Friday, January 13, 2023
Headlines Daily Digest
Data & Mapping
Stories From Abroad
The Appalachian Regional Commission awarded $6.3 million through its new Appalachian Regional Initiative for Stronger Economies (ARISE) funding opportunity to Connect Humanity for a project that will help 50 underserved communities in every subregion of Appalachia plan for broadband access and growth. Working with local partners in 12 Appalachian states—Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia—Connect Humanity will help communities develop tailored digital equity plans designed to deliver appropriate technology, business, and financing plans necessary to ensure high-speed and affordable internet for all, device access, and digital literacy training. Appalachian communities can learn more and apply at connecthumanity.fund/arise.
North Carolina’s rural population is larger than that of any other state except Texas. More than 4 million people live in rural North Carolina. Over the last 10 years, the population of 18- to 64-year-olds living in these areas has been decreasing, and the population of adults 65 and older is steadily increasing. In addition to these demographic changes, rural North Carolina communities face challenges related to workforce development, capital access, infrastructure, health, land use, and environment and community preservation. A few years ago, when North Carolina Rural Center President Patrick Woodie visited 80 rural counties in the state to ask leaders what mattered most to their constituents, broadband came up as an issue consistently. According to the Rural Center, access to affordable, high-quality broadband opens up a lot of possibilities for rural populations, allowing residents to do homework and pursue degrees, receive telehealth, and open small businesses. But a lot of internet service providers aren't investing in networks in rural areas because it doesn't make sense for their business. In proclaiming North Carolina's Rural Broadband Week in 2021, Governor Roy Cooper (D-NC) found that 100 Mbps downstream/20 Mbps upstream broadband is a crucial tool for North Carolinians to fully participate in today's digital society. At the time, Gov. Cooper articulated the state's broadband goals: by 2025, nearly everyone in the state would have access to 100/20 broadband, North Carolina would be a national leader in broadband adoption, and the state would achieve digital equity which he defined as "residents in every corner of the state not only have access to broadband, but can also fairly adopt it and feel enabled to use it."
Governor Laura Kelly (D-KS) announced that $23.1 million will be awarded to six service providers that will bring high-speed broadband service to nearly 4,200 homes, businesses, schools, health care facilities, and other institutions in unserved and rural areas of the state. This is the second of three rounds of awards from the Kansas Capital Project Funds (CPF) Grant Program. The goal of this funding is to solve the “last mile” of broadband need in critical areas. The targeted counties have as few as five locations per square mile, which until now has prevented companies from investing the resources to deliver a quality broadband option. The CPF Grant Program provides the funding needed to implement high-speed broadband in these areas of the state. The grant program results from the US Department of Treasury’s approval of Kansas’ Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund (CPF) broadband infrastructure plan. Kansas was one of the first eight states in the country approved for funding under this program and was allocated $83.5 million. The CPF program opportunity resulted in 141 applications from providers requesting $693 million in funding support to build out broadband infrastructure across Kansas. Once matching funds from the service providers are included, the total broadband investment in Phase 2 surpasses $30 million. [more at the link below]
[Dec 15, 2022]
Thousands of rural Coloradans could be one step closer to gaining access to high-speed internet thanks to federal funding for broadband expansion throughout the country. Colorado could potentially receive upward of $800 million in federal aid for broadband installation thanks to the Broadband Equity Access and Development program, better known as BEAD. By expanding access to these online services, rural Coloradans will be more easily able to have access to the same quality internet that their urban counterparts already have. Colorado is already in the process of spending $171 million on broadband expansion.
Rep. James Comer (R-KY), House Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) introduced the Protecting Speech from Government Interference Act (H.R. 140). This bill prohibits Biden Administration officials and federal bureaucrats from using their authority or influence to promote censorship of speech or pressure social media companies to censor speech. The bill prohibits federal officials from using their official authority, influence, or resources—including contracting, grantmaking, rulemaking, licensing, permitting, investigatory, or enforcement actions—to promote the censorship of lawful speech or advocate that a third party or private entity censor speech. The bill includes the same established penalties for federal officials who engage in political activities in their official capacity as prohibited under the Hatch Act, including disciplinary actions such as removal, reduction in pay grade, debarment from federal employment, or monetary civil penalties. The bill further protects American’s lawful speech by prohibiting “further restricted employees”—senior federal officials whose duties and responsibilities extend beyond normal duty hours or their office—from engaging in censorship in a personal capacity. This includes any employee of the Executive Office of the President and Presidential agency appointees.
A case before the Supreme Court challenging the liability shield protecting websites such as YouTube and Facebook could “upend the internet,” resulting in both widespread censorship and a proliferation of offensive content, Google said in a court filing. In a new brief filed with the high court, Google said that scaling back liability protections could lead internet giants to block more potentially offensive content—including controversial political speech—while also leading smaller websites to drop their filters to avoid liability that can arise from efforts to screen content. “This Court should decline to adopt novel and untested theories that risk transforming today’s internet into a forced choice between overly curated mainstream sites or fringe sites flooded with objectionable content,” Google said. Google contents that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 protects it from any liability for content posted by users on its site. It also argues that there is no way to draw a meaningful distinction between recommendation algorithms and the related algorithms that allow search engines and numerous other crucial ranking systems to work online, and says Section 230 should protect them all.
Representatives Tony Gonzales (R-TX-23) and Robin Kelly (D-IL-02) introduced legislation (H.R. 162) to form a National Digital Reserve Corps, a group of civilian individuals with relevant skills and credentials to address digital and cyber needs across the federal government. Reservists would sign-up for a three-year period, in which they would work for the federal government for 30 days per calendar year to take on digital and cybersecurity projects, digital education and training, data triage, acquisition assistance, and development of technical solutions. Reservists would also have the opportunity to obtain and maintain security clearances, complete certifications, and receive training and education to better equip them to meet the federal government’s cybersecurity and digital needs. Individuals in the National Digital Reserve Corps would be detailed to federal agencies from the General Services Administration (GSA). The bill also requires the Department of Labor to issue regulations that ensure reservists jobs are waiting for them once they finish their annual service.
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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