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Broadband's Impact

Ad Spending in Georgia Runoff, FAA Announces New Drone Rules, COVID Relief Bill’s Broadband Provisions

Jericho Casper

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Photo of Sen. David Perdue from Wikipedia

In 2016, political ad spending hit $1.1 billion and it is projected to hit $2.7 billion in 2020, according to Advertising Analytics. The majority of those dollars will be spent on digital video ads placed on a variety of websites including Google, YouTube and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, with the hope of swaying voters who remain undecided.

With eight days to go until the Georgia Senate runoff elections and with early voting underway, Democrats have begun closing in on what was previously a pronounced GOP ad spending advantage in the state.

With just over a week left in the contests, ad spending is up to nearly $540 million overall for the consequential elections that will determine which party has control of the Senate.

Republicans lead Democrats in total Georgia ad spending, including reservations since November 10 and through the runoff, by about $281.7 million to $256.6 million.

Democratic candidates have raised money almost entirely through the strength of grassroots donations. Jon Ossoff has spent over $100 million in ads, while Reverend Raphael Warnock is at nearly $90 million, compared to about $53.7 million spent by Senator Kelly Loeffler and $45.7 million for Senator David Perdue, the Republican candidates.

When it comes to spending by outside groups on behalf of the candidates for Senate, Republicans lead Democrats by nearly 3-to-1 — $180.5 million to $63.1 million.

Outside sponsors wasted little time to influence the two crucial contests after incumbent candidates Perdue and Loeffler failed to hit the 50 percent threshold on Election Day, setting up elections against their Democratic challengers, set to take place January 5.

Major outside GOP donors include American Crossroads, the Republican super PAC founded by Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC affiliated with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Peachtree PAC, which, despite the name suggesting homegrown roots, is an arm of the Senate Leadership Fund.

American Crossroads has so far spent over $48 million on digital ads promoting the Republican candidates, while the Senate Leadership Fund has spent over $46.8 million and Peachtree PAC has spent over $42.8 million.

Meanwhile, the strength of the Democratic candidates’ fundraising and resulting ad budgets has diminished the GOP outside spending advantage. Warnock and Ossoff each brought in more than $100 million in a two-month period, setting a blistering fundraising pace in their quest to topple two Republican incumbents in Georgia.

FAA outlines new rules for drones, eases restrictions on flying drones at night

The Federal Aviation Administration issued new guidelines on Monday allowing drones to operate at night and over people. The change in rules will likely expand the use of the machines for commercial deliveries.

The new rules will also require remote identification technology so that the machines are identifiable from the ground. The FAA said this standard will address security concerns and make drones easier to track.

“These final rules carefully address safety, security and privacy concerns while advancing opportunities for innovation and utilization of drone technology,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao in a statement.

The changes, once in effect, will amend current policies that previously forbade drone operations over people and at night, unless the FAA granted a waiver.

Industry representatives have largely welcomed the FAA’s new rules. The Consumer Technology Association commended the FAA for releasing the “long-awaited final rules” in a statement, calling it a major milestones as drones become more integrated into national airspace.

“Properly implemented, these rules will enhance safety and security by allowing authorities to identify drones flying in their jurisdictions, while supporting expanded and beneficial uses of drones across the U.S.,” said Doug Johnson, vice president of technology policy at CTA.

The new rules will become effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register next month.

Free State Foundation recaps COVID relief bill’s broadband funding provisions

In a recent publication, the Free State Foundation’s Andrew Long recapped the broadband funding provisions included in the COVID-19 relief bill, signed by President Donald Trump on Sunday night. The $2.3 trillion coronavirus relief and government funding bill includes nearly $7 billion for broadband-related initiatives.

“Areas of focus include an emergency discount on broadband Internet access service for low-income and economically impacted households, funding to “rip and replace” insecure communications network equipment, broadband deployment grants for Tribal lands and unserved areas, additional money for telehealth, and much-needed funds for updated broadband coverage maps,” writes Long.

Long includes a statement by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai applauding “Congress for including a number of provisions that advance critical national priorities in communications policy” and saluting “Congressional leaders for working together in a bipartisan manner to reach agreement on this consequential legislation that will help protect our national security, close the digital divide, advance telehealth, and promote American leadership in 5G.”

FSF has long called for Congress to fund much needed broadband maps. FSF President Randolph May and Long noted in “Congress Should Fund Needed Broadband Maps This Session,” a recent Perspectives piece from FSF Scholars, that the money required to fund mapping efforts, until now, had not been appropriated.

FSF welcomed the legislation providing the Federal Communications Commission with the full $65 million amount requested by Chairman Pai.

Digital Inclusion

Popularity Of Telework And Telehealth Presents Unique Opportunities For A Post-Pandemic World

A survey released earlier this month illustrates opportunities for remote work and care.

Benjamin Kahn

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Screenshot of Hernan Galperin via YouTube

April 20, 2021—A survey conducted by the University of Southern California in conjunction with the California Emerging Technology Fund explored the popularity and availability of opportunities for telework and telehealth in California.

At an event hosted by USC and CETF Monday, experts dissected the survey released earlier this month to explain the implications it may have for the future. Hernán Galerpin is an Associate Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California. He served as the lead investigator for the survey, which analyzed Californians’ attitudes towards their new schedules during the Covid-19 Pandemic.

The first statistic Galerpin noted was the extent of broadband growth in California between 2008 and 2021. According to the survey, in 2008, only 55 percent of Californians had broadband coverage. By 2021, the number had risen steeply to 91 percent, with 85 percent of Californian’s utilizing broadband through either a desktop, laptop, or tablet (with the rest connected exclusively through a smartphone).

This is significant because it helps to explain the next statistic Galerpin showed; according to his data, Galerpin stated that approximately 38 percent of employed adults worked remotely five days a week over the course of the pandemic, while 45 percent did not work remotely (17 percent worked between 1-4 days remotely).

When asked how many times they would like to telecommute to work, respondents were most likely to indicate a preference for what they had become accustomed to; those who worked from home five days a week had a 42 percent chance of preferring working from home 5 days a week; those who worked from home three to four days a week had a 35 percent chance of preferring a three to four day telecommute schedule; those who worked remotely one to two days per week had a 56 percent chance of favoring a one to two day telecommuting schedule.

The data collected also indicated that low-income and Hispanic workers were disproportionately unable to telecommute.

Overall, telecommuting five days a week was the most popular option, with 31 percent of total respondents favoring that arrangement. By comparison, only 18 percent of respondents favored a schedule without any telecommuting.

President and CEO of CETF Sunne Wright McPeak called this data “unprecedented,” and stated that broadband had the potential to serve as a “green strategy” that could limit the number of miles driven by employees, and ultimately reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as other harmful pollutants. According to the data, as many as 55 percent of work commutes could be offset by a reconfigured telecommuting schedule.

The benefits of broadband did not stop there, however. Data also indicated that nearly 70 percent of Californians 65 years and older were able to utilize telehealth services, whether that was over the phone/smartphone or computer. Unsurprisingly, wealthier Californians were also more likely to benefit from telehealth services, with nearly 56 percent of low-income Californians going without telehealth, compared to 43 percent of “not low income” Californians.

An additional positive sign was that the overwhelming majority of disabled individuals were able to utilize telehealth services, with 70 percent of disabled respondents indicating that they were able to do so over the course of the pandemic.

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Education

Multilingual Digital Navigators Crucial For Inclusion

Digital liaisons who speak multiple languages can help guide multilingual communities for the digital future.

Derek Shumway

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Screenshot taken from the Net Inclusion webinar

April 19, 2021 – Encouraging multilingualism among digital navigators will help facilitate better inclusion in digital adoption, experts said last week.

Speaking Spanish is a huge plus for digital navigators in Salt Lake City, Utah, for example, as many of its focused neighborhoods needing to be connected to broadband speak the language,  said Shauna McNiven Edson, digital inclusion coordinator at Salt Lake City Public Library.

Edson and other panelists spoke last Wednesday at the 2021 Net Inclusion Webinar Series hosted by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, a digital inclusion advocacy group on what skills are needed to become a digital navigator.

At the Salt Lake City Public Library, progress is there but challenges persist for digital inclusion and navigation. Edson said there were about 450 participants in its library program’s group for digital inclusion. However, only about 5 percent of participants, or 22 people, have adequate broadband at home. Seventy-five percent of members said they needed help finding a computer or internet-enabled deice, and 10 percent of its 450 members have contacted the library’s support staff for It issues.

Digital navigators are crucial because they connect community members with the skills and resources they need to become digitally literate and help them get adequate broadband. Navigators can be volunteers or cross-trained staff who already work in social service agencies, libraries, health, and more who offer remote and socially distant in-person guidance. 

Compared to the rest of the country, Salt Lake City is highly connected, said Edson. Every community has a unique demographic make-up, and if the communities who need access to broadband mostly speak Spanish or English or even Mandarin, there should be community anchors with highly trained digital navigators to help the underconnected.

Andrew Au, director of operations at Digital Charlotte, said digital inclusion should include adult education. Every library and public institution that offers internet services should have digital navigators available and onsite to guide individuals in their communities and offer continuing education resources to keep digital skills literacy up, he said.

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Broadband's Impact

Mentorship Instrumental To Women Involvement in Telecom Industry

Experts advise mentorship and encouragement to get more women in the industry.

Derek Shumway

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Photo of Mitsuko Herrera, center, via Montgomery County, Maryland

April 19, 2021 – A group of women were asked to rate gender equality in their workplace on a scale of 1-10. Their average score? About a four. The solution? More mentorship early in their lives.

The women, experts in network companies, spoke at the event, “Women in Broadband: Achieving zero barriers,” hosted by fiber network company Render Networks last Wednesday.

Kari Kump, director of network services at Mammoth Networks, said that in the broadband industry, she rates it a four, and in government jobs, a bit higher at five. Kump said she sees lots of women in marketing positions and non-technical managerial positions that “may oversee tech.” She said the worst gender equality in her view is at the construction site, where women “pay the bills” in the office rather than being out on site.

What’s causing gender inequality? The problem starts long before the job interview. Mitsuko Herrera, from planning and special projects for Montgomery County, said in her current work, only 2 out of 25 colleagues are women.

“The opportunity may be there, but we don’t see a lot of qualified women in the industry,” she said. Even before they reach college, women and girls need to have opportunities for engagement across various industries. Having mentors at an early age would greatly increase women participation and influence at work. In the workspace, praising women privately is just as important as praising them publicly, said Herrera. Women need to know they are supported at all times with all people.

Having better representation at the table is crucial because diverse perspectives affect industry and society for the better, said Laura Smith, vice president of people and culture at Biarri Networks. “The groups making decisions should reflect society,” she said.

And even if there is diversity, it’s not enough to have women at work for diversity’s sake—you also need to listen to that diversity and not ignore it.

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