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Near-Universal Chorus of Agreement Greets National Broadband Plan; Parties Seek Their Good in Blueprint

WASHINGTON, March 15, 2010 – An executive summary of the Federal Communications Commission’s forthcoming National Broadband Plan drew near-unanimous praise from stakeholders on the eve of the full plan’s release, with industry groups, public interest advocates and lawmakers all weighing in positively as they became aware of the agency’s intentions.

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WASHINGTON, March 15, 2010 – An executive summary of the Federal Communications Commission’s forthcoming National Broadband Plan drew near-unanimous praise from stakeholders on the eve of the full plan’s release, with industry groups, public interest advocates and lawmakers all weighing in positively as they became aware of the agency’s intentions.

While acknowledging there would be “points of disagreement” with the final plan, National Cable and Telecommunications Association CEO Kyle McSlarrow said the Commission report “makes a significant contribution to the dialogue” on a broadband strategy for the U.S.

“Chairman Genachowski and his staff working on the Omnibus Broadband Initiative should be commended for their efforts to draft a broadband ‘blueprint’ that surveys the technology landscape, that identifies industry progress to date and remaining policy challenges, and that suggests new ideas and reforms to advance our common goal of promoting investment, innovation, and broadband networks that are second to none,” McSlarrow said.

Representatives of the wireless broadband industry were equally supportive of the FCC’s approach to spectrum allocation in the report as their wireline comrades were with the report as a while.

“CTIA and our member companies are extremely pleased that spectrum is recognized as being pivotal to the National Broadband Plan,” said CTIA President Steve Largent. “We appreciate the FCC’s and the broadband team’s focus on making 500 MHz of spectrum for broadband within 10 years, of which 300 MHz should be made available for mobile use within five years.”

Equally pleased with the FCC’s report were a wide array of public interest advocates, some who have long pushed for a sweeping broadband plan. Public Knowledge co-founder Gigi Sohn called the plan “a balanced, comprehensive and forward-looking plan that should serve the country well.” The U.S. has long been in need of such a plan, Sohn said.

In particular, Sohn praised the Commission’s intent to review competition rules for wholesale broadband – as well as the proposed approach to a next-generation spectrum policy. “The spectrum policies proposed by the Commission, including greater use of unlicensed spectrum, also will help to drive innovation and consumer choice,” she said. “We commend the commission for starting down that path in a way that will benefit all Americans.”

Media Access Project CEO Andrew Schwartzman said the FCC “gets an A+ for delivering a vision that could bring low-cost, world-class high-speed Internet access to all communities, fostering competition and consumer choice in broadband services.”

But Schwartzman warned that “the real test begins now” and a “final grade” will depend on the FCC’s execution of proceedings to transform the plan into reality.

Lawmakers in both houses of Congress reacted positively to the FCC’s announcement as well. House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said “Chairman Genachowski and the FCC are to be commended for producing this comprehensive and forward-looking report that touches on so many aspects of American society.”

The FCC’s plan will be “critically important” as Congress examines how to apply the “transformative power of broadband” to American society, Waxman said, adding the House Communications Subcommittee will hold its first hearing on the plan on March 25, 2010, and has invited all five FCC Commissioners to testify.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V. said he welcomed the FCC’s plan, and expressed relief that the FCC’s plan would keep the U.S. from becoming a “broadband backwater.”

“Broadband can remake our communications networks in our new century,” said Rockefeller. “But more than that, it can make a difference in people’s lives—change education, improve health care, shore up business and employment opportunities, and foster a new and more democratic dialogue.”

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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