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FCC Moving 'Full Speed Ahead' on Broadband Plan, Says Copps

WASHINGTON, May 20, 2009 – Though confirmation proceedings for his successor remain postponed, Acting Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Copps (D) isn’t slowing down in the drive to achieving one of his long-standing goals: a national broadband strategy for the United States.

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WASHINGTON, May 20, 2009 – Though confirmation proceedings for his successor remain postponed, Acting Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Copps (D) isn’t slowing down in the drive to achieving one of his long-standing goals: a national broadband strategy for the United States.

“I’m enthused as I can be that this country is finally, finally going to develop a national broadband plan,” Copps said Wednesday in an interview for C-SPAN’s “The Communicators” series. The interview is set to air on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET.

Copps lamented the number of years that had passed while the previous administration assumed a laissez-faire, or free-market-based, strategy would solve the nation’s broadband problems. “That didn’t happen,” Copps bluntly declared.

The $7.25 billion allocated to broadband programs in the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act is a necessary piece of the puzzle to get the nation caught-up, economically and technologically, said Copps.

“We’re way behind in broadband,” he said. “There is a need to do something now.”

Copps said the FCC has been sharing personnel and expertise with the Agriculture and Commerce Departments in an effort move the stimulus grant process along faster.

Developing a national strategy, however, is an “even bigger part of the game,” he said.

To craft a plan, Copps said the FCC must first lay groundwork by doing research to “develop the record… do the mapping… and find the reality of the situation right now.”

Copps said he is not underestimating the importance of the FCC’s task: “It’s the biggest thing that’s come to the FCC since I’ve been there,” he said.

Building a national broadband network is akin to previous efforts at rural electrification, universal phone service, and interstate highways, Copps said. Building projects of that scale requires cooperation between government and industry, he said.

“That’s the way we’ve always built infrastructure in this country – working together.”

Copps said the Internet is fast becoming “essential infrastructure” for all parts of American life.

“You’ve gotta have this stuff…to create opportunity for yourself,” he said. And broadband is not just a social issue, either, he added. “We need [broadband] as a country to be competitive,” he said.

But Copps insisted that national broadband connectivity was not a political issue. “This isn’t some kind of super-liberal… social theory,” he said. “This is about competition for the country, and we’re paying the price [for waiting] in billions of dollars every year.”

Copps said the FCC’s “full speed ahead on all fronts” strategy includes mapping, consumer surveys, and a comparative study of the state of broadband, with a minimum of 75 markets within 25 countries.

“I think that’s great,” Copps said of the international comparisons, “but we have to start right now.”

Even though it is possible that most stimulus funds will be spent by the time the FCC’s national broadband plan is due by February 2010, Copps called the stimulus and related programs “only a down payment” on broadband.

Copps said he wanted an answered to the question: “how do you get this infrastructure to every citizen in the country?”

The answer will not just be about “broadband for broadband,” Copps warned. “It’s broadband for all these other issues,” he said, listing a smart electrical grid, improved health care, education, and public safety. “Almost every challenge this country really faces” depends on a solid broadband infrastructure, he said.

Copps ackowledged that there will be challenges in building out to some hard-to-reach areas. They may necessitate public-private partnerships, he said.

“Obviously government can’t build this infrastructure all by itself.”

But the private sector can, and should, be a “lead locomotive… fueled by far-seeing public policy” in fulfilling the goal of a national network, Copps said.

“At the end of the day,” he said, “we will find a way to get this infrastructure built.”

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Education

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.

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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.

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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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Broadband's Impact

Broadband Speeds Have Significant Impact on Economy, Research Director Says

From 2010 to 2020, a 10.9 percent growth in broadband penetration drove .04 percent increase in GDP, the study found.

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Photo of Alan Davidson of the NTIA, Caroline Kitchens of Shopify, Raul Katz of Columbia University (left to right)

WASHINGTON, June 28, 2022 – Broadband and higher speeds have made significant contributions to economic growth over the last decade, according to a study discussed at a Network On conference Tuesday.

Raul Katz, director of business strategy research at Columbia University, conducted his research to determine where the United States economy would be if broadband had not evolved since 2010. He developed four models to explain the economic contribution of broadband, and all found support to suggest that broadband development has contributed to substantial economic growth.

The long-run economic growth model showed that between 2010 and 2020, a 10.9 percent growth in broadband penetration drove a .04 percent increase in gross domestic product – the measure of the value of goods and services produced in the nation. States with higher speed broadband had an economic impact of an additional 11.5 percent.

“States with higher speeds of broadband have a higher economic effect,” said Katz. “Not only is there penetration as a driver, but there’s also… return to speed. At faster speeds, the economy tends to be more efficient.”

The study found that if broadband adoption and speed had remained unchanged since 2010, the 2020 GDP would have been 6.27 percent lower, said Katz.

Caroline Kitchens, a representative for ecommerce platform Shopify, said Tuesday that there’s been great growth in the ecommerce business, which relies entirely on a broadband connection. “Worldwide, Shopify merchants create 3.5 million jobs and have an economic impact of more than $307 billion. It goes without saying that none of this is possible without broadband access.”

“We have really seen firsthand how broadband access promotes entrepreneurship,” said Kitchens, indicating that this has promoted a growing economy in over 100 countries.

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