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Broadband's Impact

European Analysts Laud U.S. Broadband Plan, But Question Goals

LONDON, March 23, 2010 – European reaction to the new U.S. broadband plan has been mixed, ranging from high praise to dismissal as a flawed catch-up exercise.

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LONDON, March 23, 2010 – European reaction to the new U.S. broadband plan has been mixed, ranging from high praise to dismissal as a flawed catch-up exercise.

The plan was hailed as bold by Tim Johnson, chief analyst at Point Topic, a London-based provider of online analysis and data about broadband markets. He suggested it strengthened the case for a similar government-led approach to broadband stimulation in Europe and elsewhere.

“Those of us on the ‘invest now’ side look at the case being made in the U.S. with great interest,” Johnson said. “The boldness of the U.S. plan will encourage all those who believe that we should bring forward investment in superband and other new communications technologies, subject to truly competitive tendering.”

Johnson also praised the plan for not being overly ambitious, which he said will make it more likely to succeed.

The plan seeks to meet a long-term goal for at least 100 million U.S. homes to have affordable high-speed access to 100 megabits per second service. The Federal Communications Commission plans to track that goal over the next decade.

The goal of 100 million homes is fewer than 87 percent of U.S. homes even today, Johnson noted, adding that the cost of reaching the last few percent of people increases exponentially, especially where it involves running fiber long distances to isolated homes. Johnson suggested that the goal could only be achieved through “self-help,” meaning Isolated communities would help dig their own trenches or run cables above ground, especially in rural areas. Ultimately, he said, the economics of the U.S. broadband proposal are realistic.

But Johnson also highlighted a concern shared by analysts that the FCC plan would fail once again to deliver a competitive broadband market in the United States.

He pointed out that the grand hopes of U.S. telecoms liberalization had been dashed by the success of a few powerful telecommunications firms in taking over the market, restricting competition and competitiveness. He pointed to this current state of affairs as the reason that the United States had fallen to 17th place in the world league for broadband access.

Analysts agree that government treatment of the rapid growth of mobile broadband is also a key ingredient to the plan’s success.

Currently, U.S. broadband users pay almost three times as much like-for-like as their counterparts in the United Kingdom and Australia, and suffer from a chronic lack of choice, according to international services comparison site Broadband Expert.

There is no reason at this stage to believe the U.S. broadband plan would address this lack of competitiveness in the U.S. telecoms market, said Johnson.

“If the broadband plan is captured by the same powerful lobbyists as got a stranglehold on liberalization then it could make things worse, not better,” he said. “Ensuring genuinely competitive markets which serve the public well will be a much tougher problem for the U.S. than technology or finance.”

The United States would do well to learn from foreign experience, according to Matt Davis, director for consumer and SMB multiplay services at international analyst group IDC.

For example, Australia has moved to create a wholesale-only fiber network with totally open access to stimulate competition.

Australia announced an aggressive plan in April of about $31 billion in fiber-based broadband designed to deliver more than 100 mbps to deliver high-speed Internet access to 90 percent of homes, schools and businesses by 2018.

Davis said the United States and other countries might well learn that it will be very difficult to achieve truly universal broadband at the ultra high speeds slated for the future.

“The world will learn basically how hard it will be to go from a sub 10 mbps reality, as we have for most people today, to even the 25 mbps mark. Let alone 50 mbps as planned by 2015” in the United States, he said.

The problem is not just rolling out the fiber infrastructure, but ensuring it really is possible to deliver 100 mbps to so many people almost simultaneously, as may be required at peak times given the anticipated changes in contention ratios, according to Davis.

These ratios will be driven up by growing use of broadband to deliver digital entertainment, including high definition and 3-D television. The question is whether that infrastructure can sustain high qualities of service at 100 mbps, and whether it will be competitively priced. The United States may still struggle to match smaller, more densely populated foreign nations, as it may over mobile service coverage.

Philip Hunter is a London based technology reporter specialising in broadband platforms and their use to access high speed services and digital entertainment. He has written extensively for European publications about emerging broadband services and the issues surrounding deployment and access for over 10 years, with a technical background in ICT systems development and testing.

Health

Digital Literacy Training Needed for Optimal Telehealth Outcomes, Healthcare Reps Say

Digital literacy should be a priority to unlock telehealth’s potential, a telehealth event heard.

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Photo of telehealth consultation from Healthcare IT News

WASHINGTON, May 18, 2022 – Digital literacy training should be a priority for providers and consumers to improve telehealth outcomes, experts said at a conference Tuesday.

Digital literacy training will unlock telehealth’s potential to improve health outcomes, according to the event’s experts, including improving treatment for chronic diseases, improving patient-doctor relationships, and providing easier medical access for those without access to transportation.

Julia Skapik of the National Association of Community Health Centers said at the National Telehealth Conference on Tuesday that both patients and clinicians need to be trained on how to use tools that allow both parties to communicate remotely.

Skapik said her association has plans to implement training for providers to utilize tech opportunities, such as patient portals to best engage patients.

Ann Mond Johnson from the American Telemedicine Association agreed that telehealth will improve health outcomes by giving proper training to utilize the technology to offer the services.

The Federal Communications Commission announced its telehealth program in April 2021, which set aside $200 million for health institutions to provide remote care for patients.

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Digital Inclusion

W. Antoni Sinkfield: To Succeed in 21st Century, Communities Need to Get Connected Now

One of the primary responsibilities of being a faith leader is to listen to your community and understand its problems.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Reverend W. Antoni Sinkfield, Associate Dean for Community Life at Wesley Theological Seminary.

One of the primary responsibilities of being a faith leader is to listen to your community, understand its problems, and provide support in challenging times. Particularly during the pandemic, it has been hard not to notice that my parishioners, and folks across the country, are divided into two groups: those with access to the internet, and those without.

In 2022, digital inclusion is still something we strive for in poor and rural areas throughout America. The lack of reliable internet access is an enormous disadvantage to so many people in all facets of their lives.

To fully participate in today’s society, all people, no matter who they are and no matter where they live, must have access to the internet. Think of the remote learning every child had to experience when schools were closed, and the challenges that families faced when they didn’t have access to a quality connection.

It’s a question of plain fairness.

Politicians have been talking for decades about bringing high-speed internet access to everyone, however many families continue to be left behind. More than 42 million people across the country lack affordable, reliable broadband connections, and as many as 120 million people who cannot get online are stuck with slow service that does not allow them to take advantage of everything the internet has to offer.

People of color are disproportionately affected by lack of broadband access

Lack of broadband disproportionately affects communities of color, as well: 35 percent of Americans of Latino descent and 29 percent of African-Americans do not have a broadband connection at home.

Every person in rural towns, urban neighborhoods, and tribal communities needs and deserves equal and full economic and educational opportunities. Studies show that students without home access to the internet are less likely to attend college and face a digital skills gap equivalent to three years’ worth of schooling. Small businesses, which are the cornerstone of rural and urban communities alike, need broadband to reach their customers and provide the service they expect.

Simply put, having access to the internet in every community is vital to its ability to succeed in the 21st century.

Fortunately, we have an opportunity to take major steps toward a solution. Last year, Congress passed President Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which provides $65 billion to expand broadband access and affordability. It is essential that we use this money to connect as many unserved and underserved communities as we can – and as quickly as we can.

Different places need different options to bridge the digital divide

As we bridge the digital divide, we must listen to those who have been left behind and make sure that we deploy solutions that fit their needs. Different places need different options – so it’s important that all voices are heard, and the technology that works best for the community is made readily available.

All people need access to broadband to learn, work, shop, pay bills, and get efficient healthcare.

When I talk to my parishioners, they speak about how much of their lives have transitioned online and are frustrated about not having reliable access. They do not care about the nuances of how we bring broadband to everyone. They just want to have it now – and understandably so.

This means that we must explore all solutions possible to provide high-speed broadband with the connection and support they need, when they need it, regardless of where they live.

Now is the time to meet those struggling where they are, stop dreaming about bridging the divide, and just get it done. Our government has a rare opportunity to fix an enormous problem, using money already approved for the purpose. Let’s make sure they do so in a manner that works for the communities they’re trying to help.

Rev. W. Antoni Sinkfield, Ph.D., serves as Associate Dean for Community Life at Wesley Theological Seminary, and is an ordained Itinerate Elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. This piece 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 expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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Broadband's Impact

Biden Delivers Remarks on Free Broadband to Qualified Households

Biden compared the value of broadband to telephone service, and drew parallels to the historic effort to connect the country.

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Screenshot of President Joe Biden delivering remarks at the White Hose Rose Garden

WASHINGTON, May 9, 2022 – President Joe Biden emphasized the essential nature of broadband during a public appearance on Monday.

Biden delivered remarks at the White House Rose Garden on the day’s earlier announcement that the federal government would work with both regional and national broadband providers to provide essentially free broadband to qualified households.

“Too many Americans simply cannot afford to get connected even if there is access to get connected. So, they go without high-speed internet, or they sacrifice other necessities in order to make it work,” Biden said.

“High-speed internet is not a luxury any longer – it is a necessity,” Biden said. “That is why the bipartisan infrastructure law included $65 billion to make sure we expand access to broadband internet in every region of the country.”

Biden also laid out the criteria for eligible households to take advantage of Affordable Connectivity Program, which when paired with the effort by ISPs to keep 100 Mbps download services under $30, provides free internet to consumers.

“If your household income is twice the federal poverty level or less – that is that’s about $55,000 per year for a family of four – or $27,000 for an individual – or a member of your household is on Medicaid or supplementary [social] security income or a number of other programs – you are eligible.”

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