Tuesday, November 14, 2023
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We write in response to your recently circulated Draft Order on “Digital Discrimination” that would turn section 60506 of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) into a sweeping mandate for heavy-handed Internet regulation and expose every nook and cranny of the broadband business to liability under a “disparate impact” standard. Your Draft Order, which largely follows a Biden administration diktat, will create crippling uncertainty for the U.S. broadband industry, chill broadband investment, and undermine Congress’s objective of promoting broadband access for all Americans. We urge you to adhere to the will of Congress and conform to the plain meaning of section 60506 to avoid causing serious damage to the competitive and innovative U.S. broadband industry. First, your Draft Order’s “disparate impact” standard of liability is unlawful. Second, your Draft Order would subject an untenably broad array of broadband business decisions to intrusive regulation. Third, your Draft Order is flippant when it comes to the real-world impact of these burdensome rules on broadband deployment in the United States.
We, the undersigned groups, write to emphasize the dire need for Congress to pass 6 billion dollars in supplemental funding to sustain the Affordable Connectivity Program (“ACP”) through the end of 2024. As of October 25, 2023, the Biden-Harris Administration requested Congress to appropriate emergency funding for critical domestic issues, including $6 billion earmarked for ACP to ensure eligible households across the country remain connected online. We strongly urge Congress to prioritize this funding request before the government shuts down as the current ACP fund is expected to deplete in 2024 — depriving over 21 million households of vital internet services in the ever-changing digital age. Without the additional $6 billion, millions of Americans reliant on ACP will lose access to high-speed internet, a fundamental civil right in the 21st century. In an evolving digital ecosystem, low-income and marginalized households in all districts cannot afford this risk. It is imperative and urgent for Congress to take action now to secure ACP funding for 2024 and continue to strategize long-term solutions that establish equitable access to broadband services for all. Pass the $6 billion for ACP today to ensure millions of families do not lose access to the internet.
On November 1, 2023, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released its "annual" inquiry into the state of broadband in the United States. The inquiry includes three broad questions: 1) What constitutes "broadband service" today 2) Is the U.S. achieving its universal broadband goals? 3) Is broadband being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion? The FCC is seeking public input on these questions through December 1.
As required by the Presidential Memorandum titled Modernizing United States Spectrum Policy and Establishing a National Spectrum Strategy, the Secretary of Commerce, through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), prepared this National Spectrum Strategy to both promote private-sector innovation and further the missions of federal departments and agencies, submitting it to the President through the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. To ensure our country remains the global leader in advanced wireless technologies, the U.S. government has adopted a bold vision for spectrum policy by:
- Identifying a strong pipeline of spectrum to study for private sector use, including the lower 3 GHz and the 7-8 GHz bands.
- Improving coordination on spectrum decision-making both within the government and between the private sector and the public sector.
- Focusing on advanced technology, including the development of a dynamic spectrum sharing capability, that could help make even crowded bands available for more intensive use.
- Growing the spectrum ecosystem workforce through the development of a National Spectrum Workforce Plan.
Minnesota's Office of Broadband Development announced the public comment period for the State's Draft Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program, Initial Proposal (Volumes I and II) for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Public comments on the BEAD Initial Proposal Volume 1 & 2 can be submitted online by completing this form. All comments must be received by 4:00 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, December 12, 2023.
From November 1 to December 2, 2023, all Maryland residents are encouraged and invited to read the State’s draft Digital Equity Plan to share their feedback and recommendations. Maryland’s Digital Equity Plan will serve as the state roadmap to achieve digital equity over the next five years. The Office of Statewide Broadband will incorporate feedback received from the public during the open comment period, and will publish the final plan afterwards.
Henderson County (TX) Commissioners approved an agreement with Brightspeed LLC to enhance broadband services within the county. The project will combine $2.3 million in American Rescue Plan Act State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds with other state money to connect all of Henderson County to high-speed broadband internet when the projects are completed. Ultimately, the projects are expected to total $8 million and combine federal and state money. Brightspeed will deliver 114.7 miles of fiber and connect nearly 5,000 locations within Henderson County. Due to time, labor, and funding constraints, the completion date for this phase of the project is expected to be in early-to-mid 2026. Commissioners agreed this is an ongoing investment.
Palisade Infrastructure has successfully concluded the acquisition of Mashell, the parent company of Rainier Connect. Ranier Connect, a fiber and hybrid fiber coaxial (HFC) broadband provider in Washington State, will now operate under Palisade’s new Lightcurve brand. The rebranding represents the “beginning of significant investments in the fiber optic internet infrastructure.” The infrastructure investment company originally announced its plans to acquire Rainier Connect in December 2022. Lightcurve currently serves Tacoma, Eatonville, Centralia, Chehalis and Graham in Washington. Over the coming months, Palisade will make upgrades to the current network and invest in expansion to new markets across several counties in the state including Pierce, King, Lewis, Snohomish and Thurston. The deal is a first step in the creation of a “regional platform for fiber and high-speed broadband connectivity," said Mike Reynolds, Palisade’s managing director, Americas. He added, "There’s a huge hole in the rural and under-resourced communities that needs to be filled with broadband, and we are committed to closing the digital divide."
Leichtman Research Group found that the largest cable and wireline phone providers and fixed wireless services in the U.S.—representing about 96% of the market—acquired about 950,000 net additional broadband Internet subscribers in 3Q 2023, compared to a pro forma gain of about 865,000 subscribers in 3Q 2022. These top broadband providers now account for 113.9 million subscribers, with top cable companies having about 76.2 million broadband subscribers, top wireline phone companies having about 30.7 million subscribers, and top fixed wireless services having about 6.9 million subscribers.
Other findings include:
- Overall, broadband additions in 3Q 2023 were 110% of those in 3Q 2022
- The top cable companies added about 5,000 subscribers in 3Q 2023—compared to a gain of about 45,000 in 3Q 2022
- The top wireline phone companies lost about 5,000 total broadband subscribers in 3Q 2023—compared to about 100,000 net losses in 3Q 2022
- Fixed wireless/5G home Internet services from T-Mobile and Verizon added about 940,000 subscribers in 3Q 2023—compared to 920,000 net adds in 3Q 2022
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.
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