Jan. 10, 2017

Debra Berlyn : Who Says Seniors Can’t Get Around Barriers in Tech? (Part 2)

Debra Berlyn (@) is the Executive Director of The Project to (GOAL), and President of Consumer Policy Solutions. Debra is a seasoned veteran of telecommunications and consumer policy issues and an advocate for consumers of technology...

Debra Berlyn (@dberlyn) is the Executive Director of The Project to Get Older Adults onLine (GOAL), and President of Consumer Policy Solutions.

Debra is a seasoned veteran of telecommunications and consumer policy issues and an advocate for consumers of technology services. She represented AARP on the digital television transition and has worked closely with national aging organizations on several Internet issues, including online safety and privacy concerns.

Prior to launching Consumer Policy Solutions, Debra was senior legislative representative in the Federal Affairs Department of AARP, responsible for all communications and energy matters. She advocated on behalf of the members of AARP before Congress, the federal agencies (FCC, FERC, FEC, Department of Energy, Department of Commerce), and the Administration.

Ms. Berlyn has served as a faculty instructor with Boston University’s Washington Program. She received a B.A. from American University and a M.A. from Northwestern University.

In this episode, we discussed:

  • key barriers older adults face in getting online.
  • how Lifeline can help improve older adults' access to technology.


Project GOAL

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff


By now you've probably heard about the Director of National Intelligence report that came out last week which conclusively establishes that Vladimir Putin ordered a quote "influence campaign" to sway the election in favor of Donald Trump. But, as David Sanger notes in the Washington Post, there is no information in the declassified version of the report about how U.S. intelligence officials conducted their investigation. Trump, even after seeing a classified version of the report, still says the Obama Administration is engaging in a witch hunt, as does Vladimir Putin who calls the report amateurish. Here's the report.


China's National Energy administration last week released its 3 -year, $360 billion plan to invest in renewable energy sources like solar and wind. On the other hand, President-elect Trump, who has expressed skepticism about climate change, appears to be headed in the opposite direction. China expects their effort to create as many as 13 million new jobs in China, as well as reduce the level of greenhouse gases China emits into the atmosphere. Here in the U.S., Trump has said the notion of human-caused climate change is a "hoax", threatened to dismantle the Paris Accord, and nominated Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who is himself a human-caused climate change denier, to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Michael Forsythe has the story in the New York Times.


Civil Rights leader Jesse Jackson is calling for Uber to release its diversity numbers. In a letter to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, Jackson called on Uber to follow the lead of companies including Facebook, Google and Apple and do its part to "change the face of technology" by releasing its hiring data to the public. Melanie Zanona has the story in The Hill.


Last week, NCTA -- The Internet & Television Association, which is the leading lobbying association representing cable companies like Charter, Comcast and Cox, opened a new front in its war against Obama-era telecom regulations by filing a petition with the Federal Communications Commission asking the agency to overturn the consumer privacy rules the FCC issued last year. The rules are designed to prevent the industry from exploiting its vast stores of user data to favor its own content at the expense of edge providers like Netflix, Facebook and Google.  The telecom industry's fight against the Commission's 2015 net neutrality rules, which were upheld by a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals last year, was already underway: the carriers are requesting a review by the full court.

The telecom industry thinks the net neutrality and privacy rules give disproportionate protection to the tech sector. The tech sector argues that cable companies have access to far more user data and, if that market power is left unchecked, would give carriers monopoly power over both content and infrastructure.  Brian Fung has more in the Washington Post.


The House has passed a bill that would allow Congress to repeal any rule President Obama passed during the last 6o legislative days of his administration. The bill had been approved by the previous Congress in November. The bill is basically the Select All+Delete of lawmaking: as Lydia Wheeler notes in the Hill, the bill would allow Congress to bundle together a whole bunch of rules and overturn them en masse with one vote.


The House also adopted rules last week which would prevent members from livestreaming sit-ins and other protests on the House floor. Members had been ignoring existing rules prohibiting members from taking any photos or videos on the House floor, but now there will be a $500 fine for the first offense and $2,500 for each offense thereafter. The new rule was passed in response to a sit in members, including John Lewis, livestreamed last year as a protest against Republicans' failure to consider gun control legislation.


Gabriel Sherman reported in New York magazine that his sources told him that Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch is advising the Trump transition team on who should Chair the Federal Communications Commission once Tom Wheeler steps down. This alignment could impact how a Trump administration would treat the AT&T/Time Warner Merger --to which President-elect Trump has already expressed opposition -- since Murdoch is the Executive Chairman of News Corp, Executive Co-Chair of 20th Century Fox, and the Acting CEO of Fox News. Sherman notes that Fox News has already begun to double-down on its alignment with the incoming far-right administration by installing Tucker Carlson in the 7pm slot to replace Greta van Susteren.


A new Pew Research analysis of National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) data conducted by Monica Anderson shows African-American and Hispanic 12th graders are significantly less interested in math and science than their Asian and White counterparts. Overall, 71% of 12th graders surveyed agreed or strongly agreed with the statement "I like science." That's compared to 78% for Asians, 73% for Whites, 70% for Hispanics, and just 62% for Black students. An overwhelming number of Asian students actually want jobs in science, at 59%,  compared to just 39% of Black students, 40% of Hispanic students, and 45% of White students.


Reuters reports that the U.S. Labor Department has sued Google to obtain its compensation data. The Labor Department claims the company has ignored repeated requests to submit the data as part of a routine Equal Opportunity compliance investigation which has been going on since 2015. A Google spokesperson said Google had repeatedly told Labor that the request was too broad in scope but didn't receive a response back from the Labor Department.


On Christmas Eve in 2014, five-year-old Moriah Modisette died in a car crash. The other driver was allegedly using FaceTime immediately before impact. Now, Moriah's parents --James and Bethany Modisette -- are suing Apple in Texas for failing to include a mechanism that disables FaceTime during driving. The lawsuit points to one of Apple's patents. You can find this story at BBC.com.


Finally, the White House has re-submitted the nomination of former FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel after Rosenworcel vacated her seat at the Commission in December because her term expired and Congress failed to re-confirm her for political reasons. Senate Commerce Committee Chair John Thune has said he is open to reconfirming Rosenworcel but not without a Republican Majority. Currently the Commission is comprised of two Republican (Ajit Pai--who endorsed Jeff Sessions' Attorney General nomination, and Michael O'Rielly) and one Democratic Commissioner--Mignon Clyburn.