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Matthew Cerrone of MetsBlog Has Grown up with Twitter – and Now Baseball is Doing So, Too

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WASHINGTON, March 14, 2013 – As print newspapers continue their long descent into inoperable demise, the rise of the blogger – specifically sports bloggers – has tossed the classic definition of journalist into grayer areas.

Matthew Cerrone, a former P.R strategist, started MetsBlog.com in 2003. In the 10 years since the site’s inception, what was once a hobby has now become a full-time job. In that span of time, Cerrone has built a brand. By building individual relationships with fans and a greater relationship with the New York Mets, Cerrone has been on the ground floor of social media for the last decade, and has seen its ups and downs, including how athletes engage it.

Cerrone was at first apprehensive about the usage of Twitter. Like many he relied on the contact submission form on his website to interact with fans. It was through this form that he first asked fans if he should embrace Twitter.

“I distinctly remember some advising me to not bother, because it would be just a fad.” But this once-perceived fad has now fused with both Cerrone’s life and his brand.

“I can’t live without it. I picked it up quickly, and did what I advise most newcomers to do: Just follow people, don’t tweet, just follow and get a feel for what it’s about. It doesn’t take long before you’ll all in, though. I still view the medium as two different dynamics: It’s a great way to consume information, but then a great tool to communicate one on one.”

Cerrone likens the transition to Twitter to the repercussions the text-message had on telephonic phone calls. “It was built to be and still very much just an enhanced text message service. And, in the same way texting has crushed the traditional telephone service, Twitter has crushed many of the traditional ways we get information and communicate online.”

Though Twitter has been an essential medium to help build his own brand, Cerrone like many other Twitter users appreciates the one-on-one relationship that is newly fused between fans and players. This relationship now goes beyond the ballpark and introduces new elements to fandom that were previously unknown.

“I’m a Mets fan, but I have become a fan of Orioles of Adam Jones, strictly because he and I seem to like the same food, which I’m now aware of from following his Instagram.” This connection, Cerrone says, could never have happened even as recently as 10 years ago.

Though many athletes use Twitter as a medium to communicate their day-to-day activities, Cerrone is mindful at how an athlete can use Twitter to further his career. “I love when I see less popular personalties and athletes building a following, building a specific brand, because they’re creating a community that is exclusively their own.”

This specific brand is something that Cerrone believes could be used to a players advantage. “I look at Nick Swisher, an outfielder for the Cleveland Indians and think, with his personality and that following he has amassed on Twitter, how does an ESPN or FOX Sports not hire him for on-air work immediately after he retires.”

The reach that athletes have on Twitter has also allowed some to use their access to fans for charitable and professional service. Washington Nationals infielder Ian Desmond has used this platform to raise awareness for several different causes including Quilts of Honor. By connecting with fans via Twitter, he has given away tickets, and game used items for those who donate or interact with charities he supports.

Beyond charitable causes, athletes have also used Twitter to market themselves. Cerrone summarizes this by noting that “these guys have a direct pipeline now to sell books, products, tickets, autographs.” This dynamic is not exclusive to the athlete as Cerrone notes that “their agents can leverage those audiences in negotiations.”

As Twitter continues to grow into the lexicon of society, its importance in the life of the athlete continues to grow. 2012 National League Rookie of the Year, Bryce Harper was 14 at the inception of Twitter. For his entire adult life, Twitter has been a major medium. As young athletes like Harper rise in prominence, their usage of Twitter is not exclusive to their professions, but a by-product of their age. These athletes “don’t need to ’embrace it,’ because it’s already part of the D.N.A. as teenagers,” Said Cerrone.

Going forward, Cerrone believes success for an athlete on Twitter requires both a thick skin and a degree of honesty and candor that fans have now come to expect. “Rule number one is always be authentic. However, you have to have a filter. That’s how life works.”

As the medium continues to grow, Cerrone hopes that teams and corporations do not over exceed their limits by censoring an athlete and becoming problematic to the athlete, fan relationship.

“The fact that a fan can meet a player and those two can recognize one another from Twitter, that they’d already have a small relationship before meeting face to face, is pretty powerful. I worry teams and leagues will get involved and start muddying up this relationship with branding and ticket sales. But, for now, it’s pretty awesome.”

Digital Inclusion

Doug Lodder: How to Prevent the Economic Climate from Worsening the Digital Divide

There are government programs created to shrink the digital divide, but not many Americans know what’s out there.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Doug Lodder, president of TruConnect

From gas to groceries to rent, prices are rocketing faster than they have in decades. This leaves many American families without the means to pay for essentials, including cellphone and internet services. In fact, the Center on Poverty and Social Policy reports that poverty rates have been steadily climbing since March. We’re talking about millions of people at risk of being left behind in the gulf between those who have access to connectivity and those who don’t.

We must not allow this digital divide to grow in the wake of the current economic climate. There is so much more at stake here than simply access to the internet or owning a smartphone.

What’s at stake if the digital divide worsens

Our reliance on connectivity has been growing steadily for years, and the pandemic only accelerated our dependence. Having a cell phone or internet access are no longer luxuries, they are vital necessities.

When a low-income American doesn’t have access to connectivity, they are put at an even greater disadvantage. They are limited in their ability to seek and apply for a job, they don’t have the option of convenient and cost-effective telehealth, opportunities for education shrink, and accessing social programs becomes more difficult. I haven’t even mentioned the social benefits that connectivity gives us humans—it’s natural to want to call our friends and families, and for many, necessary to share news or updates. The loss or absence of connectivity can easily create a snowball effect, compounding challenges for low-income Americans.

The stakes are certainly high. Thankfully, there are government programs created to shrink the digital divide. The challenge is that not many Americans know what’s out there.

What can be done to improve it

In the 1980s, the Reagan administration created the federal Lifeline program to subsidize phones and bring them into every household. The program has since evolved to include mobile and broadband services.

More than 34 million low-income Americans are eligible for subsidized cell phones and internet access through the Lifeline program. Unfortunately, only 1 in 5 eligible people are taking advantage of the program because most qualified Americans don’t even know the program exists.

The situation is similar with the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program, another federal government program aimed at bringing connectivity to low-income Americans. Through ACP, qualifying households can get connected by answering a few simple questions and submitting eligibility documents.

Experts estimate that 48 million households—or nearly 40% of households in the country—qualify for the ACP. But, just like Lifeline, too few Americans are taking advantage of the program.

So, what can be done to increase the use of these programs and close the digital divide?

Our vision of true digital equity is where every American is connected through a diverse network of solutions. This means we can’t rely solely on fixed terrestrial. According to research from Pew, 27% of people earning less than $30,000 a year did not have home broadband and relied on smartphones for connectivity. Another benefit of mobile connectivity—more Americans have access to it. FCC data shows that 99.9% of Americans live in an LTE coverage area, whereas only 94% of the country has access to fixed terrestrial broadband where they live.

Additionally, we need more local communities to get behind these programs and proactively market them. We should see ads plastered across billboards and buses in the most impacted areas. Companies like ours, which provide services subsidized through Lifeline and ACP, market and promote the programs, but we’re limited in our reach. It’s imperative that local communities and their governments invest more resources to promote Lifeline, ACP and other connectivity programs.

While there’s no panacea for the problem at hand, it is imperative that we all do our part, especially as the economic climate threatens to grow the digital divide. The fate of millions of Americans is at stake.

Doug Lodder in President of TruConnect, a mobile provider that offers eligible consumers unlimited talk, text, and data, a free Android smartphone, free shipping, and access to over 10 million Wi-Fi hotspots; free international calling to Mexico, Canada, South Korea, China and Vietnam; plus an option to purchase tablets at $10.01. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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Broadband's Impact

Senate Bill Subsidizing U.S. Semiconductor Production Clears House, Going to White House

Bill aims to strengthen American self-reliance in semiconductor chip production and international competition.

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Photo of Sen. John Hickenlooper, D-Colorado, during Tuesday's press conference

WASHINGTON, July 29, 2022 – A $54 billion bill to subsidize U.S-made semiconductor chips passed the House Thursday on a 243-187, and moves to President Biden for his expected signature.

Dubbed the CHIPS Act for Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors Act for America Fund, the measure is expected to incentivize domestic semiconductor manufacturing and also provide grants for the design and deploying of wireless 5G networks. It also includes a $24 billion fund to create a 25 percent tax credit for new semiconductor manufacturing facilities.

Advocates of the measure say that it will also improve U.S. supply chain, grow U.S. domestic workforce, and enable the U.S. to compete internationally to combat national security emergencies.

The measure passed the Senate Wednesday on a 64-33 vote.

Congressional supporters tout benefits

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J., voiced his support on the House floor, calling it “a win for our global competitiveness.”

The CHIPS Act of 2022 provides a five-year investment in public research and development, and establishes new technology hubs across the country.

Of the funds, $14 billion goes to upgrade national labs, and $9 billion goes to the National Institute of Standards and Technology research, of which $2 billion goes to support manufacturing partnerships, and with $200 million going to train the domestic workforce.

In a virtual press conference on Tuesday, Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennett said that America’s semiconductor industry has lost ground to foreign competitors. “Today, only 12% of chips are manufactured in the United States, down from 37% in the 1990s.”

He said relying on cheaper products produced in China and overseas for so long, it has caught up with the United States.

Bennet suggested to move manufacturing labs to Colorado, where it can support it due to the plenty of jobs in aerospace and facility and infrastructure space.

“We don’t want the Chinese setting the standard for telecommunications. America needs to lead that. This bill puts us in the position to be a world leader,” said Bennet. “We are at a huge national security disadvantage if we don’t do this.”

Sen. John Hickenlooper, D-Colorado, joined his Rocky Mountain state colleague in support: “There is a real sense of urgency here to compete not only to re-establish the U.S. to make their own chips, but to compete internationally.”

He said that semiconductor chips are vital to almost every business and product, including phones, watches, refrigerators, cars, and laptops. “I’m not sure if I can think of a business that isn’t dependent on chips at this point.”\

“This is a space race,” he said. “We cannot afford to fall behind.”

Industry supporters say measure is necessary

The U.S. has lost ground to foreign competitors in scientific R&D and in supply chain industry during a recent semiconductor crisis, said France Córdova, president of the Science Philanthropy Alliance, at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation event on July 19. The U.S. only ranks sixth best among other prominent countries in the world for research and development, she said.

“The CHIPS Act of 2022 and FABS Act are critical investments to even the global playing field for U.S. companies, and strategically important for our economic and national national security,” said Ganesh Moorthy, president and CEO of Microchip Technology Inc.

Bide expected to sign measure

With the Biden’s Administration’s focus to tackle the semiconductor shortage and supply chain crisis through the Executive Order made in February, the Biden administration has been bullish on the passage of the CHIPS Act, in a Wednesday statement:

“It will accelerate the manufacturing of semiconductors in America, lowering prices on everything from cars to dishwashers.  It also will create jobs – good-paying jobs right here in the United States.  It will mean more resilient American supply chains, so we are never so reliant on foreign countries for the critical technologies that we need for American consumers and national security,” said Biden.

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Health

Providers Call for More FCC Telehealth Funding as Demand Grows

‘I think obtaining funding from the Universal Service Fund would go a long way.’

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Photo of FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

WASHINGTON, July 26, 2022 – Health care providers in parts of America say they are struggling to deliver telehealth due to a lack of broadband connectivity in underserved communities, and recommended there be more funding from the Federal Communications Commission.

While the FCC has a $200-million COVID-19 Telehealth program, which emerged from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, some providers say more money is needed as demand for telehealth services increases.

“The need for broadband connectivity in underserved communities exceeds current availability,” said Jennifer Stoll from the Oregon Community Health Information Network.

The OCHIN was one of the largest recipients of the FCC’s Rural Health Care Pilot program in 2009. Stoll advocated for the need for more funding with the non-profit SHLB Coalition during the event last week. Panelists didn’t specify how much more funding is needed.

Stoll noted that moving forward, states need sustainable funding in this sector. “I am hoping Congress will be mindful of telehealth,” said Stoll.

“The need for telehealth and other virtual modalities will continue to grow in rural and underserved communities,” she added.

Brian Scarpelli, senior global policy counsel at ACT, the App Association, echoed the call for FCC funding from the Universal Service Fund, which subsidizes basic telecommunications services to rural areas and low-income Americans. “I think obtaining funding from the Universal Service Fund would go a long way.”

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