Daily Digest 11/23/2022 (Happy Thanksgiving)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Broadband Funding

Biden-Harris Administration Commits $5.6 Million in Internet for All Grants to Two Minority-Serving Colleges and Universities in California  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  National Telecommunications and Information Administration
Republican Senators Urge NTIA to Redefine Reliable Broadband, Fixed Wireless Access Opportunities at Stake  |  Read below  |  Joan Engebretson  |  telecompetitor
We must act urgently to make internet for all a reality  |  Read below  |  Shirley Bloomfield, Gary Bolton  |  Op-Ed  |  Hill, The

Education

The science on remote schooling is clear. Here’s whom it hurt most.  |  Read below  |  Laura Meckler  |  Washington Post

Pricing

Matching Big ISP Tactics  |  Read below  |  Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting

Infrastructure

Flume says cities overflowing with fiber but accessibility lags  |  Read below  |  Masha Abarinova  |  Fierce

Platforms/Social Media

Elon Musk’s Twitter Takeover Triggers Partisan Clash on Government’s Role  |  Read below  |  John McKinnon  |  Wall Street Journal
Musk’s ‘free speech’ agenda dismantles safety work at Twitter, insiders say  |  Washington Post
Here’s Proof Hate Speech Is More Viral on Elon Musk’s Twitter  |  Wired
Civil rights groups say Musk broke promises, urge ad boycott over Trump Twitter ruling  |  Hill, The
As Elon Musk Cuts Costs at Twitter, Some Bills Are Going Unpaid  |  New York Times
How Twitter's platform helped its users, personally and professionally  |  National Public Radio
Darrell West | The future of Twitter: Four scenarios  |  Brookings
Reps Rodgers, Comer Press TikTok on Data Sharing Practices with Communist China  |  House Commerce Committee
Facebook’s Most Popular Posts Were Trash. Here Is How It Cleaned Up.  |  Wall Street Journal
Protecting Teens and Their Privacy on Facebook and Instagram  |  Meta
Groups Urge DOJ to Side with Google in Gonzalez Case  |  Chamber of Progress

Wireless/Spectrum

Wireless operators face anxious wait for 5G to pay off  |  Financial Times
UScellular urges FCC to reject calls for C-band rule modifications  |  Fierce

Privacy

NTIA calls for tough new privacy rules  |  National Telecommunications and Information Administration
Protecting Teens and Their Privacy on Facebook and Instagram  |  Meta

Devices

Bipartisan Group of Senators Tell Appropriators: America’s Competitive Future Depends on Fully Funding CHIPS & Science Act  |  Senate Commerce Committee

Policymakers

With the GOP in control of the House, here's who's likely to lead key committees  |  National Public Radio
Around the halls: What do the midterm elections mean for tech policy?  |  Brookings
2022 Midterm Election Report  |  Glen Echo Group

Stories From Abroad

iPhone Factory Workers Clash With Police at Covid-Hit Plant in China  |  Wall Street Journal
French regulator Arcom warns Twitter of legal duty to moderate misinformation, hate  |  Washington Post
Investigation into cloud gaming and browsers to support UK tech and consumers  |  Competition and Markets Authority
Ads Often Run on Websites That Come With High Carbon Emissions but Low Returns, Study Finds  |  Wall Street Journal
Today's Top Stories

Broadband Funding

Biden-Harris Administration Commits $5.6 Million in Internet for All Grants to Two Minority-Serving Colleges and Universities in California

The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has awarded two grants as part of the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program (CMC) to Merced Community College and California State University, Sacramento. These grants, totaling about $5.6 million, will spur economic development, increase digital skills, and create Digital Navigator programs at the two institutions. Awardees of the program include Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) across the United States.

Republican Senators Urge NTIA to Redefine Reliable Broadband, Fixed Wireless Access Opportunities at Stake

Joan Engebretson  |  telecompetitor

Seven US senators sent a letter to Alan Davidson, head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, urging NTIA to revise its definition of reliable broadband for the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program. In establishing rules for the program, NTIA omitted fixed wireless service that relies totally on unlicensed spectrum for last mile connectivity from its definition of reliable service – a decision that impacts the BEAD program in two ways. It makes fixed wireless access (FWA) deployments using unlicensed spectrum ineligible for funding. And it makes areas that have high-speed broadband eligible for overbuilds if the only high-speed broadband available is FWA that relies on unlicensed spectrum. Regarding the possibility of allowing funding for FWA using unlicensed spectrum, the senators argued that “It is important that NTIA allow all broadband providers and technology to compete in order to ensure that we finally close the digital divide.” Regarding the eligibility of areas already served by unlicensed high-speed fixed wireless, the senators said “NTIA runs the risk of wasting billions of taxpayer dollars by duplicating services in areas that already have access to speeds well above 23/5 Mbps, 100/20 Mbps or even higher, instead of prioritizing rural communities that are truly unserved.” The senators signing the letter are Sens Steve Daines (R-MT), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), John Barrasso (R-WY), Cynthis Lummis (R-WY), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and John Cornyn (R-TX).

We must act urgently to make internet for all a reality

Shirley Bloomfield, Gary Bolton  |  Op-Ed  |  Hill, The

With virtually unlimited bandwidth, fiber optic connectivity is the fastest, most reliable, and most innovative solution for bridging the digital divide. Other options, like fixed wireless access, may be faster to deploy but require more upkeep, have limited capabilities, and require substantial new investment in a relatively short period. Fiber also requires less maintenance, is less expensive to operate, and is a more sustainable option. Many rural areas long-served by community-based providers have been fortunate to keep pace with the advances in broadband seen in more urban areas. And even as the digital divide may remain stark in many other rural communities, progress is now being made in these places as well. Service providers and suppliers are coming together to connect the unconnected by investing in innovation and ramping up production, but the private sector cannot do it alone. We need more trained technicians so we can keep up with the growing demand, and we need lawmakers — from city hall to Capitol Hill — to match the speed and scale required to solve this critical issue. We request state broadband offices quickly publish their five-year action plans and digital equity plans so the industry can ensure the resources being deployed match the unique needs of the regions they serve.  

[Shirley Bloomfield is CEO of The Rural Broadband Association and Gary Bolton is president and CEO of the Fiber Broadband Association.]

Education

The science on remote schooling is clear. Here’s whom it hurt most.

Laura Meckler  |  Washington Post

Academic progress for American children has plunged during the coronavirus pandemic. Now a growing body of research shows who was hurt the most, both confirming worst fears and adding some new ones. Students who learned from home fared worse than those in classrooms, offering substantial evidence for one side of a hot political debate. High-poverty schools did worse than those filled with middle class and affluent kids, as many worried. And in a more surprising finding, older students, who have the least amount of time to make up losses, are recovering much more slowly from setbacks than younger children. A pile of evidence charts setbacks that were more severe the longer students stayed in virtual school. These studies examined the impact of in-person vs. remote education during the 2020-21 school year, when policies varied widely. There were modest academic declines for students who quickly returned to in-person classes in fall 2020. But achievement losses were far higher for those who learned from home, and they were most pronounced for students in high-poverty, mostly remote schools, widening long-standing racial and economic achievement gaps. Students who were in person full-time during 2020-21 lost an average of 7.7 weeks of learning in math. But those who were in virtual class for more than half the year lost more than double that — an average of 19.8 weeks. Reading achievement in school districts that went fully remote fell, on average, two or three times as much as it did for those studying in person during the 2020-21 school year.

Pricing

Matching Big ISP Tactics

Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting

There are three billing practices that are routine for large internet service providers (ISP) that smart competitors avoid. First is offering special low prices to attract new customers. The second is bundling, which means giving a discount to customers buying multiple products. Third is what has become known as hidden fees, where there are routine monthly fees that are not included in the online advertised price offers to customers. A lot of smaller ISPs wonder if they should match these same tactics. The argument for copying the tactic is that it allows advertising rates that can be compared to what the big companies advertise. The main argument against matching these tactics is that the practices are deceptive, and customers have made it clear that they don’t like these tactics. I’ve seen ISPs that start with the simple, fair rate philosophy and get sucked into offering discounts to try to win new customers. Their marketing folks become convinced that matching the big company techniques is the only way to get new customers. I’ll grant that mimicking the big guys is probably the easiest sales technique, but acting like the big ISPs is a poor long-term tactic for the following reasons:

  • Promotional rates tell customers that rates are negotiable, and once an ISP goes down that path, customers will ask for breaks forever. Many consumers are used to negotiating with the big ISPs and will do so with the small ISP as well.
  • These tactics tell customers that your rates are too high and that the real rate is the discounted rate. Customers who are too timid to negotiate for lower rates feel cheated.
  • Unplanned discounts can be devasting to cash flows and meeting financial objectives. If your business plan and budgets are based upon a specific set of rates, then giving discounts lowers the average revenue per customer. Do the math and consider what happens if the average revenue for all of your customers drops by $5 or $10.
  • Matching the big ISP tactics also attracts customers who will drop an ISP for a small discount elsewhere. Every few years, they will compare you against the competition and will take the best offer. ISPs with fair rates tell me that they rarely lose a customer to special rates – and that might be because they don’t attract customers who get a thrill out of bartering.
  • Finally, special discounts complicate your dealing with customers. The ISP now has to track when special promotions are finished and notify customers that rates will increase. This likely means having to talk with most of your customers, and calls to the call center will skyrocket. It’s important to remember that most customers view the perfect ISP as one they never need to talk with.

Infrastructure

Flume says cities overflowing with fiber but accessibility lags

Masha Abarinova  |  Fierce

Flume, a New York City-based fiber provider, has made strides over the past couple of years offering gigabit service to lower-income households. But there are still hurdles in place hindering broadband accessibility, according to Flume co-founders Brandon Gibson and Prashanth Vijay. Gibson and Vijay acknowledged the Federal Communications Commission's new broadband map is not only a step in the right direction for closing the digital divide, but it can also help tackle the issue of broadband accessibility. “Just because it’s available doesn’t mean it’s accessible,” Gibson said, noting that while large cities like New York have plenty of internet options, “a lot of New Yorkers, one in four, don’t have access.” Infrastructure is a key reason for the lack of access, added Vijay. “In the US, each [broadband provider] has their own infrastructure,” he said. “I live in Brooklyn and every building might have seven or eight provider cables out in front of it, and only one is willing to build into your building.” This, in turn, creates a “dual problem” of cities having overfilled poles and conduits while residents aren’t getting the broadband they need. Vijay hopes the new FCC map will identify those discrepancies, rather than just provide a broad generalization of which providers are servicing an area. The additional data will also help Flume decide where to expand its coverage or, depending on the market if it makes sense to partner with another provider. 

Platforms/Social Media

Elon Musk’s Twitter Takeover Triggers Partisan Clash on Government’s Role

John McKinnon  |  Wall Street Journal

Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter is fueling a partisan clash in Washington, as Democrats raise concerns about the platform’s security and Republicans counter that the criticism is a thinly veiled attempt to stamp out conservative voices on the site. Democrats, including President Joe Biden, have pointed to Musk’s ownership of Twitter, most recently citing staff cutbacks that some Democrats say could potentially compromise the platform’s ability to secure the personal data of its users. Republicans—including Rep Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the likely incoming House speaker—said Democrats are going after Musk because of his willingness to give conservatives a voice on the platform. Musk recently reinstated the Twitter account of former President Donald Trump as well as Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA).

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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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Kevin Taglang

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