WASHINGTON, October 5, 2009 – These are the most important things relating to broadband: availability, skills needed to use broadband, and universal service. A three-panel discussion held by the Knight Commission, which on Friday released a report, “Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age.”
Launching of broadband is not a new concept for Americans. Walter Isaacson, president of the Aspen Institute — which did the legwork for the Knight Commission report – said that broadband is not just related expansion of technology, but the adaption to new technology.
Using the example of the first postal system instituted by Benjamin Franklin, Isaacson stated that expansion of broadband is the same as “free flow of information to all citizens at a respected rate.”
Aneesh Chopra, chief technology officer in the Obama administration, said that the report released by the Knight Commission reinforces the ideas of the broadband expansion.
“The mission is to reinforce the big themes: thinking about the communities, creating frictionless access o the internet,” he said.
How can this be done, he asked rhetorically? Through engagement of communities with this technology at home and at school, the panelists replied.
“Not just the education of the students, but the teachers as well,” said Sherri Hope Culver, president of the National Association for Media Literacy Education. Culver said that a portion of the $7.2 billion in federal broadband stimulus funds should
go to the education of teachers.
Roberta Stevens, president-elect of the American Library Association, another portion of the $7.2 billion should go toward public libraries, because that is where people turn to when they need information.
If a person does not have the technology to access the internet, they go to the library, she said. “Especially when people were being laid of [at the beginning of the economic downing], they needed to search for information and jobs, which is all on the Internet.”
Digital literacy, what Stevens was discussing, is not the only literacy that needs to be taught. Culver suggests that education should first be focused on the media before it is focused on the technology aspect of it.
“Media literacy is books, magazines, newspapers, information online,” she said. “That is the bigger pot. Digital literacy is the smaller pot. We should focus on the bigger pot now.”
According to Lisa MacCallum, managing director of the Nike Foundation, educating children on the internet brings the question of “what is a trusted source of information?”
Throughout the panels, discussion of engaging the community in the educating and expanding of broadband was at one end of the spectrum, while at the other end, topics were brought up concerning the fear of expanding broadband, because an expansion like this will increase piracy and even harassment over the internet.
“You can’t ask people to become civically engaged in something they are afraid of,” said danah boyd of Microsoft Research.
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Baltimore Needs Grassroots Help to Bridge Digital Divide, Experts Say
‘Baltimore lags behind many cities when it comes to the number of households with home internet connections.’
WASHINGTON, July 5, 2022 – Local leaders from Baltimore said at a Benton Institute event that there needs to be an alignment with the community and leadership when it comes to closing the digital divide.
“Baltimore lags behind many cities when it comes to the number of households with home internet connections,” said Amalia Deloney from the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, which invests in projects to improve the quality of life in the city. The foundation estimates that 74,116 households don’t have internet access.
The event’s speakers pointed to digital redlining, in which segments of racial minority and lower income Americans are disconnected from services or can be considered living in low priority areas.
Jason Hardebeck, director of Baltimore’s Office of Broadband and Digital Equity, said the city is a “pioneer in redlining,” and “a century later, we still see the effect on the digital divide.”
To address this, Deloney said the foundation’s approach to the digital divide in Baltimore by starting at the social level through its Digital Equity Leadership Lab. This is a program for Baltimore residents to “increase their understanding of the internet and strengthen their ability to advocate for fast, affordable and reliable broadband.”
The program aims to train and build leadership within the community to advocate for closing the digital divide. It points to a strategy of bringing “advocates together with community leaders,” as “digital equity is social, not a technological problem,” said Colin Rhinesmith, founder and director of the Digital Equity Research Center.
Michelle Morton from the National Telecommunications Infrastructure Association also said local leaders need to work with community members to have a bottom-up approach. “You have to work with the people doing the work on the ground.
“Their voices matter,” said Morton.
Mayor Brandon Scott has allocated $35 million from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act to close the digital divide across Baltimore “by the end of this decade.”
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.
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.
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.
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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