Friday, November 17, 2023
Headlines Daily Digest
Today: Maternal Health Roundtable
The 10 Fastest and Slowest States for Internet Speeds in 2023 | HighSpeedInternet.com
Mark Jamison: The FCC’s Regulatory Overreach Threatens American Broadband Prosperity | American Enterprise Institute
Stories From Abroad
Tracking fiber penetration across the U.S. broadband market provides valuable insights into technological adoption and accessibility. This study is our attempt to solve this issue. Key Findings:
- The average fiber access rate across all U.S. states has steadily increased: In December 2021, the average fiber access rate was approximately 45.9% of households, and by June 2023, it had increased to about 55.6% of households.
- Approximately 5.6 million new households have subscribed to fiber since December 2021. Still, fiber adoption rates are not outpacing growth in fiber access, indicating a potential awareness or marketing issue in many states.
- Alaska had the highest fiber penetration rate of all states at 44.2%, followed by New Mexico (41.74%) and Arizona (35.26%).
- Though 78% of New York households have access to fiber, its penetration rate is relatively lower than some other states at just 11.30%. This indicates potential barriers or other factors leading to slower adoption among those with access.
An analysis of data collected for the FCC's newest Broadband Map shows that Cuyahoga County’s (OH) lowest-income neighborhoods are still far more likely than others to be stuck with old, slow, home “broadband” service from AT&T. Using December 2022 information provided by AT&T, together with Census tract household income data from the American Community Survey, Connect Your Community determined that for nearly half (48%) of all its serviceable locations in Cuyahoga County tracts with median annual household incomes below $35,000, AT&T reported maximum speeds below 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up. This means those locations, most of which are on the East Side of the city of Cleveland, can only receive AT&T wireline Internet service in the form of pre-2007 ADSL connections.
State policymakers face a big test—how to best spend the almost $272 million the Commerce Department allocated from its Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program as well as the funding the state receives under the Digital Equity Act. Today I want to look ahead to 2024 and talk about three challenges that all states, including Maine, will face. I also want to suggest how states can meet these challenges to ensure that this once-in-a-lifetime funding secures fast, affordable and reliable broadband Internet access for every US household.
- Challenge #1 Timing: In the next year or so, every state must conduct a state-wide BEAD mapping challenge and finalize a list of BEAD grant winners.
- Challenge #2 Affordability for low-income and middle-class households may be the biggest barrier to achieving the BEAD program’s goal of universal connectivity.
- Challenge #3 Oversight: Regardless of which broadband providers ultimately win BEAD grants, it is critical that both federal and state government officials conduct consistent oversight to ensure that the promised networks actually get built and in a timely fashion.
The challenges I’ve set out today can seem overwhelming, especially to state broadband officials and constituents who have limited resources and tight deadlines. But they can be overcome if federal, state and local officials, community anchor institutions, industry, civil society and individual stakeholders work in concert. We must ensure that the BEAD money goes to those who can and will build fast and reliable networks to every household in a community, not just some.
Preparation. PON. Previous experience. Persistence. These are just some of the attributes states should be looking for when choosing ISPs to carry out builds for the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program, said Verizon executive Kevin Smith. “The ISPs and the builders also have to have those people and those teams internally that are making sure that you’re delivering what you signed up for,” he said. “Whatever you agreed to in that bid, you need all that program management. It’s not just about hanging the fiber. That’s only one aspect of this entire thing.” In addition to massive amounts of prep work and finishing the initial deployment, Smith said ISPs should be capable of executing on the “long-term care and feeding of that network over time.” Smith advised new and small ISPs to be thorough when preparing their bids to ensure they can actually deliver what is promised. That means taking their time and doing “a lot of socializing” within their organization to run the bid plans by different departments. He stressed it is especially important to vet the proposal with the ISP’s outside plant and engineering teams.
The Alabama Digital Expansion Division of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) has released a draft of the state's Digital Opportunity Plan, which details Alabama's vision of a connected, interconnected future. ADECA has made the state's plan available for public comment until November 23, 2023. The State of Alabama envisions a connected, interconnected future in which all Alabamians—including those who are not currently connected or who face other barriers to digital opportunity—will have the opportunity to benefit from broadband internet, for purposes of economic opportunity, education, healthcare, and all the other ways the internet offers digital opportunity. In that envisioned future, all Alabamians will have access to the following five critical elements of digital opportunity:
- Availability of affordable, reliable internet connectivity at home
- A computing device and the opportunity to maintain it
- Opportunity to learn digital skills
- Tools and information to be safe online
- Online state resources that are accessible and usable
Although the lack of broadband, transit, childcare and housing are all stacked against rural counties as they develop the kind of robust workforce that can attract business, planning and relationships between state and local government can help alleviate some of those challenges. That’s the assessment various practitioners in the workforce development field offered during the Rural Action Caucus Symposium in Greenbrier County (WV). West Virginia faces steep challenges in delivering broadband connectivity to residents, given both the population distribution and the geography. Without housing and support services, there’s nowhere for potential workers to live. “Where are those 800-plus employees going to live?" asked Ryan Thorn, Department of Agriculture Rural Development Director for West Virginia. “In some areas, you have to drive an hour, an hour and a half for access to healthcare. At the same time, we are seeing consolidation of health services, independent rural hospitals are becoming fewer and fewer. A private company won’t make an investment in an area that lacks healthcare and education for employees.”
The Coalition for Emergency Response and Critical Infrastructure (CERCI) wants to keep the 4.9 Gigahertz (GHz) spectrum under the control of public safety and critical infrastructure industry users and out of the hands of FirstNet, whose 700 Megahertz network is run by AT&T. T-Mobile, Verizon and UScellular are among the founding members of the CERCI, along with the Competitive Carriers Association, National Sheriffs Association, Major Cities Chiefs Association, and Edison Electric Institute. The group sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) outlining the importance of maintaining the 4.9 GHz band as a locally controlled public safety communications resource that serves the public interest. They’re responding to a proposal from the Public Safety Spectrum Alliance that calls for the FirstNet Authority to be awarded a nationwide license for the 4.9 GHz band and to select a new band manager. CERCI argues that incumbent public safety licensees within the 4.9 GHz must be protected so they can approve all spectrum leases that could impact their licenses and weigh potential changes to the band. “Above all, coordination and leasing rules for public safety broadband should align with the FCC’s broader goal of preserving and protecting local control of public safety operations in the band,” the coalition said.
Sens Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), and Mike Crapo (R-ID) introduced the Lowering Broadband Costs for Consumers Act of 2023 to direct the FCC to require proper contributions to the Universal Service Fund (USF) from edge providers and broadband providers. Requiring edge providers to cover associated costs for rural fiber networks will reduce the financial burden on consumers and rural providers while strengthening broadband connectivity throughout rural America. Specifically, the Lowering Broadband Costs for Consumers Act would:
- Direct the FCC to reform the USF by expanding the base so that edge providers and broadband providers contribute on an equitable and nondiscriminatory basis to preserve and advance universal service.
- Limit assessments of edge providers to only those with more than 3% of the estimated quantity of broadband data transmitted in the United States and more than $5 billion in annual revenue.
- Direct the FCC to adopt a new mechanism under the current USF high-cost program to provide specific, predictable, and sufficient support for expenses incurred by broadband providers that are not otherwise recovered.
- Limit the FCC’s authority over edge providers and broadband providers only to requiring contributions to the USF.
Sens John Thune (R-SD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Roger Wicker (R-MS), John Hickenlooper (D-CO, Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) introduced the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research, Innovation, and Accountability Act of 2023. The bipartisan legislation establishes a framework to bolster innovation while bringing greater transparency, accountability, and security to the development and operation of the highest-impact applications of AI. The Act would require:
- Content Provenance and Emergence Detection Standards
- AI Definitions
- Generative AI Transparency
- NIST Recommendations to Agencies
- Risk Management Assessment and Reporting
- Critical-Impact AI Certification
- AI Consumer Education
Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) reintroduced three bills to strengthen data privacy protections and safeguard Americans’ personal information. The U.S. currently has no comprehensive data privacy laws and with the rise of AI and other technologies, consumers are vulnerable to fraud, security breaches, and predatory behavior online.
- The DATA Privacy Act strengthens protections for American consumers online while ensuring large corporations implement data security and privacy protections.
- The bipartisan Promoting Digital Privacy Technologies Act with Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) would require the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support research into privacy enhancing technologies (PET), which help protect personal consumer data. The bill also requires the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to work with academic, public, and private sectors to establish standards for the integration of PET into business and government.
- The Internet App ID Act would improve Americans’ digital security by requiring operators of internet websites and mobile applications to disclose if the applications being used by consumers have been developed or store data within China, or are under the control of the Chinese Communist Party.
The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) newly created Office of International Affairs announced its leadership team. The Office leads and coordinates the FCC’s international efforts including its participation in the upcoming World Radiocommunications Conference, cross-border negotiations, foreign ownership and national security reviews, and licensing of submarine cables and international telecommunications services. The front-office team includes Jared Carlson, Neşe Guendelsberger, and Thomas Sullivan as Deputy Chiefs; Michele Wu-Bailey as Assistant Chief and Chief of Staff; Kathryn O’Brien (on detail) and Kathleen Collins as Assistant Chiefs; Olga Madruga-Forti as Special Counsel; Edward Carlson as Senior Legal Advisor; Sarah Van Valzah as Assistant Chief for Management; and Juliana Concepcion as a Telecommunications Support Specialist. The Office is also supported by its leadership from its two divisions. The Telecommunications and Analysis Division is led by Denise Coca as Chief, Francis Gutierrez as Deputy Chief, and David Krech as Assistant Chief. The Global Strategies and Negotiation Division is led by David Hu as Acting Chief, Roxanne McElvane-Webber as Deputy Chief, and Brandon Moss and Larry Olsen as Assistant Chiefs; Dante Ibarra as Chief of the International Radiocommunication Branch; James McLuckie as Chief of the Cross Border Negotiation and Treaty Compliance Branch; and Alicia Tambe as Chief of the Multilateral and Regional Affairs Branch.
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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