Wednesday, November 16, 2022
Headlines Daily Digest
Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Updates
Elections & Media
The Internet For All initiative is moving with speed to deliver on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s goal. We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished in the first year, which includes:
- Crafting Notices of Funding Opportunity – ahead of Congress’ deadline – for the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD); Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure; and State Digital Equity Planning Grant programs explaining how funding will be awarded and establishing application deadlines for states and territories.
- Obtaining applications from all eligible states and territories—56 in total—to participate in Internet For All.
- Securing 247 applications for Middle Mile program grants, which will reduce the cost of bringing high-speed Internet service to unserved and underserved communities.
- Awarding more than $1.5 billion in grants to Tribal entities and minority-serving institutions—including more than $300 million from the Infrastructure Act—to ensure communities that are often the hardest to reach can deploy high-speed Internet service.
- Calling more than 2,500 Internet service providers to encourage them to provide data for the forthcoming map of high-speed Internet availability from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), on which NTIA will base its state budget allocations for the BEAD program.
- Hiring Federal Program Officers to cover every state and territory participating in Internet For All to ensure each has a point of contact within NTIA for help with their broadband funding needs.
- Co-hosting local coordination events in six states—and counting!
- Holding 20 listening sessions and office hours as well as 22 webinars to address concerns and questions from applicants.
- Hosting seven consultations with hundreds of Tribal leaders to solicit their input on program rules.
- Conducting more than 70 one-on-one technical assistance sessions for applicants of non-competitive programs.
- Responding to more than 360 inquiries across the BEAD, Digital Equity, and Middle Mile programs.
- Addressing state and local government stakeholder groups such as the African American Mayors Association, the Council of State Governments, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, the National Governors Association, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women.
On tap for 2023:
- Improving the functionality of internetforall.gov. That starts today as we roll out two new features:
- An interactive map detailing the BEAD and DE program status by state and territory; and
- A calendar highlighting past and upcoming events, searchable by state or territory.
- Determining, by June 30, 2023, the budget allocations each state and territory will receive to fund BEAD projects that will deploy Internet service to its residents, based on data from the FCC’s new National Broadband Map.
- Reviewing states and territories’ 5-year action plan for how they will award funding, how they will incorporate local stakeholder input, and how they will enable Internet service providers, local governments, and other stakeholders to challenge proposed project areas.
- Overseeing states’ initial proposals for the competitive grant process that will allow them to start receiving money and awarding grants to build out high-speed Internet service.
- Awarding funds through our Tribal Broadband Connectivity and Middle Mile grant programs.
One aim of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is to ensure that every American has access to reliable, affordable, high-speed internet service. The law allocates $65 billion to expand broadband in communities across the U.S., create more low-cost broadband service options, subsidize the cost of service for low-income households, and provide funding to address digital equity and inclusion needs. Here we provide an update on the implementation of two programs aimed at extending the reach of broadband networks in the U.S.: the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program and the Enabling Middle Mile Infrastructure Grant Program.
The Federal Communications Commission's s Broadband Data Task Force (Task Force), Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB), and Office of Economics and Analytics (OEA) announced that parties may now begin the process of obtaining a license to the Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric for purposes of preparing and submitting challenges through the FCC’s Broadband Data Collection (BDC). To access the Fabric data, each entity must register in the Commission Registration System (CORES), log into the BDC system, and execute a limited end-user license agreement for the Fabric. Depending on your organization type, you may need to provide a brief description of how your use of the Fabric data aligns with BDC purposes and how your organization is involved in issues around broadband availability. For more information, see https://help.bdc.fcc.gov/hc/en-us/articles/10419121200923-HowEntities-Ca....
The largest cable and wireline phone providers and fixed wireless services in the US – representing about 96% of the market – acquired about 825,000 net additional broadband Internet subscribers in 3Q 2022. These top broadband providers account for about 110.8 million subscribers, with top cable companies having about 75.6 million broadband subscribers, top wireline phone companies having over 32 million subscribers, and top fixed wireless services having about 3.2 million subscribers. Findings for the quarter include:
- Overall, broadband additions in 3Q 2022 were 101% of those in 3Q 2021
- The top cable companies added about 40,000 subscribers in 3Q 2022 – compared to about 590,000 net adds in 3Q 2021
- The top wireline phone companies lost about 135,000 total broadband subscribers in 3Q 2022 – compared to about 40,000 net adds in 3Q 2021
- Wireline Telcos had about 550,000 net adds via fiber in 3Q 2022, and about 685,000 non-fiber net losses
- Fixed wireless/5G home Internet services from T-Mobile and Verizon added about 920,000 subscribers in 3Q 2022 – compared to about 190,000 net adds in 3Q 2021
The Federal Communications Commission is engaging the public in a few ways in its effort to learn about different perspectives on digital discrimination. Beginning with the Notice of Inquiry (NOI), the FCC asked for input on how to implement the digital discrimination section of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). In May, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) submitted comments on our perspective of how the FCC should implement rules to prevent and eliminate digital discrimination. The rulemaking process is ongoing, and the FCC will solicit public input again on proposed rules to prevent and eliminate digital discrimination. To support the development of model policies, the NDIA participated in the Digital Empowerment and Inclusion working group, which operated under the direction of the Communications Equity and Diversity Council, a committee formed by the FCC to advise them on equity in digital communications services. The working group included public interest groups, subject matter experts, and internet service providers (ISPs). While many perspectives from NDIA were included in the recent report released by the FCC, NDIA continues to advocate for these interpretations of the IIJA that clearly promote equal access to broadband and prevent digital discrimination:
- Digital discrimination can occur regardless of whether discriminatory intent is involved. It is a problem of drastically unequal digital opportunities and outcomes, and the focus must be on the communities impacted.
- Digital discrimination involves all aspects of broadband service, including issues related to network performance, service terms and conditions, and price. For example, if a community with the oldest, slowest infrastructure pays more per megabit for internet service (i.e. tier flattening), that community is experiencing discrimination.
- Digital discrimination can involve marketing or advertising. For example, routinely advertising special discounts in some communities (e.g. more wealthy residents) while failing to market them to residents in other communities is discriminatory.
- Routine data collection on all aspects of broadband service is critical for identifying discriminatory outcomes. For example, information about data caps and throttling will help the FCC determine whether the terms and conditions of service are applied fairly among subscribers.
- Effective enforcement will require a dedicated, transparent, and easy public complaint process for issues around digital discrimination and unequal access to broadband. In addition, responses from ISPs should be made publicly available.
We expect the FCC to release a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in early 2023, and we will continue to share updates as the rulemaking process around digital discrimination continues.
In 2019, Texas Rural Funders, a statewide philanthropic collaborative of 39 funders focused on bringing attention and resources to rural Texas, learned that Texas was one of six states in the United States that had neither a statewide broadband plan nor a broadband office. This put Texas communities at a disadvantage; federal agencies deducted points when scoring broadband grant applications, lowering communities’ chances of receiving the critical funding needed. This is crucial in a state where 83 percent of the land mass is rural and state and federal funds and policy solutions are required to achieve the scale needed to reach as many rural Texans as possible. Texas Rural Funders sprang into action to gather data, engage in marketing and communications efforts, form coalitions, create resources, and support rural leaders to affirm the need for a statewide broadband office. House Bill 5, forming the Broadband Development Office at the Texas Comptroller’s office, passed in 2021.
Our collaboration with Google Fiber has facilitated bringing fiber internet to four affordable housing communities in Kansas City (Kansas and Missouri). Through this project, residents get access to high-speed fiber internet for $15 per month. Now, three of these communities - Pemberton Park, Linwood Gardens and Posada Del Sol - are fully online, and we’ve already seen incredible results for those residents. “I got my first computer from PCs for People,” said Rose Stigger, Pemberton Park for GrandFamilies manager and resident. “I was the first resident at Pemberton Park, brought up my granddaughters here, and now as I raise my great-grandson here I was the first resident to receive this high speed internet.” As we continue to expand access to more communities, we’ve learned that building trust with residents is critical to ensuring people make use of this access. In addition to providing quality devices and reliable internet, PCs for People offers digital literacy training to ensure folks make the most of this technology. These services will save residents money, allowing them to allocate those funds to other important needs.
[Tom Esselman is Director of PCs for People Kansas City]
There’s one bit of the future that Elon Musk has built and isn’t interested in using: A potential power that researchers have identified in his Starlink satellite system. For the past two years, Todd Humphreys, an Army-funded researcher at the University of Texas in Austin, and a team of researchers reverse-engineered signals sent from thousands of Starlink internet satellites in low Earth orbit to ground-based receivers, finding that the constellation could form a precise navigation system. What’s more, this powerful new function could, in theory, be set up overnight with just a few tweaks to the system’s software. If true, this would be a very big deal. Right now, the U.S.-owned Global Positioning System (GPS) is the most prevalent technology used in the global navigation satellite system, a general term describing any satellite constellation that provides positioning, navigation, and timing services on a global or regional basis. It’s reliable enough but in reality, it could be better. Satellites in the GPS constellation are “all too susceptible to jamming.” For a system that has an economic impact of about $1 billion a day in the United States alone, that’s a problem. Starlink satellite signals are much wider and have more channels than GPS satellites, making it harder for attackers to disrupt since there are more frequencies to cover. These would offer a reliable backup to GPS and other navigation systems in Europe, Russia and China. Also, each Starlink terminal focuses on only one satellite at a time with a narrow beam — so it ignores jamming signals coming from different directions. In contrast, the military has to use costly phased-array GPS antennas to prevent its receivers from “pulling in everything above it,” such as jamming signals, Humphreys told us. If put into operation, Starlink satellites could provide a low-cost and highly accurate navigation service resistant to jamming from adversaries.
State and territory broadband offices have dramatically increased in size over the past year as they deploy billions of dollars in economic recovery funds and start to manage a historic federal investment in broadband expansion. With money from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), these offices now have sufficient funding to cover everything from infrastructure deployment to digital literacy. The decisions that leaders make on how to increase their internal capacities and organize their offices will play a significant role in closing the digital divide and shape their ability to continue the momentum beyond this current cycle of investment. Pew’s broadband access initiative has been tracking public job postings for state and territory broadband offices and identified 68 such postings across 29 states from September 2021 through September 2022. The analysis found that states that established their broadband offices within the past year account for the bulk of recent job postings, with hiring focused on key positions such as office directors and administrators. At the same time, already operating offices have increased capacity in more specific roles or posted for positions in response to turnover. Initiatives and programs will need to contend with the persistent demographic factors that exacerbate this divide, including income levels and where people live, as well as the nation’s history of infrastructure construction delays and perpetual innovation in how the internet is used. State broadband offices therefore will need an immediate surge in staffing along with the permanent capacity to ensure that they are able to support efforts to close the digital divide now and into the future.
Unions representing millions of workers in telecommunications, tech, and media as well as most sectors of the US wrote the US Senate to strongly support Gigi Sohn [Senior Fellow and Public Advocate at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society] for the role of Commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and urge swift action on her nomination. The FCC needs a fully seated commission in order to make critical decisions during a period of increased federal investment in broadband networks and digital equity initiatives. Her meaningful leadership, dedication, and contributions cannot be overstated, as she has been instrumental in the success of many FCC programs, including on the issues of affordability, competition, open internet, modernization of the Lifeline program, and adoption of strong privacy rules for broadband providers. Sohn has also ensured that working people and underrepresented communities are front and center in charting the course for an equitable communications and media ecosystem. During the T-Mobile/Sprint merger, Sohn was a key ally in the fight to protect the jobs of the working families who ultimately ended up being harmed by the merger. Additionally, Sohn supports constructive collaboration with states to ensure effective mapping and oversight of broadband services and infrastructure. Once confirmed, she will continue to be a staunch champion for workers and consumers. Sohn fully understands our complex telecommunications and media landscape, and the importance of diversity and inclusion for all people, and will work diligently to ensure all viewpoints are represented in FCC decisions. We urge you to swiftly advance the nomination of Gigi Sohn.
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