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Broadband's Impact

Internet Society of New York Event Surveys Broadband Landscape at Home and Abroad

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NEW YORK, November 12, 2014 – The Internet Society of New York (ISOC-NY) and the Federal Communications Bar Association gathered at Brooklyn Law School’s Forchelli Center on a beautiful November day here. The views of Brooklyn from the 22nd floor, across to Staten Island and New Jersey, were breathtaking. The action was indoors in a marathon event covering all aspects of positively disruptive technology. ISOC member Joly MacFie posted a streaming video is available here.

Rural America

Speaking first was James Dutcher, CIO of SUNY Cobleskill, located in the Adirondack Mountains west of Schenectady. Broadband competition is coming slowly to rural areas, and the agricultural and medical school just got a better deal on bandwidth because of “just the possibility of competition. The price dropped from $70,000 per year to $60,000 and the bandwidth rose from 200 Megabit per second (Mbps) to 1 Gigabit per second.

Dutcher pled with attendees to not think of broadband in rural areas as only connecting farms to the internet. He said the school just purchased 15 Google Glass devices for its medical and other programs and that Google provided an additional 15 devices for free. “We’re doing telemedicine in upstate New York,” Dutcher said.

Equality, Fairness, and Freedom

Tim Karr of the Free Press warned that censorship happens to citizen journalist protesters and credentialed journalists alike in New York, as well as in Kiev, Cairo, and Gezi Park in Turkey. He said that the issues of press freedom and freedom from censorship on the internet are becoming two aspects of one issue (as its of defining importance for Free Press.

Karr said his group also supports the USA Freedom Act, which would require an alliance of libertarian Republicans and anti-surveillance Democrats to pass, plus making additional radio frequency spectrum available on an unlicensed basis.

Karr said that households with $100,000 or more in annual income have high-quality broadband while 20 million Americans cannot get it at any price. Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, a 500 Mbps connection costs residents $25 per month, he said.

I asked whether any of Free Press’ policies had a chance in the new Congress. “Obama called for net neutrality today,” Karr replied. “We’ve been working on this for 10 years. We’re releasing a survey tomorrow, and a rewrite of the Telecom Act is on the table. It makes me giddy.”

He said, however, that local governments will play a critical role. They need to review and police local franchise agreements. He recommended Susan Crawford’s new book on that score.

Global Equality

Dave Burstein, a veteran telecom reporter and principal at Fast Net News said that the United States can do more for Africa. He said that Africa will soon have more internet subscribers than the U.S. thanks to smartphones, but that pricing in Africa is horrific.

The price of internet in Africa right now: $170 per megabit in Lagos. If SUNY Cobleskill faced that price, it would be paying $170,000 per year instead of $60,000. It would be easy for the U.S. to lower African prices, Burstein said. Tariffs on undersea cables to Africa are higher than similar cables to Europe and Asia that experience greater competition. While 10 percent of the continent is without power, but cell phone companies are learning how to build towers outside the electric grid.

Meanwhile, in the USA, Burstein warned that technology that could deliver 10 to 100 times the bandwidth currently available to cell phones may never be deployed. The problem is politics, not technology – and he blamed incumbent communications companies and their lobbyists for creating what he described as fictions regarding a spectrum shortage.

Internet service providers in the U.S. are not promoting multi-SSID routers in the home. In Paris, these dual-network wireless routers have created a city-wide Wi-Fi cloud.

Breaking out of the Pipe Jail

Bob Frankston, co-creator of the first spreadsheet software, VisiCalc, said that networks should be built from the bottom up, not the top down. He said that a wire running internet into your home “is like a loan that you’re never allowed to pay off.” There’s a fixed cost to building it, but you’re paying a high monthly price for it for the rest of your life.

He said it’s not just a bad deal: the builder has every incentive to limit your freedom and promote scarcity in order to protect its pricing. Telecom is a loan from someone who uses your payment to limit your freedom. “Telecommunications companies are in the business of preventing people from communicating in order to charge money. But Skype shows that the telecommunications companies cannot prevent the internet from providing free communications.”

He said that internet applications are built to use any and all facilities, whereas telecommunications companies want to ensure that their users need them. “Net neutrality is necessary only if we accept that someone controls the pipes.”

Frankston doesn’t want the networks to be built by municipalities because they would charge for it and the act of billing places the customer and network owner in an adversarial position. “I fear a new boss who will act just like the old boss. As long as we finance infrastructure as a profit center, infrastructure is an economic problem not a technology problem.”

A network owner deriving pricing power from scarcity will always fight innovation, he said.

Editor’s Note: Alexander Goldman is a recent graduate of Brooklyn Law School, and recently passed the New York Bar Examination. He worked at ISP-Planet and ISPCON, was Chief Analyst for CTI’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants, and had internships at the Federal Communications Commission and the Internet Division of the NY State Attorney General. At Brooklyn Law School, he was a Trade Secrets Fellow and won CALI awards in Contracts and Antitrust.

Alexander Goldman is a recent graduate of Brooklyn Law School, and recently passed the New York Bar Examination. He worked at ISP-Planet and ISPCON, was Chief Analyst for CTI's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants, and had internships at the Federal Communications Commission and the Internet Division of the NY State Attorney General. At Brooklyn Law School, he was a Trade Secrets Fellow and won CALI awards in Contracts and Antitrust.

Health

Digital Literacy Training Needed for Optimal Telehealth Outcomes, Healthcare Reps Say

Digital literacy should be a priority to unlock telehealth’s potential, a telehealth event heard.

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Photo of telehealth consultation from Healthcare IT News

WASHINGTON, May 18, 2022 – Digital literacy training should be a priority for providers and consumers to improve telehealth outcomes, experts said at a conference Tuesday.

Digital literacy training will unlock telehealth’s potential to improve health outcomes, according to the event’s experts, including improving treatment for chronic diseases, improving patient-doctor relationships, and providing easier medical access for those without access to transportation.

Julia Skapik of the National Association of Community Health Centers said at the National Telehealth Conference on Tuesday that both patients and clinicians need to be trained on how to use tools that allow both parties to communicate remotely.

Skapik said her association has plans to implement training for providers to utilize tech opportunities, such as patient portals to best engage patients.

Ann Mond Johnson from the American Telemedicine Association agreed that telehealth will improve health outcomes by giving proper training to utilize the technology to offer the services.

The Federal Communications Commission announced its telehealth program in April 2021, which set aside $200 million for health institutions to provide remote care for patients.

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Digital Inclusion

W. Antoni Sinkfield: To Succeed in 21st Century, Communities Need to Get Connected Now

One of the primary responsibilities of being a faith leader is to listen to your community and understand its problems.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Reverend W. Antoni Sinkfield, Associate Dean for Community Life at Wesley Theological Seminary.

One of the primary responsibilities of being a faith leader is to listen to your community, understand its problems, and provide support in challenging times. Particularly during the pandemic, it has been hard not to notice that my parishioners, and folks across the country, are divided into two groups: those with access to the internet, and those without.

In 2022, digital inclusion is still something we strive for in poor and rural areas throughout America. The lack of reliable internet access is an enormous disadvantage to so many people in all facets of their lives.

To fully participate in today’s society, all people, no matter who they are and no matter where they live, must have access to the internet. Think of the remote learning every child had to experience when schools were closed, and the challenges that families faced when they didn’t have access to a quality connection.

It’s a question of plain fairness.

Politicians have been talking for decades about bringing high-speed internet access to everyone, however many families continue to be left behind. More than 42 million people across the country lack affordable, reliable broadband connections, and as many as 120 million people who cannot get online are stuck with slow service that does not allow them to take advantage of everything the internet has to offer.

People of color are disproportionately affected by lack of broadband access

Lack of broadband disproportionately affects communities of color, as well: 35 percent of Americans of Latino descent and 29 percent of African-Americans do not have a broadband connection at home.

Every person in rural towns, urban neighborhoods, and tribal communities needs and deserves equal and full economic and educational opportunities. Studies show that students without home access to the internet are less likely to attend college and face a digital skills gap equivalent to three years’ worth of schooling. Small businesses, which are the cornerstone of rural and urban communities alike, need broadband to reach their customers and provide the service they expect.

Simply put, having access to the internet in every community is vital to its ability to succeed in the 21st century.

Fortunately, we have an opportunity to take major steps toward a solution. Last year, Congress passed President Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which provides $65 billion to expand broadband access and affordability. It is essential that we use this money to connect as many unserved and underserved communities as we can – and as quickly as we can.

Different places need different options to bridge the digital divide

As we bridge the digital divide, we must listen to those who have been left behind and make sure that we deploy solutions that fit their needs. Different places need different options – so it’s important that all voices are heard, and the technology that works best for the community is made readily available.

All people need access to broadband to learn, work, shop, pay bills, and get efficient healthcare.

When I talk to my parishioners, they speak about how much of their lives have transitioned online and are frustrated about not having reliable access. They do not care about the nuances of how we bring broadband to everyone. They just want to have it now – and understandably so.

This means that we must explore all solutions possible to provide high-speed broadband with the connection and support they need, when they need it, regardless of where they live.

Now is the time to meet those struggling where they are, stop dreaming about bridging the divide, and just get it done. Our government has a rare opportunity to fix an enormous problem, using money already approved for the purpose. Let’s make sure they do so in a manner that works for the communities they’re trying to help.

Rev. W. Antoni Sinkfield, Ph.D., serves as Associate Dean for Community Life at Wesley Theological Seminary, and is an ordained Itinerate Elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. 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

Biden Delivers Remarks on Free Broadband to Qualified Households

Biden compared the value of broadband to telephone service, and drew parallels to the historic effort to connect the country.

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Screenshot of President Joe Biden delivering remarks at the White Hose Rose Garden

WASHINGTON, May 9, 2022 – President Joe Biden emphasized the essential nature of broadband during a public appearance on Monday.

Biden delivered remarks at the White House Rose Garden on the day’s earlier announcement that the federal government would work with both regional and national broadband providers to provide essentially free broadband to qualified households.

“Too many Americans simply cannot afford to get connected even if there is access to get connected. So, they go without high-speed internet, or they sacrifice other necessities in order to make it work,” Biden said.

“High-speed internet is not a luxury any longer – it is a necessity,” Biden said. “That is why the bipartisan infrastructure law included $65 billion to make sure we expand access to broadband internet in every region of the country.”

Biden also laid out the criteria for eligible households to take advantage of Affordable Connectivity Program, which when paired with the effort by ISPs to keep 100 Mbps download services under $30, provides free internet to consumers.

“If your household income is twice the federal poverty level or less – that is that’s about $55,000 per year for a family of four – or $27,000 for an individual – or a member of your household is on Medicaid or supplementary [social] security income or a number of other programs – you are eligible.”

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