Monday, September 14, 2020
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Stories From Abroad
The coronavirus crisis may offer a grim preview of further marginalization for Americans of color in the coming decades, a new Deutsche Bank report concludes. "COVID is a picture of what the world might look like in the future as it gets more digitized," Apjit Walia, a technology strategist with Deutsche Bank, told Axios. His report finds that Black and Hispanic Americans are particularly vulnerable to being left behind as the workforce further digitizes and inequality rises. 76% of Black people and 62% of Hispanic people in the U.S. could be shut out or underprepared for 86% of jobs in the country by 2045, according to the report. The pandemic has already offered a model for how that divide might play out. Black people had to venture out of their homes 135% more than white people in April compared to pre-COVID, Deutsche Bank found, per geolocation data gathered in majority Black and majority white neighborhoods in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing more than $21 million to provide broadband service in unserved and underserved rural areas in North Carolina. This investment is part of the $550 million Congress allocated to second round of the ReConnect Program. In rural North Carolina, Atlantic Telephone Membership Corporation will use a $21.6 million grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) network to connect 17,424 people, 209 farms, 285 businesses, 19 educational facilities, nine health care facilities, seven fire stations, and seven post offices to high-speed broadband internet in Pender County.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing more than $2 million to provide broadband service in unserved and underserved rural areas in North Carolina. This investment is part of the $100 million Congress allocated to the ReConnect Program through the CARES Act.In rural North Carolina, Randolph Telephone Membership Corporation will use a $2.3 million grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) network to connect 3,333 people, 17 farms, 26 businesses and nine educational facilities to high-speed broadband internet in Moore County.
Scott Vanderlip can see Google’s headquarters from his house in the town of Los Altos Hills (CA) (pop. 9,000). But still, some of his neighbors struggle to access the online world that the tech company has helped shape. Even the residents who could connect to AT&T or Comcat’s networks, such as Vanderlip, were dissatisfied with the monopoly companies’ poor service quality. So they created Los Altos Hills Community Fiber, a nonprofit mutual benefit corporation that’s bringing a local, high-quality connectivity option to the area.
Los Altos Hills Community Fiber (LAHCF) owns and finances the local Fiber-to-the-Home network and recruits interested community members, while its technical partner Next Level Networks manages network operations and construction and provides residents with tools to help organize their neighbors. The arrangement gives LAHCF subscribers more say over how the network operates and what speeds they have access to, a stark difference from the antagonistic relationship that many national Internet service providers (ISPs) have with their customers. “Anyone can do this,” said Next Level Networks COO David Barron in a phone interview. “You just need a few motivated people to organize, and you can be completely free of the telcos and cable operators.”
After wildfires consumed an entire town, students and teachers who had planned for remote classes found some comfort in staying connected amid the chaos.
As students across the country start school, education experts reckon with the long-term implications of remote learning, vanishing resources, and heightened inequality.
Much of southern West Virginia had already been struggling with a drug epidemic and persistent poverty before the coronavirus pandemic took hold here. Now, as students return to school online, the region is coming up against another longstanding challenge: a lack of broadband internet access. Providing service in sparsely populated areas is typically more costly and less profitable than in suburbs and cities. In Appalachia, the terrain has made it difficult to install and maintain the infrastructure necessary for broadband. In West Virginia, between 30% and 50% of K-12 students don’t have internet access at home, according to the state Department of Education. By the start of school, the state had set up nearly 850 Wi-Fi hot spots at schools, libraries, National Guard armories, and state parks for students. So far, nine of West Virginia’s 55 counties are teaching all classes remotely after spikes in Covid-19 cases pushed them above a threshold for new daily cases set by the state.
Sen Mark Warner (D-VA) led 10 other senators in calling on the seven largest internet service providers (ISPs) to do their part to limit the economic and social disruption caused by COVID-19 and help ensure that children are able to meaningfully participate in their education. These letters come as unprecedented numbers of students rely on remote learning to kick off the fall semester due to the ongoing public health crisis.
In a letter sent to the CEOs of AT&T, CenturyLink, Charter Communications, Comcast, Cox Communications, T-Mobile, and Verizon, the senators called on companies to take concrete measures to suspend limits and fees associated with increased broadband use, which is needed to participate in online courses or remote work. They also called for the companies to expand coverage areas, as the public health emergency has highlighted the devastating impact of the nation’s lingering broadband gaps. In their letter, the senators noted numerous complaints that have come in to their offices from parents and educators who are grappling with usage caps and limited bandwidth, which prevent daily video calls needed to learn and work from home. The senators also stated they’ve heard of families being deemed ineligible for the new services offered for low-income families due to previous missed payments.
Ensuring all US households have high-speed internet will help provide similar education opportunities to students at different income levels, particularly during the pandemic, Democrats said. “Education justice involves giving everybody the same access to information,” said Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL). The digital divide exacerbated by the pandemic “is about opportunity” and needs to be narrowed, said Rep Shalala. “We need a national policy of 100 percent of our households online,” said Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. “No individual, household, or community is going to have a fair shot at success in the 21st century without it.” Margaret Spellings, who was secretary of Education during the George W. Bush administration, also expressed concern about the amount of attention to the educational divide by officials at all levels of government, saying “we are at risk of losing a generation of kids.”
Lack of good broadband access is a strong predictor of childhood poverty. That’s the finding of Broadband Communities’ recent analysis combining county-level broadband data it has collected since 2010 with comprehensive, county-level poverty data compiled by the nonprofit organization Save the Children. We looked at overall poverty rankings, and, with sensitivities heightened because of the current need for distance learning, we also analyzed high school graduation patterns.
If we want to make any progress on [connecting Americans] during hurricane season, then we need Congress to pass the “Reenforcing and Evaluating Service Integrity, Local Infrastructure, and Emergency Notification for Today’s Networks — or RESILIENT Networks — Act.” Congress should pass the RESILIENT Networks Act as quickly as possible. Neither the Federal Communications Commission nor state governments have taken the needed steps to update our regulations governing repair of physical networks to reflect modern network construction. The biggest change — that communications networks are no longer self-powered — requires that the FCC and the Department of Energy (through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) work together to require power companies and telecommunications companies to coordinate. That takes federal legislation. But we also need to recognize that we can’t require every network to maintain reliability on its own. We need networks to use the redundancy that comes from having competing networks to provide the reliability we used to have from a highly regulated monopoly provider.
Joe Biden may or may not have a short list of people he'd nominate to chair the Federal Communications Commission, but the rest of Washington does. Tech lobbyists, tech activists, and current and former FCC officials have all begun speculating about who Biden would choose if he wins. There's a long list of Democrats with FCC experience, and a number of them are people of color, which is sure to be a factor for Biden if he's elected; several insiders said that being a white male would be just short of disqualifying for the top slot at the FCC under a Biden administration. Here are the potential nominees whose names are coming up most often in these conversations, arranged roughly in the order in which tech insiders rank their odds.
- Former FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn
- Current FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel
- Current FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks
- Former FCC staffer Gigi Sohn
- Former National Telecommunications and Information Administration head Larry Strickling
- Former FCC staffer Anna Gomez
- DLA Piper Partner Edward "Smitty" Smith
- Former FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc
- Former FCC and Congressional staffer Clint Odom
- Former California Public Utilities Commissioner Catherine Sandoval
- Former White House advisor Susan Crawford
- Former FCC staffer Blair Levin
- Senate Commerce Committee Senior Counsel John Branscome
- Free Press CEO Jessica González
- Brookings Institution's Nicol Turner Lee
Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel is widely considered among the frontrunners to lead the FCC under a Biden administration. Protocol spoke with Commissioner Rosenworcel about whether the process around President Donald Trump's social media executive order has become corrupt, why she thinks FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is dropping the ball when it comes to helping students get internet access, and what she thinks a Democratic administration should prioritize on tech policy.
When asked, "Chairman Pai says it's simply not within the FCC's jurisdiction to change E-Rate [to expand access outside of classroos] because of how the law is written. What's your response to Pai on that?" Commissioner Rosenworcel said, "That's just an excuse. It's not right. The law has a reference to classrooms, but it also has provisions that suggest we can make adjustments in order to facilitate the underlying purpose, which is to get kids connected to school. Moreover, the FCC has forbearance authority, which it uses on behalf of companies every other week. Why wouldn't we use that same authority to make sure that we get our nation's kids connected? We can fix the homework gap, we can address digital equity with some modest adjustments to our programs. Our refusal to do so is cruel. We keep looking the other way. We're tying ourselves up in bureaucratic knots to help prevent kids all across this country get connected and actually go to school. Shame on us. There's nothing in the law that prevents us from making the adjustments right now."
In this paper, we analyse the effect of cable networks on fibre to the x (FTTx) network expansions by drawing on data from a sample of 28 European countries spanning the period 2011 to 2017. We find that there is a negative relationship between cable network coverage and FTTx network expansion. This restraining effect associated with cable networks contradicts the current regulatory regime, which is primarily designed to enable effective competition against the incumbent on copper- and fibre-based infrastructure. Therefore, our analysis is a crucial first step to design a sound regulatory and competitive framework to achieve the ambitious broadband targets set by the European Commission and national governments. Most importantly, we conclude that public policymakers should assess broadband markets distinctly for cable and non-cable regions to reflect the competition dynamics between cable operators and operators investing in FTTx networks.
Benton (www.benton.org) provides the only free, reliable, and non-partisan daily digest that curates and distributes news related to universal broadband, while connecting communications, democracy, and public interest issues. Posted Monday through Friday, this service provides updates on important industry developments, policy issues, and other related news events. While the summaries are factually accurate, their sometimes informal tone may not always represent the tone of the original articles. Headlines are compiled by Kevin Taglang (headlines AT benton DOT org) and Robbie McBeath (rmcbeath AT benton DOT org) — we welcome your comments.
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