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.
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.
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 30
At Read Write Web, Stephanie Chan looks at how video games are being used in education:
Video games utilized for education can have unique and positive effects. Two programs make this very clear: The National STEM Video Game Challenge is an annual call for middle to high schoolers to submit their own video game designs and compete on the national level with other children their age. By designing their own games, children learn the ins and outs of coding, strategy and digital creation.
The Mind Research Institute’s ST Math video game is another example of education gamification, as it utilizes the medium of a video game to teach students to conceptualize math in brand new ways. This lets children have a visual representation of math problems in motion; what was once just numbers placed flat in a textbook now dance to life with a digital companion to aid in figuring out solutions.
The gamification of education is radical and effective. Such alternative methods to today’s education system deserve a closer look.
Wednesday, July 17
Yesterday, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai laid out his vision for reforming the E-rate program, which helps connect schools with broadband. At Broadcasting & Cable, John Eggerton has a recap:
[Pai]... enumerated his proposed fixes: “First, I propose that we start by allocating the E-Rate budget across every school in America so that every school board and every parent knows up front, on day one, how much E-Rate funding is available… Second, I propose that we redirect spending away from outdated services and toward next-generation technologies that directly benefit students… Third, I propose that we vastly simplify the E-Rate application process…Fourth, I propose to add real accountability and transparency to the E-Rate process.”
The full text of Pai’s speech, which was delivered to the American Enterprise Institute, is available at the FCC website.
Monday, July 15
This morning, IIA held a roundtable on technology and education with keynote speaker Joshua P. Starr, Superintendant of Montgomery County schools in Virginia.
Among the attendees were representatives from the Committee for Education Funding and online learning organization Apollo Group, which is the parent company of the University of Phoenix. Also attending was Lynh Bui of The Washington Post, who filed a report on the event.
Monday, July 01
Last month, President Obama put forward a bold initiative to connect 99% of American schools with high-speed Internet within the next five years. On Friday, Brendan Sasso of The Hill reports, acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn did her part to kickstart the initiative:
In a statement on Friday, Clyburn said the agency’s proposal answers the president’s call “to close our education system’s bandwidth gap by modernizing the E-Rate program and providing our schools and libraries with a path towards affordable access to high-speed broadband.”
“Since its inception, the E-Rate program has succeeded in connecting nearly all U.S. classrooms to the Internet, and in 2010 we took a number of initial steps to cut red tape and help schools get faster speeds for less money. But now, to ensure a robust future for our children, we must equip them with the necessary tools to compete and flourish in an increasingly global and high tech economy,” she said.
For a look at the benefits broadband has on education, check out our “Not Just Generation Text” infographic.
Thursday, June 20
With Immigration Reform a hot topic inside the Beltway, Jennifer Martinez of The Hill reports the effort is getting a big boost from some big players in the tech industry:
More than 100 top tech executives and heads of tech trade organizations — including Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and Cisco CEO John Chambers — urged senators to pass the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill in a letter sent to The Hill on Thursday.
The tech leaders said the measures in the bill will help companies fill thousands of empty technical jobs with skilled workers and also address the current skills gap in the United States by creating a so-called STEM fund that’s dedicated to improving American education programs in science, technology, math and engineering. The money for the STEM fund would be culled from higher fees that companies would have to pay under the bill for visas for highly skilled workers.
Also signing the letter were leaders from Google, Facebook, and Microsoft. The letter Martinez cites is available here.
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
Tuesday, May 28
Immigration reform is a hot topic in the Beltway these days, and as Jennifer Martinez of The Hill reports, one industry in particular is leading the charge:
The tech industry is targeting six GOP senators in the hopes of building a supermajority behind the Senate’s immigration bill.
The bill approved this week by the Judiciary Committee significantly increases the cap on H1-B visas commonly used by tech firms, and softened tougher restrictions on their use.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg highlighted the importance of immigration in the tech sector in a recent op-ed for the Washington Post. As he wrote:
To lead the world in this new economy, we need the most talented and hardest-working people. We need to train and attract the best. We need those middle-school students to be tomorrow’s leaders.
Given all this, why do we kick out the more than 40 percent of math and science graduate students who are not U.S. citizens after educating them? Why do we offer so few H-1B visas for talented specialists that the supply runs out within days of becoming available each year, even though we know each of these jobs will create two or three more American jobs in return? Why don’t we let entrepreneurs move here when they have what it takes to start companies that will create even more jobs?
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.
Thursday, April 25
Our Co-Chairman Jamal Simmons has penned an op-ed for The Grio on the critical need to provide urban schools with Internet access. Here’s a taste:
When it comes to digital access, location matters and not all students stand on equal footing. While more than half (54 percent) of these teachers report that almost all students have sufficient access to these tools in school, only 18 percent say students have sufficient access at home. Low income students are least likely to have access in school or at home. For urban students, they face greater barriers at school and rural students have less access at home.
Erasing the barriers to digitally enhanced learning for students in disadvantaged situations requires a multifaceted approach.
Read the full op-ed over at The Grio.
Monday, April 22
Over at Read Write Web, Lauren Orsini looks at the growing market to teach non-techies how to code:
Within the last two years, more and more companies have saturated the market with the express purpose of teaching everyone and anyone our generation’s hottest new job skill: programming. Now it’s become a fundraising race to the top of the pile.
This April, learn-to-code startup Treehouse announced that it raised a “war chest” of new funding. In a Series B round led by Kaplan Ventures, the Portland, Ore., company added another $7 million, for a total of $12.35 million.
For CEO and founder Ryan Carson, the money couldn’t have come at a better time. Competition between learn-to-code startups is rising, and Carson plans to press his advantage by adding more employees to Treehouse’s current 55 workers.
Thursday, March 07
At an event hosted by the Hudson Institute earlier today, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai discussed the transition to all-IP networks. During his speech, Pai spoke of two paths the Commission could take when it comes to regulations and technology. One path is rooted in the past — and outdates rules — that could hinder investment and innovation. The other path leads to the future, or the “all-IP world,” as he called it, which has great benefits for health care, education, public safety, and most of all consumers.
Noting that the FCC up until now had a foot on each path, Pai didn’t shy away from his belief that the Commission should be working toward the future, stating the FCC’s decisions around the IP transistion will have “dramatic and real world consequences.” He then made plain his preference for a pilot program — put forward to the FCC by AT&T — to upgrade legacy copper networks to all-IP. As John Eggerton of Broadcasting & Cable reports:
“The FCC has sought and received comments on a proposal to create an All-IP Pilot Program,” Pai said in a speech to the Hudson Institute. “I’ve reviewed the record carefully. And having done so, I am proposing today that the FCC move forward with this program.”
Pai also noted that in 2011 alone, there were over 317 million wireless connections in the U.S., and at least 47% of all households had “cut the cord” — meaning, dropped traditional landline service in favor of wireless or VoIP. This, he joked, pointed to the IP transition being as “inevitable as another reality series starring a Kardashian.”
You can watch a replay of Pai’s speech here.
Wednesday, March 06
In today’s Wall Street Journal, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski goes over the many steps the Commission is taking to free up more spectrum from wireless use. Calling broadband the “engine for economic growth,” he starts out his op-ed by backing up that statement:
To sustain long-term economic health, America needs growth engines, areas of the economy that hold real promise of major expansion. Few sectors have more job-creating innovation potential than broadband, particularly mobile broadband.
Genachowski then highlights how the U.S. now leads the world in 4G LTE deployment (along with the fact that private investment in mobile infrastructure is “more than 50% higher than in Europe”), but warns that in order to keep both deployment and investment happening, more airwaves are critical. As he writes:
Spectrum is finite, and the demand for airwaves being created by data-hungry, Internet-connected devices is on pace to exceed supply. How significant is the spike in demand? Today’s smartphones generate 50 times more mobile traffic than a traditional cellphone. For tablets, it’s 120 times more traffic. As a result, American wireless networks are running at the highest utilization rate of any in the world.
One solution to this problem, Genachowski tells readers of the Journal, is the Commission’s upcoming spectrum incentive auctions, which have the potential to both free up airwaves and deliver much needed revenue to the Federal Government. That’s potentially a win-win, as they say. But as our own Rick Boucher wrote this past February, the key to making the FCC’s initiative successful for consumers and the economy is ensuring spectrum auctions are open to all bidders. Boucher:
History has shown that when the FCC has tried to pick winners and losers in the wireless market, American consumers have lost. Past attempts by the Commission to favor certain bidders and/or impose rigid regulations on auction winners have drastically diminished auction proceeds, left major blocks of spectrum unused, and led to what FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski himself has labeled “America’s looming spectrum crisis.”
The simple truth is America’s wireless industry continues to be fiercely competitive… Allowing the FCC to impose conditions on spectrum auctions will not make the industry more competitive. And the spectrum critically needed by all providers to keep up with increasing demand will not be put to its full use, leading to spectrum shortages, reduced investment and innovation, and higher prices for consumers.
Only through truly competitive, open spectrum auctions will America’s wireless industry continue to thrive. After all, the best way to ensure competition is to encourage everyone to compete.
Genachowski and the entire FCC deserve praise for their tireless work to keep this critically important issue on the front burner. But given mobile broadband’s benefits — not just to consumers and the economy, but to communities, education, and the health care industry — ensuring spectrum incentive auctions are open to all those willing to make the substantial private investment to keep rapid deployment going should be at the top of the list. As Genachowski himself wrote in his op-ed:
Private-sector innovation in mobile broadband has been extraordinary. But maintaining the creative momentum in wireless networks, devices and apps will need an equally innovative wireless policy, or jobs and growth will be left on the table.
Thursday, February 21
Here’s something cool. Via Pete Kasperowicz of The Hill:
The House next week is expected to pass a resolution establishing a nationwide technology contest for students, which would initially encourage contestants to develop new “apps” for smartphones and tablets.
The resolution from Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.) is scheduled for consideration next week. It would create a contest run by the House of Representatives in which students from every congressional district would compete in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, the so-called STEM fields.
Wednesday, February 20
A recent story in USA Today from Ron Barnett highlights some of the benefits students at a South Carolina high school are receiving from being connected:
Jennifer Southers has flipped education upside-down for her math students at Hillcrest High School.
Instead of coming to class and listening to a lecture, then going home and trying out what they learned on their own, they listen to a lecture on video before class and work on putting the new knowledge to practice in the classroom, where their teacher is there to help.
“The level of frustration has almost disappeared completely on those lessons when we do that,” she said of the “flipped classroom” concept that she and other teachers are using.
Unfortunately, as Barnett’s piece goes on to point out, America’s ongoing digital divide may be creating an uneven playing field when it comes to educating students:
[W]hat about students who don’t have broadband Internet access at home? How can they keep up with their peers in streaming instructional videos and doing online research?
More than two-thirds of low-income families in South Carolina don’t have a high-speed Internet connection, said Jessica Ditto, spokeswoman for Connected Nation, a nonprofit organization that works to increase broadband access in the nation. Overall, 57 percent of households in the state have broadband access, she said.
Increasingly, access to the Internet means access to improved education, which means students in the 43% of South Carolina households not connected with broadband are at risk of being left behind when it comes to innovative learning. But as Barnett reports, there’s hope on the horizon — for South Carolina and elsewhere:
Bill Brown, executive director of educational technology services for Greenville County Schools, says 4G LTE technology offers the most promise for bridging the digital divide.
With it, “You could blanket buildings, you could blanket cities” with high-speed Internet access, he said.
More powerful networks — beginning with 4G LTE (which, as anyone who has experienced it can attest, is remarkably fast) and continuing with the shift to all-IP based networks — will mean more access in more ways for more people. With the future of education tied to technology, encouraging investment in these networks should be an educational priority.