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Utah Poised to Be First State With Large-Scale Gigabit Networks: Speakers at Utah Broadband Summit

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PROVO, Utah, October 28, 2013 – The prospect and reality of Gigabit Networks throughout the country, beginning in Utah, are “creating bigger surface areas for the mind,” the chief technology officer of US IGNITE said here on Thursday.

Speaking at the Utah Broadband Summit here in Provo — selected a Gigabit city six months ago by Google Fiber — US IGNITE CTO Glenn Ricart said that Gigabit Networks offer untold benefits to individuals, businesses, universities and governments.

For example, Gigabit Networks allow companies to parse through “big data,” to offer services only available at an extremely low latency, and to “vitualize” a broadband network to suit customized needs for super high-speed bandwidth.

Utah, Ricart said, has a combination of advantages in the counties just north and south of Salt Lake City. In addition to Google’s commitment to Provo (home to Brigham Young University), Utah enjoys computer networking leadership through the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, and a premier institutional Utah Education Network.

Additionally, a consortium of 16 cities along the Wasatch Front mountain range are members of UTOPIA, the Utah Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Agency, a Gigabit Network poised to offer service to more than a half-a-million residents and businesses.

Such a concentrated test bed for Gigabit Networks is hard to find, said Ricart, but Utah is poised “to make it happen.”

Ricart was the kickoff keynote speaker at the state broadband initiative summit here at the Utah Valley Convention Center. His organization, US IGNITE, is a national non-profit organization seeking to advance high-speed connectivity and software-defined networks.

Following lunch, the entire audience was addressed by University of Utah cybersecurity expert Matthew Might, and by Bhargav Shah, Senior Vice President of Overstock.com.

Comparing the adoption of super high-speed broadband to the rise of electricity consumption, Shah said that “disruptive technologies are becoming mainstream faster.”

In particular, he cited:

  • voice and data convergence
  • cloud computing
  • social media and networking
  • big data
  • mobile commerce
  • the internet of things

Speaking about Utah’s investment in technology and education, Shah said that the state has offered “incentives to attract technology companies, and hence tech talent in the near term” and “investment in education to fulfill demand for more technologies in the long term.”

Shah’s Overstock.com is a leading Utah-based internet retailer.

Might offered a sobering look at the challenges of cyber-warfare, offering many examples of cyber-attacks launched by terrorist organizations, and by the government of China and the United States. There is no easy fix to the problems of cyber-vulnerabilities, he said, other than continuing to invest in advanced mathematics.

Other breakout sessions throughout the day focused on topics including geographic information systems, broadband adoption, broadband planning for local governments, and commercial-grade broadband services.

During one noteworthy session, Steve Corbato, deputy chief information officer for the University of Utah, highlighted the university’s role as one of four notes on the ARPAnet, the Advanced Research Project Administration’s predecessor network to the internet.

In highlighting the technological advancements in applications, and in computer processing power, Corbato said that as a nation, “it is clear that the network is not keeping up with storage.”

Utah, however, enjoys a number of advantages, including Google Fiber, UTOPIA, and an abundance of fiber networks.

Referring to the recently opened facility of the National Security Administration in Bluffdale, Utah, between Salt Lake City and Provo, he said.

“If you want to know why NSA came to Salt Lake City, this fiber map is a critical reason,” said Corbato.

Between the two coasts, “the only places with a similar position are Chicago and Houston,” he said.

Corbato cited many reasons why the university believes so strongly in Gigabit Networks and advanced broadband. He said that broadband enables:

  • New modes of course delivery, including massively open online courses
  • Faculty competitiveness and retention
  • Staying connected with our alumni, including lifetime education
  • Delivering personalized medicine conveniently
  • Data gathering for field science
  • Supporting K-12 education in Utah
  • Accelerating the information technology economy in Utah

 

Breakfast Media LLC CEO Drew Clark is a nationally respected U.S. telecommunications attorney. An early advocate of better broadband, better lives, he founded the Broadband Census crowdsourcing campaign for better broadband data in 2008. That effort became the Broadband Breakfast media community. As Editor and Publisher, Clark presides over news coverage focused on digital infrastructure investment, broadband’s impact, and Big Tech. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Clark served as head of the Partnership for a Connected Illinois, a state broadband initiative. Now, in light of the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, attorney Clark helps fiber-based and wireless clients secure funding, identify markets, broker infrastructure and operate in the public right of way. He also helps fixed wireless providers obtain spectrum licenses from the Federal Communications Commission. The articles and posts on Broadband Breakfast and affiliated social media, including the BroadbandCensus Twitter feed, are not legal advice or legal services, do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client privilege, and represent the views of their respective authors.

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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