Daily Digest 12/11/2023 (Maria Emilia Martin)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Broadband Funding

Benton Foundation
Reviewing State (Draft) Low-Cost Options  |  Read below  |  Jake Varn  |  Op-Ed  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Benton Foundation
An Open Letter to State Broadband Leaders on Digital Equity for Incarcerated People  |  Read below  |  April Feng  |  Op-Ed  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Could the feds withhold broadband funding to some states?  |  Read below  |  Kery Murakami  |  Route Fifty
Cost Models and BEAD Grants  |  Read below  |  Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting


Fidium Fiber doubles access in Pennsylvania in 2023, now serving more than 28,000 homes and businesses  |  Consolidated Communications
American Association for Public Broadband Takes Issue With Mass Priorities' Campaign in Falmouth, Massachusetts  |  Falmouth Enterprise
David Isenberg op-ed | Local Networks, Local Journalism And Dark Money  |  Falmouth Enterprise

Data & Mapping

Industry reacts: FCC renews waiver for a broadband data rule  |  Fierce

Broadband Service

Comcast Set To Up Prices on Xfinity Cable Services … Again  |  Next TV
Homes need to be built for better internet  |  Read below  |  Joanna Nelius  |  Vox
The quiet plan to make the internet feel faster  |  Read below  |  Mitchell Clark  |  Vox


Expect 5G operators to keep increasing prices in 2024  |  Light Reading


News Publishers Are Fighting Big Tech Over Peanuts. They Could Be Owed Billions.  |  Read below  |  Julia Angwin  |  Op-Ed  |  New York Times

Platforms/Social Media/AI

As advertisers flee Musk’s X, Democrats splurge on political ads  |  Washington Post
Inside OpenAI’s Crisis Over the Future of Artificial Intelligence  |  New York Times
Elon Musk restores X account of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones  |  Associated Press
Amazon Seeks Dismissal of FTC Antitrust Lawsuit  |  Bloomberg


New York Joins IBM, Micron in $10 Billion Chip Research Complex  |  Wall Street Journal
Ericsson is the first wireless equipment vendor to receive Build America, Buy America authorization  |  telecompetitor


FCC Renews Task Force for Reviewing the Connectivity and Technology Needs of Precision Agriculture in the United States  |  Read below  |  Jodie May  |  Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission
Former-Sec of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro Named CEO of Latino Community Foundation  |  Latino Community Foundation
A String of Lawsuits Takes Aim at Regulators  |  New York Times

News From Abroad

European Union Agrees on Landmark Artificial Intelligence Rules  |  Read below  |  Adam Satariano  |  New York Times
UK class-action targets mobile phone operators with £3.3 billion damages claim over loyalty penalties  |  Financial Times
UK regulators examine Microsoft’s ties to OpenAI  |  Financial Times
China’s cyber army is invading critical U.S. services  |  Washington Post
Today's Top Stories

Broadband Funding

Reviewing State (Draft) Low-Cost Options

Jake Varn  |  Op-Ed  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Under the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, providers are required to offer a low-cost option to subscribers who are eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). However, the exact definition of what will qualify as “low-cost” is up to state and territory broadband offices to decide. Every broadband office has released a draft of these definitions in their Initial Proposal (Volume 2). In our scan, we are seeing a few different features emerge in these definitions, including having a variable price for different types of providers or geographies, allowing for some cost increases with inflation, using existing prices as a benchmark, and building in a contingency plan if ACP goes unfunded by Congress in 2024. 

[Jake Varn is Associate Manager of Policy & Engagement at The Pew Charitable Trusts' Broadband Access Initiative.]

An Open Letter to State Broadband Leaders on Digital Equity for Incarcerated People

April Feng  |  Op-Ed  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

The prison communication industry is dominated by two companies—Securus and ViaPath. Together, they serve the vast majority of jails and prisons. Bundling of services is standard practice: devices, communication services, payment services, and even ownership of the inmate networks. Political indifference, limited competition, service bundling, contract lock-ins, and poor infrastructure have all been part of a systemic failure to provide affordable and quality communication for the incarcerated and their families. This failure also comes at a terrible social cost: Video calls between incarcerated people and their families reduce reconviction up to 31 percent, especially for those whose families are too far away to visit in person. Communication between people with mental health issues and their support system is critical to their stability and well-being. Secure and private communication is essential for individuals to connect with their legal counsel and exercise their civic rightsAmeelio submits the following recommendations on how to bring affordable, accessible, and quality connectivity behind bars. We hope they are helpful as broadband and corrections teams work together to deliver digital equity to the incarcerated people in prisons, jails and detention centers across the country.

[Dan “April” Feng currently serves as the Chief Operating Officer of Ameelio, a non-profit startup that connects incarcerated individuals and their families through low-cost and cutting-edge technology.]

Could the feds withhold broadband funding to some states?

Kery Murakami  |  Route Fifty

conflict between state and federal laws may delay the first distribution of Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program funds to the states. Sixteen states bar or restrict municipally owned broadband—and nearly all of those states appear unwilling to amend their laws as they finalize plans for how they will use their share of BEAD funds. That could put them at odds with the Biden administration, which supports having more cities and local governments offer broadband. Pennsylvania has adjusted its initial draft plan to clarify how it would approach the existing state law. Under its public utility code, the commonwealth prohibits local governments from providing broadband in areas where a telephone company like AT&T offers internet service. But the Department of Community and Economic Development Department has said that while adhering to federal and state law, it would seek to work with and distribute funds to municipalities to meet local broadband needs. Nevada’s proposal is demonstrative of others with similar laws in that it will not make BEAD funding available to cities. Its Office of Science, Innovation and Technology said it’s not able to change a state law that bars municipalities with more than 25,000 inhabitants or counties with more than 50,000 inhabitants from providing internet service. 

Cost Models and BEAD Grants

Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting

Arizona and Missouri are going to use a cost model as part of their Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program grant review process. Consultants have built complex models that are supposed to predict the cost of building broadband anywhere in the country. The models have to be loaded with specific inputs for any given location, and the models are then supposed to calculate what it will cost to build a broadband network. These two states are using the cost models in the worst possible way because they are using the costs suggested by the cost models to help pick grant winners. That means they are accepting the results from the cost models as a real metric and will reject grant proposals that are above or not within a certain range of the cost model estimate.

Broadband Service

Homes need to be built for better internet

Joanna Nelius  |  Vox

It turns out that the “smart homes of the future” cannot run on Wi-Fi alone thanks to the materials we’ve been using to construct our homes cheaply and quickly for decades. Over the last several years, more engineering and architecture firms have started including ethernet wiring in their building plans, but that’s as far as the digital infrastructure of a home usually goes. What’s forgotten is not only where the pre-built internet hub is placed inside the building but also what materials are used for construction. Architects, civil engineers, and project managers say Wi-Fi-penetrating materials typically aren’t a consideration unless it’s a large structure like an office building or warehouse; telecommunications technicians are called in then, but mainly to help with wiring. However, those same people say they’ve been able to reduce construction costs significantly by wiring residences for ethernet as they are building them. The cost of common building materials like brick, wood, drywall, plywood, concrete, metal, and acoustic ceiling tiles is usually cheaper than Wi-Fi-penetrable materials, especially if they are sustainable. As for older buildings, a recent study published by several members of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, or IEEE, mentions that wireless signals running on mmWave (millimeter wave) or high-frequency bands like Verizon’s 5G home internet have worse “penetration loss” when the signal is being received from outside. Depending on which wave band is being used and what materials are on the outside of the building, that penetration loss can be severe to the point where the Wi-Fi signal can only penetrate a single room.

The quiet plan to make the internet feel faster

Mitchell Clark  |  Vox

There is a plan to almost eliminate latency. It’s a new internet standard called L4S that was finalized and published in January, and it could put a serious dent in the amount of time we spend waiting around for webpages or streams to load and cut down on glitches in video calls. It could also help change the way we think about internet speed and help developers create applications that just aren’t possible with the current realities of the internet. L4S stands for Low Latency, Low Loss, Scalable Throughput, and its goal is to make sure your packets spend as little time needlessly waiting in line as possible by reducing the need for queuing. To do this, it works on making the latency feedback loop shorter; when congestion starts happening, L4S means your devices find out about it almost immediately and can start doing something to fix the problem. Usually, that means backing off slightly on how much data they’re sending.


News Publishers Are Fighting Big Tech Over Peanuts. They Could Be Owed Billions.

Julia Angwin  |  Op-Ed  |  New York Times

A bitter battle is taking place between Big Tech and the free press over how to share in the income that news content generates for technology giants. The future of our news ecosystem, a linchpin of democracy, depends on the outcome. Platforms gained their audience in part by sharing news content free. Now they are using their market power to force the press to continue to do business on their terms. Critics say that without government intervention, the deals tech companies strike allow them to determine which news outlets survive and could allow them to financially starve those that are critical of their business or political interests. 


FCC Renews Task Force for Reviewing the Connectivity and Technology Needs of Precision Agriculture in the United States

Jodie May  |  Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission renewed the charter of the Task Force for Reviewing the Connectivity and Technology Needs of Precision Agriculture in the United States (the Task Force) for a period expiring on January 1, 2025. The purpose of the Task Force is to:

  • identify and measure current gaps in the availability of broadband internet access service on agricultural land;
  • develop policy recommendations to promote the rapid, expanded deployment of broadband internet access service on unserved agricultural land, with a goal of achieving reliable capabilities on 95 percent of agricultural land in the United States by 2025;
  • promote effective policy and regulatory solutions that encourage the adoption of broadband internet access service on farms and ranches and promote precision agriculture;
  • recommend specific new rules or amendments to existing rules that the FCC should issue to achieve the goals and purposes of the policy recommendations described in the second item in this list;
  • recommend specific steps that the FCC should take to obtain reliable and standardized data measurements of the availability of broadband internet access service as may be necessary to target funding support, from future programs  dedicated to the deployment of broadband internet access service, to unserved agricultural land in need of broadband internet access service; and
  • recommend specific steps that the FCC should consider to ensure that the expertise of the Secretary of Agriculture and available farm data are reflected in future programs dedicated to the infrastructure deployment of broadband internet access service and to direct available funding to unserved agricultural land where needed. 

News from Abroad

European Union Agrees on Landmark Artificial Intelligence Rules

Adam Satariano  |  New York Times

European Union policymakers agreed to a sweeping new law to regulate artificial intelligence, one of the world’s first comprehensive attempts to limit the use of a rapidly evolving technology that has wide-ranging societal and economic implications. The law, called the A.I. Act, sets a new global benchmark for countries seeking to harness the potential benefits of the technology, while trying to protect against its possible risks, like automating jobs, spreading misinformation online and endangering national security. The law still needs to go through a few final steps for approval, but the political agreement means its key outlines have been set. European policymakers focused on A.I.’s riskiest uses by companies and governments, including those for law enforcement and the operation of crucial services like water and energy. Makers of the largest general-purpose A.I. systems, like those powering the ChatGPT chatbot, would face new transparency requirements. Chatbots and software that creates manipulated images such as “deepfakes” would have to make clear that what people were seeing was generated by A.I. Use of facial recognition software by police and governments would be restricted outside of certain safety and national security exemptions. Companies that violated the regulations could face fines of up to 7 percent of global sales.

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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), Grace Tepper (grace AT benton DOT org), and Zoe Walker (zwalke AT benton DOT org) — we welcome your comments.

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