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Broadband's Impact

Panelists Debate Success of U.S. Deregulation in Broadband

Experts on both sides of the Atlantic squared off on Monday about whether the United States’ broadband policies were a success.



By William G. Korver, Reporter,

WASHINGTON, June 9– Experts on both sides of the Atlantic squared off on Monday about whether the United States’ broadband policies were a success, with Europeans arguing that U.S. broadband cost too much, and an American praising a deregulatory telecom policy.

Costs in the U.S. Are rising because competition is “drying up” with the consolidation of telecommunications companies, said Aryeh Friedman, senior competition and regulatory counsel at British Telecom. He also said that U.S. internet speeds declined in comparison with the United Kingdom.

By contrast, Thomas Hazlett, professor of law and economics at George Mason University School of Law, said that deregulation of broadband by telecommunications carriers in 2003 led to a “substantial increase in deployment” of digital subscriber lines (DSL).

The panel, titled “Transatlantic Perspectives on Broadband Policy: Inter- versus Intra-Platform Competition,” was co-sponsored by the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels, and the Technology Policy Institute, a new Washington-based think tank. The event was hosted at the National Press Club.

Friedman also stated that more than 99 percent of households in the U.K. are now DSL-enabled, with 55 percent broadband penetration. He said that 90 percent of DSL subscribers have speeds of 3 megabits per second (Mbps) or higher. He also said that the U.S. has not subsidized enough money into deploying broadband.

The large number of providers in the U.K. meant that Network Neutrality was “really not a debate”over there.

Hazlett also addressed wireless broadband, and said that the U.S. government had not done enough to make use, for broadband, the vast amount of radio frequencies currently reserved for television broadcasting.

Andrea Renda, a senior research fellow at the Centre for European Policy Studies, said that some feared that the European Commission might suffer if it followed the model of structural separation used by the U.K. Enforcing such competition might create an “everlasting monopoly,” he said. Further, it might not ever present the Commission with an opportunity to roll back regulation when the market becomes competitive.

In any case, Renda said that “the future is mobile.” He also cautioned against comparing broadband penetration in the U.S. with that of a small country like Denmark.

Marvin Sirbu, a professor of engineering, public policy, and industrial administration at Carnegie Mellon University, said that broadband penetration levels in the U.S. and France were fairly close. But the differences in prices were start, with a typical purchase costing $12.60 per megabit per month in the U.S. versus $3.70 per megabit per month in France.

Sirbu attributed this difference to a market with more competitors in France, versus a duopoly of cable and DSL providers in the U.S.

The differences in approach are “highly related to the Anglo-Saxon” fondness for checks and balances versus the French historical preference for centralized planning, he said.

Complimenting the panel’s discussion, Ambassador David A. Gross, U.S. coordinator for international communications and information policy, extolled the remarkable progress of the world in telecommunications.

Gross said that telecommunications had “broadened as no one could have reasonably anticipated or expected” over the past 10 years. The world has experienced a “quantum leap,” he said.

Broadband's Impact

Baltimore Needs Grassroots Help to Bridge Digital Divide, Experts Say

‘Baltimore lags behind many cities when it comes to the number of households with home internet connections.’



Photo of Jason Hardebeck, director of Baltimore's Office of Broadband and Digital Equity

WASHINGTON, July 5, 2022 – Local leaders from Baltimore said at a Benton Institute event that there needs to be an alignment with the community and leadership when it comes to closing the digital divide.

“Baltimore lags behind many cities when it comes to the number of households with home internet connections,” said Amalia Deloney from the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, which invests in projects to improve the quality of life in the city. The foundation estimates that 74,116 households don’t have internet access.

The event’s speakers pointed to digital redlining, in which segments of racial minority and lower income Americans are disconnected from services or can be considered living in low priority areas.

Jason Hardebeck, director of Baltimore’s Office of Broadband and Digital Equity, said the city is a “pioneer in redlining,” and “a century later, we still see the effect on the digital divide.”

To address this, Deloney said the foundation’s approach to the digital divide in Baltimore by starting at the social level through its Digital Equity Leadership Lab. This is a program for Baltimore residents to “increase their understanding of the internet and strengthen their ability to advocate for fast, affordable and reliable broadband.”

The program aims to train and build leadership within the community to advocate for closing the digital divide. It points to a strategy of bringing “advocates together with community leaders,” as “digital equity is social, not a technological problem,” said Colin Rhinesmith, founder and director of the Digital Equity Research Center.

Michelle Morton from the National Telecommunications Infrastructure Association also said local leaders need to work with community members to have a bottom-up approach. “You have to work with the people doing the work on the ground.

“Their voices matter,” said Morton.

Mayor Brandon Scott has allocated $35 million from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act to close the digital divide across Baltimore “by the end of this decade.”

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Metaverse Can Serve as a Supplement, Not Replacement, For Educators: Experts

The virtual world where avatars can meet as if they were in real life can be a companion for education.



Screenshot of the Brookings event Tuesday

WASHINGTON, June 29, 2022 – Experts said at a Brookings Institution event said Tuesday that while the “metaverse” can go a long way toward improving education for some students, it should serve as a supplement to those educational goals.

The metaverse refers to a platform of 3D virtual worlds where avatars, or virtual characters, meet as if they were in the real world. The concept has been toyed with by Facebook parent Meta and is being used as a test for the educational space.

“The metaverse is a world that is accessible to students and teachers across the globe that allows shared interactions without boundaries in a respectful optimistic way,” Simran Mulchandani, founder of education app Project Rangeet, said at Tuesday’s event.

Panelists stated that as the metaverse and education meet, researchers, educators, policymakers and digital designers should take the lead, so tech platforms do not dictate educational opportunities.

“We have to build classrooms first, not tech first,” said Mulchandani.

Rebecca Kantar, the head of education at Roblox – a video game platform that allows players to program games – added that as the metaverse is still emerging and being constructed, “we can be humble in our attempt to find the highest and best way to bring the metaverse” into the classroom for the best education for the future.

Anant Agarwal, a professor at MIT and chief open education officer for online learning platform edX, stated the technology of the metaverse has the potential to make “quality and deep education accessible to everybody everywhere.”

Not a replacement for real social experiences

Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, senior fellow of the global economy and development at the Center for Universal Education, said that while the metaverse brings potential to improve learning, it is not a complete replacement for the social experience a student has in the classroom.

“The metaverse can’t substitute for social interaction. It can supplement.”

Mulchandani noted the technology of the metaverse cannot replace the teacher, but rather can serve to solve challenges in the classroom.

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Digital Inclusion

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel Emphasizes 100 Percent Broadband Adoption

‘It’s about making sure wireless connections are available in 100 percent of rural America,’ said the chairwoman.



Photo of Kelley Dunne, CEO of AmeriCrew, leading panel on workforce issues at the Rural Wireless Infrastructure Summit by Drew Clark

PARK CITY, Utah, June 28, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission is making progress towards bringing “affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband to 100 percent of the country,” Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said at the Rural Wireless Infrastructure Summit here on Tuesday.

Rosenworcel pointed to the $65 billion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act now being deployed across the country, with a particular focus on unconnected rural and tribal areas.

Although the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration will take the lead with these funds, the FCC’s new broadband coverage maps will be important in implementing state digital equity plans.

In her remarks, Rosenworcel also discussed how the upcoming 2.5 GigaHertz spectrum auction will involve licensing spectrum primarily to rural areas.

At the July FCC open meeting, said Rosenworcel, the agency is scheduled to establish a new program to help enhance wireless competition. It is called the Enhanced Competition Incentive Program.

The program aims to build incentives for existing carriers to build opportunities for smaller carriers and tribal nations through leasing or partitioning spectrum. Existing carriers will be rewarded with longer license terms, extensions on build-out obligations, and more flexibility in construction requirements.

“It’s about making sure wireless connections are available in 100 percent of rural America,” she said.

She also indicated her commitment to work with Congress to fund the FCC’s “rip and replace” program to reimburse many rural operators’ transitions from Chinese-manufactured telecommunications equipment. She also touted the role that open radio access networks can plan in more secure telecommunications infrastructure.

In other news at the conference, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr addressed the role of funding broadband operations in rural America, the challenges of workforce training, and ensuring that rural carriers have access to high-cost universal service support.

In a session moderated by AmeriCrew CEO Kelley Dunne, panelists from the U.S. Labor Department, the Wireless Infrastructure Association and Texas A&M Extension Education Services addressed the need to offer a vocational career path for individuals for whom a four-year degree may not be the right choice. AmeriCrew helps U.S. military veterans obtain careers in building fiber, wireless and electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark contributed to this report.

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