Daily Digest 12/16/2022 (Broadband Workforce)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Broadband Funding

Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Support Authorized for 80 Winning Bids  |  Read below  |  Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission

State/Local Initiatives

Benton Foundation
American Rescue Plan Helps Connect New Mexico  |  Read below  |  Kevin Taglang  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Public Service Commission Awards Second Round of Grants for Nebraska Broadband Bridge Program  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Nebraska Public Service Commission
Alabama broadband expansion program kicks off  |  Read below  |  Brent Addleman  |  Center Square
Vermont Department of Public Service Announces Statewide Drive Test of Mobile Wireless Coverage  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Vermont Department of Public Service
Podcast: Community Broadband’s Broad Appeal  |  Institute for Local Self-Reliance

Broadband Data & Mapping

Establishing the Digital Opportunity Data Collection, Modernizing the Form 477 Data Collection | Final Rule  |  Federal Communications Commission
Broadband Data Task Force Announces Videos Tutorials for Providers Responding to Fixed Availability Challenges  |  Federal Communications Commission
What you need to know about challenging the FCC Broadband Coverage Maps  |  US Ignite

Broadband Consumer Labels

Empowering Broadband Consumers Through Transparency | Final Rule  |  Federal Communications Commission
New Proceeding on Broadband Consumer Labels; Comments due January 17, 2023  |  Federal Communications Commission


Telecommunications Workforce: Additional Workers Will Be Needed to Deploy Broadband, but Concerns Exist About Availability  |  Read below  |  Andrew Von Ah  |  Analysis  |  Government Accountability Office

Digital Inclusion

Video: Urban League, AT&T open new White Plains computer lab to battle digital divide  |  News 12 New Jersey


T-Mobile Exiting Lifeline Market in Florida  |  Federal Communications Commission
T-Mobile Exiting Lifeline Market in Virginia  |  Federal Communications Commission
FCC Grants Four Broadband Segment Applications to Private LTE provider pdvWireless  |  Federal Communications Commission
Federated Wireless, Charter pitch power of CBRS to FCC  |  Fierce

Social Media/Platforms

Republican Social Media Resolution Goes Down in House Commerce Committee  |  Read below  |  John Eggerton  |  Next TV
Big Tech gets preview of questions US House Republicans want answered  |  Read below  |  Diane Bartz  |  Reuters
Twitter Under Free Speech Warrior Elon Musk Suspends Accounts of Several Journalists  |  Read below  |  Meghan Bobrowsky  |  Wall Street Journal
Twitter Under Free Speech Warrior Elon Musk suspends Mastodon after it tweeted about Elon’s jet  |  Vox
Tech Groups Ask Supreme Court to Review Texas Social Media Law  |  Bloomberg
Google’s stranglehold on the mapping space could be challenged by new initiative from Meta, Microsoft, Amazon, and others  |  Vox
We’re witnessing the brain death of Twitter  |  MIT Technology Review


Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) Introduces Bill to Protect Children Online  |  Read below  |  Sen Mike Lee (R-UT)  |  Press Release  |  US Senate
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) Introduces the Interstate Obscenity Definition Act  |  Read below  |  Sen Mike Lee (R-UT)  |  Press Release  |  US Senate
Democratic lawmakers press top game companies on extremism  |  Axios
Hate Is No Game: Hate and Harassment in Online Games 2022  |  Anti-Defamation League


U.S. Places Top Chinese Memory Chip Maker on Export Blacklist  |  Wall Street Journal
Bill to Ban TikTok on Government Devices Faces Uncertain Future in House  |  Wall Street Journal
TikTok’s Efforts to Distance Itself From Chinese Parent Stumble Over Talent  |  Wall Street Journal
U.S. Cracks Down on Chinese Companies for Security Concerns  |  New York Times
Top FTC official warns companies on data  |  Read below  |  Ashley Gold  |  Axios
Meta warns spyware still being used to target people on social media  |  Guardian, The
Introducing the '5G' war  |  Politico


NetChoice Slams Democrats and Journalism Competition & Preservation Act  |  Next TV

Company News

TDS launches expanded fiber network in Maine  |  TDS Telecommunications
T-Mobile and Cisco Launch World’s Largest Cloud Native Converged Core Gateway  |  T-Mobile


House Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone on the end of the Congressional session  |  Read below  |  Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ)  |  Press Release  |  House Commerce Committee
Democratic Majority at the FCC Still Blocked  |  Read below  |  Luke Goldstein  |  American Prospect

Stories From Abroad

Amazon Agrees to Change Some Business Practices in E.U. Settlement  |  New York Times
Today's Top Stories

Broadband Funding

Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Support Authorized for 80 Winning Bids

Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission's Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB), in conjunction with the Office of Economics and Analytics (OEA), authorized Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (Auction 904) support for the winning bids by GigaBeam Networks in West Virginia, and Pear Networks in Vermont. The support will be disbursed in 120 monthly payments from the Universal Service Fund (USF), which will begin at the end of December 2022.


American Rescue Plan Helps Connect New Mexico

Kevin Taglang  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

New Mexico relies on broadband to connect its extensive rural areas and important rural industries. Quality broadband connections allow the oil and gas industry to operate more safely and efficiently than ever before, and enhanced broadband can enable cost-saving measures without compromising safety. Similarly, large ranches and farms require broadband for high-end uses such as precision agriculture applications and robotic harvesters. Smaller ranches and farms need quality broadband connections for many of the same reasons as other small business owners, including direct sales; marketing and logistical management; professional training; and providing their families with health care, educational, and social opportunities. For over a decade, New Mexico has been taking steps to improve broadband in all areas of the state. But state broadband programs have struggled because of a lack of consistent funding and clear mandates. In 2020, CTC Technology & Energy estimated it will cost between $2 billion and $5 billion to bring fiber-based broadband to all of rural New Mexico. This month, New Mexico received over $100 million through the federal American Rescue Plan Act's Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund to fuel broadband deployment.

Public Service Commission Awards Second Round of Grants for Nebraska Broadband Bridge Program

Press Release  |  Nebraska Public Service Commission

The Nebraska Public Service Commission (PSC) approved an order (C-5368) awarding 37 grants totaling $20,351,778.01 from the Nebraska Broadband Bridge Program (NBBP). During the 2022 grant cycle, the PSC received 115 applications for funding through the NBBP. As part of the grant review process, the PSC also received challenges from parties stating that they already served an area covered by a grant application or they plan to provide service to the area in the near future. The PSC determined 37 grants submitted by 14 providers would be approved and receive a total of $20,351,778.01 in funding. Projects funded through today’s award must be completed by June 6, 2024. Providers may apply for an extension of this deadline for good cause.

Alabama broadband expansion program kicks off

Brent Addleman  |  Center Square

Technical assistance for broadband expansion in Alabama is the focus of a series of meetings in the state. The Alabama Community Broadband Technical Assistance program kicked off recently and will be offered in each of the state’s 67 counties. The program works to provide technical assistance to municipalities and other public stakeholders in the state who are working to ensure broadband is accessible to everyone. The program is administered by the state’s Department of Economic and Community Affairs’ Alabama Digital Expansion Division. Meetings are open to the public. The program will help municipalities prepare for broadband and digital opportunities. The funding stems from the US Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Alabama plans over the next few years to make funding available for broadband expansion. Plans include engaging with elected officials, internet service providers, government and community anchors, community-based organizations, and the public to shape plans that will set counties in the best possible scenario for expansion. $5 million in grant awards was made available from the Broadband, Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program and another $981,081 through the Digital Equity Act was provided to support program and planning efforts.

Vermont Department of Public Service Announces Statewide Drive Test of Mobile Wireless Coverage

The Vermont Department of Public Service (PSD) released the results of a drive test, conducted in conjunction with the Agency of Transportation (AOT), to determine mobile wireless coverage throughout the state. “Identifying areas that lack service is a critical step toward the expansion and improvement of mobile wireless service around the state, and we are glad to have contributed to that effort,” said Transportation Secretary Joe Flynn. “Our Maintenance employees have driven over 6,500 miles this summer to gather data for our partners at PSD to use for this project.” To conduct the analysis, the State of Vermont partnered with Ookla, a global leader in network intelligence and connectivity insights. 


Telecommunications Workforce: Additional Workers Will Be Needed to Deploy Broadband, but Concerns Exist About Availability

Andrew Von Ah  |  Analysis  |  Government Accountability Office

Recent legislation included big increases in federal funding for the deployment of broadband, which is increasingly critical to daily life, but unavailable in some areas. Our analysis found that thousands more skilled workers will be needed to deploy broadband and 5G funded by recent federal programs. If this work is spread over 10 years, the funding would support about 23,000 additional workers at its peak. A shorter timespan could require even more of them. We found mixed evidence on whether there's a shortage of these workers. Their unemployment rate was low, but we didn't observe wages going up in this area, which would suggest a shortage. GAO found that thousands of additional workers would be needed to build the amount of infrastructure associated with such increases in funding from eight selected broadband infrastructure deployment programs. GAO found that the pace at which these programs provide funding will impact the annual number of additional workers needed. For instance, if funding is provided over a 10-year span, GAO estimates that about 23,000 additional workers could be supported by the peak year of funding in 2023, declining to about 9,000 additional workers in 2031 due to the impact of inflation and because funds for some programs must be expended before 2032. The shorter the time frame over which federal funds are provided, the more workers will be needed per year. Assuming a 5-year funding time period, for example, about 34,000 additional workers would be needed by the peak year of funding in 2023.

Platforms/Social Media

Republican Social Media Resolution Goes Down in House Commerce Committee

John Eggerton  |  Next TV

The House Commerce Committee voted 28-23 along party lines not to recommend a Republican-backed resolution of inquiry to the full House. The resolution called out the Biden administration for alleged coordination with social media companies to censor speech and sought documents related to that alleged effort. But while the resolution failed, it signaled what Republicans could be focusing on when they take over House chairmanships. Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) called the resolution an out-of-touch, frivolous, and partisan that was in contrast to the committee’s productive work that preceded it. The resolution was driven in part by new Twitter owner Elon Musk’s release of internal documents he claims support allegations of shadow-banning conservatives.

Big Tech gets preview of questions US House Republicans want answered

Diane Bartz  |  Reuters

Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), who will chair the House Judiciary Committee next Congress, gave a hint of what is to come with letters sent to five big tech companies requesting information about conservative material removed from their platforms. In letters sent to large online platforms, Rep Jordan requested the top executives at Google, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook provide any information they have about contact with President Joe Biden's administration regarding "the moderation, deletion, suppression, restricting, or reduced circulation of content." Rep Jordan and other Republicans have argued that the companies stifle conservative voices, something that they have denied. 

Twitter Under Free Speech Warrior Elon Musk Suspends Accounts of Several Journalists

Meghan Bobrowsky  |  Wall Street Journal

Twitter suspended the accounts of several journalists without publicly specifying why, the latest instance of the platform making content or user decisions under Elon Musk without much transparency. The accounts belonged to journalists from publications including CNN, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and Mashable. Representatives for the outlets said they didn’t receive any explanation of why the accounts were suspended. Twitter also suspended the official account of Mastodon, a competing social-media platform that has gained prominence in recent months, also without explanation. Musk has said that he intends to make the platform a bastion of free speech, with transparent rules governing any content decisions.


Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) Introduces Bill to Protect Children Online

Sen Mike Lee (R-UT)  |  Press Release  |  US Senate

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced the Shielding Children's Retinas from Egregious Exposure on the Net (SCREEN) Act, which would direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to issue a rule requiring all commercial pornographic websites to adopt age verification technology to ensure children cannot access pornographic content. Specifically, the SCREEN Act:

  • Directs the FCC to issue a rule to require commercial pornographic websites to adopt age verification technology to ensure that users of the website are not children.
  • Within the required rule, the FCC is required to:
    • Set a “more likely than not” verification standard for pornographic websites for the purposes of determining whether the user of a pornographic website is a child or not.
    • Allow pornographic websites to choose their method of age verification provided that it meets the FCC’s verification standards and prohibits a child from accessing the pornographic content on the website.
    • Permit websites to contract with third party age verification providers to carry out the verification requirements, and
    • Establish an audit process to ensure compliance with the rule as well as ensure no identifiable user data is shared with the federal government.
  • Grants the FCC the necessary enforcement powers (both civil penalty and injunctive relief) to enforce the verification rule.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) Introduces the Interstate Obscenity Definition Act

Sen Mike Lee (R-UT)  |  Press Release  |  US Senate

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced the Interstate Obscenity Definition Act to establish a national definition of obscenity that would apply to obscene content transmitted via interstate or foreign communications. Obscenity is not protected under the First Amendment and is prohibited from interstate or foreign transmission. The Supreme Court, however, has struggled to define obscenity, and its current definition under the "Miller Test" runs into serious challenges when applied to the internet. Sen. Lee's bill would define "obscenity" within the Communications Act of 1934. It would also strengthen the existing prohibition on obscenity by removing the "intent" requirement that only prohibits the transmission of obscenity to abuse, threatens, or harassing a person. Further, the bill defines "obscenity" as the following: 

  • Taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest in nudity, sex, or excretion,
  • Depicts, describes, or represents actual or simulated sexual acts with the objective intent to arouse, titillate, or gratify the sexual desires of a person, and,
  • Taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.


Top FTC official warns companies on data

Ashley Gold  |  Axios

Samuel Levine, director of the Federal Trade Commission's bureau of consumer protection, said the agency won't hesitate to sue companies that play fast and loose with customers' data. Levine also warned companies that operate under FTC consent decrees — which includes Twitter — that "there's no pause button" on such agreements. Levine is playing a key role in shaping the agency's potential new rules on "commercial surveillance" — which includes the targeted advertising that drives so many online business models. Those rules also focus on data security, and privacy advocates see them as a key means to restrain industry abuses in the absence of a federal online privacy law. The agency could issue them in 2023. Levine said the FTC's consumer protection bureau will keep working with its bureau of competition, which is in charge of antitrust cases, to gauge where a lack of competition may be affecting consumer privacy and other experiences online.


House Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone on the end of the Congressional session

Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ)  |  Press Release  |  House Commerce Committee

This markup comes at the end of a tremendously productive Congressional session. Over the last two years, we’ve turned some of the biggest legislative solutions into the law of the land thanks to the hard work of Committee members and staff, and it has been the honor of a lifetime to serve as Chairman. The Committee has reported out 76 bills, of which 23 have become law. We passed the most significant climate law in our nation’s history, empowered Medicare to negotiate the cost of lifesaving prescription drugs for seniors, made historic investments to rebuild our nation’s drinking water infrastructure and connect rural and underserved Americans with high-speed internet service and, responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by providing both the health and financial resources that Americans desperately needed during such an unprecedented crisis. And we are not done yet. We continue to work on numerous bipartisan bills that came out of Committee. Our hope is to see those included in the final omnibus bill in the next week or so.  

Democratic Majority at the FCC Still Blocked

Luke Goldstein  |  American Prospect

Nearly two years have come and gone without a fifth commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission, the agency tasked to regulate the corporate behemoths that control how Americans gather, receive, and transmit information. Almost a year into President Biden’s first term, the White House nominated Gigi Sohn [Senior Fellow and Public Advocate at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society], a public-interest advocate who served as a top counselor to Obama FCC chair Tom Wheeler. With significant opposition from the telecom industry, Sohn still awaits Senate confirmation in the twilight of the lame-duck Congress. If the year ends without Sohn being confirmed, the White House will have to renominate her in the next Congress, restarting what’s already been a drawn-out process with little to no precedent. Sohn’s absence means that the Biden administration lacks a working majority at a critical agency, which is deadlocked on many issues between the panel’s two Democrats and two Republicans. It speaks to a broader problem that Democrats have run into during President Biden’s tenure (and frankly, all modern presidencies) to fully staff the sprawling branches of government.

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

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Benton Institute
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