Editor’s Note: From the press gaggle on Wednesday, June 21, 2017, between White House Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Waters, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, and members of the press, about broadband internet services:
BY DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY LINDSAY WALTERS
SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE SONNY PERDUE
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Cedar Rapids, Iowa
5:12 P.M. CDT
WALTERS: Good evening, everybody. As you all know, we’re on our way to Cedar Rapids, where the President will highlight precision agriculture and discuss trade. Lots of people associate technology with only Silicon Valley, but, actually, there are many other sectors of our economy that are taking advantage of technological advances, including agriculture.
We’re going to be visiting Kirkwood Community College, which is one of the first programs to have an associate’s degree is precision agriculture. The President, along with Secretary Perdue, Secretary Ross, and Ambassador Branstad will be engaging with some of the people who are bringing cutting-edge technology to the ag sector.
With me today I have Secretary Perdue. I’m going to walk you through the rest of the evening, take a few questions, and then I will hand it over to the Secretary to give you more in-depth details on how technology plays an active role in the agriculture sector and the importance of us being in Iowa.
Today, while we’re in Iowa, you’re going to hear the President talk about this precision agriculture and what it means for the agricultural community to be advancing to the technological age of tomorrow, and how this is going to help farmers ensure the highest yield of crop production each year.
This is not only about the equipment, it’s also about the data that they’re going to be able to collect. And with this data, one component is Internet access availability — you know, Internet connectivity — are you able to take this data that you’re collecting and then be able to do something with it.
And so you’re going to hear in the President’s speech later today not only the discussion around the importance of advancing agriculture, but also this broadband connectivity in rural communities so that they have the access to modern-day technology both in the equipment and when it comes to cellular usage and data. And so what he’s going to be doing is reinforcing his commitment to working with Congress to do what’s needed to be able to help bring you this Internet connectivity to rural communities, as well as, as you all know, we are sending off the favored son of Iowa, former Governor Branstad.
And so the President is going to be bidding him farewell while we are at the event at Kirkwood College. While there, he will highlight the fact that, as Senator Grassley said, Branstad has been an ambassador for the people of Iowa. And now going to China as a skilled negotiator, he will be an ambassador for all American people as he looks at trade. And that’s an important thing — the President has spoken to the importance that trade holds for the American people and that relationship — to have an ambassador with such skills over in China, advocating for all American people.
So with that, I will take your questions.
Q For Internet in rural areas, would you like to see more federal spending to make that happen?
SECRETARY PERDUE: As we know, the productivity or the profitability in less-dense areas is very difficult. But we also know that this country created the Rural Electrification Association years ago in an obligation to serve. We know most everyone in the country can get a dial tone today. We think we ought to have the same push to have broadbandconnectivity all over the country, because in the 21st century, it’s just as important as a telephone, just as important as water, sewer, or roads. It has become an infrastructure of necessity in rural areas as we’ve described how technology is driving agriculture.
Does that mean that it’s going to be — I think government will have to help, whether it’s local government, states government, or the federal government. But we want partnerships. We want people that have skin in the game. These are going to be revenue streams coming in. People are going to pay for these services, but we’ve got to help ignite that and kick-start that in order to make sure it gets where it need to be.
Q How much would it cost, do you think, to get it started?
SECRETARY PERDUE: I’m sorry?
Q How much would it cost?
SECRETARY PERDUE: We don’t know yet. We’re actually developing proposals now with our rural broadbandconnectivity, independent telephone systems, rural cooperatives there. We gave a loan for about $46 million, I think, two weeks ago to some of our rural cooperatives in order to get that started. So we haven’t calculated how much. It’s a big price tag, but who shares what part of that will probably differ from place to place.
Q So there’s not a plan yet for rural broadband? In other words, you’re in the beginning stages of trying to figure out how you’re going to do it, or —
SECRETARY PERDUE: I don’t think you’re going to see a national plan, per se, because each area is different. Each area has different services now. Some are served by independent telephone companies that are already providing some of these services. How we help them extend that in the more rural areas will be different in every area.
So there’s not going to be a national footprint. We’re going to take every area. That’s what our department at the Rural Development USDA will do in working with the resources that we have, the assets out in every area of the country in order to make broadband — rural broadband as ubiquitous as we can.
Q But ag takes the lead on rural broadband. Is that the idea?
SECRETARY PERDUE: (Inaudible), along with Chairman Ajit Pai of FCC, we’re in communication. He was part of our rural taskforce last week along with 21 other agencies that came together to talk about rural prosperity and the barriers for rural prosperity to catch up with the urban areas regarding their livelihoods.
Closing Digital Divide for Students Requires Community Involvement, Workforce Training, Event Hears
Barriers to closing the divide including awareness of programs, resources and increasing digital literacy.
WASHINGTON, May 24, 2022 – Experts in education technology said Monday that to close the digital divide for students, the nation must eliminate barriers at the community level, including raising awareness of programs and resources and increasing digital literacy.
“We are hearing from schools and district leaders that it’s not enough to make just broadband available and affordable, although those are critical steps,” said Ji Soo Song, broadband advisor at the U.S. Department of Education, said at an event hosted by trade group the Self-Insurance Institute of America. “We also have to make sure that we’re solving for the human barriers that often inhibit adoption.”
Song highlighted four “initial barriers” that students are facing. First, a lack of awareness and understanding of programs and resources. Second, signing up for programs is often confusing regarding eligibility requirements, application status, and installment. Third, there may be a lack of trust between communities and services. Fourth, a lack of digital literacy among students can prevent them from succeeding.
Song said he believes that with the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, states have an “incredible opportunity to address adoption barriers.”
Workforce shortages still a problem, but funding may help
Rosemary Lahasky, senior director for government affairs at Cengage, a maker of educational content, added that current data suggests that 16 million students lack access to a broadband connection. While this disparity in American homes remained, tech job posts nearly doubled in 2021, but the average number of applicants shrunk by 25 percent.
But panelists said they are hopeful that funding will address these shortages. “Almost every single agency that received funding…received either direct funding for workforce training or were given the flexibility to spend some of their money on workforce training,” said Lahasky of the IIJA, which carves out funding for workforce training.
This money is also, according to Lahasky, funding apprenticeship programs, which have been recommended by many as a solution to workforce shortages.
Student connectivity has been a long-held concern following the COVID-19 pandemic. Students themselves are stepping up to fight against the digital inequity in their schools as technology becomes increasingly essential for success. Texas students organized a panel to discuss internet access in education just last year.
FTC Approves Policy Statement on Guiding Review of Children’s Online Protection
The policy statement provides the guiding principles for which the FTC will review the collection and use of children’s data online.
WASHINGTON, May 23, 2022 – The Federal Trade Commission last week unanimously approved a policy statement guiding how it will enforce the collection and use of children’s online data gathered by education technology companies.
The policy statement outlines four provisions in the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, including ones related to limiting the amount of data collected for children’s access to educational tools; restricting types of data collected and requiring reasons for why they are being collected; prohibiting ed tech companies from holding on to data for speculative purposes; and prohibiting the use of the data for targeted advertising purposes.
“Today’s statement underscores how the protections of the COPPA rule ensure children can do their schoolwork without having to surrender to commercial surveillance practices,” said FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan at an open meeting on Thursday.
Commissioner Rebecca Slaughter added Thursday that although COPPA provides the strongest data minimization rule in US law, it’s enforcement may not be as strong, saying that “this policy statement is timely and necessary.”
Slaughter, who was the acting FTC chairwoman before Khan was approved to lead the agency, said last year that the commission was taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to tackling privacy and data collection practices of ed tech companies, which has seen a boom in interest since the start of the pandemic.
Thursday’s statement comes after lawmakers have clamored for big technology companies to do more to prevent the unnecessary collection of children’s data online. It also comes after President Joe Biden said in his State of the Union address earlier this year that companies must be held accountable for the “national experiment they’re conducting on our children for profit.”
Lawmakers have already pushed legislation that would reform COPPA – originally published in 1998 to limit the amount of information that operators could collect from children without parental consent – to raise the age for online protections for children.
Thursday’s FTC statement also seeks to scrutinize unwarranted surveillance practices in education technology, such as geographic locating or data profiling. Khan added that though endless tracking and expansive use of data have become increasingly common practices, companies cannot extend these practices into schools.
Review is nothing new
“Today’s policy statement is nothing particularly new,” said Commissioner Noah Phillips, saying that the review started in July 2019.
Commissioner Christine Wilson, while supporting the statement, was also more withdrawn about its impact. “I am concerned that issuing policy statements gives the illusion of taking action, especially when these policy statements break no new ground.”
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.
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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