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Broadband's Impact

Tim Bobrowski: Let it snow; we won’t miss school



Despite the same landscape and weather challenges faced by many areas of West Virginia, in 2015, the schools in Owsley County, in the coalfield region of eastern Kentucky, did not lose any days of school to snow or inclement weather.

In that same year, we were able to dramatically increase the number of students graduating from high school with an associate’s degree, or that were college- or career-ready.

What made these remarkable improvements possible was widespread access to high-speed Internet.

Thanks to a federal investment in broadband infrastructure a few years ago, and a real spirit of innovation and determination at the local level, 90 percent of households in our region have access to high-speed Internet.

In terms of our education outcomes, installing up-to-date Internet infrastructure was a game-changer for our county.

West Virginia, that opportunity is now yours.

In 2010, Owsley County school district, which covers a rural population of about 4,500 people, was one of two school districts in Kentucky selected for a pilot program to use nontraditional instruction methods to improve educational outcomes.

The cornerstone of that program is an innovative, cutting-edge education platform called Blackboard, which uses digital content, online learning and class management systems to provide both students and teachers with a 24/7/365 learning environment.

Five years later, and that program has expanded to 44 districts across the state.

The impact that providing an effective online learning environment has had on our students has been remarkable. College- and career-readiness numbers have seen tremendous growth in the past three years for the district.

Seven percent of Owsley County’s graduates were recognized as being college- or career-ready in 2010. This year, 79.4 percent of graduates were college- or career-ready.

There were 10 days during the past school year when I had to cancel classes because of bad weather. But, rather than having to tack those days of learning on to the end of the year, disrupting vacation plans and parents’ work schedules, thanks to Blackboard, we were able to keep students engaged with nontraditional lessons, help them complete assignments and provide direct teacher support. The teachers were in their homes, teaching, and the students were in their homes, learning.

(And, for those of you wondering whether our students really pay attention during nontraditional online lessons, this past school year, 92 percent of students completed the assignments given by teachers on those snow days. That’s an excellent return, even when teachers are in the room with their students.)

Additionally, this technology has made it easier for students to take dual-credit classes at local colleges. Rather than losing half a day to travel, now students can integrate college-level classes into their Blackboard learning environment. As a result, we now have students graduating from high school here with associate’s degrees.

We’re getting our kids ready for college, and ready for the workplace. That’s a competitive advantage for our students and for the state of Kentucky.

None of this would have been possible if not for the fact that 90 percent of households in our region have access to high-speed Internet.

Owsley County is one of the poorest in America. It is rural, sparse and pocketed by mountains. If we can build this infrastructure here, what is stopping other rural communities from doing the same?

I believe providing Internet infrastructure, and all the opportunities that come with that, could well be one of the most transformative events that happens for Appalachia.

Tim Bobrowski is the superintendent of the Owsley County School District, in Eastern Kentucky.

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A great argument from Tim Bobrowski, the superintendent of the Owsley County School District, in Eastern Kentucky, on the application of broadband to education.

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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.



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.



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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Broadband's Impact

Broadband Speeds Have Significant Impact on Economy, Research Director Says

From 2010 to 2020, a 10.9 percent growth in broadband penetration drove .04 percent increase in GDP, the study found.



Photo of Alan Davidson of the NTIA, Caroline Kitchens of Shopify, Raul Katz of Columbia University (left to right)

WASHINGTON, June 28, 2022 – Broadband and higher speeds have made significant contributions to economic growth over the last decade, according to a study discussed at a Network On conference Tuesday.

Raul Katz, director of business strategy research at Columbia University, conducted his research to determine where the United States economy would be if broadband had not evolved since 2010. He developed four models to explain the economic contribution of broadband, and all found support to suggest that broadband development has contributed to substantial economic growth.

The long-run economic growth model showed that between 2010 and 2020, a 10.9 percent growth in broadband penetration drove a .04 percent increase in gross domestic product – the measure of the value of goods and services produced in the nation. States with higher speed broadband had an economic impact of an additional 11.5 percent.

“States with higher speeds of broadband have a higher economic effect,” said Katz. “Not only is there penetration as a driver, but there’s also… return to speed. At faster speeds, the economy tends to be more efficient.”

The study found that if broadband adoption and speed had remained unchanged since 2010, the 2020 GDP would have been 6.27 percent lower, said Katz.

Caroline Kitchens, a representative for ecommerce platform Shopify, said Tuesday that there’s been great growth in the ecommerce business, which relies entirely on a broadband connection. “Worldwide, Shopify merchants create 3.5 million jobs and have an economic impact of more than $307 billion. It goes without saying that none of this is possible without broadband access.”

“We have really seen firsthand how broadband access promotes entrepreneurship,” said Kitchens, indicating that this has promoted a growing economy in over 100 countries.

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