September 24, 2020 — Many states have taken action to speed the deployment of broadband to unserved and underserved regions by developing statewide broadband programs that typically include funding commitments, legislative initiatives, and provide access to other inventive resources.
“States play a very important role in expanding broadband access,” said Anna Read, officer of broadband research initiatives at Pew Charitable Trusts, during a webinar on regional and state broadband initiatives on Wednesday, which aired as part of Broadband Communities 2020 Virtual Summit.
“About half of states have broadband grant programs and have been funding infrastructure projects to unserved regions,” said Read, who recently completed a report that offers a detailed look at what constitutes an effective approach to state broadband programs.
Read’s report finds that successful state approaches tend to consist of stakeholder engagement, a clear policy framework, planning and capacity building, sufficient funding, and program evaluation and evolution.
See “How States Are Expanding Broadband Access,” Pew Trusts, February 27, 2020
Read detailed findings from the state broadband programs she found to have the most success, as she was completing a case study on nine states’ broadband initiatives, for the recently published report.
“One of the earliest states to establish a broadband program was Maine,” said Read, saying the state established ConnectME Authority as an independent state agency in 2006.
In 2015, Maine’s administration passed further legislature which provided financial support for planning grants, which help communities come together to develop solutions and aid in educating local leaders on the importance of broadband.
Maine’s broadband agency has been providing grants for over a decade and continues to adapt their approach to best cater to public need, according to Read.
“Minnesota has been a leader in the space for a number of years,” said Read, detailing another successful state initiative.
“The state not only has a broadband grant fund, but has state established broadband goals,” said Read. The state has an interim goal of providing 25 download / 3 upload Megabit per second, Mbps, speeds to all Minnesotans, and a secondary goal of providing 100/20 Mbps speeds to state residents by 2026.
“By setting state standards, the state’s Broadband Task Force has been able to focus on making progress towards the higher speed goals,” said Read. According to Read, Minnesota “has become a state that others look to” when establishing broadband initiatives.
The value of regionalism to bring better broadband
Jory Wolf, vice president of digital innovation at Magellan Advisors, spoke on the value of regionalism, and the merit of cities and counties coming together to form coalitions, to bring better broadband.
Wolf detailed a case where 15 cities banded together in South Bay, California to build a regional broadband network, in the hopes of boosting local economic development.
“Most of the cities involved had no fiber and no copper assets,” said Wolf, arguing that “each one of these cities would not have been able to do this on their own.”
The expert panel expressed their hopes for the future of regional and state broadband initiatives, in conclusion. Read said states need to “address barriers and take actions to foster projects.” She noted that while the pandemic has rendered a lot of attention to short term solutions, there is a lot more states could be doing to address long-term barriers in policy, planning and commitment.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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