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The FCC is under-funding Reagan’s Lifeline program – why Americans need it now more than ever

Judson Hill

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The FCC is under-funding Reagan's Lifeline program - why Americans need it now more than ever

When President Ronald Reagan created the Lifeline program 35 years ago to help low-income Americans with subsidized telephone services, few could have predicted just how lifesaving it would become. Under normal circumstances, access to the internet is essential to participating in today’s economy. During the global pandemic, however, this access has become a literal lifeline for millions of Americans.

Unfortunately, the Lifeline program is now on life support—at risk of being neutered during one of the most critical inflection points in our nation’s history, when so many Americans are struggling to put food on their tables. For the third year in a row, the FCC has forced a substantially higher unfunded mandate on carriers, meaning carriers will have no choice but to charge new copays to those who are already struggling financially.

As I write this, countless Americans are sinking deeper into a financial chasm that increases their likelihood of relying on government assistance programs for the rest of their lives. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We have a significant opportunity to step up and show our fellow citizens what it means to be American—to go the extra mile in serving our fellow man in need, while creating long-term, high-value solutions that save money and benefit us all.

Why? Lifeline Saves Lives.

Being on the wrong side of the digital divide comes with life-or-death consequences during a deadly pandemic, when nearly half of all patient consults are being conducted remotely and virtual visits have increased by 50 to 175 percent.

Not being able to access telemedicine makes it even less likely a patient will seek care when he or she really needs it. Over 40 percent of Americans are already postponing care due to COVID-19-related concerns, for instance, which can increase their chances of dying by up to 30 percent or lead to a worsening of their condition that requires more expensive care (often at the hospital’s and taxpayers’ expense).

Among those who depend on the Lifeline program are millions of our nation’s veterans, who rely on it to receive essential care and services such as treatment and counseling for PTSD and suicide prevention. We owe these self-sacrificing men and women nothing less than unencumbered access to quality healthcare and mental health professionals, virtual support groups, jobs, and educational opportunities.

Why? Lifeline Saves Money—And More Than Pays for Itself.

Lifeline not only pays for itself but has the potential to save taxpayers billions of dollars. A monthly Lifeline $9.25 reimbursement is a lot cheaper, for instance, than a single hospital emergency room visit at taxpayers’ and hospitals’ expense. Telemedicine visits not only cost far less than in-person appointments, but reduce avoidable utilization of critical hospital resources. If the Lifeline program diverts just 1 out of every 10 current subscribers from an unnecessary trip to the emergency room, taxpayers could save an estimated $4 billion+ annually—which represents more than double the current Lifeline budget. By adequately equipping the program to succeed, we could save billions in federal Medicaid and Medicare expenses, as well as billions for our community hospitals struggling to remain open.

Lifeline is perhaps the only federal assistance program that, when successfully implemented, has the ability to take people off of other federal assistance programs. It provides Americans with the critical resources they need to get back on their feet: jobs, education, and healthcare.

How? Essential Improvements.

Both the Federal Communications Commission and Congress must start to incent, rather than cripple, the Lifeline program. First, the program’s reimbursement formula must be modernized to reflect the true cost of providing voice and mobile broadband services. The Commission should raise the decade-old monthly reimbursement rate by at least $25 for Lifeline providers that offer 4G LTE devices with hotspot that include an unlimited talk, text, and data plan.

Secondly, leaders must recognize that access to voice and broadband is useless without affordable devices and services. Too many political leaders have sought to throw money at fixed broadband deployment programs that require years or even decades to implement (i.e., by physically burying fiber lines across the country), failing to realize that more immediate and less expensive solutions exist via mobile. According to Pew Research, the majority of low-income Americans choose wireless mobile over fixed broadband when they cannot afford both.

Third, we can deliver immediate relief to low-income Americans across nine states by lifting the FCC’s informal eight-year moratorium on approving new Lifeline providers in those states. While numerous requests are pending before the Commission in those states seeking authorization, the approval has been moth-balled for almost a decade.

Fourth, the Commission should explore the potential savings, rather than the costs, of maintaining its current rule of one reimbursement per household. This is not realistic for today’s standards, in which every member of the household needs a personal device to successfully search for jobs or connect to the classroom.

And finally, to reduce any remaining waste, fraud, or abuse in the program, the Commission should reinstate the short-term program freeze that requires subscribers to stay with a provider for a minimum of 90 days. Reducing churn would help root out fraud and save the program millions of dollars, not to mention encourage providers to enhance their services offerings.

Let’s Rise to This Occasion.

President Reagan’s decades-old program was designed for moments like this. There is no other single safety-net program that directly supports access to healthcare, education, employment opportunities, and first responders for our nation’s most vulnerable. I call on our wise leaders to stand in the gap and equip the Lifeline program to fulfill its true potential, so that no American is left out or left behind.


Judson Hill is an American politician. He is a former member of the Georgia State Senate from the 32nd district, serving from 2005 until 2017. Senator Hill also served in the Reagan Administration as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, and in Washington, D.C. at the United States Department of State, Agency for International Development. Prior to that, he worked for President Reagan on the White House Advance Team and on the Reagan-Bush ’84 campaign. 

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Judson Hill is an American politician. He is a former member of the Georgia State Senate from the 32nd district, serving from 2005 until 2017. Senator Hill also served in the Reagan Administration as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, and in Washington, D.C. at the United States Department of State, Agency for International Development. Prior to that, he worked for President Reagan on the White House Advance Team and on the Reagan-Bush ’84 campaign.

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Fourteen services for CSPs to look for in an open marketplace

Ravi Kumar Palepu

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12 services for CSPs to look for in an open marketplace

“Open” and “Innovation” unfortunately have been transformed into widely used buzzwords that are likely to generate eye rolls from Communications Service providers (CSPs) who are repeatedly bombarded with marketing messages that are hard to decipher.

Open and Innovation in name alone do not address the challenges and opportunities CPSs face every day. According on one recent survey, CSPs are lagging behind to develop the business-to-business (B2B) solutions that are critical to the commercial success of 5G.

More than ever, CSPs need to move faster by adapting to market conditions that have changed more in the past four months then in the past four years. The next four month are likely to be equally disruptive. 

In its simplest form, innovation is changing the established norm to improve it. Open Architectures are void of the traditional walls and barriers that have limited CSPs ability to innovate. The more open an environment is for companies, partners, and individuals to share knowledge and resources the greater the opportunity is to deliver innovative applications and solutions.

This mean access and compatibility. No single vendor can deliver everything CSPs need to drive revenue, reduce costs, retain existing customers, and convert new ones. 

CSPs need access to a wide range of products and services to build and launch new services quickly that capitalize on emerging Cloud, 5G, NaaS, and Edge trends to grow new revenue streams.

One emerging concept to help CSPs achieve this are marketplaces based on open architectures. When done correctly, marketplaces offer an ecosystem for CSPs, technology partners, and industry forums to innovate faster and harvest unique solutions.

Marketplaces can enable businesses with the agility to quickly adapt to changing customer demands and business priorities. They can provide CSPs with tools, accelerators, and resources to build and launch new services and cross industry offerings, helping them capitalize on emerging trends and to grow new revenue streams.

Marketplaces ease the burden of quickly assembling new services by pre-integrating offerings from multiple vendors to deliver.

Intelligent and comprehensive offerings including application programming interfaces (APIs), artificial intelligence (AI) models, augmented reality (AR), know your customer (KYC), integrated billing, and network inventory can redefine digital experiences, create intent-driven engagements, improve quality of service, and monetize assets.

Here are 14 services CSPs should look for when evaluating marketplaces:

  1. Billing Automation – Overlay platform integrates with multiple billing systems, automates reconciliations, and provides analytics, interactive bill presentment, and video bill experience.
  2. Cognitive Network Decisioning – Overlay platform integrates with multiple network management systems to deliver a global single network view and intelligence to drive auto decisioning.
  3. Digital Experience Layer – Unified platform enabling consistent channel experience, seamless handoffs, and standard microservice APIs across customer touchpoints.
  4. Digital Marketplace – Ecosystem for CSPs pre-integrated with digital providers and adjacent marketplace players to offer a single identity, product bundles, and offers. 
  5. Digital Self Care – Empowers customers to self-install, test, diagnose, and resolve issues through an AR and AI-powered chatbot integrated with an API and knowledge hub.
  6. Intelligent BPA – Eliminates manual touchpoints on 60+ processes across contact center, billing, network rollout, network operations, and service and order fulfillment operations through intelligent automation.
  7. Interactive Retail – AI-driven conversational digital wall with facial recognition and lift and learn product simulations features for improved explore and buy journeys at retail outlets.
  8. Location-based Marketing – Cloud-based CSP platform integrating with retail brands enabling customer segmentation, target audience campaign configuration, and location-based offers.
  9. Network-as-a-Service – Open API-based platform to deliver on-demand cloud network provisioning to establish global connectivity and security services at scale.
  10. NextGen Contact Center – Cognitive compute-based contact center solution enabling agents to provide improved customer service using insights-driven operations and smart business widgets.
  11. Small Cell Orchestration – Intent-based network operations solution uses catalogs with business KPIs to automate network commissioning, provisioning, and assurance enabling dynamic optimization of network.
  12. Smart Field Force Management – AR and AI-powered remote test and diagnostic capability, helping engineers to identify the location of main fault, analyze impact, and recommended resolution steps.
  13. Subscriber 360 – Dynamic, unified view of subscriber profile with micro-segmentation, providing predictions and recommendations on customer Average Revenue Per User, Customer Lifetime Value, Churn, Net Promoter Score, and Customer Satisfaction Index.
  14. Unified Network Inventory – Cloud-based single inventory solution built on a graph database to manage logical and physical resources enabling network automation through NetSecOps.

CSPs need to move faster than ever. IT vendors who promise a one stop shop to meet every need represent a growing red flag.  Increasingly, marketplaces will offer higher quality of pre-integrated solutions from multiple vendors. Open architectures will be key to delivering them.

________________

Ravi Kumar Palepu
SVP & Global Solutions Head, Telecom Practice

With more than 20 years of experience in the technology landscape building cutting edge solutions and products, Ravi Kumar Palepu has been in the forefront driving digital transformations for various communication service providers.

Palepu leads the technology council for Telco across locations, issues best practices as well as domain and technical competency for Telco accounts. He has exercised key operations as a part of Global Technology Office leadership and played vital role in filling the void between the GTO and the global Telco accounts.

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What’s more addictive: iGaming or eGaming?

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What’s more addictive iGaming or eGaming

Have you ever heard stories of people suffering from large debts they gathered because of gambling? One man with a £60k gambling debt shared that he smashed his computer to pieces attempting to get rid of this destructive habit. 

Yes, gaming addiction is extremely dangerous. If a person can’t control it, this problem may destroy their life. Luckily, right now, there are many organizations, which may provide a gamer with professional support and help.

There are different types of gaming and each of them may have various negative effects. While some people visit 1Highroller Casino to enjoy attractive slots or various video games, have a good time, and leave, others cannot stop until they empty their bank accounts.

However, do you know what’s more addictive — iGaming or e-Gaming? We are going to help you understand the difference between these terms. And don’t miss a chance to get acquainted with some useful tips that may help you avoid iGaming and e-Gaming addictions.

iGaming and e-Gaming?

To answer this question, we’d better start with discovering the definitions of both iGaming and e-Gaming.

The first one – iGaming – is also known as online gambling. It involves wagering of money on the results of different events or games. As a rule, the most popular activities include sports betting, poker, gambling games, etc.

Note that there are many companies and casino operators that support and develop this industry. The statistic shows that more than a quarter of the world population gambles from time to time. This result is £5.3 billion revenue for iGaming market.

Believe it or not, the popularity of e-Gaming can compete with gambling. e-Gaming refers to playing different types of games including video games, arcades, etc. Recent research shows that over 3 billion people use various devices to enjoy this entertainment, including mobile phones, personal computers, and consoles.

Is iGaming Addictive?

Unfortunately, there are people, who suffer from iGaming addiction. What is more, some experts say that online gambling is even more dangerous than playing in brick-and-mortar casinos.

There are several reasons for this.

First, it’s possible to enter a gambling website whenever you want. That’s why many gamblers lose their sense of time and spend hours playing various online slots and other types of casino-related games.

Second, many online gamblers don’t take care of their budget management. They don’t set limits and spend money without considering the expenses. 

Finally, people, who suffer from gambling addiction, may not recognize their problems. Almost every gambling website works together with special organizations, which provide gamblers with the necessary help. However, many people ignore this easy way to get rid of iGaming addiction.

Consider that 10 million residents of the U.S. alone suffer from different gambling issues.

Is e-Gaming Addictive?

e-Gaming provides players with tons of different games. Nowadays many people prefer playing video games to taking part in real-life activities.

Luckily, for most players, gaming is just a hobby. According to the statistics provided by the World Health Organization, only nearly 4 percent of gamers from the whole world suffer from issues related to addiction.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean that e-Gaming is less addictive than iGaming. Addicted gamers face serious problems, too. Some gamers can’t stop thinking about the gaming process even when they are not playing.

Be aware that if a person spends too much time interacting with video games despite problems at work or home, this is a red flag. Gaming addicts constantly lie about the overall time they spend in the virtual world, so you should be watchful.

Remember that an unhealthy approach to video games affects a person’s mental activity and well-being.

A solution to the Problem

As you can see, both iGaming or e-Gaming may be extremely dangerous for a person’s life. That’s why it’ll be a great decision to start following several important rules, which can help you avoid the mentioned problems.

It doesn’t matter whether you prefer wagering at online casinos or fighting against monsters in the newest MMO-RPG games — these tips will help you play responsibly.

1.     Set strict limits

Of course, both iGaming or e-Gaming companies provide us with tons of pleasant emotions. Still, any gamer or gambler should be able to control their time spent in the world of digital entertainment.

For example, you may set limits for your daily gaming activities. You may also use special apps to monitor your progress and track the time spent in an online game or casino.

Also, in case you are a true fan of betting, you should pay attention to your budget. Decide on the sum you can afford to spend in an online casino every week or month. As soon as you reach the set limit, you should stop playing immediately.

2.     Find alternative activities

It may be a good idea to switch to new hobbies and exciting activities. Many things may help you avoid thinking about gaming 24/7. For example, you can go in for sports or master Do it Yourself (DIY) skills.

Thanks to such activities you’ll become a more interesting and creative person. Plus, you may get more pleasant emotions if you make some bets in a casino or defeat a monster in a game after spending a few hours away from gadgets.

3.     Get professional help

If you realize that you are unable to deal with your gaming addiction, you should get professional support. There are many organizations, which help you overcome iGaming issues.

For instance, you may visit the BeGambleAware website. This organization cooperates with the majority of licensed online casinos. It can help you control your gambling habits as well as provide you with support and useful tools.

If you can’t stop playing video games, you should ask your friends and family members to give you a helping hand. Also, you can look for a nearby treatment center. You may need to visit it for several weeks or even months before you can overcome your problem. Nonetheless, you’ll see your life change for the better after the treatment is over.

Both iGaming or e-Gaming may be addictive if a person doesn’t follow the simple rules mentioned in this article. As soon as you realize that gaming has already started destroying your life and you’re unable to stop this process, please, seek professional help.

The good news is that nowadays there are many organizations, which will help you deal with such a serious problem.


Abby Bootman has been working in the Casino industry in Las Vegas, Nevada, for the past five years, where she witnessed countless people suffering from various types of addictions. While she graduated from Pace University with a degree in psychology, due to her work experience, Abby has chosen game addiction as the theme for her thesis.

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The digital disruptions that are changing the world

Shubhradeep Nandi

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Digital disruptions

Disruptions are a welcome break in almost all the industries around the world; however, some disruptions can indeed be catastrophic, but as every coin has two sides, it also brings great opportunities.

The digital disruptions brought by the global pandemic has created a difficult situation for a few but there are several institutions that took it in a positive way. The regulations imposed by the novel COVID-19 pandemic have severely impacted the worldwide economy, negatively reflecting on the operations of all industries far and wide.  

Sectors such as healthcare faced extreme pressure due to the excessive inflow of operations, while others like entertainment and F&B faced a downhill decline in their customer base.

While merely a handful of industries held their ground among all the chaos of 2020, finance was, and still is, a shining light within the storm.

Being the driver of the economy, it was fully responsible to hold up countries across the globe and making sure that businesses kept the lights on. Finance was the only industry that did not falter in the face of the storm of economic disruptions but weathered it to become the savior of many other industries.

Be that as it may, digital disruptions are not all doom and gloom, but rather beneficial in signifying change, which translates into evolution and growth. Industries across the spectrum can leverage this digital weapon to propel themselves forward in their respective domains, allowing them to be better prepared for the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Smart Cities

These digital disruptions brought about the growth and acceleration of bring smart cities to the forefront of technological change. It is worth mentioning that disruptive technology is a term very closely associated with smart infrastructures.

The onset of the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are considered to be the foundation within the construction of any smart city. The positiveness of this technology knows no bounds, as IoT places citizens and users in the driving seat, while the self-sufficiency of smart infrastructure renders it less vulnerable to external threats.

5G

Disruptive technologies are deployed not with the intention of changing the structure, but mostly the framework. These evolutions bring about economic and financial progressions, and apart from AI and IoT, the fifth generation of mobile networks is another core disruption.

As the Internet binds us all together, the induction of 5G will allow us to access data at a much faster and secure rate. This, in turn, plays in favor of globalization in all aspects of the world, and not merely reserved for smart cities, for it allows the entire globe to be placed within a fingertips’ reach of a single device.

Blockchain

With increased accessibility to the Internet comes security and verification; this is what makes blockchain and cryptocurrency such a sought after the disruption.

With its feature of immutability, it is finding its way in the identification and verification process of almost every sector, from banks and financial sectors reaching law and healthcare. Blockchain technology is evolving with the use of AI and other progressive technologies to provide it with a stronger framework on a daily basis.

Big Data

This brings us to the problem of data.

Having so many things going on across the Internet would generate heaps of data. This brings us to the topic of the next disruptive technology, big data, and data analysis.

Data has become even more powerful than money, which is why with proper data analysis, Machine Learning (ML) models can be trained even better to recognize and prevent threats and attacks in hopes of building a safer environment.

It provides a scope of proper storage and security within the cloud, ensuring that each and every device in the city or infrastructure is safe from external breaches or attacks.

Digital Identity

Finally, finance and banking being the core of any development, digital verification and biometrics will form the last of the disruptive technologies.

The world is witnessing a lot of this already due to the pandemic. Online KYC for identity verification and authentication plays a significant role in the customer onboarding process. KYC has become a mandatory prospect within any online transactions since biometrics are replacing traditional passwords and code to ensure security across the board.

Needless to say, the world in the 21st century is a very different one from what it was assumed to become years earlier. Thus, it is safe to say that the upcoming change we will witness in the next century is unprecedented as well.

Disruptive technologies are only one of aspect of what will be the cause of the drastic change. Everything is interlinked, and the more we read into technology, the more we’ll see realize that years from now, it is technology that will run humankind and not the other way round.


Shub is the Co-founder & CEO Of PiChain – an India-based RegTech company. He is an Entrepreneur passionate about cutting edge technology that makes human lives better. He is on a quest to achieve Sustainable Compliance for 500 Entities by 2025. He has decade-plus years of experience in building and selling software for Finance and Regulatory compliance management.

At PiChain, Shub provides organizational leadership with his unique combination of business understanding and technical acumen.

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