Senior Advisor to the Chairman on Broadband Phoebe Yang delivered these remarks to the 1st Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) International Conference on Smart Grid Communications in Gathersburg, MD earlier today.
Senior Advisor to the Chairman on Broadband Phoebe Yang delivered these remarks to county commissioners and staff from rural California counties last week in Napa, CA.
Phoebe Yang, Senior Advisor to the Chairman on Broadband, gave this speech about the intersection between communications technology and health care at a conference sponsored by the American Telemedicine Association on Monday, Sept. 27.
Over a century ago, Alexander Graham Bell met with the President of the United States, Rutherford B. Hayes, to demonstrate a new invention: the telephone. After Bell finished his demonstration, the President turned to him and said, “That’s an amazing invention, but who would ever want to use one of them?”
As it turned out, the answer to the President’s question was simple: doctors.
As the eminent sociologist Dr. Paul Starr notes, the first recorded telephone exchange connected 21 Connecticut doctors with the Capital Avenue Drugstore in Hartford. The first phone line in Rochester, Minnesota, connected a doctor by the name of Mayo with his local drugstore. By 1923, use of the telephone was so widespread in the medical profession that a Philadelphia doctor’s manual on medical practice remarked that it had become as necessary to the physician as the stethoscope.
Our era is perhaps an even more transformative time for medicine. As all of you know firsthand, we’ve seen tremendous innovation and investment in telemedicine over the last decade.
Senior Advisor to the Chairman on Broadband Phoebe Yang delivered this speech to an array of community groups last week at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, CA.
It’s very fitting that we should come together today at the Japanese American National Museum to talk about how Asian Americans must be empowered to benefit from the communications network of the 21st century – broadband.
Today, being back in California, I am reminded of the immense sacrifices early Asian Americans made for this country – in the pursuit of the vital goal of connecting people across this vast land to one another.
Today, America has 306 million people to connect – and like in previous centuries with the railroads, telephones, and highways – including voices like those in this room is critical to our nation’s economy, security, and future.
When I shared with some individuals that I was planning on coming here today, their response was that Asian Americans represent such a small minority of the American population – why not focus on other groups? My reply was simple – while all Americans should benefit from all that broadband has to offer, and other groups are also critical to our goals of inclusion, you can’t ignore the role of Asian Americans in building the technology and communications networks of the past, and we would be foolish to underestimate the innovative creativity and spirit of Asian Americans in shaping the communications networks of the future.
Over 20 years ago, when I was a student at the University of Virginia, I founded the Asian Student Union and the Asian Leaders’ Council, to bring together the diverse interests and experiences of different Asian American communities. Due to the limitations of technology at the time – think photocopiers and 25 cents/minute long-distance phone service – it was a struggle for our voice to carry far beyond Charlottesville, Virginia. But within a few years, when I was studying in Singapore, the start of mass Internet communications – e-mail – allowed me to stay in touch with friends and family back in the U.S. and elsewhere.
By Phoebe Yang and Lyle Ishida
Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission released translations of the National Broadband Plan’s Executive Summary in six Asian and Pacific Islander languages. The translated documents are available at http://www.broadband.gov/plan/executive-summary/ and include Chinese (Simplified), Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, Tagalog, and Samoan. We anticipate posting additional translations in other languages within a few months. (If there are particular languages in which members of the Blogband community would find useful to have a translation of the Executive Summary, please let us know in the comments section of this post.)
Although a recent NTIA survey suggests that Asian Americans may adopt broadband in the home at a rate close to the national average, some Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) populations have lower-than-average median household incomes (Korean Americans) or have many members that live in rural areas (Hmong Americans) – demographic indicators correlated with lower broadband adoption rates. In addition, AAPI populations include many households that are “linguistically isolated” – defined by the Census Bureau as “a household in which all members age 14 years and over speak a non-English language and also speak English less than ‘very well.’” For example, at the last census, over 30% of Vietnamese-American households were linguistically isolated. For these Americans, and others like them, access to translated materials is important to increasing their understanding of broadband and closing the digital divide.
These translations represent an early step – but not our last step – in our efforts to reach out to AAPI populations about the power of broadband. Yesterday, the two of us were in Los Angeles, holding an outreach event in partnership with the California Public Utilities Commission, the Office of the California CIO, and the Asian-Pacific Chamber of Commerce, and talking to a crowd of community based organizations, small business owners, and consumers about what they can do to help bring broadband to all members of the Los Angeles community. We look forward to working with the Asian American community to make broadband access a reality for all Americans.
Sue Urahn, thank you for having me here. I’ve read the report and it’s a much-needed synthesis of the state of play for broadband in the states.
We look forward to seeing much more great work from the Pew Center on the States in the broadband arena.
And Steve Fletcher, it’s also great to have you here from NASCIO. What you’ve done in Utah, streamlining your enterprise social services system – and really, IT throughout state government - and ultimately improving service delivery, is exactly the kind of proactive effort that the National Broadband Plan recommends.
When our team at the FCC began developing the National Broadband Plan, we said that we wanted to be data-driven and to break through traditional silos that may have hemmed in high-level strategic thinking about broadband in the past.
This approach ended up being strikingly apt for the challenge we were facing, because broadband breaks down more silos than any other technology the world has yet seen.
As the columnist Tom Friedman has noted, broadband is a “flattener” that dramatically reduces barriers to connecting with ideas, with opportunities and with other citizens.
Twenty years ago, two friends from different states that wanted to stay in touch might mail each other pen-pal notes, or place an expensive long-distance call.
Today, they can video-chat in real time and book flights online to visit each other in-person – all from the convenience of their smartphone.
But it is important to remember that the “flattening” nature of broadband cannot only create value, but also to constrain value creation, or even destroy value, in certain circumstances.
Broadband isn’t bound by state lines, but state laws and regulations can determine whether or not broadband can create value for the citizens of a state.
This morning, let me suggest a few parts of the broadband ecosystem where this is particularly true – and suggest ways that states might work with each other, and the FCC, to tip the balance from value constraint to value creation.
One key example is the area of licensing. In 1847, Nathan Smith Davis founded the American Medical Association, one of the country’s oldest national professional organizations. In order to improve the quality of the practice of medicine, Davis argued that the right to license physicians should be transferred from state and county medical societies and colleges to newly formed state licensing boards.
Since that time, the medical technology – and communications between doctors and doctors and doctors and patients -- have changed.
In an era when doctors lugged their black bags on house calls, it took them several days to consult with colleagues in other states – not milliseconds.
But in an era when doctors use broadband, the relatively low cost of video connectivity means that physicians can diagnose and treat patients thousands of miles away – leveraging particular expertise that is often sorely needed.
This is particularly important for high physician shortage areas and rural regions of the country, which almost every state has. For example, today 27 states have fewer developmental-behavioral pediatricians than they need to meet demand.
But we still rely on the same state-based licensing system pioneered by Nathan Smith Davis over 160 years ago to determine where those pediatricians can perform their good works - at the same time that European thought leaders have begun thinking about moving to transnational medical licensing.
So the Plan calls upon the nation’s governors and state legislatures to revise their licensing requirements to enable e-care, and to collaborate through groups like the NGA, NCSL and the Federation of State Medical Boards to craft an interstate agreement that makes it easier for doctors to treat patients across state lines.
We applaud the early efforts of State Alliance for E-Health, convened by the NGA’s Center on Best Practices, to streamline the licensing processes across states via online tools for quick updates to credentials and other qualifications.
Or take the example of taxes. Currently, businesses face a patchwork of state and local laws and regulations relating to the taxation of digital goods and services. For example, New Jersey and Vermont explicitly tax ringtones delivered through electronic means, but Nebraska only taxes “digital audio works (music).” This begs the question: is a ringtone a digital audio work? Is it music?
And because more and more products and services can be downloaded in a mobile environment, several taxing authorities may try to lay claim to the same transaction. If I start downloading Iron Man 2 on my iPad on one side of the Key Bridge in Virginia and finish in DC, who gets to collect the sales tax on that transaction?
Without greater clarity and consistency across the country with regard to what counts as a digital good or service -- how that good or service will be taxed -- it’s hard for us to create an environment in which innovation in digital products and business models can fully flourish. And it will be hard for entrepreneurs and small businesses to understand the tax obligations they face.
That’s why the Plan recommends investigating the establishment of a national framework for digital goods and services taxation. This framework would not usurp the authority of states to set their own taxation regimes; but much like the Uniform Commercial Code in the past, it could provide a means for moving from value constraint to value creation in our approach to online commerce.
The Plan also suggests reforms to streamline the process of gaining access to rights-of-way.
One of the most significant sources of cost and delay in building broadband networks is the process of gaining access to rights-of-way and preparing those rights-of-way for broadband deployment, a process called “make-ready.”
For large broadband network builds, the rights-of-way process is highly fragmented and often involves dozens of utilities, cable providers and telecommunications providers in multiple jurisdictions. This process remains expensive, and there is no established process for the timely resolution of disputes.
Some states, like Connecticut and New York, have managed the rights-of-way process well, including the establishment of firm timelines to which rights-of-way owners must adhere and direct regulation of the make-ready process. But in other states, it can take half a year to complete make-ready work.
If we want to move from value constraint to value creation, we need to break down barriers that may be standing in the way of broadband deployment.
So in May, the FCC issued a Pole Attachments Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking o ask for comment on proposed rules to streamline the process.
The Plan also calls for the creation of a joint ROW task force with state and local policymakers to craft guidelines for rates, terms and conditions for access to public rights of way. We intend for that task force to be up and running by the end of September and look forward to working with our state colleagues on crafting an approach to the rights-of-way challenge that will enable more and better networks.
And while we’re on the topic of building networks, it’s worth pointing out that the Plan encourages Congress to clarify that state, local, and tribal governments can build broadband networks themselves.
Much like rural electric cooperatives emerged in the early 20th century to fill the void left when investor-owned electric utilities neglected rural areas in their rush to electrify urban centers
In the absence of investment, local communities should have the right to move forward if they deem it in the best interest of their citizens and their economy.
I’ve only focused on a few elements of the Plan today, but I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have on other parts that are likely to impact states, including the Universal Service Fund, demand aggregation to allow states and localities to take part in federal IT contracts, public safety, consumer protection, or any other topics.
To close, we all know that the states play a crucial role in making broadband accessible to all Americans. The Plan is a launch-pad, not a landing, and we need states to be actively engaged in solving the problem of making broadband available, affordable, and accessible to all Americans.
As we move forward with proceedings, we’re looking forward to getting your input through the filing process on several specific topics.
We want to learn more about efforts that you have undertaken or contemplated on universal service and intercarrier compensation, and about state-level efforts to deploy broadband generally, including information on how states are evaluating current Carrier of Last Resort requirements as we shift to IP-based networks.
We want to get your input on infrastructure issues, and the impact of the Plan’s proposed recommendations on traditional wireline carriers.
We’d like to receive more information on state experiences with demand-side initiatives to reach people with disabilities, people on Tribal lands and other underserved groups.
And of course, we encourage you to comment in response to our E-Rate Fiscal 2011 NPRM – e.g., wireless connectivity, our Rural Health Care NPRM, and our Broadband Data NPRM (which will come out in the 4th quarter of this year).
Thanks, and I’m happy to answer any questions you might have.
A common criticism of major planning documents is that they end up gathering dust on the shelf, being used as door stoppers, getting stuffed in a file cabinet. But one month after its release, the National Broadband Plan is still flying off the shelf rather than gathering dust on it. More important, many of the recommendations have already been implemented or have traction. The FCC itself has implemented over a dozen ideas that were generated or gained momentum during development of the Plan, such as making Internet access in schools funded by the E-rate program available for community use, providing more flexibility in our Rural Health Care Pilot Program, streamlining mobile wireless tower sitings, increasing use of MSS spectrum for terrestrial service, and launching multi-agency efforts with the NTIA on spectrum and the FDA on wireless health care devices. Outside the FCC, five partnerships or coalitions recommended by the FCC to encourage adoption or increase connectivity are already underway, including project GOAL for senior citizens, the Apps for Inclusion competition co-sponsored with the Knight Foundation, a small business partnership for digital literacy, a collaboration between technology companies and HUD to increase broadband adoption in low income households, and a consortium to upgrade connectivity in 40,000 community anchor institutions. . And at its upcoming meeting on April 21, the Commission will begin tackling six major policy recommendations in the plan, taking on issues like Universal Service Reform, cyber security, deployment of wireless data services, and innovation in television set-top boxes.
All this activity is no accident: the Plan was both visionary and pragmatic. It provides the push and direction needed by the Commission to move on tough issues, such as reforming universal service for broadband. And it identifies and prioritizes ideas for which there is already consensus, such as public-private partnerships for adoption. Plus, the plan itself provided the Commission with tools for action. A sophisticated economic model used to identify areas of the country that lack broadband connections can be a tool for figuring out how to best to provide service. A first-ever consumer survey on adoption has identified segments of the population that need the most help, whether they be people with disabilities, Tribal areas, the elderly or low-income communities. The Plan’s recognition that competition thrives when consumers have more information has already been translated into action in a variety of tools launched by the Commission to help consumers and the agency assess available and advertised broadband speeds. Our user-friendly spectrum dashboard is already providing the public with more information about spectrum use.
So if you need a door stop, find something else. Chances are if you use the Plan for that, someone will snatch it away before it can gather any dust.
We’re getting positive comments as we roll out some of the working recommendations in the National Broadband Plan. A number of statements of support came in response to our presentation to the Commission last week on the section of the plan that will address how broadband can help the nation address key priorities: job creation and economic development, healthcare, education, energy and the environment, government, public safety and homeland security. Here is a sampling:
From Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, regarding a recommendation in the plan for E-Rate reform already adopted by the Commission:
“This is a win-win for the community and for our schools. The FCC’s ruling will increase broadband access in the community, building rapport between schools and community groups, and giving more people access to high-speed Internet. We have seen time and again that the Internet is a powerful engine for expanding opportunities for people. Some of our schools want the flexibility to allow the community to access the Internet, and this will deliver. If we want to invest in our future, enabling the E-rate program to serve more people is a good way to go.”
From Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass, Chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming and the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment:
“As the author of the requirement in the Recovery Act tasking the FCC to develop a National Broadband Plan for our country, I am heartened by today’s preview. The outline announced today suggests that the Commission is on track to fulfill the mandate that I wrote by producing a bold, future-focused, strategy for broadband deployment and adoption in our country.
“The Plan will also call on utilities, localities and states to voluntarily give consumers and consumer-authorized third parties access to real-time energy information in standardized formats. This will open up a whole new world of energy apps to help homeowners unlock the potential in their homes and electric cars to meet their energy needs. I intend to draft legislation that ensures that utilities in all states allow their customers to authorize third parties to get access to the data needed to support the development of these new smart grid applications, while ensuring that the appropriate privacy and security measures are in place.”
From Greg Brown, Co-CEO, Motorola, Inc.:
“Motorola is pleased that Chairman Genachowski has made public safety communications a high priority and is including the broadband needs of the public safety community in the National Broadband Plan. Public Safety must have the resources necessary to deploy and operate a nationwide interoperable public safety broadband network capable of meeting the unique needs of first responders. Motorola shares the Chairman’s commitment to ensuring that public safety has the advanced technologies it requires and an interoperable network that is vital for mission critical operations.”
From Todd Finnell, CEO, California K-12 High Speed Network:
“We believe strongly that the working recommendations provided in the National Broadband Plan will support our goals in bringing 21st century resources to students through broadband initiatives. The framework for these recommendations is in direct support of our vision and plan for California.”
From Douglas Levin, Executive Direction, SETDA (State Educational Technology Directors Association):
"We welcome the release of the forward-looking working recommendations of the National Broadband Plan, which highlight the growing demand for and use of broadband for education. Ensuring high-speed broadband access for all students is a critical national issue and foundational to realizing our national education reform and improvement goals. We know teachers and students need high-speed broadband access in their schools to take advantage of a wide range of new and rich educational tools and resources. Teachers need high-speed broadband access for professional development, to engage in professional learning communities, and to access statewide education portals, digital instructional materials and open educational resources. Administrators need high-speed broadband access to conduct online assessments and to access data for effective decision making. And students need high-speed broadband to access learning anytime, anywhere and to overcome the lack of educational opportunity in rural and at-risk communities. We look forward to working with the FCC, Congress and the Administration to moving from dialogue about these recommendations to concrete actions and programs to benefit all students.”
From Kyle McSlarrow, President & CEO, NCTA (National Cable& Telecommunications Association):
“The FCC’s broadband team deserves enormous credit for their effort to identify key national priorities and achievable goals that will improve America’s economic welfare and enhance basic government and societal services that millions of citizens rely on. The key challenges and opportunities outlined today all recognize how critical broadband is and will continue to be to ensure the U.S. remains competitive in key economic and societal sectors. As the nation’s leading broadband provider, our industry will continue to do its part to provide an increasingly robust broadband network that will help accomplish many of the FCC’s stated goals.”
“Blackboard commends the FCC’s efforts to provide equal access to and continuity of education through ensuring universal access to broadband services. We support the framework presented by the National Purposes Team in the economic opportunity section of today’s presentation. The recognition of the clear benefits of an e-learning platform to deliver job services and job training is critical. Working adults and displaced workers have tremendous opportunities for employment advancement via online diplomas and degrees offered by Career College Association schools who serve their demographic.”
From Cameron Brooks, Senior Director, Market Development and Policy Strategy, Tendril:
"We are very encouraged by the leadership that the FCC is displaying with regard to the benefits that broadband can support with regard to energy. Modernizing the electric grid will benefit all Americans by enabling greater energy efficiency, renewable energy and deployment of electric vehicles. As we described in testimony before the Commission, we believe that widespread broadband deployment with policies that encourage open access to information will serve as a powerful foundation for innovation and entrepreneurship."
From Rick Counihan, Vice President Regulatory Affairs-Western Region, EnerNOC, Inc.:
“Access to consumption data in near-real time provides the raw material that entrepreneurs and developers can build applications around, both those we can conceive of now and others we have not thought of. If all data has to go back to the utility, be scrubbed and then becomes available hours later it will stifle innovation and competition.”
From Richard Mirgon, President, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International:
“APCO International applauds the Commission’s public safety focus and also supports the creation of an entity such as an Emergency Response Interoperability Center (ERIC) as was briefly discussed at the FCC’s meeting, though many important issues must still be resolved. APCO International looks forward to participating in ERIC and working with the Commission to enhance public safety communications capabilities. We also continue to urge Congress to reallocate the D Block to public safety, as we believe this would be the most effective way to develop a national public safety interoperable broadband network.”
From George Heinrichs, President, Intrado:
“The Commission’s action to include next generation 9-1-1 in the National Broadband Plan brings this country one step closer to getting a 9-1-1 system that meets the needs of all citizens - a step that will certainly save more lives.”
From Brian Fontes, CEO, National Emergency Number Association:
“NENA applauds the FCC for its commitment to addressing 9-1-1 and public safety communications in the National Broadband Plan. It is clear from today’s presentation that the recommendations in the Plan will appropriately emphasize the critically important role that broadband will play in the next generation of 9-1-1 and emergency communications systems. Chief Barnett and the dedicated staff of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau are to be commended for their efforts.
As NENA has consistently said in our comments to the Commission, it is essential that the National Broadband Plan include recommendations designed to facilitate the transition of our nation’s 9-1-1 and emergency communications systems to broadband-enabled, IP-based platforms. It appears that the Plan will do just that. In particular, we strongly support the focus on Next Generation 9-1-1 and the establishment of a nationwide public safety wireless broadband network (including an Emergency Response Interoperability Center (ERIC)). We also appreciate the explicit recognition of the critical need for funding to meet all of public safety’s broadband needs. We look forward to working with the Commission, Congress and other stakeholders to ensure the successful implementation of the Plan’s important recommendations.”
From Christopher Libertelli, Senior Director of Government & Regulatory Affairs, Americas, Skype:
“The FCC's National Broadband Plan is a historic opportunity to rethink what kind of communications and innovation policy will best serve American consumers. While this is no small task, the Omnibus Broadband Initiative team at the FCC, led by Blair Levin, is more than equal to it. The recommendations presented today demonstrate how innovative applications and robust broadband networks will enable the delivery of high-quality healthcare, world-class education, more opportunities for civic engagement and a better quality of life to consumers. Plus, these recommendations remain grounded in Congress' key goal of creating a policy environment that fosters innovation and investment to preserve America's competitive advantage in these strategic areas.”
From Thom Ruhe, Director of Entrepreneurship, Kauffman Foundation:
“A national broadband policy that recognizes the tremendous societal benefit that can be served by focusing on increased access and less barriers to entry is welcome. Broadband and communications technology can only help in the birthing and growth of new ventures, which are the sole source of all net job gains today. Increasing access to educational resources, mentoring, and funding, are likewise helping launch new firms. A cogent national broadband policy can accelerate these activities at this critical time in our economic recovery.”
From Dan Delurey, President, Demand Response and Smart Grid Coalition (DRSG):
“Key to getting the benefits of the smart grid investments that federal and state policymakers are approving is to put the smart grid into action. One of the best ways to do that is to use smart grid technology to get consumers information about electricity usage – information that they have never had before -- in a timely easy-to-understand manner. Evidence shows that when customers get such information they will react to it, take action, and become more energy efficient overall. The Demand Response and Smart Grid Coalition believes that this will not only help optimize the grid, but will also help address climate change. We are pleased to see the FCC trying to help make this happen.”
From Blackford Middleton, MD, MPH, MSc, Director, Clinical Informatics R&D, and Chairman – Center for IT Leadership, Partners Healthcare System, Harvard Medical School:
“The FCC team has performed a terrific analysis on the adoption of broadband to support healthcare, and health IT. To achieve connected, continuous, and capable care we need to fully wire this country down to the last mile wherever healthcare, and healthcare decision-making, is happening — that it is, everywhere.”
From Rick Miller, Deputy Superintendent for California Department of Education:
"The FCC's recommendations will help improve students’ access to technology."
From Katherine Hamilton, President, GridWise Alliance:
"The GridWise Alliance has been pleased by the FCC’s efforts to reach out to a broad array of stakeholders to inform the development of their plan. The Alliance agrees that any smart grid communications policy should be open and allow all technologies to participate in the market. The Alliance recognizes that with increased digital data on the electric grid, the industry may need to develop best practices around data privacy and grid security. The FCC and GridWise Alliance both see smart grid as a digital overlay of the electric grid that allows for a variety of technology applications depending on the needs of the system and its consumers. We are hopeful that when the final plan is released it will recognize the ability for all technologies, all stakeholders, and all regions to fully participate in the innovation opportunities of a smarter grid.”
As we are nearing the homestretch on developing the National Broadband Plan, we want to say how much we appreciate the unprecedented input folks have provided for the Plan. As everyone knows, we have issued a lot of Public Notices -- 31 to be exact -- over the past five months asking for information about a lot of topics key to developing the Plan. The input has been invaluable, and the process has been consistent with our pledge that data drive development of the Plan.
With our original Feb. 17 deadline to deliver a plan to Congress, we truncated the Commission’s normal process of following the initial comment period with a reply period for many of the Public Notices. Of course, if time had permitted, we would have preferred giving interested parties the chance to send replies, which often provide a valuable public critique of ideas raised in initial comments.
Now that Congress has kindly granted us a 28-day extension of the plan deadline, to March 17, we are giving the public a final opportunity to reply to any of the comments they have read. So we’re issuing another Public Notice, which is functioning as an overall last call for comments on the National Broadband Plan. The deadline will be January 27. But please send us your replies as soon as possible, or respond on the blog. Yes, we got an extension, but March 17 is just around the corner – and it’s not a leap year. Can you tell we're counting down the days?
In addition, we’re using the time to solicit public comment on key privacy issues recently raised by the Center for Democracy and Technology. Yes, another Public Notice. The initial deadline is Jan. 22, and replies up until the last call: Jan. 27. Thanks, everyone.