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Chairman Genachowski Outlines FCC Goals at Consumer Electronics Show

LAS VEGAS, January 10, 2011 – FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski highlighted the Commission’s successes in the 111th Congress and looked to its goals in the 112th during a discussion with at the Consumer Electronics Show on Friday.

The conversation between the Chairman and the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) CEO, Gary Shapiro, took place in front of a crowd of hundreds of tech industry representatives, analysts and journalists at the Las Vegas Convention Center and focused almost entirely on the need for sound, progressive mobile broadband policy.

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LAS VEGAS, January 10, 2011 – FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski highlighted the Commission’s successes in the 111th Congress and looked to its goals in the 112th during a discussion with at the Consumer Electronics Show on Friday.

The conversation between the Chairman and the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) CEO, Gary Shapiro, took place in front of a crowd of hundreds of tech industry representatives, analysts and journalists at the Las Vegas Convention Center and focused almost entirely on the need for sound, progressive mobile broadband policy.

During his brief introductory remarks, Genachowski promoted a sense of urgency with respect to protecting and advancing America’s place in the global mobile broadband race through making radio spectrum more available for mobile broadband use and promoting the build-out of mobile broadband infrastructure.

“The consumer electronic industry is going wireless,” said Genachowski, citing a projection that anticipates growth by a factor of 35 in the coming five years for mobile broadband use.  “The future success of this wide-ranging industry and others depends on whether our government acts quickly to unleash more spectrum – the oxygen that sustains our mobile devices.”

The FCC’s plan to free up radio spectrum for mobile broadband use includes both reallocating spectrum from other uses and making more efficient use of existing spectrum.  As part of the National Broadband Plan (NBP), the Commission’s aim is to reallocate 500Mhz of spectrum to mobile broadband over the next 10 years.

“If we do [free up more spectrum],” said Genachowski, “we can drive billions of dollars in new private investment, fueling world-leading innovations, creating millions of new jobs, and enabling endless new products and services that can help improve the lives of all Americans.”

Genachowski continued, using the CES discussion to highlight one of the primary modes of reallocating spectrum that the FCC has promoted: voluntary incentive auctions.  In an incentive auction, an existing licensee would be encouraged on a strictly voluntary basis to offer part or all of its licensed bandwidth to the FCC for auction to another licensee in exchange for monetary compensation.  The plan is primarily directed at over-the-air broadcasters, who frequently hold licenses for more bandwidth than they use.  The incentive auction plan, which the National Association of Broadcasters opposes, may not proceed until Congress gives express approval.

Additionally, the Chairman called on the tech industry to drive mobile broadband adoption by consumers and entrepreneurs, while promising to pursue policies that facilitate the faster build-out of next-generation mobile networks.

During his discussion with Shapiro, Genachowski commended the policies and programs that enabled the deployment of the telephone network in the U.S., calling them integral to the rise of the country as an economic superpower, but insisted that it is necessary to move beyond those policies for future growth.  He referenced the Universal Service Fund (USF), which in part helped fund the build-out of the telephone system and continues to provide subsidies for rural telephone service.

“Universal service for communications is very important,” said the Chairman, “but the USF focuses on phone; we need to focus on broadband.”

As part of the NBP, legacy programs under the USF would be replaced by broadband deployment under the Connect America Fund.

Though the conversation focused primarily on the issue of mobile broadband spectrum, at one point it diverged to the controversial Open Internet Order handed down by the Commission in December.  Shapiro posed the question of whether, with expanding availability mobile broadband, more competition and market forces would obviate the need for FCC regulation on Net Neutrality.  Major telecommunications companies, such as Verizon Communications and AT&T – both of which are part of the CEA – have been vocal critics of the order.  Genachowski declined to make a projection on the matter.

Jonathan began his career as a journalist before turning his focus to law and policy. He is an attorney licensed in Texas and the District of Columbia and has worked previously as a political reporter, in political campaign communications and on Capitol Hill. He holds a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Washington and a J.D. from Villanova Law School, where he focused his studies on Internet and intellectual property law and policy. He lives in Washington, D.C., where he roots for Seattle sports teams and plays guitar in his free time.

Public Safety

Lack of People Opting Into Emergency Alerts Poses Problems for Natural Disaster Scenarios

Disaster protocol experts remarked on lessons learned from fire outbreaks in Boulder County, Colorado.

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Photo of Lori Adams of Nokia discussing emergency communications response to Colorado wildfires at Mountain Connect by Drew Clark

KEYSTONE, Colorado, May 26, 2022 – A lack of people opting into local emergency alerts poses a severe challenge for public officials during natural disasters, a panel of experts said Tuesday.

The panel remarked on just how significant the number of people not subscribed to emergency alerts is during a panel on disaster preparedness at the annual Mountain Connect conference.

In Boulder, getting emergency alerts is on an opt-in basis, whereas in other areas, it is opt-in by default.

The specific focus of the panel was on lessons learned from the outbreak of fires in Boulder County, Colorado this past December.

Fires presented challenges for providers

Several challenges of managing a response to the fires were recounted.

Blake Nelson, Comcast’s senior director of construction, stated that some of his company’s underground broadband infrastructure buried at a considerable depth was still melted from the heat of the fires to cause service outages for customers. Thomas Tyler, no stranger to disaster response as Louisiana’s deputy director for broadband and connectivity through several hurricane responses, pointed out that it is quite possible local officials may be skilled in responding to one type of disaster such as a hurricane but not another like a tornado.

Screenshot of Blake Nelson, Jon Saunders, Wesley Wright and Thomas Tyler (left to right)

The panel also spoke to the challenges of coordination between essential companies and agencies if people do not have personal relationships with those who work at such entities other than their own.

Successful emergency responses to service outages during disaster serve as models for the future, with Nelson stating the internet provider opened up its wireless hotspots to temporarily increase service access and Tyler saying that standing up Starlink satellite internet access helped bring broadband to Louisiana communities only accessible by bridge or boat during their periods of disaster.

Conversation moderator Lori Adams, senior director of broadband policy and funding strategy at Nokia, suggested keeping town servers not in municipal buildings but rather off site and Wesley Wright, partner at law firm Keller and Heckman, recommended the Federal Communications Commission’s practice of developing strong backup options for monitoring service outages.

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Education

Education Executives Tout Artificial Intelligence Benefits for Classroom Learning

Artificial intelligence can help fill in gaps when teacher resources are limited, an event heard.

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Screenshot of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation event

WASHINGTON, May 25, 2022 – Artificial intelligence can help fill in gaps when teacher resources are limited and provide extra help for students who need individualized teaching, experts said at an event hosted by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation on Tuesday.

As policy makers weigh the options for a structure for AI in the classroom, panelists agreed on its benefits for both teachers and students. Michelle Zhou, CEO of AI company Juji Inc., said AI technology in the classroom can be tools and applications like chatbots for real-time questions during class, and post-class questions at home for when the teacher is not available.

Lynda Martin, director of learning strategy for strategic solutions at learning company McGraw Hill, said AI provides the extra help students need, but sometimes are too shy to ask.

When a teacher has a high volume of students, it is difficult to effectively help and connect with each student individually, Martin said. AI gives the teacher crucial information to get to know the student on a more personal level as it transmits the student’s misconceptions and detects areas of need. AI can bring student concerns to the teacher and foster “individualized attention” she added.

Privacy and security concerns

Jeremy Roschelle from Digital Promise, an education non-profit, raise the privacy and security concerns in his cautious support of the idea. He noted that there needs to be more information about who has access to the data and what kinds of data should be used.

Beside bias and ethical issues that AI could pose, Roschelle cautioned about the potential harms AI could present, including misdetecting a child’s behavior, resulting in potential educational setbacks.

To utilize the technology and ensure education outcomes, Sharad Sundararajan, co-founder of learning company Merlyn Minds, touched on the need for AI training. As Merlyn Minds provides digital assistant technology to educators, he noted the company’s focus on training teachers and students on various forms of AI tech to enhance user experience.

There is an “appetite” from schools that are calling for this, said Sundararajan. As policy makers contemplate a strategic vision for AI in the classroom, he added that AI adoption in the classroom around the country will require algorithmic work, company partnerships, and government efforts for the best AI success.

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Education

Closing Digital Divide for Students Requires Community Involvement, Workforce Training, Event Hears

Barriers to closing the divide including awareness of programs, resources and increasing digital literacy.

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Screenshot of Ji Soo Song, broadband advisor at the U.S. Department of Education

WASHINGTON, May 24, 2022 – Experts in education technology said Monday that to close the digital divide for students, the nation must eliminate barriers at the community level, including raising awareness of programs and resources and increasing digital literacy.

“We are hearing from schools and district leaders that it’s not enough to make just broadband available and affordable, although those are critical steps,” said Ji Soo Song, broadband advisor at the U.S. Department of Education, said at an event hosted by trade group SIIA, formerly known as the Software and Information Industry Association. “We also have to make sure that we’re solving for the human barriers that often inhibit adoption.”

Song highlighted four “initial barriers” that students are facing. First, a lack of awareness and understanding of programs and resources. Second, signing up for programs is often confusing regarding eligibility requirements, application status, and installment. Third, there may be a lack of trust between communities and services. Fourth, a lack of digital literacy among students can prevent them from succeeding.

Song said he believes that with the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, states have an “incredible opportunity to address adoption barriers.”

Workforce shortages still a problem, but funding may help

Rosemary Lahasky, senior director for government affairs at Cengage, a maker of educational content, added that current data suggests that 16 million students lack access to a broadband connection. While this disparity in American homes remained, tech job posts nearly doubled in 2021, but the average number of applicants shrunk by 25 percent.

But panelists said they are hopeful that funding will address these shortages. “Almost every single agency that received funding…received either direct funding for workforce training or were given the flexibility to spend some of their money on workforce training,” said Lahasky of the IIJA, which carves out funding for workforce training.

This money is also, according to Lahasky, funding apprenticeship programs, which have been recommended by many as a solution to workforce shortages.

Student connectivity has been a long-held concern following the COVID-19 pandemic. Students themselves are stepping up to fight against the digital inequity in their schools as technology becomes increasingly essential for success. Texas students organized a panel to discuss internet access in education just last year.

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