Wednesday, November 06
This morning, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies held a broadband technology forum in Washington, DC. The event coincided with the release of a new study, “Broadband and Jobs: African Americans Rely Heavily on Mobile Access and Social Networking in Job Search.”
As titles go, that’s quite a mouthful. But then, the study itself is packed with information, some of it surprising, some of it well-known, and all of it important. Some case(s) in point:
• 50% of African American Internet users believe being online is critical in order to find a job. The surprising part? That’s 14% higher than the entire sample used for the study.
• Latinos are right there with African American Internet users, with 47% calling access “very important” to finding a job.
• 47% of African Americans have used a smartphone for job searches, which is nearly double the entire sample.
For today’s event, the Joint Center assembled some heavy-hitters in tech policy, including FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, Latino Information Network Director of Innovation Policy Jason Llorenz, and AT&T Vice President of Global Policy Ramona Carlow.
Besides the stats listed above, a key focus of the event was the need to improve tech education, or as the Joint Center’s John Horrigan put it, “lift up the digital skills for the entire population.” Given that one major finding of the Joint Center’s study is that confidence in digital skills directly correlates with people going online in search of employment, the focus on education wasn’t surprising. But it was encouraging that the group agreed that effective digital education means helping both adults and children.
That starts with better connecting schools through eRate. The panelists also agreed it requires better training for teachers and librarians — a link often missing in discussions of expanding broadband access. I would add one more thing: students need the same high speed broadband access at home they get in school and that’s going to require the private sector. Federal regulations should encourage all of these investments.
Today’s event wasn’t streamed online, unfortunately, but the Joint Center’s study is available at their website. I encourage you to dig in.
Friday, November 01
This is a guest post from Floyd Mori, President & CEO of the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies, which is an IIA Member.
At the U.S. Capitol last week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers addressed the changing means of communications in our nation. As consumer preferences move increasingly toward Internet-based communications, so full advantage can be taken of the plethora of new and exciting applications, the network of old is going by the wayside.
The Congressional hearing focused on whether the federal regulations that for decades governed the monopoly, single-carrier era of the old, non-broadband phone system are still necessary in an age where consumers have their choice of any number of communications modes, including cell phones and smartphones, Skype, text apps, wired home VoIP, say from your cable provider, among others.
The timing is important. These regulations are based on federal communications laws that stretch back generations and were last updated in 1996, the reflection of a bygone-era, pre-mobile Internet and high-speed connections. That year, as I recall, the cutting-edge products were Compaq PCs with built-in 3Com modems that let us use our telephone lines to dial into AOL — remember the catchy noise that went along with it?
According to the Pew Research Center, 87 percent of English-speaking Asian-Americans use the Internet compared to 74 percent of all adults. However, there are still millions of Americans, particularly minorities, members of the Asian-American community included, who do not adopt or have access to broadband, falling on the wrong side of the digital divide.
But today, as technology modernizes to become better, faster, more capable and dynamic through “Internet Protocol” (IP) technology, outdated regulations hold back progress, and more importantly, increased availability and access to high-speed broadband. As tens of millions of consumers drop their landlines, regulations need to be modernized to free up short-term, unproductive investments in that service in order to deliver new benefits based of the IP system.
What became abundantly clear from the hearing is that federal regulators need to move faster to promote this transformative technology. A good way to start would be for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to move expeditiously on a recent request from AT&T to conduct “test-runs” in a few limited markets, under the oversight of the agency. These closely-controlled areas would see a complete communications modernization to all-broadband, complete with all the attendant economic, healthcare, education, and civic participation benefits. During the process, policymakers and stakeholders would work together to monitor progress and ensure that basic consumer protections continue.
For the Asian-American community, this is far more than a technological debate, as the transition to Internet-based communications technology has been shown to have a massive positive impact on issues ranging from healthcare, higher education, the environment, local economies, and civic participation.
Engagement in all areas of government and policy – and community activism at all levels of the political process (a benefit of a connected society) – are integral to diverse communities across the country. In today’s knowledge-based culture, broadband is serving to empower our citizens, giving us the ability and opportunity to elevate and advocate for society’s needed changes on a national and even global platform.
Washington needs to move this process forward, beginning with the FCC’s approval of the trials, so we can all have the opportunity to reap the benefits of a connected, digital world.
Thursday, October 31
America’s 60 million rural residents received an early holiday gift this week when the Federal Communications Commission launched an initiative to improve rural communications. In unanimous agreement, the FCC acknowledged problems caused by the existing tangle of regulations, technologies and business plans that have long affected telephone call completion for some rural customers. This week, the FCC took action to ensure better and more accountable service and connectivity.
This action addresses an outstanding issue that has been around for years. The failure of certain calls to go through to rural Americans resulted from new communications technologies interacting with older telephone networks and the failure of regulations to keep pace in the marketplace. Everyone in America, and particularly those in rural areas, depends upon a reliable communications network. For almost 3 decades I represented rural Virginia in Congress, and I know firsthand of the extraordinary importance rural residents attach to reliable and accessible communications.
So, as we look across the communications landscape, we see changes everywhere. More than 40 percent of homes today are wireless-only, and almost that same number receive their phone service through a broadband provider. In Florida and Michigan, to pick two representative states, only about 15% of homes connect to traditional telephone landlines today. Americans in droves have dropped their outdated non-broadband plain old phone service and are quickly moving to high-speed, advanced broadband networks and services, both wired and wireless.
Some consumer advocates have suggested that rural call completion must be addressed prior to implementing policies necessary to the upgrade and modernization of our nation’s telephone networks to all broadband. It’s an important need which the FCC has now addressed in a positive and thoughtful manner. As the FCC moves forward to promote better and more ubiquitous high-speed broadband access nationwide, moving the few remaining users of outdated networks to more functional connections that provide more varied services, it can best accomplish the goal by modernizing its regulations to reflect the technologies of today.
I commend the FCC for this week’s action and encourage the Commission to continue its efforts to ensure that regulations match modern technological capabilities. Promoting certainty is the fastest way to ensure that high-speed all-broadband networks become reality.
Tuesday, October 29
Visit here for the methodology and an embed code.
Monday, October 21
Last year, IIA hosted a webinar on technology and education that focused on an innovative, soon-to-be-implemented “blended learning” program at Kramer Middle School in the Anacostia community of Washington, D.C. My brother Kwame Simmons, the school’s principal, penned an op-ed afterwards, titled “My School’s High-Tech Turnaround Plan,” for the Washington Post.
Last week, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel was kind enough to join me for a tour of Kramer, where Vice Principal Delia Davis-Dyke walked us through the program now in place.
At Kramer, half of each class receives teacher-led instruction, while the other half is engaged in online learning. With 380 students, roughly 190 of them are online at any given moment during the day. The technology in use allows Administrators and parents to monitor student progress remotely.
Once the tour took us inside a classroom, it was easy to see why Kramer’s blended learning program is encouraging.
In one classroom, teachers were putting the program into effect by using an online video lesson to reinforce a discussion on the rise of Nazi Germany after World War I. Though a dense topic, the online video kept students engaged.
Vice Principal Davis-Dyke told us the blended learning program has made it possible for parents to be much more engaged with their kids too…but the program is not without its issues. Teacher training, for one, is proving to be a challenge, as is the funding of necessary peripherals such as adapters, carts, and replacement cords.
Then there’s the question of after-hours access. During the tour, Commissioner Rosenworcel asked how much students are able to take advantage of the system from home. The answer was not much, since equipment and home broadband access continue to be roadblocks.
Kramer’s blended learning program is primarily financed by Race-to-the-Top funding, which will soon run out. Vice Principal Davis-Dyke explained that the school is currently exploring corporate sponsorships to supplement their budget, with the goal of keeping the program going strong for years to come.
Some of those dollars will need to be invested in more robust broadband for the school. Due to equipment and capacity constraints, not all students can be online at once — as Vice Principal Dyke told us, if 390 kids were to be online at the same time, the school would face significant speed issues.
For me, that was one of the biggest takeaways from our tour of Kramer Middle School. Innovative programs like the school’s blended learning have the potential to revolutionize education. But as Kramer shows, hitting the full potential of the program will require a commitment to improving broadband networks at school, and increasing broadband penetration at home. These are big tasks government can’t do alone. That’s why we need regulations that encourage investment and expansion of high-speed broadband to every corner of our country.
Thanks to Vice Principal Davis-Dyke for the tour and to FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel for joining us. The kids weren’t the only ones learning that day.
Friday, October 04
As Detroit prepares to choose a new mayor and City Council, teachers are preparing their students for the future. The new school year is now in full swing, and kids and teachers are settling into a routine of classes, friends, lunch menus and after-school activities. Students who are lucky enough are likely discovering how technology can enhance their lessons and expand learning beyond the classroom.
The Motor City, and indeed the entire country, are facing a tough time. Cuts are being proposed at every level of government, but there’s one essential learning tool that shouldn’t be on the chopping block: high-speed Internet. Access to this resource is increasingly necessary for students. More than a simple learning tool, access to broadband has the potential to transform education in America, afford our students new opportunities and give them the ability to transform their own communities. To see the numerous benefits of high-speed broadband, however, policy-makers and regulators must implement policies that will deliver this essential educational resource.
Advancing STEM education in America is an important and oft-discussed issue, and 21st Century broadband networks can help move forward this educational goal. Fast, reliable broadband connectivity makes individualized, interactive learning possible. This technology can enhance and supplement traditional classroom learning by engaging students in ways that can ignite a lifelong passion for knowledge. High-speed Internet service creates opportunities for educational enrichment and distance learning and can reduce inequities that exist between schools across the state or country.
High-speed Internet also makes possible blended learning, in which students and teachers collaborate to combine traditional classroom instruction with online lessons and tools. All of these benefits are possible with robust, advanced communications networks. Basic broadband access has proved to be an invaluable educational resource, but basic access alone can’t meet today’s capacity and speed requirements, much less tomorrows.
Schools and libraries across the country connect to the Internet largely because of a little-known government program run by the Federal Commissions Commission. E-rate, the nation’s largest education technology program, created in 1996, essentially funds Internet connectivity in our country’s classrooms and public libraries. The current program, however, has failed to keep pace with changing technology and the needs of students and schools. Today’s average classroom Internet connection is insufficient to support the educational innovations and learning tools of the 21st Century. According to a recent government survey, nearly half of schools and libraries reported connectivity speeds that were slower than the average American home , even though they typically serve 200 times as many users.
The dilemma of improving broadband access is a challenge not unique to our schools and libraries. Modern high-speed Internet remains out of reach for too many Americans. Schools and libraries, however, play a vital role in serving as a gateway to knowledge and providing access to broadband technologies in communities across the nation.
Efforts are now under way to expand the availability of high-speed broadband in our nation’s schools and libraries. President Barack Obama announced his ConnectED initiative in June. It calls on the Federal Communications Commission to modernize the existing E-rate program and would expand high-speed, high-capacity broadband service to 99% of K-12 students within five years. FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel has proposed going further, by outlining specific capacity and speed goals for a revised E-rate program, E-rate 2.0.
These efforts can ensure that our students have the resources they need to become tomorrow’s leaders. Broader access to next-generation broadband services, however, is also crucial for our entire nation. Thankfully, the federal government is now working with the private sector on how to best modernize and upgrade our antiquated telephone networks to bring high-speed broadband connectivity to every corner of the country.
Each child must have equal opportunity to develop and hone the skills necessary to navigate the technologies of tomorrow. Political, business and nonprofit leaders must support and encourage measures that expand access to 21st Century broadband in Detroit and the entire country.
This op-ed was originally published in the Detroit Free Press.
Monday, September 30
by Mario H. Lopez
Hispanic Heritage Month began in 1968. Two decades later, it was officially recognized when it was enacted into law by President Reagan.
Since that time, America’s Hispanic community has experienced significant economic and social advancement. Given IIA’s mission to advocate for the expansion of broadband service across the country, I’d like to focus on the inroads that have been made in the Hispanic community with respect to broadband access and adoption.
According to Pew, 68% of Hispanics now own a cellphone, and of that number, 60% mostly use their phones to go online. That’s not too surprising; Hispanics have for years been among the most active adopters of mobile broadband, and as smartphones have proliferated wildly, that rate of growth should continue.
As for home broadband connections, however, the numbers are less promising. In its May survey, Pew also found that a little over half — 53% — of Hispanic households had high-speed Internet. That’s compared to 74% of whites, and 64% of African Americans.
Given the importance of broadband to access education, economic opportunity, telemedicine, and employment, our nation should rededicate itself to encourage additional investment in next-generation wired and wireless networks throughout the country. These networks help power the devices we use today, and will use tomorrow.
Mobile broadband has greatly benefitted the Hispanic community. Yet, mobile broadband represents just one part of the solution needed to achieve universal high-speed Internet access connectivity for all—irrespective of one’s geographic location or social status.
Achieving the goal of bringing every American into the digital age, won’t be cheap. But as with bringing universal telephone service to every household a century ago, it can be achieved when government allows for the creation of an economic environment that allows innovation and ingenuity to flourish.
America has always had a strong, and diverse, social fabric. It’s one of the reasons why we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. And communications has been key to creating that social fabric. We are connected as a nation, and together we can ensure everyone in America can remain connected, no matter how we communicate.
Mario H. Lopez is President of the Hispanic Leadership Fund, an IIA member organization.
Thursday, September 26
by Neal Neuberger
Technological advances have brought many improvements to modern life, and today’s broadband networks can actually deliver health care and health information that saves lives. The lightning-fast evolution of broadband technology has indeed begun a revolution in health care—one that can benefit us all.
Innovations in broadband technologies have also raised questions about how health care providers and institutions alike can maximize the benefits of this technology, both today and into the future. The Eighth Annual National Health IT Week, held this year from September 16th–20th, presented an opportunity for policymakers and health care industry leaders to gather and discuss solutions and craft policies and strategies to ensure continued adoption and development of these health IT innovations.
Over the course of just a few years, broadband-enabled health care technologies, including telemedicine and mHealth, have presented new possibilities to hospitals, medical personnel, and patients. The ability to access and transmit health records, information, and diagnostic images at unprecedented speeds allows easier, more effective collaboration between medical personnel, resulting in quicker diagnoses and better results. Video teleconferencing is now being used to connect patients in rural or remote areas with specialists who can perform consultations remotely. Across the country, hospitals and clinics are using innovative technologies and methods to expand access to care and to deliver that care in cost-effective ways.
Increased access to high-speed broadband has given patients access to technologies and solutions that are more convenient, as well. With modern networks and connectivity, it’s now possible for patients with chronic conditions—including diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and asthma—to receive care in their own homes, via wireless devices that can collect and transmit medical data directly to health care professionals. These methods eliminate the need for some office visits, keeping costs down, and they also empower patients to take charge of their health and participate in their own treatment. New developments in wireless health devices are helping seniors and people with disabilities to enjoy a higher quality of life and to live independently in their own homes. Innovative new wireless devices, wearable biosensors, and mobile apps make it possible for patients and doctors to work together to achieve better health and wellness, both within and outside of medical facilities.
Modern networks allow hospitals and medical personnel to reach individuals and communities that have traditionally struggled to gain access to health care, often due to geographical, financial, or cultural barriers. Reducing health disparities that affect certain populations is an important goal, and broadband-enabled health care technologies can help achieve that goal by making patient-centered, cost-effective care available to more people and communities.
Access to modern broadband networks and speeds has already begun to transform and improve today’s health care. The resulting innovations offer exciting possibilities for enhanced health and wellness, improved quality of care, expanded access to health care, and better treatment options. To continue this progress and these impressive results, we will need enhanced, upgraded broadband networks in place across the country. The theme of this year’s Health IT Week was “One Voice, One Vision.” That’s fitting, because I believe we all share a positive vision of advancing health care technologies that lead to better outcomes. It is clear that increased and expanded access to high-speed broadband can extend the reach of doctors and hospitals, delivering better care and better access to care.
Neal Neuberger is President of Health Tech Strategies, LLC, a Virginia-based consulting firm focused on the public and private sector policy environment with regard to research, development and implementation of emerging health care technologies.
Wednesday, September 18
It’s no secret that I have high hopes for the benefits of high-speed Internet access in schools and libraries. President Obama and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also recognize that high-speed broadband access is a vital educational tool that will help our students compete and succeed. That’s why the President recently announced his “ConnectED” initiative to modernize the FCC’s existing E-rate program to deliver next-generation broadband connectivity to more students in more areas, advancing modern education.
This week, the FCC begins gathering public input on the value of high-speed broadband deployment as it begins to consider how it can accelerate modern broadband access to 99 percent of K–12 students in the next five years.
Government policies aimed at advancing high-speed broadband connectivity in our nation’s schools are critical to providing today’s students with the essential learning tools and experiences necessary for success in the 21st century economy. High-speed broadband access can enhance traditional classroom learning by honing students’ digital skills and enabling them to use those skills to solve problems, examine sources and data, and find information. Students can thus achieve and learn, while simultaneously developing the skills they’ll need to take their places in the “real” world as our future leaders.
Students at every level and in every community would benefit from the easier collaboration and research that faster connectivity affords. Teachers can use this technology to help students interact with their global peers, as well as to incorporate important national and international events into lessons as they unfold in real time. The Internet can help foster strong reading comprehension and writing skills. For advanced or hands-on STEM subjects, broadband is a gateway to educational videos and online lessons to supplement classroom instruction. Adding digital learning tools like streaming videos, blogs, wikis, and podcasts to their teaching toolkits will enable educators to offer meaningful, individualized teaching and learning experiences.
Clearly high-speed broadband has much to offer our nation’s schools. That’s why I’m thrilled that our legislators and policy makers have begun talking seriously about how to expand modern broadband connectivity to all of our schools and libraries. Industry leaders, policymakers, and everyday citizens should recognize that broadband is an essential learning tool which can enhance American education and our quality of life. Getting that advanced connectivity to all of our schools and libraries is critical and must be a national priority.
The effort to expand modern broadband access, however, should not stop at our local schoolhouse or library doorstep. When the school bell rings at the end of the day, no student should be without access to the benefits that high-speed broadband provides. David Karp, the founder of Tumblr, started his first internet company from home at 15 years old. America can give every student the opportunity to dream big and engage the world if we expand access to reach every household, community, and individual nationwide.
Government can’t do this alone. It can, however, create an environment that encourages private sector investment and helps speed the upgrade of antiquated telephone networks to modern broadband technologies capable of offering high-speed Internet and video services to all Americans.
We can achieve all that and more by acting now to increase and expand access to modern high-speed broadband services in our nation’s schools and libraries, and move swiftly to set policies that encourage increased private sector investment and accelerated deployment of modern broadband networks nationwide. With the right infrastructure in place across the country, people everywhere can benefit from 21st century connectivity. Let’s work together to make it happen.
Friday, August 23
New numbers from Pew show that home broadband access continues to rise, with only a handful of Americans still choosing lower dial-up search speeds (and, unfortunately in some areas, high-speed broadband may not yet be a choice due to policymakers requiring legacy carriers to maintain outdated copper networks):
In June 2000, when about half of adults were online, only 3% of American households had broadband access. Now, as of December 2012, the tables have turned: 3% of Americans connect to the internet at home via dial-up.
Interestingly, Hispanics are most likely to have dial-up access at home, despite the fact that they lead in mobile broadband adoption.
Wednesday, August 21
When it comes to social media, Facebook is the undeniable 800 lbs. gorilla. But it turns out the company’s founder and CEO has bigger fish to fry. From a Facebook press release:
Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, today announced the launch of internet.org, a global partnership with the goal of making internet access available to the next 5 billion people.
“Everything Facebook has done has been about giving all people around the world the power to connect,” Zuckerberg said. “There are huge barriers in developing countries to connecting and joining the knowledge economy. Internet.org brings together a global partnership that will work to overcome these challenges, including making internet access available to those who cannot currently afford it.”
With a little over one-third of the world’s population currently connected, Zuckerberg’s initiative faces a steep climb. But it certainly is a worthy goal.
Friday, July 19
In an op-ed for UPI, U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce president and chief executive officer Javier Palomarez (who is also one of our Broadband Ambassadors) celebrates the strides America has made when it comes to connecting people to broadband:
Just a few years ago, it was common to lament that America was falling behind Europe and others in terms of broadband access, availability and speed. Today, it’s clear that we’ve not only made remarkable progress in delivering high-speed connectivity to the overwhelming majority of Americans but in many ways we now lead.
For example, 94 percent of U.S. homes have access to broadband with speeds of 10 megabits per second or higher and more than two-thirds of U.S. homes are hooked up to the Internet—compared to just more than 4 percent in 2000.
Palomarez’s full op-ed, which gives a lot of credit to the Obama administration, is worth checking out.
Thursday, July 11
Via John Eggerton of Broadcasting & Cable, Comcast Vice-President David Cohen recently called broadband access a “central civil rights issue” before a crowd at the Minority Media Telecommunications Council:
“Civil rights advocates of 50 years ago fought and ultimately won the battle for equal rights,” he said, pointing out the upcoming 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
“But the battle for equal opportunity continues. And that battle won’t be won,” he said, “so long as we have people stranded on the wrong side of the digital divide because broadband technology is fast becoming the most essential tool for full participation in American society.”
Thursday, June 20
$613 billion, which is the amount Cisco estimates can be made via the Internet of Everything. What’s the Internet of Everything? Dan Farber of CNet explains:
That’s the idea that more than half of the people and 99 percent of the things on the planet are unconnected and that by connecting them and riding the wave of industry transformations, such as smart factories, digital health, mobile collaboration, virtual assistants, and connected commercial vehicles, giant profits will follow.
In other words, the companies that invest in the “connections economy” and harness the network effects of the Internet of Everything—which is people, process, data and things—will reap more of the profits.
It’s an interesting idea — not to mention a startling number — but it will take continued investment, and a regulatory environment that encourages continued investment, to make the Internet of Everything a reality.
Friday, June 07
The National Telecommunications & Information Administration (or NTIA, if you’re into acronyms) has released its U.S. Broadband Availability Report, and overall it it shows an increase in broadband speeds and penetration. Some highlights:
• Basic Availability: Ninety-eight percent of Americans have access to wired or wireless broadband at combined advertised download speeds of 3 Mbps or greater and upload speeds of 768 kbps or greater (referred to as 3/768 here).
• Wireline: Just over 93% of Americans have access to advertised wireline broadband at speeds of at least 3/768, and almost 93% of Americans have access to at least 6 Mbps. Ninety-one percent of Americans have access at 10 Mbps, but access drops to 78% at 25 Mbps.
• Wireless: Approximately 81% of Americans can access mobile wireless download speeds of 6 Mbps or greater. Nearly 26% of the population can access fixed wireless download speeds at 6 Mbps.
While most Americans now have access and better speeds, the report concludes that more investment will be needed in order to meet the demands of consumers going forward:
Broadband service at basic speed levels is now widely available, but even for basic speeds, gaps still persist between rural and urban communities. These gaps between rural and urban broadband availability become larger as speeds increase; and as speeds increase, the overall level of broadband availability decreases, regardless of whether the user is located in an urban or rural area. Similarly, far more providers compete for customers when the service offering is at the lower broadband speeds tiers. Cable dominates the provisioning of broadband service at the higher speed tiers, followed by fiber to the premises. The implication of this finding is important because in areas where the technology deployed today is not capable of providing broadband service at speeds of 50 Mbps, 100 Mbps or a 1 Gbps, most companies or communities will need to significantly upgrade their infrastructure to offer these speeds when consumers, businesses or institutions demand them.
The full report is available at the NTIA website.
Thursday, June 06
An item from reporter David Jackson of USA Today, about President Obama’s plan to stump for education around the country, caught my eye this morning. Specifically, this line:
Obama is likely to call on the Federal Communications Commission to expand a program to bring high-speed Internet connections to 99% of the nation’s students within five years.
That’s an aggressive call to action. It’s also long overdue, given the profound effect high-speed Internet access has on education. The FCC’s bold National Broadband Plan, launched way back in 2010, has been slow to gain momentum, so any sort of kick-start the president can give it is more than welcome.
But as with anything, the devil will be in the details. Funding — especially in cash-strapped municipalities — will be a significant challenge, which means hitting the mark of 99% of students will require a massive amount of private investment.
The good news is, providers are willing to make that investment. The upgrade to all Internet-based networks will greatly expand the reach of broadband access, especially in rural areas. And the FCC’s upcoming spectrum incentive auctions will hopefully deliver much-needed capacity for mobile broadband providers so they can both keep up with demand and connect new customers.
While the FCC can certainly expand its program for deploying high-speed Internet, its true effectiveness in achieving President Obama’s goal will arguably be on the regulatory front. The upgrade to all-Internet based networks and the allocation of more spectrum for wireless face hurdles. For the former, it’s a phone book of regulations enacted way back in 1996, if not decades before. For the latter, it’s the issue of whether certain wireless providers should be limited in participating in spectrum auctions — an unwise move, given the billions the FCC would leave on the table from auction proceeds.
Connecting every student in America to high-speed Internet is certainly achievable. But it will take the government and private industry working together to negotiate the regulatory minefield.
President Obama is setting the target. Now we just need to make sure we can hit it. Every student in America deserves nothing less.
This post was authored by Floyd Mori, IIA Member and President and CEO of the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies.
The desire to increase equal opportunities for all Americans is a noble one. But the process of achieving this worthy goal is complicated, and it requires a variety of approaches—each tailored to meet the different needs of different communities.
For example, the Asian-American community is incredibly diverse, comprised of some groups that traditionally have achieved higher levels of education and economic stability. But their success doesn’t tell the whole story: The Asian-American community also includes many that continue to struggle with poverty, language and educational barriers, as well as health disparities. Their struggles mirror the challenges that affect many other minority communities in America.
It turns out that one way to increase equality of opportunity for these communities and for virtually every American is through increased access to high-speed broadband service. This service provides improved access to additional educational, professional, and social opportunities, in addition to opportunities for better health care and civic engagement. President Obama, recognizing the importance of broadband access, set a goal for providing 98 percent of all Americans with access to high-speed broadband by 2016.
Unfortunately, the availability of high-speed broadband is still limited in many parts of the country and within many minority communities, for a variety of reasons. This is a problem because in our modern, digital age, broadband access is now a necessity, not a luxury. Broadband service can strengthen communities and families, present new possibilities that lead to a better quality of life, and even act as a bridge to a brighter future.
In addition, too much of today’s communication regulatory and legislative decision-making processes are incorrectly based on yesterday’s communication network of wired connectivity. This has slowed the expansion of high-speed broadband and thus contributing to widening the inequalities we face today.
For example, distance learning has become both a viable alternative and a valuable supplement to traditional classroom learning for students at all levels and at any age. Online classes and job training can even make it possible for people to learn on their own time, a particularly important benefit for workers and families. With broadband access, non-native English speakers can choose from several language applications and programs to help them achieve proficiency in English.
Additionally, broadband-enabled applications in telehealth and mobile health (mHealth) offer better access to quality care and increased options for improved wellness and health. These health technologies also offer improved management of chronic diseases, including those that affect minority communities (including Asian-American communities) at disproportionately higher rates.
Conversely, lack of broadband access constitutes more than just an inability to get these and other benefits. In our modern time, it puts people at a tremendous disadvantage. For those without access—including many Asian Americans (in particular, our Pacific Islander and Southeast Asian communities), as well as many African Americans, Hispanics, and rural Americans—a fast solution is needed. Many minorities and other underserved groups face a real risk of falling behind and missing out on all that these exciting technologies have to offer.
That’s why it’s so important to upgrade our nation’s communications networks to Internet Protocol (IP)-based networks. Transitioning to such an infrastructure will bring increased access to next-generation, high-speed broadband networks with new capabilities and applications. These modern networks deliver faster speeds and enhanced connectivity. Moreover, unlike outdated networks, they support a variety of devices while also offering new options for services and technologies. The IP transition can transform and improve health care and education as well as provide more opportunities for civic engagement, professional development, and economic growth for us all.
Investment in modern networks is good for our economy, too. A study by Deloitte estimated U.S. investment in modern networks to be between $25–53 billion during 2012–2016; this corresponded to a conservative estimate of $73–152 billion in GDP growth and 317,000–771,000 new jobs for that same period. That investment presents many opportunities for our country and for all Americans.
The transition to next-generation networks will increase broadband access and result in economic growth and countless benefits for Americans; therefore, it must become a national priority. I believe that this transition can be achieved if our policymakers focus on encouraging private sector investment and creating a modern regulatory framework. Achieving rapid deployment of modern communications networks is the key to achieving the President’s national broadband goal and to creating true equality of opportunity. All Americans, regardless of background, should have access to broadband and to the brighter future it can deliver.
— Floyd Mori
Thursday, May 23
In an interesting op-ed for The Huffington Post, digital marketer and entrepreneur Lottie Ntim examines the digital divide — not here in America, but globally:
While Web growth in North America can be said to have been largely driven by technologies that cater to personal needs (PCs, smartphones, smartphone apps), Internet usage in other regions such as Africa, has developed through more social channels, such as mobile banking. While internet penetration in Africa hovered around 16 percent last year, mobile telephony soared to one of the highest in the world. Currently, 90 percent of the continent has access to a mobile phone—a phenomenon that has helped topple dictatorships and connects rural communities to otherwise difficult to reach services such as healthcare, in addition to the now common money transfers via text.
Nevertheless, there is certainly no shortage of demand for technologies developed for personal use in this region. However their cost and the likelihood of limited access to Wi-Fi networks has meant a different kind of growth for Africa when it comes to Web usage.
Wednesday, May 22
Here’s some good news in the world of education. IIA member AT&T has announced it is partnering with the Georgia Institute of Technology and Massive Open Online Courses provider Udacity to launch the first online-only Master of Science degree in computer science. From the press release:
Workers with skills in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) are increasingly important to our business – and to nearly every business – because STEM drives innovation and innovation drives our economy.
During the next six years, 2.8 million STEM openings are predicted. But, today, many STEM jobs are going unfilled as candidates lack the necessary skills, training or degrees.
Through this new program, Georgia Tech will be able to offer employers like AT&T a larger and more diverse pool of highly qualified, STEM-trained workers and help the U.S. retain its global competitive edge.
Cool stuff. And on a related note, check out our recent infographic on the benefits of broadband access in eduction.
Wednesday, May 15
Broadband is revolutionizing education across America. To coincide with today’s Technologies in Education Forum, hosted by The Atlantic, we put together the below infographic breaking down all the ways kids are using technology to excel in school.
An embed code so you can post the infographic on your own site is available here. And for more on broadband and education, check out our webinar with iNACOL’s Director of Policy, David Teeter, and Kwame Simmons, principal of Kramer Middle School in Washington, D.C.
You can also read Simmons’ op-ed for the Washington Post.