Daily Digest 12/1/2023 (Paul Guzmán; Laurence Bruce Fink)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Digital Equity

What Congress Needs to Know About Affordable Connectivity Program Funding  |  Read below  |  Drew Garner  |  Analysis  |  Common Sense
What the 2022 American Community Survey Tells Us About Digital Equity  |  Read below  |  Katie Knox Mimoune  |  Analysis  |  National Digital Inclusion Alliance

State/Local Initiatives

Electric co-op taps Ciena to bolster middle mile network in Virginia, North Carolina  |  Read below  |  Masha Abarinova  |  Fierce
Internet Exchange Points Move Beyond Big Metros: $5 Million Grant Supports One in Wichita  |  Read below  |  Joan Engebretson  |  Fierce
Request for Proposal: Broadband Mapping and Gap Analysis in Appalachian Region  |  Read below  |  Public Notice  |  Connect Humanity
New York library to offer Internet through fixed wireless and fiber  |  Read below  |  Mike Dano  |  Light Reading


Verizon’s TracFone to pay $23.5 million in Lifeline, Emergency Broadband Benefit settlement  |  Read below  |  Monica Alleven  |  Fierce
AT&T’s and Verizon’s scores take off around the U.S. airports after 5G interference mitigations ease  |  Read below  |  Robert Wyrzykowski  |  Analysis  |  Open Signal

Government & Communications

US stops helping Big Tech spot foreign meddling amid GOP legal threats  |  Read below  |  Naomi Nix, Cat Zakrzewski  |  Washington Post

Platforms/Social Media/AI

Montana Judge Says TikTok Ban Likely Violates First Amendment  |  Wall Street Journal
Advertisers Say They Do Not Plan to Return to X After Musk’s Comments  |  New York Times
Big Companies Find a Way to Identify A.I. Data They Can Trust  |  New York Times
Meta Is Struggling to Boot Bad Actors Off Facebook and Instagram  |  Wall Street Journal
Sam Altman officially back as OpenAI CEO: “We didn’t lose a single employee”  |  Ars Technica
ChatGPT is one year old. Here’s how it changed the tech world.  |  Ars Technica
The Rise of AI-Powered Stars: Big Money and Risks  |  Hollywood Reporter


Alliant Credit Union Foundation Opens Million Dollar Challenge  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Alliant Credit Union Foundation

Consumer Protection

How Elimination of ‘Junk’ Cable Fees Can Reduce Consumer Choice  |  Cato Institute


Benton Foundation
Who Had the Most Fun at the Oversight of President Biden's Broadband Takeover Hearing?  |  Read below  |  Kevin Taglang  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Stories From Abroad

How Huawei made a cutting-edge chip in China and surprised the US  |  Ars Technica
Meta warns that China is stepping up its online social media influence operations  |  National Public Radio
Today's Top Stories

Digital Equity

What Congress Needs to Know About Affordable Connectivity Program Funding

Drew Garner  |  Analysis  |  Common Sense

Roughly one in seven Americans have come to rely on the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) since it was created almost exactly two years ago by the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law (Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act). As of November 1, 2023, the ACP had roughly $4.7 billion in remaining funds. If the current rate of program uptake continues, April 2024 will be the last full month of funding for the ACP. To avoid this problem, the White House recently asked Congress for an additional $6 billion for the ACP in order to extend the program, and give Congress and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) time to find a permanent source of funding for affordable connectivity. The White House's request is vital, but it also raises a key question: How long would the $6 billion for ACP last? To arrive at an estimate, it's critical to understand the two main variables that will determine the ACP's end date: the rate of new enrollment, and average cost per enrollee. 

  • The "rate of new enrollment" represents the net change in total enrollment from one month to the next. In the past, this number has moved dramatically and unpredictably.
  • "Cost per enrollee" represents the average ACP outlays for each participating household. It is calculated by taking total expenditures for a month and dividing them by the total number of enrollees. Over the life of the ACP, this value has ranged from $26.75 to $30.46.

For $6 billion to sustain the ACP through December 2024, one of two things would have to occur: Either new enrollment would have to decline by over 30%, or the cost per enrollee would have to decline to about $29. (Or some combination of the two.) While $6 billion might be enough to last through the year, data indicates that it could also fall short, with a devastating impact on participating households. Our recommendation is that Congress appropriate $7 billion in additional ACP funds to allow the ACP to continue growing at an average rate while still giving confidence to enrollees and ISPs that the program will be available for the entirety of 2024. Moreover, $7 billion is in line with what the FCC has requested, and it would give the agency more time to develop a permanent funding source for affordable high-speed internet.

What the 2022 American Community Survey Tells Us About Digital Equity

Katie Knox Mimoune  |  Analysis  |  National Digital Inclusion Alliance

The American Community Survey (ACS) 2022 one-year estimates, which were released in September 2023, reveal the impact of digital inclusion work and the disparities that still exist. First, we have to celebrate the progress made in broadband adoption reflected in the 2022 data. From 2021 to 2022, 2.5 million new households subscribed to wireline broadband (DSL, cable, or fiber connections). This is a huge number to celebrate. However, as we continue in this work, we have to acknowledge that gaps still exist. In 2022, 31.2 million households, nearly one-quarter of all US households, still did not have a wireline connection. More than 8 million American households, or a total of 6 percent, still had no connection to the internet at all. Income remained a strong predictor of internet adoption, with households in the highest income brackets having the highest broadband subscription rates. However, we see the greatest disparities between the “haves” and “have-nots” in the percentage of white households who reported having a computer and a wireline broadband connection as compared to households that identify as Black, Indigenous, and Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. 


Electric co-op taps Ciena to bolster middle mile network in Virginia, North Carolina

Masha Abarinova  |  Fierce

Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative (MEC) is using Ciena tech to build middle mile backbone scalable from 100 Gigabit to 400 Gigabit. MEC serves 31,000 member accounts across nine Virginia counties and five North Carolina counties. It delivers broadband in its service territory through its subsidiary EMPOWER Broadband. Specifically, the co-op is leveraging Ciena’s 8114 Coherent Aggregation Router and 5160 Service Aggregation Switch for the middle mile network. A Ciena spokesperson said MEC’s deployment is currently in progress and expects to complete the work in 2025. MEC is also using Ciena’s Manage, Control and Plan (MCP) domain controller to gain visibility into the network. Rural electric co-ops are a rapidly growing cohort of broadband providers, but a number of states have roadblocks that make it difficult for utilities and municipalities to offer broadband. According to MEC’s website, it provides fiber through its subsidiary EMPOWER because Virginia state regulations do not allow electric co-ops to sell internet service, but do allow subsidiaries to do so.

Internet Exchange Points Move Beyond Big Metros: $5 Million Grant Supports One in Wichita

Joan Engebretson  |  Fierce

Kansas awarded a $5 million grant to nonprofit Connected Nation to construct a carrier-neutral internet exchange point (IXP) adjacent to Wichita State University’s Innovation Campus. Construction will be done through Connected Nation IXP, a joint venture between Connected Nation and Newby Ventures. The Wichita IXP will be the first carrier-neutral IXP in Kansas. One network that will connect to the Wichita IXP is the middle-mile network planned for the state that was funded, in part, through a June 2023, $42.5 million grant awarded to the Kansas Departments of Commerce and Transportation. The grant came from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Middle Mile program, and at the time, NTIA noted that plans for the project included connecting multiple new IXPs throughout the state. Wichita State University will provide a 40-year ground lease for the facility that CNIXP will use as an in-kind contribution to the grant, subject to final approval by the Kansas Board of Regents. The CNIXP will be built to withstand 200 mph winds and will have redundant electrical and mechanical systems.

Request for Proposal: Broadband Mapping and Gap Analysis in Appalachian Region

Public Notice  |  Connect Humanity

Connect Humanity invites experienced vendors to submit proposals for Mapping and Gap Analysis services in the Appalachian Region, specifically related to broadband demand across 12 states (Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia). The purpose of this project is to create AGOL environments for each of our grantees on which they can begin designing proposed broadband network builds. This will include the creation of base layers and data source layers in AGOL for use by contractors and grantees (if applicable) as well as the export of shape files, images, and zoomable PDFs for each geography. The required duration of this project is not to exceed a maximum of 8 weeks/2 calendar months from the date of award. Proposals will be accepted on a rolling basis and will be considered until a vendor is chosen. Proposals received before December 4th, 2023 will receive priority review.

New York library to offer Internet through fixed wireless and fiber

Mike Dano  |  Light Reading

The New York Public Library (NYPL) is looking to offer Internet services to low-income New Yorkers through a cutting-edge mix of fixed wireless access (FWA) and fiber. Garfield Swaby, VP of IT for NYPL, sees the organization as potentially offering a layer of telecommunications services alongside the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which provides subsidies to low-income Americans to help them pay for telecommunications services. The COVID-19 pandemic, and its resulting shutdowns across New York City, sparked the project. Library officials noticed residents at some of the library system's 92 locations sitting outside the buildings in order to log into the library's Wi-Fi networks. In response, library officials in New York and elsewhere started looking for ways to broadcast their buildings' Internet connections into nearby neighborhoods. Phase one of the trial tested radio equipment from Motorola, Celona and Baicells on top of five different NYPL library locations, and customer premises equipment (CPE) from Ericsson's Cradlepoint and Inseego. The library system's main learning was that CPE receivers for FWA systems are expensive, and in some cases library patrons did not return the gadgets. As a result, NYPL is now pursuing a slightly different strategy for phase two.


Verizon’s TracFone to pay $23.5 million in Lifeline, Emergency Broadband Benefit settlement

Monica Alleven  |  Fierce

Verizon’s TracFone Wireless subsidiary reached a settlement with the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Enforcement Bureau to resolve an investigation into whether the company violated the agency’s Lifeline and Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program rules.  According to the FCC, TracFone’s internal systems: 1) improperly considered a subscriber’s receipt of an inbound text message to constitute qualifying Lifeline usage and 2) improperly claimed support for a group of customers who were enrolled jointly in both the Lifeline and EBB programs, but did not use one of the services in the prior 30-day period. In 2022, TracFone reached a $13.4 million settlement with the FCC and the Department of Justice over allegations that TracFone violated the False Claims Act by signing up more than 175,000 ineligible customers for the Lifeline program during 2012-2015 and that the false claims resulted from TracFone’s “lax oversight and monitoring” of its Lifeline program.

AT&T’s and Verizon’s scores take off around the U.S. airports after 5G interference mitigations ease

Robert Wyrzykowski  |  Analysis  |  Open Signal

Open Signal users on AT&T and Verizon’s networks have enjoyed substantial boosts in their download speeds around U.S. airports after July 1, 2023, when the carriers were to increase power levels on the C-band around the airport areas — but still lag behind T-Mobile's 5G users' speeds. While both carriers were able to reduce the mitigations around the use of the C-band around the airport areas in July 2023 — AT&T and Verizon also gained full access to their C-band spectrum holdings in August 2023, after satellite companies cleared the band early. Opensignal observed a general uplift in 5G Download Speed scores nationwide, with AT&T’s 5G Download Speed score increasing by 45.1% and Verizon’s — by 29.8% for the 90-day data collection period starting on August 1, 2023, compared to Q2 2023. Still, the relative boost around the selected airports is significantly higher for both AT&T and Verizon than the national uplift, showing the combined effect of the additional spectrum and fewer restrictions on power levels on the mobile network experience of our users. Soaring AT&T and Verizon’s 5G Download Speed scores positively influence the carriers’ overall Download Speed Experience results. AT&T’s average overall download speeds have risen by 30.4% around the analyzed airports (compared to 12.6% nationally), while Verizon’s — by 22.1% (compared to 7.1% nationally). Consequently, the gap between these two carriers and T-Mobile has narrowed around the airports as well — from 2.3-2.4 times faster average overall download speeds for T-Mobile than AT&T and Verizon to less than twice as fast, after additional C-band spectrum became available and interference mitigation measures relaxed.

Government & Communications

US stops helping Big Tech spot foreign meddling amid GOP legal threats

Naomi Nix, Cat Zakrzewski  |  Washington Post

The US federal government has stopped warning some social networks about foreign disinformation campaigns on their platforms, reversing a years-long approach to preventing Russia and other actors from interfering in American politics less than a year before the US presidential elections. Meta no longer receives notifications of global influence campaigns from the Biden administration, halting a prolonged partnership between the federal government and the world’s largest social media company. Federal agencies have also stopped communicating about political disinformation with Pinterest, according to the company. In July 2023, a federal judge limited the Biden administration’s communications with tech platforms in response to a lawsuit alleging such coordination ran afoul of the First Amendment by encouraging companies to remove falsehoods about COVID-19 and the 2020 election. The shift erodes a partnership considered crucial to the integrity of elections around the world—just months before voters head to the polls in Taiwan, the European Union, India and the United States.


Alliant Credit Union Foundation Opens Million Dollar Challenge

Press Release  |  Alliant Credit Union Foundation

The Alliant Credit Union Foundation requests grant applications for the Million Dollar Challenge. The Foundation will award $1,000,000 in grants to various organizations working to bridge the digital divide in the following ways:

  • Bringing technology devices and affordable, reliable broadband to the people who need them most
  • Delivering digital skills education to impacted communities
  • Calling upon community leaders for internet accessibility reform

Applications will be accepted through December 31, 2023. Please reach out to foundation@alliantcreditunion.com with any questions.


Who Had the Most Fun at the Oversight of President Biden's Broadband Takeover Hearing?

The House Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Communications and Technology held a Federal Communications Commission oversight hearing that included testimony from each of the five (yes, there are five now) FCC commissioners. A partisan tone was set by the get-go as the title for the hearing was "Oversight of President Biden's Broadband Takeover." The key questions for the Republican Members of the panel going into the hearing were:

  •  America’s broadband networks are performing well, why is it necessary to impose heavy-handed regulations on them?
  • How does the FCC plan to enforce its new digital discrimination rules?
  • Will the FCC try to impose a 30-year-old law on streamers? 

[much more at the link below]

Submit a Story

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.

© Benton Institute for Broadband & Society 2023. Redistribution of this email publication — both internally and externally — is encouraged if it includes this message. For subscribe/unsubscribe info email: headlines AT benton DOT org

Kevin Taglang

Kevin Taglang
Executive Editor, Communications-related Headlines
Benton Institute
for Broadband & Society
1041 Ridge Rd, Unit 214
Wilmette, IL 60091
headlines AT benton DOT org

Share this edition:

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society Benton Institute for Broadband & Society Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society All Rights Reserved © 2023