Tuesday, October 17, 2023
Headlines Daily Digest
See Upcoming Events Below
Vyve Broadband Set to Launch Residential Multi-Gig Internet Service | Vyve Broadband
Stories From Abroad
In the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Congress established a preference for “priority broadband projects,” defined as projects providing broadband service that meet high performance standards, can scale with consumer and business needs over time, and will enable the deployment of 5G and other advanced services. After receiving input from a wide range of parties, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) determined that “end-to-end fiber optic facilities” were the only platform that satisfied these requirements and warranted such a priority. This is not to say that other technologies cannot and will not receive Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program funds, but consistent with the calls of Congress, the program aims first and foremost to support fiber-to-the-home deployments to the greatest extent possible. States and territories will establish a “threshold” of project costs at which the fiber priority ceases. The importance of setting this “extremely high-cost threshold” properly cannot be overstated. BEAD risks becoming a broadband funding failure if unserved Americans are still standing around in 2030 wondering why taxpayer dollars were used to build networks that might have been marginally acceptable at best in 2023 rather than investing in critical infrastructure for the long-term. NTCA and the Fiber Broadband Association have therefore called upon NTIA and the States and Territories to make sure that the extremely high-cost threshold is set in a way that matches the vision of Congress to build broadband right the first time. Similarly, it will be important to define the areas for which BEAD funding can be applied in a way that does not undercut the participation of smaller providers or the clearly stated goal of connecting as many as possible to fiber.
The Nevada Governor's Office of Science, Innovation and Technology (OSIT) is accepting public comment this month on its draft Digital Equity Plan, the state's first statewide-level attempt to eradicate the digital divide. For broadband internet subscriptions, Nevada is slightly above the national rate. According to the 2021 American Community Survey, over 87 percent of Nevadans have a broadband internet subscription and nearly 94 percent of households have a desktop, laptop, smartphone, tablet, or other portable wireless computer. OSIT has identified six priorities that will guide its digital equity work over the next five years:
- Broadband Infrastructure Deployment: Deploy modern, scalable broadband infrastructure to underserved and underserved residential, business, and community anchor locations so that all Nevadans have access to affordable, reliable and scalable high-speed internet access with minimum speeds of 100/20 Mbps scaling beyond 100/100 Mbps.
- Adoption: More Nevadans have a home internet subscription and use the internet for dedication, healthcare, workforce development, work, civic engagement, business, and keeping in touch with family and friends.
- Affordability: Provide resources and execute strategies that help more Nevadans afford the internet.
- Device Access: Provide Nevadans the opportunity to access affordable, quality connected devices.
- Digital Literacy: Provide Nevadans access to opportunities to increase their digital skills, including cybersecurity, and access to the technology support needed to use the internet and a connected device.
- Awareness and Sustainability: Ensure that leaders across Nevada understand what digital equity is, the challenge of the digital divide, and funding and capacity is in place long-term to close it.
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case in early 2024 that could impact how much regulatory discretion the FCC has over the communications industry. The court agreed to hear the case of Relentless Inc., et al. v. Dept. of Commerce, et al. The case is about a federal rule requiring fishing companies to pay for government monitoring of their herring catches. The New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA) challenged the rule as beyond the regulatory scope Congress gave the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries), which implemented the rule. While the case may be about fish monitors, it is also about the Chevron doctrine, which is a principle of administrative law that holds that courts should give deference to a regulatory agency’s subject matter expertise when it comes to interpreting unclear statutes. The lack of clarity most germane to the communications industry is whether the Federal Communications Commission has the remit from Congress to decide whether broadband is a Title I information service, which is not subject to common carrier regulation, or a Title II telecommunications service, which is.
Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced her plan to restore the agency’s rightful authority to protect internet users. To undermine this effort, the industry has cranked up its Title II myth machine. Free Press is duty-bound to debunk these industry lies as we have an untold number of times in the past. So let’s set the record straight:
- Myth #1: Title II is ‘heavy-handed internet regulation.’
- Myth #2: Title II rules are a ‘solution in search of a problem.’
- Myth #3: The Biden FCC should be focusing on ‘real problems,’ such as obstacles to broadband deployment and accessibility.
- Myth #4: The FCC’s Obama-era Open Internet Order hampered capital investments, delaying new broadband deployment and innovation.
- Myth #5: Net Neutrality is a ‘hyper-partisan, politicized’ issue.
- Myth #6: The FCC lacks statutory authority over broadband-internet access; reinstating Title II is pointless because it won’t survive judicial review.
- Myth #7: It’s been nearly six years since the Trump FCC repealed the Open Internet Order and nothing bad has happened.
While this is not the first time the Federal Communications Commission has pursued Title II regulation purportedly to address net neutrality, it is the first time the FCC has reached beyond the no blocking, degrading, or prioritizing principles to which broadband providers already adhere. The FCC is veering into the complex realm of cybersecurity and national security via top-down regulation rather than collaborative partnership, a choice many experts view with skepticism. As leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, we ask you to pay special attention to the FCC’s mission creep into the cybersecurity space as it will lead to confusion and conflicts over which committee and agency has jurisdiction in specific cyber-related matters. This will create legal and regulatory uncertainty, hampering effective national security oversight and cooperation. It could also lead to redundancy and fragmentation of efforts, making it harder to coordinate and implement a cohesive security strategy and respond quickly to emerging threats.
Mobile communications company Ligado Networks sued the U.S. Departments of Defense and Commerce for unlawful taking of Ligado’s constitutionally protected, exclusively licensed spectrum without compensation. Backed by a multiyear misinformation and disparagement campaign against Ligado to conceal these activities, the U.S. government misappropriated Ligado’s exclusively licensed spectrum to support previously undisclosed Defense Department systems that have been using Ligado’s spectrum without permission. The Defense Department’s unauthorized actions, supported by the Commerce Department and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, have blocked the company from developing its allocated spectrum for terrestrial 5G services. The Federal Communications Commission exclusively granted the company rights to use this spectrum after a comprehensive, multiyear regulatory review process. In good faith reliance on the FCC’s order, Ligado raised and invested billions of dollars to prepare its spectrum to support next-generation terrestrial 5G services. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims against the United States, the Defense Department, the Commerce Department, and NTIA, seeks just compensation for the government’s physical, categorical, regulatory and legislative takings of Ligado’s property.
Consolidated Communications has agreed to be bought for $3.1 billion, including debt, in a take-private deal that will remove the fiber company from the public markets as it grapples with higher interest rates and rising costs. Searchlight Capital Partners, a private-equity firm that already owns more than 34 percent of Consolidated Communications, and British Columbia Investment Management agreed to pay $4.70 a share for the company. The company has faced various challenges as it works to build up its next-generation fiber network. Operating costs have risen and the cost of financing new projects has risen along with interest rates. “Several factors recently necessitated that we delay our estimated fiber build completion beyond 2026,” said Chief Executive Bob Udell. Consolidated in second quarter 2023 reached nearly 1.12 million total fiber passings, covering 43 percent of its overall footprint with fiber according to Fierce. By the end of 2023, it’s said it plans to run fiber to 225,000 passings.
The Federal Communications Commission announced an extension of the term of the current Native Nations Communications Task Force until the end of 2023. The current term—which was set to expire on October 24, 2023—will now expire on December 31, 2023. The FCC is also seeking applications for membership to serve on a renewed Task Force to start at the beginning of 2024. Applications should be submitted in accordance with the procedures outlined here. Incumbent Task Force members may recommit to the Task Force rather than submit a new nomination. The FCC intends to establish the renewed Task Force term for a period of three years, with an expected start date of January 1, 2024.
Bluepeak has been swiftly and steadily expanding its footprint since its owner, private equity firm GI Partners, acquired competitive cable TV provider Vast Broadband in February 2021. At the time of the acquisition, Vast’s cable network passed 150,000 homes in its anchor markets, Sioux Falls and Rapid City (SD). GI’s first order of business was to transition the Vast brand to Bluepeak, a name that “reflects the vision of building a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) expansion platform that brings true FTTH-based broadband to less competitive communities,” said Bluepeak CEO Rich Fish. Bluepeak’s expansion efforts began in late 2021 and, by the end of fiscal 2022, the company had opened 18 new markets in a footprint that today includes Minnesota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Wyoming. By the end of fiscal 2023, Bluepeak will have doubled its operating footprint to 300,000 homes passed. All of the post-acquisition passings have been FTTH.
Ookla's Speedtest released its Global Index for the third quarter of 2023. The United States ranked 15th in mobile global performance and 6th for fixed broadband. Fierce reported T-Mobile was in first place in the U.S. with a median 5G download speed of 221.57 Mbps. This slightly increased from the second quarter of 2023, when T-Mobile’s median 5G download speed was 220 Mbps. Verizon came in second place with a median 5G download speed of 153.79 Mbps, but that increased over the second quarter when Verizon recorded a 5G median download speed of 133.50 Mbps. AT&T also saw an increase in its median 5G download speeds, moving from a 5G median download speed of 86.10 Mbps in the second quarter to a 5G median download speed of 101.55 Mbps in the third quarter.
Oct 19––2nd Annual Spectrum Summit (Joint Center for Politics and Economic Studies)
Oct 19––2023 Future of Black Communities Summit (Joint Center for Politics and Economic Studies)
Oct 24––41st Annual Everett C. Parker Lecture & Awards Breakfast (United Church of Christ Media Justice Ministry)
Oct 24––The A.I. Divide: What is the Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Digital Equity? (Michelson 20MM)
Oct 26––Oregon Connections: Navigating the Funding Flood. (Oregon Connections)
Oct 29––The CyberShare Summit (NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association)
Benton (www.benton.org) provides the only free, reliable, and non-partisan daily digest that curates and distributes news related to universal broadband, while connecting communications, democracy, and public interest issues. Posted Monday through Friday, this service provides updates on important industry developments, policy issues, and other related news events. While the summaries are factually accurate, their sometimes informal tone may not always represent the tone of the original articles. Headlines are compiled by Kevin Taglang (headlines AT benton DOT org), Grace Tepper (grace AT benton DOT org), and David L. Clay II (dclay AT benton DOT org) — we welcome your comments.
© Benton Institute for Broadband & Society 2023. Redistribution of this email publication — both internally and externally — is encouraged if it includes this message. For subscribe/unsubscribe info email: headlines AT benton DOT org
Executive Editor, Communications-related Headlines
for Broadband & Society
1041 Ridge Rd, Unit 214
Wilmette, IL 60091
headlines AT benton DOT org
The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society All Rights Reserved © 2023