BOSTON, April 11, 2011 – Speaking to a standing-room only crowd on Friday afternoon, Federal Communications Commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn addressed media consolidation and broadband deployment before fielding questions at a town hall meeting during Free Press’s National Conference for Media Reform.
Media scholar, Robert McChesney, offered the introduction for the event, addressing both the packed auditorium, an overflow room and those watching live via the web. Both commissioners received standing ovations from the crowd as they took the stage.
During his speech, Commissioner Copps focused on the need to reinvigorate journalism, address the consolidation of media outlets into fewer and fewer hands and refocus the FCC to ensure that spectrum licensees are serving the public interest.
Later on, during the question-and-answer portion of the event, Copps encouraged a system wherein use of the license for a demonstrable public service would be required in order to obtain and keep a broadcasting license. If a licensee did not show that it was using the license for the public good, Copps proposed that the FCC impose a one- or two-year probationary period and, if the licensee still did not serve the public interest, “then [the FCC] ought to take that license back and give it to someone who will.”
“Money controls so much of what’s going on in our society,” said Copps. “We have to get away from Wall St. mentality where it’s only the bottom line that counts.”
Commissioner Clyburn’s remarks focused heavily on the technological progress of the last 20 years and how the FCC could facilitate that progress while ensuring that all Americans have opportunities to access it.
Clyburn noted the rapid increase in wireless Internet use as it becomes the preferred method of access for many, especially among minority populations. She continued to compare the airport waiting areas of 20 years ago – where people would “read a book or stare at the ceiling” – with those of today, where people are emailing, texting, or playing a game with a friend halfway across the world.
“This is a new reality and Americans have embraced it,” said Clyburn. “I know that these technologies – the way this world is evolving – hold the potential for unlocking the hopes and the spirits and desires in all of us.”
Volunteers at the event squeezed between standing-room attendees and stepped over those camped out in the aisles to collect questions on index cards from the crowd. Inquiries ranged from radio spectrum policy to the race and gender diversity goals of the Commission.
As one question asked the commissioners what it thought about the FCC’s ability to regulate the Internet, more than 400 miles away in Washington, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) and his fellow Republicans made the final push on the House floor to pass a measure that would undo the FCC’s recent net neutrality rules.
In Boston, the commissioners defended the agency’s Open Internet Order, with respect to both the content of the rules and the commission’s authority to make them.
“What we did was establish high level rules to make sure that people have access to the internet to do what they want,” said Clyburn, noting that the public has expectations of FCC “to ensure that we have a robust communications network and industry.”
Commissioner Copps defended the Commission’s authority to regulate the Internet as a foregone conclusion.
“People ask whether [the FCC] can do this – well of course we can do this,” proclaimed Copps, who has frequently criticized the Order on the grounds that he believes it does not do enough to protect consumers.
“No other country on the face of the earth has gone down this road – calling [the Internet] an information service,” he said, referring to the difficulty the agency has had in making a regulatory classification of the Internet.
The commissioners also addressed the need to free up spectrum for wireless broadband and to keep too many media outlets from falling into too few hands that do not represent the range of voices in America.
“Diversify the space. Have more voices,” Commissioner Clyburn said and then directly addressed the crowd. “I am challenging you to push the agency and the powers that be to diversify.”
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.
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 the Self-Insurance Institute of America. “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.
FTC Approves Policy Statement on Guiding Review of Children’s Online Protection
The policy statement provides the guiding principles for which the FTC will review the collection and use of children’s data online.
WASHINGTON, May 23, 2022 – The Federal Trade Commission last week unanimously approved a policy statement guiding how it will enforce the collection and use of children’s online data gathered by education technology companies.
The policy statement outlines four provisions in the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, including ones related to limiting the amount of data collected for children’s access to educational tools; restricting types of data collected and requiring reasons for why they are being collected; prohibiting ed tech companies from holding on to data for speculative purposes; and prohibiting the use of the data for targeted advertising purposes.
“Today’s statement underscores how the protections of the COPPA rule ensure children can do their schoolwork without having to surrender to commercial surveillance practices,” said FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan at an open meeting on Thursday.
Commissioner Rebecca Slaughter added Thursday that although COPPA provides the strongest data minimization rule in US law, it’s enforcement may not be as strong, saying that “this policy statement is timely and necessary.”
Slaughter, who was the acting FTC chairwoman before Khan was approved to lead the agency, said last year that the commission was taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to tackling privacy and data collection practices of ed tech companies, which has seen a boom in interest since the start of the pandemic.
Thursday’s statement comes after lawmakers have clamored for big technology companies to do more to prevent the unnecessary collection of children’s data online. It also comes after President Joe Biden said in his State of the Union address earlier this year that companies must be held accountable for the “national experiment they’re conducting on our children for profit.”
Lawmakers have already pushed legislation that would reform COPPA – originally published in 1998 to limit the amount of information that operators could collect from children without parental consent – to raise the age for online protections for children.
Thursday’s FTC statement also seeks to scrutinize unwarranted surveillance practices in education technology, such as geographic locating or data profiling. Khan added that though endless tracking and expansive use of data have become increasingly common practices, companies cannot extend these practices into schools.
Review is nothing new
“Today’s policy statement is nothing particularly new,” said Commissioner Noah Phillips, saying that the review started in July 2019.
Commissioner Christine Wilson, while supporting the statement, was also more withdrawn about its impact. “I am concerned that issuing policy statements gives the illusion of taking action, especially when these policy statements break no new ground.”
Digital Literacy Training Needed for Optimal Telehealth Outcomes, Healthcare Reps Say
Digital literacy should be a priority to unlock telehealth’s potential, a telehealth event heard.
WASHINGTON, May 18, 2022 – Digital literacy training should be a priority for providers and consumers to improve telehealth outcomes, experts said at a conference Tuesday.
Digital literacy training will unlock telehealth’s potential to improve health outcomes, according to the event’s experts, including improving treatment for chronic diseases, improving patient-doctor relationships, and providing easier medical access for those without access to transportation.
Julia Skapik of the National Association of Community Health Centers said at the National Telehealth Conference on Tuesday that both patients and clinicians need to be trained on how to use tools that allow both parties to communicate remotely.
Skapik said her association has plans to implement training for providers to utilize tech opportunities, such as patient portals to best engage patients.
Ann Mond Johnson from the American Telemedicine Association agreed that telehealth will improve health outcomes by giving proper training to utilize the technology to offer the services.
The Federal Communications Commission announced its telehealth program in April 2021, which set aside $200 million for health institutions to provide remote care for patients.
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