Our Co-Chairman Larry Irving has recorded a series of videos for our Let’s Get Nerdy series on net neutrality, Title II, and the potential for Congressional action. Here, he talks about the approach to tech policy during his time with the Clinton Administration, and whether there are lessons from then that should be applied today.
On December 4, oral arguments will be heard by the U.S. Court of Appears for the District of Columbia Circuit on the legality of imposing Title II regulations on broadband providers. In advance of the arguments, our Co-Chairman Larry Irving has recorded a series of videos for our Let’s Get Nerdy series on net neutrality, Title II, and the potential for Congressional action.
In this first installment, Larry is asked: What is net neutrality? And does net neutrality necessitate the Title II regulation that the Federal Communication Commission is moving to apply to broadband?
Tomorrow, Part 2 of the series, in which Irving talks about the approach to tech policy during his time as part of the Clinton Administration.
In an op-ed originally published by The Street, our Co-Chairman Bruce Mehlman warns that the FCC’s is taking the wrong approach when it comes to encouraging broadband competition. An excerpt:
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulators, purportedly eager to promote competition, keep stifling the investment needed to advance it meaningfully. Case in point, the Commission recently opened a tariff investigation on “special access” rates in the business data services market. For many observers, this political inquiry is unwarranted by the facts on the ground, driven instead by companies whose business models are dependent on government protection for “rent-seeking,” or ongoing access to the networks that others built.
In this bonus edition of Let’s Get Nerdy, our Co-Chairman Bruce Mehlman breaks down how the business special access marketplace has changed since the 1990s, and discusses whether FCC special access rules are still necessary.
Recently, we held a discussion on updating the Lifeline program for the broadband age. Moderated by our own Rick Boucher, “Modernizing the Federal Lifeline Program for Broadband and the 21st Century” featured:
Ronald A. Brisé
Commissioner, Florida Public Service Commission
Randolph J. May
President, Free State Foundation
Senior Fellow, Food Assistance Policy, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Dr. Nicol Turner-Lee
Vice President and Chief Research and Policy Officer, Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC)
In what proved to be a lively discussion, each of the participants made a number of great points. Some quotes:
By removing the carriers from the process you remove the incentives that have led to some of the [waste, fraud, and abuse] problems. — Randolph J. May
I think it’s important to realize that SNAP is the program that covers the broadest group of low income people. Medicaid is getting closer now in the states that took the Medicaid expansion but in other states Medicaid misses out on a lot of childless adults. — Dottie Rosenbaum
I don’t think there is a conflict between being a safety net program and the concept of a handout providing that the parameters are set. — Ronald A. Brise
We found that getting people online for that first year, encouraged them to want to become consumers of broadband, because they realized the relevance to not only themselves, but to their families. — Dr. Nicol Turner-Lee
We actually recommend in our white paper the process of coordinated enrollment. Commissioner Clyburn at the FCC before we published this white paper recommended the same thing. — Rick Boucher
The full transcript of the discussion is available here. Our thanks to all the participants for taking the time to discuss this critical issue.
A new paper from Anna-Maria Kovacs, Ph.D., CFA published by the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy makes a convincing case that the FCC can save hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars as it reboots Lifeline for the broadband age.
The full paper, “Regulation in Financial Translation: Rebooting Lifeline for Broadband,” is available for download, but here are some highlights:
The FCC’s FNPRM states that the FCC seeks to make the program more efficient by “targeting support to those low-income consumers who really need it while at the same time shifting the burden of determining consumer eligibility for Lifeline support from the provider. We further see to leverage efficiencies from other existing federal programs and expand our outreach efforts.” An effective way to accomplish this goal is to link Lifeline to SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] for eligibility verification and enrollment.
As Kovacs points out in the paper, reducing waste, fraud and abuse of the Lifeline program is important. But just as important is ensuring those reduction efforts aren’t duplicative. Again, from the report:
As the FCC’s FNPRM indicates, the job of verifying that households have low-income is already being verified by other federal agencies. Most notably, the USDA verifies the eligibility of those households that quality for SNAP. SNAP not only enrolls those households whose low income qualifies them, but de-enrolls them if their income rises. In other words, SNAP already does the job the FCC duplicates at a cost of roughly $600 million. Thus, the first argument for relying on SNAP for eligibility verification is that doing so would save roughly $600 million in wasted administrative efforts.
$600 million is obviously a lot of savings. But as Kovacs goes on to note, the benefits of linking Lifeline to SNAP go beyond the monetary because:
It would provide automatic enrollment for low-income households that need Lifeline, and make it easier for them to apply the discount to the technology and provider of their choice. By making it easier for both providers and low-income households to participate in Lifeline, the FCC would also enhance competition.
With bipartisan support in Congress, the FCC now has a unique opportunity to completely overhaul and reshape the program for the 21st century. The central challenge is to add broadband as a Lifeline benefit without a significant increase in program costs. Tinkering with the existing program or making minor modifications to program administration at the edges will likely fail to deliver the promise of ubiquitous and modern high-speed broadband access for low-income consumers.
In today’s installments, our Co-Chairman Bruce Mehlman continues to focus on Special Access and regulations. Here he talks about what the U.S. can learn from a decade of empirical data collected by the European Union on wholesale access regulation.
Rounding out the discussion, Mehlman talks about the likely impacts of the FCC requiring that IP services replacing copper be offered to CLECs at wholesale rates.
I am always encouraged by the ways in which technology is improving the classroom experience for students around the country. Through network-enabled devices and high-speed broadband, students and their teachers are able to harness all the Internet has to offer, including apps and content sources that can improve educational outcomes and open doors of opportunity throughout the country.
Both in school and out, students are using mobile devices and the digital economy to explore new ideas and prepare for successful futures. Innovation in the technology industry has jump-started this introduction of technology into the educational experience for millions of students, and it is always worth pointing out some exciting examples of how technology is being put to use for educational innovation.
Just last week, Discovery Education and DirecTV joined the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to celebrate National Energy Awareness Month and ENERGY STAR® Day. This event was great. In addition to bringing students in to meet with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in person, the three organizations teamed up to provide a “virtual field trip” to schools around the country, which allowed them to tune in to watch the event remotely. By infusing technology into the event, more students not only watched the conversation, but joined it, bringing unique perspectives and questions from around the country.
Events like this show how important innovation in the technology sector is and why we need to continue to make the right kinds of regulatory and legislative choices that allow all players in this innovative industry to provide critical solutions and new offerings. Working together we can avoid false choices between arbitrary winners and losers. Just recently, the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) released their annual “Investment Heroes” report that showed that the technology industry was leading the pack when it comes to investments in America. As the EPA’s “virtual field trip” shows, this innovation is already changing educational models for the better, which has ripple effects throughout the economy.
While the PPI report illustrates the dollars being invested in the economy, the underlying story may be more important. These dollars are also investments in America’s students, schools and education system. When we deliver new tools and services to schools to open students’ eyes to the world around them, we are able to better prepare them for tomorrow’s workforce, giving them the skills they need to compete on a global scale.
Last week’s “virtual field trip” event sought to engage students in a conversation about being good stewards of the global environment. It is another great example of how technology solutions can be deployed to expose students to new ways of thinking about the world around them. The more we can innovate and deploy these kinds of solutions and ideas, the better off America’s students will be.
Is broadband a social determinant of health? Prominent health care leaders, practitioners, and researchers came together last week in Detroit to answer that question during a discussion that I co-moderated with Federal Communications Commissioner (FCC) Mignon Clyburn. The FCC Connect2Health Task Force’s Broadband Health Tech Forum was part of its “Beyond the Beltway” series, which is encouraging efforts to improve healthcare in communities across the nation.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), your zip code is a greater indicator of your health than your genetic code. Why? The quality and availability of care is vastly different based on where you live.
Low-income Americans are at a distinct disadvantage for managing chronic diseases, for example. Heart disease and diabetes are among the top 10 causes of death in the African-American community, and Latinos are challenged by a 66 percent higher rate of diabetes than Caucasians. Thankfully, there’s consensus that technology can go a long way toward closing the health divide.
The digital divide is directly linked to the health divide. Without Internet connectivity, people lack the tools that they need to become educated on critical health issues, to find nearby healthcare providers, and to take advantage of the exciting health applications and tools that are available. While some Americans with diabetes are using Internet-connected devices like AgaMatrix to monitor blood glucose, others are left in the dark. Broadband empowers underserved populations to take charge of their health.
One panelist pointed out that the digital divide is creating health problems in unexpected ways. Many Americans who lack broadband at home are going to the local McDonald’s to use the Internet. To do so, they’re required to purchase at least one item. Imagine how your health would be impacted if you were drinking super-sized soft drinks and eating Big Macs every time you wanted to check your email.
During the discussion in Detroit, Commissioner Clyburn emphasized the importance of adding broadband to the federal Lifeline program as part of the Commission’s reform efforts. Making the subsidy available for high-speed Internet will help close the digital divide and – bonus – concurrently shrink the health divide. Modernizing the Lifeline program is a key to improving access to health care services, regardless of socio-economic background or geographic location.
The goal of the Broadband Health Tech Forum in Detroit was to start a critical conversation that translates into action – and it appears that the event did just that. Panelists and audience members alike were inspired, vowing to stay connected and work together toward solutions. Broadband is a social determinant of health. In fact, it’s foundational for health equity.
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