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

David Jelke

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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 Providers Grapple With Higher Than Normal Data Usage

Benjamin Kahn

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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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Telework

The Future of Work Relies on Technology and Broadband

Samuel Triginelli

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Screenshot of Adam Grant, Professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, in February 2016

January 29, 2021The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many companies to completely reimagine day-to-day processes and employee management. The shift to remote work has resulted in profound consequences for many. Meanwhile, the advancement of automation, hastened by the pandemic, means that many in-person jobs that previously existed, may not post-pandemic.

The future of work for many will likely be a hybrid of working-from-home and in-person, said panelists during a Washington Post Live event, sponsored by Dell Technologies, which aired Tuesday.

Many employees of Dell Technologies have been working a remote, in-person hybrid schedule for years. Dell implemented the blend of remote work in 2009 and today 65 percent of its workforce utilizes the alternative schedule.

The decision made years ago was a cornerstone of the company’s culture and caused the company to increasingly attract talent, said Kristi Hummel, senior vice president of Human Resources at Dell.

Upon making the transition, many executives worried it would be difficult to maintain company culture, especially among new hires, said Hummel. Dell has done an excellent job of focusing on outcomes and productivity levels, instead of where and how the work is done, she said.

The office atmosphere of 2021 and 2022 will be part of a larger change in companies, predicted Adam Grant, professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Grant said the shift to virtual work will be a cause to create more collaborative virtual work spaces.

“People will not be sitting in cubicles alone and offices will become more collaborative spaces, with more team rooms and private rooms, for private conversations and calls,” said Grant.

Companies will start to think more creatively about where they want to locate their offices and headquarters, Grant said. “2020 was the year of forced rethinking, and 2021 is the year of proactive rethinking,” said Grant, adding that companies need to plan for their operations to be deliverable over virtual platforms.

According to Zoom’s Chief Operation Officer Aparna Bawa, the web-based video conferencing tool is developing new features and enhancing existing assets to adapt to the burgeoning work-from-home market.

The platform still has limitations, such as being unable to transmit human senses, such as touch, smell, and taste, but Bawa has confirmed that the company is working on creating some of these features. Zoom engineers are working to implement noise tonalities, music features, and even a ‘handshake’ feature.

For the new world of work to become a reality, it is up to companies to unlock the most productivity from their workforces, remotely, concluded Susan Lund, partner at McKinsey Global Institute.

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Telework

At Federal Bar Event About Telemarketing, Autodialers Seek to Find Friends at Supreme Court

Liana Sowa

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December 7, 2020 – The issue of autodialed telephone calls, including robocalls, will be back on the agenda of the Supreme Court on Tuesday for the second time in seven months.

In oral arguments in Facebook, Inc. v. Duguid, the court intends to resolve a split among the circuit courts as to whether the Telephone Consumer Protection Act applies broadly to calls made on many types of dialing equipment – or is limited to calls made on equipment from the early 1990s.

If Facebook prevails, TCPA litigation is likely to be significantly curtailed. The matter builds upon the July 6, 2020, decision in Barr v. American Association of Political Consultants Inc. in which, by a 7-2 vote, the court said that because the TCPA’s exception for collecting government debts violated the First Amendment, the TCPA was preserved with the exception excised.

See “Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments About Robocalls Over the Telephone,” Broadband Breakfast, May 6, 2020.

Discussion about limits on the number of automatically dialed phone calls

Panelists at a November 19 event of the Federal Communications Bar Association generally came down on the side of the autodialers: They agreed that there should not be a broad frequency limit on calls.

This limit was suggested in a recent proposed regulation of the Federal Communications Commission that was intended to clarify some of the many and convoluted exemptions of the TCPA.

Leah Dempsey, senior counsel and vice president federal affairs of ACA International – which represents collection companies – said her members advocating against any limits on the amounts of calls.

Because of restrictions by other regulatory agencies overseeing telemarkers, having a broad frequency limit would lead to unintended consequences, she said.

Mark Stone, FCC deputy bureau chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, said he agreed: The quantity of calls was not “probative as to whether or not it [was] an autodialer.”

The TRACED Act is causing problems for collection company phone calls

Dempsey also mentioned some challenges the TRACED Act poses for a company’s ability to make calls subject to the TCPA. A lot of the industry has been seeing their calls blocked, and according to an industry survey, a lot of the calls were being blocked by either the carrier or a third party. She suggested that if callers were going to be notified of blocks to their calls notification would need to be timely—ideally within 24 hours.

She explained that sometimes legitimate calls aren’t being signed because they haven’t implemented the STIR/SHAKEN framework for cryptographically signing computer-generating phone calls. Many problems also arise from third party call labeling services partnering with carriers.

Finally, Panelists also talked about the reassigned numbers database. Ten years after its establishment, the issue is still a mess, said panelists.

Under TCPA, callers need prior express consent under the called party. There are several items of ambiguity here, such as what “call party” means under TCPA.

Additionally, when callers perform their due diligence to get consent but then find that by the time they place the call, the phone number they’ve called is no longer assigned to the same consumer. There’s been debate about who is liable at that point, panelists explained.

Of the courts that have examined this issue, most have decided that it is the caller’s responsibility to ensure the call party was the correct one. However, the D.C. Circuit Court disagreed, creating a conflict to be resolved by the Supreme Court.

Panelists at the FCBA event supported the FCC’s new national reassigned numbers database designed to help callers compile the data they need to avoid making erroneous calls. That said, Dempsey said if the database doesn’t work, she hopes to get more clarity on the issue overall.

Hogan Lovells Partner Mark Brennan and Eckert Seamans Cherin and Mellott LLC Partner Robert Gastner moderated the event.

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