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Applications for Municipalities and States to Join Key FCC Intergovernmental Advisory Committee Due Monday

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WASHINGTON, March 7, 2018 – Local government officials seeking to offer a corrective tonic on broadband deployment to the Federal Communications Commission may consider applying for the expanded Intergovernmental Advisory Committee.

Nominations for the more-than-10-year-old group are due on Monday, March 12, at 6 p.m. ET, according to a public notice published by the FCC on January 11.

The group’s mission is to provide elected municipal officers, county officers, a governor, state legislators, and other local officials with the opportunity to influence communications policy.

The group has historically been composed of 15 members, and recently suffered the additional loss when member Ed Lee, the Mayor San Francisco, passed away in December 2017.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has pushed to expand the group from its prior composition of 15 member to 30 members. Of those 30, a minimum of 4 shall be city mayors or city council members, 3 shall be state legislators, 3 shall be Native American Tribal representatives, 2 shall be county officials, with at least one governor, public utility commissioner, and local government attorney, respectively.

The remaining 15 slots are to be composed of similar elected or appointed local government officials.

Criticisms of the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee

Some on the long-standing Intergovernmental Advisory Committee have been critical of last year’s active push through a rival advisory body, the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee.

The BDAC was announced on January 31, 2017, and has assembled an array of telecommunications industry observers centered around streamlining siting communications facilities on federal lands, competitive access to broadband infrastructure, and proposed model  codes for states and cities.

However, only one local government representative, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, was included on the initial BDAC, although two other local officials — Lenexa, Kansas, Mayor Andy Huckaba and Georgia Municipal Association Executive Director Larry Hanson — were subsequently added.

In January 2018, Liccardo resigned from the BDAC in protest after their January 23-24 meting.

Liccardo said BDAC will ‘further the interests of the telecommunications industry over the public’

“When I joined this committee, I hoped that I could contribute to developing balanced, common-sense recommendations that will advance our goal of expanding broadband access for all Americans, which FCC Chairman Ajit Pai identified as his ‘top priority’ at yesterday’s meeting,” Liccardo said in a statement.

“It has become abundantly clear, however, that Chairman Pai and the FCC merely pay lip service to the goal of digital equity, and this body will simply serve to further the interests of the telecommunications industry over the public interest,” said the first-term Democratic mayor, who is up for reelection this November.

At its January meeting, the group received reports from each of the major working groups, and also considered progress on the proposed model codes for states and municipalities.

The next BDAC meeting will be held on April 25, 2018, and is scheduled to receive reports from working groups, including the proposed model codes.

A corrective to BDAC from the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee?

Local government critics of the BDAC — including several members of the IAC– say that they have diminishing hopes that local government opinions will be reflected in the final BDAC product.

IAC is a standing advisory committee, and its members serve for a two-year term that begins with its first meeting. Members need to re-apply after two years, and the IAC does change frequently.

Additionally, IGA has a more comprehensive history and legacy than the one-year-old BDAC. Prior members of the group include New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Lenexa Mayor Huckaba (now on the BDAC), Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Virginia Gov. Terence McAuliffe, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, and others.

Pai had pressed the FCC to expand the IGA size over the objection of others at the agency, including Mignon Clyburn. The FCC voted to expand the body in December, and the public notice was published on January 11 of this year.

Application process for the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee

Although the deadline is on Monday, agency official Carmen Scanlon said the elements that must be received by that date include a letter of interest, a resume showcasing the public official’s expertise and activities in the field of communication, and contact information.

Also unlike the BDAC, the IAC is exempt from the Federal Advisory Committee Act. That is so because IAC officials are all “elected or appointed local government” officials, and must be on the staff of the municipal or county government represented and be part of the governmental process.

This is done, Scanlon said, “to ensure that the Committee can continue to operate with the informality and flexibility that have proven so effective in the past and that inhere in its FACA-exempt status.”

From the FCC’s Public Notice on the IAC:

CANDIDATE EXPERTISE

The Commission is especially interested in candidates with expertise in communications and information technology, and candidates representing rural and Tribal areas, especially candidates with expertise in the challenges of rural broadband adoption.

APPLICATIONS AND SELECTION

Interested candidates should submit their applications to the Commission.  Please note that applicants will be serving on the IAC as representatives of their jurisdictions and not as representatives of any organizations that may recommend them.  Applications may be submitted as follows: (1) online via email; and/or (2) hardcopy via mail.  Applications must be received by no later than 6 pm 60 days from the release of this PN.

Applications submitted via email must be sent to IGA@fcc.gov.  Hard copy applications submitted via mail must be addressed to:

Attn:  Carmen Scanlon, Attorney Advisor
Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554

The application does not require a particular format but must include the following information:

  • Resume (including applicant’s current position);
  • Contact information (both email and mailing addresses, as well as telephone numbers);
  • A brief description of the applicant’s area of expertise and qualifications to serve on the IAC, including the applicant’s experience with telecommunications issues affecting local, state, or Tribal governments. Candidates are encouraged to provide links to any articles they have authored on relevant topics and/or public appearances available on the web for viewing; and,
  • The position(s) that the applicant is applying for, i.e., elected municipal officials (city mayors and city council members); county officials (county commissioners or council members); elected or appointed local government attorney; elected state executive (Governor or Lieutenant Governor); elected state legislators; elected or appointed public utilities or public service commissioner; or elected or appointed Native American Tribal representatives. If an applicant potentially qualifies for more than one position on the IAC, he or she should specify which position(s) they seek.

Once the Chairman of the Commission selects the new IAC members, the Commission will release a Public Notice announcing the appointments.

(Photo of the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee at their last meeting in October 2017 from the FCC.)

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney at The CommLaw Group. He has closely tracked the trends in and mechanics of digital infrastructure for 20 years, and has helped fiber-based and fixed wireless providers navigate coverage, identify markets, broker infrastructure, and operate in the public right of way. The articles and posts on Broadband Breakfast and affiliated social media, including the BroadbandCensus Twitter feed, 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.

Digital Inclusion

Debra Berlyn: What’s New in 2022 for Aging and Tech?

Older adults continue at a rapid pace to adopt tech that assists the aging process.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Debra Berlyn, executive director of GOAL

It’s the start of a new year and time to view what’s on the horizon for the latest technology innovations. To our great anticipation, the most significant technology event of the year, the Consumer Electronics Show, returned in-person to Las Vegas!

CES 2022 literally rolled in with some eye-catching innovations and gadgets unveiled at CES, notably with a BMW that can change its color and patterns with the use of a phone app. CES also unveiled the usual army of robots to clean the house, provide learning skills, and entertain. The Ameca robot is “human-like” and can be programmed with software using artificial intelligence, offering both speech and facial/object recognition. Ameca will engage in conversation and complement you on your lovely red hat.

The more important technology story for consumers for 2022, isn’t just the “wow” innovations that may or may not make it to market this year, it is the tech that will enhance and improve all of our lives. This is particularly important for the aging community, who increasingly rely on tech to stay connected to family and community, and as an important component of healthcare.

Those 65 and older continue to adopt tech at a rapid pace, narrowing the gap with their age 18-29 younger counterparts. Now, over 65% of older adults have broadband at home, 44% have tablets, and 61% have a smartphone. These “basics” form the foundation for layering the more sophisticated health and wellness and smart home innovations available today, and on the horizon.

The pandemic has emphasized the importance of tech for the aging community. A recent AARP study has confirmed that technology is a “habit” that is here to stay for older adults. The past couple of years has led to an emphasis on tech devices to monitor our health, help us stay fit and get connected to our health care professionals.  We are spending more time at home for work and leisure, and while at home we want to be able to manage our energy use, home security, appliances and more.

According to the chief technology officer at Amazon, Werner Vogels, one of his primary predictions for tech this year is, “In 2022, our homes and buildings will become better assistants and more attentive companions to truly help with our most human needs. The greatest impact in the next few years will be with the elderly.”

Technology can provide solutions to make life easier for older individuals

A critical opportunity that technology provides is to solve tough problems such as how to make life just a bit easier for older individuals and address their greatest challenges as they age.  Voice assistive tech continues to be a popular device for older adults. One-third (35%) of those 50-plus now own a home assistant, up from 17% just two years ago, with the voice assistant serving as a significant tool to reduce isolation for older adults.

While the AARP study found that growth of ownership of voice assistants, such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home, may have slowed for younger demographic groups, ownership continues to be on the rise for older adults.

Here are several examples of innovations for the aging community:

  • The Labrador Retriever is an assistive “robot” that empowers individuals to live more independently by providing practical, physical assistance with everyday activities. The robot is a rolling container with trays that can be “commanded” to go to different locations in the home to retrieve objects and carry them to various locations. It maps the home and “learns” how to navigate the space to operate wirelessly.
  • Tech devices that enable older individuals to track several critical aging factors continue to be introduced and desired in the marketplace. The “Buddy” from LiveFreely, is smartwatch software that monitors and manages fall prediction and detection, medication schedules and reminders, and emergency notifications. With alerts to family members, caregivers and emergency services providers, it provides wearers with an enhanced sense of security and independence. The software operates on both the Apple and Fitbit device.
  • For any aging adult with mobility issues, or their caregivers, you know that just getting around can be a challenge and now there are advances to the most needed tool in aging: the walker. One company, Camino, has developed a sleeker, advanced walker with an ergonomic design, lights and improved navigation for bumps in the road to provide greater walking assurance and balance.
  • The “Freestyle,” from Samsung, is an entertainment component of the smart home for older adults. It is a projector device with accessibility features that can be used inside the home or out, to project content such as a movie, photos or messages from any smartphone onto any surface.

AARP’s 2022 study on technology trends also recognizes that the increasing older demographic has significant purchasing power in the consumer market, including for technology spending. The study found, “Tech spending in 2020 among adults 50+ is up 194% (from $394 to $1144) to modernize, update, or create a better experience online.”

It also projected that by the year 2030, “the 50-plus market is projected to swell to 132 million people who are expected to spend on average $108 billion annually on tech products.”

In the coming years, older adults will have a wide range of new and innovative products to exercise their market power and find the right technology to enhance and assist their lives as they age. Over the past decade, technology has empowered older adults to be increasingly more independent, battle isolation, and stay informed and connected.  While we can’t predict the future, the next decade should be an exciting opportunity for new innovations for the aging community.

Debra Berlyn serves as the executive director of The Project to Get Older Adults onLine (GOAL), and she is also the president of Consumer Policy Solutions. She represented AARP on telecom issues and the digital television transition and has worked closely with national aging organizations on several internet issues, including online safety and privacy concerns.  She serves as vice chair of the Federal Communications Commission’s Consumer Advisory Committee and is on the board of the National Consumers League and is a board member and senior fellow with the Future of Privacy Forum. This Expert Opinion 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 reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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Digital Inclusion

Digital Inclusion Leaders a Critical Step to Closing Digital Divide: National League of Cities

The National League of Cities said government leaders need to have ‘multiple points of engagement’ with communities.

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Lena Geraghty, National League of Cities director of urban innovation

WASHINGTON, January 20, 2022 – To understand the digital divide, cities need to include digital equity leaders in their broadband needs assessment programs, the National League of Cities said at an event on community connectivity challenges Wednesday.

A broadband needs assessment would allow city leaders to explore the extent of the digital divide in their communities, said Lena Geraghty, the National League of Cities’ director of urban innovation.

“[A needs assessment] enable city leaders to dig into who’s being excluded, what’s currently available in your city, and what solutions city leaders can use” to close the digital divide, she said.

“The community is going to know best about where access exists, where gaps exist, and the needs that will make connectivity better,” Geraghty said. To get the best picture of a community’s need, stakeholders must find and include the community’s digital equity leaders in the data-gathering process, she added.

“These could be people that are knowledgeable about digital equity or people that are experiencing the digital divide,” she said. “Think really broadly about what it means to be a leader and the type of information these folks can bring to bear in solving the digital divide in your communities.”

Geraghty said it may be useful to formalize the leaders’ work by creating a broadband working group or ad hoc committee led by the city’s government. “Giving some roles and responsibilities can help everyone move in the same in direction, there’s agreement, and really clear goals and outcomes.”

Geraghty added that it’s important for government leaders to establish multiple points of engagement for the community. “It’s not enough to gather data or information from people once,” she said. “The state of access to the internet and devices is always changing,” so leaders should create multiple touch points for community input.

The National League of Cities released its Digital Equity Playbook for cities in December, walking readers through how they can promote digital equity in their cities. The playbook has a four-step process on how to get started with digital equity.

By walking readers through the process of connecting with the community, evaluating the connectivity landscape, gathering foundational information and reporting on findings, city leaders will be prepared to target broadband funding to unserved and underserved areas in their communities.

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Environment

FCC Commissioner Starks Says Commission Looking into Impact of Broadband, 5G on Environment

Starks sat down to discuss the promise of smart grid technology for the environment.

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FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks

WASHINGTON, January 19, 2022 – Former and current leaders within the Federal Communications Commission agreed Thursday that it is important to make sure the FCC’s broadband efforts support the nation’s goals for the environment.

On Thursday, during a Cooley law firm fireside chat event, Robert McDowell, a former FCC director, and current FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks discussed how broadband expansion and next-generation 5G mobile networks will affect the environment.

Starks said that the commission is currently focusing on answering that exact question and are evaluating the current attempts to protect the environment, as more money is expected from the federal government and as broadband infrastructure expands. That includes putting more fiber into the ground and erecting more cell towers, but also allowing for a broadband-enabled smart grid system that will make automated decisions on energy allocation.

Smart grid systems, for example, provide real-time monitoring of the energy used in the electrical system. These systems can help to reduce consumption and carbon emissions, Starks said, by rerouting excess power and addressing power outages instantaneously in the most efficient and environmentally friendly manner. The smart grid systems will monitor “broadband systems in the 900 MHz band,” said Starks.

Starks also noted the Senate’s “Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation” initiative, which would set apart $500 million for cities across America so they can begin working on ways to lower carbon emissions.

FCC also focused on digital discrimination

Starks said the commission is also focusing on “making sure that there is no digital discrimination on income level, race, ethnicity, religion, national origin,” and that it all comes down to funding and who needs the money.

He stated that the first step is to finalize the maps and data that have been collected so funding can be targeted to the areas and people that need it the most. Many have remarked that the $65 billion allocated to broadband from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will not be divvied out until adequate maps are put in place.

Starks noted that broadband subsidy program Lifeline, although fundamental to some people’s lives, is significantly underutilized. Starks stated that participation rates hover around 20 percent, which led the FCC to explore other options while attempting to make Lifeline more effective. For example, the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program – which provides monthly broadband subsidies – has been replaced by the Affordable Connectivity Program, a long-term and revised edition of the pandemic-era program.

Starks and McDowell also stated their support for the confirmation by the Senate of Alan Davidson as the permanent head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and expressed that Davidson will be a key player in these efforts.

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