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Steve Midgley

Former FCC Officials Evaluate Implementation of National Broadband Plan

in Broadband's Impact/Education/FCC/Health/National Broadband Plan/Public Safety/Smart Grid by

WASHINGTON March 17, 2011 – The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation brought key former broadband plan authors together Wednesday to discuss how the federal government is enacting the plan.

“The plan was not about creating the fastest network, it was about how to setup the most diverse, ubiquitous ecosystem,” said Blair Levin, former Executive Director of the Omnibus Broadband Initiative, the team that developed the plan. While some national plans focus solely on network expansion and speed, “we wanted to figure out how to use broadband to expand education, improve healthcare and conserve energy,” Levin said.

Dr. Mohit Kaushal, former Director of Connected Health at the Federal Communications Commission, explained, “Current regulations and privacy make it difficult for innovators to create new applications to harness patient data or share information between doctors.”

The healthcare reform act passed last year includes a number of Health IT provisions – the most prominent of which is the standardization of billing and electronic health records. Kaushal hopes this will create a new market using the data which customers will be able to access.

“Right now the patient data is locked to just the doctor or insurance company. We want to allow consumers to access their data and use it as they wish while maintaining privacy and security,” Kaushal said.

Kaushal saw hope in the recent meeting between the Federal Communications Commission and the Food and Drug Administration to discuss coordinating regulations for connected medical devices.

Former Energy and Environment Director of the Omnibus Broadband Initiative, Nick Sinai, echoed Kaushal’s sentiment on the sharing of data, saying, “if consumers could get their energy use and price data in a standardized format then innovators could create applications.”

California and Texas are currently working on standardizing energy bills. Sinai also highlighted the Arlington, Virginia-based energy data firm OPOWER, which works with energy companies to provide customers better data on usage and price.

The Obama administration is currently developing a national smart grid framework with the Department of Energy. “There is no one solution for the smart grid but it needs to be an integrated system and the Department of Energy is working on multiple projects pilot projects,” Sinai said.

Steve Midgley, Deputy Director of Education Technology at the Department of Education and former Director of Education at the FCC, praised the Commission’s quick update to the E-Rate Program, which provides funding for schools and libraries to pay for broadband.

“Schools can now run digital literacy and training programs after hours,” Midgley said, “and they can access existing dark fiber networks.”  The term “dark fiber” refers to fiber optic cable that is not currently in use.

By utilizing existing access, schools can also become community access locations. In many cases, however, even when schools have access to broadband they lack access to quality digital material. To address this issue, the Department of Education is working on a learning registry, which will compile high quality digital material for teachers and students.

Midgley said that to improve digital literacy amongst educators, the Department of Education is exploring a new badge system that will work similarly to technical certifications. Teachers will be able to earn badges which will reflect certifications they hold.

Broadband Breakfast Club Discussion on Education Now Available Online

in Broadband Calendar/Broadband TV/National Broadband Plan by

WASHINGTON, January 14, 2010 – Broadband Census News LLC on Thursday released, for FREE, the full-length video of the Broadband Breakfast Club event on January 12, 2010: “Setting the Table for the National Broadband Plan: Education and Distance Learning.”

The event is available on BroadbandBreakfast.com at the following link.

The event featured a keynote speech by Steven Midgley, Education Director of the Federal Communications Commission’s National Broadband Plan. Following Midgley’s remarks, he joined a panel with other educational experts including:

  • Greg Barlow, Chief Information Officer, Anne Arundel County Public Schools
  • Frank Gallagher, Cable in the Classroom
  • Matthew Ohlson, Instructional Leader, Florida Virtual School
  • Wendy Wigen, Government Relations Officer, EDUCAUSE

Don’t Miss BroadbandBreakfast.com’s forthcoming Town Hall Webcast on Tuesday, January 19, 2010: “Net Neutrality, Copyright Protection and the National Broadband Plan.” Among the speakers at the webcast include FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

Registration for the live webcast is available for FREE at http://ipbreakfast.eventbrite.com. There is a $45.00 charge to attend the breakfast in person.

To register for the next Broadband Breakfast Club, to be held on Tuesday, February 9, 2009, please visit http://broadbandbreakfast.eventbrite.comThe Broadband Breakfast Club is sponsored by the Telecommunications Industry Association, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, the International Broadband Electric Communications, Inc., and the Benton Foundation.

For further information about sponsorship, contact sylvia@broadbandcensus.com, or call 646-262-4630. The Broadband Breakfast Club is Copyright © Broadband Census News LLC.

Officials at January Broadband Breakfast Club Tackle Mix of Technology and Learning

in Broadband Calendar/Broadband TV/Broadband's Impact/National Broadband Plan by

WASHINGTON, January 13, 2010 – Representatives from the federal government, educational organizations, trade associations, and school districts came together to discuss the state of broadband in our educational system and what can be expected from the national broadband plan under development by the Federal Communications Commission.

The session, the January Broadband Breakfast Club, commenced with a presentation by Steve Midgley, Director of Education at the Federal Communications Commission. Midgley began with a brief background (PPT) of the national broadband plan mandate and the national purposes behind it.

He said that he believed that aside from the necessary deployment and adoption data that will be included in the plan, the success of the plan hinges on the agency’s answer to this specific question of Congress: “why are we building this network?”

To address this question, Midgley paired the priorities of the Department of Education with the four core strategies of the broadband plan’s education component.

The Education Department’s plan is to transform education by:

  • improving standards and assessments,
  • developing advanced data systems,
  • fostering support for effective teachers, and
  • turning around the lowest performing schools.

Midgley paired these priorities to the FCC’s strategies of:

  • promoting and developing online learning,
  • digital content such as e-textbooks,
  • data standards and interoperability (including standardized education records), and
  • broadband infrastructure, including ways to drive more bandwidth to more schools where it is most needed.

Asked by an audience member about coordination between the national broadband plan and the National Educational Technology Plan, Midgley answered that “they interact as much as legally possible considering the FCC is not an executive branch agency.” Midgley admitted, “it is up to the FCC to decide what they present to Congress.”

He said that there will probably be some specific recommendations on changes to the E-Rate program for subsidizing connections to schools and libraries, which would likely lead to a notice of proposed regulatory changes.

Data presented by Midgley expressed the cost of digital exclusion, and of how classroom usage is driving the need for improved connectivity.

Key questions that need to be answered deal with the method of content delivery. Does hybrid learning alongside broadband in the classroom yield better results than distance learning, or should the two delivery platforms be used to deliver different forms of content? Midgley ended his presentation by posing these questions to the rest of the panelists.

The panel, moderated by Drew Clark, editor of BroadbandBreakfast.com, and executive director of BroadbandCensus.com, included: Greg Barlow, chief information officer for Anne Arundel Country Public School; Frank Gallagher, senior director of Cable in the Classroom; Matthew Ohlson, instructional leader of the Florida Virtual School and Wendy Wigen, government relations officer at EDUCAUSE.

In his first question Clark asked the panelists about the role that E-Rate has played since the 1990s. Specifically, how can E-Rate help when supposedly 100 percent of the schools are now already connected to broadband. He also asked for the perspective of higher education institutions and universities that have championed broadband.

Barlow began the discussion by admitting that while E-Rate has been very helpful in connecting schools from kindergarten through 12th grade, “in Baltimore and DC many schools still only have T1 connections…that is 27,000 computers fighting over a lot of space.” T1 connections are no longer as special as they once seemed. Additionally, he said, “25 students with one machine per classroom is no good.”

Barlow’s goal is to get a 1-1 ratio of computers and children. He said, “fortunately about 90 percent have internet connections at home” – but he admited that the children from the poor backgrounds tend to fall behind.

Gallagher expects that within five to seven years, schools will need 1 Gigabit per second (1 Gbps) of capacity per every 1000 students to support the growth of online learning.

He agreed with Barlow that there is an extreme disadvantage to children without broadband connections in the home. He listed the main barriers of adoption to the home as education barriers, worries about internet safety, affordability and simple lack of access to broadband in certain rural areas. As a potential solution he pointed to the cable industry’s proposed “Adoption Plus” program, where cable internet service providers provide computers to homes of children that qualified for subsidized lunches.

Ohlson’s Virtual School is a public school in Florida that reaches 124,000 students globally. Students either take courses from their traditional brick and mortar schools, or are home schooled, or are from military families and need greater flexibility.

“The statute creating E-Rate requires that the discount be provided on services used for ‘educational purposes,’ yet the way the program has been constructed is to provide discounts only to school buildings that serve students,” explained Ohlson. Since there is no actual brick-and-mortar school building, there is almost no support for his school.

“So while the telecommunications and ISP costs to support the Virtual School were more than $53 million in the 2008-2009 school year, the E-Rate reimbursement was only $5,237, [or] 0.01 percent of the total telecommunications costs incurred by students teachers, and the school.”

Higher education is a different story, said Wigen.

Community colleges, vocational schools as well as all leading research schools are all connected with technology. Of all EDUCAUSE members, about two hundred lead the way in research while the other several thousand struggle with access to education resources and remote access for their students.

The lack of resources at certain schools makes is essential for students to be able participate in distance learning, similarly for vocational and job training classes, the required simulations cannot be done on a dial up connection.

In response to a question on FCC support for distance learning, Midgley said that “we cannot design educational systems for yesterday.” Technologies for schools need to start looking towards other industries and observing the trends of decentralization and more telecommuting.

Barlow brought the discussion back to his idea of supplementing communications capabilities. While Barlow wants to see more focus on increasing technologies in classroom through handhelds and mobile devices, he does not want to see the technologies replace traditional classroom learning.

One audience member continued on the mobile use topic by pointing out the higher-than-average level of use of mobile devices by black and Hispanic youth. This audience member also noted that the average age of students using mobile devices is dropping. “How can we integrate children bringing technology into our schools?”

“Since technology funding is a huge issue…if a student is coming into a school with a cell phone, then lets leverage the parent’s investment to help our own technology needs,” Barlow answers.

He continued by mentioning that there is now technology to re-route packets through school networks in order to filter content. As for the platform for such a device, one panelists mentioned the benefits of applications such as iTunes University. Midgley then chimed in to say that there are laws surrounding filtering but each situation must be examined separately

Another audience member asked about the issues with real life versus online life in a learning context. Gallagher said that working with teachers and by providing professional development tools like Blackboard, we can “provide barriers to guiding kids in appropriate behavior online and offline.”

Wendy Wigen added that we need to stress hybrid learning as the most effective method of teaching. A lot more goes on in the schools that complement the actual learning. When asked about the broadband needs for hybrid learning, she said, “we need sufficient networks and devices, bandwidth and connections to participate in these technologies.”

One audience member asked about how rural schools can be balanced in the equation between funding and resources for broadband. Ohlson mentioned that “in Florida, rural areas where broadband is not an option, many students use cell phones to access learning resources…many students are going to libraries.” Ohlson reiterated the need to see E-Rate options and discounts for these students as well as studies to find out where the students are actually doing most of their learning.

The discussion ended with a question on the topic of speed and the need for the FCC to set a high definition of broadband speeds so that the rural school won’t be left behind.

Midgley said that the FCC’s broadband plan should should include the definition of broadband. “The broadband definition for the home is not suitable for speed definitions at a school. School broadband definitions should depend on meaningful use.” He finished by saying “as we define broadband, we need to say who is doing what with the connections they have.”

Editor’s Note: Video from the event will be available in a few days at http://broadbandbreakfast.com/category/broadband-tv, or click on “Broadband TV” above. To register for the February 9 Broadband Breakfast Club, click here.

Education Director of FCC’s National Broadband Plan Outlines Agency’s Thinking

in Broadband Calendar/Broadband TV/Expert Opinion/National Broadband Plan by

WASHINGTON, January 12, 2010 – Steve Midgley, Education Director of the Federal Communications Commission’s National Broadband Plan, presented the following slides at the Tuesday’s Broadband Breakfast Club:

BBB FCC 1.12.10

Following Midgley’s remarks, these panelists participated in an engaging discussion about “Setting the Table for the National Broadband Plan: Education and Distance Learning.”

  • Greg Barlow, Chief Information Officer, Anne Arundel County Public Schools
  • Frank Gallagher, Cable in the Classroom
  • Steve Midgley, Education Director, FCC Broadband Plan
  • Matthew Ohlson, Instructional Leader, Florida Virtual School
  • Wendy Wigen, Government Relations Officer, EDUCAUSE

Check back later today or early tomorrow for an article summarizing the discussion at the Broadband Breakfast Club, and later this week, we’ll be posting the FREE video of the discussion.

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