TR Daily Mapping, Not Subsidizing Overbuilds Seen as Digital Inclusion Issue
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Monday, June 24, 2019

Mapping, Not Subsidizing Overbuilds Seen as Digital Inclusion Issue

The FCC’s Advisory Committee on Diversity and Digital Empowerment (ACDDE) today approved recommendations from its digital empowerment and inclusion working group that urge the FCC to improve its broadband mapping to address digital redlining practices and that ask FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to include overbuilding as an area for the next ACDDE to work on.

During a video presentation at the beginning of today’s ACDDE meeting, the group’s last under its current charter, Chairman Pai said that the FCC is “well into the process of chartering a new ACDDE and soliciting members” for it. Jamila Bess Johnson of the Media Bureau, who serves as the designated federal officer of the ACDDE, urged members to apply for the new committee. Nominations are due July 10.

The recommendations on digital redlining and overbuilding came from the access and deployment subgroup of the digital empowerment and inclusion working group.

ACDDE member Nicol Turner-Lee, a resident fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Technology Innovation, delivered the subgroup’s report on digital redlining. The ACDDE approved unanimously the subgroup’s recommendations that the FCC “should improve its broadband mapping and reporting to reduce the likelihood of digital redlining practices” and “should charge the next ACDDE with the development of a ‘best practices toolkit’ to guard against digital redlining practices.”

Working member S. Jennell Trigg, representing the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, delivered the subgroup’s report on the overbuilding issue, which said that when government subsidizes network overbuilds, it diminishes the reach and effectiveness of its support in bringing service to unserved areas and hurts private sector firms, including small and minority- and women-owned businesses, that are trying to provide service.

“We’re not anticompetition; we just want to make sure everyone has service first,” Ms. Trigg said in response to a question about the need to ensure that consumers in underserved areas receive the benefits of competition.

The full ACDDE approved the subgroup’s recommendation of “a framework and ten principles to, inter alia, help better allocate local, state, and federal funding to designated areas that lack access to terrestrial broadband service offering a minimum of 10/1 Mbps speeds,” as well as its recommendation that the ACDDE “request Chairman Pai to task the next ACDDE to continue to identify strategies that will prevent overbuilding.”

Ms. Turner-Lee also presented the report of the digital empowerment and inclusion working group’s digital adoption subgroup. It recommended that the FCC “should convene a Digital Inclusion Workshop, which would bring together public and private stakeholders from academia, industry, government, and civil society organizations. The proposed workshop would allow like-minded experts to review, define, and agree on baseline standards for what constitutes digital inclusion today and how we can build more opportunities to drive digital equity at the national, state, and local levels.”

Working group member Harin Contractor, customer success manager at Socrata, presented the use subgroup’s report, which was a working paper and which did not contain recommendations. He said they hoped the rechartered ACDDE would take up the issue.

One possible action the FCC could take “tomorrow” would be to establish a memorandum of understanding among the Universal Service Administrative Co., the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Department of Labor “to enable workforce centers at libraries,” he said.

Another helpful approach would be to encourage innovative use of TV white spaces, he added.

“We hope this white paper goes forward and gets refined,” Mr. Contractor said.

ACDDE member Maurita Coley Flippin, president and chief executive officer of the Multicultural Cultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council, presented the report of the diversity in tech working group Chair Marc Morial, the president and CEO of the Urban Institute, who could not attend.

The group learned “that there has not been much data or study of the root causes of lack of diversity in tech industry,” Ms. Flippin said. It “also learned there had not been much progress to address it.”

The group conducted off-the-record confidential interviews with six tech companies to learn about their efforts to address their lack of diversity.

ACDDE member and employment subgroup chair Monica Parham, who is the director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Talent Consulting, said that the subgroup “wanted to focus on the idea that tech companies aren’t simply engineers” as a way of getting around the pushback from companies that the problem is a lack of diversity in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education pipeline.

Ms. Flippin said that the working group categorized companies by the maturity their of D&I (diversity and inclusion) phase: those in an early growth stage, that have started developing an organizational approach to D&I; those in the growth state, where there is an established organizational approach to diversity and dedicated senior level staff responsible for diversity, among other things; and those in a mature stage, with D&I efforts led by a senior, executive-level leader with direct access to corporate leadership and “related upskilling apparent in the dedicated D&I staff.”

Ms. Parnham noted that because “tech companies hire from other tech companies,” a lack of hiring diversity at one firm has a ripple effect throughout the sector.

The ACDDE adopted the subgroup’s recommended best practices, including incorporating D&I into the internal infrastructure; implementing an organizational approach to D&I at the outset; establishing metrics and accountability; and establishing strategic partnerships.

ACDDE member Ronald Johnson, chief subject matter expert–diversity and inclusion at WISPA, presented the supplier diversity subgroup’s report.

Similar to the analytical approach of the employment diversity subgroup, the supplier diversity subgroup categorized companies that it spoke with by the age of their supplier diversity program and the age of their small business and diverse supplier development program.

The ACDDE approved the subgroup’s best practice recommendations: Supplier diversity expenditures can be neither too large nor too small, and the important thing is to make that first step; stay informed and connected with diverse entrepreneurial networks; track, plan, and measure what is important to the company; serve as a source of information; and collaborate and partner with other firms and local agencies.

Mr. Johnson said that areas for improvement that the subgroup found in talking to companies were a lack of formal programs; a lack of online portals or accessible information; and “spotty commitments.”

He said that the “best-of-the-best practices” that they found included taking a top-down approach; creating a supplier diversity development plan; create a supplier diversity web portal; developing partnerships; collaborating with schools, nonprofits, and other institutions; and nurturing small and diverse business growth through trainings and resources.

Ms. Flippin said that the diversity in tech working group’s report includes an appendix with a tech research guide for job seekers and suppliers.

Mr. Contractor said that he would have been interested in the effects of geography on diversity, noting that there are lower levels of African American tech employment in Silicon Valley than in Atlanta or Washington. He also said he was interested in the effects of fissuring and the reliance on contractors in the tech sector on employment diversity.

“If work [on this issue] continues [under the next ACDDE], I would like to see more focus on what state and local partners can do,” he added.

ACDDE member Chris Wood, executive director of the LGBT Technology Partnership & Institute, added that if work continues on these issues, he would like to see information on LGBTQ inclusion.

The ACDDE approved the report of the diversity in tech working group unanimously.

The broadcast diversity and development working group also delivered a report today, calling for, among other things, reinvigorating the tax certificate program to improve access to capital and finding ways to “open pathways to access to spectrum.” —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]

MainStory: FederalNews FCC BroadbandDeployment BroadbandAdoption

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