Digital Beat Blog

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FCC Townhall Addresses Broadband Opportunities for Individuals with Disabilities

On August 20, 2009, the Federal Communications Commission held a town hall-style discussion on broadband and its accessibility for people with disabilities. Blair Levin, Executive Director of the FCC's National Broadband Plan efforts, led the event, directing questions to an audience of people with disabilities, advocates for people with disabilities, service providers, and other groups.

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Sustainable Broadband Adoption -- What Works?

The Federal Communications Commission held a National Broadband Plan workshop on Wednesday to discuss, with practitioners, existing programs aimed at increasing broadband adoption and use. Relevance was the word of the day. Greg Goldman of the Digital Impact Group summed up points he said he heard from all his fellow panelists; there seemed to be consensus that adoption programs must be: Comprehensive, Focused on households, Community-based, Intensive (demanding time and money), and Human (not overly-focused on technology).

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How can Broadband Services Benefit Consumers?

Wednesday's second National Broadband Plan workshop on adoption and use focused on ways in which broadband services can benefit consumers, particularly those in groups that historically have been less likely to adopt or utilize broadband. Brian David, the FCC's Omnibus Broadband Initiative Adoption and Usage Director, led the session which also included Jessica Zufolo, Deputy Administrator of the Rural Utilities Service at the Department of Agriculture (USDA); Dr. Francine Jefferson, Evaluation Specialist for the Technology Opportunities Program at the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration; Luke Tate, aSpecial Assistant to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD); and a panel of experts. FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn was also in attendance.

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Building the Fact Base: Broadband Adoption and Use

John Horrigan, the Consumer Research Director for the Federal Communications Commission's Omnibus Broadband Initiative, moderated the August 19 National Broadband Plan workshop on the state of broadband adoption and use. The aim, he said, was to help the FCC think about who has broadband in the US and who doesn't. And, for those who do use broadband, what they are doing with it. Horrigan was joined by experts from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, the Department of Agriculture, CTIA (the wireless industry's lobbying association), Verizon, the Knight Center of Digital Excellence, and the University of Illinois.

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From Wires to People

On August 19, the Federal Communications Commission devotes a full day to people. After talking about deployment and technology and even small business, Wednesday's discussion shifts to why and how people use broadband. The FCC is in the middle of a series of discussions on creating a National Broadband Plan. So far, the talk has mainly been about wires (and wireless) and homes passes. Today the FCC looks at: A) the current state of data on broadband adoption and utilization, as well as the associated measurement and other challenges, B) the ways in which broadband services can benefit consumers, particularly those in groups that historically have been less likely to adopt or utilize broadband, and C) existing adoption programs that aim to increase adoption and utilization of broadband.

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FCC faces steep challenge in developing national broadband policy

It's well chronicled how the past nine years have seen the U.S. move from a leader in broadband service to being ranked somewhere in the high teens among all nations (depending on the survey). With slower, more expensive service, our nation is not in the position it should be to make sure broadband services are available and able to foster innovation at home. The U.S. is quickly losing out on economic opportunities while its position as a generator of patents slips to nations with robust broadband platforms for innovation in place.

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How Can TV Survive the Recession? Local Public Service

For years, I have been trying to convince television broadcasters that their legal requirement to serve the public interest, convenience and necessity is also in their own financial interest. This year's economic downturn has broadcasters -- like other businesses -- worried about their survival. The recession is costing stations some of their biggest advertisers, such as car dealers and retailers. Advertising sales at TV stations may fall 23 percent in 2009 after a 9 percent dip to $13.1 billion last year. On April 16, Bloomberg news published a story titled "U.S. TV Stations Attract More Viewers With News Than 'Seinfeld'" that shows that now, more than ever, broadcasters must serve local community needs if they are to survive.

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A First Step to Our National Broadband Plan

With the rush to implement the broadband-related provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, little attention has been paid to a provision of the 2008 Farm Bill with requires the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Agriculture to craft a comprehensive rural broadband strategy. This plan is due to Congress this Spring and the FCC has requested public input.

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Public Computing Broadband Grant Criteria

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) requires the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to establish the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (B-TOP). NTIA is to make at least $200 million available for expanding public computer capacity including community colleges and public libraries. NTIA is asking what criteria will help identify the best projects to award grants to. NTIA is also asking for public comment on what additional institutions other than community colleges and public libraries should be considered as eligible recipients under this program.

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Let's get to Work on Criteria for NTIA Grant Awards

The Recovery Act establishes several considerations for awarding grants under the national Telecommunications and Information Administration's new Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). Past five criteria in the statute the NTIA may consider other priorities. Here's some ideas.

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Writing an Effective Public Interest Rule for NTIA Broadband Grant Eligibility

The Recovery Act identifies two types of entities eligible to apply for and win NTIA broadband grants -- 1) state and local governments and 2) non-profit organizations. But the Act includes an opening for any other entity to become eligible. This language means that the NTIA is required to determine by rule whether it is in the public interest and in line with the overall purposes of the grants to open-up eligibility. And, so, the NTIA asks what standard to apply to determine if it is in the public interest for entities to be eligible.

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Let's Get to Work on the Role of the States in the NTIA Broadband Grant Program

From Congress, there is a recognition that States have resources and a familiarity with local economic, demographic, and market conditions that could contribute to the success of the broadband grant program. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration seeks comment on how best to consult the states while the NTIA retains the sole authority to approve the awards.

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Let's Get to Work on the Purposes of the Broadband Grant Program

Great news! The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) requires the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to establish the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (B-TOP) and the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) to make grants and loans for the deployment and construction of broadband systems. The Recovery Act also makes $7.2 billion available for these programs. But now comes the hard part: how do we get these grants, loans and loans guarantees flowing so they help the economy quickly while also directing to the people and places that need broadband improvements most?

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Many Voices, Many Eyes Needed

With the quality of our telecommunications system for the 21st century at stake, Federal policymakers need to hear not just from the telecommunications industry. They need to hear from you.

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A Gift to the Nation

We have just a few days left in 2008, but there's still time for the Federal Communications Commission to give us a gift and correct a great error made on Election Day. There's overwhelming consensus that we should be moving to universal, affordable broadband. Here's how the FCC could set us on that course.

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Your Turn: Call for Broadband Action

Now it is your turn. Will you ask President-elect Obama to get started on a National Broadband Strategy?

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Another DTV Opportunity Missed by the FCC

Last Friday, with about just two months left until the digital television (DTV) transition is completed, Sen Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Rep Henry Waxman (D-CA) sent Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin a letter asking him to confine his last FCC actions to smoothing the DTV transition and matters that "require action under the law." In response, Chairman Martin canceled the FCC's scheduled monthly meeting on December 18. That's a bad idea and another lost opportunity for digital television.

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A Broadband Action Plan for America

In the Digital Age, universal, affordable, and robust broadband is the key to our nation's citizens reaching for - and achieving - the American Dream.

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Putting the Public Interest Back Into Communications Part II: Broadband for Everyone, Everywhere

An invitation to speak at the annual conference of the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors, has Charles Benton thinking about defining our communications goals for the next Administration.

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Putting the Public Interest Back Into Communications Part I: The Civil Rights Imperative

On September 18, Charles Benton was invited to speak at the annual conference of the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors. Benton was asked to appear on a panel titled "The Future of Communications: What is Coming in a New Administration and Beyond?" In these uncertain times, however, maybe it is too much for anyone or any one panel, to predict what our telecommunications future will look like. We can - and we should - however, take this moment to define our communications goals.

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