Thursday, November 3, 2022
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Jim Harper: Twitter Should Moderate Communities, Not Content | American Enterprise Institute
The Federal Communications Commission is committing nearly $183 million in new funding rounds through the Emergency Connectivity Program (ECP), which provides digital services for students in communities across the country. The funding commitments support applications from all three application windows, benefiting approximately 470,000 students across the country, including students in Alabama, Florida, Maryland, New York, Texas, and Washington. The funding can be used to support off-campus learning, such as nightly homework, to ensure students across the country have the necessary support to keep up with their education. To date, the program has provided support to over 10,000 schools, 900 libraries, and 100 consortia, providing approximately 12 million connected devices and 8 million broadband connections. Of the funding commitments approved to date, approximately $4.1 billion in supporting applications from Window 1; $833 million from Window 2; and $1.3 billion from Window 3.
After a highly competitive process, Pioneer Connect of Philomath (OR) has been awarded $24,952,007 from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the 3rd round of funding for the ReConnect program. This ReConnect 3 grant will bring Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) to 1,528 locations in Benton, Lincoln, and Polk counties. The cooperative will install 296 miles of fiber to provide increased speeds and enhanced reliability, eliminating many challenges faced by members of these communities. This grant will be combined with an $8,317,336 loan bringing the total project to $33,269,343. Pioneer will have five years to complete this project once the final documentation is completed and funds are made available. Pioneer Connect’s long-term strategic plan is to replace its copper network with FTTH across its 1,300 square-mile serving area. Being awarded grants like Reconnect 3 helps expedite the delivery of fiber to rural communities. Pioneer’s current FTTH in Philomath will bring symmetrical speeds up to 1 GIG to more than 3,000 homes and businesses. Pioneer Connect is finalizing plans to go out to bid with their next FTTH project in Waldport, Oregon, which includes more than 1,300 locations. This marks the third grant the cooperative has received for its FTTH projects.
Ensuring that more than $40 billion in new funding connects every American to high-speed internet service is a job that's falling to the states — and they need help. Of all the job openings posted for states' burgeoning broadband offices, the "director" position is the most common vacancy, according to data from The Pew Charitable Trusts. Directors are often responsible for crafting state broadband plans and overseeing hundreds of millions in funding from multiple state and federal programs. The Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program (BEAD) will provide $42.45 billion to expand high-speed internet access by funding planning, infrastructure deployment, and adoption programs in all 50 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, and U.S. territories. The release of these funds will be tied to eligible entities' five-year action plans and initial and final proposals. In order to better facilitate this process, all 50 states have some sort of broadband office, and many are trying to expand. States have been able to use federal funding from COVID relief packages to start their broadband offices or add people to them. Applications for initial planning funds were due in August. Recipients of planning funds will have 270 days to create a five-year action plan, which should lay out their "goals and approaches to broadband access, affordability, equity, and adoption," according to BEAD's FAQ.
Of the numerous challenges that confront broadband expansion in rural areas, long driveways stand as an additional challenge. However, Charles County in Maryland is leading the charge to tackle the issue head-on. The county’s work started several years ago when it established a Rural Broadband Taskforce aimed at closing the connectivity gap there. In 2019, the task force hired a consultant to help it develop a Broadband Strategic Plan, which was subsequently approved in early 2020. That plan identified the unserved residents in the county and grouped them into one of three categories: those in contiguous unserved areas (Category 1), those in unserved pockets (Category 2), and locations set so far back from the road that service providers are unwilling to reach them unless the homeowners share the cost (Category 3). Evelyn Jacobson, the county’s Chief Information Officer, said homes with long driveways account for about 30% of the approximately 4,800 unserved homes in Charles County. As noted in the Broadband Strategic Plan, however, these “homes are not considered ‘unserved’ under federal and state definitions,” a status which can be immensely frustrating for residents. Jacobson said the county has spent the past couple of years leveraging American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to address locations in Categories 1 and 2. Now, using the aforementioned ARPA funding, Charles County is offering grants of up to $15,000 to help Category 3 residents get service.
The Federal Communication Commission's Office of Engineering and Technology conditionally approved 13 proposed automated frequency coordination (AFC) database systems to finalize development for operations in the 6 GHz band and prepare for the testing phase. This automated frequency coordination (AFC) system manages spectrum access for 6 GHz band standard-power unlicensed devices. The FCC’s recent rule changes expanded unlicensed use in the 5.925-6.425 GHz and 6.525- 6.875 GHz portions of the 6 GHz band to allow standard-power devices under the control of an AFC. New applications often require greater throughput which this additional spectrum coupled with higher power will deliver. Wi-Fi 6E builds upon previous Wi-Fi updates and makes use of wider channels to provide gigabit-plus speeds, more simultaneous connections, and better security.
If you’re frustrated with the speed of your home Internet, what can you do to improve it? Before making the leap to a new provider or absorbing the often difficult-to-swallow costs of a high-speed service plan, you might want to consider another culprit of slow Internet: your WiFi connection. WiFi connection performance is determined by factors independent of your access connection, while the access connection performance is (primarily) determined by the specific service contract you purchase from a service provider (ISP). WiFi bottlenecks occur when the speed of your WiFi connection (the WiFi speed) is worse than the speed of the access connection (the access speed). We explore how often WiFi bottlenecks occur and the relative difference between WiFi speeds and access speeds using data collected from households in Chicago.
- WiFi bottlenecks occur across most households in our data. Households that subscribe to Internet plans with high access speeds (200 Mbps or greater) experience significantly more WiFi bottlenecks than households that subscribe to plans with low access speeds (less than 200 Mbps). In some cases, due to the presence of bottlenecks, the actual speeds at which households use the Internet are much lower than the Internet speed that they are buying from an ISP.
- Consumers looking to improve their home Internet performance should check to see if their WiFi setup supports the speed tier that they buy from an ISP. If your WiFi speed is consistently lower than your access speed, consider upgrading your WiFi router, moving it to a new location in your house, purchasing WiFi extenders, and other solutions to improve your WiFi performance. When purchasing new Internet service or upgrading your current service, consider whether your WiFi setup can support the offered access speeds.
- Infrastructure investments improve the access speeds for a community, but whether these investments will improve the community’s lived online experience depends on complementary policies to improve WiFi networks. For example, a policy that aims to build a high-speed fiber network in a city should also include investments to supply residents with WiFi equipment that supports the access speeds that a fiber network enables.
President Joe Biden recognized the commitments made by more than 350 organizations in 50 states and territories as part of the Infrastructure Talent Pipeline Challenge. The Challenge, launched by the Biden-Harris Administration in June, is a nationwide call to action for employers, unions, education and training providers, states, local governments, Tribes, territories, philanthropic organizations, and other stakeholders to make tangible commitments that support equitable workforce development focused on three critical sectors: broadband, construction, and electrification.
Frontier Communications closed in on some key milestones for its business in Q3:
- Built fiber to a record 351,000 locations to reach a total of 4.8 million fiber locations, nearly halfway to our target of 10 million fiber locations,
- Added a record 66,000 fiber broadband customers, resulting in fiber broadband customer growth of 15.8% compared with the third quarter of 2021,
- Consumer revenue of $785 million declined 1.9% from the third quarter of 2021, as strong growth in fiber broadband was offset by declines in legacy video, voice, and others,
- Consumer fiber revenue of $424 million increased by 3.6% over the third quarter of 2021, as growth in consumer broadband revenue offset declines in voice, video, and others,
- Consumer fiber broadband revenue of $278 million increased by 14.4% over the third quarter of 2021, driven by growth in fiber broadband customers,
- Consumer fiber broadband customer net additions of 64,000, a two-fold increase from the third quarter of 2021, resulted in consumer fiber broadband customer growth of 16.3% from the third quarter of 2021.
Frontier is broadening the scope of its fiber build to 12 states by the end of 2022 and 15 or 16 states by 2023, allowing it to avoid hotspots where sourcing labor might be more challenging and expensive. As a result, it remains confident in its $900 to $1,000 cost per passing projection with modest inflation having already been factored into its guidance.
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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