WASHINGTON, October 17 – Protecting children in an age of broadband–connected wireless devices and Web 2.0 applications will require pro-active cooperation by internet service providers (ISPs), a panel of child safety experts and industry representatives said Thursday at the National Press Club.
Christopher Wolf, an attorney at Proskauer Rose, said that ISPs should play a greater role in patrolling against hate speech. The terms of service of broadband providers are “not constrained by the First Amendment,” he said, and could have a role to play in taking such speech down.
Wolf also said one of the most pressing threats to “digital natives,” or young people who have grown up online, is that they are more likely to constantly post information about themselves and their activities, creating a potentially permanent “digital dossier” that could come back to haunt them later in life.
“Kids speak digital as a first language” and are more likely to let down their guard when posting information online, said Wolf. These risks are sharpened by the lack of a uniform national privacy law and a Congress that legislates “re-actively,” he said. While praising the efforts made by legislators in Virginia, Illinois and Texas to create cyber-safety education programs in schools, Wolf stressed the importance of parental involvement as the first step in protecting young people.
Parents can’t abdicate responsibility for their kids’ online activities because they don’t understand the technology, he warned. Another danger lurking online comes from the proliferation and routine exposure of children to so-called hate speech on sites that indoctrinate or recruit at-risk youths, Wolf said. Wolf chairs the Anti-Defamation League’s internet task force, and said that increases in cyberbullying might be linked to the increased accessibility of such content and the ease with which kids can now communicate with each other.
Wolf said that ISPs need to more vigilantly “keep track” of sites with racist materials in order to keep kids away from such content. Wolf is also co-chairman of the AT&T-supported “Hands Off the Internet” coalition, a group opposed to Net Neutrality rules,
The role of the ISP is mainly one of education, said Brent Olson, assistant vice president for regulatory policy at AT&T. Olson said that AT&T’s goal is to “help parents be parents.” He pointed to tools available on his company’s web site. He also said that AT&T has also invested in cybereducation for kids, included a program called iKeepSafe and D.A.R.E., or Drug Abuse Resistence Education.
While internet safety protection efforts once focused on keeping children away from certain types of content, kids today produce it themselves and share it in a “stream of consciousness,” said Family Online Safety Institute CEO Stephan Balkam.
Balkam expressed concern over cases in Texas and Ohio where kids who sent each other photos of themselves have been prosecuted under child pornography statutes. Of similar concern to Balkam are new anti-cyberbullying statutes like the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act, H.R. 6123. Congress must be careful about criminalizing “so-called normal behavior” of children, he said.
The actual dangers from strangers online must by evaluated in a “cool, calm way,” Balkam said, dismissing fears perpetuated by shows like NBC’s “To Catch a Predator,” which he sarcastically referred to as true “Perverted Justice.” “Perverted Justice” is the name of the online vigilante group NBC collaborated with to produce the controversial shows.
When dealing with kids’ activities online, Balkam said a more productive approach would be education on the three “c’s:” content, conduct and contact. Education should be grounded on real research, he said, and should not neglect the real questions at the heart of the matter: “How will we, as parents, control what kids are exposed to, …or expose of themselves?”
Balkam suggested that ISP terms of service would be the “next battleground” on hate speech and cyberbullying. Public pressure will work to pressurize web site operators and service providers on the issue, he said.
Governmental action must take the form of a measured approach by the next Congress and the new administration with regard to online safety issues, he said. “We must not overreact.”
The next administration should take executive action on online safety, Balkam said. While the Clinton administration had regular meetings on the issue, over the past eight years different agencies have tried to help in the own way, but with little success, he said.
In spite of the inclusion of an anti-child pornography provision in the recently passedBroadband Date Improvement Act, S. 1492, the bill does little to help bring all safety efforts under one umbrella, said Balkham. But Balkam addded he is “very encouraged” by the records of both presidential candidates.
Sen. John McCain held hearings on Internet safety when he chaired the Commerce Committee, while Sen. Barack Obama’s proposal for a national chief technology officer could include a chief safety officer under the CTO. Both candidates, he said, appear strong enough on the issue to help kids be “safe at any speed.”
Dianne Crocker: Recession Fears Have Real Estate Market Forecasters Hitting the Reset Button
Growing fears of recession trigger pullback on previous rosy forecasts.
The lyrics to “Same As It Ever Was” by the Talking Heads certainly don’t apply to how 2022 is playing out in the commercial real estate market. Two quarters of negative economic growth has put a damper on market sentiment and triggered fears that the U.S. economy is heading for a recession. By midyear, market analysts were taking a good, hard look at their rosy forecasts from the start of the New Year and redrawing the lines.
Once upon a time…
At the start of 2022, forecasters were bullishly predicting that commercial real estate investment and lending levels would be nearly as good as 2021. This was significant, considering that 2021 set new records for deal-making and lending volume as the debt and equity capital amassed during the pandemic while looking for a home in U.S. commercial real estate.
What a difference a few quarters have made. Virtually, all the predictions that started the New Year were obsolete by mid-summer. The abrupt shift in market conditions is palpable and surprised just about everyone. Now, markets are reaching an inflection point that is in sharp contrast with the strong rebound of last year.
The two I’s: Inflation and interest rates
At the core of the recent upset in market sentiment is the persistence of high inflation, which seems to be ignoring all attempts by the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates and bring prices down. Higher inflation is having a ripple effect throughout the economy, pushing up the costs of construction materials, energy, and consumer goods. Among the notable economic indicators showing stress at mid-year was the GDP, which fell for the second consecutive quarter, and the Consumer Price Index, which jumped 9.1% year-over-year in June – the highest increase in about four decades.
In July, the CPI fell to 8.5%, an encouraging sign that inflation was beginning to stabilize. By the latest August report from LightBox, however, hopes were dashed when the CPI showed little improvement, holding firm at a still high of 8.3%.
The market is responding to a higher cost of capital as lenders tap the brakes. As the cost of capital rises with each interest rate hike and concerns of a recession intensify, many large U.S. financial institutions are pulling back on their loan originations for the rest of 2022 and into 2023. This change in tenor is a significant shift, given that 2021 was a record-breaking year for commercial real estate lending. Many lenders have already shifted to a more defensive underwriting position as they look to mitigate risks.
The Mortgage Bankers Association, which had previously predicted that lending levels in 2022 would break the $1 trillion mark for the first time revised their forecast downward in mid-July. By year-end, the MBA now expects volume to be a significant 18% below 2021 levels—and one-third lower than the bullish forecast made in February. Now, investment activity is cooling as higher borrowing costs drive some buyers from the market.
In the investment world, transactions were down by 29% at midyear due to a thinning buyer pool as higher rates impact access to debt capital. Market volatility is causing investors, lenders, and owners to rethink strategies, reconsider assumptions, and prepare for possible disruption.
Looking ahead to year-end and 2023
The rapid and diverse shifts in the market make for an uncertain forecast and certainly a more cautious investment environment. The battle between inflation and interest rates will continue over the near term. As LightBox’s investor, lender, valuation, and environmental due diligence clients move toward the 4th quarter—typically the busiest quarter of the year–unprecedented volatility is driving them to recalibrate and reforecast given recent market developments.
Continued softness in transaction volume is likely to continue as rates and valuations establish a new equilibrium. If property prices begin to level out, there will be more pressure on buyers to consider how to improve a property to get their return on investment. The next chapter of the commercial real estate market will be defined by how long inflation sticks around, how high interest rates go, and whether the economy slips into a recession (and how deeply). The greatest areas of opportunity will be found in asset classes like office and retail that are evolving away from traditional uses and morphing to meet the needs of today’s market. Until barometers stabilize, it’s important to rethink assumptions, watch developments, and recalibrate as necessary.
Dianne Crocker is the Principal Analyst for LightBox, delivering strategic analytics, best practices in risk management, market intelligence reports, educational seminars, and customized research for stakeholders in commercial real estate deals. She is a highly respected expert on commercial real estate market trends. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.
Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to firstname.lastname@example.org. The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.
White House Presses Outreach Initiatives for Affordable Connectivity Program
White House officials urged schools and other local institutions to engage in text-message and social media campaigns for the ACP.
WASHINGTON, September 15, 2022 – The White House on Monday urged schools and other local institutions to engage in text-message and social media campaigns, PSAs, and other community-outreach initiatives to promote enrollment in the Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program among of families with school-age children.
The Affordable Connectivity Program subsidizes internet service bill for low-income households. Monthly discounts of up to $30 are available for non-tribal enrollees, $75 for applicants on qualifying tribal lands. In addition, the ACP offers enrollees a one-time discount $100 on qualifying device purchases.
To boost ACP enrollment, speakers encouraged schools to reach out directly to families. Bharat Ramanurti, deputy director of the National Economic Council, said text-message campaigns drive up enrollment in government programs. A Massachusetts text-message campaign doubled ACP enrollment rates in subsequent days, said Ramanurti.
Also highlighted was the administration’s “ACP Consumer Outreach Kit,” which provides partners with resources, including fliers, posters, audio PSAs, social-media templates.
In fact, many of these tactics have proved effective in increasing ACP enrollment among telehealth patients. In addition, Microsoft and Communications Workers of America recently announced a circuit of ACP sign-up drives in that will tour several states including Michigan, New York, and North Carolina.
Political considerations as November nears…
As students go back to school and midterm elections loom, new ACP sign-ups could benefit the enrollees as well as the Democrats’ political chances.
Public officials and private experts alike recognize the value of community involvement in extending broadband connectivity and digital literacy nationwide. Marshaling community institutions – like schools – to maximize broadband access could help Biden and other Democrats overcome inflation-driven electoral headwinds in the November midterms. The White House obtained commitments from 20 providers to offer high-speed internet plans for $30 per month or less to ACP-eligible households – this means no out-of-pocket costs for recipients of ACP discounts. Free broadband coverage could bring the administration – and all Democrat candidates, by extension – back into the good graces of low-income families.
Federal Government Must Collect More Granular Data on Minorities to Aid in Initiatives
Discussion on the “data gap” comes as the nation tries to connect the unserved and underserved.
WASHINGTON, August 31, 2022 – In order to serve the needs of all Americans, the federal government must gather and act on more granular data on underrepresented minority groups that have been historically overlooked in the data-gathering process, said Denice Ross, the White House’s chief data scientist.
Ross argued at an online event hosted by the Center for Data Innovation on Tuesday that many minority groups – including African Americans, Native Americans, the disabled, and the LGBT community – are disadvantaged by the “data divide,” a term which refers to disparities in the amount and quality of available data on various groups.
Ross was citing a report issued earlier this year by the Equitable Data Working Group, a task force created by President Joe Biden earlier this year, which said policymakers are often unable to perceive or ameliorate problems facing minority communities if data on those communities are unavailable or insufficiently disaggregated. Disaggregated data, the report says, is “data that can be broken down and analyzed by race, ethnicity, gender, disability, income, veteran status, age, or other key demographic variables.”
The report recommends a federal data collection strategy that safeguards privacy and facilitates analysis of “the interconnectedness of identities and experiences,” or how individuals’ various minority-group identities compound the societal disadvantages they face. The report also advocates the creation of “incentives and pathways” promoting minority representation in the data collection process.
The recommendations come as the broadband industry and federal agencies try to improve knowledge of where there are unserved and underserved areas for broadband connectivity and to take action to improve digital literacy. The Illinois Broadband Lab and other state broadband offices, for example, implement a community-up approach to data gathering. Direct community involvement provides data insights that help states deliver coverage to in-need communities, officials say.
In the panel discussion that followed Ross’s opening remarks, experts and academics agreed that community outreach is a necessary step in closing the data divide. Dominique Harrison, director of bank Citi Ventures’ Racial Equity Design and Data Initiative, said that some in the African American community view data collection with skepticism.
Christopher Wood, executive director of LGBT Tech, argued that the passage of a federal privacy standard is a critical step toward establishing trust in government data collection. The most recent attempt to pass a national privacy regime, the American Data Privacy and Protection Act, was approved by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce last month.
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