Podcasts can be a great way to glean important insights on all things broadband – from the policies and politics that shape the digital landscape to the pathways and platforms that connect us to or keep us from the Internet.
If you haven’t already tuned into our own weekly podcast, "Broadband Bits", consider this an invitation to do so. (Or the brand new Connect This show.) But, we also want to highlight two new limited podcast series that we think are worth checking out.
One is #SpreadtheTech created by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) and Digital Charlotte – a ten-episode series that “showcases interviews with digital inclusion stakeholders and practitioners from across the country highlighting their community-based efforts to address the digital divide.” This Verizon-sponsored podcast is hosted by NDIA Executive Director Angela Siefer, Digital Charlotte’s Executive Director Bruce Clark, and the Director of Operations for Digital Charlotte, Andrew Au.
In the first four episodes, #SpreadtheTech covers how digital inclusion advocates have pivoted their work to focus on the significance of Internet connectivity as we deal with the on-going Covid-19 pandemic.
The first episode looks at how the North Carolina Department of Information Technology is responding to connectivity challenges brought on by Covid-19. The featured guest of that episode is Amy Huffman, Digital Inclusion and Policy Manager for the Broadband Infrastructure Office within the North Carolina Office of Information and Technology Services.
Huffman reports on how the state created an interactive searchable map that allows North Carolina residents to enter their address to see if they have access to one of the discount or low-cost programs the state’s Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are offering. The map also shows the locations of community anchor institutions (libraries, schools, and community colleges) which have Wi-Fi hotspots in their parking lots that allow residents to access the Internet from their cars.
She also discusses how her office is helping to expedite payments to grant recipients working to extend broadband service in unserved areas; identifying opportunities for investment in telehealth; and pushing the state’s ISPs to share accurate coverage data on unserved households.
One of the more interesting initiatives they discuss is how Libraries Without Borders has been training librarians and non-profits in establishing pop-up libraries at laundromats across the country where people without access to the Internet or computers can get information, refurbished computers, and Wi-Fi access.
How to Fix the Internet
The other limited podcast series that we recommend tuning into is the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (EFF) “How To Fix the Internet,” which “examines potential solutions to six ills facing the modern digital landscape.” Over the course of 6 episodes, hosts Cindy Cohn, EFF’s Executive Director, and Danny O’Brien, EFF’s Director of Strategy explore “how current tech policy isn’t working well for users and invite experts to join (them) in imagining a better future. ‘How to Fix the Internet’ digs into the gritty technical details and the case law surrounding these digital rights topics, while charting a course toward how we can better defend the rights of users.”
Two of the six episodes are available now with four more to come. While Cohn and O’Brien do dive into “the gritty technical details” with their guests, the discussion is accessible to listeners without a technical background.
The inaugural episode – “The Secret Court Approving Secret Surveillance” – explores problems and concerns with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) with the help of Julian Sanchez, a specialist in surveillance legal policy for the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank established in part by the Koch brothers. The episode covered how the FISA Court impacts digital privacy; the make-up of the court and how its judges are chosen; and how the court has gone from approving individual surveillance orders to signing off on broad surveillance programs.
The second episode – “Why Does My Internet Suck” – focuses on something that is on the minds of millions of Americans who are now more reliant on Internet accessthat ever before as the on-going pandemic has dramatically transformed our everyday lives.
In that episode, the featured guest is the one of the nation’s leading public advocates for open, affordable and democratic communications networks, Gigi Sohn, a Distinguished Fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy and a Benton Institute for Broadband & Society Senior Fellow and Public Advocate.
Sohn answers a number of questions for many users: how does the FCC define broadband Internet access and why that definition makes no sense in 2020; why companies like AT&T and Verizon aren’t investing in fiber; how 19 states in the U.S. have bans or limitations on municipal broadband, and why repealing those bans is key to increasing broadband access; and how Internet access is connected to issues of equity, upward mobility, and job accessibility.
As with each “How to Fix the Internet” episode, the hosts ask their expert guests to share and discuss specific suggestions and reforms to address the challenges focused on during the episode.
If you are interested in taking a deeper dive with more regular programming, here are a few other podcasts you may find interesting:
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel’s “Broadband Conversations” podcast, which highlights “women who are making an impact on our digital lives.”
ETI Software’s “The Broadband Bunch” podcast “to learn about the state of the industry and the latest innovation and trends.”
“Rural Broadband Today,” an “interview-style show presents conversations with elected officials, industry experts and business leaders at the forefront of America’s efforts to solve the rural broadband challenge.”
Craig Settles “Gigabit Nation” broadband talk radio that features guests who “discuss business strategies for putting broadband networks into place, as well as policy issues that affect community broadband.”
Gigi Sohn, Distinguished Fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy and a Benton Institute for Broadband & Society Senior Fellow and Public Advocate, mentioned above also has her own “Tech on the Rocks” podcast that covers a wide range of topics from tech and telecoms to policy issues.