WASHINGTON, September 20, 2010 – Broadband is tomorrow’s fountain of innovation that can underpin long-term economic competitiveness, said International Telecommunications Union Secretary-General Hamadoun Toure on Sunday in New York.
At the second meeting of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development over the weekend, Toure also challenged global leaders to ensure that more than half of the world’s people have access to broadband networks by 2015, and make access to high-speed networks a basic civil right.
Delivering a report to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Toure said: “Broadband is the next tipping point, the next truly transformational technology. It can generate jobs, drive growth and productivity, and underpin long-term economic competitiveness.”
The commission’s report, which includes a high-level declaration calling for ‘Broadband Inclusion for All,’ includes a detailed framework for broadband deployment and 10 action points aimed at mobilizing all stakeholders and convincing government leaders to prioritize the roll-out of broadband networks to their citizens.
The report was presented to the U.N. secretary-general during a side event held in conjunction with the U.N. Millennium Development Goals Summit, which is set to begin Monday at U.N. headquarters.
Receiving the report, Ban said: “Information and communication technologies are playing an increasingly important role as drivers of social and economic development, but it will take partnerships such as the Broadband Commission to ensure that those technologies live up to their extraordinary potential.”
The report stresses the need for leaders to focus on building a ‘virtuous broadband development dynamic,’’ noting that broadband has the power to “cut a swathe through the silos associated with health, education, energy, transport, the environment and other key sectors.”
It also addresses the global affordability of broadband. While subscribers in the developed world such as the United States, Canada or the United Kingdom, pay less than 1 percent of average national monthly income for a fast broadband connection, many of the world’s U.N.-designated least developed countries, such as Ethiopia, Malawi or Niger, must pay many times an average monthly salary for even a relatively slow broadband connection.
The commission report stresses the importance of promoting cultural diversity and multilingualism online. It urges governments not to limit market entry nor tax broadband and related services too heavily, and to ensure ample availability of spectrum to support mobile broadband growth
The ITU forecasts a total of 900 million broadband subscribers by 2010 and predicts that mobile broadband will be the access technology of choice for millions in the developing world, where fixed link infrastructure is sparse and expensive.
“The new realities and opportunities for digital development must be firmly fixed in the minds of world leaders as a leadership imperative,” says the report, urging leaders to replicate the “mobile miracle” of the first decade of the 21st century in a broadband boom that will create shared, accessible and beneficial high-speed resources.
FCC to Vote On Emergency Connectivity Fund Policies By Mid-May: Rosenworcel
The agency is expected to vote on policies for the new connectivity fund by mid-May, chairwoman says.
April 14, 2021 – Jessica Rosenworcel, the chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission, said Tuesday the agency will be voting by mid-May on policies to deliver the Emergency Connectivity Fund, which has received over 9,000 interested institutions through its portal.
The Emergency Connectivity Fund is part of President Joe Biden’s $1.9-trillion American Rescue Plan signed into law in March 2021.
It’s “the nation’s largest ever broadband affordability program,” Rosenworcel said Tuesday on a virtual panel hosted by Allvanza, an advocacy group for Latinxs and underserved communities within the technology, telecommunications and innovation industries; the Multicultural Media Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC); and the Asian Pacific American Advocate group (OCA).
It’s “designed to make sure we get every household in this country connected to high-speed Internet service because this pandemic has proven like nothing before,” she added.
The FCC made a sign-up portal on its website to determine interest in the program, and over 9,000 institutions have signed up to date, Rosenworcel said, adding she hopes the policies for the EBB can address the homework gap by extending internet subsidies normally reserved for schools and libraries to households.
Evelyn Remaley, acting assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information and acting National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Administrator, said minority-aimed broadband initiatives have done great work in bringing together providers and companies with minority-serving institutions.
Correction: A previous version of this story said the FCC will vote by mid-May on policies related to the Emergency Broadband Benefit program. In actuality, the agency is voting on policies for the new Emergency Connectivity Fund from Biden’s new American Rescue Plan.
Virt Seeks To Serve As The Hub To Find And Join Virtual Events
Launched last week, virt.com hopes to take advantage of the rise in virtual events by crowdsourcing them in one place.
April 13, 2021 – Global Health Strategies, the global advocacy group focused on health and policy, last week launched Virt.com, a new open-source media platform that crowdsources virtual events on various issues.
Those “issue channels” include health, Covid-19, climate and environment, gender, food and nutrition and human rights. It relies on users in different regions posting about upcoming events in those categories.
The launch last week coincided with a new ad campaign called Unmutetheworld, focused on digital equity around the world with the belief that internet access is a human right. It includes partnering with groups like National Digital Inclusion Alliance and grassroots organizations in many different countries.
“The pandemic has transformed our lives. The way we connect, the way we celebrate, the way we mourn, the way we work, access healthcare and learn, has changed,” GHS CEO David Gold said in an interview. “Broadband allows us to connect virtually even during the pandemic, but so many people don’t have access to the internet, they cannot connect, and we have to change that,” he said.
Gold described Virt as a way to connect people globally to meaningful conversations about health, science, policy, technology, among other topics. “We have a window of opportunity right now with the pandemic to really change. Despite all the terrible effects of COVID-19, we have this moment in time to make the case for big investments,” he said.
Gold highlighted the work of GHS and the Unmutetheworld campaign to connect people across different nations. “Broadband access comes to the heart of economic development, we have to take that momentum in the U.S. and expand it around the world,” he said.
Broadband is becoming increasingly more important, with more people working, schooling, or using health services virtually than ever before due to the pandemic.
Broadband central to digital activities
“Broadband used to be a ‘nice to have,’ now it is a ‘must have,’” Angela Siefer, executive director at NDIA, said in an interview. “Twenty years ago, we were worried about having enough computers in a classroom and lucky that one of them connected to the internet, but that has changed now, and we need to keep up with the technology. It permeates our whole lives,” she said.
President Joe Biden recently announced a new $2.3-trillion infrastructure proposal called the American Jobs Plan, which includes $100 billion for broadband programs over eight years. Congress has also recently introduced legislation on broadband initiatives, including $100 billion as part of the Leading Infrastructure for Tomorrow’s America Act, or LIFT America Act, sponsored by the Democratic delegation on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
“We are excited about the potential of these government initiatives, not just for funding deployment, but also to address affordability, digital literacy skills and devices,” Siefer said. “We’ve never had this much awareness about broadband issues. We’re seeing real ideas being put into action.”
Siefer also mentioned state-level efforts to expand broadband, including recent legislation in New York and Maryland. Maryland plans to spend $300 million of federal funding from the American Rescue Plan on broadband programs, including infrastructure, subsidies for fees and devices, and grants for municipal broadband. New York state recently announced the 2022 fiscal year budget including a $300 billion infrastructure package that contains broadband subsidies for low-income residents and an emergency fund to provide economically-disadvantaged students with free internet access.
“We’re seeing a shift to address adoption and affordability at both the state and federal level, where previously we only saw discussion of availability,” Siefer said. “It’s not just about unserved and underserved areas when it comes to digital equity, because the infrastructure might be there, but people are not participating in broadband for a variety of reasons,” she said. “Affordability and digital literacy lock people out. New programs aim to solve that problem and get people connected.”
Libraries Must Be Vigilant To Ensure Adequate Broadband, Consultants Say
April 7, 2021 – Libraries should monitor their broadband speeds and ensure they are getting quality connections, according to library consultants.
Carson Block from Carson Block Consulting and Stephanie Stenberg of the Internet2 Community Anchor program told a virtual conference hosted by the American Library Association on Tuesday that it’s time libraries take a closer look at how they are getting broadband and if they are getting the speeds they are paying for. If not, they said they should re-negotiate.
Block and Stenberg shared details about the “Towards Gigabit Libraries” (TGL) toolkit, a free, self-service guide for rural and tribal libraries to better understand and improve their broadband. The new toolkit helps libraries prepare for E-Rate internet subsidy requests to aid their budget cycles.
It also has tips about communicating effectively between library and tech people since there is a gap in knowledge between those two groups. The TGL is supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and Gigabit Libraries and Beyond (GLG) to improve the toolkit and expand throughout the United States. In addition to focusing on rural and tribal libraries, now urban libraries will be included for support.
During the event, a live poll showed all participating attendees said they “very infrequently” had technical IT support available in their home libraries. Stenberg said this confirmed TGL’s findings that libraries need more tech and IT support, as the majority of respondents in previous surveys gave similar concerning results.
To really emphasize the need for adequate broadband and support at libraries, another question was asked to live attendees about their current level of expertise around procuring and delivering access to broadband as a service in their library, assuming that the majority of attendees worked for libraries. All participants said they possess “no experience” trying to get broadband in the library.
Common issues that are to blame include libraries with insufficient bandwidth, data wiring or poorly set-up networks. Old and obsolete equipment also contributed to bad Wi-Fi coverage.
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