Connect with us

Broadband's Impact

Panelists Debate Increasing Speed Threshold In New Bills

Published

on

Screenshot taken from the CCA panel event

March 31, 2021 – With $100 billion set for some recently-introduced broadband infrastructure bills, Congress’s plan to increase the speed definition for broadband is causing a stir through the tech industry.

There’s a lot of debate occurring on Capitol Hill right now regarding broadband deployment, and that debate is about defining broadband, said Samsung’s John Godfrey Tuesday during a panel at the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) mobile carriers show.

These new symmetrical speed thresholds are a big problem for the wireless industry, he said. If these new thresholds pass into law, they’re going to disqualify a lot of companies from this massive amount of funding that Congress is considering, he said.

The Leading Infrastructure for Tomorrow’s America (LIFT) Act would update the current broadband speed definition of a “served” area from 25 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload to a symmetrical 25/25 Mbps for low tier, and 100/100 Mbps for mid-tier.

Some former commissioners from the Federal Communications Commission have also been making their Zoom rounds on Capitol Hill, providing their input on the proposed legislation. Former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler defended the bill, calling it a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to get fiber to the whole country, while former commissioner Mike O’Rielly said the suggested change to broadband upload speeds “does not reflect reality for now or any time soon,” and would push currently unserved areas further to the back of the line to get service.

Godfrey went into further detail, using video conferencing software like Zoom as an example of unnecessary spikes to the upload definition. During a video conference call, the other participant’s streams are using your download bandwidth, but only you are using your upload bandwidth, he explained.

I’m not opposed to increasing the speed definition of broadband, but making it a symmetrical threshold, even as high as 100/100 Mbps, is unrealistic for wireless, Godfrey added.

Other panelists agreed. Be careful of perfect because it’s the enemy of good, said Greg Orlando, attorney at the firm BakerHostetler, quoting the aphorism. The key right now is to get people connected to broadband and then improve that connection over time, he said.

Maribeth Collins, senior director for legislative affairs at CCA, offered a different perspective from the view of Capitol Hill. Congress recognizes the challenge of symmetrical speed thresholds, she said. This legislation favors fiber right now, but Congress does want 5G wireless to go hand in hand with fiber, she said. Everyone wants the opportunity to connect not just at home, but also on the go or from different locations, and policymakers recognize that, she said.

The panel also discussed recently-funded broadband programs such as the new Emergency Connectivity Fund, which expands on the current E-Rate program, funding that subsidizes broadband connections for schools and libraries. It allows subsidized broadband for hot spots at home, among other things.

Trey Hanbury, attorney for the firm Hogan Lovells, criticized the ECF program for not including smartphones as eligible connected devices. He said it doesn’t make sense that it allows for hot spots but not the smartphones that are often used to create those hot spots.

The panel expressed optimism for the increased focus on broadband deployment and the traditional bipartisan work in this area. The pandemic has made it clear how essential broadband is, Hanbury said. If there’s anything that breaks the political gridlock right now, it is broadband, he said.

Reporter Tim White studied communication and political science at the University of Utah, and previously worked on Capitol Hill for a member of Congress. A native of Salt Lake City, he escapes to the Pacific Northwest as often as he can. He is passionate about politics, Star Wars, and breakfast cereal.

Broadband's Impact

Families Need Outreach, More Time to Enroll in Affordable Connectivity Program

Greater enrollment in federal programs will help close the digital divide, especially for Latino communities, but help is needed.

Published

on

Sindy Benavides, CEO of the League of United Latin American Citizens. /Screengrab from 2018 LULAC National Convention & Exposition

WASHINGTON, January 27, 2022 – Greater outreach and a longer transition period for the Affordable Connectivity Program will help close the digital divide, the CEO of the League of United Latin American Citizens said Wednesday.

At a Georgetown Law School digital divide event, Sindy Benavides said the recent transition of the Federal Communications Commission’s Emergency Broadband Benefit to the Affordable Connectivity Program is a step forward for families adopting services and devices. The program provides eligible households with discounts of up to $30 a month for broadband service, and up to $75 a month if the household is on Tribal lands.

But to get closer to closing the digital divide using such subsidies, better outreach is needed. Recent studies claim that only 7.1 million households have utilized the discounts offered by the Emergency Broadband Benefit, leaving as many as 30 million homes eligible to save on broadband service and devices.

Benavides said families enrolled in the EBB also need more time to transition to the Affordable Connectivity Program before transition period ends on March 1, 2022. “Not everyone can enroll before the March deadline,” Benavides said. “How is it that families are living day to day, without the assistance they need?” she asked. Families are ‘living, going to school, coming home late at night…think about those families that are surviving day to day.”

She added that it’s not enough that programs get funding, but more needs to be done to help families enroll in the services.

“So many jobs today require an application be submitted online,” she said. “But what if they don’t know how to connect to Wi-Fi, much less get to the website to submit an application,” pointing to a statistic that 1 in 3 Latinos lack access to broadband in America.

Continue Reading

Digital Inclusion

Debra Berlyn: What’s New in 2022 for Aging and Tech?

Older adults continue at a rapid pace to adopt tech that assists the aging process.

Published

on

The author of this Expert Opinion is Debra Berlyn, executive director of GOAL

It’s the start of a new year and time to view what’s on the horizon for the latest technology innovations. To our great anticipation, the most significant technology event of the year, the Consumer Electronics Show, returned in-person to Las Vegas!

CES 2022 literally rolled in with some eye-catching innovations and gadgets unveiled at CES, notably with a BMW that can change its color and patterns with the use of a phone app. CES also unveiled the usual army of robots to clean the house, provide learning skills, and entertain. The Ameca robot is “human-like” and can be programmed with software using artificial intelligence, offering both speech and facial/object recognition. Ameca will engage in conversation and complement you on your lovely red hat.

The more important technology story for consumers for 2022, isn’t just the “wow” innovations that may or may not make it to market this year, it is the tech that will enhance and improve all of our lives. This is particularly important for the aging community, who increasingly rely on tech to stay connected to family and community, and as an important component of healthcare.

Those 65 and older continue to adopt tech at a rapid pace, narrowing the gap with their age 18-29 younger counterparts. Now, over 65% of older adults have broadband at home, 44% have tablets, and 61% have a smartphone. These “basics” form the foundation for layering the more sophisticated health and wellness and smart home innovations available today, and on the horizon.

The pandemic has emphasized the importance of tech for the aging community. A recent AARP study has confirmed that technology is a “habit” that is here to stay for older adults. The past couple of years has led to an emphasis on tech devices to monitor our health, help us stay fit and get connected to our health care professionals.  We are spending more time at home for work and leisure, and while at home we want to be able to manage our energy use, home security, appliances and more.

According to the chief technology officer at Amazon, Werner Vogels, one of his primary predictions for tech this year is, “In 2022, our homes and buildings will become better assistants and more attentive companions to truly help with our most human needs. The greatest impact in the next few years will be with the elderly.”

Technology can provide solutions to make life easier for older individuals

A critical opportunity that technology provides is to solve tough problems such as how to make life just a bit easier for older individuals and address their greatest challenges as they age.  Voice assistive tech continues to be a popular device for older adults. One-third (35%) of those 50-plus now own a home assistant, up from 17% just two years ago, with the voice assistant serving as a significant tool to reduce isolation for older adults.

While the AARP study found that growth of ownership of voice assistants, such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home, may have slowed for younger demographic groups, ownership continues to be on the rise for older adults.

Here are several examples of innovations for the aging community:

  • The Labrador Retriever is an assistive “robot” that empowers individuals to live more independently by providing practical, physical assistance with everyday activities. The robot is a rolling container with trays that can be “commanded” to go to different locations in the home to retrieve objects and carry them to various locations. It maps the home and “learns” how to navigate the space to operate wirelessly.
  • Tech devices that enable older individuals to track several critical aging factors continue to be introduced and desired in the marketplace. The “Buddy” from LiveFreely, is smartwatch software that monitors and manages fall prediction and detection, medication schedules and reminders, and emergency notifications. With alerts to family members, caregivers and emergency services providers, it provides wearers with an enhanced sense of security and independence. The software operates on both the Apple and Fitbit device.
  • For any aging adult with mobility issues, or their caregivers, you know that just getting around can be a challenge and now there are advances to the most needed tool in aging: the walker. One company, Camino, has developed a sleeker, advanced walker with an ergonomic design, lights and improved navigation for bumps in the road to provide greater walking assurance and balance.
  • The “Freestyle,” from Samsung, is an entertainment component of the smart home for older adults. It is a projector device with accessibility features that can be used inside the home or out, to project content such as a movie, photos or messages from any smartphone onto any surface.

AARP’s 2022 study on technology trends also recognizes that the increasing older demographic has significant purchasing power in the consumer market, including for technology spending. The study found, “Tech spending in 2020 among adults 50+ is up 194% (from $394 to $1144) to modernize, update, or create a better experience online.”

It also projected that by the year 2030, “the 50-plus market is projected to swell to 132 million people who are expected to spend on average $108 billion annually on tech products.”

In the coming years, older adults will have a wide range of new and innovative products to exercise their market power and find the right technology to enhance and assist their lives as they age. Over the past decade, technology has empowered older adults to be increasingly more independent, battle isolation, and stay informed and connected.  While we can’t predict the future, the next decade should be an exciting opportunity for new innovations for the aging community.

Debra Berlyn serves as the executive director of The Project to Get Older Adults onLine (GOAL), and she is also the president of Consumer Policy Solutions. She represented AARP on telecom issues and the digital television transition and has worked closely with national aging organizations on several internet issues, including online safety and privacy concerns.  She serves as vice chair of the Federal Communications Commission’s Consumer Advisory Committee and is on the board of the National Consumers League and is a board member and senior fellow with the Future of Privacy Forum. This Expert Opinion is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

Continue Reading

Digital Inclusion

Digital Inclusion Leaders a Critical Step to Closing Digital Divide: National League of Cities

The National League of Cities said government leaders need to have ‘multiple points of engagement’ with communities.

Published

on

Lena Geraghty, National League of Cities director of urban innovation

WASHINGTON, January 20, 2022 – To understand the digital divide, cities need to include digital equity leaders in their broadband needs assessment programs, the National League of Cities said at an event on community connectivity challenges Wednesday.

A broadband needs assessment would allow city leaders to explore the extent of the digital divide in their communities, said Lena Geraghty, the National League of Cities’ director of urban innovation.

“[A needs assessment] enable city leaders to dig into who’s being excluded, what’s currently available in your city, and what solutions city leaders can use” to close the digital divide, she said.

“The community is going to know best about where access exists, where gaps exist, and the needs that will make connectivity better,” Geraghty said. To get the best picture of a community’s need, stakeholders must find and include the community’s digital equity leaders in the data-gathering process, she added.

“These could be people that are knowledgeable about digital equity or people that are experiencing the digital divide,” she said. “Think really broadly about what it means to be a leader and the type of information these folks can bring to bear in solving the digital divide in your communities.”

Geraghty said it may be useful to formalize the leaders’ work by creating a broadband working group or ad hoc committee led by the city’s government. “Giving some roles and responsibilities can help everyone move in the same in direction, there’s agreement, and really clear goals and outcomes.”

Geraghty added that it’s important for government leaders to establish multiple points of engagement for the community. “It’s not enough to gather data or information from people once,” she said. “The state of access to the internet and devices is always changing,” so leaders should create multiple touch points for community input.

The National League of Cities released its Digital Equity Playbook for cities in December, walking readers through how they can promote digital equity in their cities. The playbook has a four-step process on how to get started with digital equity.

By walking readers through the process of connecting with the community, evaluating the connectivity landscape, gathering foundational information and reporting on findings, city leaders will be prepared to target broadband funding to unserved and underserved areas in their communities.

Continue Reading

Recent

Signup for Broadband Breakfast

Get twice-weekly Breakfast Media news alerts.
* = required field

Trending