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Broadband's Impact

Verizon Under Fire from Union, City Officials in Northeast States, for Claims of Failure to Build Out Fiber

NEW YORK, October 13, 2015 – The battle between Verizon Communications and the Communications Workers of America escalated on Tuesday, as the union announced a new television advertisement slamming the broadband provider for failing to build-out its high-speed fiber-optic internet service here.

The advertisements come just ahead of a New York City Council hearing on  Wednesday that will include the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio, customers that say they have been unable to get FiOS, and from Verizon officials.

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NEW YORK, October 13, 2015 – The battle between Verizon Communications and the Communications Workers of America escalated on Tuesday, as the union announced a new television advertisement slamming the broadband provider for failing to build-out its high-speed fiber-optic internet service here.

The advertisements come just ahead of a New York City Council hearing on  Wednesday that will include the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio, customers that say they have been unable to get FiOS, and from Verizon officials.

CWAad-2

The CWA ad highlights the city’s June audit of Verizon’s FiOS build. The audit concluded that “Verizon is not in compliance with its agreement since it has not truly ‘passed’ all residential households in New York City.”

In a response to the audit, Verizon disputed the city’s conclusion. It said that it was in compliance with the terms of its 2008 franchise agreement with the city.

“The term ‘pass’ is not defined in the Agreement,” Verizon wrote in its response. “Thus, there is nothing inherent in the word itself that would require Verizon to run cable directly in front of every building in the City in order to ‘pass’ those buildings.”

“Verizon should stop breaking promises to its employees and its customers,” said Bob Master, assistant to the president of CWA district one. “Customers want FiOS and our members want a contract that maintains family-supporting jobs.”

“The fact is that Verizon continues to expand FiOS cable television services in New York City and wins new customers every day,” said Verizon spokesman Richard Young. “As of today, it’s available to more than two million New York City households and that number is increasing daily. The truth is that Verizon has deployed fiber in every City neighborhood – and that’s unlike any other communications company serving the city.”

“The union’s true goal behind this ad campaign is to try and force the company to hire more employees,” he added.

Tensions over the deployment of fiber-optic service by Verizon aren’t limited to New York City. On October 1, the mayors of 14 major cities on the east coast, including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Newark, Jersey City, Buffalo and Syracuse, wrote a tough letter to Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam.

“As mayors, we understand firsthand how vital broadband is the growth of our local economies and to nurturing a healthy, competitive marketplace in our state. Our residents use the internet to search for jobs, build home-based businesses, educate their children and engage in the civic life of our cities.”

“But consistently and increasingly,” the mayors continued, “our consumers have complained that FiOS service is not available to them. These are not isolated complaints – there are millions of residents in communities throughout the Northeast who have been left without service, and with no plan or promise for future resolution.”

Additionally, in August Verizon was the only major U.S. telecom company to decline federal moneys under the universal service fund to build broadband in unserved and rural areas. It had been offered $568 million over six years to do so.

Verizon has also declined to tap into New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s $500 million New York Broadband Fund, which offers 50 percent subsidies for companies building broadband in underserved areas.

Drew Clark is the Chairman of the Broadband Breakfast Club. 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 Best Best & Krieger LLP, with offices in California and Washington, DC. He works with cities, special districts and private companies on planning, financing and coordinating efforts of the many partners necessary to construct broadband infrastructure and deploy “Smart City” applications. You can find him on LinkedIN and Twitter. The articles and posts on BroadbandBreakfast.com 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.

Broadband's Impact

Baltimore Needs Grassroots Help to Bridge Digital Divide, Experts Say

‘Baltimore lags behind many cities when it comes to the number of households with home internet connections.’

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Photo of Jason Hardebeck, director of Baltimore's Office of Broadband and Digital Equity

WASHINGTON, July 5, 2022 – Local leaders from Baltimore said at a Benton Institute event that there needs to be an alignment with the community and leadership when it comes to closing the digital divide.

“Baltimore lags behind many cities when it comes to the number of households with home internet connections,” said Amalia Deloney from the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, which invests in projects to improve the quality of life in the city. The foundation estimates that 74,116 households don’t have internet access.

The event’s speakers pointed to digital redlining, in which segments of racial minority and lower income Americans are disconnected from services or can be considered living in low priority areas.

Jason Hardebeck, director of Baltimore’s Office of Broadband and Digital Equity, said the city is a “pioneer in redlining,” and “a century later, we still see the effect on the digital divide.”

To address this, Deloney said the foundation’s approach to the digital divide in Baltimore by starting at the social level through its Digital Equity Leadership Lab. This is a program for Baltimore residents to “increase their understanding of the internet and strengthen their ability to advocate for fast, affordable and reliable broadband.”

The program aims to train and build leadership within the community to advocate for closing the digital divide. It points to a strategy of bringing “advocates together with community leaders,” as “digital equity is social, not a technological problem,” said Colin Rhinesmith, founder and director of the Digital Equity Research Center.

Michelle Morton from the National Telecommunications Infrastructure Association also said local leaders need to work with community members to have a bottom-up approach. “You have to work with the people doing the work on the ground.

“Their voices matter,” said Morton.

Mayor Brandon Scott has allocated $35 million from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act to close the digital divide across Baltimore “by the end of this decade.”

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Education

Metaverse Can Serve as a Supplement, Not Replacement, For Educators: Experts

The virtual world where avatars can meet as if they were in real life can be a companion for education.

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Screenshot of the Brookings event Tuesday

WASHINGTON, June 29, 2022 – Experts said at a Brookings Institution event said Tuesday that while the “metaverse” can go a long way toward improving education for some students, it should serve as a supplement to those educational goals.

The metaverse refers to a platform of 3D virtual worlds where avatars, or virtual characters, meet as if they were in the real world. The concept has been toyed with by Facebook parent Meta and is being used as a test for the educational space.

“The metaverse is a world that is accessible to students and teachers across the globe that allows shared interactions without boundaries in a respectful optimistic way,” Simran Mulchandani, founder of education app Project Rangeet, said at Tuesday’s event.

Panelists stated that as the metaverse and education meet, researchers, educators, policymakers and digital designers should take the lead, so tech platforms do not dictate educational opportunities.

“We have to build classrooms first, not tech first,” said Mulchandani.

Rebecca Kantar, the head of education at Roblox – a video game platform that allows players to program games – added that as the metaverse is still emerging and being constructed, “we can be humble in our attempt to find the highest and best way to bring the metaverse” into the classroom for the best education for the future.

Anant Agarwal, a professor at MIT and chief open education officer for online learning platform edX, stated the technology of the metaverse has the potential to make “quality and deep education accessible to everybody everywhere.”

Not a replacement for real social experiences

Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, senior fellow of the global economy and development at the Center for Universal Education, said that while the metaverse brings potential to improve learning, it is not a complete replacement for the social experience a student has in the classroom.

“The metaverse can’t substitute for social interaction. It can supplement.”

Mulchandani noted the technology of the metaverse cannot replace the teacher, but rather can serve to solve challenges in the classroom.

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Digital Inclusion

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel Emphasizes 100 Percent Broadband Adoption

‘It’s about making sure wireless connections are available in 100 percent of rural America,’ said the chairwoman.

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Photo of Kelley Dunne, CEO of AmeriCrew, leading panel on workforce issues at the Rural Wireless Infrastructure Summit by Drew Clark

PARK CITY, Utah, June 28, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission is making progress towards bringing “affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband to 100 percent of the country,” Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said at the Rural Wireless Infrastructure Summit here on Tuesday.

Rosenworcel pointed to the $65 billion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act now being deployed across the country, with a particular focus on unconnected rural and tribal areas.

Although the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration will take the lead with these funds, the FCC’s new broadband coverage maps will be important in implementing state digital equity plans.

In her remarks, Rosenworcel also discussed how the upcoming 2.5 GigaHertz spectrum auction will involve licensing spectrum primarily to rural areas.

At the July FCC open meeting, said Rosenworcel, the agency is scheduled to establish a new program to help enhance wireless competition. It is called the Enhanced Competition Incentive Program.

The program aims to build incentives for existing carriers to build opportunities for smaller carriers and tribal nations through leasing or partitioning spectrum. Existing carriers will be rewarded with longer license terms, extensions on build-out obligations, and more flexibility in construction requirements.

“It’s about making sure wireless connections are available in 100 percent of rural America,” she said.

She also indicated her commitment to work with Congress to fund the FCC’s “rip and replace” program to reimburse many rural operators’ transitions from Chinese-manufactured telecommunications equipment. She also touted the role that open radio access networks can plan in more secure telecommunications infrastructure.

In other news at the conference, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr addressed the role of funding broadband operations in rural America, the challenges of workforce training, and ensuring that rural carriers have access to high-cost universal service support.

In a session moderated by AmeriCrew CEO Kelley Dunne, panelists from the U.S. Labor Department, the Wireless Infrastructure Association and Texas A&M Extension Education Services addressed the need to offer a vocational career path for individuals for whom a four-year degree may not be the right choice. AmeriCrew helps U.S. military veterans obtain careers in building fiber, wireless and electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark contributed to this report.

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