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Broadband and Democratization

Drew Clark: ‘Provo Accelerated’ Kicks Off as Mayor and Citizens Ask What Google Fiber Can Do for City

PROVO, Utah, October 30, 2014 – The conversation was all about Google Fiber, but it was the city mayor, officers and citizens who took center stage at the Provo Recreation Center here on Tuesday night.

At the public kick-off of “Provo Accelerated,” a civic effort to tap into the power of Gigabit Networks, the talk wasn’t about Gigabit speeds. Mayor John Curtis and the citizens didn’t dwell on the fact that a Gigabit per second equals or 1,000 Megabits per second, roughly 100 times faster than a conventional “high-speed” broadband hookup.

Provo Mayor John Curtis at launch of "Provo Accelerated" on October 28, 2014

Provo Mayor John Curtis at launch of “Provo Accelerated” on October 28, 2014



PROVO, Utah, October 30, 2014 – The conversation was all about Google Fiber, but it was the city mayor, officers and citizens who took center stage at the Provo Recreation Center here on Tuesday night.

At the public kick-off of “Provo Accelerated,” a civic effort to tap into the power of Gigabit Networks, the talk wasn’t about Gigabit speeds. Mayor John Curtis and the citizens didn’t dwell on the fact that a Gigabit per second equals or 1,000 Megabits per second, roughly 100 times faster than a conventional “high-speed” broadband hookup.

Rather, the discussion here centered around five topics: family and community, entrepreneurship, health care, education and a category called social sector/digital inclusion. A range of local and national leaders in each of the areas presented vision statements and goals for the city in each of the areas

Provo Mayor John Curtis at launch of "Provo Accelerated" on October 28, 2014

Provo Mayor John Curtis at launch of “Provo Accelerated” on October 28, 2014

“Provo will soon likely be the most connected city in America with highest penetration rate of broadband and very high average broadband speeds,” said Wayne Parker, the city’s chief administrative officer. “How do we leverage this amazing asset to accelerate our 2030 vision” to make the community a better place to live and work?, Parker asked the nearly 100 people who came to the event.

Provo Accelerated Steering Committee Chair Wayne Parker speaks after the Provo event on Google Fiber.

Parker and Mayor John Curtis referred to a statement that they attributed to Kevin Lo, general manager of Google Fiber, soon after Provo was selected in April 2013 as the third city to receive a Gigabit Network from the search-engine-turned-telecom-provider.

“We knew that if any community could figure out what to do with a Gig, it would be Provo,” said Kevin Lo said, according to the Provo officials.

‘What Can Fiber Do for You?’

Unlike Kansas City — the first city to which Google went — and second-city Austin, Texas, in Provo Google acquired an existing city-owned wholesale fiber-optic network. After finalizing the details of the transaction and beginning preliminary network upgrades, Google began offering the service to existing customers in October 2013.

The service was launched to new customers in January, and Google  has been rolling the service out to residents of the city’s seven “fiberhoods.” Because the network was previously built by the city – and is merely undergoing electronics and other upgrades by Google – Provo is poised to obtain city-wide Gigabit availability faster than anywhere else in the nation.

Tuesday’s event was not so much about the availability of Gigabit Network technology as it was a community kick-off for asking the question: “What Can Fiber Do for You?”

This is a Google Fiber presentation displayed at the “Provo Accelerated” Meeting on October 28, 2014

The effort behind this civic convening began in January and February, as Google began its community-wide branding efforts through door-hangers, advertisements on buses, and the launch of two retail outlets/community answer centers.

Curtis, Parker and other city officials visited Kansas City and observed the civic process rolled out by KC Digital Drive, and which has become known as the “Playbook.” Parker said that “Provo Accelerated” was the city’s own “think tank” into the ways that Gigabit Networks can prove most valuable for this university community nestled in the Utah Valley of the Wasatch Front.

An preliminary event on February 13 at the Provo City Library featured a video interview with former Obama administration science and technology adviser Susan Crawford. At that event, Crawford presciently said: ‘There is a role for government in fiber networks [and] this will likely start through mayors rather than the federal government, as they see the need and benefits” provided by Gigabit-level connectivity. That event outlined working groups in five topic areas.

The Five Areas

At Tuesday’s public convening, city leaders, together with nationally-known Googlers and technologists, rolled out a series of preliminary concepts in each of the five areas. After presenting the concepts of the five groups to the public session, the meeting attendees broke up into five groups to probe and discuss the matters further.

Health Care

This working group proposed three initiatives: better video-entertainment options in hospitals, partnering with Brigham Young University to provide telehealth access, and a fully-fledged consumer health platform that could enable patients to rate doctors, hospital and clinics.

A working group at the "Provo Accelerated" event on October 28, 2014

A working group at the “Provo Accelerated” event on October 28, 2014

The Crowd at the "Provo Accelerated" Event on October 28, 2014

The Crowd at the “Provo Accelerated” Event on October 28, 2014

Community and Family

This working group proposed also three initiatives: a resource for families to have meaningful conversations about internet safety, working with Google to develop customizable server-side filtering options, and creating a community-wide portal to connect families and neighborhoods.

Social Sector/Digital Inclusion

Four proposals emanated from this working group: helping to establish public Wi-Fi hotspots to boost access; providing greater access to digital devices; teaching digital literacy to low-income, seniors, the homebound, and those with English as a second language; plus building a mobile Provo City App providing easy access to city resources.


Given that Provo and the broader Wasatch Front are increasingly seen as one of the nation’s best places to start or run a business, this group proposed outcomes to: create incubating spaces for early stage startup businesses; increasing technological training for local technology companies; and growing the culture of support for Provo businesses, including better integration of BYU and Utah Valley University (based in neighboring Orem) into the local business community. “The culture of Provo is one of learning, opportunity, community and support,” said Susan Peterson, a Provo entrepreneur who presented the group’s ambitious. Peterson, whose Freshly Picked company makes childrens’ moccasins and was featured on Shark Tank earlier this year, specifically identified the need for downtown space for business incubation, and the hosting of a venture capital conference for local companies.


This working group aimed to offer an array of activities that would promote a culture of innovation in education. “We didn’t just adopt Google Fiber, but we adopted the Google culture of innovation,” said McKay Jensen, the group’s presenter. Because the city, the school board, and the Google Fiber Gigabit Network all align, Jensen said that opportunity for fostering innovation is high. He proposed the creation of an educational innovation center, the launching of Journal of Educational Innovation, and even a “Google-certified teacher” concept, or an educator adept at utilizing the technology of high-bandwidth.

This is Google’s promotional video of Google Fiber, with scenes from Provo.

Drew Clark is the Chairman of the Broadband Breakfast Club, the premier Washington forum advancing the conversation around broadband technology and internet policy. He tracks the development of Gigabit Networks, broadband usage, the universal service fund and wireless policy @BroadbandCensus. He is also Of Counsel with the firm of Kirton McConkie, based in Salt City City, Utah. You can find him on LinkedIN and Twitter. The articles and posts on and affiliated social media 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. Clark brings experts and practitioners together to advance the benefits provided by broadband: job creation, telemedicine, online learning, public safety, energy, transportation and eGovernment. 

Breakfast Media LLC CEO Drew Clark has led the Broadband Breakfast community since 2008. An early proponent of better broadband, better lives, he initially founded the Broadband Census crowdsourcing campaign for broadband data. As Editor and Publisher, Clark presides over the leading media company advocating for higher-capacity internet everywhere through topical, timely and intelligent coverage. Clark also served as head of the Partnership for a Connected Illinois, a state broadband initiative.

Broadband and Democratization

Stamping out Election Falsehoods Like Playing Whack-a-Mole, Says Georgia’s Brad Raffensperger



Photo of Brad Raffensperger from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

February 5, 2021 – With election misinformation and conspiracy theories rampant in Election 2020, secretaries of state representing pivotal states swapped stories on Thursday about the howlers they faced – and what they did to try to maintain public trust in upholding election integrity.

Perhaps no one faced more pressure to act to overturn the results of his state’s presidential vote tally than Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

Among the many false accusations he faced was that a Ron Raffensperger, allegedly a brother of his, works for a Chinese technology firm. While there is such a person, and that person does in fact work for the Chinese telecom equipment giant Huawei, that Ron Raffensperger is not Brad Raffensperger’s brother.

At Thursday’s meeting of the National Association of Secretaries of State, Raffensperger said again that he does not have a brother named Ron. He also expressed condolences for the real Ron Raffensperger out there.

Stamping out falsehoods is like playing a game of ‘rumor-whack-a-mole,’ said Brad Raffensperger. Once you eradicate one rumor, another just pops up. It’s as if the truth has 30,000 Twitter followers while falsehood has 80 million followers, he added.

Screenshot of the NASS webinar

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs addressed the “Sharpiegate” scandal, another fake claim concocted by Republicans. Sharpiegate was the wrong notion pushed by some that Sharpie pens distributed at polling places were handed out for voting.

But the felt-tip pen’s ink bled through the ballot, making it unreadable by a machine and thus keeping the Sharpie victim’s vote from being counted. The twist in this particular story is that only the Sharpie-marked ballots cast by Republican candidates were thrown out, somehow.

While recognizing the seriousness of this misinformation campaign, exacerbated by Eric Trump’s tweets about it, souvenir Sharpies were ordered bearing “Sharpiegate 2020” printed on them – just as a joke, said Hobbs.

Michigan had a plan in place for months on how to collect, process, and release voting results, said Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. However, because its processes were so efficient, Michigan caught its critics off guard. This exposed Michigan to accusations of allegedly counting its ballots too fast in an effort to try to “fix” the election. Robocalls targeted minority majority communities, including in Detroit.

Ohio also anticipated a barrage of misinformation. As a preemptive measure, the state rolled out numerous tools and resources to inform citizens of voting processes.

Secretaries of state need to help voters build confidence knowing their voice will be heard in a fair and honest contest, and not to tear it down, said Frank LaRose, Ohio Secretary of State. He praised Ohio’s election integrity and said it had a record low in ballot rejection, and a record high in ballot workers.

The state also tried to stop spreaders of misinformation by warning of felony charges for spreading lies.

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Broadband and Democratization

At New America Foundation Event on India, Panelists Talk of ‘Digital Colonization’ by U.S. and China



Screenshot from the webinar

October 1, 2020 – When it comes to social media, India is currently in a “two-house race” between the United States and China, explained India expert Madhulika Srikumar at New America on Wednesday.

Tiktok and Facebook have been big players in this race, each attracted to India’s large audience base.

Srikumar, an attorney formerly with the Cyber Initiative at Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, cited two statistics. First, one-third of TikTok’s users were Indian, before the app was banned in June by the Indian government. Second, if India’s Facebook audience were a country, it would be the fourth largest in the world.

She explained the recent trend of Chinese and U.S. companies each investing in Indian companies.

New American CEO Anne-Marie Slaughter said in response, “When I hear you Madhu, all I can think of is digital colonization.”

Slaughter stressed that it was vital we don’t have a world where states lock down their internet and asserted that the world would be a better place if there was more competition and if companies had to be more open with their policies

“Our institutions for holding power accountable are still from the analog age,” Said Rebecca MacKinnon, founding director of New America’s Ranking Digital Rights project, adding that there’s nothing in our law that could prevent Tiktok from becoming a vehicle for hate speech.

Slaughter blamed the platforms, claiming that platforms were publishers wielding great political power who were responsible for polarization and declining trust.

She pointed to a future Biden-Harris administration, and projected that if elected, it would provide a new vision for internet policy by working with a number of other countries, including Europe, to adopt global standards for a free internet. This consortium would insist that companies abide by such rules.

When asked whether the UN could play a role, Slaughter said that it could, but it would need to have strong member support since “the current U.S. government has distain for non-US institutions.” The United Nations would have difficulty putting regulations in place with one of it’s biggest members not being supportive.

MacKinnon agreed that UN involvement would be complicated. For the past decade, there’s been a fight brewing over who sets standards for the tech community and for global technologies.

Srikumar, in turn, appealed for greater resources to flesh out what exactly an open internet means, as well as a move to divorce content from gatekeepers.

Joshua Keating, senior editor of Slate moderated the webinar.

See also “The Privacy Negotiators: The Need for U.S. Tech Companies to Mediate Agreements on Government Access to Data in India,” by Madhulika Srikumar on New America

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Broadband and Democratization

Mobile Technology Aided the Growth of Black Lives Matter, But Will Hashtag Outrage Lead to Change?



Screenshot of panelists on the Brookings Institution webinar

September 21, 2020 — In the United States, widespread public use of mobile phone cameras and social media has thrust the longstanding issue of police brutality against Black Americans into the national spotlight like never before.

Delving deeply into the subject of how digital tools have contributed to the goals of anti-brutality activists, panelists at a Brookings Institution event on September 14 detailed the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and whether the explosive growth of the hashtag #BLM might result in any institutional change.

In the summer of 2014, videos, images, and text narratives of violent encounters between police officers and unarmed Black people circulated widely through news and social media, spurring public outrage.

“A large digital archive of Tweets started in 2014, when Michael Brown was killed,” said Rashawn Ray, professor of sociology and executive director of the Lab for Applied Social Science Research at the University of Maryland.

Media activism fueled by the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner gave rise to Black Lives Matter, or #BLM, a loosely-coordinated, nationwide movement dedicated to ending police brutality, which uses online media extensively.

The panelists referenced the “Beyond the Hashtag” report authored by Meredith Clark, assistant professor at the University of Virginia, analyzes the movement’s rise on Twitter.

“Mobile technology became an agent of change,” said Mignon Clyburn, former commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission, referring to the 2007 introduction of the iPhone as a turning point in the way individuals utilize devices. “Devices became smaller, less expensive, and more ubiquitous,” said Clyburn, “we are now seeing a global, mobile revolution.”

Increased accessibility to mobile devices and social media cracked open doors previously kept tightly shut by pro-corporate, pro-government gatekeepers of the media, which spread anti-Black ideologies. Mobile devices initiated a leveling of the media playing field, allowing for marginalized groups to intervene in dialogues.

“Black Americans have the opportunity to share distinctively what is happening to us,” said Nicol Turner Lee, senior fellow in governance studies and the director of the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institute.

“These videos show our humanity, and how it is destroyed and undermined,” added Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

While videos taken to report instances of police brutality are critical resources, they come with significant consequences for those filming and viewing them.

In order to record an instance of police, an individual has to be courageous, as many citizen journalists attempting to capture an act of police brutality, end up a subject of cruelty.

“You have the right to record protected under First Amendment,” Clarke informed, urging that officers be trained on respecting citizens First Amendment rights to film.

While recording instances of police brutality is distressing in itself, sharing the video online, although necessary, amplifies the video’s power to traumatize indefinitely. “There will no doubt be a generation of children that will be traumatized,” by repeatedly seeing images of Black Americans brutalized by the police, said Lee.

Clarke urged individuals who decide to share content, to do so with a trigger warning.

While digital tools have enabled video evidence of brutality to be caught, amass widespread attention, and cause public outrage, as of yet, it has not translated into real-life justice for Black individuals. Difficulty to bring prosecution against excessively violent officers remains.

Clarke noted that police union contracts are barriers to reform. “The terms of collective bargaining agreements allow officers to see video evidence before reporting on how the events transpired,” detailed Clarke.

Ray called for the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, H.R. 7120, introduced by Rep. Karen Bass, D-California, which he said was currently ‘collecting dust’ in the Senate.

The bill would establish new requirements for law enforcement officers and agencies, necessitating them to report data on use-of-force incidents, obtain training on implicit bias and racial profiling, and wear body cameras.

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