WASHINGTON, February 16, 2009 – The CEO of Frontier Communications, America’s second largest rural telecommunications, provider told state utility commissioners Monday that quality broadband internet service is the key to shoring up a rapidly evolving rural economy.
Frontier Communications chairman and CEO Maggie Wilderotter addressed the growing demand for advanced services in rural Americans during a keynote presentation to the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners committee on telecommunications.
Frontier, provides telephone, television, broadband and wireless services to some 2.4 million customers, and is for many the only option for those services, Wilderotter said. From her company’s vantage point, it is easy to comprehend the importance of “full, fair, and affordable communications… to the unserved and the underserved, ” Wilderotter said.
Wilderotter explained that rather than farming, most rural Americans own or work for small businesses. And those small businesses “deserve better” than what many telecommunications companies have offered them, Wilderotter said.
The rural economy can best be strengthened by bridging the digital divide, Wilderotter said. Rural customers don’t want broadband service just for watching videos, she explained, but instead need it “for commerce and education – and creating and finding jobs.”
Improved broadband service let rural consumers and businesses compete on an equal plane with urban America by “overcoming the friction of distance,” she said, citing a quote by University of Maryland professor James Gimpal.
Rural consumers are just as eager for to make full use of broadband once they get a taste of its capabilities, she said. She described Frontier’s initiative offering a free computer to new broadband customers – the first of its kind in the telecommunications industry, Wilderotter said.
Those new customers’ usage of broadband has grown 100 percent over each year they have it, she said.
But even with Frontier’s efforts, Wilderotter lamented the fact extending service to the final 10 percent of customers in its footprint is still not economically feasible. “If you choose to live in rural America…you should have the same [access to high speed internet service] as anyone else,” she said.
And while Wilderotter welcomed the possibility of obtaining some of the $7.2 billion set aside for broadband in order to build out to that last 10 percent of the population, she said Frontier isn’t standing still. “We aren’t waiting for the stimulus package to do it now and do it the right way.”
Wilderotter called for an overhaul of the Universal Service Fund system – which she said is regularly abused by larger providers at the expense of those who need it.
Frontier’s share of USF-based funding dropped to five percent in 2008, she said, while “other providers benefit from loopholes in the funding process.”
Companies like Frontier that reach households other companies won’t even try to serve should receive an appropriate amount of USF dollars, she said. “Those who serve rural America need the funding that will allow us to continue to expand broadband service and capacity.”
With a new administration poised to appoint two new FCC commissioners, Wilderotter was confident that the state regulators – whom she praised as being “more innovative and responsive” than their federal counterparts – would step up to the plate: “I’m confident you won’t leave rural America behind.”
Closing Digital Divide for Students Requires Community Involvement, Workforce Training, Event Hears
Barriers to closing the divide including awareness of programs, resources and increasing digital literacy.
WASHINGTON, May 24, 2022 – Experts in education technology said Monday that to close the digital divide for students, the nation must eliminate barriers at the community level, including raising awareness of programs and resources and increasing digital literacy.
“We are hearing from schools and district leaders that it’s not enough to make just broadband available and affordable, although those are critical steps,” said Ji Soo Song, broadband advisor at the U.S. Department of Education, said at an event hosted by trade group the Self-Insurance Institute of America. “We also have to make sure that we’re solving for the human barriers that often inhibit adoption.”
Song highlighted four “initial barriers” that students are facing. First, a lack of awareness and understanding of programs and resources. Second, signing up for programs is often confusing regarding eligibility requirements, application status, and installment. Third, there may be a lack of trust between communities and services. Fourth, a lack of digital literacy among students can prevent them from succeeding.
Song said he believes that with the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, states have an “incredible opportunity to address adoption barriers.”
Workforce shortages still a problem, but funding may help
Rosemary Lahasky, senior director for government affairs at Cengage, a maker of educational content, added that current data suggests that 16 million students lack access to a broadband connection. While this disparity in American homes remained, tech job posts nearly doubled in 2021, but the average number of applicants shrunk by 25 percent.
But panelists said they are hopeful that funding will address these shortages. “Almost every single agency that received funding…received either direct funding for workforce training or were given the flexibility to spend some of their money on workforce training,” said Lahasky of the IIJA, which carves out funding for workforce training.
This money is also, according to Lahasky, funding apprenticeship programs, which have been recommended by many as a solution to workforce shortages.
Student connectivity has been a long-held concern following the COVID-19 pandemic. Students themselves are stepping up to fight against the digital inequity in their schools as technology becomes increasingly essential for success. Texas students organized a panel to discuss internet access in education just last year.
FTC Approves Policy Statement on Guiding Review of Children’s Online Protection
The policy statement provides the guiding principles for which the FTC will review the collection and use of children’s data online.
WASHINGTON, May 23, 2022 – The Federal Trade Commission last week unanimously approved a policy statement guiding how it will enforce the collection and use of children’s online data gathered by education technology companies.
The policy statement outlines four provisions in the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, including ones related to limiting the amount of data collected for children’s access to educational tools; restricting types of data collected and requiring reasons for why they are being collected; prohibiting ed tech companies from holding on to data for speculative purposes; and prohibiting the use of the data for targeted advertising purposes.
“Today’s statement underscores how the protections of the COPPA rule ensure children can do their schoolwork without having to surrender to commercial surveillance practices,” said FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan at an open meeting on Thursday.
Commissioner Rebecca Slaughter added Thursday that although COPPA provides the strongest data minimization rule in US law, it’s enforcement may not be as strong, saying that “this policy statement is timely and necessary.”
Slaughter, who was the acting FTC chairwoman before Khan was approved to lead the agency, said last year that the commission was taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to tackling privacy and data collection practices of ed tech companies, which has seen a boom in interest since the start of the pandemic.
Thursday’s statement comes after lawmakers have clamored for big technology companies to do more to prevent the unnecessary collection of children’s data online. It also comes after President Joe Biden said in his State of the Union address earlier this year that companies must be held accountable for the “national experiment they’re conducting on our children for profit.”
Lawmakers have already pushed legislation that would reform COPPA – originally published in 1998 to limit the amount of information that operators could collect from children without parental consent – to raise the age for online protections for children.
Thursday’s FTC statement also seeks to scrutinize unwarranted surveillance practices in education technology, such as geographic locating or data profiling. Khan added that though endless tracking and expansive use of data have become increasingly common practices, companies cannot extend these practices into schools.
Review is nothing new
“Today’s policy statement is nothing particularly new,” said Commissioner Noah Phillips, saying that the review started in July 2019.
Commissioner Christine Wilson, while supporting the statement, was also more withdrawn about its impact. “I am concerned that issuing policy statements gives the illusion of taking action, especially when these policy statements break no new ground.”
Digital Literacy Training Needed for Optimal Telehealth Outcomes, Healthcare Reps Say
Digital literacy should be a priority to unlock telehealth’s potential, a telehealth event heard.
WASHINGTON, May 18, 2022 – Digital literacy training should be a priority for providers and consumers to improve telehealth outcomes, experts said at a conference Tuesday.
Digital literacy training will unlock telehealth’s potential to improve health outcomes, according to the event’s experts, including improving treatment for chronic diseases, improving patient-doctor relationships, and providing easier medical access for those without access to transportation.
Julia Skapik of the National Association of Community Health Centers said at the National Telehealth Conference on Tuesday that both patients and clinicians need to be trained on how to use tools that allow both parties to communicate remotely.
Skapik said her association has plans to implement training for providers to utilize tech opportunities, such as patient portals to best engage patients.
Ann Mond Johnson from the American Telemedicine Association agreed that telehealth will improve health outcomes by giving proper training to utilize the technology to offer the services.
The Federal Communications Commission announced its telehealth program in April 2021, which set aside $200 million for health institutions to provide remote care for patients.
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