Tuesday, November 03
I am always encouraged by the ways in which technology is improving the classroom experience for students around the country. Through network-enabled devices and high-speed broadband, students and their teachers are able to harness all the Internet has to offer, including apps and content sources that can improve educational outcomes and open doors of opportunity throughout the country.
Both in school and out, students are using mobile devices and the digital economy to explore new ideas and prepare for successful futures. Innovation in the technology industry has jump-started this introduction of technology into the educational experience for millions of students, and it is always worth pointing out some exciting examples of how technology is being put to use for educational innovation.
Just last week, Discovery Education and DirecTV joined the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to celebrate National Energy Awareness Month and ENERGY STAR® Day. This event was great. In addition to bringing students in to meet with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in person, the three organizations teamed up to provide a “virtual field trip” to schools around the country, which allowed them to tune in to watch the event remotely. By infusing technology into the event, more students not only watched the conversation, but joined it, bringing unique perspectives and questions from around the country.
Events like this show how important innovation in the technology sector is and why we need to continue to make the right kinds of regulatory and legislative choices that allow all players in this innovative industry to provide critical solutions and new offerings. Working together we can avoid false choices between arbitrary winners and losers. Just recently, the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) released their annual “Investment Heroes” report that showed that the technology industry was leading the pack when it comes to investments in America. As the EPA’s “virtual field trip” shows, this innovation is already changing educational models for the better, which has ripple effects throughout the economy.
While the PPI report illustrates the dollars being invested in the economy, the underlying story may be more important. These dollars are also investments in America’s students, schools and education system. When we deliver new tools and services to schools to open students’ eyes to the world around them, we are able to better prepare them for tomorrow’s workforce, giving them the skills they need to compete on a global scale.
Last week’s “virtual field trip” event sought to engage students in a conversation about being good stewards of the global environment. It is another great example of how technology solutions can be deployed to expose students to new ways of thinking about the world around them. The more we can innovate and deploy these kinds of solutions and ideas, the better off America’s students will be.
Thursday, January 22
Today, AT&T (which, full disclosure, is one of IIA’s members) announced a new initiative aimed at bolstering the use of technology in America’s classrooms. The initiative, called the AT&T Aspire Accelerator, is calling on applicants to submit ideas and programs that are “game-changing solutions to real-world education problems.” From the press release announcing the program:
Unlike most other accelerators, the primary measure of success for the Aspire Accelerator is societal impact rather than monetary return. Participants will be selected based on their ability to drive students’ educational or career success. Special consideration will be given to solutions for students who are at-risk of dropping out of school.
“Technology is changing how teachers manage their classrooms, how students digest information, and how parents and administrators communicate,” said Charlene Lake, Chief Sustainability Officer, AT&T. “The AT&T Aspire Accelerator is designed to support and scale ed-tech ideas that make brighter futures—ideas from for-profits and non-profits that want to make a difference.”
More information on the AT&T Aspire Accelerator, including the application process, is available here.
Tuesday, June 03
Via Kate Tummarello at The Hill, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have some ideas for how the FCC can successfully update an existing program to bring more technology to schools:
A bipartisan group of lawmakers laid out recommendations for the Federal Communications Commission to modernize its E-Rate program to fund technology in classrooms.
“The funding priorities must reflect the changing nature of the Internet, so that our classrooms and students have access to today’s technology,” a group of 46 lawmakers told the FCC in a letter on Monday.
“America’s school and libraries are in need of a technological update to accelerate next-generation education reforms, support teachers and enhance student learning through universal access to high-speed broadband.”
Monday, May 12
This is the second installment of our “Let’s Get Nerdy!” series, where we take tech policy issues that are currently top of mind in our nation’s capital and explain how they are relevant to Americans across the map.
In this installment, our Co-Chairman Jamal Simmons discusses the education and economic benefits of ensuring schools, libraries, and entire communities are connected to high-speed broadband.
Ready to get nerdy? Let’s go!
In your recent op-ed for Politic365 you pointed out that the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts there will be one million new jobs in computer technology and information services by 2022, but last year only three percent of AP Computer Science test-takers were African American. “Taking the right classes to learn how to code and make digital products seems like the first step, but it’s not,” you said. What is the first step to generate interest for working in the technology field among youth?
Companies like Apple, Microsoft and AT&T have committed $750 million to help bring high-speed broadband connections to students, in addition to the $200 million coming from President Obama’s ConnectED program. How else can policymakers make sure interest in digital careers is not snuffed out by slow connection speeds and long waits for computer access?
E-rate has helped connect a huge number of classrooms and libraries to the Internet, but you encourage that “kids need faster connections at home, too.” As policymakers undertake modernization of the E-rate program, how can we move beyond connecting only schools and libraries and extend broadband networks throughout entire communities?
Our thanks to Simmons for sharing his thoughts. Check out the previous episode of “Let’s Get Nerdy.”
Tuesday, March 25
Congressman Adam Kinzinger and FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai have penned an op-ed for the Chicago Sun-Times on the need to better train kids for the digital economy. The full op-ed is definitely worth checking out, but here’s an excerpt:
To prepare our children for digital-age jobs, we need to get them online today. Our students’ futures are too important to let this opportunity for far-reaching reform slip from our grasp.
A student-centered E-Rate program would give kids in small towns a better chance to compete with those growing up in big cities. Real reform would help children in Illinois and throughout small-town America see a brighter tomorrow — and we stand ready to ensure that E-Rate lives up to that promise.
Friday, March 07
Via Julian Hattern from The Hill, the FCC has put word out that it wants public input on how best to achieve President Obama’s call to bring high-speed Internet access to every school and library in America:
Comments the FCC receives will be on top of the 1,500 it has already gotten on the issue.
“The record in this proceeding demonstrates overwhelming agreement among stakeholders that the E-rate program has been a crucial part of helping our nation’s schools and libraries connect to the Internet,” the FCC wrote in the notice. “The record also shows a strong commitment to ensuring that the E-rate program quickly evolve to meet the ever-growing need for high-capacity broadband so our students and communities have access.”
Tuesday, February 04
The Obama administration has long made connecting schools with high-speed Internet a priority. Now, following the most recent State of the Union address when President Obama announced a private-public partnership to do just that, everything is starting to come together. As Justin Sink of The Hill reports:
President Obama is set Tuesday to announce more than $750 million in charitable commitments from technology and telecom companies for a new effort to bring high-speed Internet to the classroom.
Speaking at a middle school in suburban Maryland on Tuesday, Obama will announce “major progress toward realizing the ConnectED goal to get high-speed Internet connectivity and educational technology into classrooms, and into the hands of teachers trained on its advantages,” the White House said in a statement.
Among those contributing are major providers AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint — each pledging up to $100 million — along with tech companies Apple, Microsoft, and more. From AT&T’s statement announcing their contribution:
“The most important investment we can make to drive long-term prosperity for our country is finding smart new ways to make technology work for schools, teachers and students,” said Jim Cicconi, senior executive vice president, AT&T external and legislative affairs. “Providing access to mobile broadband for educational purposes and the tools teachers need to help their students excel is a foundational building block to improving educational results.”
Given that at least 70% of American schools are unable to offer all their students access to high-speed Internet, this is a pretty big deal.
Wednesday, January 29
Our own Co-Chairman Jamal Simmons has an op-ed for The Hill highlighting the need to connect our kids with high-speed broadband. Here’s a taste:
I grew up in Detroit during the de-industrialization of America in the 1970s and 80s. Despite our collective idealization of the old days of manufacturing when men like my grandfather could raise a family of six on his blue collar auto plant wages, that world is not coming back.
Instead we must prepare our children for the jobs of the future that will require more skills and a willingness to keep adapting throughout their careers. Consumers spent over $2 trillion dollars on IT products and services in 2013, and one study reported that Apple paid app developers $5 billion dollars, Google $900 million and Microsoft $100 million. Yet despite our increasing diversity, another study found 83 percent of tech startups’ founding teams are all-white; 5 percent Asian and 1 percent African American. Only 10 percent of startup founders are women. Allowing those trends to continue is bad for the tech industry, bad for the people being left out and bad for the economic prospects of the United States. Much like the gene pool of families that intermarry over generations, our country’s innovative DNA will deteriorate without diversifying beyond the narrow band of elites now setting the pace in the tech industry.
You can read the full op-ed over at The Hill.
Last night, President Obama delivered his sixth State of the Union Address. One highlight from his speech was a renewed pledge to connect every school in America with high-speed Internet. As Kevin Fitchard of GigaOm reports:
Last year, Obama announced a program to extend broadband access to 99 percent of schools over four years, and on Tuesday he said the administration is working with the Federal Communications Commission, Verizon, Sprint, Apple and Microsoft to fund such a project. According to the White House, details of these “philanthropic partnerships” will be released in coming weeks and will help connect 15,000 schools and 20 million students with wireless and wireline broadband in the next two years.
The Hill‘s Julian Hattem has more:
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said that the commission has made a point to make the program as efficient as possible.
“By applying business-like management practices to E-Rate, we can take steps this year that will make existing funds go farther to significantly increase our investment in high-speed broadband connectivity for schools and libraries for the benefit of our students and teachers,” he said in a statement after Obama’s remarks.
“In the Internet age, every student in America should have access to state-of-the-art educational tools, which are increasingly interactive, individualized and bandwidth-intensive,” Wheeler added.
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