Friday, January 11, 2019
Headlines Daily Digest
Government & Communications
Stories From Abroad
With the conclusion of the grant and loan awards established by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, there remain two primary ongoing federal vehicles which direct federal money to fund broadband infrastructure: the broadband and telecommunications programs at the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Universal Service Fund (USF) programs under the Federal Communications Commission. RUS broadband programs were reauthorized and modified by the 2018 farm bill. The USF High Cost Fund is undergoing a major transition to the Connect America Fund, which is targeted to the deployment, adoption, and utilization of both fixed and mobile broadband. Meanwhile, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (P.L. 115-141) appropriated $600 million to RUS to conduct a new broadband loan and grant pilot program (called the ReConnect Program), and appropriated $7.5 million to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to update the national broadband availability map in coordination with the FCC. Additionally, P.L. 115-141 contained provisions seeking to facilitate deployment of broadband infrastructure on federal property, as well as making more spectrum available for wireless broadband. To the extent that the 116th Congress may consider various options for further encouraging broadband deployment and adoption, a key issue is how to strike a balance between providing federal assistance for unserved and underserved areas where the private sector may not be providing acceptable levels of broadband service, while at the same time minimizing any deleterious effects that government intervention in the marketplace may have on competition and private sector investment.
The Connect America Fund (CAF) Accountability Act of 2019 would requires covered telecommunications carriers (CTCs) to include certain additional information in their speed and latency reports to the Federal Communications Commission. Currently, CAF recipients are required by the FCC to report on the speeds and latency provided to consumers within their service areas. The new reports are to be sent to the FCC on a quarterly basis.
Parts of the world will be excluded from the internet for decades to come without major efforts to boost education, online literacy and broadband infrastructure, experts have warned. While half the world’s population now uses the internet, a desperate lack of skills and stagnant investment mean the United Nation’s goal of universal access, defined as 90% of people being online, may not be reached until 2050 or later, they said. The bleak assessment highlights the dramatic digital divide that has opened up between those who take the internet and its benefits for granted and those who are sidelined because they either lack the skills to be online, cannot afford access or live in a region with no connection. “If there is any kind of faltering in the rate of people coming online, which it appears that there is, then we’ll have a real challenge in getting 70%, 80% or 90% connected,” said Adrian Lovett, CEO of the World Wide Web Foundation, an organisation set up by the inventor of the web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee.
The Federal Communications Commission — the agency tasked with authorizing new devices using radio frequencies — is on furlough along with the rest of the federal government. In addition to product authorizations, other suspended activities include work on consumer complaints, enforcement actions and licensing proceedings. The FCC also reviews major deals — like the pending merger of Sprint and T-Mobile — and those reviews have also stopped. "It does stifle business opportunity and strategy," said Marc Martin, chairman of the communications practice at law firm Perkins Coie, who noted that some of his clients are annoyed by the shutdown disruption to business plans: "Companies rely on government timelines for things to get resolved."
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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