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Broadband's Impact

What You Could Do On A Gigabit Network: Tai Chi Class Through Your Television

LAFAYETTE, La., — April 23, 2010 — When Google announced its Gigabit fiber network initiative this February, the first example it offered of what such a network could be good for was a rural telehealth application where someone could meet with their doctor over the web.

While the description sounds futuristic, many groups are already experimenting with the potential of this idea. At the FiberFête conference here, technologist Larry Keyes shared one project that he’s piloting together with the University of Vermont. The application they tried out? Tai Chi through your television.

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LAFAYETTE, La., April 23, 2010 – When Google announced its Gigabit fiber network initiative this February, the first example it offered of what such a network could be good for was a rural telehealth application where someone could meet with their doctor over the web.

Tai Chi: It Keeps You Balanced. Photo: Diana Bella.

While the description sounds futuristic, many groups are already experimenting with the potential of this idea. At the FiberFête conference here, technologist Larry Keyes shared one project that he’s piloting together with the University of Vermont. The application they tried out? Tai Chi through your television.

“We know that Tai Chi will help keep senior patients healthy, and that exercise will improve their balance and circulation and promote a sense of well-being, we have a stack of studies that have proven this,” he explained. “The problem is that we can’t get to the patients, and the patients can’t get to us.”

“So clearly, the solution is, if we can’t bring the patient to the health care, we’re going to bring the health care to the patient.”

With a grant from the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health, Keyes and a professor from the University of Vermont conducted two 15-week pilot studies that hooked the seniors up thrice a week for an hour each session to a virtual classroom. Seniors who had experienced bad falls, and those who were afraid of falling because of a precarious sense of balance took the class. They took the class in the comfort of their own living rooms, and the set-top box enabled them to see both each other and their instructor on their television.

The classes were enabled by a video-conferencing set-top box designed by Keyes’ firm Microdesign Consulting. The box is the size of a paperback book and connects the patient up via a cable or DSL connection (although Keyes said that a fiber connection would definitely work best.)

The goal of the initial pilot projects was to find the answers to many questions. Would the idea be feasible at all? And how effective would it be compared to regular in-person group Tai Chi classes, or classes seniors could take just by following a DVD?

The classes were broadcast from a couple of spots in Burlington, Vt., and the seniors, who ranged in age from 78 to 93, participated in the class from various locations within a 60 mile radius of Burlington.

Keyes said that the firm discovered during the pilots that the videoconferencing system held another potential: Helping home-bound seniors easily connect with others and finding companionship. While the cost of the box itself is twice as expensive as the most basic PC, dialing each other up is “free” because the system uses broadband connections. A couple of the seniors ended up calling each other to complete crossword puzzles together over the week-end, Keyes said.

Keyes and the University of Vermont professor are trying to convince the state’s Department of Health to implement the idea in the state. One of the hurdles is the cost of the program versus the cost of renting a studio. Keyes suggested that a potential solution is getting several different kinds of programs running in the household.

“We’re refining the design so that it would be a number of different applications, perhaps from a number of different providers,” he said. “The device could perhaps be used for a diabetes management program, or some type of nutritional program other than just the one program.”

This is a kind of application could be deployed in Lafayette, with its new availability of 100 megabit per second fiber network — although the potential number of stakeholders involved in such a program, and the cost of deployment could be significant hurdles to implementation.

“This is a good example of a population where seniors might pass it up,” Keyes said. “They might just use the internet for e-mail and surf the web for a little bit, so I think this represents an example of something that would benefit from a very high-speed connection.”

Editor’s Note: Travel and accomodations for this series of stories was provided by the organizers of FiberFête.

Deputy Editor Sarah Lai Stirland rejoins Broadband Breakfast after a several-year hiatus, including a stint at Wired. She has covered business, finance and legal affairs, telecommunications and tech policy from New York, Washington and San Francisco, including for Red Herring, National Journal's Technology Daily, and Portfolio.com. She's a native of London and Hong Kong, and is currently based in San Francisco.

Health

Ask Me Anything! Friday with Craig Settles, Community Telehealth Pioneer at 2:30 p.m. ET

Visit Broadband.Money to register for the Ask Me Anything! event on Friday, December 3, 2021, at 2:30 p.m. ET.

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Visit Broadband.Money to register for the Ask Me Anything! event on Friday, December 3, 2021, at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Craig’s tireless work has helped transform the last mile of broadband in the U.S., through his influence among national, state, and corporate decision makers, and his on-the-ground work building community broadband coalitions. Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark will interview Craig Settles in this Broadband.Money Ask Me Anything!

Read the Broadband.Money profile of Craig Settles

About Our Distinguished Guest

Saved from a stroke by telehealth, Craig Settles pays it forward by uniting community broadband teams and healthcare stakeholders through telehealth projects that transform healthcare delivery.

Mr. Settles conducts needs analyses with community stakeholders who want broadband networks and/or telehealth to improve economic development, healthcare, education and local government. Mr. Settles’ needs analyses opens up additional opportunities to raise money for networks, as well as increase the financial sustainability of your network. He’s been doing this work since 2006.

A community telehealth champion

Mr. Settles views telehealth as the “Killer App” that can close the digital divide because everyone experiences illness or cares for someone who is ill. Every home that telehealth touches must have good broadband. Telehealth technology and broadband in the home provide avenues for other home-based technology services that can improve quality of life, such as companion distance-learning apps, a home business app, and home entertainment apps.

He authored Fighting the Good Fight for Municipal Wireless in 2005, and since then, Mr. Settles has provided community broadband consulting services. His public-sector client list includes Ottumwa, IA, Riverside, Benicia and Glendale, CA and the State of California. Calix, Ciena and Juniper Networks are among those on his private sector client list. In addition, he has testified for the FCC and on Capital Hill.

Craig around the web

Mr. Settles hosts the radio talk show Gigabit Nation, His in-depth analysis reports are valuable resources for community broadband project teams and stakeholders. Building the Gigabit City, Mr. Settles’ blog, further showcases his expertise in this area.

Follow Mr. Settles on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Mr. Settles is frequently called upon as a municipal broadband expert for journalists at CNN, the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Time Magazine and a host of business, technology and local media outlets. He has spoken at various conferences in the U.S, Europe, South America, Australia and Asia.


About Ask Me Anything! (AMA)

AMA invites broadband industry leaders from all corners to share their knowledge and perspectives with our community.

The format is simple:

  1. A one hour live webinar with our distinguished guest
  2. Interactive questions from attendees in the comments below this post
    • See a question you also wonder about? “Like” it to upvote it
    • Have more questions? Add them as comments to this post.
  3. Our guest will answer as many questions as time permits, in order of upvotes
    • A community moderator will paraphrase our guest’s answers and post as reply
    • Want to weigh in with your perspective? You’re welcome to share your replies!

Please be respectful of our distinguished guest. It’s okay to disagree, but thank you for being kind. Trolls will be banned.

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Broadband's Impact

Julio Fuentes: Access Delayed Was Access Denied to the Poorest Americans

Big Telecom companies caused months and months of delays in the rollout of the Emergency Broadband Benefit.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Julio Fuentes, president and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Remember when millions of students in dense urban areas and less-populated rural areas weren’t dependent on home broadband access so they could attend school?

Remember when we didn’t need telehealth appointments, and broadband access in urban and outlying areas was an issue that could be dealt with another day?

Remember when the capability to work remotely in underserved communities wasn’t the difference between keeping a job and losing it?

Not anymore.

Education. Health care. Employment. The COVID-19 pandemic affected them all, and taking care of a family in every respect required broadband access and technology to get through large stretches of the pandemic.

You’d think the Federal Communications Commission and its then-acting chairwoman would have pulled out all the stops to make sure that this type of service was available to as many people as possible, as soon as possible — especially when there’s a targeted federally funded program for that important purpose.

Alas, by all appearances, some Big Telecom companies threw their weight around and caused months and months of delays, denying this life-changing access to the people who needed it most — at the time they needed it most.

The program in question is the federally funded Emergency Broadband Benefit program. The EBB offered eligible households — often the poorest Americans — a discount of up to $50 per month toward broadband service, and those households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop or other computer if they contribute just $10 to the purchase. Huge value and benefits for technology that should no longer be the privilege of only those with resources.

Seems fairly straightforward, right?

It should have been. But FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel slammed on the brakes. Why? It turns out that Big Telecom giants wanted more time to get ready to grab a piece of the action — a lot more time. While the program was ready to go in February, it didn’t actually launch until several months later.

That’s months of unnecessary delay.

But it wasn’t providers who were waiting. It was Americans in underserved and rural areas, desperate for a connection to the world.

Here are some numbers for Rosenworcel to consider:

  • As recently as March, 58% of white elementary students were enrolled for full-time in-person instruction, while only 36% of Black students, 35% of Latino students, and 18% of Asian peers were able to attend school in person.
  • Greater portions of families of color and low-income families reportedly fell out of contact with their children’s schools during the pandemic. In one national survey in spring 2020, nearly 30% of principals from schools serving “large populations of students of color and students from lower-income households” said they had difficulty reaching some of their students and/or families — in contrast to the 14% of principals who said the same in wealthier, predominantly white schools.
  • In fall 2020, only 61% of households with income under $25,000 reported that the internet was “always available” for their children to use for educational purposes; this share was 86% among households with incomes above $75,000.

And all of these numbers cut across other key issues such as health care and maintaining employment.

Access delayed was access denied to the poorest, most isolated Americans during the worst pandemic in generations.

Allowing Big Telecom companies to get their ducks in a row (and soak up as many federal dollars as possible) left poor and rural Americans with no options, for months. Who knows how many children went without school instruction? Or how many illnesses went undiagnosed? Or how many jobs were terminated?

This delay was appalling, and Chairwoman Rosenworcel should have to answer for her actions to the Senate Commerce Committee as it considers her nomination for another term as commissioner. Rather than expedite important help to people who needed it most, she led the agency’s delay — for the benefit of giant providers, not the public.

Hopefully, the committee moves with more dispatch than she did in considering her actual fitness to be FCC chairwoman for another term.

Julio Fuentes is president and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. 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 reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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Education

Texas High School Students Enter the Fight for Better Connectivity

Students in a Houston-area school district hosted a panel on connecting schools and libraries as part of a national event on bridging the digital divide.

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John Windhausen Jr., founder and executive director of the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition

WASHINGTON, December 1, 2021 – Generation Z students are making their mark at a Houston-area school district by adding broadband access to the list of issues they are actively working on.

The high school students in the Fort Bend Independent School District organized a panel conversation on internet access in education as part of Connected Nation’s national event titled “20 Years of Connecting the Nation,” and were able to host some high-profile guests in the world of telecommunications.

The November 17 panel included John Windhausen Jr., founder and executive director of the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition, Chris Martinez, division director of information technology for the Harris County Public Library, Heather Gate, vice president of digital inclusion for Connected Nation, and Meredith Watassek, director of career and technical education for Fort Bend ISD.

Nine percent of residents in Harris County, where Houston is located, reports that they do not have a connected device at home and 18 percent say they do not have access to an internet connection. These gaps in access are the focus of the panelists’ digital equity efforts.

With Windhausen and Martinez present on the panel, a key point of discussion was the importance of helping libraries to act as anchor institutions – institutions which help enable universal broadband access.

Watassek pointed out that she has been helping oversee distance learning in Fort Bend ISD for six years, starting such a program to enable teachers to teach students in several of the district’s buildings without having to drive to each one, and has seen that with time and learned experience it is possible to work through distance learning logistical issues that school districts around the nation are currently facing.

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