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Mark Lloyd, FCC Diversity Chief, Defends Role and Writings

WASHINGTON, December 15, 2009 – “I am not a Czar,” Federal Communications Commission Chief Diversity Officer Mark Lloyd declared on Monday, while delivering the keynote at a Media Access Project event on the impact of new media, net neutrality and journalism’s future.

Lloyd, an attorney based out of the commission’s Office of General Counsel, devoted a great deal of his speech to rebutting criticism and accusations regarding his role at the FCC, which began when some right-wing oriented blogs and commentators, including Glenn Beck, began critically examining his prior academic writings on media ownership and diversity of expression.

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WASHINGTON, December 15, 2009 –  “I am not a Czar,” Federal Communications Commission Chief Diversity Officer Mark Lloyd declared on Monday, while delivering the keynote at a Media Access Project event on the impact of new media, net neutrality and journalism’s future.

Lloyd, an attorney based out of the commission’s Office of General Counsel, devoted a great deal of his speech to rebutting criticism and accusations regarding his role at the FCC, which began when some right-wing oriented blogs and commentators, including Glenn Beck, began critically examining his prior academic writings on media ownership and diversity of expression.

That led some members of Congress to question FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski over Lloyd’s role at the commission. “I am not at the FCC to restore the Fairness Doctrine through the front door or the back door,” Lloyd said in response to one common concern.

The “right wing smear campaign” that Lloyd described escalated to threats upon his life, he said. But the hate mail and death threats are “the price we pay for freedom of speech,” he said. “And I do support free speech.”

Lloyd said that his experience was a powerful example of the developing relationship between traditional media and new online social media tools. “Anyone who suggests that…newspapers or radio or television no longer matters has not yet fully experienced the impact of old media,” he said.

But Facebook and YouTube are not the answer to the problems of old media, he said, adding that anyone who thought so “has not been confronted by a smear campaign using these social media tools.”

Making broadband available to all Americans will give them access to information that will let them sort through similar smear campaigns and allow true journalism to continue to flourish, Lloyd said. “[B]y making communication service available to all Americans, it will become easier to expose falsehood…this is where journalism comes in.”

Even the most careful journalists are inherently subject to some form of bias, he said. This is why diversity in media – even if it leads to “newsroom battles” – is so needed, Lloyd said.

“It is important for citizens to check not only the Wall Street Journal, but also the New York Times; not only the Washington Times, but also the Washington Post. This is the great value of independent journalism.”

The hope that social media provides, Lloyd said, is the possibility for a forum where  citizens can have a place to contribute to the record “and have a real voice in determining what is important for the entire community to consider.”

Within these new media environs, “honest journalism will show us the truth.”

Lloyd told reporters after his keynote that his speech was not about criticizing those who have attacked him, but about setting the record straight. “I am criticizing being called a communist,” he said. Even as a lawyer for the commission, Lloyd said he still believes he has the right to speak out on his own behalf and that shouldn’t be confused with attacking anyone. “I’m speaking up for myself,” he said.

Despite the uproar over his writing, Lloyd  has “no thought of leaving the FCC,” he told reporters. “I’ve got work in front me,” he said.

Andrew Feinberg was the White House Correspondent and Managing Editor for Breakfast Media. He rejoined BroadbandBreakfast.com in late 2016 after working as a staff writer at The Hill and as a freelance writer. He worked at BroadbandBreakfast.com from its founding in 2008 to 2010, first as a Reporter and then as Deputy Editor. He also covered the White House for Russia's Sputnik News from the beginning of the Trump Administration until he was let go for refusing to use White House press briefings to promote conspiracy theories, and later documented the experience in a story which set off a chain of events leading to Sputnik being forced to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Andrew's work has appeared in such publications as The Hill, Politico, Communications Daily, Washington Internet Daily, Washington Business Journal, The Sentinel Newspapers, FastCompany.TV, Mashable, and Silicon Angle.

Public Safety

Lack of People Opting Into Emergency Alerts Poses Problems for Natural Disaster Scenarios

Disaster protocol experts remarked on lessons learned from fire outbreaks in Boulder County, Colorado.

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Photo of Lori Adams of Nokia discussing emergency communications response to Colorado wildfires at Mountain Connect by Drew Clark

KEYSTONE, Colorado, May 26, 2022 – A lack of people opting into local emergency alerts poses a severe challenge for public officials during natural disasters, a panel of experts said Tuesday.

The panel remarked on just how significant the number of people not subscribed to emergency alerts is during a panel on disaster preparedness at the annual Mountain Connect conference.

In Boulder, getting emergency alerts is on an opt-in basis, whereas in other areas, it is opt-in by default.

The specific focus of the panel was on lessons learned from the outbreak of fires in Boulder County, Colorado this past December.

Fires presented challenges for providers

Several challenges of managing a response to the fires were recounted.

Blake Nelson, Comcast’s senior director of construction, stated that some of his company’s underground broadband infrastructure buried at a considerable depth was still melted from the heat of the fires to cause service outages for customers. Thomas Tyler, no stranger to disaster response as Louisiana’s deputy director for broadband and connectivity through several hurricane responses, pointed out that it is quite possible local officials may be skilled in responding to one type of disaster such as a hurricane but not another like a tornado.

Screenshot of Blake Nelson, Jon Saunders, Wesley Wright and Thomas Tyler (left to right)

The panel also spoke to the challenges of coordination between essential companies and agencies if people do not have personal relationships with those who work at such entities other than their own.

Successful emergency responses to service outages during disaster serve as models for the future, with Nelson stating the internet provider opened up its wireless hotspots to temporarily increase service access and Tyler saying that standing up Starlink satellite internet access helped bring broadband to Louisiana communities only accessible by bridge or boat during their periods of disaster.

Conversation moderator Lori Adams, senior director of broadband policy and funding strategy at Nokia, suggested keeping town servers not in municipal buildings but rather off site and Wesley Wright, partner at law firm Keller and Heckman, recommended the Federal Communications Commission’s practice of developing strong backup options for monitoring service outages.

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Education

Education Executives Tout Artificial Intelligence Benefits for Classroom Learning

Artificial intelligence can help fill in gaps when teacher resources are limited, an event heard.

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Screenshot of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation event

WASHINGTON, May 25, 2022 – Artificial intelligence can help fill in gaps when teacher resources are limited and provide extra help for students who need individualized teaching, experts said at an event hosted by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation on Tuesday.

As policy makers weigh the options for a structure for AI in the classroom, panelists agreed on its benefits for both teachers and students. Michelle Zhou, CEO of AI company Juji Inc., said AI technology in the classroom can be tools and applications like chatbots for real-time questions during class, and post-class questions at home for when the teacher is not available.

Lynda Martin, director of learning strategy for strategic solutions at learning company McGraw Hill, said AI provides the extra help students need, but sometimes are too shy to ask.

When a teacher has a high volume of students, it is difficult to effectively help and connect with each student individually, Martin said. AI gives the teacher crucial information to get to know the student on a more personal level as it transmits the student’s misconceptions and detects areas of need. AI can bring student concerns to the teacher and foster “individualized attention” she added.

Privacy and security concerns

Jeremy Roschelle from Digital Promise, an education non-profit, raise the privacy and security concerns in his cautious support of the idea. He noted that there needs to be more information about who has access to the data and what kinds of data should be used.

Beside bias and ethical issues that AI could pose, Roschelle cautioned about the potential harms AI could present, including misdetecting a child’s behavior, resulting in potential educational setbacks.

To utilize the technology and ensure education outcomes, Sharad Sundararajan, co-founder of learning company Merlyn Minds, touched on the need for AI training. As Merlyn Minds provides digital assistant technology to educators, he noted the company’s focus on training teachers and students on various forms of AI tech to enhance user experience.

There is an “appetite” from schools that are calling for this, said Sundararajan. As policy makers contemplate a strategic vision for AI in the classroom, he added that AI adoption in the classroom around the country will require algorithmic work, company partnerships, and government efforts for the best AI success.

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Education

Closing Digital Divide for Students Requires Community Involvement, Workforce Training, Event Hears

Barriers to closing the divide including awareness of programs, resources and increasing digital literacy.

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Screenshot of Ji Soo Song, broadband advisor at the U.S. Department of Education

WASHINGTON, May 24, 2022 – Experts in education technology said Monday that to close the digital divide for students, the nation must eliminate barriers at the community level, including raising awareness of programs and resources and increasing digital literacy.

“We are hearing from schools and district leaders that it’s not enough to make just broadband available and affordable, although those are critical steps,” said Ji Soo Song, broadband advisor at the U.S. Department of Education, said at an event hosted by trade group SIIA, formerly known as the Software and Information Industry Association. “We also have to make sure that we’re solving for the human barriers that often inhibit adoption.”

Song highlighted four “initial barriers” that students are facing. First, a lack of awareness and understanding of programs and resources. Second, signing up for programs is often confusing regarding eligibility requirements, application status, and installment. Third, there may be a lack of trust between communities and services. Fourth, a lack of digital literacy among students can prevent them from succeeding.

Song said he believes that with the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, states have an “incredible opportunity to address adoption barriers.”

Workforce shortages still a problem, but funding may help

Rosemary Lahasky, senior director for government affairs at Cengage, a maker of educational content, added that current data suggests that 16 million students lack access to a broadband connection. While this disparity in American homes remained, tech job posts nearly doubled in 2021, but the average number of applicants shrunk by 25 percent.

But panelists said they are hopeful that funding will address these shortages. “Almost every single agency that received funding…received either direct funding for workforce training or were given the flexibility to spend some of their money on workforce training,” said Lahasky of the IIJA, which carves out funding for workforce training.

This money is also, according to Lahasky, funding apprenticeship programs, which have been recommended by many as a solution to workforce shortages.

Student connectivity has been a long-held concern following the COVID-19 pandemic. Students themselves are stepping up to fight against the digital inequity in their schools as technology becomes increasingly essential for success. Texas students organized a panel to discuss internet access in education just last year.

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