Daily Digest 10/19/2022 (Affordability)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Digital Equity

Benton Foundation
FCC's ACP Pilot Programs Coming Soon  |  Read below  |  Kevin Taglang  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Tapping Internet Discounts For Lower-Income Households  |  Read below  |  David Isenberg  |  Op-Ed  |  Enterprise, The
Comcast Affirms Commitment To Affordable Internet Program  |  Read below  |  Op-Ed  |  Enterprise, The


Price of Residential Internet Drives Customer Choice, J.D. Power Finds  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  JD Power, Fierce
Middle-Class Affordability of Broadband: An Empirical Look at the Threshold Question  |  Read below  |  George Ford  |  Research  |  Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal & Economic Public Policy Studies


As America approaches ‘internet for all,’ deep caution for ‘middle mile’ detour  |  Read below  |  Michael O'Rielly  |  Op-Ed  |  Hill, The

State/Local Initiatives

Washington Public Works Board invites public input on changes to broadband funding program  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Washington State Department of Commerce
City of Oakland, California, Issues Request For Information to Bridge Digital Divide  |  City of Oakland


United States' Mobile and Fixed Broadband Internet Speeds Quarter 3 2022  |  Summary at Benton.org  |  Analysis  |  Speedtest
Comcast ad campaign takes aim at T-Mobile fixed wireless access  |  Read below  |  Jeff Baumgartner  |  Light Reading
Fixed wireless access a ‘nice complement’ to fiber  |  Read below  |  Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce
Verizon network still perceived as #1, says Cowen survey  |  Fierce
5G Network Performance the United States, September 2022  |  umlaut
SpaceX’s satellite internet service is coming to planes with Starlink Aviation  |  Vox

Platforms/Social Media

CBO Scores H.R. 3816, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act  |  Congressional Budget Office
Investigative Report on the role of online platforms in the tragic mass shooting in Buffalo on May 14, 2022  |  New York State Office of the Attorney General
Daniel Lyons: Section 230 Goes to the Supreme Court  |  American Enterprise Institute
What to know about Parler, the right-wing platform that Ye plans to buy  |  Los Angeles Times
The ugly business logic behind Kanye West’s Parler acquisition  |  Vox
Experts grade Big Tech on readiness to handle midterm election misinformation  |  Ars Technica
Social media loses ground on abortion misinformation  |  Axios
Want to Get Noticed by a Celebrity? Snag Their Username on Social Media  |  Wall Street Journal


Rich conservatives fund new media universe  |  Read below  |  Sara Fischer  |  Axios


Physician Response to COVID-19–Driven Telehealth Flexibility for Opioid Use Disorder  |  AJMC


Amazon workers vote against unionizing in Albany  |  Vox

Company/Industry News

Netflix adds more than 2.4 million subscribers, reveals details about password-sharing crackdown  |  CNBC

Stories From Abroad

German Cyber Chief Removed Over Claims of Ties to Russia  |  New York Times
Musk to seek Starlink donations after withdrawing request for Ukraine funding  |  Ars Technica
Meta Forced to Sell Giphy After British Antitrust Order  |  New York Times
Today's Top Stories

Digital Equity

FCC's ACP Pilot Programs Coming Soon

Kevin Taglang  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

The Federal Communications Commission set guidelines for two pilot programs aimed at increasing both awareness of and participation in the Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service for eligible households (and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands). On October 11, the FCC provided an update on the implementation of the pilot programs. The short of it is that the FCC is not yet accepting applications to participate in the pilot programs, but there are things eligible entities could be doing now to prepare their applications. The FCC set aside $100 million for Affordable Connectivity Program outreach. Each of the pilot programs discussed here will make up to $5 million in grants to community partners. Your Home, Your Internet and ACP Navigator Pilot Program applicants are not required to seek grant funding through the Pilot Grants. Applicants that will not rely on grant funding through the Pilot Grants for their outreach activities may receive an earlier notice of approval to participate in either or both pilot programs.

Tapping Internet Discounts For Lower-Income Households

David Isenberg  |  Op-Ed  |  Enterprise, The

Comcast’s entry-level internet service was not fast enough for Lia Moniz’s two schoolkids, so she upgraded to a faster connection that costs her more than $80 a month. A new Comcast offer, Internet Essentials Plus (IEP), has the potential to make Moniz’s internet free. IEP has the most bang for the buck. It offers speeds up to 100 megabits per second downstream and 10 megabits up, with free cable modem and Wi-Fi hot spot rental, for $29.95 a month. This is covered by the $30 Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) benefit, so on the bottom line, it’s free. Even if you’re an existing Comcast internet customer. Even, in some cases, if you owe Comcast money on previous bills. However, it's problematic to sign up for ACP and IEP. When we tried to sign up, it was complicated and intimidating, but with a little trial and error, and about two hours, we qualified for ACP. Qualifying for Comcast’s IEP was worse. We were informed twice—erroneously—first by email and then by a Comcast help desk agent, that existing Comcast customers didn’t qualify. We corrected the error and navigated even more misinformation. Then we learned that while new Comcast customers could apply for IEP online, existing customers had to wait 48 hours and then call Comcast in person to enroll. In the end, though, we succeeded. The Comcast bill went from $64.87 a month to $0.

[David Isenberg is head of the advisory committee to FalmouthNet, a nonprofit that aims to bring a locally controlled fiber-optic internet network to Falmouth]

Comcast Affirms Commitment To Affordable Internet Program

Op-Ed  |  Enterprise, The

From an unnamed Comcast public relations officer: The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) program is an important opportunity to connect more Americans to broadband than ever before and to close the digital divide, and we’ve been working hard to get the word out locally. The programs were implemented with incredible speed by both the government and private companies, and while some bumps in the road were expected, we are working to address issues as soon as possible. We have worked consistently to simplify the processes for consumers while keeping the proper checks and balances in place. When issues arise, we try to quickly and diligently solve them. We’ll continue to collaborate with community partners in Falmouth such as the Falmouth Public Schools, the Falmouth Housing Authority, and the Falmouth Senior Center, to sign up eligible customers. Our employees at the Xfinity store in Falmouth and at our other four store locations across the Cape are also trained to assist eligible customers.


Price of Residential Internet Drives Customer Choice, J.D. Power Finds

Press Release  |  JD Power, Fierce

Fixed and wireless broadband customers cited price as the number one reason they would switch service providers in a new J.D. Power study. The report analyzes consumer sentiment and operator achievement across five categories: performance and reliability, cost of service, billing and payment, communications and promotions, and customer care. Ian Greenblatt, managing director at J.D. Power, said the first two categories alone account for nearly 60% of an operator’s score. "So obviously keeping the lights on is job number one. It’s got to work, it’s got to work all the time. Reliability is critical…followed by the cost of service,” he said. “How do I feel about the value I get for the dollars I pay? Does it feel like I’m getting the right deal, do I feel like I’m getting taken advantage of?” He added consumers seem most satisfied if their service cost $70 per month or less. After that “we see a meaningful drop off” in satisfaction, Greenblatt noted. Practically speaking, that means most consumers are shopping operators’ mid-tier plans. On the reliability front, Greenblatt noted there’s a huge satisfaction gap between those who experience intermittent internet signal problems and those who don’t.

Middle-Class Affordability of Broadband: An Empirical Look at the Threshold Question

To receive subsidies to expand broadband to unserved areas under the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program provided by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) requires states to implement plans to ensure middle-class affordability. Since the NTIA did not conclude that broadband was unaffordable for middle-class households, the threshold question is whether broadband is affordable to the middle class. Affordability, which has no formal definition, is defined by reference to adoption. Analysis of broadband adoption rates by income groups, both nationally and for individual states, suggests that broadband is at present affordable for middle-class households. Ultimately, until affordability is a concern, no direct intervention is required, though states might monitor affordability over time to comply with the NTIA’s requirement.


As America approaches ‘internet for all,’ deep caution for ‘middle mile’ detour

Michael O'Rielly  |  Op-Ed  |  Hill, The

In 2021, Congress and the administration agreed upon a bipartisan approach to bridging differences in digital investment and delivery. But now, even before a single dollar of the bill’s rural broadband deployment funding has gone out the door, governors in both red and blue states are rushing to pour tax dollars into an entirely different strategy they hope will solve the same problem, and a new Senate bill proposes to potentially spend billions more replicating these state initiatives nationwide. Even for Washington, DC, this bipartisan rush to ramp funding for “middle mile” networks is a bit of a head-scratcher. Most areas of our country already have an extremely robust middle-mile infrastructure. Private investment has jumped at the opportunity to meet this market demand, which is only growing as wireless providers build or contract to backhaul their data from cell towers to their core networks. And in those few places where federal subsidies may be necessary to fill middle mile gaps, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act's (IIJA) Middle Mile Grant Program is already committing $1 billion through competitive bidding. The first awards under that program won’t even be announced until February 2023, much less completed. Does it really make sense to dump additional stacks of taxpayer funding onto the bonfire before seeing whether the initial billion dollars can provide the promised heat? Let’s keep our eye on the ball and focus on getting the first $65 billion right before asking taxpayers to throw billions more after it.

[Michael O’Rielly served as a Commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission. He is currently a visiting fellow at Hudson Institute, senior fellow at the Media Institute, and president of MPORielly Consulting, LLC. He also sits on APCO Worldwide’s International Advisory Council.]


Washington Public Works Board invites public input on changes to broadband funding program

The Washington State Public Works Board (PWB) is seeking public participation to help identify and prioritize issues that stakeholders believe should be addressed in the Board’s broadband funding program as a result of changes made to the program by the 2022 State Legislature. Input from two public workshops in November and a public hearing session in December will also help guide implementation. Public input is part of the rulemaking process to address statutory amendments to the PWB broadband funding program that were signed into law this year. Potential topics for rulemaking include, but are not limited to, considerations relating to:

  • Addition of a pre-application process for grants and loans;
  • Modifications to the objection process; and
  • Establishing an emergency broadband funding program.

Participation in both workshops and the hearing is free and open to the public. Registration is required. Where virtual participation is available, Zoom meeting links will be provided with registration. For registration information, click here


Comcast ad campaign takes aim at T-Mobile fixed wireless access

Jeff Baumgartner  |  Light Reading

Comcast recently launched a TV ad and erected a dedicated website that takes aim at the capabilities and features of T-Mobile's 5G-powered home broadband service, charging that they come up short when compared to what's delivered via Comcast's wired broadband services. In what's expected to be the first in a series of ads either targeting T-Mobile's service or perhaps the broader fixed wireless access (FWA) sector, Comcast's tongue-in-cheek "Vampires" ad features a family of four in a therapist's office lamenting the performance of T-Mobile's offering. They complain that their speeds degrade during high-usage times during the day, forcing them to access the service during the middle of the night. While the TV ad uses lighthearted humor to mock T-Mobile's FWA services, the dedicated comparison site is more pointed. "We read the fine print. Here's how Xfinity stacks up against 5G home Internet," the website states, adding that T-Mobile's service "is 10-30x slower." The site continues: "Storms, mountains, cars – being inside – can slow down your speed." Comcast also digs into T-Mobile's policies to argue that T-Mobile "plays favorites" by prioritizing mobile customers over 5G home broadband users. The cable operator goes on to state that T-Mobile's FWA service isn't compatible with some live TV streaming services. Naturally, Comcast's website touts the speed and reliability of its own broadband network and notes that some broadband customers get Xfinity Flex, Comcast's 4K-capable smart home/streaming device, for no added cost.

Fixed wireless access a ‘nice complement’ to fiber

Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce

Nokia has been pushing hard on the fiber front, unveiling a new platform that will eventually support 100G capabilities. But President of Network Infrastructure Federico Guillén said that fixed wireless access is a key tool in the toolbox for areas where fiber may not reach. “Let’s face it. Fiber is going to reach 50%, 60%, 70% of the population with time. But there is always going to be a remaining 10, 20, 30% of the population where it’s going to be impossible to lay fiber because economically it doesn’t make sense or you have to go through the historic center of a very old city or whatever,” he explained. “In those cases, fixed wireless access is a complement, a nice complement to fiber. But it is a complement.” In the long run, Guillén said fixed wireless access “cannot compete” with the multi-gigabit speeds fiber enables. But he reiterated wireless technology still has a key role to play in bridging the connectivity gap in areas where fiber may never make it to town.


Rich conservatives fund new media universe

Sara Fischer  |  Axios

Many of the new, conservative apps haven't grown to the point where they can meaningfully rival companies like TikTok or Instagram, but collectively, they have begun to create a new environment for conservative voices. A new Pew Research Center study found that 15% of users of alternative social networks like Getty, Telegram, and Truth Social have been banned from at least one mainstream platform. In August 2022, following the FBI's execution of a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, downloads across 10 alternative apps hit nearly 1 million collectively. The creation of a new conservative media reality began to ramp up in the wake of the content moderation crackdown following the 2021 Capitol siege. A majority of alternate social media users, per the same Pew Research Center report, say they feel a sense of community on alternate sites and are generally satisfied with their new experience. In the future, alternative platforms could begin to draw in other communities that also feel disenchanted by mainstream media and tech. In addition to social networks, an entire economy has grown around conservative ideals and free speech absolutism, although not all companies are finding success.

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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) and Grace Tepper (grace AT benton DOT org) — we welcome your comments.

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