Daily Digest 11/21/2022 (Stars and Stripes)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

News From the FCC

FCC Releases New National Broadband Maps  |  Read below  |  Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission
Benton Foundation
Reaction to FCC's New National Broadband Maps  |  Summary at Benton.org  |  Grace Tepper  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
What Is the FCC’s New Broadband Map and Why Does it Matter?  |  Read below  |  Jake Varn, Lily Gong  |  Analysis  |  Pew Charitable Trusts
FCC Announces Application Window for ACP Pilot Programs  |  Read below  |  Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission
Benton Foundation
Reaction to FCC's Broadband Consumer Labels  |  Summary at Benton.org  |  Grace Tepper  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Universal Service Fund

Fifth Circuit to Hear Long-Overdue Constitutional Challenge to Universal Service Fund  |  Read below  |  Daniel Lyons  |  Analysis  |  American Enterprise Institute

Digital Equity

Community-Based Solutions for Digital Advancement: 2022 Digital Integrators Pilot Program  |  Read below  |  Analysis  |  Centri Tech Foundation

Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Anniversary: Reflecting on a Major Year of Progress  |  Summary at Benton.org  |  Shirley Bloomfield  |  Editorial  |  NTCA - The Rural Broadband Association

Competition

Cable company’s accidental email to rival discusses plan to block competition  |  Read below  |  Jon Brodkin  |  Ars Technica
Can Big Tech Get Bigger? Microsoft Presses Governments to Say Yes.  |  New York Times

State/Local Initiatives

Oregon Seeks Planning Consultant for federal Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program and Digital Equity  |  Read below  |  Public Notice  |  Oregon Business Development Department
David Isenberg: Falmouth's Fiber Optic Network One Step Closer To Reality  |  The Enterprise

Wireless/Spectrum

Comcast, Charter steer push for CBRS framework in lower 3 GHz  |  Read below  |  Monica Alleven  |  Fierce
Wireless internet service providers eye 6 GHz band for fixed wireless access  |  Read below  |  Monica Alleven  |  Fierce
5G Mid-Band Spectrum: The Benefits of Full Power, Wide Channels, and Exclusive Licensing  |  Read below  |  Research  |  Rysavy Research
T-Mobile's Neville Ray Says Booming Fixed Wireless Biz Is Built on Extra Network Capacity  |  Read below  |  Daniel Frankel  |  Next TV
Enterprise to the Edge: Agency Guide to 5G  |  Read below  |  Analysis  |  General Dynamics

Security

Without funds to replace Huawei gear, some rural areas could go dark  |  Fierce

Climate

Internet Outages Could Spread as Temperatures Rise. Here's What Big Tech Is Doing  |  Read below  |  David Lumb  |  C|Net

Elections & Media

Why misinformation didn't wreck the midterms  |  Read below  |  Ashley Gold, Sara Fischer  |  Axios

Privacy

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein Leads Bipartisan Coalition Calling for Stronger Online Data Protections  |  Read below  |  Letter  |  North Carolina Department of Justice

Platforms/Social Media

11 (and counting) things journalism loses if Elon Musk destroys Twitter  |  Nieman Lab
Elon Musk Reinstates Donald Trump’s Twitter Account After Online Poll  |  Wall Street Journal
Elon Musk’s ultimatum leaves Twitter in chaos and employees in the dark  |  Los Angeles Times
Former Twitter employees fear the platform might only last weeks  |  MIT Technology Review
Mark Weinstein op-ed | Elon Musk Can Save Twitter—and Democracy  |  Wall Street Journal
Elon Musk’s Downscaled Twitter Faces World Cup Test  |  Wall Street Journal
The long, lonely wait to recover a hacked Facebook account  |  Washington Post

Kids and Media

When Kids Exclude Peers From Group Chats and Texts, Is It Bullying?  |  Wall Street Journal

Journalism

Right-Leaning Mobile News Consumption Soared 86% Before Midterms, Left-Leaning Declined  |  MediaPost
11 (and counting) things journalism loses if Elon Musk destroys Twitter  |  Nieman Lab

TV

YouTube Leads All OTT Platforms, Including Netflix, in Monthly Average Viewers (Ridiculous Chart of the Day)  |  Next TV

Devices

Big Tech powers down devices as economy sputters  |  Axios

Industry News

Broadband: Bucking the Inflationary Trend  |  Read below  |  Jonathan Spalter  |  Press Release  |  USTelecom
Archtop Fiber to Acquire New York-Based GTel  |  archtopfiber
Every Company Needs a Political Strategy Today: Five principles will help business leaders take decisive action when fast-changi  |  MIT Sloan Management Review
Today's Top Stories

Sample Category

FCC Releases New National Broadband Maps

Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission released a pre-production draft of its new National Broadband Map. The map will display specific location-level information about broadband services available throughout the country – a significant step forward from the census block level data previously collected. This release of the draft map kicks off the public challenge processes that will play a critical role in improving the accuracy of the map. An accurate map is an important resource for targeting funding and other efforts to bring broadband to unserved and underserved communities. The public will be able to view the maps at broadbandmap.fcc.gov and search for their address to see information about the fixed and mobile services that internet providers report are available there. If the fixed internet services shown are not available at the user’s location, they may file a challenge with the FCC directly through the map interface to correct the information. Map users will also be able correct information about their location and add their location to the map if it is missing. The draft map will also allow users to view the mobile wireless coverage reported by cellular service providers.

The FCC also announced the launch of an updated version of the FCC Speed Test App that will enable users to quickly compare the performance and coverage of their mobile networks to that reported by their provider. The app allows users to submit their mobile speed test data in support of a challenge to a wireless service provider’s claimed coverage. New users can download the FCC Speed Test App in both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Existing app users should update the app to gain these new features.

What Is the FCC’s New Broadband Map and Why Does it Matter?

Jake Varn, Lily Gong  |  Analysis  |  Pew Charitable Trusts

The Federal Communications Commission released an updated map detailing broadband availability nationwide that will be used to allocate $42 billion in federal funds to states and territories to help expand access to affordable high-speed internet. The agency will update the map every six months with data supplied by internet service providers (ISPs) and allow states, local communities, and the public to submit challenges to its accuracy. As required by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will use the map to allocate Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) funds. The agency’s previous attempts to track broadband availability showed only census block-level data and, as a result, broadly overstated who had service. To improve the accuracy of these data sets, the FCC also created a process for states, local communities, and the public to challenge the location fabric and service availability data. For example, New York announced in October 2022, that it had submitted a bulk challenge for more than 31,000 locations that were missing from the first iteration, compared with the state’s own map of unserved locations. Importantly, the FCC’s newly published map does not yet include these challenged locations. Three concerns that the current FCC map faces are as follows

  • First, as New York’s challenge suggests, the initial location layer used by providers was missing a significant number of locations, and providers could not report service at a location if it did not appear on the map. 
  • Second, although public challenges to the map will be accepted on a rolling basis, there is a short window when a challenge can affect NTIA’s funding allocation formula. Further, the process for submitting challenges can be complicated and time-consuming, making it difficult for stakeholders to submit valid challenges in time. 
  • Lastly, because of its design, the new map displays only where broadband service is “available,” without capturing the affordability or quality of the service offered. This binary definition of internet access is insufficient for what NTIA and states will need to ensure that every American has access to reliable, affordable high-speed internet.

Once location fabric challenges are resolved, the updated data will be distributed to providers before the next round of reporting, which will start on Dec. 31. The window to challenge the service availability data is now open and submissions will be processed on a rolling basis.

FCC Announces Application Window for ACP Pilot Programs

Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission's Wireline Competition Bureau announced that the "Your Home, Your Internet," and Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) Navigator Pilot Programs (collectively, Pilot Programs) application filing window will open November 21, 2022, at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST) and will close on January 9, 2023, at 9:00 p.m. EST. The FCC created the two pilot programs to increase awareness of and facilitate enrollment in the ACP and to provide consumers assistance with ACP applications. The Your Home, Your Internet Pilot Program seeks to increase ACP awareness specifically among recipients of federal housing assistance, and to facilitate enrollment in the program by providing targeted assistance with the completion of the ACP application. The ACP Navigator Pilot Program will provide trusted, neutral third-party entities such as schools, school districts, or other local, state, or Tribal governmental entities with access to the National Verifier for purposes of assisting customers with applying for the ACP. The FCC seeks Pilot Programs applications from a broad range of eligible entities and diverse geographic regions. 

Fifth Circuit to Hear Long-Overdue Constitutional Challenge to Universal Service Fund

Daniel Lyons  |  Analysis  |  American Enterprise Institute

Each quarter, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) determines the Universal Service Fund (USF) surcharge that is placed on customers’ telecommunications bills. The surcharge is calculated by estimating the cost of the agency’s various universal service programs, divided by the industry’s anticipated telecommunications revenue. As those programs have grown, and that revenue has shrunk, the surcharge has risen from 3 percent in 1998 to a whopping 33 percent in 2021. The USF surcharge is a tax in all but name, to fund an $8 billion program that operates outside the federal budget and is administered by a private subsidiary of an industry trade group with little direct oversight from Congress. On December 5, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit will hear arguments about whether this arrangement is constitutional. In Consumers’ Research v. FCC, petitioners argue that Section 254 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which establishes the modern universal service program, is an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority to the FCC. They also argue that the agency’s decision to outsource management of the program to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) is an unconstitutional delegation of power to a private entity. If successful, the suit will rein in an increasingly unstable program and prompt Congress to put its universal service initiatives on firmer legal ground with more accountability.

[Daniel Lyons is a nonresident senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, where he focuses on telecommunications and internet regulation. He is also the associate dean of academic affairs and a professor of law at Boston College Law School, where he teaches telecommunications, administrative, and cyber law, among other courses.]

Community-Based Solutions for Digital Advancement: 2022 Digital Integrators Pilot Program

Analysis  |  Centri Tech Foundation

To promote digital advancement (that is, a new mindset to leverage investments in digital access and adoption to promote economic justice in the digital economy), the Digital Integrators Pilot Program recommends the following actions for stakeholders:

  • Community-Based Organizations: Apply the Community Development Framework for Digital Advancement to local digital equity and inclusion efforts. Community groups can use the tool to guide program design, implementation, and evaluation; partnership development and pursuit of common goals; and resident engagement that centers the “entire person.”
  • Intermediary Organizations: Provide strategic support for community organizations to design and adapt programs toward digital advancement. Intermediaries, such as regional planning councils and national organizations, can leverage resources, knowledge, and networks to strengthen local capacity, facilitate collaboration and peer exchange, and foster innovation.
  • Philanthropy: Support the development of digital equity ecosystems to enable effective collaboration and community engagement. Funders can invest in local solutions for digital access and programs for devices, tools, and skills. They can also fund digital equity planning and help communities meet federal matching requirements. Funders can seed program innovation, support local coordination, and invest in digital equity leaders.
  • Government: Leaders who are engaged in digital equity planning for federal investment opportunities, such as the Digital Equity Act, can begin by embracing digital advancement as a mindset for social impact. Local, state, and federal policymakers can collaborate with communities to identify barriers to equitable broadband access and adoption and co-design long-term strategies for promoting digital advancement.

Cable company’s accidental email to rival discusses plan to block competition

Jon Brodkin  |  Ars Technica

On October 17, 2022,  Jonathan Chambers received an email that wasn't meant for him. Chambers is one of the top executives at Conexon, a broadband company that has built and operates dozens of fiber networks in rural parts of America. Conexon recently won one of the Louisiana state government's GUMBO grants to deploy fiber-to-the-home service in East Carroll Parish, where the poverty rate of 37.6% is over three times the national average. But the East Carroll Parish grant—$4 million to serve over 2,500 households in an area that has been called one of the least connected in the state—is in limbo because of an eleventh-hour challenge from Cable One, a cable provider that offers services under its SparkLight brand name. Cable One plans to make similar challenges in other states; in fact, blocking government grants to other broadband providers is one of Cable One's top priorities, according to the accidental email received by Chambers. "Challenging publicly funded overbuilds is becoming one of the most important tasks we do as a company," Cable One Assistant General Counsel Patrick Caron wrote in the email. "Overbuild" is a term cable and telecom companies use to describe what is more commonly known as "competition." But in the case of East Carroll Parish, the grant was awarded because of evidence that homes in the area are unserved or underserved. US broadband maps are often inaccurate, but the existing data shows East Carroll Parish needs more and better broadband, Chambers said. Cable One challenged the East Carroll Parish grant after it was awarded, claiming that Cable One already serves the area where Conexon would build. Cable One lost that initial protest and was chided by the state broadband office for not providing evidence to back up its claims. But the company is appealing, so it isn't clear when or if Conexon can start installing fiber.

Oregon Seeks Planning Consultant for federal Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program and Digital Equity

Business Oregon is seeking a consultant (or team) to complete several projects necessary for Oregon's participation in new federal programs to develop highspeed broadband internet access and digital literacy and adoption. The selected party will conduct robust community engagement and data collection, as well as prepare a number of plans which are listed below:

  1. 5-Year Action Plan in alignment with the federal Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program.
  2. Statewide Digital Equity Plan to serve as a benchmark and a roadmap for achieving statewide digital equity to meet the requirements established by NTIA’s Notice of Funding Opportunity.
  3. Initial Proposal to NTIA for Oregon’s implementation of BEAD.
  4. Final Proposal for BEAD.

This contract is anticipated to last approximately four years. The projects listed above must be completed for Oregon to maximize its share of the largest ever federal investment in broadband deployment and digital equity initiatives. Applications are due by December 19, 2022.

Comcast, Charter steer push for CBRS framework in lower 3 GHz

Monica Alleven  |  Fierce

When it comes to mid-band spectrum in the US, it looks as though it’s no longer a matter of spectrum stakeholders rolling up their sleeves for a national spectrum plan. It’s more like players are taking the gloves off and lining up their punches. Just as CTIA released another study supporting licensed spectrum, another group of companies sent a letter to federal spectrum agencies calling for a Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS)-type framework to be applied to the lower 3 GHz band. The letter, addressed to Federal Communication Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) Administrator Alan Davidson, spells out how successful the CBRS 3.5 GHz band has been in the US and how it’s driving innovative uses of spectrum. For example, farms are using CBRS to increase yields, and schools and libraries are using it to close the digital divide. The signatories are Airspan Networks, Amazon.com Services, American Library Association, CalChip Connect, Celona, Charter Communications, Comcast, Cox Communications, Deere & Company, Dynamic Spectrum Alliance, Federated Wireless, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Mavenir, JBG Smith Properties, Midcontinent Communications, NCTA – The Internet & Television Association, Open Technology Institute (OTI) at New America, Pollen Mobile, Public Knowledge, Purdue Research Foundation, The Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition, Shure, US Ignite, Weavix and the Wireless Service Providers Association (WISPA).

Wireless internet service providers eye 6 GHz band for fixed wireless access

Monica Alleven  |  Fierce

Richard Bernhardt, of the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA), said he’s pleased with the Federal Communication Commission’s Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) recent, conditional approval of 13 proposed automated frequency coordination (AFC) database systems to develop operations for the 6 GHz band. Once approved, the automated frequency coordination (AFC) systems will allow for much higher power and outdoor use of the 6 GHz band, meaning wireless internet service providers (WISPs) can use it as part of their fixed wireless access (FWA) offerings. It’s a big move because currently, they’re relegated to the crowded 2.4 and/or 5 GHz bands. WISPs also happen to be incumbents in the band that the AFC systems are designed to protect. Incumbents include users of fixed point-to-point links; hundreds of WISPs operate using point-to-point licenses. Fixed point-to-point microwave links also are used by utilities, railroads, and operators like AT&T that rely on them primarily for backhaul. By way of comparison, the entire Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band, including Priority Access Licenses (PALs) and General Authorized Access (GAA), is 150 megahertz. The 6 GHz band is 1200 megahertz, of which 850 megahertz can be used in standard power or standard power outdoor. The full 1200 can be used for low-power indoor and 850 of it can be used in standard power, which is very similar to the 5 GHz Wi-Fi bands, he said. 

5G Mid-Band Spectrum: The Benefits of Full Power, Wide Channels, and Exclusive Licensing

Research  |  Rysavy Research

Mid-band spectrum is the key to unlocking the benefits of 5G for American consumers, enterprises, and innovators. This spectrum constitutes a sweet spot, delivering a balance of coverage and deep capacity essential to 5G services. Certain technical aspects of this spectrum are essential for mobile operators to leverage these bands to unleash the full power of 5G and to ensure dependable, high-performance service. These include exclusive licensing, wide spectrum bands of hundreds of megahertz, and full-power radio base stations. These attributes are essential for the mid-band spectrum to be deployed on a widespread basis, covering most Americans, with reasonable capital efficiency. As policymakers consider additional mid-bands for 5G and successive generations, it is essential that these key technical attributes, which were used in C-band and 3.45 GHz, are maintained in order for the United States to continue to lead and innovate with 5G. Mobile data consumption has increased by more than one hundred times since 2010,1 and the Ericsson Mobility Report predicts that smartphone usage alone will increase to 52 GB/month in 2027 compared to 15 GB in 2021.2 Technology enhancements, site densification, and new spectrum brought to market have allowed the US to keep pace with traffic growth up to this point. Overall, only exclusive-use licensed spectrum, with its dependable, predictable, and interference-free characteristics, can provide the desired high quality of service. Countries with which the United States competes have come to the same conclusion and continue to base their spectrum allocations on this approach. But the US needs hundreds of megahertz of additional, exclusive-use mid-band spectrum at high power to remain competitive globally and to deliver on the 5G promise.

[This is a Rysavy Research report sponsored by CTIA]

T-Mobile's Neville Ray Says Booming Fixed Wireless Biz Is Built on Extra Network Capacity

Daniel Frankel  |  Next TV

T-Mobile has the fastest-growing home internet solution in America right now, with its 5G fixed wireless service taking on 578,000 customers in the third quarter alone and quickly amassing a base of over 2.1 million users in just over a year. According to T-Mobile CEO Neville Ray, the entire enterprise is based on "fallow capacity"—network wherewithal that's not already being tapped by the wireless company's mobile users. “The incremental cost of serving those customers is de minimis," said Ray. "And why would you sit on your hands on all of that capacity that you have no utilization for or line of sight to use? So, we've created a huge business in the space, which is just—it's gone way better than we'd anticipated.” T-Mobile is looking to have as many as 8 million fixed wireless access (FWA) customers by 2025. Ray said that T-Mobile makes "protecting our mobile" a priority vs. having to compete for network resources with FWA. But at that larger scale, that could become challenging. With that in mind, Ray seemed to confirm recent speculation in wireless technology pubs that T-Mobile is looking to possibly exploit its prior investment into millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum to create an "overlay" network in order to serve two masters at once. At that point, T-Mobile would find itself making an actual capacity investment into its FWA business. But if it were to keep right on growing the way it has been, the opportunity might be worthwhile. 

Enterprise to the Edge: Agency Guide to 5G

Analysis  |  General Dynamics

Federal agencies are on the road to 5G adoption, realizing the benefits and addressing the challenges. 5G networks will enable the connection of billions of new devices, sensors, and systems that will intelligently connect to the network and each other based on their time sensitivity and computational needs. How are federal agencies progressing with 5G adoption? General Dynamics Information Technology's (GDIT) Digital Consulting Practice partnered with Market Connections, an independent research firm, to learn where federal agencies are in their 5G adoption, the benefits and challenges they are facing, and the impact this has on the mission. The results of this survey yielded many key takeaways:

  • Nearly all agencies are evaluating or piloting or have deployed 5G: 89% of respondents said they’re already studying or using commercial or private 5G capabilities within their agency.
  • 5G impact will triple over the next five years: Agencies see 5G becoming mainstream in the coming years. As this happens and use cases are pursued, they envision an increased mission impact.
  • More than half are making 5G a budget priority in 2023: While some agencies are implementing 5G now, they will increase investments over the next three years. With investment, they will begin to see the impact in action.
  • Agencies are focused on infrastructure first to support future innovations and applications: As agencies explore how 5G will best serve their environments, they are focused on connectivity and speed more than mission applications. This focus is likely to shift as they explore use cases and plan for implementation.
  • Costs and cybersecurity are challenges: 5G requires new 5G-enabled devices, edge computing infrastructure, and upgrades to existing networks. Budgeting requires looking at it from the perspective of mission outcomes rather than a technical perspective.
  • Speed and reliable connectivity are top benefits: Similar to the use cases, agencies see the biggest benefits tied to speed, network, and capacity — all of which are important promises of 5G. As use cases diversify, the list of benefits is likely to shift as well.

Internet Outages Could Spread as Temperatures Rise. Here's What Big Tech Is Doing

David Lumb  |  C|Net

Our changing climate threatens the very services we rely on to keep our businesses online and stay connected with friends and family. As our world warms up, power outages and water shortages have ravaged many parts of the planet. Data centers may be among the first to feel the resource pinch. They need lots of energy to keep their servers powered, air conditioning and often water to cool the servers, sensors to monitor equipment, fire suppression, and backup systems to absorb energy hiccups or software malfunctions -- complex yet resilient data ecosystems. That takes a lot of energy, leading data centers and data transmission networks to be responsible for around 1% of energy demand worldwide, according to the latest report from the International Energy Agency. For data centers, building redundancy in backup systems and power generators ensures that things can go wrong without the whole center shutting down. Using networks of data centers, like with AWS or Microsoft Azure, redundancy makes sure client data is synchronized so that their website or service isn't disrupted if a data center goes down. Both Amazon and Microsoft have so-called availability zones -- a system such that if one zone goes down in one area, services are supported by other connected zones, which are far enough away not to be affected by the same natural disaster.  While Amazon, Microsoft, and Google account for half of the biggest "hyperscale" data centers in the world, their sustainability priorities are still critical for the other half as they set the example. 

Why misinformation didn't wreck the midterms

Ashley Gold, Sara Fischer  |  Axios

Many election deniers on the ballot, particularly for the crucial secretary-of-state roles, lost their races. This is because platforms, governments, and the media took countermeasures that were at least partially effective, based on their lessons from 2016, 2018, and 2020.  Though misinformation remains present in large quantities, this time it had less reach, was more spread out, and was harder to find. There were few calls to violence on major platforms, but many on alternative platforms like Telegram, where poll workers were doxxed and there were calls for protest and "coded calls" for potential violence. Factors that helped curb the impact of online mis- and disinformation included:

  • De-platforming: Efforts by big tech firms to explicitly ban misinformation about voting helped push falsehoods to small platforms where those narratives couldn't spread as widely.
  • Too many new apps. A slew of new social and messaging apps have sprung up since the Jan. 6 Capitol siege, making memes and content around voting misinformation harder to spread to the masses quickly. 
  • An overall rejection of election deniers. Election deniers were rejected in the midterms, with notable wins for secretaries of state Brad Raffensperger in Georgia and Katie Hobbs in Arizona, who defeated the Trump-endorsed Kari Lake in the governor's race. Public concessions by many of the losers in these races took to wind the out of the idea that the elections were rigged.
  • Defamation fears. Fox has faced a major defamation lawsuit by voting machine company Dominion after it broadcast conspiracy theories that the 2020 election was rigged, and that inspired more caution on cable TV. Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who spread the narrative that the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was fake, was recently fined $1.44 billion in a lawsuit brought by victims' families.
  • More education: Nonprofits, departments of state, media organizations, and campaigns ran voter education initiatives in an attempt to "pre-bunk" misinformation ahead of the midterm elections.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein Leads Bipartisan Coalition Calling for Stronger Online Data Protections

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein and the Attorneys General of Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Oregon led a bipartisan group of 33 attorneys general calling on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to consider stronger surveillance and data security protections to prevent misconduct and promote transparency and accountability around online data collection. In a comment letter filed, the attorneys general urge the FTC to acknowledge the heightened sensitivity around people’s medical data, biometric data, and location data, along with the dangers that arise from data brokers and the surveillance of consumers. The coalition also asked that the FTC consider data minimization, which limits the amount of data collected by businesses to only what is required for a specific purpose, to help mitigate concerns surrounding data aggregation. In their letter, the attorneys general ask the FTC to consider stronger protections for the following types of data concerns:

  • Location data: Many people are not even aware that sensitive information about their location is being collected, and they often have limited options when they try to disable location sharing.
  • Biometric data: Many people provide facial data, fingerprints, and other biometric information to companies for security purposes or to learn about their ancestry, but they aren’t always aware when their data is being collected, how it is used, or if it is resold for other purposes.
  • Medical data: Technology devices collect a lot of health data and medical information through smartwatches, heart monitors, sleep monitors, and apps, which create concerns about how that data is being stored or passed to others through online trackers.
  • Data brokers: Data brokers profile online users by scouring social media profiles, internet browsing history, purchase history, credit card information, and government records like driver’s licenses, census data, birth certificates, marriage licenses, and voter registration information. They use that information to create and sell consumer profiles for advertising and marketing purposes. That information can identify people and put them at risk of scams, unwanted and persistent advertising, identity theft, and lack of consumer trust in the websites they visit.
  • Data minimization: Minimizing the type of data that companies can gather to only what is necessary can help keep that data secure and minimize the risk of data theft.

 

Broadband: Bucking the Inflationary Trend

Jonathan Spalter  |  Press Release  |  USTelecom

USTelecom's third Broadband Pricing Index documents continued substantial price reductions for both the most popular and highest-speed broadband service offerings. Over the past year, as overall inflation reached deeper into consumers’ wallets, broadband prices resisted. In fact, adjusting for inflation, prices for providers’ most popular broadband service dropped by 14.7% from 2021 to 2022. Similarly, prices for the fastest-speed services dropped by 11.6%. In sharp contrast, prices increased for other essential goods and services, with grocery bills rising by 8.5%, health insurance by 6.1%, and rent by 4.4%. There’s great interest these days in broadband pricing trends. In fact, Consumer Reports is advancing its own crowd-sourced analysis of broadband prices and fees. But regardless of how it slices and dices its data, the fact remains that broadband prices continue to run counter to inflation while speeds continue to get faster for American broadband consumers. This is a good thing, made even more remarkable by the fact it is occurring at the same time broadband providers continue to invest heavily in extending and enhancing the nation’s high-speed infrastructure – plowing $86 billion of their own capital into these networks last year alone. In addition to favorable pricing trends and capital investment, new Federal Communications Commission broadband labels will further fuel the pro-consumer progress by making it easier for them to compare both prices and fees as they shop for their high-speed connectivity. For low-income households, universal connectivity is further advanced by the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which helps make broadband available at low or no cost. More than 1,300 broadband providers are participating in this national effort. It will take an all-out effort across public, private, and community-led organizations to achieve our shared objective of affordable, high-speed internet for every American home and business. The nation’s broadband providers can’t stop and won’t stop until the job is done. It’s good for business – and it reflects our most deeply held values.

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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.


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