Daily Digest 11/15/2022 (Infrastructure Law Turns One)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Broadband Funding

One Year into Implementation of Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Biden-⁠Harris Administration Celebrates Major Progress in Building a Better America  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  White House
Benton Foundation
The Infrastructure Law is Still about More than Money  |  Read below  |  Adrianne Furniss  |  Editorial  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Biden-Harris Administration Awards More Than $4.9 Million to Idaho in ‘Internet for All’ Planning Grants  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  National Telecommunications and Information Administration
Benton Foundation
Apply Now to Receive Support for Your ACP Outreach Efforts  |  Read below  |  Kevin Taglang  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Rural Utilities Service Administrator: Latest Round of ReConnect Apps Exceed Available Funding Threefold  |  Read below  |  Joan Engebretson  |  telecompetitor

State/Local/Tribal Initiatives

Benton Foundation
Health Conversion Foundations Leverage Matching Grants to Bring Broadband Infrastructure to Virginia Counties  |  Read below  |  Adrianne Furniss  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
First steps taken to connect Southeast Missourians to broadband internet  |  Read below  |  Danny Walter  |  Southeast Missourian
Maine broadband agency proposes 530-mile 'MOOSE Net' fiber network  |  Read below  |  Renee Cordes  |  Mainebiz
Groups Urge FCC to Advance Policies for Broadband-Enabling Infrastructure in Tribal Regions  |  Read below  |  Joshua Seidemann  |  Letter  |  NCTA-The Rural Broadband Association

Broadband Speeds

Being Stingy with Broadband Speeds  |  Read below  |  Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting


FCC Grants 900 MHz Broadband Segment Applications  |  Read below  |  Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission
CBRS: An Unproven Spectrum Sharing Framework  |  Read below  |  Analysis  |  Recon Analytics, CTIA-The Wireless Association
NYC residents complain about ‘ugly’ LinkNYC 5G poles  |  Fierce
T‑Mobile Lights Up Standalone Ultra Capacity 5G Nationwide  |  T-Mobile

Platforms/Social Media

Twitter’s potential collapse could wipe out vast records of recent human history  |  Read below  |  Chris Stokel-Walker  |  MIT Technology Review
Twitter may have lost more than a million users since Elon Musk took over  |  MIT Technology Review
Buying ads on Twitter is ‘high-risk’ according to GroupM, the world’s biggest ad agency  |  Vox
Twitter blue parody accounts flood the platform after new subscription service rollout  |  USA Today
Musk Publicly Punishes Twitter Engineers Who Call Him Out Online  |  Bloomberg
Apple, Fortnite Battle Moves Before Appeals Court Over App Store Monopoly Claims  |  Wall Street Journal
Every day, Gen Zers stop everything to post on this app. Is BeReal a fad, or here to stay?  |  USA Today


Google Agrees to $392 Million Privacy Settlement With 40 States  |  Read below  |  Cecilia Kang  |  New York Times
Twitter Called to Meet EU Data Watchdog Over Privacy Concerns  |  Bloomberg
Is my smartphone listening to me? Here's how to combat targeted ads, hackers, and cyber thieves  |  USA Today


Russian software disguised as American finds its way into US Army, CDC apps  |  Reuters


Baby boomers can’t stop staring at their phones  |  Washington Post


Major Pay-TV Providers Lost About 785,000 Subscribers in 3Q 2022  |  Leichtman Research Group

Company News

Verizon biz chief says fixed wireless access could drive One Fiber expansion  |  Fierce
Frontier wants to become the ‘un-cable’ internet service provider  |  Fierce


With Democrats' Senate wins, Gigi Sohn is likely headed to the FCC  |  Read below  |  Mike Dano  |  LightReading

Stories From Abroad

Regulators collaborate through new global network to counter online harm  |  Ofcom
Today's Top Stories

Broadband Funding

One Year into Implementation of Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Biden-⁠Harris Administration Celebrates Major Progress in Building a Better America

Press Release  |  White House

One year ago, President Joe Biden (D-DE) signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act—a once-in-a-generation investment in our nation’s infrastructure and competitiveness. While “infrastructure week” was a punchline under his predecessor, President Biden is delivering an “infrastructure decade.” One year into implementation, the Biden-Harris Administration is already following through on its promise to deliver results by rebuilding our roads, bridges, ports, and airports, upgrading public transit and rail systems, replacing lead pipes to provide clean water, cleaning up pollution, providing affordable, high-speed internet to every family in America, delivering cheaper and cleaner energy, and creating good-paying jobs. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act represents historic progress, as the largest and most significant investment in expanding access to affordable, high-speed internet including:

  • Affordable Connectivity Program: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) launched the Affordable Connectivity Program, which lowers the cost of high-speed Internet service by up to $30 per month for eligible households (up to $75 per month for households on Tribal Lands) and provides up to $100 towards the purchase of a desktop, laptop or tablet computer. To lower costs even further, the President and Vice President also secured commitments from 20 leading internet providers to offer ACP-eligible households fully covered high-speed Internet plans. As a result, millions of Americans can now get high-speed internet for free at GetInternet.gov. To date, more than 14.8 million households have enrolled in affordable, high-speed Internet plans. 
  • Internet for All: The Department of Commerce launched its “Internet for All” initiative – releasing notices of funding opportunity for three of its major programs, including the $42 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program, the Middle-Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program, and the Digital Equity Planning Grant Program. On November 18, the FCC will publish a map and launch the public challenge process so that public input can inform the ultimate map that will determine how BEAD program funding will be allocated. Every state is guaranteed a minimum of $100 million. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced $759 million from the ReConnect rural broadband deployment program for loans and grants to state, local or territory governments, corporations, Tribes and limited liability companies and cooperative organizations to help people in rural areas get access to high-speed internet and the Department expects to make over $1 billion in awards in Spring 2023. NTIA has also made $1.35 billion in funding available through the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, including funds from the first tranche of $2 billion directed to Tribal governments through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to be used for broadband deployment on Tribal lands, as well as for telehealth, distance learning, broadband affordability, and digital inclusion. 

The Infrastructure Law is Still about More than Money

Adrianne Furniss  |  Editorial  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

A year ago, I urged us all to look beyond the $65 billion the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act sets aside for broadband and realize the importance of Congress’ recognition that access to affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband is essential to full participation in modern life in the United States. I still find this renewed and updated Congressional commitment to universal service to be astounding. We should continue to celebrate it—and continue the work that ensures this commitment becomes a reality. The COVID-19 pandemic revealed in all-too-stark terms what is at stake if we do not close the digital divide and extend digital opportunity to everyone in the U.S. Although our “Broadband Moment” may have been born to address the unmistakable gaps laid bare during the pandemic, the roots of this commitment go as far back at least to 1996 when Congress instructed the Federal Communications Commission to encourage the timely deployment of broadband. Our choice has always been either to allow the divide to persist, holding back individuals, families, communities, and our nation—or to ensure everyone can use broadband fit for the changing world. With the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, America chooses the latter. We will all be better for it.

Biden-Harris Administration Awards More Than $4.9 Million to Idaho in ‘Internet for All’ Planning Grants

The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is awarding Idaho its first “Internet for All” grants for deploying high-speed Internet networks and developing digital skills training programs under the Biden-Harris Administration’s Internet for All initiative. Idaho is receiving $4,940,793.09 in funding to plan for the deployment and adoption of affordable, equitable, and reliable high-speed Internet throughout the state. Idaho will receive $4,376,087.09 to fund the following:

  • Identification of unserved and underserved locations;
  • Outreach to diverse stakeholders across all entities and geographies within the state;
  • Increase capacity to implement BEAD grants and build infrastructure throughout Idaho.
  • Build a broadband infrastructure map for the State of Idaho
  • Asset mapping across the Eligible Entity to catalog broadband adoption, affordability, access, and deployment activities;
  • Surveys of unserved, underserved, and underrepresented communities to better understand barriers to adoption;
  • Efforts to support local coordination including capacity building at the local and regional levels.

Idaho will receive an additional $564,706.00 to fund:

  • Development of a Statewide Digital Access Plan;
  • Community and stakeholder engagement;
  • Data collection and analysis of barriers to high-speed Internet adoption.

Apply Now to Receive Support for Your ACP Outreach Efforts

Kevin Taglang  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

On November 10, the Federal Communications Commission released a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), a formal announcement of the availability of grant funds to develop innovative outreach strategies to reach historically underserved and unserved communities, raise awareness of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), and help eligible individuals enroll in the program. Here are highlights of the NOFO for organizations that are already doing ACP outreach or for those who may be considering it.

Rural Utilities Service Administrator: Latest Round of ReConnect Apps Exceed Available Funding Threefold

Joan Engebretson  |  telecompetitor

The latest round of the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) ReConnect rural broadband funding program received three times as many applications as there is funding for, said Andy Berke, administrator of USDA’s Rural Utilities Service, which is responsible for awarding the funding. Round 4, the latest USDA ReConnect round, has a budget of $1.15 billion to cover some of the costs of deploying service to unserved or underserved rural areas. USDA began accepting applications for funding in early September. The application deadline was November 2, 2022. Awards will be made in the form of grants, loans and grant/loan combinations. Funding recipients are required to deploy service supporting speeds of at least 100 Mbps symmetrically. Previous rounds of the program only required providers to deploy service at speeds of 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream. But according to Administrator Berke, most of the applications that USDA received in Round 3 were for 100/100 Mbps service. That should help minimize the need for future broadband investment in the areas selected to receive funding, Administrator Berke noted. It’s worth noting that although the budget for the current ReConnect funding round is considerably less than funding requested, USDA has an additional $750 million available that it plans to use for a future round, so those network operators that aren’t selected from this batch of applications may have another shot at obtaining funding.


Health Conversion Foundations Leverage Matching Grants to Bring Broadband Infrastructure to Virginia Counties

Adrianne Furniss  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

The Virginia Funders Network (VFN) is a prominent membership organization with more than 100 philanthropic organizations from every corner of Virginia. VFN convened a small group of member foundations that were interested in or already supporting broadband initiatives. Based on input from this small group, VFN quickly came to understand the critical connection between affordable, reliable broadband access and VFN members achieving their missions. As a result, VFN ramped up its efforts to inform and engage its membership through webinars, a conference presentation, and coordination of meetings with state and national experts. VFN served as a facilitator connecting place-based foundations with one of the state’s broadband authorities and the main broadband infrastructure program, the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI).

First steps taken to connect Southeast Missourians to broadband internet

Danny Walter  |  Southeast Missourian

Representatives from the Missouri Office of Broadband Development (OBD) are in an information-gathering stage with two main avenues of focus. One is locating areas of the state with little or no broadband infrastructure. Another is developing plans to help those who live in areas with broadband access, but don't have the necessary means or knowledge to use it. Adam Thorp, community development specialist for OBD, said the office has received state and federal funding for developing the plans for expanding the needed infrastructure such as laying fiber optic cable and coordinating with internet service providers in expanding coverage. Thorp said $250,000 in planning money has been allocated for "digital demonstration projects" to demonstrate successful means of helping people overcome barriers to online access. The results of these projects will determine how much funding the state will receive. One OBD project provides funding to organizations that can employ "digital navigators", or people who will supply information regarding discounted internet service and funding for devices, as well as teach people to use computers and the internet. Additionally, through the federal Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), people can apply for discounts on devices and internet service plans. However, Thorp said only a small portion of the people eligible for ACP have signed up.

Maine broadband agency proposes 530-mile 'MOOSE Net' fiber network

Renee Cordes  |  Mainebiz

A partnership led by the Maine Connectivity Authority is seeking to build a 530-million "middle-mile" fiber broadband network that would serve tens of thousands of residents and businesses across the state. Middle-mile infrastructure is the regional fiber optic infrastructure made up of high-capacity fiber that carries large amounts of data at high speeds over long distances and between various elements of telecommunications infrastructure. The network would encompass 131 communities, representing over 11,000 unserved residents and local businesses. It will reach more than 200 community anchor institutions, including schools, hospitals, libraries, local government buildings, and civic centers. Maine’s application proposes $53 million to construct the Maine Online Optical Statewide Enabling Network ("MOOSE Net"). The proposal aims to fill in the so-called "middle mile" of connectivity in Maine, to replace the current patchwork of individual private networks with infrastructure that connects homes, businesses, and other users at the local level. MOOSE Net’s expansion would deploy open-access fiber "highways" that provide an essential backbone network to enable last-mile providers to increase their coverage, help fortify digital infrastructure to prevent outages, and advance the competitiveness of rural communities.

Groups Urge FCC to Advance Policies for Broadband-Enabling Infrastructure in Tribal Regions

Joshua Seidemann  |  Letter  |  NCTA-The Rural Broadband Association

On November 9, 2022, a group of organizations met with the Federal Communications Commission's Office of Native Affairs and Policy to discuss the need for policies for broadband-enabling infrastructure in Tribal regions. The groups included NTCA, Mescalero Apache Telecom, Moss Adams, the Mescalero Apache Tribe, the Tohono O'odham Utility Authority, and Akiak Holdings. The parties explained that generational funding opportunities provided for by COVID relief laws and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) present unprecedented opportunities to deploy broadband infrastructure in Tribal regions. However, less clear is the provision of ongoing support that will enable the longer-term sustainability of those networks and the affordability of services offered over them. The parties expressed their concern that newly built networks in deeply rural areas such as Tribal lands will not be financially viable on an ongoing basis as the costs to operate those networks exceed amounts that can be reasonably recovered solely through end-user rates, thereby undermining clear Congressional intent to close the digital divide in Indian Country. The parties clarified the difference between programs that focus on the
capital expense investments of initial deployments and the need for ongoing support to enable reasonably comparable services at reasonably comparable rates for users in rural and insular areas. The parties explained that the costs to deploy and operate advanced broadband networks in Tribal regions are significantly higher than average National costs. A variety of resources on solutions for policymakers to consider were included, which can be found here.


Being Stingy with Broadband Speeds

Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting

I’m taken aback when I see fiber-based broadband providers offering what can best be described as stingy speeds. The other day, I ran across a broadband provider that offers a range of speeds between 25/3 Mbps and 100/20 Mbps on fiber. Earlier I ran across a provider that has fiber products as tiny as symmetrical 10 Mbps. This frankly mystifies me, and I always wonder why somebody with fiber would offer broadband products that are similar to their competitors. I figure that part of the reason is what I would call old thinking. Somebody offering that kind of speed is likely a small telephone company that used to offer DSL or a small rural cable company that didn’t have fast speeds. DSL products were set at a range of speeds up to 25/3 Mbps because that’s what the technology would allow. I can’t imagine the thought process that says the slow speeds are adequate. According to OpenVault, 75% of US households are currently subscribing to download speeds of 200 Mbps or faster. That includes over 14% of homes nationwide that are subscribing to a gigabit product. It’s clear that people want faster broadband. I think another part of the reason that a provider would set low speeds is a fundamental belief that customers that buy faster speeds will somehow cost the provider a lot more money. But after having seen the impact of hundreds of providers that have upgraded to faster speeds, I know this is not true. Another reason behind offering slow speeds probably goes back to the day when buying Internet backbone connections was extremely expensive, and operators feared that a burst in usage would cost a lot. That’s also not true anymore in most places. Wholesale broadband prices have tumbled over the last decade. I know providers that are buying eight or ten times more bandwidth than a decade ago, at basically the same cost.  I can’t understand providers that have these stingy pricing plans when their peers a town away have normal broadband pricing.


FCC Grants 900 MHz Broadband Segment Applications

Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau granted nine 900 MHz broadband segment license applications to PDV Spectrum Holding Company in Missouri and Kansas. On May 13, 2020, the Commission realigned the 900 MHz band to make available six megahertz of low-band spectrum for the development of critical wireless broadband technologies and services, while reserving the remaining four megahertz of spectrum for continued narrowband operations.

CBRS: An Unproven Spectrum Sharing Framework

Analysis  |  Recon Analytics, CTIA-The Wireless Association

In 2012 the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) was asked to write a report on how it envisioned the allocation of wireless spectrum in the future. Taking the position that clearing spectrum for unencumbered use was too difficult in some cases, the report called for sharing spectrum between incumbent federal, state and local users and commercial users. Licenses should be small, reused, and relicensed and would thereby increase the capacity by a factor of 1,000. The Federal Communications Commission formalized this approach with the creation of the Citizen’s Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) out of 150 megahertz (MHz) of spectrum in the 3.5 gigahertz (GHz) band. Today, a decade after this approach was proposed, a review of the current CBRS marketplace reveals a gap between the promise of this type of sharing and its reality. Key points include:

  • Real-world studies indicate low utilization of CBRS spectrum, while there is no way to measure whether CBRS spectrum is being used at greater levels of efficiency
  • The most prevalent use cases are traditional wireless deployments
  • The supply of sharing services is declining, particularly those supplied by non-traditional providers, driven by low demand for these services

This situation can be explained by the following factors: Federal preemption of commercial spectrum rights are a barrier to applications that require guaranteed levels of service; Low power levels and small license sizes limit the ability to provide coverage and increase cost; This sharing has proven to be more complex than anticipated.

Platforms/Social Media

Twitter’s potential collapse could wipe out vast records of recent human history

Chris Stokel-Walker  |  MIT Technology Review

Almost from the time the first tweet was posted in 2006, Twitter has played an important role in world events. The platform has been used to record everything from the Arab Spring to the ongoing war in Ukraine. It's also captured our public conversations for years. But experts are worried that these rich seams of media and conversation could be lost forever if Elon Musk tanks the company. Given his admission to employees that Twitter could face bankruptcy, it’s a real and present risk. Musk himself acknowledges that Twitter is a public forum, which makes the potential loss of the platform so significant. Twitter has become integral to modern civilization. It’s a place where people document war crimes, discuss key issues, and break and report on the news. It is a living, breathing historical document. 


Google Agrees to $392 Million Privacy Settlement With 40 States

Cecilia Kang  |  New York Times

Google agreed to a record $391.5 million privacy settlement with a 40-state coalition of attorneys general for charges that it misled users into thinking they had turned off location tracking in their account settings even as the company continued collecting that information. Under the settlement, Google will also make its location tracking disclosures clearer starting in 2023. The attorneys general said that the agreement was the biggest internet privacy settlement by US states. It capped a four-year investigation into the internet search giant’s practices from 2014-2020, which the attorneys general said violated the state's consumer protection laws. Google said it had already corrected some of the practices mentioned in the settlement. States have taken an increasingly central role in reining in the power and business models of Silicon Valley corporations, amid a vacuum of action from federal lawmakers. The attorneys general of Oregon and Nebraska led the settlement negotiations, assisted by Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. The final settlement was also joined by Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.


With Democrats' Senate wins, Gigi Sohn is likely headed to the FCC

Mike Dano  |  LightReading

Gigi Sohn may soon take a seat as Federal Communications Commissioner thanks to Democrats' narrow victories in US midterm Senate races around the country, according to the financial analysts at New Street Research. "We now believe it is likely that a third Democratic commissioner joins the [Federal Communications] Commission, either through a vote in the lame-duck session (in which case it will be the current nominee Gigi Sohn) or sometime in the first few months of 2023," wrote New Street analysts. A Democratic FCC majority could move forward in areas such as digital discrimination, mergers and spectrum policy, according to the New Street analysts. "The current FCC proceeding on the digital discrimination issue will gain greater importance, as a Democratic majority will be more likely to highlight ISP actions with disparate impacts, even if the FCC's ability to mandate different ISP behavior is, in our view, limited," they wrote. "On merger reviews, conditions are likely to be somewhat tougher, though we don't think it will affect the ultimate decision to approve or reject a merger, as those tend to be made with the antitrust authority." The analysts also speculated that Democratic control over the FCC would likely result in a national spectrum policy favoring shared and unlicensed spectrum. That would undoubtedly represent a blow to big 5G operators like T-Mobile and Verizon that loudly prefer licensed spectrum over unlicensed options.

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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.

© Benton Institute for Broadband & Society 2022. Redistribution of this email publication — both internally and externally — is encouraged if it includes this message. For subscribe/unsubscribe info email: headlines AT benton DOT org

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