Daily Digest 10/25/2022 (Broadband Labels)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Consumer Info

Making Broadband Internet Labels Useful and Usable: Preliminary Report on Consumer-Driven Broadband Label Design  |  Read below  |  Lorrie Cranor, Jon Peha, Christopher Choy, Ellie Young, Megan Li  |  Research  |  Carnegie Mellon University

   See also: Comcast’s new higher upload speeds require $25-per-month xFi Complete add-on  |  Read below  

Digital Equity

Home Internet for Students or District Cybersecurity: Where Should the Money Go?  |  Read below  |  Alyson Klein  |  EducationWeek
Governors in 26 States have already Made Affordable Connectivity Program Adoption a Priority  |  Education Superhighway
American Consumer Institute: Congress must move quickly to extend ACP funding  |  Hill, The


Broadband Providers: Inflation has doubled RDOF build costs  |  Read below  |  Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce
Economy-of-Scale for Broadband Providers  |  Read below  |  Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting

Local/State Initiatives

NYC Office of Technology & Innovation: Strategic Plan 2022  |  Read below  |  Research  |  New York City Office of Technology & Innovation
Request for Proposals for State Digital Equity Act and BEAD Consulting Services  |  Massachusetts Technology Collaborative
Cox Communications raises concerns, asks City of Omaha to delay Google Fiber agreement  |  Omaha World-Herald
Hudson Seeks Proposals for Public-Private Partnership for FTTH Services  |  City of Hudson
Albany Municipal Internet Commission: Albany should pursue citywide internet service  |  Times Union


Justice Department Says Chinese Intelligence Officers Tried to Obstruct Huawei Prosecution  |  Wall Street Journal
Additional Federal Coordination Is Needed to Enhance K-12 Cybersecurity  |  Government Accountability Office

Emergency Communications

FirstNet tops 4 million connections for 23,000-plus agencies, AT&T says  |  Urgent Communications 

Government Services

With Customer Satisfaction at a New Low, Federal Agencies Still Fail to Measure It Well or Provide Enough Digital Services  |  Information Technology & Innovation Foundation

Platforms/Social Media

Snapchat's disappearing message function helped teenagers obtain fentanyl with deadly consequences, lawsuit argues  |  Business Insider
RNC sues Google claiming spam filter blocks email  |  Axios

Company News

Comcast’s new higher upload speeds require $25-per-month xFi Complete add-on  |  Read below  |  Jon Brodkin  |  Ars Technica
Elon Musk’s Twitter Takeover Seen Swelling the Company’s Debt  |  Wall Street Journal
Verizon defends pricey plans in 5G world  |  Fierce


Department of Commerce Appoints Members for New Internet of Things Advisory Board  |  National Institute of Standards and Technology

Stories From Abroad

Elon Musk says SpaceX won't cut off Starlink in Ukraine even if the US government refuses to fund the internet service  |  Business Insider
Today's Top Stories

Consumer Info

Making Broadband Internet Labels Useful and Usable: Preliminary Report on Consumer-Driven Broadband Label Design

Lorrie Cranor, Jon Peha, Christopher Choy, Ellie Young, Megan Li  |  Research  |  Carnegie Mellon University

In January 2022, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), which proposed requiring internet service providers to display broadband consumer disclosure labels prominently at the point of sale. In response to the FCC’s request for comment in their NPRM, the CyLab Usable Privacy and Security Laboratory at Carnegie Mellon University conducted a large-scale user study to gain insight into what information is most important to US consumers when shopping for broadband internet services as well as what terminology and presentation formats make this information most understandable and useful to consumers. In addition, we examined the FCC’s proposed 2016 broadband consumer label formats and proposed our own broadband consumer disclosure label formats. We surveyed broadband internet consumers in a two-phase online study, recruiting from a diverse pool of 32,000 consumers who had previously participated in Consumer Reports’ consumer initiatives related to broadband internet. Across both survey phases, we received a combined total of over 2,500 completed surveys. In the first phase, we evaluated the 2016 labels to gain insights into what information was most important to consumers and what information caused confusion. We then created new label designs based on our results from the first phase. In the second phase, we compared the effectiveness of our new label designs with the 2016 labels. After analyzing our survey results, we made further revisions to our new label designs. This is a preliminary report of our findings and recommendations.

Digital Equity

Home Internet for Students or District Cybersecurity: Where Should the Money Go?

Alyson Klein  |  EducationWeek

Despite billions of dollars in one-time federal relief money to help students learn online at home during the pandemic, the so-called homework gap persists. In fact, some schools have stopped extending students and teachers without reliable internet the connectivity help they provided during the pandemic. Forty-five percent of public schools say they are still offering home internet to students. That’s down from 70 percent in September of 2021. Educators want to see the federal government provide permanent resources for home connectivity. The big question is: What should that look like? There are two key options on the table: 1) Expand the E-rate to cover home internet and 2) Make the Emergency Connectivity Fund a permanent fixture of the federal budget.


Broadband Providers: Inflation has doubled RDOF build costs

Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce

Inflation is wreaking havoc on several broadband operators’ rural build plans, making financially tough projects even tougher. A number of operators with Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) commitments stated that the cost estimates for their builds have skyrocketed. Some are finding it difficult to find banks willing to lend them the money needed to complete their projects. That means those broadband providers without a hefty amount of cash on hand could be at risk of defaulting on their obligations. Joseph McGrath, owner of Texas-based fixed wireless provider TekWav, and Plains Internet COO Andrew Monroe said that the estimated build costs for their RDOF projects have doubled since they were originally calculated. In the case of Plains Internet, this means a jump from an estimated $500,000 to $1 million. Baker and McGrath attributed the change to inflation, which is pushing the cost of things like labor, materials, and fuel skyward. Monroe also pointed to materials but added that it’s also more expensive to train and hire the workers necessary to build the networks. Additionally, operators are concerned about finding additional funding to complete their RDOF builds. McGrath argued the US government should consider extending its broadband loan programs to include RDOF winners in order to ensure broadband providers can meet their commitments. 

Economy-of-Scale for Broadband Providers

Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting

I’ve worked with a number of small communities that want to explore the idea of having a community-owned broadband provider. My advice to small communities is the same as with all clients – economy-of-scale really matters for providers. Economy-of-scale is the economic term for describing how businesses get more efficient as they get larger. A large percentage of the costs of operating a broadband provider is fixed or nearly fixed. Any fixed cost acts in the same manner as the general manager’s salary. The larger the size of the broadband provider, the easier it is to cover fixed costs and the better the chance of being profitable. It’s possible for a small broadband provider to break even, but doing so requires the operator to be extremely frugal – any unexpected expense can throw a tiny provider into a loss. In building business plans, I’ve always seen the real benefits of an economy-of-scale kick in around 20,000 customers. That’s enough customers to be able to operate a full-functioning broadband provider that can deliver superior customer service. There is enough revenue to hire all of the needed staff and pay them well, including good benefits. Providers smaller than 20,000 have to forego some of the benefits that come with size. Interestingly, economy-of-scale doesn’t scale forever. In my experience in the industry, I see that broadband providers of a certain size start getting less efficient. It’s going to be unique to the specific company, but providers larger than 200,000 or 250,000 start being less efficient. My advice to any provider with under 5,000 customers is to consider how much easier it would be to operate the company if it grew to 10,000 or 20,000 customers.


NYC Office of Technology & Innovation: Strategic Plan 2022

This strategic pIan was developed by consulting with numerous experts and stakeholders to determine which priorities and initiatives would have the greatest impact on the everyday lives of New Yorkers and would leverage technology to make New York City government work better for all. The plan for 2022 was created to accomplish the following:

  • Build A Connected City: Ensure that all New Yorkers have access to effectively engage with the digital economy and society.
  • Advance Digital Service Delivery: Accelerate and simplify the delivery of City services and modernize supporting technologies.
  • Harness the Power of Data: Integrate the City’s data assets to develop a unified view of the City; leverage data to track performance in real-time and advance data-driven operations.
  • Tech Innovation for All: Develop NYC as a world-leading hub for inclusive and innovative technology.
  • Enhance Technology Resiliency: Provide a reliable, consolidated, and secure technology foundation for City agencies and the people they serve.

The plan will be continually updated and modified based on our progress and further input from key stakeholders. OTI will measure and monitor outcomes and performance indicators associated with each strategic priority and initiative and issue regular progress reports.

Company News

Comcast’s new higher upload speeds require $25-per-month xFi Complete add-on

Jon Brodkin  |  Ars Technica

The availability of faster Comcast uploads has a catch—users can only get the higher upstream speeds by purchasing xFi Complete, which adds $25 to monthly broadband costs. According to the company, "As markets launch, Xfinity Internet customers who subscribe to xFi Complete will have their upload speeds increased between 5 and 10 times faster." Additionally, Comcast is deploying the speed upgrade in the Northeast US over the next couple of months. Plans with 10Mbps upload speeds will get up to 100Mbps upload speeds once the new tiers roll out in your region—if you pay for xFi Complete. Comcast stated that faster upload speeds will come to customer-owned modems "later next year" but did not provide a more specific timeline. There is a cheaper way to get the same xFi Gateway with Wi-Fi 6E, as Comcast offers the option to rent that piece of hardware for $14 a month. But Comcast is only making the upload boost available to those who subscribe to the pricier xFi Complete service. While the standard monthly rate for xFi Complete is $25, new customers who sign up by December 31 can get it for $20 monthly during the first year of service.

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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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Benton Institute
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