Leroy Jones, Jr. is the creator of Talking Technology with Leroy Jones, Jr.

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Internet Regulation: "Old School" or "New School"?

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Should federal regulations designed for rotary telephones be expanded to cover our high-speed Internet use?  Incredibly, this question has become a serious issue in Washington, as supporters of Title II regulations promote the idea even in the face of new evidence that Americans do far more online than people in almost every other major country.

Congress drafted these rules during Franklin Roosevelt's presidency.  They were meant for the nation's emerging telephone service, which often involved placing calls through live operators and calling during the evening to save money on long-distance tolls.  Yet while these problems are thankfully long-gone, some want to apply these antiquated regulations to today's modern, competitive and diverse communication systems through the Internet.

The technological arguments against expanding Title II rules are obvious: High-speed Internet technologies are emerging everywhere, which is why Americans do so much more online than the Japanese, British, Canadians, West Europeans and many others. With all our choices for video streams, downloads, gaming, and cloud storage, Americans on average use more than double the data of the average Japanese or West European. Indeed, the average American Internet user generates more online data than users in all other major nations except South Korea.

The American Internet model is spurring remarkable social improvements. Nowhere is this more obvious than with advancements in home health care.  Patients suffering from diabetes, heart and kidney disease, which are leading causes of death in the African American community, are gaining direct benefits from real-time, Internet-based healthcare monitoring.

Regulations and bureaucratic red tape will inevitably slow this progress for no good reason.  Indeed, even those pushing for expanded online regulation acknowledge that there's no current problem.

Worse, like a bad Christmas gift, this one comes with a hefty price tag -  about $15 billion annually.  That's the total amount of new state and local taxes and fees that consumers will have to pay from this reclassification. Among the states hardest hit by these new taxes and fees are California, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Illinois.

For anyone with a smartphone or home Internet connection, the stakes are significant. Expanded regulation would mean new taxes and fees - and people on fixed income would also be hit hard by the new costs, which will average $72 per year for each wireless connection and $67 for wired service.

The most puzzling aspect of this issue, aside from the fact that there isn't a practice that anyone in the debate is pointing to as evidence for this change, is that it detracts from a much more important issue.  Our focus should be trained on promoting better and faster Internet service for all, particularly for unserved and underserved communities.  As Internet networks become more accessible, it will spur ongoing advances in affordable health care that can unlock huge benefits, particularly for those who cannot easily visit a doctor's office.

This much is clear: Americans deserve an open Internet.  They deserve to access whatever legal content they choose without anyone interfering.  But applying a set of rules from the 1930s to achieve this is guaranteed to produce more expensive Internet access.  There has to be a better way!

Thankfully for us, we have that better way.  In rendering an opinion on FCC net neutrality rules in January, the Court laid out a pathway under Section 706 of the Communications Act that would protect the Internet, and ensure that the broadband networks we need built out nationwide would have the best chance to happen.  Section 706 provides the best, and least intrusive, means of protecting the wonderful Internet world we all enjoy, and continuing to bring us the benefits we enjoy today.

LJJ (@TechnicalJones)

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Memorial Day 2014

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@TechnicalJones: African Americans, Jobs and the Internet

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Joint Center Report 2013: African Americans, Jobs and the Internet


The Internet is quickly becoming the indispensable tool for millions of Americans seeking a better job - or any job. 


Following up on my initial blog post yesterday morning, that's the inescapable conclusion of a new report the Joint Center published this week about the Internet and employment.  This jobs-Internet connection was also the focus of this morning's Joint Center panel discussion featuring FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn and the Joint Center's John Horrigan, who analyzed the survey data and authored the report.


As Commissioner Clyburn said at the outset of her remarks, broadband access, which is the enabler of new technologies, is no longer a luxury, it's a necessity.  Commenting on the survey's conclusions, she also emphasized the FCC's role in promoting more - and more affordable - broadband access.


Dr. Horrigan discussed the report's findings at length, relating it to other data concerning broadband adoption and use.  As he noted, African-Americans in particular seem to be interested in more than just search engines.  They are increasingly using social networking to expand their network of job contacts and improve the probability of finding out about job opportunities.


The Joint Center's report is based on a survey of 1,600 Americans concerning their use of wired and mobile broadband, particularly in researching employment opportunities.  Among the survey's most important conclusions: African Americans are more likely than other segments of the population to use the Internet to seek and apply for employment.  They are more likely to consider the Internet "very important" to the success of their job search.


Also speaking at yesterday's panel discussion were Chanelle Hardy from the National Urban League, AT&T's Ramona Carlow, Zack Leverenz, CEO of Connect2Compete, and Jason Llorenz of the Latino Information Network at Rutgers University.


Overall, this was a great event and the Joint Center is extremely proud of Dr. Horrigan's report and the important issues it raises.  As he said toward the end of the session: digital skills are important, so investing in digital skills can help expand opportunity for all- and for African-Americans in particular.


It is important that government and industry continue to work with communities across the country to support digital literacy programs and that that commitment go hand-in-hand with public and private sector investment in high-speed broadband to every corner of America.


Leroy Jones, Jr.


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@TechnicalJones: The Internet & Jobs

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Joint Center Report: The Internet's Importance in Finding a Job Is Bigger Than You Think


Today, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies released a report on broadband and jobs that will help the African American community by informing the discussion of Internet access and its value for those in our community searching for jobs.  Earlier this year, the Joint Center asked 1,600 Americans about their methods for job searches.  This report reveals that African Americans were much more likely to find valuable job information online.  They were also more likely to use social media and mobile devices as part of their job searches.  


Specifically, fully half (50%) of African American Internet users said the Internet was "very important" to them in finding a job.  That's significantly higher than the 36% average.


The survey results also showed that 36% of African Americans said they applied for a job online the last time they were on the job market, compared with 26% for all respondents.


Smartphones were an especially important part of the job search process for African Americans, as nearly half (47%) used their smartphone for job search.  By comparison, slightly more than a third (36%) of Latinos used their smartphone for job search and about a quarter of whites (24%) did so.


The most recent federal unemployment figures show the continuing importance of helping people find work.  The Labor Department's latest data shows that in September, the U.S. unemployment rate declined slightly to 7.2 percent. That figure masks both good and disappointing news.  The good news is that the unemployment rate for African-American women aged 20+ is at 10 percent, the lowest rate since March 2009.  The bad news: Overall black unemployment is still a dismal 12.9%.


For federal officials, particularly at the FCC, this report offers clear and decisive proof that those with Internet access have markedly better opportunities and are more empowered to find employment than those who do not.  This includes using the Internet to increase knowledge about different jobs and industries, finding specific jobs, and completing the application process. 


On Monday, President Obama-appointee Tom Wheeler officially became FCC Chairman, and he appears poised to move quickly to tackle important policy issues.  One of these critically important issues is likely to involve wireless spectrum auctions.  One very important aspect is a fact that was borne out by the Joint Center's report -- smartphone and mobile broadband use.  As consumers surge in adopting mobile broadband options, wireless carriers must be allowed to compete in this auction without restrictions for the spectrum they need.  That will be the best and quickest way to expand wireless broadband access, and to ensure that the innovative and creative mobile job opportunities continue to be met.


Beyond that, the report shows that programs to improve digital literacy and skills bring substantial benefits to the African American community.  This reinforces one of the key conclusions of President Obama's 2010 National Broadband Plan.  That document called for community based education to help Americans not already online understand the basics of the Internet, including using it to find employment.


There is no silver bullet that will magically bring down African American unemployment.  But as the report demonstrates, the expansion of Internet access choices - especially wireless broadband - brings with it great and immediate benefits throughout the African American community.

Leroy Jones, Jr. 


@TechnicalJones: Memorial Day 2013

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@TechnicalJones: Broadband and mHealth

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High-Speed Broadband Access, Mobile Apps Offer Hope for Improved Health Equity
People of color continue to suffer disproportionately from many diseases and chronic health conditions, many of which are preventable.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services designated April as National Minority Health Month in an effort to raise awareness and prompt solutions to this problem.   
These health disparities are a very real problem. They can contribute to shorter life spans, reduced quality of life, higher health care costs for people of color and increased pressure points on the US health care system.  Factors contributing to health disparities are numerous and complex, but expanded access to high speed broadband and advances in Internet-based technologies and services have the potential to remove many of the barriers that prevent our communities from accessing quality care.      
For example, African Americans are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes, as compared with non-Hispanic whites, and they are more likely to suffer from diabetes complications like renal failure. The increase in diabetes diagnoses and the growing demand for mobile apps have resulted in the development of many mHealth apps for diabetes patients.

These apps can help people with diabetes monitor their blood glucose and track nutrition and activity levels, which can help prevent complications and improve overall wellness.  For many people, the ability to take charge of their own health is empowering, and more mobile apps for diabetes are on the horizon.  
Other innovations in health care technology have made a positive impact on our communities as well. Wireless, in-home health monitoring devices can improve health outcomes for people with chronic conditions, and their use is steadily on the rise. These monitors can collect and send health data, including blood glucose, blood pressure, and respiratory rates, directly to medical professionals.

Smart devices allow patients with conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, and heart disease to work with medical personnel to monitor their condition while remaining in their home, without the inconvenience of traveling to appointments. 
Heart disease--and risk factors for heart disease, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity--also affects the African American community at a disproportionately high rate.  African Americans are 30 percent more likely to die from heart disease than non-Hispanic white males.  The Office of Minority Health also reports that 34 percent of African Americans have hypertension, compared with 24 percent of whites. 
These facts are sobering, but innovations in health technologies and expanded access to high-speed broadband offer hope and the possibility that we can overcome these statistics.  A variety of mobile apps are available to help people assess their heart disease risk, monitor sodium and caloric intake, quit smoking, track physical activity, and even determine heart rate.

These broadband powered mobile apps, along with other wireless technologies, have empowered those with heart disease (or accompanying risk factors) to take charge of their health and to work with medical professionals to achieve improved wellness, health, and quality of life.
Advances in these broadband-enabled health innovations, including telemedicine and mHealth, have helped many patients and families assess and reduce their health risks, leading to more vibrant lifestyles and an enhanced quality of life.  For communities of color, it is especially urgent that we increase broadband deployment to enhance the availability of these technologies and health tools, as well as encourage the development of new ones.  
Upgrading America's communications infrastructure to all high-speed broadband networks is a critical step.  Accelerating the transition to modern, lightning-fast broadband networks will bring expanded access and greater technological capabilities to our entire country.  An all-broadband network in the United States can support the services, speeds, and technologies of the future, and they will further advance innovation in mHealth and other health tools.
The theme of this year's National Minority Health Month is "Advance Health Equity Now."  It's a lofty goal, but not an impossible one.  Today's health technologies are already making a positive impact, and tomorrow's technologies promise even greater results.

Expanded and enhanced high-speed broadband networks will fuel more innovations that can help this goal become a reality for America's minority communities. Private investment and government policies that help accelerate broadband deployment to more of America will help improve people's access to online health tools and empower all consumers to actively take steps to improve their lives and lead healthier lifestyles.


@TechnicalJones: mRx

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The brave new world of mHealth:

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