CES is an absolute avalanche of tech. Simply keeping up with the various announcements and news reports can be a challenge. But as someone very much interested in both education and technology — and where they often cross paths for the good of society — I wanted to highlight an app showcased during the convention earlier this week. It’s called “Big Bird’s Words,” and comes courtesy of Qualcomm and the Sesame Workshop. At Fast Company, Anya Kamenetz has a good description of the app:
Big Bird’s Words lets kids use their parents’ phone to scan the world around them for printed words. Big Bird then helps them learn to read by sounding out the first letter. (“You found the word Milk! It starts with the letter M.”)
Beyond the cool factor, Big Bird’s Words is yet another example of how technology is turning the traditional idea of learning on its head. This is something we touched on last summer in our “Back to School With Broadband” seminar (archive here), and the fact that Big Bird’s Words made its debut during Qualcomm’s keynote address at CES shows the collision of technology and education, specifically in the mobile space, is only heating up.
That makes ensuring broadband access all the more important. Not just by wiring schools, although that’s critical, but expanding the reach of mobile broadband. To get there will take investment — particularly in next-generation IP-based networks that can handle the constant deluge of data. It will also take a commitment from both the government and industry to make achieving the goal a high priority. If Big Bird’s onboard, we all should be.
Via Patricia Reaney of Reuters, a new report sheds like on how mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets are affecting education:
Smartphones were used at home for schoolwork by 39 percent of 11 to 14 year olds, 31 percent of those surveyed said they did assignments on a tablet while nearly 65 percent used laptops, the poll by research firm TRU, which specializes in data on tweens, teens and twenty-somethings, showed.
For more on technology and education, check out our “Back to School with Broadband” webinar from August.
Yesterday, AT&T (which is an IIA member) announced it would be investing heavily to speed up Internet Protocol (or IP) transition and expand mobile and wired broadband to many more Americans. Over at Forbes, Larry Downes applauded the announcement:
At a much-reported analyst conference yesterday, AT&T announced plans to accelerate upgrades to both its wired and mobile networks, pledging an additional $14 billion over the next three years, in addition to several billion already committed.
When completed in 2015, according to the company, the new infrastructure will offer AT&T customers faster and more reliable network facilities, which will operate natively in Internet Protocol (IP). Text, voice, and data will begin life as packets, travel through the network as packets, and arrive on customer devices as packets.
The plan marks a dramatic step forward in a long move by AT&T and other carriers toward a 21st century network infrastructure, signaling the final stage of convergence for old proprietary voice, video, and data networks to the open standards of a single IP network.
Think of it as “Internet Everywhere.”
Downes also addressed concerns from critics of the announcement that AT&T would be leaving rural Americans behind as it retired its old copper network:
[R]ural customers will not be abandoned as part of the plan. Rather, many more will now have access to high-speed wired networks that rely in large part on fiber, with short copper loops serving the last mile.
Instead of spinning off its rural customers, in fact, AT&T will spend billions bringing high-speed broadband to an additional 57 million customers through expansion of its U-verse technology. For residents in areas where U-verse technologies will not be immediately deployed, the company has committed to providing an “economic path” to broadband through wireless services based on high-speed 4G LTE networks.
The Digital Policy Institute believes that advancing the interests of consumers should be a major, driving force in government policymaking processes aimed at broadband expansion and enhanced connectivity. Our 21st Century digital infrastructure can be the conduit for many consumer benefits. As part of our review of those many benefits we’ve developed a Top 10 list that federal and state officials should consider when making choices that can affect the availability and capacity of broadband.
In an op-ed for Sunday’s Washington Post, Kwame Simmons — Principal of Kramer Middle School in Washington, D.C. and recent participant in our education-focused webinar — wrote about how his school has embraced technology in an effort to better educate kids:
At the end of the 2011-2012 academic year, Kramer logged barely double-digit scores on the D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System (CAS): 17 percent proficient in reading and 26 percent proficient in math. The school had a much-warranted bull’s-eye on its back. But after a year of planning and a three-year School Improvement Grant and two-year Race to the Top grant from the U.S. Education Department, we have high hopes for change. Our secret weapon and education equalizer? Broadband.
Kramer is the first school in the district to implement a new program that is predicted to elevate student engagement and drastically improve test scores. The grant funding has increased the number of laptops available for use in our classrooms, so that we now have a one-to-one student-to-laptop scenario at Kramer, a rare gift in the field of education.
That one-to-one student-to-laptop scenario Simmons mentions is impressive — and important. With school districts increasingly facing cutbacks and growing class sizes, technology like laptops and tablets — and the next-generation networks that power them — can unlock opportunities once out of reach and help students succeed. That’s something we should all be behind, but as Simmons goes on to note, the country still has a ways to go:
Unfortunately, this isn’t the norm in our country. According to the Federal Communications Commission’s National Broadband Plan, only 37 percent of all teachers reported having electronic access to achievement data for students in their classrooms. Building out reliable broadband access must remain a national priority.
Simmons then touched on something we here at IIA have long focused on. Namely, the need for more investment in broadband:
I’m highly committed to proving him wrong and hitting our goal of boosting test scores by 40 percentage points in five years. As we closely monitor the progress at Kramer, let’s encourage the public and private sectors to invest in the networks that make online learning possible. Broadband is the bridge that will connect D.C. Public Schools’ goals to reality.
Check out Simmons’ full op-ed at the Washington Post. You can also listen to an archive of our education webinar featuring Simmons here.
On Wednesday at the Brookings Institution event “Fostering Internet Competition” in DC, my friend and Harvard Professor Susan Crawford suggested that we look at the spread of electricity throughout rural America to guide a path for the deployment of broadband. While this feel-good analogy stirs American pride in the ingenuity that colors our nation’s history, it doesn’t hold water.
Electricity shocked the world in 1882, when Edison’s Pearl Street Power Station started up its generator in New York City. Within just a few years, Americans living in big cities would be able to choose from among 20 to 30 different providers, such as the Edison Electric Illuminating Company of New York. But most Americans weren’t able to take advantage of electricity until half a century later, because there wasn’t a strong enough business-case for electricity providers to serve every town on the Oregon Trail. It was the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 that said “let there be light” (for all), providing federal loans for the installation of electrical distribution systems to serve rural areas of the United States.
Over 75 years later, this commodity hasn’t changed all that much. The same type of electricity that powered the lamps of the 19th Century powers the light, appliances and devices of today. The Internet on the other hand is anything but static. It’s a rapidly-changing technology that has evolved many times in the past two decades alone, since the first commercial traffic crossed it in 1992. Thanks to a vibrant, competitive industry, relentless innovation and a rapacious consumer appetite, we’re seeing new “flavors” of broadband every year, including DSL, fiber-to-the-home, fixed wireless broadband, 3G, mobile LTE, and so on.
Much has changed since the government financed the spread of electricity across our nation. Unlike when taxpayers financed electrification, broadband is already widely available — more than 90% of consumers can choose among five or more providers, according to Federal Communication Commission data. Also unlike 1936, our national debt now exceeds $16,000,000,000,000, putting far greater pressure on how we spend our critical infrastructure dollars, especially as the FCC acknowledges that the cost of universal high-speed networks could reach $350 billion. Most importantly, we have private sector competitors eager to make those investments, to install, upgrade and maintain the broadband networks that make our economy so much more competitive. Rather than a Rural Electrification Act, we need a Regulatory Extraction Act, getting government out-of-the way of investment, starting with relinquishing more spectrum to commercial broadband usage.
So while Susan is right that extending next-generation broadband infrastructure to every corner of our country must be a priority, she and I differ on the means to that end. 2012 is not 1936, and modern broadband is not early electricity. Rural Electrification does not offer a viable roadmap.
Over at Bloomberg, Ryan Flinn has a nice piece on how a small community in Georgia is experiencing a revolution in health care thanks to broadband:
Until recently, when children in Ware County, Georgia, needed to see a pediatrician or a specialist, getting to the nearest doctor could entail a four- hour drive up Interstate 75 to Atlanta.
Now, there’s another option. As part of a state-wide initiative, the rural county has installed videoconferencing equipment at all 10 of its schools to give its 5,782 students one-on-one access to physicians. Telemedicine sites for adults have also sprung in the area. Instead of taking a full day off from work or school, residents can now regularly see their specialist online.
For more on broadband and health care, see our “10 Benefits of Health IT” infographic.
Barry Umansky and Dr. Robert Yadon of the Digital Policy Institute have put together this top 10 list of barriers to private investment in America’s broadband infrastructure:
1. Regulatory Uncertainty. 2. Limited Opportunities to Expand Wireless Network Capacity. 3. Spectrum Scarcity. 4. State of the Economy. 5. Government Failing to Join the IP Revolution. 6. Overlapping and Arcane Anti-Trust Reviews. 7. Regulatory Incrementalism. 8. Failing to Learn From Recent Experience. 9. Outdated Regulatory Mission. 10. Congressional Failure to Set a Clear Course for Broadband Policy.
For years the FCC has said that it does not have adequate data to evaluate competition and infrastructure investment in the special access market, and as pointed out by Commissioner Robert McDowell, it has ignored “calls from Members of Congress, commissioners, industry and civil society for a comprehensive data collection and analysis in the course of contemplating a change in special access rules” for more than five years. Yet the Commission has announced that it will prematurely proceed with the immediate suspension of the thirteen-year-old deregulation of special access. Thankfully, the FCC has acknowledged that having data from all providers is essential to any future competitive analysis.
Burning money, time and manpower to regulate an outdated technology is fruitless. America’s future depends on the transition away from special access service to faster next-generation IP networks that will strengthen the economy, amp up U.S. global competitiveness, and improve consumers’ experience. Commissioner Ajit Pai got it right when he said that ‘we should bring this decade-old proceeding to a close soon so that special-access providers and purchasers will have the regulatory certainty they need to carry out their businesses and invest in high-capacity infrastructure.’ Today’s special access order puts the FCC on a regulatory path to nowhere.
Yesterday along a 3-2 party-line vote, the FCC opted to suspend a thirteen-year-old special access regulatory framework without an adequate evidentiary record or market analysis.
For would-be investors, innovators and entrepreneurs, government has once again injected uncertainty into the broadband marketplace, undermining a forward transition across the country to IP-based technologies that enable efficiency and better capabilities for consumers through high-speed broadband networks.
This is a mistake.
America’s special access market is competitive and has contributed to ongoing private-sector investment in upgraded networks. Take T-Mobile, for example, which is able to choose from over a dozen different backhaul providers — from local exchange carriers, to Ethernet wireless providers and cable companies — to keep its customers connected. And that’s just one company in a truly vibrant industry.
Instead of hitting the brakes on special access deregulation and increasing regulatory uncertainty that undermines economic activity, the FCC should encourage the private investment America needs to finally kick free of the technologies of the past, to the benefit of consumers.The future of communication is in bytes — IP-based wired and wireless networks — not the copper-based, networks that offered dial-up, for example.
As pointed out by Sprint, the advantages of Ethernet backhaul over special access are tremendous:
The company [Sprint] might pay $1,500 per month for T1 backhaul at a tower site. That T1 might deliver 4.5 MB of backhaul capacity. When Sprint switches to Ethernet…for the same price of $1,500 per month, Sprint will get almost 20 times the backhaul bandwidth at that location.
Everyone knows healthy competition leads to a healthy market. That’s why the FCC’s focus on the already healthy and competitive special access market is, frankly, a bit baffling and misguided. Technology is fast moving, and the Commission should take care to not bog down innovation with regulatory uncertainty.
On Friday, August 10, we partnered with iNACOL to host a webinar on how broadband is transforming education in America.
One of the speakers was Kwame Simmons, principal of D.C.‘s Kramer Middle School, which is one of the city’s 40 lowest performing schools. During the webinar, Simmons shared the school’s plan to implement blended learning — a mix of online and traditional instruction — to engage students with interactive lessons and achieve a 40-point turnaround in test scores by 2017. David Teeter, director of policy at iNACOL, a non-profit organization that promotes collaboration, advocacy, and research to enhance quality K-12 online teaching and learning, addressed digital divide issues, including the importance of equality in access to broadband, and discuss how schools are now relying on broadband to facilitate teaching and learning.
It was a great conversation, and we thank Simmons and Teeter for participating. If you missed it, here’s an archived version of the webinar.
This Friday, IIA is hosting a webinar along with education organization iNACOL on the effect broadband has on education. Particpating is Kawme Simmons, principal of the Kramer Middle School in Washington, D.C. Simmons is implementing a blended learning – a mix of online and traditional instruction – to engage students with interactive lessons and achieve a 40-point turnaround in test scores by 2017. For some background on Simmons’ plan for Kramer Middle School, see this report from the Washington Post‘s Bill Turque from last May:
Educators are hoping that the interactive lessons will engage students below grade level, helping them to make up ground while teachers work personally with more advanced students. Dashboards will keep students updated on their progress and what they need to do to improve. It will also allow teachers to give more timely feedback and support in areas where kids are struggling.
About 70 percent of Kramer students are a year or more behind their grade level, according to DCPS. But principal Kwame Simmons said he believes students can gain 13 to 15 points a year under the new system.
D.C.‘s WJLA also aired this report on Kramer’s shift to blended learning. Check it out:
This Friday, August 10, IIA will be hosting a webinar along with iNACOL exploring the real-life example of Washington D.C.‘s Kramer Middle School in utilizing broadband to drastically improve test scores over a five year period.
This discussion will shed light on the ever-more important role that high-speed Internet — including wireless broadband — is playing in today’s education system, such as in determining the level of achievement that students are able to obtain. Participating in the discussion will be Kwame Simmons, principal of D.C.’s Kramer Middle School, one of the city’s 40 lowest performing schools, and David Teeter, director of policy at iNACOL, a non-profit organization that promotes collaboration, advocacy, and research to enhance quality K-12 online teaching and learning, will address digital divide issues, including the importance of equality in access to broadband. Our own Co-Chair Jamal Simmons will host.
The webinar happens at 11am ET/8amPT. To join the discussion, visit here.
Coding and web development have traditionally been very male-dominated occupations. At BetaBeat, Margaret Nickens has a great story about efforts to connect more women to web and computer careers:
Earlier this year, New York City-based Hacker School, a freeform three-month coding workshop for adults, announced a partnership with Etsy, Yammer and 37Signals that would provide 18 grants to women who wanted to attend the program. Girl Develop It, a group that arranges coding workshops for women around the country, has also hosted meet-ups at the offices of Etsy, Twitter and Google. With few women pursuing programming careers, this move is an act of survival for many companies, who hope to increase the size of the talent pool–and maybe even grow revenue by leveraging an XX-perspective on innovation.
In an op-ed for The Hill‘s Congress Blog, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex.) and State Senator Sharon Weston-Broome (D-La) argue that telemedicine needs to be a top healthcare priority for America:
With the wide spread expansion of broadband technology, telemedicine is becoming an incredibly effective solution that is providing a new alternative to improve our current health care landscape. These innovations not only result in the substantial reduction of health care disparities, but also in a reduction of healthcare costs across the country.
Hundreds of applications have already been developed, and states that have passed telehealth legislation are realizing many of the benefits. For example, if a patient has heart disease, the use of telemedicine can allow cardiologists to monitor their patient’s vital signs remotely through a patient’s mobile device. These advances can save time, money, and allow physicians to closely monitor the health of their patients at a distance. This example is just one of the many uses of telemedicine, and the more states that adopt telehealth legislation, the more patients these applications can serve.
Over at Mashable, Sam Laird uses the upcoming Olympics to examine how mobile — and social — our lives have become since the last summer games of 2008:
The increase in mobile technology is sure to have a profound effect on how millions of viewers — and many athletes — experience the 2012 Games. Fans will be able to converse, debate and rave communally as never before because of mobile proliferation and the explosive growth of social media over the past four years.
Included with the story is an infographic. Some of the startling stats: Smartphone adoption increased a staggering 456% since the 2008 games, and the number of tweets per day jumped from just 1.1 million to 140 million.
(Speaking of technology and major sporting events, earlier this year we tried to predict how many hours of streaming video would be watched during the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. You can check out our prediction here.)
We’re launching a new feature here at IIA, highlighting innovators using broadband — both wired and wireless. This week’s startup is Audingo, an audio-visual social media platform that initiates interaction between public personalities, groups, and their fans via their mobile devices. From their website:
Audingo is a social platform that lets fans connect with and hear directly from their favorite personalties and organizations through a phone call, audio text, audio email, or video.
Audingo gives personalities the ability to create and record audio and video content in real time, and simultaneously connect to thousands of individuals’ mobile devices, fostering a conversation, deepening the connection..
The company recently received $3 million in angel investment to expand their operations. Check them out.
Ryan Kim of GigaOm reports that New York City has started to make the innovative shift from payphones to Wi-Fi hotspots:
The hotspots are initially coming to ten payphones in three of the boroughs and will be open to the public to access for free. You can see a list of sites here. Users just agree to the terms, visit the city’s tourism website and then they’re up and running. Currently, there are no ads on the service, but there could be in the future.
The effort is part of the city’s larger goal of providing more digital inclusion for residents. And it’s also aimed at helping figure out the future of the city’s payphones, which are a source of complaints from many residents because they attract crime or are just plain ugly.
In a piece today for Fierce Telecom, our Co-Chair Jamal Simmons argues that in order to keep pace with speed of technology, the government should mainly focus on policies that continue to encourage investment. Here’s a taste:
Driven by the hunger of consumers and the ambition of entrepreneurs, the technology industry is rapidly evolving, far faster than the speed of government. For the government to craft regulations that handicap some technologies and advantage others – or to pick corporate winners and losers – will stifle the private investment needed for the innovation that leads to the next big thing, making stars of also-rans like Apple and preventing the spark for companies that don’t exist today but could be household names in a handful of years. Until policy makers unearth a crystal ball, they should act with humility, taking care to foster an investment-friendly environment that will lead to a future brighter than we can imagine.
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