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Tangled up in Telework? Federal Communications Bar Association Attorneys Have Some Tips for You

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Elizabeth Cuttner of the FCC and moderator of the FCBA panel

April 19, 2020 – With many Americans working from home and struggling to stay motivated and focused, lawyers from the Federal Communications Bar Association on Thursday offered some tips for staying productive during telework.

The session was moderated by Elizabeth Cuttner, attorney advisor in the FCC’s Competition Policy Division of the Wireline Bureau.

Matthew Collins, who has worked remotely for the Federal Communications Commission for the past year, shared three tips from his experience for how to remain productive during quarantine.

He said “getting in the right headspace for work” was the most important issue Collins identified. To do this, Collins recommended getting up often because it is easy to feel “chained to your laptop.”

“Going for a run can also be a great help.”

Second, Collins recommended “minimizing distractions.” “Find a spot in the dining room table” where you can work, Collins advised. Lastly try “setting boundaries.” Know when it’s time to “log on when it’s time to log on” and vice versa, Collins said. It’s easy to let things “bleed” between work and life. Especially in a society where you can get a message from a coworker in the late night. “Make it as much like working in the office as much as possible”

Rebecca Hussey of Crown Castle offered tips on “mentally prepping for telework.”

“If you’re like me, you may have thought to yourself, ‘what day is it?’” Hussey said.

She implored listeners to reflect on the time that they ordinarily would spend commuting to work. Are you using it to get ready for the day ahead, or “are you hiding under the covers asking yourself when is this madness going to be over?” Hussey suggested using that time “to set intentions for the day.”

Despite its tiresome repetition on blogs, actually dress like you’re actually going to work, Hussey implored. “Nobody needs to see their coworkers in an undershirt. Ever.” Hussey said that she was speaking from experience.

“In terms of morale,” Hussey recommended getting creative. One idea she suggested was “to schedule conversations or coffee with colleagues” via Zoom, something her organization has set up.

“Thirty minutes can drag on; 15 minutes seems to be just right,” Hussey suggested. Another idea Hussey recommended? “Virtual Power Point karaoke.”

“There are plenty of concerns” regarding privacy in this new space of telework, said Matthew Diaz of Ice Miller. Diaz swore that Ice Miller “is not a beer,” referencing his law firm’s unusual name.

Diaz recommended being mindful of sensitive business material while working at home. Apple has recently stressed to employees the importance of discretion surrounding working at home when it recently loosened the rules surrounding its notorious secrecy surrounding new product development.

Proprietary documents and gadgets should not be left on the table for children or spouses to peruse, Diaz said.

“It’s really easy for these hackers and scammers to socially engineer you,” Diaz added. Hackers are shifting from traditional email scams, such as the cliché of posing as a prince who is shipping diamonds from Africa.

“No longer is it the Black Panther” asking you for money in exchange for “parcels of land in Wakanda,” Diaz joked. Now, scammers are preying on the fear and the uncertainty of this situation by framing their emails as authoritative voices surrounding the coronavirus.

Diaz ended with three practical things you can implement to make sure your telework is more secure:

  • First, use a virtual private network
  • Second, make sure your router password isn’t easily guessable
  • Third, have “two-step,” or multi-factor authentication.

“We have locks on our doors and windows,” Diaz said. Why not put them on our laptops and cell phones?

David Jelke was a Reporter for Broadband Breakfast. He graduated from Dartmouth College with a degree in neuroscience. Growing up in Miami, he learned to speak Spanish during a study abroad semester in Peru. He is now teaching himself French on his iPhone.

Telework

Broadband Breakfast Interview: Waves Wants to Connect Entrepreneurs with Each Other

A resurgent pandemic is giving a company that remotely connects entrepreneurs with each other increasing popularity.

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Waves co-founder Kourosh Ghaffari

August 5, 2021 – As a resurgent pandemic places continued uncertainty on the workplace, despite increasing vaccinations, a new entrepreneur networking startup launched during the pandemic called Waves is growing.

Based out of London, England, and co-founded by Kourosh Ghaffari and Michelangelo Valtancoli, Waves connects entrepreneurs from all backgrounds with other entrepreneurs who share similar interests.

Broadband Breakfast interviewed Ghaffari to learn how Waves came to be and where he sees it going.

Geared toward early-stage student entrepreneurs, members of the “Wave community” are grouped into “waves,” or people with similar entrepreneurial aspirations. Then they are given curated content, weekly calls, and daily chats for free.

‘Micro communities that are personalized to you’

Waves currently has a few “Wave” groups made, but is rapidly growing its membership as new members joining are put on a waitlist until the right “Wave” comes along for them to be put in. After three weeks, members are switched out into new Wave groups to continue socializing and connecting with new entrepreneurs that can grow their knowledge.

For example, EdTech entrepreneurs will be connected with others who have knowledge in EdTech. Virtually all communication is done online using popular messaging platforms like WhatsApp, Zoom, Slack, or Google Hangouts as the pandemic continues despite rising vaccinations.

“After testing Waves on nearly 600 users in just four months, we have closed out testing round,” said Ghaffari. Waves is now focusing on developing its business model to include business to business (B2B) clients who want to activate and engage their users, he added. Waves already booked its first client and is post-revenue heading toward profitability, he said.

Started a podcast

Ghaffari said he and Valtancoli started a podcast called “Almost Founders” that shares “practical content about early-stage entrepreneurship with a successful founder every week.”

The two co-founders saw their podcast community grow to a few hundred members, and wondered how they could keep listeners and supporters in more manageable groups. This is to keep from losing people during high growth periods.

He and Valtancoli found that groups of 10 people were the ‘goldilocks’ size to keep people involved on a personal level of connection while still having a big enough network to reach out to.

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Telework Can Be Mainstay If Broadband Gets Up to Speed

Experts say telework is here to stay, so long as broadband disparities are fixed.

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Aspen Institute's Shelly Steward

July 15, 2021 – As companies across the United States begin to open again, offices are preparing to make a crucial decision: to go virtual or implement a hybrid model.

But the decision may not be as clear-cut because connectivity has to be there to make a virtual work environment work, say observers, and some don’t have those advantages.

“They do not have the same job opportunities as those who do have access to broadband,” said Shelly Steward, director of the future of work initiative at the Aspen Institute during a virtual summit on Tuesday.

“If we want telework to be the future, this is critical to the process.”

Covid-19 provided an opportunity for companies to take the risk and redefine employees’ positions in order to provide the flexibility needed to work from home. “It was a forced experiment,” said Steward.

Steward said there are both benefits and challenges to digitizing the workforce. She said that telework allows for less routine and mundane work and that employees have said they feel safer and are more likely to be prepared if something comes up.

Resilience, Steward explained, was the benefit of digitalization. More money and time has gone into training and preparing employees for any kind of disruption, so they can continue to work. If there’s a natural disaster, another pandemic, or just a day-to-day life crisis, they will be prepared.

Michael Bailey, vice president at the Washington Department of Revenue, said during an event on the hybrid workforce at the summit that resilience was not “just in people but the organizations themselves.”

Companies were pushed to become flexible and accommodating in the process of shifting as many people as possible to home-based telework during the crisis.

However, during this shift, they were able to see the possibilities of positions remaining at home. Workers began to prefer working from home, emissions and office costs were reduced, and many people were able to better balance work and family roles.

“People will change their habits, and some of these habits will stick. There’s a lot of things where people are just slowly shifting, and this will accelerate that.” economist Susan Athey told the Washington Post last March.

However, Steward emphasized that “one size does not fit all.” She explained that many workers severely struggled this past year with professional isolation and may not approve of continuing this format. Inequalities can be exacerbated, Steward explained.

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Broadband Providers Grapple With Higher Than Normal Data Usage

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Screenshot from the webinar

February 10, 2021—While the world continues a work-from-home orientation, broadband providers are searching for new and innovative solutions to keep up with the demands of this new normal.

“During the first six months of the last year, 2020, we have seen an increase of 62% in Wi-Fi data usage,” said Oz Yildrim, executive vice president and general manager of Airties’ Americas Business Unit.

Yildrim said that before the pandemic, there were significant differences in weekday versus weekend broadband usage, but with so much of the world telecommuting during lockdowns, this difference has disappeared.

“We used to see 6.5 gigabytes [of] data usage during weekdays and 80 gigabytes during weekends,” he said. “Now, every day is the same and we are averaging around 11.5 gigabytes of data usage per day.”

Yildrim also emphasized that Wi-Fi usage went up by four percent during work hours and that reported Wi-Fi issues increased by 70%. He said that in his opinion, the next step in meeting this level of demand would be implementing 6E technology — the next generation Wi-Fi that will exist on the 6 GigaHertz (GHz) band, instead of the standard 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz – in consumer infrastructure.

Mike Talbert, associate fellow with Verizon global network and technology, noted that while he agreed with Yildrim’s assessment, he added that expanding the spectrum would also play a crucial role in meeting consumer demand. Talbert pointed out that everything from lightbulbs to doors to washers and driers is connected to Wi-Fi, and that this trend of connectivity is only going to increase in the wake of the pandemic.

Both Talbert and Yildrim wanted to make it clear that the wants and needs of every consumer are different and that broadband providers would need to be able to address this diversity of demand in terms of the types of services they provide.

Yildrim said that it is not even enough to recognize what consumers’ needs are today and that broadband providers need to be actively trying to assess the needs of tomorrow.

“We didn’t have that many peloton devices connected to our networks two years ago—so we don’t know what’s gonna come, but we know these services will have different requirements.”

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