Monday, November 16, 2020
Headlines Daily Digest
The US Department of Agriculture announced that it is investing $11.3 million to provide broadband service in unserved and underserved rural areas in Alaska.
- Mukluk Telephone Company Inc. will use a $4.1 million ReConnect grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network. This network will connect 641 people, 24 businesses, two public schools, two fire stations, two post offices and a city hall to high-speed broadband in Teller and Brevig Mission.
- Matanuska Telephone Association Inc. will use a $1.9 million ReConnect grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network. This network will connect 463 people to high-speed broadband in the Sheep Creek and Kashwitna areas of the Mat-Su Borough.
- Arctic Slope Telephone Association Cooperative Inc. will use a $5.3 million ReConnect grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network. This network will connect 239 people, 28 businesses, a public school and a post office to high-speed broadband in Kaktovik.
The Federal Communications Commission's Wireline Competition Bureau, in conjunction with the Rural Broadband Auctions Task Force and the Office of Economics and Analytics, authorized Auction 903 support for the six winning bids by Velocity.Net Communications in Pennsylvania.
This forum has attracted participants from across Europe and around the world because we all understand 5G’s transformative potential to unlock innovation and economic growth. I’ve been asked to talk to you about what we are doing in the United States to seize the opportunities of 5G. So let’s get to it.
Overall, by any measure, this has been the most productive and most aggressive Federal Communications Commission in history when it comes to spectrum. We have done the hard work. We have focused on the engineering, the economics, and the law. We’ve prioritized policy, not politics. And because of all that, we have gotten results
The technology gap has prompted teachers to upload lessons on flash drives and send them home to dozens of students every other week. Some children spend school nights crashing at more-connected relatives’ homes so they can get online for classes the next day. Millions of American students are grappling with these challenges, learning remotely without adequate home internet service. Even as school districts have scrambled to provide students with laptops, many who live in low-income and rural communities continue to have difficulty logging on. About 15 million K-12 students lived in households without adequate online connectivity in 2018, according to a study of federal data by Common Sense Media, an education nonprofit group that tracks children’s media use. Before the coronavirus, that was mainly an obstacle for students doing homework, and it was an issue that state and federal officials struggled to address. But the pandemic turned the lack of internet connectivity into a nationwide emergency: Suddenly, millions of schoolchildren were cut off from digital learning, unable to maintain virtual “attendance” and marooned socially from their classmates. The Trump administration has done little to expand broadband access for students, both before and during the pandemic, said James Steyer, the chief executive of Common Sense Media. “There was no federal strategy, and it was left to the individual states to come up with a patchwork of solutions,” he said.
When the pandemic hit American shores this past spring and cities around the country began to practice social distancing procedures, Rhode Island-based nonprofit One Neighborhood Builders (ONB) Executive Director Jennifer Hawkins quickly realized that many of those in her community were going to be hit hard. As spring turned to summer, this proved especially to be the case in the Olneyville neighborhood in west-central Providence, where Covid-19 cases surged among low-income residents with fewer options to get online to work, visit the doctor, and shop for groceries. This, combined with the fact that the area suffers from an average life expectancy an astonishing eight years shorter than the rest of the state, spurred the nonprofit into action, and it began putting together a plan to build a free community wireless network designed to help residents meet the challenge. One Neighborhood Connects Community Wi-Fi hardware is being installed right now, with plans for the network to go online by Thanksgiving 2020.
The chairman of the Federal Trade Commission said antitrust enforcers need to be worried about dominant companies buying startups that are emerging competitive threats -- highlighting one of the main issues in the agency’s investigation of Facebook. Chairman Joe Simons said that takeovers of nascent competitors can be harmful to consumers and said that enforcers need to be ready to step in to stop such deals. “A monopolist can squash a nascent competitor by buying it, not just by targeting it with anti-competitive actions,” Chairman Simons said at an American Bar Association conference. “It may be easier and more effective to buy the nascent threat, only if to keep it out of the hands of others.” “We must be willing and able to recognize that harm to competition might not be as obvious from a look at the marketplace as it stands currently,” said Chairman Simons. If officials only consider a “static picture” of a market, “then we risk forfeiting the benefits of competition that could arise in the future.”
Joseph R. Biden Jr. was elected the 46th president of the United States in voting that ended November 3, 2020. He will take office on Wednesday, January 20, 2021. Although we won't know the makeup of the 117th Congress until January, we can start thinking about changes in federal agencies, like the Federal Communications Commission. President-elect Biden has identified four "Day One" priorities for his administration: battling the COVID-19 pandemic, facilitating economic recovery, facing racial inequity, addressing global climate change. Broadband can play a role in each of these areas and the FCC is the agency tasked with ensuring universal, affordable connectivity. But how will FCC leadership change post-election?
President Donald Trump is pushing the Senate to confirm Nathan Simington, his hand-picked nominee for a seat on the Federal Communications Commission, but some don't expect him to get his wish. If Simington is confirmed first, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell "may see the bigger picture — keeping the FCC at 2-2 is better for a conservative approach to regulatory policy than allowing the Democrats to hit the ground running with a 2-1 advantage," said former Pai aide Nathan Leamer, now vice president at public affairs firm Targeted Victory. Senate Majority Leader McConnell could also easily slow-walk the process of filling the third Democratic seat should his party hold the chamber following January run-off elections in Georgia. Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX) "looks forward to working with Mr. Simington and hopes he will be swiftly confirmed," applauding Simington's "fresh, new, and important perspective" on using the FCC to narrow the reach of tech platforms' liability shield, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
Observers argue Majority Leader McConnell is unlikely to view confirming Simington as a great use of the time the Senate has left this year. Meanwhile, Sen Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said he would put a hold on Simington's nomination — slowing down its progress — unless Simington commits to recusing himself from FCC deliberations relating to President Trump's executive order, since he was involved in implementing it. The bottom line: "The Senate Majority Leader has been very clear he wants to get more judges through — is jamming up the FCC really a priority for Republicans?" said former FCC adviser and Benton Senior Fellow and Public Advocate Gigi Sohn.
While we’ll remain vigilant for whatever a lame-duck President Donald Trump — or let’s face it, the year 2020 — might bring, we will be putting our collective energy toward repairing the damage done over the past four years, while diligently working to expand what’s possible in a Joe Biden administration and new Congress. Our immediate priorities include:
- Influencing presidential appointments.
- Winning Net Neutrality in 2021.
- Ending the digital divide — for real — in the next four years. This effort starts with a major push for broadband in the next massive recovery bill along the lines of the HEROES Act, which passed the House last May. With so many people trying to school their kids and do their jobs from home — the necessity of ubiquitous, affordable broadband is clearer than ever. Now is the moment to put ambitious goals on the table, to move from minutiae to moon shots, and to work to truly end the digital divide by the end of Biden’s first term.
- Going to the Supreme Court. Our long-running case challenging the FCC’s repeated attempts to eradicate media-ownership limits without studying the impacts on ownership opportunities for women and people of color is headed to the highest court next year.
- Reviving public media and local journalism.
- Making media reparations a reality.
- Confronting hate and disinformation on the platforms and the airwaves.
- Defunding surveillance.
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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