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Preston Padden: Broadband Providers Complicit in Smear Campaign Against FCC Nominee Gigi Sohn

Event

Benton

Jan 30, 2023

Citing a smear campaign to continue to prevent Gigi Sohn [Senior Fellow and Public Advocate at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society] from being seated as the fifth Federal Communications Commissioner, former Fox and ABC/Disney executive Preston Padden has written the chair of the Senate Commerce Committee to call out those tactics and advocate for Sohn, with whom he is not aligned politically. Padden also said he had been in contact with Fox’s Rupert Murdoch, an opponent of the Democratic nominee. He said he was able to assuage Murdoch’s “misgivings” about Sohn’s nomination by pointing out that she was helpful in Padden’s efforts as a top Fox exec to secure the FCC waivers needed to start the Fox network and “fend off” fierce lobbying from ABC, CBS, and NBC in the process. Padden called Sohn a “superbly qualified” nominee who should get confirmed ASAP. He also asked that the letter be read into the record of a potential third nomination hearing on Sohn, who was nominated by President Joe Biden to fill the vacant third Democratic seat more than two years ago. Padden said he was afraid Sohn was ”in danger of falling victim to the worst, and most cynical and baseless smear campaign ever waged against a nominee to serve on the FCC."

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FCC Extends COVID Waivers Impacting Lifeline, Affordable Connectivity Program Tribal Subscribers

ACP

Benton

Jan 30, 2023

In response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US, the Federal Communications Commission's Wireline Competition Bureau has waived certain Lifeline program rules in thirteen previous Orders to provide relief for low-income households. The Bureau finds good cause exists to continue to waive the Lifeline recertification and re-verification requirements for those Lifeline subscribers residing on Tribal lands through April 30, 2023. This waiver also addresses the potential impact it may have on subscribers of the Lifeline and Affordable Connectivity Programs (ACP) that were required to undergo recertification for the calendar year 2022. The FCC will continue to monitor the situation to determine whether any additional extension of these waivers is appropriate, but given the generally improving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and increased connectivity between the National Verifier and relevant databases, it anticipates that this will likely be the Bureau’s final extension of these waivers.

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Sen Markey Urges Movement on Nomination of Gigi Sohn to FCC

Benton

Jan 30, 2023

Sen Ed Markey (D-MA) is urging Congress to move the nomination of Gigi Sohn [Senior Fellow and Public Advocate at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society] to be the fifth member of the Federal Communications Commission. Her nomination has been held up for two years because not enough Democrats could be lined up to hold a Senate vote. The nomination failed to be reported favorably by the Commerce Committee, which was tied to advancing it to the full Senate. “It is outrageous that the FCC has gone without a full slate of commissioners while the nomination of the supremely qualified and prepared nominee, Gigi Sohn, languishes amidst lies and homophobia,“ Markey said. “The work of the Commission — from net neutrality to closing the digital divide —is too important for this nomination to be delayed any further. Gigi Sohn is President Biden’s nominee, and Congress should confirm her as soon as possible. As a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and a longtime advocate for advancing telecommunications equity and access, I will continue to fight back against baseless attacks and push for swift confirmation.”

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AT&T Reports Fourth-Quarter and Full-Year Results

Benton

Jan 30, 2023

 AT&T reported its fourth-quarter 2023 results, showing sustained momentum in customer additions across 5G and fiber and solid growth in wireless service and broadband revenues. Results include:

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An Iowa Town’s $60 Million Plan to Span the Broadband Gap

Benton

Jan 30, 2023

In 2020, West Des Moines (IA) entered a partnership with Google Fiber, the super-fast internet service that Alphabet offers in several US cities. But unlike previous cities that have participated in the decade-old initiative, West Des Moines is building the fiber conduit network itself, in exchange for Google Fiber promising to lay its fiber lines in front of every home and business in the city — not just in areas the company believes will be profitable. Additionally, the conduit network is not being built only for Google: The city can lease space in the multi-lane tunnels to several internet providers, who will feed their own fiber lines through the existing conduit.It’s a model called open access infrastructure, wherein a public entity builds shared infrastructure for private companies to offer competing services.

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Biden-Harris Administration Announces More Than $33.5 Million in Internet for All Grants to 12 Minority-Serving Colleges and Universities

Benton

Jan 30, 2023

The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced it has awarded 12 grants as part of the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program (CMC). These grants, totaling more than $33.5 million, will expand community technology hubs, upgrade classroom technology, and increase digital literacy skills at 12 minority-serving colleges and universities in 10 states. The awardees are as follows:

Mass Confusion over FCC Mapping

Pots and Pans

Jan 30, 2023

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Treasury Announces Four Additional Capital Projects Fund Awards to Increase Access to Affordable, High-Speed Internet

Benton

Jan 27, 2023

The US Department of the Treasury announced the approval of broadband projects in four additional states under the American Rescue Plan’s Capital Projects Fund in President Biden’s American Rescue Plan: Alabama, Kentucky, Nevada, and Texas. Together, these states will use their funding to connect over 292,000 homes and businesses to affordable, high-speed internet. A key priority of the Capital Projects Fund program is to make funding available for reliable, affordable broadband infrastructure, advancing President Biden’s goal of affordable, reliable, high-speed internet for all Americans. Alabama is approved to receive $191.9 million for broadband infrastructure, which the state estimates will connect 55,000 households and businesses to high-speed internet access. Kentucky is approved to receive $182.8 million for broadband infrastructure, which the state estimates will connect 45,000 households and businesses to high-speed internet access. Nevada is approved to receive $55.2 million for broadband infrastructure, which the state estimates will connect over 40,000 households and businesses to high-speed internet access. Texas is approved to receive $363.8 million for broadband infrastructure, which the state estimates will connect 152,000 households and businesses to high-speed internet access.

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How the Martha Wright-Reed Act Moves Us Closer to Just and Reasonable Communications

Benton

Jan 27, 2023

For many incarcerated people in the United States, exorbitant phone rates and fees make it consistently difficult to keep in touch with loved ones, lawyers, and others outside of prison. The Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act of 2022—signed by President Joe Biden on January 5, 2023—will ensure just and reasonable charges for telephone and advanced communications services in correctional and detention facilities across the country. The new law expands the Federal Communications Commission’s jurisdiction over different kinds of prison communications and the rates and fees associated with them. Here, we look at all that was done to make this law a reality and what it means for incarcerated people and their families.

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Back to the Spectrum Future: The 20th Anniversary of the Spectrum Policy Task Force

Benton

Jan 27, 2023

Public Knowledge has released its newest white paper, “Back to the Spectrum Future: The 20th Anniversary of the Spectrum Policy Task Force,” by Public Knowledge Policy Counsel Kathleen Burke. The paper proposes adopting a backcasting model rooted in core public interest principles to help guide our spectrum policymakers toward a wireless future that serves and includes all Americans. It argues that a value-based spectrum policy framework allows us to envision a future where everyone has access to reliable and affordable telecommunications services – and then provides a path toward it. This paper applies the proposed public interest backcasting model to two key issues that the SPTF addressed: (1) spectrum efficiency and (2) spectrum access models. The paper also addresses two blind spots that the SPTF failed to consider: (1) the stakeholder dynamic and its zero-sum game fallacy and (2) spectrum policy’s impact on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Policymakers must consider these aspects of spectrum policy if they hope to create a wireless future that benefits everyone.

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Gonzalez v. Google LLC: i2Coalition files amici brief with US Supreme Court

Benton

Jan 27, 2023

On January 18, 2023, the i2Coalition filed an amici brief with the US Supreme Court in Gonzalez v. Google LLC, pointing out Section 230’s foundational role in allowing the Internet’s infrastructure to function efficiently and effectively without the threat of crippling litigation. Section 230 of the Communications Act of 1934 is one of the pillars of intermediary liability law, which protects a large variety of both providers and users of “interactive computer services” from being held liable for “information provided by another information content provider” –i.e., third party content–as defined in the statute. The question presented for the Court to consider in Gonzalez asks whether Section 230 shields “interactive computer service” providers when they make so-called “targeted recommendations” of third-party content.The i2Coalition’s brief demonstrated that Section 230’s express words provide no basis for excluding the automated operation of algorithms–instructions to computer systems–from Section 230 liability protection. We explained that a myriad of companies throughout the Internet ecosystem, including those providing its technological infrastructure, depend upon algorithms to classify, organize, process, and transmit all sorts of data, and that these functions do not alter Section 230(c)(1)’s protection of those companies. Finally, we pointed out that any reconsideration of the policy direction of this law is the proper role only of Congress, not the Court. 

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Charter Announces Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2022 Results

Benton

Jan 27, 2023

Charter Communications reported financial and operating results for the three and twelve months that ended December 31, 2022. Fourth quarter residential Internet customers increased by 92,000, compared to an increase of 172,000 customers during the fourth quarter of 2021. Spectrum Internet delivers the fastest speeds in Charter's footprint. Charter offers Spectrum Internet products with speeds up to 1 Gbps across its entire footprint. Charter's Advanced Wi-Fi, a managed Wi-Fi service that provides customers with an optimized home network while providing greater control of their connected devices with enhanced security and privacy, is available to nearly all Spectrum Internet customers. During the fourth quarter of 2022, Charter added 615,000 mobile lines, compared to a growth of 380,000 during the fourth quarter of 2021. Spectrum Mobile is available to all new and existing Spectrum Internet customers.

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New York City Mayor Adams Highlights Broadband in State of the City Address

Benton

Jan 27, 2023

New York City Mayor Eric Adams outlined a “Working People’s Agenda” in his second State of the City address. Under the Working People’s Agenda, the Adams administration will expand the Big Apple Connect program to reach even more New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments with free broadband and TV for tens of thousands of New Yorkers. The administration will also rovide free broadband access to households with Section 8 vouchers with a new pilot program in the Bronx and Northern Manhattan.

Meta Restores Trump’s Accounts, Alaska Uses AI for Mapping, Public Interest Model for Spectrum Policy

Broadband Breakfast

Jan 26, 2023

Former President Trump will face heightened penalties for future, repeated violations of Facebook's and Meta's policies.

Who’s On First?

Pots and Pans

Jan 26, 2023

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Comparing broadband access to adoption in urban, suburban, and rural America

ACP

Benton

Jan 26, 2023

New Federal Communications Commission maps that measure broadband access, and new American Community Survey data that measure adoption, show that only 64.4% of rural American households have access to broadband at 100/20 throughput. Most, 58.8%, subscribe to broadband, a gap of less than 6 percentage points. Even with new FCC maps, 98.5% of urban households have access to broadband, but only 73% subscribe. The number in the suburbs is only slightly better: 97% access and 76% adoption. Before I go any deeper, I strongly recommend reading John Horrigan’s [Senior Fellow at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society] excellent analysis of this ACS data. The former argues convincingly that the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) has succeeded in increasing the adoption of broadband in America’s cities; the latter points out the persistent racial divide among broadband adoption and makes recommendations to close the gap. The high adoption rate relative to access, 59% adoption against 64% access, suggests that the currently unserved and unserved are eager for access and will have a high take rate. On the other side, there is plenty of room to grow in urban areas. At 73% adoption, there are about 10.2 million homes that still don’t have broadband. That’s similar to the 12 million rural homes that don’t have broadband service currently. Another 17.4 million suburban homes don’t have broadband.

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FCC Improving Support for Digital Health in Rural America

Benton

Jan 26, 2023

The Federal Communications Commission approved several proposals for the Rural Health Care (RHC) Program to make it easier for healthcare providers to receive support, reduce delays in funding commitments, and improve the program's overall efficiency. Reliable high-speed connectivity is critical for rural healthcare providers to serve patients in rural areas that often have limited resources, fewer doctors, and higher rates for broadband and telecommunications services than urban areas. The Commission’s Rural Health Care Program expands access to telehealth and telemedicine services by providing financial support to eligible healthcare providers for high-speed broadband connections and telecommunications services. The FCC's actions will resolve petitions for reconsideration on issues from the August 2019 Promoting Telehealth Report and Order, and adopt proposals from the February 2022 Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. The Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking adopted by the FCC seeks comment on a number of items related to telehealth access.

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Missouri awards $261 million through the ARPA Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program to fund 60 broadband expansion projects

Benton

Jan 25, 2023

The Missouri Department of Economic Development (DED) awarded a total of $261 million through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program to 60 recipients for projects that will expand and improve internet access statewide. Projects receiving funds are expected to create more than 55,000 connections in locations that previously lacked adequate internet access. The ARPA Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program, administered by DED’s Office of Broadband Development, was launched in August 2022 to invest in broadband expansion. The program awarded competitive grants to a wide range of applicants, including traditional internet providers as well as electric and telephone cooperatives. The program prioritized unserved and underserved areas. Funds will be used to build new connections that will deliver symmetrical speeds of 100 Mbps upload / 100 Mbps download or greater. Details on recipients of the Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program are available here.

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Affordable Broadband: FCC Could Improve Performance Goals and Measures, Consumer Outreach, and Fraud Risk Management

ACP

Benton

Jan 25, 2023

Access to broadband—high-speed internet—has become critical for everyday life. But its cost may keep some people from having access to it. The Federal Communications Commission's Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) offers eligible low-income households discounts on the cost of their broadband service and certain devices. FCC reimburses participating internet service providers for providing these discounts. To make it more affordable for low-income Americans, the FCC's Affordable Connectivity Program offers monthly discounts on broadband service to eligible households. FCC could strengthen the program's goals and measures, consumer outreach, and fraud-risk management to better ensure the program is meeting goals and protecting its funds from potential fraud. Ultimately, the recommendations include:

No More Underbuilding

Pots and Pans

Jan 25, 2023

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Report: Private Telcos Thwart WA Public Utilities’ Plans For Rural Broadband thumbnail

Report: Private Telcos Thwart WA Public Utilities’ Plans For Rural Broadband

Broadband.Money

Jan 25, 2023

Residents of Elma in Washington State struggle to access the internet. Our broadband audit quantifies the town's lack of connectivity.

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T-Mobile advised to stop using ‘fast’ and ‘reliable’ in FWA ads

Benton

Jan 25, 2023

The National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs told T-Mobile to stop claiming its T-Mobile Home Internet service is “fast” and “reliable.” Of course, that didn’t go over well at T-Mobile, which is appealing parts of the NAD decision that came after a complaint was lodged by rival Comcast. NAD told T-Mobile to discontinue claims that its home internet service is “fast” or “high speed” or modify its advertising to avoid conveying a message that the service will be “fast” or “high speed” for all fixed wireless access (FWA) customers. T-Mobile Home Internet (T-HINT) customers experience “a range of speeds,” NAD said, concluding that T-Mobile did not provide sufficient evidence to conclude that all T-HINT customers receive speeds above the Federal Communication Commission's standards for high-speed broadband internet and thus did not provide a reasonable basis of support for its “fast” or “high-speed” claims. As for the reliability claims, NAD found that, in context, T-Mobile’s claims that T-HINT is “reliable” may convey the messages that T-HINT customers will maintain a dependable internet connection and that T-HINT “consistently delivers fast speeds and service without disruption.”

FCC Orders Robocall Traffic Cutoff, Internet Lacking for Civil Society, Comcast Promotion

Broadband Breakfast

Jan 25, 2023

Some states' attorneys general are suing a realtor for alleged robocall scheme.

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FCC Asks Consumers to Share Their Broadband Access Experiences

Event

Benton

Jan 25, 2023

The Federal Communication Commission's Task Force to Prevent Digital Discrimination is offering consumers an opportunity to share their stories and experiences in obtaining broadband internet access. In furtherance of the goals to create a framework for addressing digital discrimination and the FCC’s ongoing efforts to identify and address harms experienced by historically excluded and marginalized communities, this new form provides a way for consumers to share their broadband access experiences. Stories shared by consumers will help to inform the work of the Task Force.

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Facing A Fresh Confirmation Process, Gigi Sohn May Not Be Seated On FCC Until This Spring

Benton

Jan 25, 2023

It is beginning to look like the 2-2 deadlock that has marked the Federal Communications Commission for the past two years is not about to come to an end in the near-term, even though Democrats now have an extra vote in the Senate to confirm Gigi Sohn [Senior Fellow and Public Advocate at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society]. As the Senate returns from a two-week recess, there is a growing expectation that Sohn’s nomination will need to go through a full confirmation process once again – including a third hearing in front of the Senate Commerce Committee. Washington insiders say Senate Commerce Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA) is expected to go along with Republican lawmakers for a new hearing. It would be an unprecedented third time before the Committee for an FCC nominee, and it reinforces the GOP’s firm opposition against Sohn’s nomination. Her agreement to recuse herself from any decisions regarding retransmission consent for local television stations for three years was enough to secure the backing of the National Association of Broadcasters, but several Senate Republicans think her previous work for the now-closed Locast streaming TV service would continue to cause an appearance of a conflict of interest. They also note that the agreement is voluntary, meaning Sohn could rescind her decision to remain on the sidelines at any time. If a hearing is held it may not be until mid-February to early March after the Commerce Committee holds its organizational meeting.

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Best Practices for Broadband Fabric Challenges Announced

Benton

Jan 25, 2023

The Federal Communications Commission's Broadband Data Task Force (Task Force) announces recommended best practices for submitting bulk challenges to the most recent version of the Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric (Fabric) data. The Task Force also provides notice that bulk Fabric challenges submitted as much in advance of March 15, 2023, as possible are most likely to be reviewed and adjudicated in time to be accounted for in the next iteration of the Fabric (version three) to be released in conjunction with the Broadband Data Collection (BDC) filing window for data as of June 30, 2023 that is due no later than September 1, 2023. Preparing a bulk Fabric challenge is fundamentally a geospatial process. Entities therefore should not attempt to upload as a bulk Fabric challenge a list of addresses they have compiled for another purpose (e.g., a list of addresses from a billing system or from an E911 database), though these datasets can serve as a helpful starting point for producing a valid bulk Fabric challenge. As an initial step, challengers can attempt to join this type of address-based data to the address information included in the Fabric in order to associate unique Fabric location IDs with the locations in the prospective challenger’s data. But the challenger should not simply upload as a challenge all of the data it is unable to match to an existing location ID using an address matching join. In other words, the fact that an address is missing from the Fabric does not necessarily indicate that the location is missing from the Fabric. Rather than simply filing a Type 1 challenge consisting of a list of addresses, the challenger should next proceed to a geospatial analysis of both its address data and the data included in the Fabric.

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The Strategic Imperative of US Leadership in Next-Generation Networks

Benton

Jan 25, 2023

The internet—and, more specifically, the ubiquitously connected society driven largely by next-generation wireless broadband—will be a crucial domain for both autocracies and market democracies in the twenty-first century. Remote and mobile connectivity is an increasingly essential component of a functioning modern society; if leveraged for dynamism and innovation rather than authoritarian command and control, fifth-generation (5G) wireless connectivity provides the foundation for solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. Telecommunications regulatory governance is therefore a powerful strategic security lever that the United States and its allies should wield to advance free-market democracy. To this end, this paper recommends the following policy solutions:

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February 2023 Open Meeting Agenda

Benton

Jan 25, 2023

Here’s what the Federal Communications Commission will consider at our February open meeting.

The Rural Broadband Association

Safeguarded From Every Angle 

The Rural Broadband Association

Jan 25, 2023

CyberShare: The Small Broadband Provider ISAC is participating in the second Data Privacy Week organized by the National Cybersecurity Alliance. The organization is a non-profit with a mission to create a more secure, interconnected world. CyberShare is a Champion of Data Privacy Week, and we are spreading awareness of data privacy to our participants as well as the surrounding IT and cybersecurity communities. So why is data privacy week important? If personal data is not protected, that data can be exploited and exposed to harm not only the individual but their families, employees, and respective communities. One weak password, one careless decision, can create open access to personal information for cyber criminals online.CyberShare participants learn in a variety of ways how to protect their data and uphold the highest cybersecurity posture. CyberShare is an Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC), recognized by the National Council of ISACs, and specifically meets the needs of small broadband providers. Participants receive daily and weekly reports of threats and mitigation measures, from public and private sources and have the opportunity to participate in twice monthly calls from a variety of technical topics like cybersecurity insurance, cybersecurity incident reporting, supply chain risk management, and policy trends. For example, CyberShare recently hosted Daniel Bardenstein from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to talk about the Cross-Sector Cybersecurity Performance Goals to ultimately promote data privacy and cybersecurity resilience. To mark Data Privacy Week, CyberShare will be sharing tips, tools and infographics on NTCA social media to help organizations, businesses, and individuals be aware of data privacy for a safer online world for all. For more information on Data Privacy Week and how to get involved, visit Data Privacy Week - National Cybersecurity Alliance. For more information about CyberShare, visit cyber-share.org.© 2023, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association All rights reserved. 4121 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22203Explore NTCA Sites

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Apple beefs up smartphone services in ‘silent war’ against Google

Benton

Jan 25, 2023

Apple is taking steps to separate its mobile operating system from features offered by Google, making advances around maps, search and advertising that have created a collision course between the Big Tech companies. The two Silicon Valley giants have been rivals in the smartphone market since Google acquired and popularized the Android operating system in the 2000s. Apple is still engaged in a “silent war” against its arch-rival by developing features that could allow the iPhone maker to further separate its products from services offered by Google. The first front of this battle is mapping, which started in 2012 when Apple released Maps, displacing its Google rival as a pre-downloaded app. The second front in the battle is the search feature. While Apple rarely discusses products while in development, the company has long worked on a feature known internally as “Apple Search," a tool that facilitates “billions of searches” per day. The third front in Apple’s battle could prove the most devastating: its ambitions in online advertising, where Google makes more than 80 percent of its revenues. Ultimately, Apple’s move on three fronts has left Google's position within iOS looking “more vulnerable than it ever has been before."

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No More Underbuilding

Benton

Jan 25, 2023

Jonathan Chambers wrote another great article where he addresses the issue of federal grants having waste, fraud, and abuse. He goes on to say that real waste, fraud, and abuse came in the past when the Federal Communication Commission awarded federal grants and subsidies to the large telephone companies to build networks that were obsolete by the time they were constructed. He uses the term "underbuilding" to describe funding networks that are not forward-looking and is in direct contrast to the large companies that constantly use the term overbuilding to mean they don’t want any grant funding to be used to build any place where they have existing customers. The FCC has been guilty of funding underbuilding over and over again. But the blame doesn’t just lie with the FCC – it lies with all of the broadband advocates in the country. When the broadband providers started to talk non-stop about not allowing overbuilding, we should have been lobbying pro-broadband politicians to say that the FCC should never fund underbuilding. Every broadband network that is constructed is overbuilding somebody, except in those exceptionally rare cases where folks have zero broadband options. If we accept the argument that overbuilding is a bad policy, then it’s easy to justify giving the money to incumbents to do better – something that has failed over and over again.

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Senator Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) Advocates a Transparency-Based Approach to Social Media Moderation

Benton

Jan 25, 2023

Social media companies need to further enhance transparency around the content moderation requests that they receive from governments to better safeguard users’ speech online, according to Senator Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), who has focused on tech-related policy issues during her time in office. Sen. Lummis—who serves on the influential Senate Commerce Committee—said that it is “an unprecedented time in history” for freedom of speech and the manner in which governments regulate public discourse, particularly “the real-time failures of government when it comes to interacting with companies that provide platforms for speech on the internet.” Sen Lummis cited the PRESERVE Online Speech Act—legislation that she co-sponsored in 2021—as one way of enhancing the transparency of moderation requests. The bill would require social media platforms “to issue a public disclosure containing specified information related to a request or recommendation by a government entity that the service moderate content on its platform.”

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State of Digital Inequity: Civil Society Perspectives on Barriers to Progress in our Digitizing World

Benton

Jan 25, 2023

A digital equity framework with five broad elements: Infrastructure, Affordability, Digital Skills, Policy, and Content. A global research study of over 7,500 civil society organizations (CSO), highlights include:The data is clear: across the world, many of the communities we serve do not have access to affordable and reliable internet or the digital tools they need to fully participate in this digital age. The promising news is that the knowledge, capital, and solutions to advance digital equity are out there — we must mobilize, harness, and distribute them.

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AT&T Reports Fourth-Quarter and Full-Year Results

Benton

Jan 25, 2023

AT&T reported fourth-quarter results that showed sustained momentum in customer additions across 5G and fiber and solid growth in wireless service and broadband revenues. Revenues from continuing operations for the fourth quarter totaled $31.3 billion versus $31.1 billion in the year-ago quarter, up 0.8%. This increase primarily reflects higher Mobility, Mexico and Consumer Wireline revenues, partly offset by lower Business Wireline revenues. Revenues from continuing operations for the full year totaled $120.7 billion versus $134.0 billion in 2021, down 9.9% reflecting the impact of the U.S. Video separation in July 2021. Excluding the impact of U.S. Video, operating revenues for standalone AT&T* were up 2.1%, from $118.2 billion, primarily driven by higher revenues from Mobility, and, to a lesser extent, Mexico and Consumer Wireline, partially offset by lower Business Wireline revenues. Revenues were $3.2 billion, up 2.2% year over year due to gains in broadband more than offsetting declines in legacy voice and data and other services. Broadband revenues increased 7.2% due to fiber growth of more than 31%, partly offset by non-fiber revenue declines of 12.6%. Total broadband losses, excluding DSL, were 43,000, reflecting AT&T Fiber net adds of 280,000, more than offset by losses in non-fiber services. AT&T Fiber now has the ability to serve more than 19 million customer locations and offers symmetrical, multi-gig speeds across parts of its entire footprint of more than 100 metro areas.

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The Disappointment of 5G

Event

Benton

Jan 24, 2023

Karl Bode recently wrote an excellent article highlighting the overhyping of wireless technologies. No wireless technology has been a bigger flop than 5G when comparing the hype to the eventual reality. The wireless carriers and vendors blitzed the country in a coordinated effort to paint 5G as the solution that would bring broadband everywhere. Along with the public, the cellular carriers did a non-stop blitz on federal officials, getting them to buy into the amazing wireless future. The main problem with all of this hype is that the rhetoric didn’t match the specifications for 5G that were adopted by international standards bodies. The 5G specifications included a few key goals: get cellular speeds over 100 Mbps, allow for more simultaneous users at a given cell site, allow a cellphone to use two different spectrum bands at the same time, and allow a user to connect to more than one cell site if the demand needed it. The primary purpose of the 5G spec was to eliminate cell site congestion in places where there are a lot of people trying to simultaneously use the cellular network. Nothing in the 5G specification is earth-shattering. The specification, as a whole, seemed like the natural evolution of cellular to better accommodate a world where everybody has a cell phone. I have no doubt that the public will buy into the hype and want 6G phones when they hit the market, but I also know that none of them will see any difference in performance.

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Broadband Funding: Stronger Management of Performance and Fraud Risk Needed for Tribal and Public-Private Partnership Grants

Benton

Jan 24, 2023

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, established two new broadband grant programs—the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP) and Broadband Infrastructure Program (BIP), administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) within the Department of Commerce. NTIA’s process generally aligned with recommended practices. However, NTIA’s current performance goals and measures will not tell the whole story of whether these programs succeed. In TBCP, NTIA does not have a performance goal or measure for funding broadband use and adoption projects on tribal lands—a stated program purpose. NTIA also has no way of measuring if the broadband deployed under TBCP is reliable and affordable even though it established those as goals of the program. Similarly, NTIA established affordability as a goal for broadband deployed under BIP but does not have a way of measuring affordability. NTIA officials said that they are still developing performance goals and measures for the programs, but without more complete goals and measures, the extent to which these two important grant programs, totaling billions of dollars, succeed will be unclear. As NTIA prepares for the next round of funding for the TBCP program, establishing clear goals and measures that reflect all of the program’s purposes prior to receiving applications and making award decisions would help NTIA ensure that it is making award decisions that consider those goals and measures. In addition, although NTIA has taken some steps to identify fraud risks, NTIA’s actions did not align with leading practices for fraud risk management in two key ways. First, NTIA has not designated a dedicated entity to lead its fraud risk management efforts. Instead, NTIA has several offices with different responsibilities associated with TBCP and BIP oversight without a clearly designated entity leading these efforts. Leading practices indicate that one entity should lead efforts to identify and manage fraud risks. Second, NTIA has not conducted fraud risk assessments for TBCP or BIP, as called for by leading practices. Without designating an entity to oversee fraud risk management activities and conducting a fraud risk assessment, NTIA lacks assurance that its controls are mitigating fraud risks in TBCP and BIP and that it is sufficiently positioned to combat fraud in the programs.

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Rebuild Local News Launches Ambitious New Drive for Public Policies to Help Save Local News

Benton

Jan 24, 2023

With the collapse of local news accelerating, Steve Waldman, co-founder of Report for America, leads new independent nonprofit organization developing non-partisan public policies to strengthen community journalism. The Rebuild Local News Coalition, an alliance of local news organizations launched in 2020, has now become an independent nonprofit organization and plans a drive to advance a range of public policies to address the accelerating crisis in local news that threatens so many communities. The coalition will research, develop and champion public policies at the state, local and national levels – including payroll tax credits to hire and retain local reporters, proposals to target government advertising spending toward local news instead of social media, and reducing the influence of hedge funds on local newspapers. The organization is funded by a combination of support from journalism organizations and leading philanthropic organizations. Philanthropic and private sector supporters include: the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Microsoft,the Yellow Chair Foundation, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Charles H. Revson Foundation, the Argosy Foundation, and the Posner Foundation. Previous support has come from Democracy Fund.

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Justice Department Sues Google for Monopolizing Digital Advertising Technologies

Benton

Jan 24, 2023

The Justice Department—along with the Attorneys General of California, Colorado, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Virginia—filed a civil antitrust suit against Google for monopolizing multiple digital advertising technology products in violation of Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act. Filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, the complaint alleges that Google monopolizes key digital advertising technologies, collectively referred to as the “ad tech stack,” that website publishers depend on to sell ads and that advertisers rely on to buy ads and reach potential customers. Website publishers use ad tech tools to generate advertising revenue that supports the creation and maintenance of a vibrant open web, providing the public with unprecedented access to ideas, artistic expression, information, goods, and services. Through this monopolization lawsuit, the Justice Department and state Attorneys General seek to restore competition in these important markets and obtain equitable and monetary relief on behalf of the American public. Google’s anticompetitive conduct has included:

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Verizon adds 416,000 broadband subscribers

Benton

Jan 24, 2023

Verizon Communications closed 2022 with fourth-quarter results marked by wireless service revenue growth and the highest total wireless retail postpaid net additions in seven years. Total broadband net additions of 416,000 was the best total broadband performance in over a decade, reflecting a strong demand for Fios (59,000 net additions) and fixed wireless products. This result included 379,000 fixed wireless net additions, an increase of 37,000 fixed wireless net additions from third-quarter 2022. The company reported sequential quarterly net addition growth in fixed wireless throughout 2022. Full-year 2022 total broadband net additions were 1,290,000, an increase from 409,000 total broadband net additions in full-year 2021.

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Governor Walz Proposes Budget that would Invest in Minnesota’s Economic Future, Broadband

Benton

Jan 24, 2023

Governor Tim Walz (D-MN) and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan (D-MN) share the goal of ensuring all homes and businesses have access to broadband by 2026. Governor Walz and Lieutenant Governor Flanagan recommend $276 million to expand the reach of the Border-to-Border Broadband Program to areas of Minnesota that are unserved or underserved. Since its inception in 2014, the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program has provided nearly $230 million to connect 90,000 Minnesota homes and businesses to high-speed internet.

“Antitrust enforcers are again embracing their responsibility,” Stacy Mitchell Says of DOJ Lawsuit Against Google in Online Ads Market images

“Antitrust enforcers are again embracing their responsibility,” Stacy Mitchell Says of DOJ Lawsuit Against Google in Online Ads Market

Institute for Local Self-Reliance

Jan 24, 2023

Mitchell proclaims in the statement, “Google actively extracts resources from communities that need them most and threatens a free, local press that lies at the heart of our democracy.”…

Justice Department Sues Google, Big Tech’s White House Ties, TCPA Compliance Deadline

Broadband Breakfast

Jan 24, 2023

The lawsuit accuses the company of abusing a monopoly over the technology that controls the digital advertising market.

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The fight for the airwaves in your house

Benton

Jan 24, 2023

For years, big consumer-tech companies like Meta, Apple and Google have been leaning on the government to free up little pieces of the wireless spectrum as “unlicensed” airwaves — meaning anyone can use those airwaves for free. What are they after, exactly? Their interest in the airwaves says a lot about where they think the future of human connection will be. And it’s partly inside your house. Bluetooth devices and home routers use “unlicensed” parts of the spectrum, which means that anyone can make devices that use those airwaves. The consumer-tech companies notched a big win in 2020 when they convinced the Federal Communications Commission to free up a giant band known as the 6 GHz for unlicensed use — giving home Wi-Fi devices access to new bandwidth that boosted their capacity fivefold. More unlicensed spectrum means less congestion for Wi-Fi and other devices that send data wirelessly. These Wi-Fi advocates are now pushing US federal regulators to both target brand-new chunks of spectrum — like the adjacent 7 GHz band — for unlicensed use, as well as to allow even more freedom for how companies can tap into the 6 GHz band. The underlying goal of these tech companies and their allies in the push for unlicensed spectrum, like cable operators, is to free up a pipeline of available, unlicensed frequencies enabling the huge amounts of data transfer needed for futuristic apps like augmented and virtual reality.

The Disappointment of 5G

Pots and Pans

Jan 24, 2023

Click to read more..

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Update: Comparing the New FCC Fabric to the Census

Benton

Jan 23, 2023

The Federal Communications Commission released a file that contains the number of “units” (usually housing units) in theBroadband Serviceable Location Fabric (Fabric). There are 158 million “units” in the Fabric and 140 million housing units in the 2020 Census. In the least dense 2,143 counties, there are 30 million “units” in the Fabric and 24.5 million Census housing units. As counties get more rural, the Fabric increasingly has more locations than the Census. In the least dense counties, the Fabric routinely has 40% more locations than the Census. We hear a lot about missing locations in the Fabric; we don’t hear as much about over-reported locations.

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Supreme Court asks Biden administration to weigh in on social media case

Benton

Jan 23, 2023

The Supreme Court asked the Biden administration to weigh in on whether states may bar giant social media platforms from removing certain types of political speech, a major First Amendment case that could determine how the constitutional right to free speech applies to the marketplace of ideas on the internet. The request for the solicitor general's views will delay a decision on whether the high court takes up the issue. At stake is the constitutionality of state laws in Florida and Texas that would restrict platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube from blocking or limiting political speech, and require transparency in how such decisions are made. Both laws were championed by Republican lawmakers who charged that social media companies are unlawfully censoring conservative viewpoints, a view that gained momentum on the right after major social media sites suspended Donald Trump following the Jan. 6, 2021 assault on the US Capitol. The court’s decision could have wide-ranging effects on the future of democracy and elections, as tech companies play an increasingly significant role in disseminating news and discussion about politics. The companies say restricting their ability to moderate content could lead to an onslaught of hate speech, misinformation and other violent material.

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Indiana Connectivity Program Round 4 Awards

Benton

Jan 23, 2023

The Indiana Connectivity Program announced the fourth round of awards on Jan. 11, 2023. The fourth round of the program awarded $925,574 to expand broadband to 254 addresses across 30 counties. Of these addresses, 235 are homes and 19 are businesses. Internet providers carrying out the projects matched over $2.4 million for a total investment of over $3.3 million. The Indiana Connectivity Program aims to connect residents and businesses that lack access to broadband internet service with service providers and assist in the expense of extending broadband to those locations.

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Congress Must Halt Big Tech’s Power Grab

Benton

Jan 23, 2023

Big Tech has far too much power. Ahey have a chokehold over essential channels of communication and commerce, allowing them to be gatekeepers to the digital world. They vacuum up a trove of personal information about users—what they see, hear, read, think and buy. And they distort the “marketplace of ideas.” Congress must act quickly to prohibit the tech giants from unfairly leveraging their dominance into more markets. This doesn’t mean rewriting the antitrust laws but rather taking these three steps:

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Hold The Hallelujahs

Benton

Jan 23, 2023

I no longer believe, and haven’t for years, that our current commercialized and consolidated media is capable of curing its own ills. I applaud what remains of community and independent media. These folks struggle mightily to maintain sufficient resources needed to do their jobs, but it becomes more difficult each year as newspapers are bought up by huge non-community chains, local stations go off the air, newsrooms are shuttered, reporters are fired en masse, and local, regional, and statehouse coverage diminishes. It’s not working; something else is needed. There is no silver bullet solution to repair our media ecosystem. But part of the answer must be significantly increased support for public media, non-profits, and start-ups. Compared to other advanced nations, the United States spent only a pittance on public broadcasting. We need to catch up and, given our size and population, go beyond what even those nations are spending. And we need to provide significantly more support for not just national news and information like PBS and NPR, but on local and community news and information. Then we need to repair commercial media like radio and TV, bringing back Federal Communications Commission regulatory oversight that was built up over the years but eliminated by recent GOP-majority FCCs. Rules and regulations limiting mergers and acquisitions, requiring diversity of viewpoint and diversity of ownership, coverage of local news like mayors’ offices, courts, school boards, environmental challenges, limits on advertising, some semblance of balance in the presentation of viewpoints, and programs for children. While cable has been treated differently from radio and television, it is time to bring some public interest oversight here, too. Yes, the main focus these days seems to be on what to do about the internet. Yet as former President Barack Obama and many others have observed, much of the mis- and dis-information on social media originates on traditional media platforms.

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Governor Hobbs (AZ) Plans Major Investments to Build a Resilient, Innovative and Prosperous Arizona for Everyone

Benton

Jan 23, 2023

Governor Katie Hobbs (D-AZ) released her executive budget priorities with a focus on lowering costs, investing in public education, securing the state’s water future, tackling the affordable housing crisis, and more. Gov Hobbs would put $5 million to support the development of fast and reliable broadband service in schools, $50 million one-time deposit into the newly established Rural Broadband Accelerated Match Fund, and $16 million in one-time funding to enhance broadband infrastructure at State facilities in rural Arizona. 

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Vermont anchors 100/100 broadband model, municipal approach

Benton

Jan 23, 2023

Vermont, one of the least populated states in the US, has to contend with plenty of broadband-related challenges. But state legislation and municipal providers have made bridging the digital divide a little easier. Robert Fish, the Deputy Director of the Vermont Community Broadband Board (VCBB), said Vermont’s issues are the same as those elsewhere in the country. That is, traditional providers have only built out to areas they deem the most profitable, leaving the more rural and low-income areas “to fend for themselves.” Act 71, passed by the Vermont state legislature in 2021, propelled universal broadband efforts in the state. The bill, which also established the VCBB, requires providers, most of whom are communications union districts (CUDs), to serve every single unserved address in their service area. Providers that want to receive funding from the VCBB must be capable of offering symmetrical speeds of at least 100 Mbps. CUDs are the primary vehicle for Vermont’s universal service model. These municipalities are comprised of mostly volunteers from the towns involved, with each town selecting one representative to sit on the CUD’s board.

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What to expect from a GOP House majority on broadband, 5G, and big tech

Benton

Jan 23, 2023

With a White House and Senate under Democratic control, passing sweeping legislation may be a challenge for House Republicans, but it’s likely that they will apply pressure on the current and forthcoming tech policy goals of the Biden-Harris administration. Despite Republicans’ concerns with the current administration’s spending, closing the digital divide should be an area of opportunity for bipartisan action, especially since many Republicans have constituents in severely underserved rural areas. In September 2020, the Senate Republican Policy Committee published a policy paper outlining Republican efforts to close the digital divide and improve the accuracy of FCC broadband availability data. In September 2022, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) called for more coordination between tribal, state, and federal governments to expand broadband access in native communities. Although Democrats and Republicans differ on approaches to greater broadband deployment and digital inclusion activities, there should be consensus in this area due to its national import. The future of 5G technology may be another critical policy area that the new Congress will likely focus on. President Biden recently published a rare op-ed in The Wall Street Journal calling for “bipartisan action from Congress to hold Big Tech accountable”—perhaps one issue where there appears to be some consensus. How Biden proceeds may finally encourage some movement among congressional Democrats, but his efforts may still be stalled by House GOP members.

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Competing Against Big Cable Companies

Event

Benton

Jan 23, 2023

How can a small internet service provider (ISP) compete against the big cable companies? Comcast and Charter together have roughly 55% of all broadband customers in the country, so they are formidable competitors. But the two big cable companies have one obvious weakness – their prices are significantly higher than everybody else in their markets. Every marketing push by these companies involves giving temporary low special prices to lure customers – but those prices eventually revert to much higher list prices. Fixed wireless access (FWA) is clearly competing in price. FWA broadband is not as fast or robust as cable company broadband, but the prices are attractive to a lot of consumers.

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Digital Literacy and Resilience, Request for Information

Benton

Jan 23, 2023

The US Department of Labor (DOL) is requesting information on successful approaches related to digital skills attainment and competency development in education and training efforts, the strategies our education and workforce development systems are employing to assess and ensure individuals are digitally resilient, and any challenges the education and public workforce systems are facing. DOL is also requesting information on strategies to advance digital equity and inclusion in the workforce. Attaining and maintaining digital literacy is critical to surviving and thriving in modern society. Digital resilience signifies having the awareness, skills, agility, and confidence to empower users of new technologies and adapt to changing digital skill demands. Digital resilience improves the capacity to problem-solve and upskill in employment, navigate digital transformations, and be active participants in society and the economy. DOL developed this RFI with substantial input from the US Department of Commerce (Commerce), the US Department of Education (ED), and the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences (IMLS), as part of its long-standing coordination and partnership with these agencies. The federal government has supported digital literacy and digital equity across a variety of sectors and through a range of programs. Comments are due by February 6, 2023

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IdeaTek still sees room to grow rural broadband across Kansas

Benton

Jan 23, 2023

In recent years, a variety of government broadband funding programs have emerged to address what many people living in small towns knew long before: Rural markets were both under-served and under-appreciated by big technology companies, and not just for broadband, but for just about any technology product or service that comes to mind. IdeaTek, a computer services company that was founded in 1999, pivoted in 2005 into providing internet services, initially dial-up and later DSL, and, by 2007, a small number of fiber-to-the-home connections in five small Kansas towns. In 2011, IdeaTek built its first fiber connection for a Verizon Wireless tower and latched onto the booming business of helping to spread wireless coverage across Kansas by providing fiber-based backhaul. In 2015, IdeaTek sold its successful fiber-to-the-tower business and pivoted again to addressing the need for broadband services – and better broadband deals – for Kansas customers. Still largely self-funded through its first decade and a half in business, IdeaTek in 2017 earned its first broadband grant, a $6 million award from the Federal Communications Commission to fund a three-town fiber project. In 2020, it acquired a wireless broadband firm called Skylink Wireless and earned another $13.7 million in federal funding, which it bundled together with $3.5 million in private investment to provide a mix of fiber connections and 100 Mbps fixed wireless access to about 13,000 homes in about 50 markets of various sizes across Central and Western Kansas.

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McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) Named Chair of House Commerce Committee

Benton

Jan 23, 2023

Trust and confidence in representative government is broken. Accountability in federal agencies is nonexistent, so the Biden administration is pushing radical policies to please its political allies. And the American people are paying the price for it – at the pump, at the grocery store, and at the doctor’s office. The Energy and Commerce Committee is at the center of solving the most important issues facing hardworking Americans – lowering costs, promoting free speech, and preserving free markets. Accountability and oversight are also essential to getting answers from an administration gone woke and are foundational to our Constitutional responsibility. Our efforts will strengthen our policymaking and lead to lasting reforms. My commitment to finding areas of common ground whenever possible will not change. Energy and Commerce has a rich history of building consensus to plow the hard ground necessary to legislate. That legacy will continue under my leadership. Serving as chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee is a great honor with great responsibility. I am grateful to my colleagues for placing their trust in me to lead on behalf of Eastern Washington and the entire country. Let’s get to work.

The Rural Broadband Association

Some Evolving Thoughts on the Digital Divide Among Senior Citizens

ACPEvent

The Rural Broadband Association

Jan 23, 2023

A little over a year ago, Smart Rural Community (SRC) published a report addressing Rural Imperatives in Broadband Adoption and Digital Inclusion (that was, in fact, the title of the report – hence the title-case lettering there). The report relied chiefly on data produced by Pew Research and other organizations, including industry, academic, and governmental sources. The paper focused on home and “all broadband” adoption (the latter including mobile devices) and examined four demographic categories bounded by age, household income, educational attainment, and race. The good news: Adoption is growing in all categories, and gaps between different segments of the individual categories are narrowing. The bad news: Affordability remains the largest barrier to adoption. Household income and educational attainment (the latter is linked to earning potential) remain categories in which the broadest gaps exist. Nevertheless, I was bullish on the narrowing adoption rates in age-related categories. I read the narrowing gaps among users of different ages (18-29, 30-49, 50-64, and 65+) as predictive and concluded in the report that usage rates among seniors and young people will eventually be roughly equal. The optimist in me predicted that I won’t give up my broadband when my AARP membership comes due. But, as Paul Harvey might have said, there’s always “the rest of the story.”Last week, McKinsey & Company released a report on Closing the Digital Divide in Black America. Echoing data presented in the SRC report, McKinsey notes the need to address affordability, stating, “the majority of Black households directly impacted by the digital divide live in areas with available infrastructure but simply can’t afford broadband service.” This finding underscores the need for federal programs such as the Universal Service Fund, which supports (pursuant to Congressional directives articulated in the Communications Act) not only the deployment in rural areas of broadband that as “reasonably comparable” to that which is available in urban areas, but also that those services be available at “reasonably comparable” rates. And where the general constructs do not extend far enough, there are programs that offer additional support to low-income users, including Lifeline and the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).The SRC report mentioned above addresses many of the use cases for broadband, particularly rural broadband. These include applications to support economic development, education, and healthcare. And, even while expressing optimism over U.S. adoption and usage trends, NTCA followed the report with the creation of a digital inclusion toolkit aimed at helping rural broadband providers develop and deliver even greater digital inclusion initiatives. The McKinsey report provides yet another perspective on strategies to avoid the hazards (and opportunity costs) of low adoption and usage rates.Now, back to aging. The trends do not suggest that there will be large-scale broadband disconnections as people round the bend toward the proverbial 16th hole. But, and borrowing from both my recent experiences at CES as well as insight offered by the McKinsey team, neither does that mean that digital literacy efforts for seniors should wind down over the next 20 years. To the contrary, there is an imperative for communities (however those communities are defined, whether by place or cultural affiliation) to evolve their elder-oriented digital literacy efforts over time.As the McKinsey experts observed, technology is dynamic, and its applications evolve and expand over time. So, the mastery of the tablet and online banking that a grandparent achieved several years ago might not be sufficient to navigate newly forming telemedicine resources – for example, the use of virtual reality for telehealth. Or to avoid ever emerging cyber and privacy threats.And there are the positive aspects, as well. We often talk about broadband as enabling opportunities. Last week’s Daily Yonder provided a salient example: the use of online, remote fitness classes for rural seniors. And, as the article explains, the new classes are not COVID-driven substitutes but rather COVID-inspired offerings that did not enjoy widespread use before the pandemic. The Daily Yonder also reports that the National Council on Aging convenes monthly conference calls to explore virtual offerings for seniors. To be sure, and as we have discussed previously, virtual interactions are not a substitute for in-person interactions. But positive impacts of virtual interactions to relieve senior loneliness and isolation have been identified. (“Loneliness” refers to the subject’s experience of unfulfilled social and intimate needs. By contrast, “isolation” is a lack of social connections. A person can be isolated, yet not feel lonely, while a person with social contacts can yet feel lonely.) The sum of it that as applications evolve, the need for education and literacy coaching will continue as we age. I’m still optimistic on adoption and usage rates for the elderly – just more broadly now.© 2023, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association All rights reserved. 4121 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22203Explore NTCA Sites

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Welcome to the Era of Internet Blackouts

Benton

Jan 23, 2023

The Iranian government's attempts in recent months to stifle protests through internet blackouts, digital curfews, and content blocking have presented a particularly extreme example of how far regimes can go in restricting digital access. But a new report from the internet infrastructure company Cloudflare highlights the stunning global prevalence of connectivity disruptions and their increasing relevance to people and organizations all around the world. In 2022, Cloudflare began publishing reports that compile its internal observations about government internet blackouts and notable outages worldwide. As a content delivery network that also provides digital resiliency services, the company sees an array of signals when a chunk of the internet goes dark. The specific geopolitical context and technical nuances of different digital disruptions can make it difficult, or unhelpful, to make granular comparisons of disparate incidents. But Cloudflare, which operates in more than 100 countries and interconnects with more than 10,000 network providers, is using its vantage point and visibility into the global internet to track broader trends and offer a sense of scale about how pervasive internet shutdowns have become. It was noted that the increased government reliance in many places on digital curfews and intermittent, recurring shutdowns—a trend that seems very likely to continue. 

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USDA looking for simplified rural development application process

Benton

Jan 23, 2023

US Department of Agriculture (USDA) leaders are looking to ensure that billions in government funding are easier to access by the rural communities many federal programs are meant to serve. USDA Undersecretary for Rural Development Xochitl Torres Small highlighted USDA's ReConnect Program, which is currently seeing more applications than available funding. Undersecretary Small says there are many ways rural development programs can better serve people living in those areas, though Smalls has been pressed by lawmakers to simplify the ReConnect application process. Progress is being made despite concerns from USDA and private sector groups about the accuracy of rural broadband coverage maps; Undersecretary Smalls noted that “we must not rely only on maps to make funding decisions." 

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NCTA Answers Senator Thune's (R-SD) Inquiry on Broadband Programs

Benton

Jan 20, 2023

In response to Sen. John Thune's (R-SD) oversight letter on issues concerning federal broadband programs, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association writes:

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2023 AARP Community Challenge

Benton

Jan 20, 2023

The AARP Community Challenge provides small grants to fund quick-action projects that can help communities become more livable for people of all ages. In 2023, the AARP Community Challenge is accepting applications across three different grant opportunities, two of which are new this year.Organizations are eligible to apply for more than one grant opportunity and may submit multiple applications. The available grants are as follows:Flagship Grants: The flagship AARP Community Challenge grants range from several hundred dollars for smaller, short-term activities to tens of thousands for larger projects. Since 2017, AARP has funded projects ranging from $500 to $50,000 with an average grant amount of $11,900 (83 percent of grants have been under $20,000.) Projects can create vibrant public spaces, deliver a range of transportation and mobility options, support housing options, ensure a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, increase digital connections by expanding high-speed internet and enhancing the digital literacy skills of residents, support community resilience, increase civic engagement, and/or improve community health and economic empowerment. Capacity-Building Microgrants: By combining $2,500 grants with additional resources — such as webinars, AARP Livable Communities publications, cohort learning opportunities and/or up to two hours of one-on-one coaching with leading national organizations — this new grant opportunity will benefit residents (especially those age 50 or older) that provide 1) Walkability, through a walk audit to assess and enhance the safety of a street or neighborhood, and 2) Community Gardens, to start or enhance a community garden using the AARP publication "Creating Community Gardens for People of All Ages."Demonstration Grants: By supporting demonstration efforts that encourage the replication of promising local efforts, this new grant opportunity will benefit residents (especially those age 50 and older) by 1) Advancing solutions that build capacity towards transportation systems change, and 2) Implementing accessory dwelling unity (ADU) design competitions that increase public understanding of this housing option and encourage the implementation of ADU supportive policies. Eligible organizations must be 501(c)(3), 501(c)(4), and 501(c)(6) nonprofits, government entities, or another type of organization, which will be considered on a case-by-case basis. The project type may be used to support three projects: 1) Permanent physical improvements, 2) Temporary demonstrations that lead to long-term change, or 3) New, innovative programming pilots or services. AARP will evaluate each project based on its consistency with the AARP mission to serve the needs of people 50-plus.

Competing with ChatGPT

Pots and Pans

Jan 20, 2023

Click to read more..

Detroit mayor sounds alarm on rescue plan funds being clawed back thumbnail

Detroit mayor sounds alarm on rescue plan funds being clawed back

Broadband.Money

Jan 20, 2023

Detroit's mayor warns his peers to mind the fallout from Feds' fight over the debt ceiling

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$34 Million Awarded to Expand Broadband Through Connect the Ready Program

Grant Application

Benton

Jan 20, 2023

The Maine Connectivity Authority announced more than $34 million in grant funding to expand access to high-speed, reliable and affordable internet across Maine. The Connect the Ready grants are the single largest investment in Maine’s broadband infrastructure to date, will provide broadband service to more than 16,000 homes and businesses and will leverage over $17 million in private investment from communities and service providers. The 12 funded projects cover 31 communities across nine counties. Connect the Ready is a competitive grant program that encourages public/private partnerships and collaboration to build broadband infrastructure in unserved or underserved areas of the state. The Maine Connectivity Authority received 29 grant applications for this round of funding, with requests of more than $102 million. MCA will announce the next Connect the Ready grant round later in 2023.[more at the link below]

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Lumos to Invest More Than $100 Million to Expand Fiber Access in South Carolina

Benton

Jan 20, 2023

Lumos will make a large investment in South Carolina’s Richland and Lexington Counties, bringing fiber-based internet service across the greater Columbia area. The expansion will blanket the region with nearly 1,200 miles of the latest fiber optic technology, with a capital investment of more than $100 million and the first investment from the company in the South Carolina region. This new expansion will help provide fiber internet to underserved areas, creating economic advantages that will serve the Columbia communities for decades. With this new expansion, Lumos will reach underserved portions of Columbia, Forest Acres, and Arcadia Lakes in Richland County, as well as West Columbia, Lexington, Cayce, Irmo, and Springdale in Lexington County. Engineering work by Lumos will begin in mid-2023, with construction starting shortly after.

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ImOn Communications Snaps Up FiberComm

Benton

Jan 20, 2023

ImOn Communications, an Eastern Iowa-based fiber broadband services provider, has agreed to acquire FiberComm, reflecting an ongoing consolidation trend of regional fiber operators. ImOn was founded in 2007 as a single-market cable provider and has transformed into a regional fiber-to-the-premise platform that owns and operates a 2,000+ mile network that reaches over 77,000 households and businesses. ImOn said that it remains committed to completing its network expansion to all homes and businesses in Cedar Rapids, Marion, Hiawatha, Iowa City, Coralville and Dubuque. After meeting pending regulatory approvals, the transaction is expected to close in 2023 and is subject to obtaining customary regulatory approvals.

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Closing the digital divide in Black America

Benton

Jan 20, 2023

The digital divide was first recognized in the mid-1990s. Three decades later, due in part to long-standing economic inequity and the economics of broadband, it remains an impediment to inclusive economic growth, particularly in Black American communities. There are five steps that state and local leaders and broadband stakeholders could take to expand broadband access and promote digital equity and inclusion in Black communities:

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People in the United States Are Paying a Steep Price for Two Years Without a Fully Functional FCC

Event

Benton

Jan 20, 2023

We’re now marking two years without a fully functional Federal Communications Commission. Never before has the American public had to wait so long for an FCC confirmation. This senseless delay has been driven by a bigoted, vicious and fact-free smear campaign coordinated by telephone, cable and broadcast industry lobbyists and right-wing operatives. The Senate must end this senseless charade and confirm Sohn. She’s an incredibly well-qualified candidate with a proven track record supported by civil-rights groups, competitive businesses, and public-interest organizations around the country and across the political spectrum.Senators must reject these corrupt and dishonest attacks and fulfill their commitment to seat Sohn as soon as possible. The ongoing delay at the FCC is undermining the Biden administration’s ambitious agenda, and it’s rewarding the corporations trying to derail the president’s priorities. But it’s hurting everyday people the most. Not having a fully functional FCC prevents the agency from adopting policies that would ensure that broadband access is affordable, open and reliable for all. It prevents the agency from fulfilling its commitment to diverse and local media ownership at a time of runaway consolidation across the industry. The lack of a fully functioning FCC also means that consumers are subject to the whims of big corporations that care only about maximizing their profits. 

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Antin Wraps Acquisition of Empire Access, North Penn to Create New FTTH Player

Benton

Jan 20, 2023

Antin Infrastructure Partners has completed its acquisitions of Empire Access and North Penn Telephone, giving birth to a new fiber-to-the-premise (FTTP) player serving Western New York and Northern Pennsylvania. Empire’s network consists of 1,280 fiber route miles servicing over 96,000 addresses and 29,000 customers in Western New York and Northern Pennsylvania. Antin plans to expand its high-speed fiber broadband footprint across the region.

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FCC Announces Over $40 Million In Emergency Connectivity Funding

Benton

Jan 19, 2023

The Federal Communications Commission is committing over $40 million in a new funding round through the Emergency Connectivity Program, which provides digital services for students in communities across the country. These funding commitments support applications from the third application window, benefiting approximately 100,000 students across the country, including students in Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Washington, and Wisconsin. This announcement will fund applications from the third application window that will support over 275 schools, 15 libraries, and 5 consortia.

Broadband Breakfast Announces Big Tech & Speech Summit on March 9

Broadband Breakfast

Jan 19, 2023

The summit, live in Washington, will address Biden’s recent challenges to Big Tech: Section 230, privacy and competition.

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FCC Concludes CAF II Application Review, Long-Forms Made Public

Benton

Jan 19, 2023

The Federal Communications Commission's Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB) announced the conclusion of the Connect America Fund Phase II auction long-form application review. There were 195 authorized applicant state combinations, totaling $1.48 billion authorized in 10-year support, covering 708,494 locations in 45 states. Authorized bids included a range of performance tiers, with more than one-half of the winning bids at 100/20 Mbps or higher. Additionally, 10 applicants were authorized to receive CAF Phase II auction support in conjunction with New York’s New NY Broadband Program totaling $65.49 million in 10-year support, covering 47,200 locations in New York. All Auction 903 winning bids have been authorized or defaulted.

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Subsidies for Hotspot Devices a ‘Great Idea,’ FCC Chairwoman Says

Benton

Jan 19, 2023

Federal Communications Commissioner Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said that using the E-rate program to subsidize mobile hotspot devices is a “great idea” and that there may be some activity on that front in the future. The chairwoman was fielding a comment from a mayor of a Texas city, who said that his jurisdiction has a program that lends out connectivity hubs – allowing others to connect to the device – in parts of the town for residents seeking internet. He asked whether that’s something that the FCC could fund. Chairwoman Rosenworcel said the commission may be able to expand the program to encompass funding for hotspot devices. “Stay tuned,” she added, “because I think you’re onto something.”

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Broadband Grant Awarded to Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe

Benton

Jan 19, 2023

The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe recently was awarded an $18.7 million broadband grant courtesy of the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA.) The grant comes fromNTIA’s Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program. Leech Lake was one of only two Tribes to be a recipient of the program’s new grants, totaling more than $36 million. These grants focus on expanding high-speed Internet service network deployment and digital skills training to improve access to education, jobs, and healthcare on Tribal lands with funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe plans to use the funds to install fiber and fixed wireless to directly connect 4,399 unserved Native American households with qualifying broadband service in remote areas on the Reservation that currently experience connectivity issues. The grant proposal includes 153 miles of planned fiber optic installation as well as the construction of nine new wireless towers in the following communities: Noopiming, Mission, Prescott, Oak Point, Sugar Point, Inger, S. Lake, and Boy Lake, Minnesota.

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Broadband Networks Are Doing Well, Time to Shift to Adoption Gap

Benton

Jan 19, 2023

It turns out there are two digital divides in America. The first one is the familiar divide between those who have Internet subscriptions and those who don’t. Everyone agrees this is a persistent concern, with about 10 percent of the public lacking subscriptions at the last count. But then we come to the second divide: There is a perennial policy debate over why the digital divide exists and what to do about it. This second digital divide is once again on full display around the latest edition of the biennial Communications Marketplace Report from the Federal Communications Commission. An evenhanded look at broadband data shows that US broadband infrastructure is not the problem; it’s a lack of adoption that’s causing the digital divide to persist. It’s one thing to have access to broadband service but another to “adopt” — to sign up for and purchase — that service. The US has room for improvement when it comes to adoption. Though US adoption rates are not appallingly low, they still lag behind the country’s performance in deployment. In other words, a substantial percentage of Americans, given the opportunity to connect to the Internet, simply chooses not to. While a simplistic policy solution would throw money at the problem to lower prices, that likely wouldn’t make a significant dent in the adoption rate. The US Commerce Department’s Internet Use Survey finds, instead, that the main barrier to connectivity is a lack of interest, with 58 percent of respondents stating so. Meanwhile, the price comes in a distant second, with only 18 percent of respondents putting it down as their answer.[Jessica Dine is a research assistant for broadband policy at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.]

Cryptocurrency Has Promise But ‘Screams for Regulation,’ Says Miami Mayor Francis Suarez

Broadband Breakfast

Jan 19, 2023

The mayor has been an enthusiastic proponent of MiamiCoin, a privately-owned cryptocurrency.

The Slow Death of Operator Services

Pots and Pans

Jan 19, 2023

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Governor Kelly Announces Nearly $45 Million to Connect Kansans to High-Speed Internet

Event

Benton

Jan 19, 2023

Governor Laura Kelly (D-KS) announced that $44.5 million will be awarded to nine service providers to extend high-speed internet to 18,468 locations in 15 underserved counties across the state. This is the third and final award phase of the Kansas Capital Project Funds (CPF) Broadband Infrastructure Program. The CPF program provides funding to make broadband connections in critical areas of the state that lack access to high-speed internet. The $83.5 million total CPF investment, combined with almost $42 million in matching funds, will result in more than 24,500 homes, businesses, schools, health care facilities, and other public institutions being connected to fast, reliable internet for the first time. The targeted counties have as few as five locations per square mile, which until now has prevented providers from investing the resources needed to deliver a quality broadband option. The CPF Grant Program provides the funding needed to implement high-speed broadband in these areas of the state.[more at the link below]

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NaLA Establishes National Agent Coalition to Support Lifeline and Affordable Connectivity Program Enrollment Representatives

ACP

Benton

Jan 19, 2023

The National Lifeline Association (NaLA) announces the establishment of the National Agent Coalition (NAC), the national trade association for distributors and representatives who conduct in-person enrollment into the Lifeline and Affordable Connectivity Programs (ACP). NAC will serve as a voice for agents, who are on the front lines of bridging the digital divide through these programs. They will support the industry by providing resources for agents, increasing agent impact and ensuring eligible consumers are enrolled. The group will ensure enrollment efforts are conducted with the highest level of business standards and will meet on an ongoing basis to develop and maintain a rigorous Agent Code of Conduct, among other agent and distributor resources. 

Jessica Dine: Broadband Networks Are Doing Well, Time to Shift to Adoption Gap

Broadband Breakfast

Jan 19, 2023

There is a perennial policy debate over why the digital divide exists and what to do about it.

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FCC Updates 4.9 GHz Band Rules, Seeks Further Comment

Benton

Jan 19, 2023

The Federal Communications Commission establishes a comprehensive and coordinated nationwide approach to managing the 4.9 GHz (4940-4990 MHz) band while retaining its locally controlled, public safety nature. In doing so, the FCC solidifies the band’s status as public safety spectrum, while also allowing secondary, non-public safety use as agreed to by public safety licensees through a new leasing model. Critical to this vision for the 4.9 GHz band is the addition of a nationwide Band Manager, which will be selected based on its expertise and connections to the public safety community and will coordinate all operations in the band to ensure that any non-public safety use remains fully secondary to, and preemptible by, public safety operations. This nationwide framework will optimize public safety use and enable the integration of the latest commercially available technologies, such as 5G. The FCC also modifies its rules to allow for the collection of granular data on public safety operations in the 4.9 GHz band. These data combined with a formal coordination structure performed by the Band Manager will improve interference mitigation efforts, bolster public safety confidence in the band, and will play a crucial role in the Band Manager’s ability to find opportunities for secondary, non-public safety access. The FCC also makes several changes to the technical rules for the band to promote more robust public safety operations. Finally, the FCC seeks comment on the details of implementing the new leasing model to achieve its goals of allowing robust locally controlled public safety operations while ensuring consistent, nationwide rules that promote overall spectral efficiency, foster innovation, and drive down equipment costs

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Assessing Broadband Affordability Initiatives

ACP

Benton

Jan 19, 2023

Reducing the broadband affordability gap is an important and noble goal. Unfortunately, it is far from clear whether Lifeline, the federal program tasked with getting low-income households online, actually addresses this problem. For over a decade, academics, government watchdogs, and independent auditors have criticized the Federal Communications Commission’s inability or unwillingness to measure the program’s effectiveness—while private studies suggest much of this spending may be misdirected toward families at no risk of losing internet access. The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) represents a significant expansion of the benefits available under Lifeline. But at the ACP’s core, one finds the same fundamental flaw that fatally infects Lifeline: It gives a monthly subsidy to a wide range of recipients based on income or participation in other federal programs, on the unproven assumption that these payments will improve broadband adoption rates among low-income families. Like Lifeline, ACP’s proponents have not studied the relevant population to determine the drivers of low-income non-adoption. Given that well over 70 percent of ACP-eligible households already subscribe to broadband service, giving $30 per month to such a wide swath of recipients makes it likely that significant sums of money will be wasted on households that are not at risk of canceling their broadband service. With careful study and some minor legislative tweaks to the existing statute, ACP could avoid duplicating the efficiency and effectiveness problems that have long plagued the Lifeline program.

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Wireless Customers Who Were Subject to Data Throttling by AT&T Can Apply for a Payment from the FTC

Benton

Jan 19, 2023

The Federal Trade Commission opened a claims process for former AT&T customers who have yet to claim a refund stemming from the FTC’s lawsuit against the company for misleading consumers about its unlimited data plans. Former AT&T customers may be eligible to claim a refund from the $7 million remaining in a fund created to settle allegations that the wireless provider charged for “unlimited” data plans while reducing their data speeds, a practice known as throttling. The FTC in 2019 required AT&T to provide $60 million for refunds for failing to disclose to millions of smartphone customers with unlimited data plans that once they reached a certain amount of data use in a given billing cycle, AT&T would reduce or throttle their data speeds. Some customers experienced data speeds so slow that many common phone applications, such as web browsing and video streaming, became difficult or nearly impossible to use. AT&T has not been able to reach everyone who was eligible for a refund. The FTC is using the remaining $7 million from the fund to provide partial refunds to consumers who meet all these requirements:Consumers who meet these requirements can submit a claim online at www.ftc.gov/ATT. Consumers can contact the claims administrator by calling 1-877-654-1982 or emailing [email protected] if they have questions or if they would like to request a claim form. Consumers have until May 18, 2023, to submit a claim.

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Millions of UK mobile and broadband users face 14% bill rises from April

Benton

Jan 19, 2023

As if household budgets were not already under enough pressure, millions of broadband and mobile phone customers look set to face rises of more than 14% in their monthly bills from April 2023. BT, TalkTalk, Three, and Vodafone are among the big operators that are contractually allowed to increase their bills in line with the previous year’s inflation rate, as measured by the consumer prices index (CPI) in December – plus a further 3%-3.9% on top. If the increases are passed on in full, as many experts expect, it would result in home broadband customers typically paying about £50 ($60) a year more, while mobile phone customers on expensive contracts could face rises of more than £100 ($123). The Office for National Statistics said the CPI rate fell back slightly to 10.5%. It means there is nothing to stop the telecommunications providers from increasing bills by 13%-14.4%. Although suppliers could surprise customers and withhold part of the increase, consumers can start looking forward to a flurry of announcements before April. Companies have to give customers 30 days’ notice of price increases but have so far been tight-lipped as to whether bills will rise by the maximum. Consumer groups are calling on households who are out of the contract to use this as a catalyst to move to a new deal.

FCC Proposes $62 Million Fine, SCOTUS Urged to Keep Section 230, TikTok Bans Extending

Broadband Breakfast

Jan 19, 2023

In Emergency Broadband Benefit case, Q Link claimed excessive market value of devices, the FCC said.

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Understanding and Driving Enrollment in the Affordable Connectivity Program

ACP

Benton

Jan 19, 2023

Fitting the monthly cost of a broadband subscription into a low-income household budget is difficult, to say the least, because of the costs of competing necessities like lodging, food, and healthcare. These financial pressures—and unexpected expenses—keep too many people in the U.S. from subscribing to home broadband service—or cause them to drop service at times to make ends meet. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress recognized these obstacles for low-income people and created a program—first called the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program—to reduce the monthly costs of connectivity. With passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in November 2021, Congress turned the temporary Emergency Broadband Benefit Program into a longer-term subsidy. Launched in January 2022 with $14.2 billion in funding, the Federal Communications Commission's Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is a critical component of the ongoing federal investment in broadband adoption. Eligible households receive $30/month (and up to $75/month on Tribal lands) to defray the cost of internet service, as well as up to $100 towards the purchase of a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers. On January 18, the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society hosted a panel discussion on ACP enrollment. Drew Garner, the State Broadband Policy Advisor at Common Sense Media, moderated the panel. He began the discussion by noting the three steps low-income households must complete before they begin enjoying ACP benefits: first, they must confirm that their household is eligible to participate in the program; then they must complete an application to be enrolled in ACP; and, finally, they must choose an internet service provider and pick a plan to subscribe to.

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UK government warns mobile and broadband groups against 14% price rise

Benton

Jan 19, 2023

The UK government has warned mobile and broadband providers that it is not “right” for them to raise prices by more than 14 percent from April 2023, as customers contend with the surge in living costs. Much of the fixed broadband and mobile and phone market has in recent years implemented price increases in April of each year for new customers and those already in contract. Telecommunications groups tend to base rises on the previous year’s annualized rate of inflation, plus about 3.9 percent. According to official data, consumer price inflation was at 10.5 percent in the year to December 2022, meaning most mobile and broadband tariffs will rise by an average of 14.4 percent. Michelle Donelan, the culture secretary, said: “At a time when families are struggling to pay their bills, imposing above-inflation price hikes is not the right thing to do.” The rises will follow scrutiny from regulators and politicians over telecom companies’ transparency with customers — particularly those who are in a contract — about future rises.

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Public Knowledge Asks Supreme Court To Protect Free Expression, Competition Online in Gonzalez v. Google

Benton

Jan 18, 2023

Congress enacted Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to permit interactive computer services to exercise editorial discretion when publishing third-party content, without facing liability. This case seeks to hold YouTube liable for publishing objectionable third-party content. Section 230 does not allow this. Petitioners try to work around this clear statutory prohibition by characterizing their theory of liability in different terms. They say that they seek to hold YouTube liable, not for publishing third-party content, but for “recommendations” or for what the United States calls “YouTube’s own conduct in designing and implementing recommendation algorithms that result in the communication of a distinct message from YouTube.” But this attempt to plead around Section 230 must fail. YouTube’s conduct in this case may be culpable, but that conduct was publishing and immunized by Section 230. Characterizing content recommendations as something other than “publication,” or pleading causes of action that do not name publication as an element does not change this. Theories of liability that depend on the harmful contents of third-party material constitute “treating” a provider as a publisher and are barred by the statute. Section 230 protects the publication of third-party content, and it does so robustly. But it protects only that. Just as some plaintiffs attempt to evade Section 230 by characterizing their claims in other terms, some defendant providers attempt to use Section 230 as a defense in situations where it simply does not apply. As this case is the Court’s first full opportunity to consider the meaning and scope of Section 230, it has the opportunity to provide clarity to both lower courts and litigants as to both the reach, and the limits, of Section 230. Section 230 is intended to promote free expression and competition online and to maximize the ability of internet users to control the information they see online. It is not a perfect statute, but its fundamental policy goals of free expression, competition, and user control are sound. Congress, and not the courts, is the best avenue for policy changes designed to better promote these goals while reducing online harms.

Should You Be Benchmarking?

Pots and Pans

Jan 18, 2023

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The Rural Broadband Association

The Journey of an Intrepid-ish Traveler

Event

The Rural Broadband Association

Jan 18, 2023

Please indulge my sharing of a more personal matter rather than a broadband update with this posting.Last year was the year my husband celebrated his milestone birthday of 65-years young. Given some of the serious health issues he had nearly two decades ago, we look to find many reasons to celebrate in style. Frankly, it never takes much for me to find a cause to celebrate, but for this particular birthday, I wanted to get a bit more proactive on his bucket list. Maybe it was losing so many friends way too soon during the year or maybe it was realizing that great adventures are best enjoyed while we are more mobile. Whatever it was, I plucked his desire to visit Antarctica off the list and started planning the trip. Given that our trip was on the ship Endeavor (look up Edward Shackleton and his Endeavor misadventure), I had my fingers crossed for smooth sailing.Antarctica can only be accessed by environmentally responsible tours during the Southern Hemisphere’s summer, so I moved quickly this past summer (in the Northern Hemisphere!) to pull an adventure together. And what an adventure it was.Here were my thoughts as we made our way to the bottom of the world/the end of the Earth:Getting Ready: Traveling anywhere in this age of pre/post/never-ending COVID-19 is a challenge.Testing, vaccinations, and new variants have complicated travel that can already be quite complicated.Add to that the petrifying fear that comes every time your throat feels scratchy, or that locations have quarantining requirements in place (and how those requirements seem to change weekly), and you have a lot to think about. For that and other reasons, I invested in travel insurance for this trip. The cost of the insurance alone could have been a nice vacation, but I was taking no chances with this trip of a lifetime.We decided to travel with a company that we have traveled with before, as familiarity felt good with so much unknown. SilverSea cruises have been one of the few expedition lines that have access to the seventh continent, but the deal for making this trip became more palatable when they started offering a “Bridge to Antarctica” tour which allowed travelers with a little bit less time and a lot less interest in crossing the sometimes violent and unpredictable Drake Passage between South America and Antarctica where the currents of the oceans collide without any land to mitigate rough waters.The trip entailed flying from Washington, D.C., to Miami and then overnight to Santiago, Chile, where you rest for a night and get to shower and replace your contact lenses. The journey then continues to Punte Arenas, Chile, at the edge of the Straits of Magellan with one more night to prepare, clean your gear of any invasive species, and get fitted for polar-worthy parkas and knee-high boots that allow you to get in and out of the Southern Ocean. The last of four flights prior to arriving at the ship for this journey involves a chartered plane that lands on a gravel landing strip on King George Island utilized by international researchers and the Chilean Air Forceto make their way to research camps on the western side of Antarctica. Interestingly enough, this continent has agreements with 54 countries who have signed a treaty to share it and some research on wildlife and climate change. It might be the most peaceful part of our planet these days!The Journey Begins: After a ride to Reagan National Airport, a last-minute discovery that special forms were needed to make it through Chilean customs, a delayed first flight, and a long layover in Miami, we were on our way. Whew!The delay and (what seemed like) a 5-mile hike though the Miami airport reminded me of why I loved international travel before everything was shut down a few years ago. The sounds, the voices, the dress, and the different family units of people from all over the world are all thrown into one big mixing bowl. It is exhilarating. A cacophony in the terminal and energy from people on the move or traveling home is always a wonderful reminder that the world is huge and, even as Americans, we are simply a small part of the whole. At this point of the trip, I was hoping to hold on to that sense of wonder and appreciation for the next 11 days.Now in Chile: This is my first visit to South America, amazing enough given how truly close it is to us on the North American side of things. The land is lush, with a lot of agriculture (wine production!), mining, and other things common in an agrarian society. A great deal of Chile is rural, and I was very appreciative of the challenges they must have in bringing connectivity to the people across the country. Since Chile is one long, skinny country running down the coastline, it politically aligns itself with other island nations like New Zealand when it comes to policies, given that with the oceans on two sides and the intimidating Andes Mountains on the other, they are pretty isolated. As a side note, Chile is VERY competitive with Argentina about many things, including who has the best wine! But given that we had to fly the length of Chile to get to our Antarctica jumping off point, it is clear that while there are pockets of populations, like the major city of Santiago, there are more areas of isolation and rugged topography.Landing in Punta Arenas gave me a throwback vibe and I realized that it was because landing there and driving in reminded me of being in Alaska again, just on the other side of the world. It’s the sense of a remote location that has a population base that knows how to survive off the water and rugged environment regardless of what weather extremes may bring. From the docks to the warehouses to the old fishing boats to the colorful storefronts, the similarities were apparent. We were visiting at the height of their summer, which, at the time of writing this, was 48 degrees. As the closest city to Antarctica, I am certain that temperature means it’s a wonderful summer day for these folks. Apparently, also during this time, the winds tend to settle in the gusts of 30-40 mph range.As we were getting ready to leave, we had to stay near the hotel for internet access in case there was a quick change in plans. The weather shifts, which occur hourly, had the flight to King George Island on Antarctica on constant watch given that we would be flying with the support of the Chilean Air Force onto a gravel runway utilized by research teams. I had absolutely no interest in taking an extra four days and double doses of Dramamine to cross the Drake Passage. No way! While some accounts say the two-day journey can be peaceful, more often than not, the ride is about as rough as it gets given that it’s between Cape Horn in South America, Chile, and the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans meet. That means a major convergence of waves, winds, and currents. It’s also a transitional zone between the cooler, more humid, and sub-polar conditions and the frigid air of Antarctica, hence the dynamic and subjectivity to cyclones and heavy winds. Again, nope! Just being in our hotel room that last night and listening to the wind howling around a 10-story building and through the air vents was enough for me to turn up my sound machine app and be grateful to be inside. But in the spirit of normalcy, I was waiting for our airport transfer notice while watching a police officer issuing parking tickets in front of our hotel. I guess it doesn’t matter where in the world you are, does it? Speaking of Internet Access: I was trying to figure out how communications connectivity happens down there and found my phone suddenly connected to the Movistar network. A search showed a special service established by expats that allowed those not speaking Spanish to connect and negotiate services. It is also the main national provider of communications services in Spain. While there are other providers, they all operate off the Movistar network, as they are the only company in Spain allowed to install landlines and have a new emphasis, not unlike the United States, on investing in fiber technology.However, while every continent on Earth is now connected to the internet by a series of undersea fiber optic cables, Antarctica is the one continent unreachable by fiber. And no, it’s not about price.Americans and Argentinians have both proposed connecting the continent to the fiber grid (what’s better to allow the numerous researchers on the continent to upload and share their data and research in real time), but the infrastructure would have to be able to withstand temperatures beyond 58-degrees below zero and deal with the constant shifting of Antarctica’s icy surface. Because of this, researchers use a series of satellite systems (some only available a few hours a day), latency is high, bandwidth is mediocre, and there is a need to schedule network access in advance to upload data to the outside world. No Netflix binging here. The fascinating thing is that while fiber cannot connect Antarctica to the rest of the world, many of the bases on the continent are connected by fiber. Researchers are even using fiber as a sensor to measure ice melt. Living up to our creed that “#FiberDelivers!”, internet on the boat itself was pretty spotty. I could typically receive text messages and even emails but it became clear two days in that while I was responding to emails, none of them were actually being received by anyone. The cruise line, SilverSea, recently announced a deal with StarLink to provide internet access starting in the near future. For those who know I am not a fan of Starlink as a sufficient solution for rural Americans, a boat with 150 people on it at the end of the Earth is actually the perfect application for this technology.A Super Quick Recap: As I sat in what felt like a tourist holding pen back in Chile with 100 of my fellow travelers with our first chance for relatively decent internet access for the first time in a week, I was able to log back into word on my iPad and complete some thoughts on what has been an amazing journey and what Don described as an 11-day journey for a six day cruise. Truly, just getting to Antarctica was half of the adventure.As we flew our Antarctic Air flight into the gravel runway on King George Island, it was hard to believe that a jet could actually manage the runway. But now having made the journey both ways, I have deep appreciation for the former Chilean Air Force pilots who maneuver those planes over the windiest parts of the Earth to a direct runway with no navigation capabilities at the airport. Sight only. That was the reason we were all up at 4 a.m. given the forecast for heavy fog rolling in for two days that would have prevented the planes from landing and hence, our ability to leave. That could’ve been a problem, and no one really discussed Options B and C, so we were up bright and early to ensure we didn’t miss our wet landing in the zodiac to the shore. We would have no problem jumping in a zodiac raft at that hour given that the sun never fully sets in Antarctica this time of year.The journey itself was fluid given that weather conditions, as well as the density of wildlife conditions, dictated nearly every day of the itinerary, including landing sites that were simply too tricky with 50-plus mph winds and where sheltered coves were sought out. One morning when we were leaving, the boat was not an option given the gale force winds, so we learned more about the history, science, and data surrounding climate change and all you ever wanted to know about whales. Not unlike other expedition-oriented trips we have done, the mornings started early with a mid-day break and a mid-afternoon outing again. And of course, a lot of hurrying and waiting. It’s the nature of the adventure.We journeyed to Neko Harbour, one of my favorites, with a hike through a penguin colony up the side of a mountain with spectacular view of the whales and wildlife below. We also saw Telefonic Crater (I loved the name the most but the slick hike up the side of an active volcanic crater the least.) We took trekking poles after that hike for the remainder of the trip, especially to Charlotte Bay, where we encountered seals, whales, and the most beautiful floating icebergs and some fleeting sunshine. Yankee Harbor and Hannah Point were our last stops with one of the largest penguin colonies – gentoo and chinstrap – and a slew of baby penguin chicks. It was the reason to book this trip for a January visit given the breeding season in full bloom. Seals also lined the shore and we literally had to pick our way carefully to avoid running into penguins at every turn. As a visitor to a place where preservation and elimination of any invasive species is so important, the precautions were plentiful, and I was delighted that everyone was so willing to comply. That included wearing our wading/hiking boots for all our adventures and ensuring they were cleaned prior to hitting the ground and certainly afterwards to avoid the penguin poop or guano, more scientifically, which has a particularly pungent odor and I swear you could start smelling long before you came ashore. We also needed to obey the penguin “highways” that the birds have carved out of snow for their path from their nests to the water. Penguins always have the right of way. Nothing you have is to touch the ground, so my mittens spent a fair amount of time in my mouth as I fumbled for my camera, but I worried more about my bottom touching the ground while sliding down some of the steeper climbs in wet conditions. There was a special recognition that being there was a treat and an honor, and everyone respected the sanctity of being on the seventh continent and the coldest and the windiest, composed of 98% ice.A Few Final Thoughts:© 2023, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association All rights reserved. 4121 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22203Explore NTCA Sites

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FCC Adopts Q Link Notice of Apparent Liability for EBB Violations

Benton

Jan 18, 2023

In this Notice of Apparent Liability (NAL), the Federal Communications Commission proposes a penalty of $62,000,000 against Q Link Wireless for apparently violating provisions of the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act and FCC rules and orders governing the reimbursements it claimed for providing Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program customers with internet-connected devices between December 2021 and March 2022. Because of these apparent violations, which involved overclaiming support for hundreds of thousands of computer tablets, Q Link apparently obtained at least $20,792,800 in improper disbursements from the EBB Program during the period under review. For these reasons, and in light of the scope, duration, and seriousness of Q Link’s apparent violations and the need to promote compliance with the rules, the FCC proposes a forfeiture penalty of $62,000,000.00 against Q Link. In addition, in light of Q Link’s apparent misconduct and the resulting harm to the Fund, the FCC orders Q Link to respond in writing within 30 days of the release of this NAL explaining why the commission should not initiate proceedings to remove Q Link from the Affordable Connectivity Program.

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Broadband Access & Home Networking Market—A Look into 2023

Benton

Jan 18, 2023

Over the last two years, you’d be hard-pressed to find an area of service provider networks that have received more investment and attention than broadband access networks. For mature markets, it is rare to see consecutive years of double-digit revenue growth. But that is indeed what has occurred, as 2021 revenue growth was 16% and 2022 growth over 2021 is currently expected to be around 12%, reaching just over $18 billion worldwide. But even without the benefit of having finalized fourth-quarter numbers, all signs—both quantitative and qualitative—point to another year of spending increases on broadband equipment in 2023, albeit nowhere near the double-digit percentage growth we have seen over the last two years. Here is what we are expecting in this coming year:

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The tech economy is not an island

Benton

Jan 18, 2023

Tech's downturn is shining a spotlight on the industry's vulnerability to fast-moving trends and conflicts beyond its own boundaries. This matters because Silicon Valley leaders and thinkers paint their companies and products as magical innovations that emerge from the inner logic of tech's disruptive dynamics. But the industry's cycles are usually driven by external forces. The financial tides explain the beating tech is now taking — much more so than the product cycles and platform shifts that occupy so much of the industry's attention. Overall, rising interest rates represent the single biggest factor driving the current tech slowdown.

Proposed Rules to Improve National Alert System Unnecessary, Say Critics

Broadband Breakfast

Jan 18, 2023

Proposed rules to improve EAS security and operational readiness are unnecessary, say commenters.

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NTIA Launches Inquiry on how Data Practices Affect Civil Rights

Benton

Jan 18, 2023

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has announced a Request for Comment on how companies’ data practices may impose outsized harm on marginalized or underserved communities. The ways in which firms collect, share, and use data can exacerbate existing structural inequities. Online job ads may be targeted based on real or perceived demographic characteristics such as age, sex, or race – reaching certain groups while ignoring others,Apps that collect and sell location data could reveal details about the user’s movements that make them vulnerable to discrimination – such as an LGBTQ+-specific dating app or a Muslim prayer app,The financial cost and time spent to secure one’s information after a data breach or identity theft incident can be more burdensome to correct and ultimately costly for low-income communities.NTIA is seeking comments as it prepares a report analyzing whether and how commercial data practices can negatively affect marginalized or underserved communities, as well as how existing civil rights and privacy laws can be used to address privacy harms. This report will point to how current resources can be better deployed – and provide a guide for new privacy proposals. The request for comment builds on the work conducted by NTIA during three listening sessions. Comments will be due 45 days from publication in the Federal Register.