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Expert Panel: With Broadband, Markets Can Emerge Anywhere

DALLAS, May 2, 2011 – A panel of private industry experts assembled last week to discuss the impact of broadband on rural economies and how to best incorporate it during Rural Telcon at Broadband Properties Magazine’s 2011 summit.

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DALLAS, May 2, 2011 – A panel of private industry experts assembled last week to discuss the impact of broadband on rural economies and how to best incorporate it during Rural Telcon at Broadband Properties Magazine’s 2011 summit.

Michael Curri, Founder and CEO of Strategic Networks Group, Inc. – a company that specializes in broadband deployment and development – began the panel by pointing out that broadband economies would not adequately grow without help and asking what can be done to spur adoption.

“We are the broadband economists, said Curri early on in his presentation. “Lessaiz faire isn’t going to get the market where we want it to go quickly enough.”

The key, he said, is to act on measurable data to assess needs and construct solutions.  When needs are properly assessed and solutions are designed and executed to meet those needs, the positive impact on economies could be significant.

He pointed to data collected in North Carolina, showing that despite the recent economic downturn, jobs gained in the internet economy outnumbered those lost by sevenfold and that regions with better broadband showed improved productivity.

Angela Wu, the Founder and President of Move It Online (MIO), presented similar findings with her organization in Washington State.  She identified as a major issue the reluctance of individuals and business owners who are unfamiliar with online technologies to transition from a purely brick-and-mortar commercial presence to one that is click-and-mortar.

“Have you thought about what you’re asking [rural communities] to do?” said Wu, acknowledging individuals’ hesitance to adopt broadband-base commerce before noting that the reticence was a hurdle, not a roadblock.

“It is absolutely doable and absolutely important even though it is a major shift in the way we’re asking people to think about it,” she continued.

Wu and MIO found that providing workshops to help business owners understand the tools at their disposal through workshops on broadband and social media.  Through those workshops, they found that business owners in Seattle’s Pike Place Market that had an online portion to their businesses drew 10 to 20 percent from it.

“What you can do to help them is to make this all very understandable and clear,” she said.

Wu went on to assert that communities that without meaningful broadband connections will increasingly experience a “brain drain,” as talented youth and business professionals flee to greener digital pastures.

Frank Odasz, President at Lone Eagle Consulting, which specializes in fast-track online Internet training for rural, remote, and indigenous learners, indicated a similar experience working to get small businesses online.

“How can you create value is the global question,” he told the audience, noting the power of personal experiences. “What people [are saying] is, ‘if this stuff is so great, show me a success story from others.'”

For his success story, Odasz showed a video telling the story of Shane Johnson, the owner of www.batsbatsbats.com.  Johnson, who runs his business from a town in rural Idaho, began with a small online shop selling baseball bats.  Five years later, he is on his fifth location – having outgrown the previous four – a 12,000-square-foot warehouse with a storefront.  Johnson does 99 percent of his business outside of Idaho.

During the question-and-answer portion of the panel, the participants stressed the notion that given the infrastructure and some help to create the know-how, anywhere can be the start of another success story or economic revival.

“Once [people are] onboard successfully, they will only grow,” said Wu. “You’re helping to support emerging markets in your state.”

 

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.

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 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.

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Education

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.

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FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan

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.”

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Health

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.

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Photo of telehealth consultation from Healthcare IT News

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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