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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.

Broadband's Impact

Experts Say Partnerships Key for Downtown City Connectivity

‘Simple and regular community engagement is needed.’

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NASHVILLE, June 22, 2022 – While service providers plan on using fiber to revitalize downtown areas, experts say community engagement with local businesses is key to facilitate the construction process.

“Simple and regular community engagement is needed,” Nathan Hoople, senior project manager at engineering consulting firm Ditesco, said at the Fiber Connect conference on June 13.

Ryan Smith, engineering manager of the City of Loveland and Pulse Broadband,  said there is a “cry for downtown city coverage.” Panelists agreed that regular community involvement in the broadband infrastructure process is key to getting more broadband access in downtown areas.

Hoople stated that because fiber infrastructure construction can be costly, partnerships are key to establish trust and having an efficient installation process for downtown project success. This can have a “tremendous impact on long term investment.”

Effective communication with local leaders and workers allows for a more efficient installation process, said Hoople. “Know exactly how you can serve every building on the block, so you don’t have to rip up the sidewalk in three months.”

Darren Archibald from software and cloud company Calix agreed with the service provider and community partner approach to better downtown access. He added that with this, this “build[s] brand credibility and reliability” making the community aware of the service and why it is beneficial.

Smith emphasized that a specific relationship with individuals in public works is critical for downtown construction. It “would help with permitting, inspections, final close outs and to coordinate with other street projects,” said Smith. “Those relationships go a long way.”

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Digital Inclusion

Samantha Schartman-Cycyk: Three Keys to Building Transformative Broadband Plans

‘While the federal government’s infrastructure funding creates unique opportunities, it also exposes challenges that states and tribes must get in front of to ensure that funding is sustainable and implementation is effective.’

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Samantha Schartman-Cycyk, President of the Marconi Society

This week, I am thrilled to join state, local and tribal leaders from across the U.S. as we convene in Cleveland, Ohio, for the Broadband Access Summit. As a local and long-time advocate for digital inclusion, I am proud that the Pew Charitable Trusts and Next Century Cities selected Cleveland, one of the least connected cities in the country, as the site for a timely conversation about how we can effectively spend the unprecedented levels of federal funding for broadband infrastructure.

While the federal government’s infrastructure funding creates unique opportunities, it also exposes challenges that states and tribes must get in front of to ensure that funding is sustainable and implementation is effective.

The good news is that digital equity is finally front and center—where it belongs—and it has taken nearly twenty years of advocacy and practice to get us to this point.

Following are three key lessons I have learned to ensure efforts to expand connectivity are community oriented and sustainable.

1. Bring in local leadership—now

Across the country, areas that have a dedicated local leadership responsible solely for digital equity and inclusion are outpacing their counterparts. Someone, or ideally a team, needs to wake up every day thinking about what digital equity means in their community, how to make a reality in a way that supports key priorities, and where the true needs are. We have seen benefits in cities such as Detroit and Seattle, who have taken this approach.

We must support these leaders with accurate data. At the Marconi Society, a nonprofit that champions digital equity, I helped launch the National Broadband Mapping Coalition to help leaders from rural communities and urban ‘digital deserts’ identify broadband gaps. The NBMC has developed a no-cost mapping toolkit to help educate and guide communities.

2. Plan for sustainability while you have strong funding

We need to anchor digital inclusion efforts to long-term state programs to solidify funding and reinforce the intersectional impact of digital inclusion. Typically, digital inclusion programs blossom within the period of investment but falter when funding runs out, only to peak again when new grants or federal money become available.

This process wastes resources, relationships, and time, resulting in stop-and-start programs that aren’t able to address residents’ needs nor build momentum.

For example, a state like Maine with an older rural population is likely to prioritize services that allow for aging in place and telemedicine care for seniors. States like Utah or Texas, with relatively young populations, might place a higher priority on education and K–12 STEM pipelines. This alignment will allow state leaders to prioritize and bake sustainability into their broadband plans, create digital equity programs that support their priorities, and incorporate data collection into their work.

3. Create the workforce your state will need

In order to implement strong broadband plans that create true digital equity, state and local governments need a pipeline of people who understand the unique intersection of technology, policy, and grassroots digital inclusion work needed to bridge the digital divide. As of last year, nearly 20 states did not even have a dedicated broadband office to begin this work. With funding already being dispersed to states, we are at a critical moment.

To help create this workforce, the Marconi Society conceptualized and is developing the first-ever “Digital Inclusion Leadership” professional certificate with Arizona State University. The program will launch in Fall 2022 and will include top-ranked professors and leading industry experts as teachers and advisors.

I believe that this interdisciplinary workforce will continue to be in high demand as states integrate digital equity into their long-term priorities.

After years of helping to lay the groundwork for the current burst of funding and activity around digital equity, I can say that our work has only just begun. We have the gift of beginning with knowledge and funding that can be truly transformative. The digitally equitable future we are fighting for is closer than it has ever been before—let’s make sure we get this right.

Samantha Schartman-Cycyk is President of the Marconi Society, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing digitally equitable communities by empowering change agents across sectors. Over her 20-year career, she has built forward-thinking programs and tools to drive impact on digital inclusion at the local and national levels, through projects with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), community training, and data collecting efforts. The Marconi Society celebrates and supports visionaries building tomorrow’s technologies upon the foundation of a connected world we helped create. 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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Education

Fiber Broadband Companies and Consultants Tout Their Work for Social Good

Fiber providers, equipment companies and consultants discussed their work in communities in a session at Fiber Connect

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Photo of Ritchie Sorrells of GVTC Communications, Hu Meena of C Spire, Ji Soo Song of Education Department's Office of Educational Technology and Keven Morgan of Clearfield by Drew Clark (left to right).

June 16, 2022 – Leading fiber broadband platforms are hoping to positively impact future generations beyond fiber deployment through education programs for youth, scholarship awards, and traditional community service events, said panelists at Fiber Connect event Tuesday.

The panel discussion, according to promotional material for the panel in advance of the session at the conference, “represented a new level of commitment based on the belief that operators have a responsibility to make the communities they serve even better.” The showcase panel was a way for the Fiber Broadband Association to highlight the work of providers, equipment vendors, consultants and government officials.

Companies are particularly focused on how to influence following generations for good. C-Spire is working with schools in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math education, and it provides programs for youth to learn coding and participate in coding challenges hosted by C-Spire.

Working with the state of Mississippi, fiber provider C-Spire made computer science education available to all K-12 students in the state and donated $1 million for teacher training. C-Spire also provided more than $3 million in scholarships for higher education.

GVTC Communications, a consultant to the telecom industry, works with local nonprofits, churches, schools, and businesses to donate full thanksgiving meals to families in need every year since 2012.

Listening to the needs of the community is essential to make an impact, agreed the panel. “When you have listening as your core value, you find out things that you can really make a difference in,” said Kevin Morgan, chief marketing officer at Clearfield, a provider of equipment for fiber builds.

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