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BroadbandCensus.com, One Web Day, and the Quest for Broadband Transparency

WASHINGTON, August 25, 2009 – One year ago, BroadbandCensus.com joined in support of One Web Day. Both for BroadbandCensus.com and for broadband policy and internet technology, a lot has changed in the past year. We launched BroadbandCensus.com in January 2008 with the simple and straightforward goal of making basic broadband information – information about Broadband Speeds, Prices, Availability, Reliability and Competition – public and freely available to users of broadband services. Many wondered why this was necessary. In the lead-up to our “Broadband Census for America Conference,” in September 2008, we were still highlighting the importance of broadband and of solid broadband data in the economy and in society.

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WASHINGTON, August 25, 2009 – One year ago, BroadbandCensus.com joined in support of One Web Day. We are very happy to do so again this year, in 2009.

Both for BroadbandCensus.com and for broadband policy and internet technology, a lot has changed in the past year. We lauched BroadbandCensus.com in January 2008 with the simple and straitforward goal of making basic broadband information — information about Broadband Speeds, Prices, Availability, Reliability and Competition — public and freely available to users of broadband services. Many wondered why this was necessary. In the lead-up to our “Broadband Census for America Conference,” in September 2008, we were still highlighting the importance of broadband and of solid broadband data in the economy and in society.

With the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in February 2009, much of that focus seems very old. Almost overnight, sometime between mid-November and mid-December 2008, everyone seemed to agree that broadband, and broadband data in particular, was essential. BroadbandCensus.com gain a new lease on life. It was enough just to keep up with the breakneck pace of news, analysis, regulation and broadband stimulus deadlines.

BroadbandCensus.com has been there to guide many through the process. And we have launched a number of new activities that have helped make BroadbandCensus.com one key hub of debate about broadband. In particular, in October 2008 we launched the Broadband Breakfast Club, a monthly on-the-record discussion group. See http://broadbandcensus.com/2009/01/webcasts-of-broadband-breakfast-club-now-available-online/. Although the next meeting is on Tuesday, September 15, the club generally meets on the second Tuesday of each month at Clyde’s of Gallery Place, here in Washington. We’ve had a very impressive lineup at these events, which is now entering new phase with a series, Setting the Table for a National Broadband Plan, that will run from from September 15, 2009, to February 9, 2010.

Looking Backward at One Web Day 2008

In my post last One Web Day, I wrote about the importance of broadband, and about how I ventured into the broadband policy arena from my perch as a daily technology journalist. I also described some of the background for the Take the Broadband Census questionnaire that we have been using to collect information about broadband users’ coverage, speeds, and satisfaction:

The momentum that you have helped to create behind BroadbandCensus.com has put us at the center of the debate about internet data. We are building from this marvelous opportunity as we seek an open and public broadband census. On Monday, September 22, One Web Day will help draw further attention to these efforts. We aim to continue the effort throughout the week until Friday, September 26 and beyond.

Earlier this month we announced Broadband Census for America, a conference that will be held at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, at 1200 New York Avenue NW, Washington, DC, on September 26, [2008,] from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. More details about the conference, the program committee and pricing is available here.

“Broadband Census for America” will be sponsored by BroadbandCensus.com, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Texas at Austin’s Robert S. Strauss Center and Virginia Tech’s eCorridors program. A member of the Embassy of Ireland has confirmed his participation as a keynote speaker. He will inform an American audience of academics, state officials and telecom policy advocates about how the Irish have done their broadband census. Hint: see http://broadband.gov.ie. We urge you to consider attending.

I hope you are wondering what you can do to help this effort. If you are, we’ve got three requests for you on our Get Involved page:

  • Take the Broadband Census and Speed Test
  • Grab a Button for Your Blog
  • Join one of BroadbandCensus.com’s Committees

Also, if you would like to blog about broadband, and about broadband data, on BroadbandCensus.com, please feel free to drop me an e-mail: drew at broadbandcensus.com. We’d be more than happy to include bloggers for BroadbandCensus.com!

We look forward to working with all of your in the run-up to One Web Week, and helping all of us to better understand the true state of broadband competition in our communities, our states, our country and our world.

Evolving Role for BroadbandCensus.com, in News and Data

Now that everyone agrees that solid broadband data truly is essential to crafting a national broadband policy, what do we all do about that?

In the speech that Ben Scott of Free Press has given around Washington about broadband policy, he describes broadband as a “motherhood and apple pie” sort of issue. Everyone loves broadband, everyone wants better broadband, and everyone seeks to boost broadband availability more widely. But the result is a drama without the main actors, or without conflict.

We know that there are conflicts, of course. There are big ones just beneath the surface of the broadband policy debate. None is starker that the divide between the broadband providers and the broadband users.

BroadbandCensus.com has no particular brief for or against carriers. Rather, for us, the key role lurking behind the scenes is the centrality of transparency and openness: We’ve always believed that “A National Broadband Plan Needs a National Broadband Mashup,” and we discussed this in the June 8, 2009, filing that we made at the Federal Communications Commission: http://broadbandcensus.com/2009/06/broadbandcensuscom-urges-public-broadband-map-with-sparc-scores.

But while BroadbandCensus.com believes that the cause of better broadband data will be served by transparency, we also serve the broadband debate more generally through our news products, and through our Broadband Breakfast Club. As the Commerce Department’s NTIA and Agriculture Department’s RUS unveiling of the broadband stimulus package, we also unveiled the BroadbandCensus.com Weekly Report. It is a subscription-based product that summarizes the essential news about broadband deployment and policy. We’ve also continued to increase the quantity and quality of our free coverage at http://broadbandcensus.com.

In July 2009, to help clarify both the news- and data-oriented missions of the company, BroadbandCensus.com created two subsidiares: Broadband Census News LLC, which will continue to offer the Broadband Breakfast Club, our free daily reporting at BroadbandCensus.com, and the BroadbandCensus.com Weekly Report; and Broadband Census Data LLC.

On our data side, we’ll continue to use “crowdsourcing” to allow internet users to share information about their internet experiences. In addition, we’ve done Census block-level analysis of carrier data in a variety of states, including South Carolina. Our Broadband Census Data LLC subsidiary offers services – including the independent verification of broadband data – to cities, states, carriers and broadband users. In fact, we’ve just finished a comprehensive broadband map of Richland County, South Carolina, which we look forward to demonstrating this map in the coming days.

The Vision and Purpose of One Web Day

BroadbandCensus.com continues to believe that broadband has the ability to unite and enhance lives for the better. But to do so, the power of the Internet must be harnessed to help improve our knowledge about the Internet.

The advantage of the consumer-focused approach to collecting and publishing broadband data is that it allows the consumer information from a broadband census to be incorporated into a publicly available repository of information – into which carrier information may also be added. Such an interactive map generated by publicly-available data would be layered in all of its dimensions: Speed (including broadband technology, like DSL, cable, wireless), Price, Availability, Reliability, Competition (including individual carriers). This is the kind of consumer-friendly broadband map that is necessary for multiple constituencies: for citizens, for broadband and users and for national and local policy-makers.

We wish you a very happy One Web Day, and encourage you to remember to Take the Broadband Census as you prepare for it!

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney. He has closely tracked the trends in and mechanics of digital infrastructure for 20 years, and has helped fiber-based and fixed wireless providers navigate coverage, identify markets, broker infrastructure, and operate in the public right of way. He brings experts and practitioners together to advance the benefits provided by broadband. The articles and posts on Broadband Breakfast and affiliated social media, including the BroadbandCensus Twitter feed, are not legal advice or legal services, do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client privilege, and represent the views of their respective authors.

Broadband's Impact

Families Need Outreach, More Time to Enroll in Affordable Connectivity Program

Greater enrollment in federal programs will help close the digital divide, especially for Latino communities, but help is needed.

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Sindy Benavides, CEO of the League of United Latin American Citizens. /Screengrab from 2018 LULAC National Convention & Exposition

WASHINGTON, January 27, 2022 – Greater outreach and a longer transition period for the Affordable Connectivity Program will help close the digital divide, the CEO of the League of United Latin American Citizens said Wednesday.

At a Georgetown Law School digital divide event, Sindy Benavides said the recent transition of the Federal Communications Commission’s Emergency Broadband Benefit to the Affordable Connectivity Program is a step forward for families adopting services and devices. The program provides eligible households with discounts of up to $30 a month for broadband service, and up to $75 a month if the household is on Tribal lands.

But to get closer to closing the digital divide using such subsidies, better outreach is needed. Recent studies claim that only 7.1 million households have utilized the discounts offered by the Emergency Broadband Benefit, leaving as many as 30 million homes eligible to save on broadband service and devices.

Benavides said families enrolled in the EBB also need more time to transition to the Affordable Connectivity Program before transition period ends on March 1, 2022. “Not everyone can enroll before the March deadline,” Benavides said. “How is it that families are living day to day, without the assistance they need?” she asked. Families are ‘living, going to school, coming home late at night…think about those families that are surviving day to day.”

She added that it’s not enough that programs get funding, but more needs to be done to help families enroll in the services.

“So many jobs today require an application be submitted online,” she said. “But what if they don’t know how to connect to Wi-Fi, much less get to the website to submit an application,” pointing to a statistic that 1 in 3 Latinos lack access to broadband in America.

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Digital Inclusion

Debra Berlyn: What’s New in 2022 for Aging and Tech?

Older adults continue at a rapid pace to adopt tech that assists the aging process.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Debra Berlyn, executive director of GOAL

It’s the start of a new year and time to view what’s on the horizon for the latest technology innovations. To our great anticipation, the most significant technology event of the year, the Consumer Electronics Show, returned in-person to Las Vegas!

CES 2022 literally rolled in with some eye-catching innovations and gadgets unveiled at CES, notably with a BMW that can change its color and patterns with the use of a phone app. CES also unveiled the usual army of robots to clean the house, provide learning skills, and entertain. The Ameca robot is “human-like” and can be programmed with software using artificial intelligence, offering both speech and facial/object recognition. Ameca will engage in conversation and complement you on your lovely red hat.

The more important technology story for consumers for 2022, isn’t just the “wow” innovations that may or may not make it to market this year, it is the tech that will enhance and improve all of our lives. This is particularly important for the aging community, who increasingly rely on tech to stay connected to family and community, and as an important component of healthcare.

Those 65 and older continue to adopt tech at a rapid pace, narrowing the gap with their age 18-29 younger counterparts. Now, over 65% of older adults have broadband at home, 44% have tablets, and 61% have a smartphone. These “basics” form the foundation for layering the more sophisticated health and wellness and smart home innovations available today, and on the horizon.

The pandemic has emphasized the importance of tech for the aging community. A recent AARP study has confirmed that technology is a “habit” that is here to stay for older adults. The past couple of years has led to an emphasis on tech devices to monitor our health, help us stay fit and get connected to our health care professionals.  We are spending more time at home for work and leisure, and while at home we want to be able to manage our energy use, home security, appliances and more.

According to the chief technology officer at Amazon, Werner Vogels, one of his primary predictions for tech this year is, “In 2022, our homes and buildings will become better assistants and more attentive companions to truly help with our most human needs. The greatest impact in the next few years will be with the elderly.”

Technology can provide solutions to make life easier for older individuals

A critical opportunity that technology provides is to solve tough problems such as how to make life just a bit easier for older individuals and address their greatest challenges as they age.  Voice assistive tech continues to be a popular device for older adults. One-third (35%) of those 50-plus now own a home assistant, up from 17% just two years ago, with the voice assistant serving as a significant tool to reduce isolation for older adults.

While the AARP study found that growth of ownership of voice assistants, such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home, may have slowed for younger demographic groups, ownership continues to be on the rise for older adults.

Here are several examples of innovations for the aging community:

  • The Labrador Retriever is an assistive “robot” that empowers individuals to live more independently by providing practical, physical assistance with everyday activities. The robot is a rolling container with trays that can be “commanded” to go to different locations in the home to retrieve objects and carry them to various locations. It maps the home and “learns” how to navigate the space to operate wirelessly.
  • Tech devices that enable older individuals to track several critical aging factors continue to be introduced and desired in the marketplace. The “Buddy” from LiveFreely, is smartwatch software that monitors and manages fall prediction and detection, medication schedules and reminders, and emergency notifications. With alerts to family members, caregivers and emergency services providers, it provides wearers with an enhanced sense of security and independence. The software operates on both the Apple and Fitbit device.
  • For any aging adult with mobility issues, or their caregivers, you know that just getting around can be a challenge and now there are advances to the most needed tool in aging: the walker. One company, Camino, has developed a sleeker, advanced walker with an ergonomic design, lights and improved navigation for bumps in the road to provide greater walking assurance and balance.
  • The “Freestyle,” from Samsung, is an entertainment component of the smart home for older adults. It is a projector device with accessibility features that can be used inside the home or out, to project content such as a movie, photos or messages from any smartphone onto any surface.

AARP’s 2022 study on technology trends also recognizes that the increasing older demographic has significant purchasing power in the consumer market, including for technology spending. The study found, “Tech spending in 2020 among adults 50+ is up 194% (from $394 to $1144) to modernize, update, or create a better experience online.”

It also projected that by the year 2030, “the 50-plus market is projected to swell to 132 million people who are expected to spend on average $108 billion annually on tech products.”

In the coming years, older adults will have a wide range of new and innovative products to exercise their market power and find the right technology to enhance and assist their lives as they age. Over the past decade, technology has empowered older adults to be increasingly more independent, battle isolation, and stay informed and connected.  While we can’t predict the future, the next decade should be an exciting opportunity for new innovations for the aging community.

Debra Berlyn serves as the executive director of The Project to Get Older Adults onLine (GOAL), and she is also the president of Consumer Policy Solutions. She represented AARP on telecom issues and the digital television transition and has worked closely with national aging organizations on several internet issues, including online safety and privacy concerns.  She serves as vice chair of the Federal Communications Commission’s Consumer Advisory Committee and is on the board of the National Consumers League and is a board member and senior fellow with the Future of Privacy Forum. This Expert Opinion is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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Digital Inclusion

Digital Inclusion Leaders a Critical Step to Closing Digital Divide: National League of Cities

The National League of Cities said government leaders need to have ‘multiple points of engagement’ with communities.

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Lena Geraghty, National League of Cities director of urban innovation

WASHINGTON, January 20, 2022 – To understand the digital divide, cities need to include digital equity leaders in their broadband needs assessment programs, the National League of Cities said at an event on community connectivity challenges Wednesday.

A broadband needs assessment would allow city leaders to explore the extent of the digital divide in their communities, said Lena Geraghty, the National League of Cities’ director of urban innovation.

“[A needs assessment] enable city leaders to dig into who’s being excluded, what’s currently available in your city, and what solutions city leaders can use” to close the digital divide, she said.

“The community is going to know best about where access exists, where gaps exist, and the needs that will make connectivity better,” Geraghty said. To get the best picture of a community’s need, stakeholders must find and include the community’s digital equity leaders in the data-gathering process, she added.

“These could be people that are knowledgeable about digital equity or people that are experiencing the digital divide,” she said. “Think really broadly about what it means to be a leader and the type of information these folks can bring to bear in solving the digital divide in your communities.”

Geraghty said it may be useful to formalize the leaders’ work by creating a broadband working group or ad hoc committee led by the city’s government. “Giving some roles and responsibilities can help everyone move in the same in direction, there’s agreement, and really clear goals and outcomes.”

Geraghty added that it’s important for government leaders to establish multiple points of engagement for the community. “It’s not enough to gather data or information from people once,” she said. “The state of access to the internet and devices is always changing,” so leaders should create multiple touch points for community input.

The National League of Cities released its Digital Equity Playbook for cities in December, walking readers through how they can promote digital equity in their cities. The playbook has a four-step process on how to get started with digital equity.

By walking readers through the process of connecting with the community, evaluating the connectivity landscape, gathering foundational information and reporting on findings, city leaders will be prepared to target broadband funding to unserved and underserved areas in their communities.

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