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Work-From-Home Here to Stay, Says Federal Communications Commissioner Michael O’Rielly

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Photo of Federal Communications Commissioner Michael O’Rielly by Eric Bridiers used with permission

June 12, 2020 — Americans will continue to work from home after the spread of the coronavirus is over, said Federal Communications Commissioner Michael O’Rielly in a US Telecom webinar Thursday.

 

O’Rielly predicted that industries that do not require employees to be present in person would mostly continue to telework, and therefore workers would have to transition to working from home permanently.

 

“We’re going to move towards that,” he said. “We’re going to be set up and have an established facility within your own domain to be able to handle such a circumstance.”

 

Broadband is more important than ever, and O’Rielly claimed that the FCC has recently taken steps to ensure that the internet is accessible to as many people as possible.

 

However, he said, the problem is still dire.

 

“If you accept it at face value between 18 and… 20 million Americans do not have broadband of the 25/3 speed availability,” he said.

 

The agency has approved the disbursement of $16 billion of funds for underserved communities through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. The money will be distributed through a reverse auction in October.

 

When asked if telecom companies could effectively deploy 5G across the country, O’Rielly was hesitantly optimistic.

 

“Could it be built? Yes,” he said. “Can it be done fast? No.”

 

He said that when it came to the rollout of such services in a widespread fashion, measured action was the best policy because funding is scarce and the projects take time.

 

“People don’t like to hear that. They want to hear in two years you’re going to solve 20 million folks that don’t have access today,” he said. “It’s not probably in the cards, and they just don’t like to hear that.”

 

Despite the pandemic and its complications, O’Rielly said, the future is bright for telework, although it will take time.

 

Elijah Labby was a Reporter with Broadband Breakfast. He was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and now resides in Orlando, Florida. He studies political science at Seminole State College, and enjoys reading and writing fiction (but not for Broadband Breakfast).

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

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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Telework

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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