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Better Data, More Home Computers Could be "Best Practices" on Demand Side, Experts Say

SAN MATEO, Calif., May 11, 2009 – “Best Practices” for increasing broadband “take rates” should include better data collection and a focus on placing more computers in homes and schools, a panel of experts said Monday at the Tech Policy Summit’s Broadband Innovation conference.

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SAN MATEO, Calif., May 11, 2009 – “Best Practices” for increasing broadband “take rates” should include better data collection and a focus on placing more computers in homes and schools, a panel of experts said Monday at the Tech Policy Summit’s Broadband Innovation conference.

Despite recent studies showing increasing adoption of broadband internet services, demand in minority and low-income communities remains a “major concern,” said Connected Nation National Policy Director Philip Brown. Brown specifically cited recent data reflecting a “take rate” approximately 20 percent below the national average for minorities and Americans with disabilities.

Education is also a factor in whether a household is likely to subscribe to broadband service, Brown said. Consumers without college degrees are equally unlikely to use services, he said, without regard to race or ethnicity.

But making a clear determination of where broadband is and is not being used requires a better map than currently exists, he said.  “To truly use a broadband map…it needs to be as detailed as possible.”  In particular, Brown said a properly implemented mapping project will be extremely granular, and easy to update with future data.

Demand can best be stimulated with programs to increase digital literacy and therefore encourage the purchase of both services and equipment, said One Economy Corp. vice president Alan Greenlee. There are benefits to “public access” programs  based out of libraries and community technology centers, he said. But the focus of demand-side programs must be the home, he cautioned. “As a national public policy, the home needs to be the primary focus.”

Digital literacy programs can be especially successful when scaled properly, said Children’s Partnership Technology Associate Elaine Carpenter. Carpenter singled out the California Emerging Technology Fund “school to home” program for its narrow focus on households on “the wrong side of the digital divide.”

And while Greenlee called the $250 million earmarked in the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act for demand-side and education programs “a wise piece of public policy,” he said he still harbored concerns that local groups already working in underserved areas may be ignored.

Grass-roots efforts to stimulate demand at the local level on a “county by county basis” are especially effective, Brown said. In particular, he said online access to government services can be a driver of increased broadband adoption.

The number one barrier to adoption, Brown said, is the belief that broadband services aren’t useful in the home. But programs that put computers in the home create a “tipping point” in driving adoption, he said, adding the cost of access is probably less of a hinderance than the cost of a computer itself.

Funding

Senate Confirms Davidson as National Telecommunications and Information Administration Chief

Bipartisan vote confirms Davidson atop the Commerce Department agency. It has a large pile of money to spend on broadband.

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Newly-confirmed head of the NTIA Alan Davidson

WASHINGTON, January 11, 2022 ­– In a bipartisan vote of 60-31, the Senate confirmed President Joe Biden’s nominee to head the National Telecommunications and Information Administration: Alan Davidson.

Davidson, a former public policy director at Google, will become the first Senate-confirmed head of the NTIA since mid-2019.

Several members of Republican leadership voted against Davidson’s nomination Tuesday afternoon, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Whip John Thune, R-S.D., as did Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., who had both been recorded as opposed to advancing Davidson’s nomination out of committee.

As the new head of the agency tasked with advising the president on telecommunications and information policy issues, Davidson will be responsible for overseeing the distribution of billions of dollars in broadband funding across the nation made available by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

On Friday, the agency released its request for public comment on the act.

Early reactions from industry groups to Davidson’s confirmation were positive, with the NCTA, the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions and Public Knowledge all praising the Senate’s approval.

In light of the funding the NTIA must help distribute, organizations emphasized the magnitude of Davidson’s confirmation, with ATIS saying the agency’s mission has “never been more important” and Public Knowledge called the NTIA’s role as a “critical position at an important time.”

Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel also praised the vote, saying that in working with Davidson’s NTIA she is confident that the FCC “can make progress on delivering innovative, modern communications that reach everyone, everywhere.”

Public Knowledge also said in their statement that Davidson’s work on funding alone will not close the digital divide without a fully appointed FCC.

They advocated for the confirmation to the FCC of their organization’s co-founder and former CEO Gigi Sohn– whose nomination has recently stalled in the Senate and would break the 2-2 partisan deadlock at the agency upon confirmation.

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NTIA

NTIA Publishes Report Calling for Better Data Aggregation Methods

The report notes need for separating broadband access data from other consumer stats.

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Acting NTIA Administrator Evelyn Remaley

WASHINGTON, December 29, 2021 – Year-end analysis by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration found that the agency is constrained in its data collection abilities by a lack of software that can separate broadband access data from other consumer statistics.

In its Access Broadband Report, released last Thursday, the agency proposed promoting consistent standards for data reporting that can separate this data from confounding variables and increasing data reporting requirements for entities it interacts with.

Additionally, significant lag times between broadband projects and intended outcomes was identified as an obstacle to the agency’s work, the report said.

The inaugural report, a produce of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, looks at agency accomplishments this year as well as investments in both federal broadband support programs and Universal Service Fund programs.

Specifically, the report focused on highlighting the achievements of the NTIA’s newly established Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth.

The report is consistent with ongoing NTIA efforts to improve broadband data availability, increase coordination between federal partners and be transparent about government spending.

Additionally, “the report summarizes the federal broadband investment landscape, details the current state of measuring investments and connection across federal broadband support and USF programs, and provides key recommendations to improve efforts to track broadband spending and outcomes,” including leveraging open data initiatives and identifying data sources and alternatives.

The NTIA is in the process of reviewing applications and making awards for three programs established by the Consolidated Appropriations Act: the Broadband Infrastructure Program focusing on rural connectivity, the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, and the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program.

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FCC

Eighty Civil Society Groups Ask for Swift Confirmation of FCC, NTIA Nominees

The groups sent a letter emphasizing the need for internet access expansion ahead of Wednesday confirmation hearings.

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Photo of Alan Davidson from New America

WASHINGTON, November 16, 2021 – Eighty civil-society groups have penned a letter to Senate leadership requesting a swift confirmation process for President Joe Biden’s nominees to the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Groups representing interests spanning civil rights, media justice, community media, workers’ rights and consumer advocacy highlighted to Senate leadership the need for the agencies to shepherd internet access expansion on the heels of newly signed bipartisan infrastructure legislation.

Biden last month nominated Jessica Rosenworcel as chairwoman and Gigi Sohn as a commissioner of the FCC, as well as Alan Davidson for director of the NTIA. Rosenworcel and Sohn’s confirmations would make a full slate of commissioners at the FCC, ending the potential for 2-2 deadlocks.

Key Senate Republicans have since expressed concern over the nomination of Sohn, citing her liberal views on communications policy.

Signees of the letter emphasized that an ongoing global pandemic and “worsening climate crisis” raise the stakes for FCC and NTIA action, and that connectivity access issues are even further exacerbated among poor families and people of color.

Organizations on the letter included the American Library Association, Color of Change, the Communications Workers of America, Greenpeace USA and the Mozilla Foundation, among others.

The Senate Commerce Committee is scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing for Rosenworcel on Wednesday.

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