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Digital Inclusion

Report Highlights Importance Of Satellite Technologies, Secure Data and Communications

The report on new technologies and data lays out importance of data security and satellite communications.

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Rep. Suzan DelBene of Washington

June 1, 2021—Federal leadership and global collaboration will be key if the United States hopes to remain at the forefront of technological innovation and compete globally in the coming decade, finds the Report of the Commission of Geopolitical Impacts of New Technologies and Data.

Lawmakers and technology experts gathered on May 26 at an online conference hosted by the Atlantic Council to acknowledge the report’s importance and highlight the need for a national strategy to implement the report’s findings.

“The advancing speed, scale, and sophistication of new technologies and data capabilities that aid or disrupt our interconnected world are unprecedented,” the executive summary of the report says.

“As a result, governments, industries, and other stakeholders must work together to remain economically competitive, sustain social welfare and public safety, protect human rights and democratic processes, and preserve global peace and stability.”

The report lists seven specific areas of focus that it recommends the United States government invest in and plan for.

Global scientific and technology leadership

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, says that collaborating with other democracies on establishing critical technological infrastructure will be necessary if we hope to compete with China’s growing economy, which is bolstered by its technological investments. He says that democracies worldwide must come together and establish common rules for technology regulation that compliment democratic ideals.

Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Washington, says that no significant federal standard exists that regulates or consolidates technological enterprise. She believes that we must build private and public relationships that ensure technologies “are used equitably [and] That they protect civil rights, human rights, civil liberties, reach all types of communities and still promote innovation.”

Space operations for the public benefit

The report says the government should help foster the growth of the space industry in order to “leverage the increasing capabilities of large commercial satellite constellations.” The United States has offered subsidies and grants to both Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. In December, SpaceX’s Starlink broadband project received nearly $900 million from the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

Secure data and communications

The report emphasizes the need for network and data security, calling for new and innovative methods in both the public and private sectors to secure digital environments. It encourages investment in new computing and software designs that strengthen cyber defense.

Enhanced trust and confidence in the digital economy

The report says that governments and private industries should establish new frameworks for data that incorporate “security, accountability, auditability, transparency, and ethics,” in order to maintain credibility in the digital ecosystem. Consumer confidence and trust will be an essential element to building a sustained measure of public investment that will allow the technology industry to continue to thrive in the coming decade.

Secure supply chains

Currently, much of the supply that sustains America’s technological industry originates overseas, which, while good for foreign trade, poses a potential threat. Foreign governments could potentially weaponize the supply chains that grow America’s industry, and stunt both our economic and technological progress.

To prevent this, the report argues, “the government should develop procedures and allocate resources to achieve sufficient resiliency,” in order to ensure the economic security of the United States.

In March, FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said diversifying the country’s networks, including the use of open radio access networks, would not only help with cost-savings but also with security.

Future of work

The report claims that all of the infrastructure investment and planning the United States can undertake will be useless if it fails to invest in its own people. To meet the challenges we’ll face as a Nation in the coming decade, the private and public sectors must come together to help educate and create a digitally fluent workforce that can help implement, maintain, and develop the growing digital infrastructure.

Continuous global health protection

In order to protect the country from further health and climate disasters, the report says that the government should utilize available technology to create models that act as an early warning strategy against future health catastrophes.

Reporter Tyler Perkins studied rhetoric and English literature, and also economics and mathematics, at the University of Utah. Although he grew up in and never left the West (both Oregon and Utah) until recently, he intends to study law and build a career on the East Coast. In his free time, he enjoys reading excellent literature and playing poor golf.

Digital Inclusion

Outreach ‘Most Valuable Thing’ for Emergency Broadband Benefit Program: Rosenworcel

FCC Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel said EBB will benefit tremendously from local outreach efforts.

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Internet Innovation Alliance Co-Chair Kim Keenan

WASHINGTON, September 13, 2021 – The head of the Federal Communications Commission said Monday that a drawback of the legislation that ushered in the $3.2-billion Emergency Broadband Benefit program is that it did not include specific funding for outreach.

“There was no funding to help a lot of these non-profit and local organizations around the country get the word out [about the program],” Jessica Rosenworcel said during an event hosted by the Internet Innovation Alliance about the broadband affordability divide. “And I know that it would get the word out faster if we had that opportunity.”

The program, which launched in May and provides broadband subsidies of $50 and $75 to qualifying low-income households, has so-far seen an uptake of roughly 5.5 million households. The program was a product of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

“We gotta get those trusted local actors speaking about it because me preaching has its limitations and reaching out to people who are trusted in their communities to get the word out – that is the single most valuable thing we can do,” Rosenworcel said.

She said the FCC has 32,000 partners and has held more than 300 events with members of Congress, tribal leaders, national and local organizations, and educational institutions to that end.

“Anyone who’s interested, we’ll work with you,” she said.

EBB successes found in its mobile friendliness, language inclusion

Rosenworcel also preached the benefits of a mobile application-first approach with the program’s application that is making it accessible to large swaths of the population. “I think, frankly, every application for every program with the government should be mobile-first because we have populations, like the LatinX population, that over index on smartphone use for internet access.

“We gotta make is as easy as possible for people to do this,” she said.

She also noted that the program is has been translated into 13 languages, furthering its accessibility.

“We have work to do,” Rosenworcel added. “We’re not at 100 percent for anyone, and I don’t think we can stop until we get there.”

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Digital Inclusion

FCC Says 5 Million Households Now Enrolled in Emergency Broadband Benefit Program

The $3.2 billion program provides broadband and device subsidies to eligible low-income households.

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Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

August 30, 2021—The Federal Communications Commission announced Friday that five million households have enrolled in the Emergency Broadband Benefit program.

The $3.2-billion program, which launched in May, provides a broadband subsidy of $50 per month to eligible low-income households and $75 per month for those living on native tribal lands, as well as a one-time reimbursement on a device. Over 1160 providers are participating, the FCC said, who are reimbursed the cost to provide the discounted services.

The agency has been updating the public on the number of participating households for the program. In June, the program was at just over three million and had passed four million last month. The program was part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

“Enrolling five million households into the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program in a little over three months is no small feat,” said FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “This wouldn’t have been possible without the support of nearly 30,000 individuals and organizations who signed up as volunteer outreach partners.”

Rosenworcel added that conversations with partners and the FCC’s analysis shows the need for “more granular data” to bring these opportunities to more eligible families.

The program’s strong demand was seen as far back as March.

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Digital Inclusion

As Senate Passes Infrastructure Measure, Non-Profit Groups Push for Digital Equity Bill of Rights

Join Sunne Wright McPeak at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday for a discussion about the push for digital equity.

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Photo of Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, a sponsor of the Digital Equity Act

August 10, 2021—A petition calling for a Digital Equity Bill of Rights to inspire policymakers to craft sustainable, affordable solutions to bridging the digital divide has garnered more than 100 groups and 2,000 individuals signing on to the proposal. The petition, led by the California Emerging Technology Fund, was released prior to a bipartisan vote on infrastructure legislation in the Senate on Tuesday.

Portions of the Digital Equity Act of 2021, S. 2018 sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, originally introduced in 2019 and reintroduced in June, are likely to be included in the final infrastructure bill.

“The future of our next generation and America’s ability to compete globally is at stake,” said Sunne Wright McPeak, president and CEO of CETF, which has been focused for 15 years now on bridging the digital divide.

Join Sunne Wright McPeak and Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark for Broadband Breakfast Live Online on Wednesday, August 11, 2021, 12 Noon ET, on “A Call for a Digital Equity Bill of Rights.”

Much like the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights that most Americans are familiar with, the Digital Equity Bill of Rights also had 10 amendments designed to provide future legislation with a framework of rights.

The first enumerated right states that “all residents have the right to broadband that is sufficient and reliable.” It explains that speed standards should not be pigeonholed to a specific rate—rather, they must be sufficient for all people to support distance learning, telehealth, and remote work “by a majority of households online simultaneously with an increasing need for symmetrical network speeds.”

Other amendments include ones that state that broadband should be affordable, improve quality of life, attract investment, and enables participation in democracy. Though the conversation surrounding such a bill of rights is nothing new, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is evident in the bill’s wording. McPeak and CETF have argued that digital access is a “21st Century Civil Right” for more than a decade.

“To close the digital divide there has to be digital inclusion and everything that we do, because the outcome is getting to digital equity,” McPeak explained to Broadband Breakfast; digital equity is the result of making sure that everyone has access to affordable Internet and computing devices, and gets the training needed to compete in the 21st Century global economy.

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