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Broadband's Impact

The White House Wants to Make Work Cool Again

WASHINGTON, April 1, 2010 – Kicking off the first White House Conference on Workplace Flexibility yesterday, the First Lady told a her own story about trying to be a professional and a Mom at the same time.

While on maternity leave with Sasha, she got a call for an interview. “I had to scramble to look for babysitting, and couldn’t find one. So what did I do? I packed up that little infant, and I put her in the stroller, and I brought her with me. . . . it was fortunate for me that . . . she slept through the entire interview. And I was still breastfeeding—if that’s not too much information. (Big chuckles from the audience.) . . . I got the job.”

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WASHINGTON, April 1, 2010 – Kicking off the first White House Conference on Workplace Flexibility yesterday, the First Lady told a her own story about trying to be a professional and a Mom at the same time.

While on maternity leave with Sasha, she got a call for an interview. “I had to scramble to look for babysitting, and couldn’t find one. So what did I do? I packed up that little infant, and I put her in the stroller, and I brought her with me. . . . it was fortunate for me that . . . she slept through the entire interview. And I was still breastfeeding—if that’s not too much information. (Big chuckles from the audience.) . . . I got the job.”

Michelle Obama went on to say that she’s discovered throughout her career that the more flexibility she gives her staff, the happier and less likely they were to leave.

Introduced as the Teleworker-In-Chief, President Obama described workplace flexibility as essential to the well-being of our families and the success of our businesses. “It affects the strength of our economy—whether we’ll create the workplaces and jobs of the future we need to compete in today’s global economy.”

The call for flexible employment opportunities couldn’t have been more clear.

Telecommuting, though just one strategy in the workplace flexibility arsenal, played a central role in the event. The President spoke of providing opportunities for federal employees to telework on a regular basis. “It’s about attracting and retaining top talent in the federal workforce and empowering them to do their jobs, and judging their success by the results that they get—not by how many meetings they attend, or how much face-time they log, or how many hours are spent on airplanes. It’s about creating a culture where . . . work is what you do, not where you are.”

Noting that two-thirds of American families with kids are headed by two working parents or a single working parent, the President referred to them as juggler families. “. . .every day is a high wire act.  Everything is scheduled right down to the minute.  There’s no room for error.”

“. . . this disconnect between the needs of our families and the demands of our workplace also reflects a broader problem, that today, we as a society still see workplace flexibility policies as a special perk for women rather than a critical part of a workplace that can help all of us. There’s still this perception out there that an employee who needs some time to tend to an aging parent or attend to a parent-teacher’s conference isn’t fully committed to his or her job; or that if you make a workplace more flexible, it necessarily will be less profitable.”

The President urged those organizations already successful at making work flexible to share their stories. “. . . if you’re doing this not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because you’ve found that what’s good for your workers and is good for your families can be good for your bottom lines and your shareholders as well, then you need to spread the word.”
Dr. Christina Romer, head of the Council of Economic Advisors (CEA), announced the release of, Work-Life Balance and the Economics of Workplace Flexibility (http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/03/31/economics-workplace-flexibility). It offers an economic perspective on flexible workplace policies and practices. Job sharing, phased retirement of older workers, flexible hours, and provision of computers to facilitate telecommuting are some of the topics covered in the report.

John Berry, head of the Office of Personnel Management, spoke about how flex policies improve the government’s ability to hire and retain great people, “I want to make government (jobs) cool again.” He joked that “If flexibility can succeed in the federal government with the unrivaled complexity of our missions—as well as our red tape, quite frankly, it can succeed anywhere.” Berry also announced that 400 of his agency employees would be part of a Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) pilot.

ROWE is a flexible work model created by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson while at retailing giant BestBuy. By allowing people to work where and when they want, BestBuy realized increased productivity, lower absenteeism, and increased employee loyalty, they said. Ressler and Thompson have since successfully deployed the model for other private and public employers.

Common themes of the conference included:

  • Increased productivity through flexible work;
  • The ability of flex policies to significantly reduce turnover and absenteeism;
  • The role of flexible work in allowing employees to pursue education;

“The increasing demand for analytical and interactive skills—those largely obtained through post-secondary education— means it is all the more important and common for individuals to pursue additional education while also working. These trends raise the value of flexibility in the workplace as it helps workers balance work and family responsibilities,” stated the new CEA study.

– The need for flex options at all job levels citing the fact that they are least available to those who need them the most.

Of course, without technology, remote work would not be possible. Addressing that and other challenges the President promised “where regulations are in the way, we’ll see what we can do to change them. Where new technology can help, we’ll find a secure, cost-effective way to install it. Where training is needed to help managers and workers embrace this approach, we’ll adopt the best practices from the private sector.” He joked, “I do not want to see the government close because of snow again.”

Making federal jobs cool again— it’s clear this is not your grandmother’s government.

Kate Lister, principal investigator at the Telework Research Network (TRN) and co-author of the popular-press book Undress For Success—The Naked Truth About Making Money at Home (John Wiley & Sons, 2009). Her research has been cited in the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, Washington Post, and dozens of other publications. TRN's free web-based Telework Savings Calculator has been used by company and community leaders throughout the U.S. and Canada to quantify their own telework savings potential.

Broadband's Impact

Technology Policy Institute Introduces Data Index to Help Identify Connectivity-Deprived Areas

The Broadband Connectivity Index uses multiple datasets to try to get a better understanding of well- and under-connected areas in the U.S.

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Scott Wallsten is president and senior fellow at the Technology Policy Institute

WASHINGTON, September 16, 2021 – The Technology Policy Institute introduced Thursday a broadband data index that it said could help policymakers study areas across the country with inadequate connectivity.

The TPI said the Broadband Connectivity Index uses multiple broadband datasets to compare overall connectivity “objectively and consistently across any geographic areas.” It said it will be adding it soon into its TPI Broadband Map.

The BCI uses a “machine learning principal components analysis” to take into account the share of households that can access fixed speeds the federal standard of 25 Megabits per second download and 3 Mbps upload and 100/25 – which is calculated based on the Federal Communications Commission’s Form 477 data with the American Community Survey – while also using download speed data from Ookla, Microsoft data for share of households with 25/3, and the share of households with a broadband subscription, which comes from the American Community Survey.

The BCI has a range of zero to 10, where zero is the worst connected and 10 is the best. It found that Falls Church, Virginia was the county with the highest score with the following characteristic: 99 percent of households have access to at least 100/25, 100 percent of households connect to Microsoft services at 25/3, the average fixed download speed is 243 Mbps in Ookla in the second quarter of this year, and 94 percent of households have a fixed internet connection.

Meanwhile, the worst-connected county is Echols County in Georgia. None of the population has access to a fixed connection of 25/3, which doesn’t include satellite connectivity, three percent connect to Microsoft’s servers at 25/3, the average download speed is 7 Mbps, and only 47 percent of households have an internet connection. It notes that service providers won $3.6 million out of the $9.2-billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to provide service in this county.

“Policymakers could use this index to identify areas that require a closer look. Perhaps any county below, say, the fifth percentile, for example, would be places to spend effort trying to understand,” the TPI said.

“We don’t claim that this index is the perfect indicator of connectivity, or even the best one we can create,” TPI added. “In some cases, it might magnify errors, particularly if multiple datasets include errors in the same area.

“We’re still fine-tuning it to reduce error to the extent possible and ensure the index truly captures useful information. Still, this preliminary exercise shows that it is possible to obtain new information on connectivity with existing datasets rather than relying only on future, extremely expensive data.”

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Broadband's Impact

New Report Recommends Broadening Universal Service Fund to Include Broadband Revenues

A Mattey Consulting report finds broadband revenues can help sustain the fund used to connect rural and low-income Americans.

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Carol Mattey of Mattey Consulting LLC

WASHINGTON, September 14, 2021— Former deputy chief of the Federal Communications Commission Carol Mattey released a study on Tuesday recommending the agency reform the Universal Service Fund to incorporate a broad range of revenue sources, including from broadband.

According to the report by Mattey’s consulting firm Mattey Consulting LLC, revenues from “broadband internet access services that are increasingly used by Americans today should contribute to the USF programs that support the expansion of such services to all,” it said. “This will better reflect the value of broadband internet access service in today’s marketplace for both consumers and businesses.”

Mattey notes that sources of funding for the USF, which are primarily from voice revenues and supports expanding broadband to low-income Americans and remote regions, has been shrinking, thus putting the fund in jeopardy. The contribution percent reached a historic high at 33.4 percent in the second quarter this year, and decreased slightly after that, though Mattey suggested it could soar as high as 40 percent in the coming years.

“This situation is unsustainable and jeopardizes the universal broadband connectivity mission for our nation without immediate FCC reform,” Mattey states in her report, “To ensure the enduring value of the USF program and America’s connectivity goals, we must have a smart and substantive conversation about the program’s future.”

According to Mattey’s data, the assessed sources (primarily voice) of income will only continue to shrink over the coming years, while unassessed sources will continue to grow. Mattey’s report was conducted in conjunction with INCOMPAS, NTCA: The Rural Broadband Association, and the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition.

“It is time for the FCC to take action, and to move away from the worst option of all – the status quo – that is jeopardizing the USF which is critical to connecting our nation,” the report said.

John Windhausen, executive director of SHLB, echoed the sentiments expressed by Mattey in her report, “We simply must put the USF funding mechanism on a more stable and sustainable path,” he said, “[in order to] strengthen our national commitment to broadband equity for all.”

Mattey report uniform with current recommendations

Mattey’s research is generally in line with proponents of change to the USF. Some have recommended that the fund draw from general broadband revenues, while others have said general taxation would provide a longer lasting solution. Even FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr suggested that Big Tech be forced to contribute to the system it benefits from, which the acting chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said is an “intriguing” idea.

The FCC instituted the USF in 1997 as a part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The fund was designed to encourage the development of telecom infrastructure across the U.S.—dispensing billions of dollars every year to advance the goal of universal connectivity. It does so through four programs: the Connect America Fund, Lifeline, the rural health care program, and E-Rate.

These constituent programs address specific areas related for broadband. For example, the E-Rate program is primarily concerned with ensuring that schools and libraries are sufficiently equipped with internet and technology assistance to serve their students and communities. All of these programs derive their funding from the USF.

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Digital Inclusion

Outreach ‘Most Valuable Thing’ for Emergency Broadband Benefit Program: Rosenworcel

FCC Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel said EBB will benefit tremendously from local outreach efforts.

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Internet Innovation Alliance Co-Chair Kim Keenan

WASHINGTON, September 13, 2021 – The head of the Federal Communications Commission said Monday that a drawback of the legislation that ushered in the $3.2-billion Emergency Broadband Benefit program is that it did not include specific funding for outreach.

“There was no funding to help a lot of these non-profit and local organizations around the country get the word out [about the program],” Jessica Rosenworcel said during an event hosted by the Internet Innovation Alliance about the broadband affordability divide. “And I know that it would get the word out faster if we had that opportunity.”

The program, which launched in May and provides broadband subsidies of $50 and $75 to qualifying low-income households, has so-far seen an uptake of roughly 5.5 million households. The program was a product of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

“We gotta get those trusted local actors speaking about it because me preaching has its limitations and reaching out to people who are trusted in their communities to get the word out – that is the single most valuable thing we can do,” Rosenworcel said.

She said the FCC has 32,000 partners and has held more than 300 events with members of Congress, tribal leaders, national and local organizations, and educational institutions to that end.

“Anyone who’s interested, we’ll work with you,” she said.

EBB successes found in its mobile friendliness, language inclusion

Rosenworcel also preached the benefits of a mobile application-first approach with the program’s application that is making it accessible to large swaths of the population. “I think, frankly, every application for every program with the government should be mobile-first because we have populations, like the LatinX population, that over index on smartphone use for internet access.

“We gotta make is as easy as possible for people to do this,” she said.

She also noted that the program is has been translated into 13 languages, furthering its accessibility.

“We have work to do,” Rosenworcel added. “We’re not at 100 percent for anyone, and I don’t think we can stop until we get there.”

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