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Innovation

Blockchain Experts Debate Just How Much Internet Needs to Change

Congressional Internet Caucus panelists split over how prepared the internet is for changes from new technologies.

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Photo of Kevin Werbach by Joi Ito from June 2007 used with permission

WASHINGTON, October 29, 2021 – Blockchain experts debated how prepared the internet is to meet the challenges of the modern world as new, so-called “Web 3.0” technologies continues to progress.

During a panel discussion on “Is The Past A Prologue To The Fight For Web3?” at a Congressional Internet Caucus Academy event on October 21, these experts said that the decentralized financial tools like blockchain are or will be an impetus for many new changes.

Blockchain provides decentralized recording of transactions across many computers for the records of the cryptocurrency bitcoin. Some say blockchain will change the way the internet runs and serve as the basis for Web 3.0, allowing better user security with regards to data tracking. To implement blockchain technology, more users and service providers will first need to show interest in the technology and an internet must be developed where computing is decentralized to individuals’ own consoles.

The Senate introduced controversial language on cryptocurrency to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act last month that has spurred renewed discussion about the blockchain.

That bill includes tax reporting requirements for wallet developers and cryptocurrency miners that blockchain enthusiasts criticize as overly burdensome. There are different opinions about whether these provisions will be addressed via amendment, or included in the measure when it is ultimately teed up for passage by the House.

Panelists at the event reacted to this development by discussing whether proper groundwork is being laid to support future advancements in cryptocurrency.

Cleve Mesidor, founder of the National Policy Network of Women of Color in Blockchain, and Carlos Acevedo, senior director of sales at Brave Software, criticized the preparedness of current internet structures to handle new developments in cryptocurrency. Both emphasized access inequities present with internet structures which prevent certain demographics from accessing functional internet service, which in the case of blockchain computing presents itself as a learning curve for those at a knowledge deficit with regards to Web 3.0.

“Accessibility is something we should be talking about,” said Mesidor.

Kevin Werbach, professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and Andrew McLaughlin, president of Assembly OSM, gave slightly more credit to current in terms of their preparedness to handle cryptocurrency of the future while still acknowledging limitations. Werbach stated that it is important to realize that even with these limitations the internet has accomplished a lot, and even Web 3.0 would not be able to make current web systems completely decentralized and solve all issues at hand.

McLaughlin pointed out that most extreme moral panics concerning cryptocurrency are exaggerated, as dangerous activity such as sharing of child sex abuse imagery is not as widespread within cryptocurrency as it is made to seem.

The session was moderated by Danny O’Brien, senior fellow at the Filecoin Foundation for the Decentralized Web.

FCC

FCC Requires Telecom Companies to Let Subscribers Text to Suicide Prevention Hotline

The measure would increase access for those seeking emergency mental health assistance.

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WASHINGTON, November 18, 2021 – The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to require providers of telecommunications to permit individuals to text directly to a three digit number, 988, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The suicide prevention lifeline is a national network that offers free and confidential support in Americans in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. The move increases access for individuals in crisis by  routing text messages sent to 988 to the group’s 10-digit number, 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).

The vote to establish text-to-988 comes after Americans spent months isolated under stay-at-home orders in 2020. The CDC reported that last year, 44,834 individuals died by suicide in the United States. Experts have suggested that the pandemic has increased mental health struggles for Americans.  The FCC has repeatedly recognized suicide’s impact on at-risk communities, including youth, the Black community, the LGBT community, Veterans, and the deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind, and people who have speech disabilities that affect communication.

The FCC required text providers to support three digit dialing and text messages to 988 by July 16, 2022. “This uniform deadline will help to prevent confusion and facilitate unified outreach campaigns,” said Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, who described 988 as “life-saving work.” “I am pleased to approve today’s decision because Text-to-988 will save lives in vulnerable and underserved communities by taking advantage of this vital communications channel,” he said.

Commenting on her vote to approve the measure, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel noted that LGBT youth are almost five times as likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. “These young people deserve a future,” she said. “They deserve support. And that support should be simple to access. Today we help make that possible.”

Americans sent an estimated 2.2 trillion text messages in 2020. Texting to 988 may be an especially important option for young people, who may prefer the anonymity and convenience of texting a crisis counselor instead of engaging in a phone conversation, said the FCC.

The agency urged Americans who need help during the transition to 988 should contact the Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK) and through online chats.

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Blockchain

Facebook Lobbying Congress on Blockchain Policy

The registration comes after the company rebranded to Meta, taking it beyond its social media origins.

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Photo from PX Fuel used with permission

WASHINGTON, November 18, 2021 – Facebook has registered this month to lobby Congress on blockchain policy, following a rebranding of the company that is intended to take the company beyond its social media roots.

The lobby registration was filed on November 4 and it comes after the infrastructure bill, signed into law this week, established tax reporting requirements for cryptocurrencies, which require the decentralized transaction ledger known as the blockchain to function.

The registration, which does not provide specifics on what the company hopes to discuss, also comes just days after the company rebranded as Meta, which is intended to broaden the company’s scope into new technologies that allow people to be together in the virtual space.

When the rebranding launched in late October, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg wrote a letter that indicated that this new metaverse would require open standards and interoperability, including supporting crypto projects.

Meta also has a number of jobs that require knowledge of crypto and blockchain.

Facebook has set its sights on initiatives involving the blockchain for years. In 2018, head of Facebook Messenger David Marcus announced on Facebook that he would set up a small group to “best leverage Blockchain across Facebook, starting from scratch.”

On Thursday, a bipartisan group of House representatives introduced a bill – the Keep Innovation in America Act – that would better define who are crypto brokers for tax reporting purposes.

In a separate lobby registration, Facebook also specified that it would like to discuss specific funding for computer science education in legislation.

The company has previously registered to lobby Congress on Section 230, the law that shields tech platforms from legal repercussions for what their users post.

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Innovation

Internet of Things Will Revolutionize Industries as Connectivity Ceases To Be Limiting Factor

Panelists at a WCA event last month said IoT will transform a trillion-plus dollar segment of the economy.

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Photo of Elle Grossenbacher from Twilio

WASHINGTON, October 13, 2021 – With the advent of new mobile wireless technologies such as 5G and latency improvements, the industrial internet of things will prove to be a boon for industries from agriculture to transportation, a conference heard last month.

The Wireless Communications Alliance hosted a virtual event last month titled “IIoT Gizmos and Gadgets” during which a panel of tech experts remarked on the ability of internet-connected devices, facilitated by ubiquitous connectivity, to revolutionize fields integral to the nation’s economy.

Andy Do, president of IoT sensor company Sensorworks, noted that the key attraction with IoT for the industrial sector – estimated to be worth trillions of dollars – is the cost savings. More and more companies, for example, are incorporating remote monitoring of their agricultural crops using these technologies to get a sense of when to tend to them.

Dirk Seidel, business development manager at semiconductor company Renesas Electronics, said the IIoT industry has made significant progress in developing sensors that can monitor a wide variety of conditions in real time, such as carbon dioxide concentration, light intensity, and blood oxygen levels. Aashish Mehta, CEO of TransferFi, a company that makes wireless networks for IIoT sensors, describes this as providing “insights at your fingertips.” A present goal of the industry is to develop technology which combines different types of sensors together while still allowing them to make measurements independently, he said.

According to Elle Grossenbacher, product marketing manager of IoT at cloud communications company Twilio, manufacturing is one industry where IIoT has a large opportunity to expand because of how little factories have already adopted IIoT since its early development.

This is a much slower uptake than has been seen with building automation, where WCA vice president Jeremy Tole says IIoT has been used in energy optimization for decades. Grossenbacher also believes that the government will be one entity that instigates an increase in its usage of IIoT in the near future.

As far as advancements in the IIoT industry in next five years, Tole hopes to see all devices wirelessly connected and powered while Do hopes more IIoT technology will be present in everyday retail settings.

The Federal Communications Commission last month released a notice of inquiry to get a sense of the need for spectrum for IoT.

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