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Broadband's Impact

Expert Opinion: The New Market Frontier in Technology

Last year, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) recognized the role of technology in strengthening this country’s economy by investing 7.2 million in funding into technology and broadband adoption initiatives through the Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP). Through this funding the United States can build technology infrastructures and bring low-income residents online for the first time. However, technology in and of itself is not what is important. What is important is how people, families and communities use that technology to improve their lives. What will drive adoption and sustainability? Why will someone come online for the first time? What did we learn as an industry and society in bringing the first 100M on line that can help us in bringing the last 100M online? What is the real cost benefit analysis on people having access to information that directly impacts the way they manage their health, educate their children or plan for their financial future. I challenge all of us not to look at the cost of building these networks – but rather the cost of not building it.

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Last year, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) recognized the role of technology in strengthening this country’s economy by investing 7.2 million in funding into technology and broadband adoption initiatives through the Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP).  Through this funding the United States can build technology infrastructures and bring low-income residents online for the first time. However, technology in and of itself is not what is important. What is important is how people, families and communities use that technology to improve their lives. What will drive adoption and sustainability?  Why will someone come online for the first time?  What did we learn as an industry and society in bringing the first 100M on line that can help us in bringing the last 100M online?  What is the real cost benefit analysis on people having access to information that directly impacts the way they manage their health, educate their children or plan for their financial future.  I challenge all of us not to look at the cost of building these networks – but rather the cost of not building it.

The people in the low-income communities must be the next wave of broadband consumers to come online … this is the next new market frontier.  At its most pragmatic level, driving broadband adoption is in its essence creating an emerging market demand that will create billions of dollars of economic value and impact.

The NTIA recently published reports that there are an estimated 100 million Americans that have not adopted broadband at home. Five years ago, many households were unconnected because of coverage and availability.  The technology industry has made tremendous gains in providing network coverage to the vast majority of the nation.  Our current challenge and focus should be on broadband adoption and sustainability.

In some initial research and analysis we have done in some of One Economy’s targeted cities, we have found that the majority of low to medium income households are usually concentrated within five to seven zip codes in a large urban area.  From a wireless planning perspective, this actually is good news.  One of the key factors to manage the cost of deploying wireless services is household density per square mile.  The more people living close together, the easier it is to serve for a wireless network.

In the top 25 markets in the US – there is an addressable market of approximately six million low- to moderate-income households that live in these neighborhoods that are not currently adopting broadband.  Imagine if you will, if we can leverage new technology under the guidance of a National Broadband Plan and move the adoption/penetration needle by 5 percentage points.  This represents 300,000 new broadband households that can be brought into the digital age – creating in the excess of $50M in potential annual revenue for those carriers that deploy those services.

We are in a very rare moment in time – where we can remove barriers for participation and establish a new precedent for digital inclusion.  However, that success will be found in a collaborative, partnership model. Success stories will be driven by those companies that figure out how to work with the embedded community organization and leverage their reach and trust that they have established in the neighborhoods they serve. Industry has an obligation and opportunity to build a better model that would help unlock this potential.

Whatever we do should make as much business sense as it does social sense.  Digital Opportunity is not a one shot thing – it is a self sustaining ecosystem that can create a new business roadmap that low income families can come on line easier, faster and for longer periods of time.  It is the model where for-profit companies work with non-profit community-based organizations on how to reduce these barriers for entry.  How you market and launch new 4G services in suburban Virginia has to be dramatically different than how you would launch service in Ward 8 in the District of Columbia.  In our low-income areas, the planning and approach needs to be bottom up.

In 2009, the Knight Commission concluded in the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy, that denial of digital access equals denial of opportunity. Anyone caught on the wrong side of three gaps, broadband, literacy and participation, runs a significant risk of being left behind. The Commission further concludes that all people have a right to be fully informed.  Americans cannot compete globally without new public policies and investment in technology.

The mission to bring all American’s online with affordable and sustainable broadband is not an option, but a moral and economic imperative.  Our ability to connect to the world and connect to each other is in many ways becomes a necessity—not a luxury.

From corporations to nonprofits and political leaders, we must use our collective talents, resources and inspiration to drive social change so that we can build and implement these new approaches to bring those not as  – into the connected world so that they have the same access to information, people and opportunity as the rest of the country.  Not only can we do it now better than ever before – but has never been as important for our future as it is right here and right now.

 

Education

Metaverse Can Serve as a Supplement, Not Replacement, For Educators: Experts

The virtual world where avatars can meet as if they were in real life can be a companion for education.

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Screenshot of the Brookings event Tuesday

WASHINGTON, June 29, 2022 – Experts said at a Brookings Institution event said Tuesday that while the “metaverse” can go a long way toward improving education for some students, it should serve as a supplement to those educational goals.

The metaverse refers to a platform of 3D virtual worlds where avatars, or virtual characters, meet as if they were in the real world. The concept has been toyed with by Facebook parent Meta and is being used as a test for the educational space.

“The metaverse is a world that is accessible to students and teachers across the globe that allows shared interactions without boundaries in a respectful optimistic way,” Simran Mulchandani, founder of education app Project Rangeet, said at Tuesday’s event.

Panelists stated that as the metaverse and education meet, researchers, educators, policymakers and digital designers should take the lead, so tech platforms do not dictate educational opportunities.

“We have to build classrooms first, not tech first,” said Mulchandani.

Rebecca Kantar, the head of education at Roblox – a video game platform that allows players to program games – added that as the metaverse is still emerging and being constructed, “we can be humble in our attempt to find the highest and best way to bring the metaverse” into the classroom for the best education for the future.

Anant Agarwal, a professor at MIT and chief open education officer for online learning platform edX, stated the technology of the metaverse has the potential to make “quality and deep education accessible to everybody everywhere.”

Not a replacement for real social experiences

Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, senior fellow of the global economy and development at the Center for Universal Education, said that while the metaverse brings potential to improve learning, it is not a complete replacement for the social experience a student has in the classroom.

“The metaverse can’t substitute for social interaction. It can supplement.”

Mulchandani noted the technology of the metaverse cannot replace the teacher, but rather can serve to solve challenges in the classroom.

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Digital Inclusion

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel Emphasizes 100 Percent Broadband Adoption

‘It’s about making sure wireless connections are available in 100 percent of rural America,’ said the chairwoman.

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Photo of Kelley Dunne, CEO of AmeriCrew, leading panel on workforce issues at the Rural Wireless Infrastructure Summit by Drew Clark

PARK CITY, Utah, June 28, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission is making progress towards bringing “affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband to 100 percent of the country,” Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said at the Rural Wireless Infrastructure Summit here on Tuesday.

Rosenworcel pointed to the $65 billion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act now being deployed across the country, with a particular focus on unconnected rural and tribal areas.

Although the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration will take the lead with these funds, the FCC’s new broadband coverage maps will be important in implementing state digital equity plans.

In her remarks, Rosenworcel also discussed how the upcoming 2.5 GigaHertz spectrum auction will involve licensing spectrum primarily to rural areas.

At the July FCC open meeting, said Rosenworcel, the agency is scheduled to establish a new program to help enhance wireless competition. It is called the Enhanced Competition Incentive Program.

The program aims to build incentives for existing carriers to build opportunities for smaller carriers and tribal nations through leasing or partitioning spectrum. Existing carriers will be rewarded with longer license terms, extensions on build-out obligations, and more flexibility in construction requirements.

“It’s about making sure wireless connections are available in 100 percent of rural America,” she said.

She also indicated her commitment to work with Congress to fund the FCC’s “rip and replace” program to reimburse many rural operators’ transitions from Chinese-manufactured telecommunications equipment. She also touted the role that open radio access networks can plan in more secure telecommunications infrastructure.

In other news at the conference, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr addressed the role of funding broadband operations in rural America, the challenges of workforce training, and ensuring that rural carriers have access to high-cost universal service support.

In a session moderated by AmeriCrew CEO Kelley Dunne, panelists from the U.S. Labor Department, the Wireless Infrastructure Association and Texas A&M Extension Education Services addressed the need to offer a vocational career path for individuals for whom a four-year degree may not be the right choice. AmeriCrew helps U.S. military veterans obtain careers in building fiber, wireless and electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark contributed to this report.

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Broadband's Impact

Broadband Speeds Have Significant Impact on Economy, Research Director Says

From 2010 to 2020, a 10.9 percent growth in broadband penetration drove .04 percent increase in GDP, the study found.

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Photo of Alan Davidson of the NTIA, Caroline Kitchens of Shopify, Raul Katz of Columbia University (left to right)

WASHINGTON, June 28, 2022 – Broadband and higher speeds have made significant contributions to economic growth over the last decade, according to a study discussed at a Network On conference Tuesday.

Raul Katz, director of business strategy research at Columbia University, conducted his research to determine where the United States economy would be if broadband had not evolved since 2010. He developed four models to explain the economic contribution of broadband, and all found support to suggest that broadband development has contributed to substantial economic growth.

The long-run economic growth model showed that between 2010 and 2020, a 10.9 percent growth in broadband penetration drove a .04 percent increase in gross domestic product – the measure of the value of goods and services produced in the nation. States with higher speed broadband had an economic impact of an additional 11.5 percent.

“States with higher speeds of broadband have a higher economic effect,” said Katz. “Not only is there penetration as a driver, but there’s also… return to speed. At faster speeds, the economy tends to be more efficient.”

The study found that if broadband adoption and speed had remained unchanged since 2010, the 2020 GDP would have been 6.27 percent lower, said Katz.

Caroline Kitchens, a representative for ecommerce platform Shopify, said Tuesday that there’s been great growth in the ecommerce business, which relies entirely on a broadband connection. “Worldwide, Shopify merchants create 3.5 million jobs and have an economic impact of more than $307 billion. It goes without saying that none of this is possible without broadband access.”

“We have really seen firsthand how broadband access promotes entrepreneurship,” said Kitchens, indicating that this has promoted a growing economy in over 100 countries.

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