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Officials at January Broadband Breakfast Club Tackle Mix of Technology and Learning

WASHINGTON, January 13, 2010 – Representatives from the federal government, educational organizations, trade associations, and school districts came together to discuss the state of broadband in our educational system and what can be expected from the national broadband plan under development by the Federal Communications Commission.

The session, the January Broadband Breakfast Club, commenced with a presentation by Steve Midgley, Director of Education at the Federal Communications Commission. Midgley began with a brief background of the national broadband plan mandate and the national purposes behind it.

He said that he believed that aside from the necessary deployment and adoption data that will be included in the plan, the success of the plan hinges on the agency’s answer to this specific question of Congress: “why are we building this network?”

To address this question, Midgley paired the priorities of the Department of Education with the four core strategies of the broadband plan’s education component.

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WASHINGTON, January 13, 2010 – Representatives from the federal government, educational organizations, trade associations, and school districts came together to discuss the state of broadband in our educational system and what can be expected from the national broadband plan under development by the Federal Communications Commission.

The session, the January Broadband Breakfast Club, commenced with a presentation by Steve Midgley, Director of Education at the Federal Communications Commission. Midgley began with a brief background (PPT) of the national broadband plan mandate and the national purposes behind it.

He said that he believed that aside from the necessary deployment and adoption data that will be included in the plan, the success of the plan hinges on the agency’s answer to this specific question of Congress: “why are we building this network?”

To address this question, Midgley paired the priorities of the Department of Education with the four core strategies of the broadband plan’s education component.

The Education Department’s plan is to transform education by:

  • improving standards and assessments,
  • developing advanced data systems,
  • fostering support for effective teachers, and
  • turning around the lowest performing schools.

Midgley paired these priorities to the FCC’s strategies of:

  • promoting and developing online learning,
  • digital content such as e-textbooks,
  • data standards and interoperability (including standardized education records), and
  • broadband infrastructure, including ways to drive more bandwidth to more schools where it is most needed.

Asked by an audience member about coordination between the national broadband plan and the National Educational Technology Plan, Midgley answered that “they interact as much as legally possible considering the FCC is not an executive branch agency.” Midgley admitted, “it is up to the FCC to decide what they present to Congress.”

He said that there will probably be some specific recommendations on changes to the E-Rate program for subsidizing connections to schools and libraries, which would likely lead to a notice of proposed regulatory changes.

Data presented by Midgley expressed the cost of digital exclusion, and of how classroom usage is driving the need for improved connectivity.

Key questions that need to be answered deal with the method of content delivery. Does hybrid learning alongside broadband in the classroom yield better results than distance learning, or should the two delivery platforms be used to deliver different forms of content? Midgley ended his presentation by posing these questions to the rest of the panelists.

The panel, moderated by Drew Clark, editor of BroadbandBreakfast.com, and executive director of BroadbandCensus.com, included: Greg Barlow, chief information officer for Anne Arundel Country Public School; Frank Gallagher, senior director of Cable in the Classroom; Matthew Ohlson, instructional leader of the Florida Virtual School and Wendy Wigen, government relations officer at EDUCAUSE.

In his first question Clark asked the panelists about the role that E-Rate has played since the 1990s. Specifically, how can E-Rate help when supposedly 100 percent of the schools are now already connected to broadband. He also asked for the perspective of higher education institutions and universities that have championed broadband.

Barlow began the discussion by admitting that while E-Rate has been very helpful in connecting schools from kindergarten through 12th grade, “in Baltimore and DC many schools still only have T1 connections…that is 27,000 computers fighting over a lot of space.” T1 connections are no longer as special as they once seemed. Additionally, he said, “25 students with one machine per classroom is no good.”

Barlow’s goal is to get a 1-1 ratio of computers and children. He said, “fortunately about 90 percent have internet connections at home” – but he admited that the children from the poor backgrounds tend to fall behind.

Gallagher expects that within five to seven years, schools will need 1 Gigabit per second (1 Gbps) of capacity per every 1000 students to support the growth of online learning.

He agreed with Barlow that there is an extreme disadvantage to children without broadband connections in the home. He listed the main barriers of adoption to the home as education barriers, worries about internet safety, affordability and simple lack of access to broadband in certain rural areas. As a potential solution he pointed to the cable industry’s proposed “Adoption Plus” program, where cable internet service providers provide computers to homes of children that qualified for subsidized lunches.

Ohlson’s Virtual School is a public school in Florida that reaches 124,000 students globally. Students either take courses from their traditional brick and mortar schools, or are home schooled, or are from military families and need greater flexibility.

“The statute creating E-Rate requires that the discount be provided on services used for ‘educational purposes,’ yet the way the program has been constructed is to provide discounts only to school buildings that serve students,” explained Ohlson. Since there is no actual brick-and-mortar school building, there is almost no support for his school.

“So while the telecommunications and ISP costs to support the Virtual School were more than $53 million in the 2008-2009 school year, the E-Rate reimbursement was only $5,237, [or] 0.01 percent of the total telecommunications costs incurred by students teachers, and the school.”

Higher education is a different story, said Wigen.

Community colleges, vocational schools as well as all leading research schools are all connected with technology. Of all EDUCAUSE members, about two hundred lead the way in research while the other several thousand struggle with access to education resources and remote access for their students.

The lack of resources at certain schools makes is essential for students to be able participate in distance learning, similarly for vocational and job training classes, the required simulations cannot be done on a dial up connection.

In response to a question on FCC support for distance learning, Midgley said that “we cannot design educational systems for yesterday.” Technologies for schools need to start looking towards other industries and observing the trends of decentralization and more telecommuting.

Barlow brought the discussion back to his idea of supplementing communications capabilities. While Barlow wants to see more focus on increasing technologies in classroom through handhelds and mobile devices, he does not want to see the technologies replace traditional classroom learning.

One audience member continued on the mobile use topic by pointing out the higher-than-average level of use of mobile devices by black and Hispanic youth. This audience member also noted that the average age of students using mobile devices is dropping. “How can we integrate children bringing technology into our schools?”

“Since technology funding is a huge issue…if a student is coming into a school with a cell phone, then lets leverage the parent’s investment to help our own technology needs,” Barlow answers.

He continued by mentioning that there is now technology to re-route packets through school networks in order to filter content. As for the platform for such a device, one panelists mentioned the benefits of applications such as iTunes University. Midgley then chimed in to say that there are laws surrounding filtering but each situation must be examined separately

Another audience member asked about the issues with real life versus online life in a learning context. Gallagher said that working with teachers and by providing professional development tools like Blackboard, we can “provide barriers to guiding kids in appropriate behavior online and offline.”

Wendy Wigen added that we need to stress hybrid learning as the most effective method of teaching. A lot more goes on in the schools that complement the actual learning. When asked about the broadband needs for hybrid learning, she said, “we need sufficient networks and devices, bandwidth and connections to participate in these technologies.”

One audience member asked about how rural schools can be balanced in the equation between funding and resources for broadband. Ohlson mentioned that “in Florida, rural areas where broadband is not an option, many students use cell phones to access learning resources…many students are going to libraries.” Ohlson reiterated the need to see E-Rate options and discounts for these students as well as studies to find out where the students are actually doing most of their learning.

The discussion ended with a question on the topic of speed and the need for the FCC to set a high definition of broadband speeds so that the rural school won’t be left behind.

Midgley said that the FCC’s broadband plan should should include the definition of broadband. “The broadband definition for the home is not suitable for speed definitions at a school. School broadband definitions should depend on meaningful use.” He finished by saying “as we define broadband, we need to say who is doing what with the connections they have.”

Editor’s Note: Video from the event will be available in a few days at https://broadbandbreakfast.com/category/broadband-tv, or click on “Broadband TV” above. To register for the February 9 Broadband Breakfast Club, click here.

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Broadband Breakfast on August 17, 2022 – Summer of Broadband: Tennessee

In Tennessee, we’ll see what the Volunteer state is doing to bring a plan together on broadband policy.

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Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place on Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. Watch the event on Broadband Breakfast, or REGISTER HERE to join the conversation.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022, 12 Noon ET – Summer of Broadband: Tennessee

State broadband offices will play a critical role in the rollout of the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act’s Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program. In the months of July and August, Broadband Breakfast will take the pulse of broadband efforts at the state level in visits to about half-dozen states across the country. On August 17, we will speak with those in the office of the State of Tennessee to learn what those in the Volunteer state are doing in bringing a plan together on broadband policy.

Panelists:

  • Taylre Beaty, Broadband Program Director, Tennessee Department of Community and Economic Affairs
  • Drew Clark (moderator), Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast

Panelist resources:

Taylre Beaty started as the State Broadband Director at Tennessee Economic and Community Development in September 2021. Prior to joining TNECD, she worked for USDA Rural Development, most recently as a Policy Advisor for Rural Utilities Service in Washington, D.C. During her time at USDA, she worked on then Secretary Sonny Perdue’s broadband priorities including the American Broadband Initiative, FCC Precision Ag Task Force, and critical broadband infrastructure projects during the COVID-19 pandemic. She earned a master’s in Agricultural Economics from Texas A&M University and a bachelor’s in Agricultural and Resource Economics from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. She is originally from East Tennessee.

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney. Drew brings experts and practitioners together to advance the benefits provided by broadband. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, he served as head of a State Broadband Initiative, the Partnership for a Connected Illinois. He is also the President of the Rural Telecommunications Congress.

WATCH HERE, or on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook.

As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.

SUBSCRIBE to the Broadband Breakfast YouTube channel. That way, you will be notified when events go live. Watch on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook

See a complete list of upcoming and past Broadband Breakfast Live Online events.

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Broadband Breakfast on August 3, 2022 – How Yellowstone Fiber is Bringing High-Capacity Broadband to Montana

The non-profit Yellowstone Fiber uses a unique business model in the thriving community of Bozeman, Montana, and the surrounding county.

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Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place on Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. Watch the event on Broadband Breakfast, or on Twitter, Facebook. or LinkedIn. No need to register to attend via Zoom: This conversation is pre-recorded.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022, 12 Noon ET – How the Non-profit Yellowstone Fiber is Bringing High-Capacity Broadband in Montana

Join us on Broadband Breakfast, or our on streaming channels on YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, for a pre-recorded session discussing Yellowstone Fiber, a non-profit entity offering high-speed symmetrical broadband services to Bozeman, Montana, and the surrounding Gallatin County, Montana.

Panelists:

  • Greg Metzger, CEO, Yellowstone Fiber
  • Kim McKinley, Chief Marketing Officer, UTOPIA Fiber
  • Drew Clark (moderator), Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast

Panelist resources:

Kim McKinley helps lead UTOPIA Fiber as its Deputy Director and Chief Marketing Officer. In 2010, she joined the network as a member of its turnaround team, and has helped cement today’s UTOPIA Fiber as the fastest-growing, highest-rated, and most-successful Open Access network in the United States.

Greg Metzger is the CEO of Yellowstone Fiber.

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney. Drew brings experts and practitioners together to advance the benefits provided by broadband. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, he served as head of a State Broadband Initiative, the Partnership for a Connected Illinois. He is also the President of the Rural Telecommunications Congress.

WATCH HERE, or on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook.

As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.

SUBSCRIBE to the Broadband Breakfast YouTube channel. That way, you will be notified when events go live. Watch on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook

See a complete list of upcoming and past Broadband Breakfast Live Online events.

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Broadband Breakfast on July 27, 2022 – Bringing Broadband to Rural America: A Case Study in Morgan, Utah

Following up on UTOPIA Fiber’s buildout to Morgan City, we’ll look at benefits of broadband for this rural community

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See “Morgan City Fiber Swap Model Catching On,” Broadband Breakfast, July 28, 2022.

Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place on Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. Watch the event on Broadband Breakfast, or REGISTER HERE to join the conversation.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022, 12 Noon ET – Bringing Broadband to Rural America: A Case Study in Morgan, Utah

Bringing broadband to a rural community like Morgan City, Utah, is never an easy task. But in 2019, Morgan, a community on the least-populated side of the Wasatch Mountains without even a stoplight, found itself on the wrong side of the digital divide. Into the mix stepped UTOPIA Fiber, an open access network in Utah primarily serving the more populous communities on the west side of the Wasatch front. Following up on a Broadband Communities 2019 article telling the story of UTOPIA Fiber’s buildout to Morgan City, this Broadband Breakfast Live session will examine the impact of bringing broadband to this rural community. Join us at 12 Noon ET.

Panelists:

  • Steve Gale, Mayor, Morgan City, Utah
  • Lynne Yocom, Fiber Optics Manager, Utah Department of Transportation
  • Roger Timmerman, Executive Director, UTOPIA Fiber
  • Warren Woodward, Director of Broadband Service, XMission Internet
  • Drew Clark (moderator), Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast

Panelist resources:

  • From UTOPIA Fiber: A Model Open Access Network, Broadband Communities, November-December 2019
    • The rural community of Morgan, Utah, is where UTOPIA Fiber’s vision for gradual community-by-community network expansion is most fully realized.A rural community without even a stoplight, Morgan is on the least-populated side of the Wasatch Mountains. It was left in the lurch when Comcast left town and stopped providing service. (CenturyLink’s DSL was unreliable.) But with a municipal power system, Morgan felt comfortable managing lines and poles. The community began exploring options to bring a new broadband provider to town.“The more we researched it, the more comfortable we felt about it,” says Ty Bailey, Morgan city manager. “More than economic development, this is just basic service” that the city needs to offer if no one else will. UTOPIA Fiber’s willingness to bring the open-access model to Morgan became “a really good solution for us.”
    • As with any fiber-to-the-home network, UTOPIA Fiber’s costs are a mixture of one-time infrastructure costs and ongoing costs for backhaul transport, network operation and internet services. People associated with the UTOPIA Fiber network speak of the 30 percent penetration rate as an important threshold for profitability, even in rural communities such as Morgan….
    • “We are thrilled to bring UTOPIA Fiber to our growing community,” said Morgan City’s mayor. “Our residents and businesses have been in dire need of better, faster and more reliable options for internet, and UTOPIA Fiber will be providing the best possible solution for our city.”

Steve Gale began his position as Mayor of Morgan City in January 2022. He attended high school in Morgan and married his high school sweetheart.  He is thrilled that his family has also made their homes in Morgan and are close by. He is very patriotic and loves the “Red, White and Blue.”

As the fiber optics manager for the Utah Department of Transportation, Lynne Yocom manages the he communications to traffic devices such as traffic signals, cameras, variable message signs and anything else that needs connectivity to the system. The system is a closed network of just under a thousand miles of fiber optic cable. She work with telecommunication companies to expand the UDOT network through fiber-optic trades.

Roger Timmerman has been serving as UTOPIA Fiber’s Executive Director since 2016 and has been a technology management professional in telecommunications and information technology for over 15 years. Roger has been designing and building networks throughout his career in various roles including Vice President of Engineering for Vivint Wireless, CTO for UTOPIA Fiber, Network Engineer for iProvo, and Network Product Manager for Brigham Young University. Roger earned his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Information Technology from Brigham Young University.

Warren Woodward is the Director of Broadband Service at XMission LC, the first Salt Lake City based Internet Service Provider and established in 1993. XMission is recognized as being the largest service provider on the UTOPIA Fiber network, a continually expanding municipal fiber project that spans 19 cities in Utah across the western United States.

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney. Drew brings experts and practitioners together to advance the benefits provided by broadband. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, he served as head of a State Broadband Initiative, the Partnership for a Connected Illinois. He is also the President of the Rural Telecommunications Congress.

WATCH HERE, or on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook.

As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.

SUBSCRIBE to the Broadband Breakfast YouTube channel. That way, you will be notified when events go live. Watch on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook

See a complete list of upcoming and past Broadband Breakfast Live Online events.

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