Tag: "gigi sohn"

Posted May 9, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

The Biden Administration is poised to celebrate the nation's largest telecommunications monopolies today even as these companies do the bare minimum for digital equity while undermining his administration's broadband agenda.

Christopher Mitchell, Director of the Community Broadband Networks Program at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, had this to say today about the undue influence of Big Telecom and its effort to block the confirmation of GiGi Sohn as an FCC commissioner: 

As we enter the third year of a pandemic that has supposedly redefined the crucial importance of broadband, the Federal Communications Commission has failed to update the definition of broadband it set in 2015. Few expect the FCC to publish accurate maps of where broadband is until 2023. It might help if President Biden seated his third commissioner. 

The Biden Administration took a painfully long time to nominate the most obvious candidate for the position - Gigi Sohn - and has done precious little to have her confirmed in a reasonable time frame. Though it would be easy to blame Republican opposition, the truth is that it simply does not appear to be a priority for the Administration.

We join the effort to praise all companies that are helping move toward digital equity, but if simply discounting the cost of service from cable and telephone providers were sufficient, we might have less of a problem now, 11 years after Comcast launched Internet Essentials. To actually connect everyone, we will need an effective FCC as well as local engagement. However, some of the very companies being praised by the President today are spending millions in lobbying and ad-blitzes to prevent Gigi Sohn from being confirmed and to stop needed investments.

If they succeed in blocking Gigi, they will have confirmed something else: that they are the actual regulator of telecom services and the Biden Administration is not serious about the lofty goals it set in 2021. 

We support the work of countless people within the executive branch who are making the rules to spend the various funds appropriated by Congress to expand broadband access. And, while the low-cost...

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Posted April 27, 2022 by Christopher Mitchell

Gigi Sohn is still up for confirmation by the Senate to complete the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) - an independent agency in the executive branch of the federal government that has been stuck at a 2-2 split of Democrats and Republicans since President Biden took office. The FCC is supposed to operate with five commissioners, with the party of the President in power having 3 seats. 

She was the obvious choice in December of 2020, when it was clear that Joe Biden would take office. With decades of history in telecom and media-related policy as well as a recent stint as Counselor to Tom Wheeler when he was Chair of the FCC, she would be among the most-qualified people to serve on it since I began working in telecom in 2007. And by among, I mean at the top.

I’ve known Gigi for many years and respected her from the first time I saw her in action. She isn’t a political agent trying to figure out the best path to the top. She has strong beliefs, and she’ll tell you what they are in a wonderful Long Island blur of passion. She respects other beliefs and ideas but she isn’t going to pretend she agrees with you when she doesn’t. 

Maybe my word isn’t that persuasive, because I tend to agree with Sohn on many issues. But a lot of people with far more credibility among conservatives have spoken up on Gigi. So I hadn’t written anything about this because I assumed it would take time but Gigi would get confirmed. Plus, I focus my work outside DC and there is a lot going on that is keeping us busy. 

Gigi was always under fire by the likes of the Wall Street Journal Opinion page, which has made baseless claims about her not being committed to free speech, using tortured logic around denying mergers. If I went off every time that bunch embarrassed the good work of their reporters, I wouldn’t do anything else. 

But then some allies forwarded me claims coming from former North Dakota Senator Heidi...

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Posted November 18, 2020 by Sean Gonsalves

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.

#SpreadtheTech

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.

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Posted January 30, 2020 by Lisa Gonzalez

As federal, state, and local leaders increasingly recognize the need to make Internet access universal, they are also realizing that adoption is a separate issue. Programs such as the ReConnect and Connect America Funds I and II Auction have helped to expand infrastructure, but even in places where Internet access has been available for years, 100 percent of households do not subscribe. In an effort to better understand digital equity, the House Subcommittee on Communications & Technology of the Committee on Energy and Commerce recently sat down to listen to experts on digital equity. They discussed common misconceptions, hurdles that make wide-scale adoption difficult, and offered policy recommendations to help us achieve digital equity.

Not Only a Rural Problem

Angela Siefer, Executive Director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) described how her experience as a digital equity warrior has changed from working with people to learn the basics of computer use to the additional problem of helping people get online. Angela's statement addressed some of the most common myths associated with the digital divide that NDIA, through boots-on-the-ground research, has discovered, including:

The digital divide is a rural problem: Census results show that populations in urban areas do not have Internet access subscriptions of any kind; these are often low-income households.

5G will bridge the digital divide: Lack of infrastructure and devices deployed in areas where existing problems with digital inclusion continue with regards to this new technology.

People don't subscribe because they don't think the Internet isn't valuable: Accomplishing day-to-day tasks often require access to the Internet, which is a fact not lost on those who don't subscribe, but the cost is out of reach for many of those same people.

Read Angela's statement here...

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Posted January 17, 2020 by Lisa Gonzalez

When his Twitter feed announced the “arrival of 5G” last December, tech reporter Chris Matyszczyk made a beeline for the nearest T-Mobile store and asked, “Can I have some of this 5G, please? I will become a much more desirable, admirable person if I have 5G!” From there, it was all downhill.

The Pain of the Hype 

We aren’t the only ones who have pointed out the hype around 5G as telecom companies rush to outdo each other. In another case of marketing mayhem overtaking technical truth, Matyszczyk shares his rain soaked pursuit in the Bay Area. Expecting fanfare, he was met with a surprisingly subdued store:

I wandered into a T-Mobile store that was emptier than a politician's tweet.

Oddly, there weren't 99 pink balloons hanging from the ceiling to celebrate 5G. There weren't even five.

He goes on to describe how the less-than-enthusiastic salespeople didn’t seem very well informed about when, where, or why 5G isn’t available to him when the company indicated that it arrived nationwide:

"But isn't it a bit annoying to be told there's this incredibly exciting 5G when you can't get it for at least another six months?"

They seemed neither to agree or disagree. They seemed like they were annoyed it was raining and that I was there, dripping.

Read the full article, "I went to T-Mobile to ask about 5G. The response was painful" here. You can also watch an interview with Matyszczyk.

He expressed sympathy for the salespeople. After all, he says, “it’s hard for them to present something they can’t actually sell you.”

Marketplace spoke with experts, including Gigi Sohn and our Christopher Mitchell, about the hype surrounding 5G. Sohn said, "5G is 80% marketing and 20% technology. The hype around this technology is enormous, and also the hype around needing to win a so-called race around 5G."

Listen to the story here:

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Posted July 23, 2019 by Lisa Gonzalez

The Sprint / T-Mobile merger has been in process for about a year now, with a series of odd, dramatic twists and turns. Recently, a group of state attorneys general sued to stop the transaction. This week, Christopher talks with telecom policy experts Gigi Sohn and Blair Levin to get their takes on the whole affair.

We originally recorded the interviews for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s Building Local Power podcast, but decided that we needed to share them with the Community Broadband Bits audience. Gigi Sohn is a Distinguished Fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy and Blair Levin is a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute. Both have been on the show before. You'll also hear Hibba Meraay, our Communications Manager, give Christopher a hand.

During their conversation, Christopher and his guests discuss how the T-Mobile and Sprint merger will likely end in higher rates, affecting low-income subscribers the most. They talk about the history of the companies' roles in the industry and how this merger, if it goes through, will shift the field. They also look back on precedent that provides a guidepost for blocking this merger, and compare the attitudes Wall Street and Washington take toward mergers.

You can download the report mentioned in the podcast, Cooperatives Fiberize Rural America: A Trusted Model for the Internet Era [PDF], here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 50 minutes long and can be played on this...

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Posted October 30, 2018 by Lisa Gonzalez

It’s not too late to make your plans to attend "Connected New England: A Regional Broadband Convening" in Hartford, Connecticut. The November 8th event will bring an impressive list of broadband leaders to the Nutmeg State to share their expertise on all things broadband.

Register now and check out the agenda.

Special Local Focus

The theme of the event is “Local Solutions for Broadband Development” and is hosted through a partnership between Next Century Cities, the State of Connecticut Office of Consumer Counsel. If you’re a government, academic, or nonprofit employee, you can attend at no charge. Topics at the event will revolves around the most difficult challenges obstructing deployment in New England.

A mayor’s panel will include Mayor Luke Bronin and State Representative Josh Elliot along with elected officials from New Haven, Stamford, and East Hartford.

Gigi Sohn, former FCC advisor, and a Distinguished Fellow at Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy, will deliver the Afternoon Keynote. We love Gigi!

Additional panels will hit on:

  • Municipal Gain Update from the state’s Office of Consumer Counsel
  • 5G & Small Cells Panel - Josh Broder from Tilson will moderate
  • Successful Models Panel - Christopher Mitchell will moderate
  • Financing & E-Rate Panel - Deb Socia from Next Century Cities will moderate

Check out the full agenda and register online for this interesting day in New England.

Special Viewing

At the event, Maria Smith, Producer and Director of Dividing Lines: Why Is Internet Access Still a Luxury in America?...

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Posted September 12, 2018 by Lisa Gonzalez

You still have about two weeks to plan your trip to Fairlawn, Ohio, to attend Great Lakes Connect and now the agenda has fully developed to help you plan the specifics of your visit. “Creating Intelligent Network Infrastructure to Compete in the Global Economy” runs from September 24th - 26th at the Hilton and DoubleTree Hotels. You can still register online to attend.

Arrive on Monday for a tour of the city’s municipal network facility. Spend the afternoon hours touring FairlawnGig then rub elbows with experts and policy advocates at the Welcome Reception in the evening.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, you can attend a series of conversations and panel discussions focused on smart city issues, funding, and infrastructure. Organizers have speakers lined up from all sectors to discuss national, state, and local matters. 

A few of the topics:

  • Stories of local projects from Holland and Sebewaing in Michigan and Ohio’s Fairlawn and Dublin
  • Open access networks financing and success stories
  • Conversations about fiber, including outside plant architectures, the benefits, and its interaction with fixed wireless
  • Digital equity, customer satisfaction, and community anchor institutions

Check out the rest of the packed agenda here.

Gee, it’s Gigi!

Gigi Sohn, our favorite FCC Maven will join Christopher for the Tuesday Keynote, titled “The FCC: Can’t Live With It, Don’t Want to Live Without It.” Need we say more?

Register now for Great Lakes Connect.

Posted September 11, 2018 by Lisa Gonzalez

The agenda for Connected New England has shaped up to be full of valuable information, which makes November 8th is a great time to visit Connecticut. If you live in the Nutmeg State, or one of the nearby states, the drive to Hartford will end with an impressive list of speakers and thoughtful panels. You can register here for "Connected New England: Local Solutions for Broadband Development," to be held at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

This one-day event will bring together broadband champions from federal, state, and local government, as well as community leaders and policy experts. We will feature a mayors’ panel, successful models in broadband deployment, E-Rate and funding opportunities, 5G and small cells, as well as an update about the recent municipal gain ruling in Connecticut. 

People, People, People

In addition to Hartford’s Mayor Luke Bronin, State Representative Josh Elliot will welcome attendees. Mayor Bronin will then join the Mayor’s Panel with his peers from New Haven, Stamford, and East Hartford.

You’ll recognize several of the voices participating at the event as some of the panelists include Community Broadband Bits podcast guests Fletcher Kittredge from GWI, Aaron Bean from Westfield Gas & Electric, and Tom Coverick of Keybanc Capial Markets.

Gigi Sohn, one of our favorite policy thought leaders, former FCC advisor, and a Distinguished Fellow at Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy, will deliver the Afternoon Keynote.

Topic, Topics, Topics

Other panels include:

  • Successful Models Panel - Christopher Mitchell will moderate
  • Municipal Gain Update from the state’s Office of Consumer Counsel
  • 5G & Small Cells Panel - Josh Broder from Tilson will moderate
  • Financing & E-Rate Panel - Deb...
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Posted July 12, 2017 by Lisa Gonzalez

During the Obama administration, the FCC under Chairman Tom Wheeler made bold steps to protect innovation and competition on the Internet by passing network neutrality rules. With new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, network neutrality is in danger. In order to prevent the backward slide - or worse - we all need to comment to the FCC and tell them to preserve network neutrality protections.

Stepping Back In Time

Under Chairman Wheeler, regulations were put into place that prevented ISPs like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T from slowing down specific websites or charging extra fees to certain sites, who then must pass along those fees to customers. Rather then turning the Internet into just another version of Cable TV, the FCC has preserved its neutrality - now those actions are at risk.

Chairman Pai announced soon after he was appointed that he wants to roll back the rules implemented during the Obama administration, which includes eliminating “Title II” of the Communications Act protections for broadband. Title II provides the legal basis that prevents blocking and throttling.

Let's Act

On May 18th, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM); comments are due July 17th. What does the mean? It means it’s time for you to contact the FCC here (Proceeding 17-108) and let them know that you want in network neutrality and that you believe existing rules should stay in place.

If you’ve never commented on an FCC proceeding, here’s an article from Gigi Sohn, former Counselor to Tom Wheeler, who can offer some tips on an effective comment. You can also read some of the other comments submitted by others.

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