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Broadband's Impact

Experts Debate Need for New Digital Copyright Law

WASHINGTON, July 2, 2010 – The Digital Millennium Copyright Act that extended the reach of copyright when it became law in 1998 may have been created for the new millennium, just not this one, said an academic expert during a Thursday panel discussion.

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WASHINGTON, July 2, 2010 – The Digital Millennium Copyright Act that extended the reach of copyright when it became law in 1998 may have been created for the new millennium, just not this one, said an academic expert during a Thursday panel discussion.

Peter Menell of the University of California Berkeley School of Law said the topic had become “a very complex puzzle” because it has affected so many groups, such as content creators, publishing and distributing companies, consumers and the technology innovation sector.

He participated in the first panel of the Patent and Trademark Office and National Telecommunications and Information Administration Symposium, which focused on copyright policy, creativity and innovation in the information economy and the impact of domestic online copyright infringement.

Joshua Friedlander of the Recording Industry Association of America said for teens and college students, one third of their music comes from peer-to-peer file sharing.

Twenty-six million people have tried file sharing, according to Friedlander, and because of the technology’s prevalence and use, music industry sales are down more than 50 percent.

Friedlander said numerous studies point directly to internet piracy for this decline, and even when legal internet sales do occur, they do not offset the losses in physical sales.

Piotr Stryszowski of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said consumers like free content, and that they will get it where they can.

Menell agreed, adding that consumers accept the dilution of programming by advertising because they can get the content for free.

Menell said this leads to a symbiotic relationship by all of those affected by piracy. Content creators work with distributors to find new outlets to provide consumers with content with a reasonable return for them. Hardware and software innovators find ways to work with the created content for the best consumer experience.

Consumers need to realize that the money they pay for content ultimately leads to better content because of the reinvestment of that capital, he said.

The stipulation Mennell put on this relationship is that government policy – like a new DMCA – should guide innovators to keep their innovations legal, and shepherd them away from piracy.

“We’re seeing an evolution in this sector,” said Menell.

However, when innovators see “policy” or “legal” they immediately think “stifling innovation.” However, Menell said this sort of thing happens all the time, and is in fact good for the industry.

“We chill innovation in automobiles all the time because we not only care about speed, but also about the safety,” countered Menell.

Friedlander said the way to regulate piracy is through a comprehensive review of data. But Stryszowski said that data is not currently available.

Data is hard to find and, for many countries and areas of piracy, there is no data, said Stryszowski.
Besides gathering data, how do you compare it, Stryszowski asked. Do you measure theft in megabytes, number of files, dollars lost or jobs lost?

The data must be in real-time because in this rapidly changing area, using numbers from 2009 will not accurately regulate problems in 2010, he said, adding that finding an accurate methodology and measure is essential to the success of new regulation.

“In my opinion, we have to focus on specific aspects,” said Stryszowski, adding that the problem must be tackled from a different perspective.

AT&T legal counsel Keith Epstein said finding this new measure is essential to internet service providers because about 18.7 petabytes of traffic passed through the AT&T combined data network in 2009, and about 9.7 petabytes of this solely through AT&T.

Epstein said Congress – in the DMCA – did not want internet service providers to have the burden of deciding whether a customer’s activity was infringement; that the role of ISPs was to facilitate the content producer in legal matters by providing information and guiding them upon request.

However, Epstein said file sharing, as a percentage of overall internet growth, is declining. While he said this might be due to new technologies and cyber lockers, the use is declining for any number of reasons. But it is precisely because of technologies like cyber lockers and file sharing that Friedlander urges swift action. He said even though there has been a decline in illegal peer-to-peer sharing there has been a rise in other forms of piracy.

Statistics do not support the theory that musicians and artists have been able to make a living despite internet piracy, according to Friedlander.

Even though, since 2004, there has been over $7 billion in internet music sales, this is a drop in an empty bucket, according to Friedlander.

“There can be a lot of frustration when we see a lot of data … but we cant let this be an excuse” to forgo policy, he said.

“The answers are very complicated because this is one of the most complicated ecosystem,” Menell added.

David Cup is working at BroadbandBreakfast.com through an internship with the National Journalism Center. A student at the Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, he is pursuing the majors of Political Science and Journalism. He has worked on his school yearbook and written for the Franciscan Sports Information Department.

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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Broadband's Impact

New York City Broadband Housing Initiative Gets First Completed Project

The initiative is part of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s $157 million Internet Master Plan.

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BlocPower CEO Donnel Baird speaks at a press conference at Melrose Housing. Photo provided by BlocPower.

November 30, 2021 – BlocPower, Metro IAF, People’s Choice Communications, and pillars in the Bronx community in New York City gathered Monday at the Melrose Housing development to celebrate the first of five New York City Housing Authority community Wi-Fi projects completed by BlocPower.

Community members and other stakeholders were welcomed by Rev. Sean McGillicuddy, pastor of Immaculate Conception Church and leader at Metro IAF. “As the pandemic has shown us, internet is not just a luxury, it is a necessity,” he said. “We have internet now in Melrose Housing and we are celebrating with hundreds of Immaculate Conception Church parishioners.”

The build out to Melrose Housing and Courtland Avenue was part of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s $157 million Internet Master Plan, with a goal of connecting 600,000 additional New Yorkers considered underserved. A third of those underserved people are residents in New York City Housing Authority communities.

With these two projects completed, Melrose and Courtland Housing can now provide internet to their more than 2,500 residents spread across 1,200 apartments and ten buildings.

“We are incredibly excited today to bring this much-needed, low-cost wi-fi alternative to Melrose and Courtlandt Avenue,” said BlocPower CEO Donnel Baird. “What began as the by-product of our efforts to convert New York City’s aging, urban buildings into smarter, cleaner more eco-friendly ones, installing community-owned urban wi-fi networks has now become an important part of BlocPower’s expanded mandate – to help close the digital divide in America’s underserved communities.”

P.C.C. technicians were able to install antennas on roofs and wi-fi nodes on each floor. To have a sufficient workforce to accomplish this task, BlocPower trained local New Yorkers through the company’s “Pathways: Civilian Climate Corps” program.

Going forward, P.C.C. will be responsible for maintaining, billing, and customer service. Melrose and Courtland residents will, in turn, elect a board to represent them in matters of data governance, use of proceeds, and quality of service issues.

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