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Broadband Will Drive New Demand for Applications, Say Cable Execs

WASHINGTON, April 2, 2009 – Fourth-generation media was the buzzword at the National Cable and Telecommunications Association’s show here, as although several panelists disagreed on what to make of current trends.

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WASHINGTON, April 2, 2009 – Fourth-generation media was the buzzword at the National Cable and Telecommunications Association’s show here, as although several panelists disagreed on what to make of current trends.

“Five years ago [digital video recorders] were barely born, dial-up was still thriving and nobody had heard of YouTube,” said William Kennard, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and now managing director of the Carlyle Group.

“Now, a constellation of broadband networks, personal media services and game changing content has catapulted the media sector into a brand new era where customers rule like never before,” he said.

With this, the cable industry’s exhibition hall opened for the audience to find out how, according to Carlyle, “the most powerful players in the media, delivery and technology sectors are building on the technology tools of today – and planning out the revolution for tomorrow.”

Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast, said seamless transitions would be vital, and that his company was working on what he described as “project infinity.”

The new project, he said, would meet the needs of Comcast’s customers on a what, where and whatever device basis.

“The result is that we are going to witness different products being integrated for consumers,” he said, adding that the debate was “no longer about introducing new products.”

The project, he said, would be vital in meeting such crucial needs as energy, home and health care.

“Bandwidth-intensive applications are coming,” he said.

Patrick Esser, president of Cox Communications, echoed Roberts’ sentiments on fourth generation technology. He said his company is involved in foundational efforts to get there.

“There is talk about spectrum issues when it comes to this regard. We are prepared to take that risk on our own,” he said, adding that “the last mile to the home is the most valuable asset.”

Esser said fourth-generation technology integration would be possible if everything else is gotten right from the very word go.

Jerald Kent, CEO of Suddenlink Communications, said his company is set for new media technology, including online video.

But he said he was worried that offering media content online should be done carefully. Newspapers, he warned, were dying because they had availed content for free online, drastically lowering their circulation revenue – which has taken a hit in the current financial crisis.

Craig McCaw, Chairman of Clearwire, called for consistency in appropriate innovations and business practices.

“Our mandate is to do what we do well,” he said.

And he added: “No opportunity like this has existed before. Customers should be given a capacity to figure out what they want. Video on demand, built for this generation’s 15-30 years olds, is a good example.”

Kennard said trends in video presented new models for business and contractual arrangements.

One of the greatest ironies in the present, he said, is that some programs fetch premium prices while also freely available online.

The panel was divided on what the financial crisis should mean for new media. Some said that they would continue to protect their balance sheets against major expenses. Others said that things were not really that bad.

Education

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.

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Screenshot of Ji Soo Song, broadband advisor at the U.S. Department of Education

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.

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Education

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.

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FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan

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.”

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Health

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.

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Photo of telehealth consultation from Healthcare IT News

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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