Monday, November 6, 2023
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The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the 2023 Technology Use (Farm Computer Usage and Ownership) report. According to USDA, 85 percent of farms reported having access to the internet nationally. In 2023, 32 percent of farms used the internet to purchase agricultural inputs, which was an increase of 3 percent from 2021. Additionally, 23 percent of farms used the internet to market agricultural activities, which was an increase of 2 percent from 2021. Farms which conducted business with non-agricultural websites in 2023 increased by 2 percent to 49 percent. In 2023, 51 percent of internet-connected farms utilized a broadband connection while 75 percent of internet-connected farms had access through a cellular data plan. Additionally, 69 percent of farms had a desktop or laptop computer while 82 percent of farms had a smartphone.
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar (R-TX) applauded the federal government’s decision to provide a waiver for the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program that will give potential applicants broader financing options. “I am pleased [the National Telecommunications and Information Administration] has agreed to allow alternative ways for providers to comply with this requirement of the [Notice of Funding Opportunity],” Comptroller Hegar said. “Stakeholders have noted that the [letter of credit] requirement may have an adverse effect on smaller providers and could prevent them from participating in the BEAD program. Texas needs providers of all sizes to be able to participate in this program if it’s to be successful, and NTIA needs to continue to give us the freedom to build broadband infrastructure in Texas without needless restrictions.”
Fans of Title II-based network neutrality rules are once again flooding the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality comment docket with identical calls for restoration of the rules, as the Democrat-controlled agency has proposed. The docket already has almost 20,000 comments and, as such, is the commission’s most active proceeding, far outstripping the second-place docket for rules on international communications and spectrum issues, which has less than 3,000. The comments contain language the same as that on a website from battleforthenet.com, which is a project of Fight for the Future and Demand Progress, supporters of classifying high-speed internet access under Title II of the Communications Act. Those groups have made it easy to give the FCC the following piece of the respective commenters' mind: “I strongly support the FCC’s current effort to reinstate net neutrality and Title II authority, which is critical for an open internet, expanding broadband access, privacy protections and public safety. The agency must move forward a strong rule that rejects zero rating, ensures interconnection and allows for state preemption.” A check of comments posted on November 2 found page after page of submissions sporting that exact language.
Senator Eric Schmitt (R-MO) sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel to demand answers regarding the FCC’s partisan Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to reinstate failed Title II net neutrality rules. “As a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, I have seen the Biden Administration attempt to enact regulations that would ban gas stoves, mandate that domestic semiconductor manufacturers work with equity groups to promote gender ideology, and require internet service providers to develop plans to combat climate change when building out their broadband networks. Administrative agencies have implemented these far-left regulations without any clear congressional delegation. As a result, it truly confounds the mind that under your leadership as Chairwoman, the FCC would attempt to reinstate failed net neutrality rules. Despite the law and history, your FCC is acting as if the major questions doctrine and other decisions limiting agency authority since are merely footnotes that can be ignored in your unabashed power grab to regulate the internet. Let me be clear then: Because neither the Communications Act of 1934, the Telecommunication Act of 1996, nor any other act of Congress provides the FCC the clear authority to implement this massive regulatory scheme, the FCC does not have the ability to survive a legal challenge. Your blind efforts to move forward ignores our separation of powers, and the will of the people through their elected representatives in Congress to determine how to best balance our economic and national security interests on the internet. The powers you seek firmly rest with Congress.”
The Missouri Office of Broadband Development, housed in the Department of Economic Development, released the state's draft Digital Opportunity Plan for public comment. The plan serves as a comprehensive guide to the actions that Missouri intends to pursue in order to achieve digital equity in the state. Through this plan and statewide efforts, the Missouri Office of Broadband Development is working to build a more equal and prosperous home for all Missourians regardless of demography and geography. Importantly, the state is being intentional about its efforts to make sure its planned digital opportunity initiatives are sustainable long after funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) runs out.
The state of Idaho has awarded nearly $119 million in funding to Ziply, Comcast and 14 others. Ziply won two awards totaling over $14.3 million. Comcast won a single award for over $9.8 million. Other awardees included competitive and incumbent local providers. In addition, some awards went to individual counties. Awardees will contribute matching funds equal to 30 percent of project costs on average. The funding will go toward last mile and middle mile projects. The funding for the program came through the federal Capital Projects Fund. Idaho was awarded $120 million for the state program, known as the Capital Projects Fund- Broadband Infrastructure Grant program. As with many recent broadband funding programs, the state received applications requesting considerably more funding than the state had available. Forty-one applicants requested a total of over $596 million. Among the applicants that did not receive funding were Charter, Cox, Lumen, TDS and Vyve Broadband.
What once was a luxury is now a necessity for many in today's world, and a lot of East Texans are left out when it comes to having reliable internet access. It powers businesses, connects people around the world and creates avenues for education and health care. However, broadband internet is not equal. Proposition 8 on Texas' November 7 ballot aims at funding a better future for internet access. This proposition is the constitutional amendment creating the broadband infrastructure fund to expand high-speed broadband access and assist in the financing of connectivity projects. "What Proposition 8 is going to do is provide more money to go with all that federal money coming down," said Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG) Executive Director Lonnie Hunt. Hunt knows the importance of the $3.3 billon on the table for Texans in the November election. "We live in a region that is greatly underserved and unserved," Hunt said.
Glo Fiber, powered by Shenandoah Telecommunications Company (Shentel), reached a partnership with municipal officials to deploy next-generation fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) broadband services to the City of Lancaster (PA). Glo Fiber will utilize portions of the city’s extensive existing fiber network and provide key fiber assets to the City for Smart City uses. Engineering work is currently underway, and construction is slated to begin in mid-2024 and last approximately 18 months. “The City of Lancaster is enthusiastic to embark on the next phase of implementing city-wide broadband with Glo Fiber to ensure all residents can access best-in-class broadband services,” said Danene Sorace, Mayor of Lancaster. Glo Fiber provides a direct fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) internet connection with super-fast, symmetrical upload and download speeds up to 5 gigabits per second (Gbps) with service already available to more than 30,000 homes and businesses in Pennsylvania. The fiber-to-the-home network, coupled with Shentel’s 9,000-mile regional fiber network, enables Glo Fiber to deliver high speeds, low latency, and unparalleled reliability.
Cox Communications is being pressed to change or alter its "powered by fiber" ad claims to "clearly and conspicuously disclose" that its cable broadband service is not offered with fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) technologies. The National Advertising Division (NAD) made the recommendation following a challenge raised by AT&T, a Cox competitor that is expanding and upgrading a portion of its footprint to fiber. In its assessment, the NAD noted that Cox's cable broadband service delivers service over fiber to the node, where it's then transitioned to coaxial lines that then route high-speed Internet services to the home. Cox also uses FTTH, but has deployed it on a more limited and targeted basis. While there are examples illustrating that packets travel over fiber for more than 99% of their journey when delivered on hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) networks, the NAD held that Cox's use of "powered by fiber" messaging for cable broadband services doesn't hold up.
T-Mobile expanded its fiber ambitions to a handful of new markets via partnerships with several open access fiber network operators including Tillman FiberCo and SiFi Networks, among others. The developments reflect T-Mobile's growing interest in partnering with fiber network operators to offer T-Mobile-branded fiber services running over another company's network. It is a model that T-Mobile knows well as companies like Dish Network, Altice and Google Fiber pursue a similar strategy using T-Mobile's own wireless network. As T-Mobile mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), the companies offer their own branded services to customers by piggybacking on top of T-Mobile's wireless network. The MVNOs handle processes like billing and customer service, while T-Mobile provides the wholesale network access. In this case, T-Mobile is purchasing wholesale services on open access fiber networks operated by Tillman FiberCo, SiFi Networks and Intrepid Networks, which allows the company to sell T-Mobile Fiber-branded Internet services to customers in select markets around the US.
Nov 5-7––Telecom Executive Policy Summit (NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association)
Nov 14––The Connect20 Summit (Network:On)
Nov 14––Regulating digital industries (Brookings)
Nov 15––U.S. Broadband Summit (Fierce)
Nov 15––Code to Conduct in AI: Open Source, Privacy, and More (Mozilla)
Nov 17––Maternal Health Roundtable (FCC)
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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