Digital Beat Blog

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Consumers and Broadband

The September 9th National Broadband Plan workshop -- moderated by John Horrigan, the Consumer Research Director for the Federal Communications Commission's Omnibus Broadband Initiative -- focused on the Internet consumer. Academics, policy experts and industry participants discussed the challenges and opportunities for Internet consumers as the Internet becomes the focal point of commercial transactions, social networking, and a host of other activities involving information gathering and exchange. Although consumers generally benefit from electronic commerce and online health information, the prospect of sharing financial and personal information with unknown entities raises some serious security concerns. The workshop examined the broader context of the consumer experience from the perspective of the benefits it confers to consumers, the risks that may be associated with the benefits, and the obligations broadband connectivity may impose on consumers and institutions in an environment of pervasive data sharing and availability.

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Big Broadband Ideas

On September 3rd the Federal Communications Commission's National Broadband Plan workshop included two distinguished panels of academics and policy experts to focus on "Big Ideas," specifically the future of the Internet and broadband video content. The moderator, John Peha, the Chief Technology Officer of the FCC, framed the panels as discussions about the benefits the future might hold and the downfalls we might encounter as we move forward with the National Broadband Plan. The panelist spoke of the future of the Internet, the weaknesses and architecture of the Internet, and new trends in mobility, video and applications that will lead to further adoption.

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Broadband Benchmarks

The September 2nd Federal Communications Commission National Broadband Plan workshop featured a panel of academics, policy directors and telecom executives that came together to discuss the role of metrics and benchmarks for evaluating the various dimensions of broadband across geographic areas and across time. The Benchmarks considered included variables such as broadband deployment and adoption, affordability and prices, quality of broadband services and levels of competition.

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How State and Local Governments are Addressing Broadband Deployment and Adoption

On September 1, state and local telecommunications officials gathered at the Federal Communications Commission to discuss their roles in a National Broadband Plan. The FCC wanted to hear from state and local governments that have proactively addressed broadband deployment and adoption issues in their communities. On the table for discussion: identifying gaps in existing broadband policy, developing necessary infrastructure, securing support from key stakeholders, encouraging adoption, funding broadband initiatives and evaluating the effectiveness of enacted policies.

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Broadband and Job Training

On August 26, 2009, the Federal Communications Commission held a National Broadband Plan workshop focused on the potential impact of increased broadband access on job training and job placement. Topics of discussion included: Online and remote job training, Access to jobs, Adult education, The future of job searches, and Digital literacy for adults.

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The Smart Grid, Broadband and Climate Change

On August 25, the Federal Communications Commission held a National Broadband Plan workshop focused on broadband and communications infrastructure potentially transformative role in meeting our national energy, environmental, and transportation goals, including energy independence, greenhouse gas emissions reductions and clean energy generation. Nick Sinai, the Energy and Environment Director for the FCC's National Broadband Taskforce, led the discussion. The first panel explored smart grid technology. A second panel addressed broadband and climate change.

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Broadband, Public Safety and Homeland Security

On August 25, the Federal Communications Commission held a National Broadband Plan workshop covering public safety and homeland security. Split into two panels, the first part of the discussion examined how the National Broadband Plan should reflect the current and potential uses of broadband to improve public safety communications and operations, including the utilization of the Internet and web-based applications. On the FCC's agenda is how best to promote interoperable, wireless-based communications; the relationship between the broadband plan and the FCC's ongoing 700 MHz spectrum auction proceeding; what services are most needed; how to ensure physical diversity and redundancy, and improve hardening of network assets; and how can existing spectrum allocations(e.g.4.9 GHz) meet the needs of public safety. In addition, the FCC hopes to estimate costs for public safety to obtain broadband service, applications, or devices; what funding sources are available; which broadband networks are used for mission-critical communications; what models (e.g.statewide networks) have been successful and what are their limitations; what policies would best promote Next Gen 9-1-1, cybersecurity, pandemic preparedness; and how the FCC can coordinate with other federal agencies, state, local and tribal entities. The purpose of the workshop, in part, is to fill holes in the present record. The FCC believes comments filed earlier this summer are too focused on aspirational goals and not enough on ways of getting there.

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Education and the National Broadband Plan

On August 20, the Federal Communications Commission hosted a discussion on identifying the potential impact of increased broadband access on education outcomes and how broadband policies can help improve those outcomes. The National Broadband Plan workshop included panels on: 1) Innovation, Research and Development, 2) Viewpoints from Media and Society, and 3) the Future of the E-rate. The FCC is seeking ways in which broadband can impact education at the early childhood, elementary, secondary, and post-secondary levels in a cost-effective manner.

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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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