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Broadband Poised to Change the Fabric of Higher Education, Say Panelists at The Cable Show

in Broadband TV/Broadband's Impact/Education by

WASHINGTON, May 15, 2012 – The increasing prevalence on high-speed internet is beginning to have a major effort on universities and they way that they approach the creation and dissemination of the “content” created in higher education, said panelists speaking at a special event of BroadbandBreakfast.com at The Cable Show in Boston.

BroadbandBreakfast.com released the video of this special event, on May 21, 2012, “Higher Education: Will Broadband Succeed in Changing the DNA of Universities?”

Speakers at the event included Cecilia D’Oliveira, Executive Director, MIT Open CourseWare; Jerry Grochow, Interim Vice President for Internet2 NET+ Services; Jay A. Halfond, Dean of the Metropolitan College and Extended Education at Boston University; Charles R. Severance, Clinical Associate Professor in the School of Information at the University of Michigan; and David Weinberger, Senior Researcher at the Berkman Institute and Co-Director of the Harvard Library Innovation Lab. The event was moderated by Drew Clark, Chairman and Publisher, BroadbandBreakfast.com.

Event Highlights

Higher Education: Will Broadband Succeed in Changing the DNA of Universities?” from BroadbandBreakfast.com

Complete Program

Higher Education: Will Broadband Succeed in Changing the DNA of Universities?” from BroadbandBreakfast.com

This special event of BroadbandBreakfast.com was sponsored by the National Cable and Telecommunications Association. Learn more about the regular Broadband Breakfast Club series.

Experts Review Reform and Standards at the FCC

in Broadband Updates/Broadband's Impact/FCC/National Broadband Plan/Net Neutrality/Transparency by

WASHINGTON, March 8, 2010 – Panelists from the Federal Communications Commission, Capitol Hill, public interest groups and the private sector addressed issues of FCC reform and regulatory responsibility at “An FCC for the Internet Age: Reform and Standard-Setting,” a half-day conference sponsored by Public Knowledge, Silicon Flatirons and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

Dale Hatfield from Silicon Flatirons opened up the conference by enforcing the need for an open, transparent process to encourage investment. He said regulatory risk is no good but it is critical to our fundamental belief in government. He added that while it’s important to protect investors, we run the danger of too much or too little regulation with bad effects on both ends.

“We need the right tool to stay closer to the optimum,” he said.

Public Knowledge Director Gigi Sohn moderated the first panel titled “The Present and Future of FCC Reform.” Sohn said the FCC has been “a little broken” in the past and asked the panelists to focus on agency reform by analyzing what has been done, what needs to be done and whether Congress should step in.

With regards to what reforms have been made, Mary Beth Richards, special counsel on FCC reform, said the agency’s goal is to become a model of excellence in government through openness, transparency, public input and data driven decisions.

She stressed that the FCC has made strides in seven areas beginning with public safety and readiness, data collection analysis and dissemination and system reform (licensing, comment filing and interface commonality).

The agency also has focused on how it communicates within and outside the agency, and Richards said there have been great strides in the areas of social media. Additionally. the FCC has focused on its workforce and organization, rules and procedures and all things financial.

FCC General Counsel Austin Schlick focused on the rules and processes reform and highlighted three changes in that area.

“The over-arching principles are accessibility, transparency and efficiency,” he said. “Sometimes they are complementary and sometimes they are in tension, and it is our job to balance them as best we can.”

Schlick added that the first thing the agency did was to return to the model that the drafters of the Administrative Procedures Act intended, which is to provide the public with draft rules in the FCC’s Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) where ever possible.

As a tradeoff, this approach can lead to a loss of efficiency, he said, explaining that the agency will be using more Notice of Inquiries to gather preliminary knowledge to establish the content of draft rules.

The second change is what the agency calls the Procedures NPRM, which seeks to reform the operating procedures and rules of practice.

Schlick said the highlights of the NPRM streamline certain procedures and clear out stale items and backlogs, but perhaps most importantly they press toward a broader use of electronic filing and docketing. A big problem Schlick cited is that a number of large proceedings in the bureaus are undocketed and maintained as adjudications, making it difficult to get the comments filed in those proceedings.

Schlick highlighted a third change – the Ex Parte NPRM. The proceeding revises ex parte rules by proposing to require disclosure of every meeting addressing the merits and a summary of what was discussed in the meeting. Additionally the NPRM proposes reforms to the Sunshine Act and extends ex parte filing deadlines from one to two days to allow for more substantive filings.

Sohn turned to Matthew Hussey, who is the telecommunications legislative assistant for Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), to gauge the Hill’s reaction to the changes.

Hussey told other panelists that it seems like Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), who heads the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, takes FCC reform seriously.

The committee still has concerns about undue influence and the integrity of data collection, he said, later adding that it is important for the FCC to resolve its bottleneck issues because industry cannot wait. Undue delay within industry will erode potential for competition and advanced technological development, he said.

Mark Cooper, the director of research at the Consumer Federation of America, said the essence of democracy is established when the people write the rules that they want to live under.

“Change means changing the rules. Changing rules means having proceedings” and changing proceedings naturally take a long time, he said.

Cooper also took issue with ex parte communications. He believes they “are an affront and insult to democracy and a denial of due process.” Certain parties are naturally much better situated to get those meetings than others. Why does the agency need everything explained to them by an army of lobbyists, he asked rhetorically. Cooper proposed that the FCC basically abolish ex parte communications.

Nick Johnson, a former FCC commissioner and now a law professor at the University of Iowa’s law school, agreed with Cooper. Johnson said all communications with commissioners should be done in writing and if a meeting is requested, it must occur in front of the full commission and be properly documented.

Susan Crawford, former National Economic Council member and now a law professor at the University of Michigan, said the work of the agency – especially in the area of net neutrality – is particularly exciting.

“When we see something, we make progress,” said Crawford in regards to the Openinternet.gov Web site fully dedicated to that proceeding.

To address Crawford’s concerns about the ex parte procedures, she said having the members of the FCC meet more often as a commission might reduce the dependence on the ex parte system.

Schlick agreed with Crawford that to the extent that ex parte has become a substitute for other fact gathering processes, it is wrong, inefficient and not transparent.

Schlick said he is a fan of the ex parte process because he has a lot of questions that are not normally addressed on the record.

He added that there is a need to lower the barriers of entry for ex parte communications and participation at the commission.

The OpenInternet proceeding took blog postings into the record, which proved controversial. Schlick added that in the ex parte NPRM they asked how they could take a construct that assumes a small professional record and apply it to everyday people on Twitter sending their thoughts to the commission.

Cooper countered: “It is hard to accept the proposition that a two-hour long dinner with the chairman is equal to a blog post.” His proposed compromise involves the use of an independent third party scribe who takes notes on and files the ex parte letter.

Sohn changed course and asked the panelists what they thought about the perceived notion that the agency’s relationship with the White House is a little too cozy. She then asked whether the FCC should be an executive agency rather than an independent agency.

Crawford said there will always be political pressure due to appointments and congressional budget oversight but that overall, the agency does a good job to try to be independent. However, she cautioned that the real pressure on the agency comes from industry, not from politics.

The relationships with the telecom industries is way too centralized, she said, adding that the revolving door at the agency should be fixed.

She said FCC staff should not be able to work for the industry that they are regulating. Crawford ended by referencing an article written by Kevin Murphy of Catholic Law School. Murphy suggests that the FCC’s policy role should be taken away and given back to the administration, leaving it with the sole responsibility of regulating the industry. Crawford suggests that a split between policy and regulation at the FCC is an interesting idea.

Cooper noted that to decrease political influences, commissioners should be appointed to life terms or have set term limits.

The realistic approach would be to limit commissioners to one term limit, he said, adding that the ban on lobbying the commission should be equal to the amount of time served at the agency.

He also said a former FCC employee should not be allowed face-to-face communications with current staff members and commissioners.

Schlick responded by clarifying that all employees are restricted from lobbying the agency on matters they worked on. Senior officials have a one-year ban on lobbying the agency.

Ethics pledge employees such as commissioners and some other senior employees have a two-year ban, he said. If they register as a lobbyist, they cannot work on the same issues they worked on at the commission.

Sohn brought up the Sunshine Act, which has been criticized as an impediment to honest decision-making. She asked whether proposals like the Stupak bill strike balance between transparency and deliberative privilege.

That bill, named after Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), allows more than two commissioners to meet alone at any time outside of a public meeting. However, the meetings would require a representative from the general counsel’s office as well as a detailed transcription of the meeting.

Johnson said the Stupak bill addresses a serious problem but is troubled by the solution. He wants to see more deliberation between bodies and would like to see the fact-finding process outlined for the public. He is not persuaded that the language in the Stupak upholds the spirit of the APA.

Cooper wanted to bring the Sunshine discussion to the data discussion. He said that when the FCC commissions a study it should be subject to a formal process of peer review just like stated in the guidelines offered by the Office of Management and Budget. Richards responded by saying that in the data and systems reform area, there are many changes to make data more available to the public.

When asked about the FCC academic studies such as those done by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, Schlick explained that they receive many of the academic studies as gifts.

When an audience member asked about the loss of engineering talent, Hussey asserted that Sen. Snowe has a strong interest in FCC reform on technology issues.

She has voiced concern about the reduction in engineering staff compared to the increase in complexity of technical issues. Hussey suggested that at least one commissioner should be an engineer. The senator also has introduced a bill to increase the engineering hires at the commission.

Another audience member asked why the agency does not use video conferencing to stream ex parte meetings.

Richards said it had been considered but the agency is in the process of currently improving its own internal bandwidth. Crawford saw no difference between a full description of the meetings and streaming the meetings. Schlick on the other had was firm to defend ex parte “if you stream ex parte then it is not ex parte.”

The final question asked the panelists how the FCC is balancing the effort to increase online comment filing with the notion that so many low-income Americans do not have access to high speed internet. Schlick responded that the question goes to the heart of the issues and the National Broadband Plan due out this month.

Broadband People Column: New Faces on FCC’s National Broadband Team

in National Broadband Plan/Premium Content by

WASHINGTON, November 13, 2009 – The Federal Communications Commission this week named David Isenberg and Mohit Kaushaul as the latest members of its broadband team. The group is being led by Blair Levin, a former telecom analyst, who has been charged with crafting the FCC’s national broadband plan.

“The plan is due for delivery to Congress on February 17, 2010. Everybody working on the plan takes this date very seriously. The work will continue after this; how long I stay at the FCC after February 17 is anybody’s guess at this point,” wrote Isenberg in a blog entry.

Isenberg will be an expert broadband advisor at the FCC with a focus on how physical infrastructure choices facilitate or impede policy options. Isenberg has worked for Bell Labs and AT&T Labs and produced a Washington, D.C., technology policy conference called F2C: Freedom to Connect. He has a Ph.D. from Cal Tech in biology.

Kaushaul will be heading up a newly formed digital healthcare team at the FCC. He was previously at a venture capital fund in Boston focusing on the healthcare sector and has been an ER physician. “He will be looking at the potential promise of broadband to both cut costs out of the health care system and improve outcomes for people. He is also focusing on analyzing the current connectivity of healthcare in the U.S., covering both wired and wireless infrastructure,” wrote Eric Garr, general manager of the omnibus broadband initiative in a blog entry.

In the portions of this column includes as Premium Content, futher details are outlined about the FCC’s National Broadband Plan Task Force, as well as details about new hires at TechAmerica, a departure at the White House, and a job openings in the tech and internet telephony world.

[Private_Free Trial][Private_Yearly]Garr also announced that Douglas Sicker and Carol Mattey have joined the FCC’s broadband plan task force. Sicker will be expert advisor on research and development issues. He is currently an associate professor in an interdisciplinary telecommunications program within the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Sicker has also served as director of global architecture at Level 3 Communications and served as division chief in the network technology division at the FCC. He earned his Ph.D. in telecommunications from the University of Pittsburgh.

Mattey is acting as a senior policy advisor to the team with a focus on universal service issues. Mattey has served as the director in Deloitte & Touche LLP’s regulatory and capital markets consulting practice. She also spent ten years at the FCC where she served as deputy bureau chief of the Wireline Competition Bureau. Mattey has a law degree in public policy analysis from the University of Pennsylvania.

TechAmerica Hires Kim Allman

TechAmerica has brought Kim Allman on board to serve as senior vice president for state government affairs. Allman founded her own strategic government relations consulting firm specializing in entertainment clients such as Rosie O’Donnell’s foundation, financial services and civil justice clients. She also spent years handling state government affairs work for the Recording Industry Association of America and worked for MCI Worldcom’s state government relations team in the eastern United States. Allman has been a press secretary to Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., and a senior policy advisor to the Michigan Senate Democratic Caucus in Lansing, Mich.

Susan Crawford To Leave The White House

White House technology policy adviser Susan Crawford is leaving her position in January to return to the University of Michigan Law School to teach on internet law and communications issues, according to a local news report. Crawford was on temporary leave from the university to serve in the White House.

Crawford is a member of the board of directors of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers and is the founder of OneWebDay, a global Earth Day for the internet that takes place each Sept. 22. She has a law degree from Yale University and has served as a partner at Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering.

VON Seeks Executive Director

The Voice on the Net Coalition is seeking an independent contractor to serve as executive director of the group and to be responsible for the coalition’s operations and public policy advocacy.

The executive director would be charged with managing weekly coalition meetings and providing regular updates on new developments, among other tasks. The executive director would also be responsible for building relationships with federal, state and international policymakers. The Voice on the Net Coalition is looking for a candidate with experience in leading high-tech coalitions and an understanding of how internet communications work. Meanwhile, TechNet has still not announced a new president since Lezlee Westine left in April.[/Private_Free Trial][/Private_Yearly]

One Web Day Lands New Executive Director; Mitch Kapor as Chairman

in Broadband's Impact by

WASHINGTON, May 27, 2009 – With a grant from the Ford Foundation, the non-profit organization One Web Day has brought on board Nathaniel James as the organization’s first full-time, paid staff position since its 2006 founding by Susan Crawford, now an Obama administration official.

In addition to Nathaniel James, who spearheaded One Web Day 2008 activities in Washington on a volunteer basis, philanthropist and software entrepreneur Mitch Kapor is taking the reins of the organization as chairman.

Crawford, who was a law professor at the University of Michigan when she joined the Obama presidential transition team responsible for the Federal Communications Commission, is now a National Economic Council advisor.

Held annually on September 22, One Web Day is a global event designed to “celebrate the power of Web for positive change,” and to excite the interest of both policy makers and internet users toward creating the greatest possibility to use this means for the common good.

Crawford has said that the idea for this event came from Earth Day, where instead of celebrating the natural world, virtual connections across the globe are drawn together.

Through this aggregation, One Web Day aims to provide faster and affordable broadband coverage for education and entrepreneurial creativity that comes through reducing the Internet opportunity disparity.

In 2008, BroadbandCensus.com was an active participant in the Washington, D.C. efforts of One Web Day. Broadband Census.com published a series of articles about broadband within one-third of the United States in the lead-up to the event, and encouraging One Web Day participants to Take the Broadband Census!

Additionally, One Web Day was a non-profit sponsor of the “Broadband Census for America Conference” on September 26, 2008, an event organized by BroadbandCensus.com, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Texas at Austin, and Virginia Tech.

Having experience with the Media and Democracy Coalition, James “brings a unique blend of skills and experiences as an organizer on communications policy,” according to a post on Kapor’s blog.

One Web Day seeks to tackle a range of internet policy issues. For example, internet service providers are increasingly attempting to increase surveillance on users and bill for differing uses, much as telephone companies traditionally did.

James and Kapor are also likely to focus on issues pertaining to inadequate skills, and the fear of the Internet that rural and low-income areas face as a result of limited access. Creating new opportunities to use the Web will also be a major concern for James, as well as combating internet restrictions.

With at least one paid full-time employee, the nascent organization hopes to build One Web Day into a future success. Last year the organization extended from the U.S. to London, Paris, Tunisia, Copenhagen and Melbourne.

James aims to increase global mobilization for this annual celebration. As Craig Newmark called the Internet as a “democratizing medium,” One Web Day is striving to further this democracy to nations all over the world in line with its new “promise of digital inclusion” theme.

The Ford Foundation describes itself as an organization that strives to “strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement.”

Resolution on FCC Reform Divides NARUC Committee; Universal Service Fund Changes Less Controversial

in Universal Service by

WASHINGTON, February 15, 2009 – State regulatory commissioners are split on how strongly to express longstanding grievances with Federal Communications Commission processes. A resolution on reform of FCC management and practices dominated the agenda as the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners continued its winter meeting Sunday.

The resolution, sponsored by Washington State Commissioner Phillip Jones, has been amended multiple times NARUC’s staff subcommittee on telecommunications since it was introducted late Friday.

The original draft resolution was a straightforward, one-page document which welcomed changes at the commission by the new Obama administration, while calling attention to often-cited criticisms of the lack of transparency in operations, the slow pace of action on dockets and delay in open opening new ones, as well as barriers to intra-agency cooperation.

The tenure of former FCC Chairman Kevin Martin was notorious among industry observers for a lack of communication across the FCC’s bureaus and offices. A common criticism of Martin’s chairmanship was that bureaus were effectively forbidden from sharing information among themselves, or even with the other four commissioners or their staffs. Acting Chairman Michael Copps said reversing Martin-era restrictions is a high priority for his reform agenda.

The staff subcommittee met Sunday afternoon to vote on recommending the resolutions to NARUC’s telecommunications committee, which consists of 33 commissioners. The significantly revised draft included language praising Copps for his reform effort, with the caveat that many of the changes had been employed by previous chairmen and suggested by the other two sitting commissioners.

The subcommittee draft went on to specify in detail other NARUC concerns, including problems in the operation of Federal-State Joint Boards and a “lack of definitive action by the Commission on important issues both at a federal and state level” that results in many orders being “deemed granted” through “excessive” use of the forbearance process. Recent rulemakings and orders made it “apparent that the Commission needs to enhance its capabilities in…economics, engineering, and administrative law,” read one clause.

The subcommittee considered amending Sunday’s version to include among the complaints the frequency of ex parte presentations as an aspect of a rulemaking process that effectively minimizes the opportunity for public input. “The average consumer really has no way to come to Washington and meet with commissioners,” said one staff subcommittee member who supported the amendment.

But many members were unsure if such strong criticism would be constructive when NARUC is trying to improve relations between state commissions and the FCC. “I wouldn’t want them to come into [my state commission] and tell me how to do things,” said one member. Another was far more emphatic: “I’m amazed and appalled by [this resolution] when we’re getting into a mode where we can operate with a much more open dialogue [with the FCC].”

The subcommittee then junked the entire resolution, replacing it with a half-page substitute that acknowledged the new administration’s changes and Congress’ intention to review FCC procedure and resolved to support a public review process and offer NARUC’s assistance. The “watered-down” language passed the subcommittee by a vote of 7-4.

But when the full committee convened later in the day, Jones and co-sponsor Commissioner John Burke of Vermont returned with a less caustic, but equally specific, version of the resolution. It replaced the one which had been gutted by the staff subcommittee.

The substitute resolution prefaced the specific criticisms and suggestions by making reference to a 15-page letter sent last December by NARUC president Fred Butler to Susan Crawford, a University of Michigan telecommunications law professor who advised the Obama-Biden transition team on FCC matters. The letter emphasized the success of NARUC’s member commissions in promoting novel programs and solutions, many of which have often been successfully replicated at the federal level.

Butler’s letter also outlined an agenda for FCC reform in hopes that an Obama FCC would avoid missteps of commissions past that often led to court losses for the FCC, often after long and costly litigation. He suggested that the FCC return to the practice of using sworn, in-person testimony with cross-examinations in establishing a record for its decision-making, as well as holding public negotiation sessions with a transcript — practices the FCC has not used since the 1970′s, but still used regularly by state commissions.

Butler’s letter may have gotten NARUC “on the record” with the FCC, said Michael Moffet of Kansas. A resolution with specific suggestions would be redundant, he said. Florida’s Lisa Edgar agreed, suggesting that “less is more.” But Burke questioned the effectiveness of the weaker language. Asking his fellow commissioners if they should “give [the FCC] a road map…or tell them to do the right thing,” he noted with a hint of sarcasm: “Do the right thing hasn’t worked well in the past.”

California Public Utility Commissioner Rachelle Chong, a former FCC commissioner herself, said she was troubled by the tone of the Burke/Jones resolution. Accusing the FCC of being slow would be such a great idea when state commissions are often met with the same criticism, she said. “People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,” she said. And such a resolution would be poorly timed when acting chairman Copps is doing “very positive things,” she added.

But Burke said that the resolution wasn’t about demanding an agenda for the FCC, but letting the commissioners know what the NARUC committee thinks would be productive. “We don’t think we’ll wake up tomorrow and the world will be different on the 8th floor [or the floor on which the agency commissioners and their staffs are located]– but this is an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.”

The committee also briefly discussed Chong’s broadband mapping resolution, and a resolution sponsored by Washington, DC, Commissioner Betty Ann Kane to endorse a pilot program expanding the FCC’s Lifeline and Link Up programs to cover broadband service.

Kane said that some perceived opposition to the resolution among the staff subcommittee came from confusion over the goals of the recently-passed broadband stimulus legislation.

The stimulus is about building networks, not making service affordable, she said. Universal service, whether for voice or broadband, is a “matter of social philosophy,” she added. And while some don’t believe in the program’s goals, Kane argued that there is “no argument that USF [for voice] hasn’t been successful.” She expected her resolution to pass the committee without a problem when it votes on Wednesday.

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