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Broadband's Impact

Pilot Program Will Target Child Mental Health and Maternal Mortality Rates, FCC Says

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WASHINGTON, June 17, 2019 — Among the items passed unanimously at the Federal Communications Commission July 10 meeting was the creation of a three-year, $100 million pilot program to support the delivery of telehealth services to rural and low-income Americans.

“From chronic disease management to pediatric cardiology, from PTSD to opioid dependency, this pilot has the potential to make a real difference for low-income individuals that currently lack access to quality health care,” said Commissioner Brendan Carr, a Republican, who helped champion the initiative.

The Connected Care Services program should include providing care and support to those suffering from mental illnesses, especially children, said Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, a Democrat.

Direct online connections could enable practicing child psychiatrists to be more readily available to see patients when emergencies arise. They would also allow for recurring visits as part of a long-term treatment plan.

The United States is “facing a critical shortage of child psychiatrists,” Starks said, and this problem has the potential to leave a long-lasting negative effect on the country unless it is addressed with tools such as telehealth services.

The program could also be an important step to solving the maternal mortality crisis, said Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, pointing out that the U.S. is the most dangerous place to give birth in the developed world, especially for women of color and those living in rural areas.

Consistent monitoring is key for those with dangerous pregnancy-related conditions such as pre-eclampsia, but for those in isolated rural areas, it can be extremely difficult, expensive, and time consuming to get to health care providers with any degree of frequency.

Telehealth services could potentially solve this problem. If patients were given blood pressure cuffs, scales, pulse oximeters, and other tools, their conditions could be remotely monitored. But if they lack home access to high-speed broadband, this won’t work.

Broadband problems are preventing us from solving healthcare problems, said Rosenworcel, urging the agency to adopt clear and specific goals for the pilot program with maternal mortality “front and center.”

“The FCC is correct to acknowledge that even though telemedicine can help make health care more accessible, the lack of affordable, robust, or reliable broadband access often means patients cannot take advantage of the benefits of telehealth services, said Phillip Berenbroick, senior policy council at Public Knowledge. “Importantly, this NPRM makes clear that the sky-high price of broadband not only impacts consumers’ wallets and takes a toll on their access to vital health information, but also imposes costs on their health.”

Telemedicine is not the only area that would benefit from lowering the cost of broadband access, added Berenbroick, pointing out that making broadband more affordable would increase “economic participation, access to education, and civic engagement.”

According to the FCC’s own data, U.S. consumers pay some of the highest prices for fixed and mobile broadband in the developed world.

Although the plan carries significant potential benefits, it comes at a hefty cost. The $100 million pilot would supposedly be funded by the Universal Service Fund, but the FCC has not yet proposed including it in within any of the four existing USF programs.

As the FCC has started to fine-tune the program in the days following the vote, they are looking into the option of funding the pilot program separately from USF so as not to impact the high cost, low income, rural health care, or schools and libraries support mechanisms.

(Photo of FCC July meeting by Emily McPhie.)

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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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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.

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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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