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Broadband's Impact

FCC Announces Awards for Innovations in Accessibility Communications

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ARLINGTON, Virginia, June 9, 2014 – Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler presented the third annual awards for advances in accessibility to innovators of communications technology for disabled people. The awards were presented at the M-Enabling Summit at the Renaissance Arlington Capitol View Hotel here.

The awards ceremony and initiative seeks to make possible exchange among “industry, assistive technology companies, app developers, government representatives and consumers to share best practices and solutions for accessible communications technologies,” according to the agency.

“The potential of broadband-enabled technology to improve the lives of Americans living with disabilities is almost limitless – but only if that technology is accessible,” Wheeler said in a statement.  “I’m glad that these awards can help spark the development of new and creative technologies that furthers the important goal of making communications accessible for all Americans.”

The awards were presented in seven categories, with the winners each listed below:

Advanced Communication Services (ACS)

Braille Plus 18

Braille Plus 18, developed by the American Printing House for the Blind, is a portable tablet/communication device with an 18-cell Braille display that is the world’s first Android device designed specifically for individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

Closed Captions

Adobe Primetime

Adobe Primetime, developed by Adobe Systems, is a set of tools for online video distribution, playback, and analysis that are used to support the provision of closed captions on multiple online platforms and devices, including TVs, PCs, set top boxes, tablets, phones and other video devices and players.

Employment Opportunities

Texas Multi-Agency Office 2010 Training Collaboration

“Creating Accessible Microsoft Office 2010 Documents,” developed by the Texas Multi-Agency Office 2010 Training Collaboration, and hosted by the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities, is a free, Web-based set of accessible training modules offering step-by-step instructions for creating captioned videos, MP-3 voice recordings and transcripts in Word and PDF formats. The collaborative effort takes advantage of social media and low-cost technology to teach accessible design of popular electronic document formats in the workplace.

Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Game Accessibility Guidelines

Game Accessibility Guidelines is a straightforward developer-friendly set of free guidelines to foster access by people with disabilities across the full spectrum of gaming products and ensure the quality-of-life benefits of interactive entertainment are open to as wide a range of people as possible. The guidelines have a strong emphasis on intellectual and learning disabilities, including techniques for enhancing in-game communication ranging from dyslexia-friendly typography to symbol based chat and visual map-based messaging.

Mobile Web Browsers

Capti Narrator

Capti Narrator, developed by Charmtech Labs LLC, simplifies mobile Web browsing and makes iOS devices more accessible by enabling people with disabilities to listen to news, e-books and other documents anywhere and at any time.

Social Media

EasyChirp

Easy Chirp, developed by Dennis Lembree, is a free Web app that facilitates communicating via Twitter and is optimized for users with disabilities. Optimization examples include: proper coding for screen reader use by people who are blind, high contrast; large text and zoom support for people with low vision; and other aspects to better enable access by people with motor and cognitive disabilities. Most recently, Easy Chirp added a feature which provides a method to tweet an image with alternative text.

Video Description

YouDescribe and the Descriptive Video Exchange (DVX)

YouDescribe, developed by the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute, is a website and application protocol interface (API) for creating and playing crowd-sourced, synchronized video descriptions of YouTube videos.

Adobe Primetime

Adobe Primetime, developed by Adobe Systems, is a set of tools for online video distribution, playback, and analysis that are used to support the provision of closed captions on multiple online platforms and devices, including TVs, PCs, set top boxes, tablets, phones and other video devices and players.

 

Broadband's Impact

USC, CETF Collaborate on Research for Broadband Affordability

Advisory panel includes leaders in broadband and a chief economist at the FCC.

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Hernan Galperin of USC's Annenberg School

WASHINGTON, September 22, 2021 – Researchers from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School and the California Emerging Technology Fund is partnering to recommend strategies for bringing affordable broadband to all Americans.

In a press release on Tuesday, the university’s school of communications and journalism and the CETF will be guided by an expert advisory panel, “whose members include highly respected leaders in government, academia, foundations and non-profit and consumer-focused organizations.”

Members of the advisory panel include a chief economist at the Federal Communications Commission, digital inclusion experts, broadband advisors to governors, professors and deans, and other public interest organizations.

“With the federal government and states committing billions to broadband in the near term, there is a unique window of opportunity to connect millions of low-income Americans to the infrastructure they need to thrive in the 21st century,” Hernan Galperin, a professor at the school, said in the release.

“However, we need to make sure public funds are used effectively, and that subsidies are distributed in an equitable and sustainable manner,” he added. “This research program will contribute to achieve these goals by providing evidence-based recommendations about the most cost-effective ways to make these historic investments in broadband work for all.”

The CETF and USC have collaborated before on surveys about broadband adoption. In a series of said surveys recently, the organizations found disparities along income levels, as lower-income families reported lower levels of technology adoption, despite improvement over the course of the pandemic.

The surveys also showed that access to connected devices was growing, but racial minorities are still disproportionately impacted by the digital divide.

The collaboration comes before the House is expected to vote on a massive infrastructure package that includes $65 billion for broadband. Observers and experts have noted the package’s vision for flexibility, but some are concerned about the details of how that money will be spent going forward.

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Broadband's Impact

Technology Policy Institute Introduces Data Index to Help Identify Connectivity-Deprived Areas

The Broadband Connectivity Index uses multiple datasets to try to get a better understanding of well- and under-connected areas in the U.S.

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Scott Wallsten is president and senior fellow at the Technology Policy Institute

WASHINGTON, September 16, 2021 – The Technology Policy Institute introduced Thursday a broadband data index that it said could help policymakers study areas across the country with inadequate connectivity.

The TPI said the Broadband Connectivity Index uses multiple broadband datasets to compare overall connectivity “objectively and consistently across any geographic areas.” It said it will be adding it soon into its TPI Broadband Map.

The BCI uses a “machine learning principal components analysis” to take into account the share of households that can access fixed speeds the federal standard of 25 Megabits per second download and 3 Mbps upload and 100/25 – which is calculated based on the Federal Communications Commission’s Form 477 data with the American Community Survey – while also using download speed data from Ookla, Microsoft data for share of households with 25/3, and the share of households with a broadband subscription, which comes from the American Community Survey.

The BCI has a range of zero to 10, where zero is the worst connected and 10 is the best. It found that Falls Church, Virginia was the county with the highest score with the following characteristic: 99 percent of households have access to at least 100/25, 100 percent of households connect to Microsoft services at 25/3, the average fixed download speed is 243 Mbps in Ookla in the second quarter of this year, and 94 percent of households have a fixed internet connection.

Meanwhile, the worst-connected county is Echols County in Georgia. None of the population has access to a fixed connection of 25/3, which doesn’t include satellite connectivity, three percent connect to Microsoft’s servers at 25/3, the average download speed is 7 Mbps, and only 47 percent of households have an internet connection. It notes that service providers won $3.6 million out of the $9.2-billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to provide service in this county.

“Policymakers could use this index to identify areas that require a closer look. Perhaps any county below, say, the fifth percentile, for example, would be places to spend effort trying to understand,” the TPI said.

“We don’t claim that this index is the perfect indicator of connectivity, or even the best one we can create,” TPI added. “In some cases, it might magnify errors, particularly if multiple datasets include errors in the same area.

“We’re still fine-tuning it to reduce error to the extent possible and ensure the index truly captures useful information. Still, this preliminary exercise shows that it is possible to obtain new information on connectivity with existing datasets rather than relying only on future, extremely expensive data.”

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Broadband's Impact

New Report Recommends Broadening Universal Service Fund to Include Broadband Revenues

A Mattey Consulting report finds broadband revenues can help sustain the fund used to connect rural and low-income Americans.

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Carol Mattey of Mattey Consulting LLC

WASHINGTON, September 14, 2021— Former deputy chief of the Federal Communications Commission Carol Mattey released a study on Tuesday recommending the agency reform the Universal Service Fund to incorporate a broad range of revenue sources, including from broadband.

According to the report by Mattey’s consulting firm Mattey Consulting LLC, revenues from “broadband internet access services that are increasingly used by Americans today should contribute to the USF programs that support the expansion of such services to all,” it said. “This will better reflect the value of broadband internet access service in today’s marketplace for both consumers and businesses.”

Mattey notes that sources of funding for the USF, which are primarily from voice revenues and supports expanding broadband to low-income Americans and remote regions, has been shrinking, thus putting the fund in jeopardy. The contribution percent reached a historic high at 33.4 percent in the second quarter this year, and decreased slightly after that, though Mattey suggested it could soar as high as 40 percent in the coming years.

“This situation is unsustainable and jeopardizes the universal broadband connectivity mission for our nation without immediate FCC reform,” Mattey states in her report, “To ensure the enduring value of the USF program and America’s connectivity goals, we must have a smart and substantive conversation about the program’s future.”

According to Mattey’s data, the assessed sources (primarily voice) of income will only continue to shrink over the coming years, while unassessed sources will continue to grow. Mattey’s report was conducted in conjunction with INCOMPAS, NTCA: The Rural Broadband Association, and the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition.

“It is time for the FCC to take action, and to move away from the worst option of all – the status quo – that is jeopardizing the USF which is critical to connecting our nation,” the report said.

John Windhausen, executive director of SHLB, echoed the sentiments expressed by Mattey in her report, “We simply must put the USF funding mechanism on a more stable and sustainable path,” he said, “[in order to] strengthen our national commitment to broadband equity for all.”

Mattey report uniform with current recommendations

Mattey’s research is generally in line with proponents of change to the USF. Some have recommended that the fund draw from general broadband revenues, while others have said general taxation would provide a longer lasting solution. Even FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr suggested that Big Tech be forced to contribute to the system it benefits from, which the acting chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said is an “intriguing” idea.

The FCC instituted the USF in 1997 as a part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The fund was designed to encourage the development of telecom infrastructure across the U.S.—dispensing billions of dollars every year to advance the goal of universal connectivity. It does so through four programs: the Connect America Fund, Lifeline, the rural health care program, and E-Rate.

These constituent programs address specific areas related for broadband. For example, the E-Rate program is primarily concerned with ensuring that schools and libraries are sufficiently equipped with internet and technology assistance to serve their students and communities. All of these programs derive their funding from the USF.

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