Tuesday, October 20, 2020
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The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing nearly $8 million to provide broadband service in unserved and underserved rural areas in West Virginia. This investment is part of the $550 million Congress allocated to the second round of the ReConnect Program. Citynet, LLC will use a $7.6 million ReConnect grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network, which will connect 6,054 people, 58 farms, 41 businesses, three fire stations, two public schools and two post offices to high-speed broadband internet in Barbour, Randolph, Webster and Doddridge counties in West Virginia.
A growing number of local governments are coming to see fiber broadband networks as essential infrastructure for the 21st century, infrastructure that is capable of driving and supporting simultaneous progress in just about every area of significance to their communities. This includes economic development, education, health care, environmental protection, energy, transportation, government services, digital equity, and much more. While such benefits may be difficult to measure in monetary terms—as is also true of the monetary benefits of roads, sidewalks, electricity, sewers, and water—they are real nonetheless. For many communities, these benefits are likely to be the primary reasons for entering into a public-private partnership. Several major legal issues may arise in a broadband public-private partnership project, including confirmation of authority, pre-negotiation project planning and finding potential private partners, and negotiation of the agreement.
[Jim Baller is president of Baller Stokes & Lide, PC, a national law firm based in Washington, D.C. He represents clients in a broad range of communications matters nationally and in more than 35 states. Baller is president of the Coalition for Local Internet Choice, which represents a wide range of public and private interests that support the authority of local communities to make the broadband Internet choices that are essential for economic competitiveness, democratic discourse, and quality of life in the 21st century.]
This paper introduces the concept of digital parity – similar levels of connectivity, devices, and skills between groups – that can lead to more digital inclusive communities. Utilizing a household survey measuring digital inclusiveness and analysis of variance (ANOVA), findings suggest that there are different levels of digital inclusiveness between groups. Differences in internet use and benefits are larger between younger and older groups. There are also differences between urban and rural areas. A statistically modeled digital parity scenario still finds uneven levels of digital inclusiveness, though urban and rural differences disappear, implying deeper and more complex inequality issues are at play. Future research should gather nationally representative survey data and see if findings hold. Regardless and as shown by COVID-19, community development practitioners need to incorporate digital inclusion strategies to ensure their communities transition to, adapt, and prosper in a sustainable way in this unfolding digital age.
To better understand the impact of network brownouts in the age of COVID-19, Accedian released the findings of its new research measuring the effects of network brownouts on business productivity and end-user experience. Network brownouts are unexpected performance degradations, excessive slowdowns and network congestion that impact application performance (as opposed to full network outages or blackouts). According to the 1,000 US senior IT decision makers surveyed for the research:
- 40% experience network brownouts at least several times a week, while one in five organizations experience them on a daily basis
- For the one in five organizations that experience network brownouts daily, IT teams spend up to a staggering 12.5 hours a week troubleshooting issues that could have been avoided.
- 30% report performance issues with Office 365 and other Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) cloud applications, and 26% report issues with audio/video conferencing applications
- 60% report an increase in end-user complaints since the pandemic hit – due primarily to performance degradations, excessive slowdowns and network congestion that impact application performance
- This doesn’t include the, on average, 27% of end-user application performance issues that are not even reported to IT teams, emphasizing the importance of actively monitoring performance issues that otherwise would go undetected
Internet service providers will suffer “irreparable harm” if California is allowed to enforce its net neutrality law, which includes restrictions on carriers' ability to exempt video streams from data caps, trade groups told a federal judge. “Plaintiffs’ members are faced with precisely the sort of dilemma that courts regularly find constitutes immediate and irreparable harm,” the American Cable Association, CTIA -- The Wireless Association, NCTA -- The Internet & Television Association and USTelecom -- The Broadband Association contend in papers filed with U.\S District Court Judge John Mendez in the Eastern District of California. The groups add that the law's restrictions on data-cap exemptions forces carriers to choose between facing the threat of enforcement actions, or ending current practices -- an option the groups say would result in “monetary losses, forgone business opportunities and innovative offerings, and loss of customer goodwill.”
Frontier Communications has secured approval for its Chapter 11 restructuring plan from the New York Public Service Commission. With New York checked off, Frontier said it has received regulatory approval, or "favorable determination," from 10 of the 25 states in its footprint. Those states include: Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia. Frontier is targeting early 2021 to exit from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
When companies try to expand broadband into hard-to-reach and far-apart locations, they have to make huge capital expenditures in technology and infrastructure, which sometimes can run for hundreds of miles or more. While federal funding is supposed to ease this burden, a lot of the money goes toward something Congress never anticipated and taxpayers often overlook: replacing utility poles. Members of Congress may be shocked to learn that enormous chunks of private and government broadband funding are not spent on fiber optic cable, but rather on poles in rural areas.
We cannot expect to connect rural Americans without addressing this issue. If it’s wrong to ask the broadband companies to pay for everything, then it’s wrong to make that same demand of utility companies. The best path forward is to require that the parties each pay their share. This would save taxpayer money and speed up broadband buildout into unserved communities. Congress can step up to make this happen. It makes sense for lawmakers to enact such a policy in upcoming legislation. If gridlock makes that impossible, then lawmakers can use their influence to get the Federal Communications Commission to act.
[Katie McAuliffe is federal affairs manager for Americans for Tax Reform and the executive director of Digital Liberty, which advocates for a consumer-driven market.]
AT&T is responding to a Request for Information from the US Department of Defense (DoD) that seeks comment on spectrum sharing technologies and leasing arrangements; asks whether the DoD should own and operate its own 5G network; and addresses myriad technical, statutory, legal, regulatory and policy issues associated with new approaches to spectrum sharing. What’s really at issue, however, is the determination of a vested minority to roll the dice with American 5G leadership by upending the proven methods of delivering wireless service in the US in favor of unproven spectrum allocation approaches.
We share the DoD’s goals of ensuring the spectrum necessary to deploy 5G is being efficiently and effectively utilized. The answers sought will be found neither in a new national military cellular network nor in a broad scale wholesale/leasing scheme, which will not deliver the benefits its proponents claim. Those approaches would, at this pivotal moment, be a huge step in the wrong direction.
Our 5G future lies on the paths that have been proven to incent deployment and foster innovation and wireless leadership. There is simply no reason to take a gamble and rush through an unproven and barely tested change of course now.
[Joan Marsh is executive vice president of federal regulatory relations]
Peru, the nation with the world’s highest coronavirus mortality rate, is also one of dozens of countries where schools nationwide remain closed on account of the pandemic, with no reopening date in sight. The quarantine here is particularly severe; children 14 and under are permitted out of their homes only one hour per day. Some families can afford workarounds. Students from families wealthy enough to pay for private schools have kept their educations going with private tutors and interactive classes on home computers. Public schoolchildren with Internet at home can access extended lessons online. From the Andes to Africa to the United States, this is what falling through the cracks looks like: A pandemic generation of poor children shut out of schools and learning. Already disadvantaged by poverty and inequity, they are now in danger of falling further behind.
Even the best technology can't eliminate the inherent problems of virtual schooling. Several key technological stumbling blocks have persisted in keeping remote learning from meeting its full potential.
- The needs of IT departments and students can be at odds. A university's chief information officer or a school's IT administrator judge software on how secure it is; how well it integrates with other systems; and how easy it is for an administrator to control. Student users just want a simple interface and features that make learning easier.
- Existing tech can't just be grafted onto remote learning.
- The digital divide looms over everything. Low-income students have less access to devices and the internet itself. A Sept survey, compiled from 300 Learn-using school districts in 18 states, shows affluent districts increased student engagement during remote learning, while poorer schools saw a decrease.
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 Robbie McBeath (rmcbeath AT benton DOT org) — we welcome your comments.
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