Community Colleges.

AACC agrees with most of ALA’s positions, he said. But community colleges are as much of a “crucial institution” as libraries, since they provide a link “back into the educational fold” for people during economic downturns. Also, distance learning programs for rural areas can create a “multiplier effect,” he said, as more people can take part and acquire new skills, allowing for entrepreneurship.

But OneEconomy Corporation CEO Rey Ramsey was skeptical of these claims. “It’s important to be intentional about what we’re trying to achieve,” he said. If America wants every citizen to have access to broadband, Ramsey offered a simple solution: bring it into their homes.

Americans in low income, “underserved” areas will readily adopt broadband if a deployment program focuses on “Access, Awareness and Affordability.” If Americans can access relevant content, are aware of the advantages of broadband and the services available to them, and they can afford access devices as well as service, Ramsey said there would be no question adoption would increase.

Ramsey took issue with the focus on schools and libraries. Many Americans work jobs and can’t make it to a library before closing time, he said. If the point of the stimulus program and programs like it are to get connectivity “to those who need it most,” the best way to “move the meter” on adoption is home deployment. “There’s no place like home in terms of making those connections,” he said.

When asked about the definition of an innovative program, Sheketoff cited distance learning applications, which she called “tremendous bandwidth suckers.” Schools and libraries need more bandwidth to handle the capacity, she said. “As a society, we need to make these resources available to everyone – no matter where you live or how wealthy you are.”

But Ramsey, who took care not to attack libraries in general, took issue with Sheketoff’s comments. “All studies show ‘moving the meter’ with adoption occurs at home,” he said. The two are not mutually exclusive, he conceded. But “we don’t want to create second-tier citizens [who only have access at libraries],” he cautioned. “Kids who have access at school need it at home.”

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