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Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement Talks Continue Amid Controversy Over Leaked Draft

WASHINGTON, November 4, 2009 – While representatives of countries were scheduled to begin meeting today in Seoul, South Korea, to negotiate a confidential international anti-counterfeiting trade agreement, some public interest and consumer groups continue to press for more transparency of the negotiations. On November 3 a number of groups signed a letter addressed to President Obama and carbon copied to other key administration officials calling for greater transparency of the talks.

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WASHINGTON, November 4, 2009 – While representatives of countries were scheduled to begin meeting today in Seoul, South Korea, to negotiate a confidential international anti-counterfeiting trade agreement, some public interest and consumer groups continue to press for more transparency of the negotiations.

On November 3 a number of groups signed a letter addressed to President Obama and carbon copied to other key administration officials calling for greater transparency of the talks.

The list of signatories included Knowledge Ecology International, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Citizen, Sunlight Foundation, Lawrence Lessig of Harvard Law School, Peter Suber of Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, and Laura DeNardis of the Yale Information Society Project, among many others.

“While we agree that the enforcement of intellectual property rights is very important, it is also a complex area where the “solutions” to the enforcement issues are often controversial, and it is important to balance a variety of competing interests, and to ensure that measures to enforce private intellectual property rights do not undermine civil rights and privacy, or unduly impede innovation,” reads the letter.

Last month, the United States Trade Representatives reportedly invited a number of folks in the technology space to view copies of the documents related to the negotiation. The Knowledge Ecology International letter complained that while the USTR appeared to be responding to calls for greater transparency of the process, the people it chose to show the documents to largely represented business interests who were required to sign a non disclosure agreement to prevent public discussion.

According to Knowledge Ecology, those who were able to see the documents after signing NDAs included representatives from the Business Software Alliance, Google, eBay, Consumer Electronics Association, Wilmer Hale, Verizon, the International Intellectual Property Alliance, Public Knowledge, Intel, Dell, Center for Democracy and Technology, Sony, Time Warner, among others.

“We have no confidence in this new approach,” reads the Knowledge Ecology letter. But the USTR said it has “broadened its consultations to include a diverse range of views including not only the list of cleared advisers who give input to USTR on a regular basis, but also to interested domestic stakeholders representing a broad range of views and expertise on internet and digital issues, including representatives from non-governmental organizations and industry leaders in intellectual property and technology.”

In 2007 the USTR said the goal (PDF) of the ACTA was to “establish, among nations committed to strong IPR protection, a common standard for IPR enforcement to combat global infringements of IPR particularly in the context of counterfeiting and piracy that addresses today’s challenges, in terms of increasing international cooperation, strengthening the framework of practices that contribute to effective enforcement of IPRs, and strengthening relevant IPR enforcement measures themselves.”

The idea of such an agreement took root in 2004 and gained group in 2006 when Japan and the United States launched the idea of a plurilateral treaty to establish effective international standards to enforce intellectual property rights, according to the USTR. In 2007 the USTR wrote (PDF) that the office hoped to “complete the negotiation by the end of this year.”

On April 6 the USTR released a summary (PDF) of the current state of the ACTA negotiations. Countries involved in the discussion include Canada, the European Commission, Japan, Switzerland, Australia, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, the United States and Singapore.

Former U.S. Coordinator for International Intellectual Property Enforcement Chris Israel called the accusation by Knowledge Ecology and others that the government has been secretive about the negotiations a “red herring.”

He told BroadbandCensus.com that the “USTR has reviewed the actual text with dozens of interested parties who both support and question ACTA. The goal is to work with a number of sophisticated and important trading partners to negotiate an agreement that will address the major problem of global piracy and counterfeiting. You can’t effectively do that online or in the blogosphere.”

Israel, who worked under the Bush Administration, added that “At some point senior government officials have to meet with each other privately and hammer out serious details. The Obama Administration is doing a great job tackling tough IP enforcement issues and trying to be as open and transparent as possible.”

There has been significant speculation and alarm bells raised including an EFF blog post and a post from Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, on the Internet this week about what will be discussed during the negotiations.

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BroadbandCensus.com was launched in January 2008, and uses “crowdsourcing” to collect the Broadband SPARC: Speeds, Prices, Availability, Reliability and Competition. The news on BroadbandCensus.com is produced by Broadband Census News LLC, a subsidiary of Broadband Census LLC that was created in July 2009.

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Broadband Census News LLC offers daily and weekly reporting, as well as the Broadband Breakfast Club. The Broadband Breakfast Club has been inviting top experts and policy-makers to share breakfast and perspectives on broadband technology and internet policy since October 2008. Both Broadband Census News LLC and Broadband Census Data LLC are subsidiaries of Broadband Census LLC, and are organized in the Commonwealth of Virginia. About BroadbandCensus.com.

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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