Daily Digest 12/19/2023 (Google)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Year in Review

Top Broadband Developments of 2023  |  Summary at Benton.org  |  Joan Engebretson  |  telecompetitor

Digital Equity

When Streaming Came to Prison  |  Read below  |  Lyle May  |  Op-Ed  |  Slate
In Prison, Out of Googles  |  Read below  |  Heather Jarvis  |  Op-Ed  |  Slate
Op-ed | Illinois should emulate Massachusetts and make prison calls free  |  Chicago Tribune


Wyoming Makes Historic Investment to Expand High-Speed Internet Access  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Wyoming Business Council
Benton Foundation
Working Towards Digital Equity in DC  |  Read below  |  Grace Tepper  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Top 10 novel and thoughtful concepts in the newly-approved Louisiana BEAD plan  |  Read below  |  Mike Conlow  |  Analysis  |  Substack


FCC Grants 8 Broadband Segment Applications to PDV Spectrum Holding Company  |  Read below  |  Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission


Inside Amazon’s Effort to Challenge Musk’s Starlink Internet Business  |  Read below  |  Matt Day  |  Bloomberg


2023 Merger Guidelines  |  Read below  |  Public Notice  |  Department of Justice, Federal Trade Commission
102 million people eligible for Google’s lawsuit settlement  |  Read below  |  Eva Dou  |  Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio

Artificial Intelligence

AI's road to reality  |  Read below  |  Ryan Heath, Ina Fried  |  Axios
Generative Artificial Intelligence and the Creative Economy Staff Report: Perspectives and Takeaways  |  Read below  |  Research  |  Federal Trade Commission
Nvidia Staffers Warned CEO of Threat AI Would Pose to Minorities  |  Read below  |  Sinduja Rangarajan, Ian King  |  Bloomberg
OpenAI Overhauls Content Moderation Efforts as Elections Loom  |  Information, The
OpenAI lays out plan for dealing with dangers of AI  |  Washington Post
OpenAI Says Board Can Overrule CEO on Safety of New AI Releases  |  Bloomberg
Expedia wants to use AI to cut Google out of its trip-planning business  |  Vox

Platforms/Social Media/Content

Media Giants Redirect X Ad Spend To Instagram, Snapchat  |  Media Post
Eric Schmidt has a 6-point plan for fighting election misinformation  |  MIT Technology Review
TikTok staff told to avoid flagging problems with Amazon accounts  |  Read below  |  Hibaq Farah, Dan Milmo  |  Guardian, The


$48 Million in Support of Local News, Initial Seeding of Press Forward Collaborative  |  MacArthur Foundation

News From Congress

Members of Congress Urge Biden Administration to Protect American Firms and Consumers from EU Overreach on Digital Policies  |  House of Representatives
US lawmakers push DOJ to investigate Apple following Beeper shutdowns  |  Vox


Why Google’s lobbying in California skyrocketed  |  Los Angeles Times

Company News

Consolidated says fiber build will slow without private equity backing  |  Read below  |  Masha Abarinova  |  Fierce

Apple to Halt Watch Sales as It Prepares to Comply With U.S. Import Ban  |  Wall Street Journal

Stories From Abroad

Connected Nations 2023  |  Read below  |  Research  |  Ofcom
Protecting customers during the migration to digital landlines  |  Ofcom
Adobe drops $20 billion takeover of Figma after EU and UK regulator concerns  |  Guardian, The
Apple to Halt Watch Sales as It Prepares to Comply With U.S. Import Ban  |  Wall Street Journal
Today's Top Stories

Digital Equity

When Streaming Came to Prison

Lyle May  |  Op-Ed  |  Slate

For more than 25 years, I’ve been in prison, where TV is a staple of prison life as essential as staff and more immutable than any rehabilitative program. Cell-block televisions are equal parts library, time machine, and mecca, instructing the incarcerated in the ways of the world they aspire to return to. Traditionally, most prisons have a communal TV, though some also sell personal TV sets. In every prison I’ve been in, the communal TV is placed in the day room, with tables and chairs nearby. Popular TV events like the Super Bowl can create a real sense of community. In 2020 the North Carolina Department of Adult Corrections began distributing tablets in my facility through a contract with the prison telecommunications giant ViaPath (formerly known as GTL). The tablets connect with a server that contains a limited number of movies and TV shows, which are preapproved and edited so curse words are altered and characters who show too much skin are blurred out. When tablets were passed out in my facility, prison day rooms—the places where people once gathered to watch TV, play cards, use the communal phone, get medicine from med techs, and eat—started to empty. In my facility, many people voluntarily locked themselves in their cells, absorbed in their tablets. 

[Lyle C. May is an incarcerated journalist and an Ohio University alum. His writing has appeared in Scalawag Magazine, America Magazine, Perspectives on Politics, and other publications. His book Witness: An Insider’s Narrative of the Carceral State is forthcoming from Haymarket Books in April 2024.]

In Prison, Out of Googles

Heather Jarvis  |  Op-Ed  |  Slate

Google is on the long list of things I took for granted prior to prison. Before I was incarcerated in 2014, I used Google often, relying on the search engine to satisfy my random curiosities. When that access was suddenly cut off, I began depending on others to answer my burning questions. Prison is isolating by design, and even things like obituaries are cruelly out of reach. Prisoners' Google requests reflect the whole spectrum of ups and downs you live through in prison. I’ve asked people to Google how to handle grief, how to train for a half-marathon, and how to crochet a stuffed unicorn. I’ve asked for help finding pen pals, and for lists of motivational quotes to help me keep going. At the end of nine and a half years in prison, I’ve worn out my Google requests. About a year ago, my friend Ashley, who I’ve known for more than a decade, got so annoyed with my constant stream of questions that she told me I couldn’t come to her with any more “one-minute asks.” For a while after she put up her boundary, there was a noticeable rift in our relationship. She felt I had started treating her differently, but really I just felt guilty. It reminded me of how much of a burden I had become on those I love.When I ask people on the outside what I should be ready for as I prepare to go out into a world filled with new technology that’s hard for me to even grasp, the only thing they can think to say is “Everything is different.” Just as suddenly as I was forced to disconnect, I’ll be forced to reconnect. When I do, I know I’ll turn to the search engine to figure out how to build a successful writing career, how to not self-sabotage, and how to apply all the knowledge I’ve gained in prison in my new life.

[Heather C. Jarvis is a system-impacted writer, speaker, and advocate. Recently released from prison, she is currently rebuilding her life from the ground up.]


Wyoming Makes Historic Investment to Expand High-Speed Internet Access

Press Release  |  Wyoming Business Council

Wyoming has recommended funding 32 applications totaling $70.5 million in federal funds to expand broadband to more than 11,000 locations across the state that do not currently have access to high-speed internet. Governor Gordon designated $70 million of American Rescue Plan Act/Capital Projects funding for broadband infrastructure improvements across the state to ensure Wyomingites have the ability to telework, learn from home, and access telemedicine. The Wyoming Business Council Broadband Office is the administrator of the funds. The program’s goal is to provide affordable universal access to reliable broadband services, focusing on broadband access to unserved and underserved areas, with all infrastructure to be installed, owned, and operated by the applicant. The Wyoming Business Council (WBC) received 116 applications totaling $413 million in project costs, with $88 million in provider contributions, for a total grant request of $325 million. The WBC retained CTC Technologies as an independent unbiased consultant to review the applications and make a recommendation to the council for the grant awards. 

Working Towards Digital Equity in DC

Grace Tepper  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Growth, equity, education, workforce opportunities, access to government services, and sustainability. Each of these values—and many of the actions that can be taken to achieve them—can be enhanced by equitable access to high-speed internet, and a population equipped with the digital skills to productively use computers and the internet. With these values in mind, the District of Columbia's State Broadband and Digital Equity Office released its draft State Digital Equity Plan for public comment. The DC State Broadband and Digital Equity Office (SBDEO) is working toward a vision for DC in which every resident, every business, in every corner of DC can live, work, and thrive in the digital age—without bias or barriers. To realize this vision, the DC SBDEO works to ensure that every DC resident and business has access to affordable, high-speed internet in their homes, and in their local community anchor institutions (CAIs). SBDEO also works to ensure that every DC resident has the skills to effectively use internet access devices, and to be both productive and safe online. SBDEO works to enable residents to gain this connectivity and these skills, both in their daily life journeys, and in their journeys over time.

Top 10 novel and thoughtful concepts in the newly-approved Louisiana BEAD plan

Mike Conlow  |  Analysis  |  Substack

A Top 10 list of elements that are novel or different in Louisiana's BEAD plan compared to what has been proposed in other state draft plans: 

  1. Use of  customized "sub-project area" units (SPAs) to define application areas 
  2. Highly flexible rules for how SPAs are combined into applications
  3. "Separable" applications to support deconfliction in the most efficient manner
  4. Two-round bidding
  5. Removal of up to 20% of BSLs from a grant proposal if needed to achieve deconfliction
  6. Ability to make BSL-level revisions to an FTTH proposal including substitutions of alternate technology types during the Extremely High Cost Location Threshold (EHCT) process
  7. Low-cost service option: "Upward departure modification" mechanism to adjust the base target rate
  8. Use of fixed amount subawards and accelerated disbursement schedule for funding
  9. Penalty condition for subgrantees who subsequently default on a pre-existing federal obligation that resulted in de-duplication removal of eligible locations (eg, RDOF)
  10. Support for mobile broadband infrastructure as a deployment use of funds


FCC Grants 8 Broadband Segment Applications to PDV Spectrum Holding Company

Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (Bureau) granted eight 900 MHz broadband segment license applications to PDV Spectrum Holding Company in Polk County (GA), Racine and Eau Claire Counties (WI), and Dakota, Scott, Sherburne, Wright, and Anoka Counties (MN). PDV is a wholly owned subsidiary of Anterix, the largest holder of 900 MHz spectrum nationwide, has been courting utilities that are interested in the spectrum for private LTE as they look to modernize and future-proof critical power grid infrastructure. On May 13, 2020, the FCC realigned the 900 MHz band to make available six megahertz of low-band spectrum for the development of critical wireless broadband technologies and services, while reserving the remaining four megahertz of spectrum for continued narrowband operations. The Bureau now finds these 900 MHz broadband segment applications to be complete and in conformance with the FCC’s rules. The Bureau finds that granting the applications for the 900 MHz broadband segment licenses serves the public interest, convenience, and necessity. 


Inside Amazon’s Effort to Challenge Musk’s Starlink Internet Business

Matt Day  |  Bloomberg

Amazon executives tend to describe their satellite venture, Project Kuiper, in philanthropic terms, emphasizing its potential to connect people in remote or impoverished areas with education and global commerce. Less altruistically, Amazon also hopes the $10-billion-plus project can transform it into a global telecommunications giant. The company plans to sell rooftop antennas to individual internet users, cloud-computing and data-recovery services to business, and connectivity to wireless companies to link remote cell towers to their networks, starting in 2025. Project Kuiper is among the Seattle-based company’s biggest bets, one of just a few that have survived two years into a cost-cutting drive that has eliminated many of the speculative projects started late in Jeff Bezos’s tenure as chief executive officer. It’s an enormous undertaking in an arena that has had more bankruptcies than successful businesses. Broadband is already widely available and, in many places where it isn’t, it’s not clear people will be able to afford space-based internet. Some Amazon observers see Project Kuiper as another front in the rivalry between Bezos and fellow billionaire Elon Musk, whose SpaceX operates the Starlink constellation of internet satellites. At the very least, Amazon is building an alternative to Musk’s service at a time when governments and corporations alike are looking for ways to reduce their reliance on the erratic and controversial businessman.


2023 Merger Guidelines

Public Notice  |  Department of Justice, Federal Trade Commission

These Merger Guidelines identify the procedures and enforcement practices the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission most often use to investigate whether mergers violate the antitrust laws. The Merger Guidelines set forth several different analytical frameworks to assist the Agencies in assessing whether a merger presents sufficient risk to warrant an enforcement action. These frameworks account for industry-specific market realities and use a variety of indicators and tools, ranging from market structure to direct evidence of the effect on competition, to examine whether the proposed merger may harm competition. 

  • Guideline 1: Mergers Raise a Presumption of Illegality When They Significantly Increase Concentration in a Highly Concentrated Market.
  • Guideline 2: Mergers Can Violate the Law When They Eliminate Substantial Competition Between Firms. 
  • Guideline 3: Mergers Can Violate the Law When They Increase the Risk of Coordination. 
  • Guideline 4: Mergers Can Violate the Law When They Eliminate a Potential Entrant in a Concentrated Market.
  • Guideline 5: Mergers Can Violate the Law When They Create a Firm That May Limit Access to Products or Services That Its Rivals Use to Compete. 
  • Guideline 6: Mergers Can Violate the Law When They Entrench or Extend a Dominant Position. 
  • Guideline 7: When an Industry Undergoes a Trend Toward Consolidation, the Agencies Consider Whether It Increases the Risk a Merger May Substantially Lessen Competition or Tend to Create a Monopoly. 
  • Guideline 8: When a Merger is Part of a Series of Multiple Acquisitions, the Agencies May Examine the Whole Series.
  • Guideline 9: When a Merger Involves a Multi-Sided Platform, the Agencies Examine Competition Between Platforms, on a Platform, or to Displace a Platform. 
  • Guideline 10: When a Merger Involves Competing Buyers, the Agencies Examine Whether It May Substantially Lessen Competition for Workers, Creators, Suppliers, or Other Providers. 
  • Guideline 11: When an Acquisition Involves Partial Ownership or Minority Interests, the Agencies Examine Its Impact on Competition. 

102 million people eligible for Google’s lawsuit settlement

Tens of millions of U.S. consumers will get a payout as Google shells out $700 million to settle an antitrust lawsuit brought by state prosecutors over the high fees it charges app developers. Google will pay $630 million into a fund that will be divided among an estimated 102 million eligible consumers across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to the settlement terms for Utah et al v. Google. Google will pay an additional $70 million for a fund to be used by the states to resolve other related claims. The states wrote in a court filing that they estimate at least 70 percent of eligible consumers, or 71.4 million people, will receive automatic payments without having to file a claim. According to the settlement terms, an “eligible consumer” for the payout is an individual whose legal address in their Google payments profile was in one of the U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands when they purchased an app from Google Play or made an in-app purchase, including subscriptions, through Google Play Billing from Aug. 16, 2016, through Sept. 30, 2023. As part of the terms, Google says it will simplify the process for users to “sideload” apps — or to download them to their phones directly from a developer’s website instead of going through the Google Play store.

Artificial Intelligence

AI's road to reality

Ryan Heath, Ina Fried  |  Axios

A middle road for AI adoption is taking shape, routing around the debate between those who fear humanity could lose control of AI and those who favor a full-speed-ahead plan to seize the technology's benefits. Those who think trust in AI will remain low without a cautious and practical approach to AI development now include America's biggest banks and philanthropists, the White House, labor unions and a new class of niche venture capitalists. Advocates who see a middle ground with AI are moving more pragmatically and methodically than those at the extremes of the AI debate. They're focused on building evidence for their vision and raising funds from outside the biggest tech companies and venture capital firms — which takes more time than writing an open letter or blog post, or tapping existing investors for another round of funding.

Generative Artificial Intelligence and the Creative Economy Staff Report: Perspectives and Takeaways

Research  |  Federal Trade Commission

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) held a public event for creative professionals entitled, “Creative Economy and Generative AI.” The purpose of this report is to summarize the information provided to the FTC in that roundtable. Some of the issues surfaced at the event implicate the FTC’s enforcement and policy authority, though some certainly go beyond or outside the FTC’s jurisdiction. This report begins by briefly summarizing the technological developments in AI and generative AI that make this roundtable and report timely. Next, it explains the FTC’s jurisdictional interest in AI. Finally, it summarizes and memorializes the information provided by roundtable participants. This staff report is intended as a useful resource for the legal, policy, and academic communities who are considering the implications of generative AI.

Nvidia Staffers Warned CEO of Threat AI Would Pose to Minorities

Sinduja Rangarajan, Ian King  |  Bloomberg

Masheika Allgood and Alexander Tsado left their 2020 meeting with Nvidia Corp. Chief Executive Officer Jensen Huang feeling frustrated. The pair had spent a year working with colleagues from across the company on a presentation meant to warn Huang of the potential dangers that artificial intelligence technology posed, especially to minorities. The 22-slide deck and other documents pointed to Nvidia’s growing role in shaping the future of AI and warned that increased regulatory scrutiny was inevitable. The discussion included instances of bias in facial-recognition technologies used by the industry to power self-driving cars. Their aim was to find a way to confront the potentially perilous unintended consequences of AI head-on — ramifications that would likely be first felt by marginalized communities. Both employees left the company shortly after the meeting, with Allgood referring to the meeting as “the single most devastating 45 minutes of my professional life” in a LinkedIn post. While Allgood and Tsado have departed, the concerns they raised about making AI safe and inclusive still hang over the company, and the AI industry at large. Nvidia has one of the poorest records among big tech companies when it comes to Black and Hispanic representation in its workforce, and one of its generative AI products came under criticism for its failure to account for people of color.


TikTok staff told to avoid flagging problems with Amazon accounts

Hibaq Farah, Dan Milmo  |  Guardian, The

TikTok staff were told they should avoid flagging potential problems on Amazon accounts to protect the video platform’s lucrative commercial relationship with the e-commerce multinational, according to internal communications seen by the Guardian. Some moderators were told in the autumn not to take negative action against a list of more than 60 Amazon-related accounts on TikTok because the US company is a heavy advertiser on the platform. According to exchanges seen by the Guardian, staff who vet TikTok videos and ensure they adhere to content guidelines were advised not to take down the accounts or apply any “tags”. Tagging a video or account could ultimately lead to an account being taken down or not being shown on the For You Page. TikTok insisted this was not official company policy.

Company News

Consolidated says fiber build will slow without private equity backing

Masha Abarinova  |  Fierce

Consolidated Communications filed a letter to shareholders, asking them to vote for the company’s proposed acquisition by Searchlight Capital Partners and British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (BCI). The letter, written by Consolidated’s board of directors, warned that if Consolidated remains a standalone company, it will be unable to fund its future fiber builds at “the pace necessary to remain competitive and continue to grow.” Specifically, Consolidated “will be forced to significantly slow the pace of [its] upgrade to roughly 45,000-75,000 passings per year,” compared to its average of more than 300,000 annual passings from 2021 to 2023. Searchlight and BCI first proposed to acquire the company in April 2023. In October, Consolidated announced it will move forward with the transaction, which is valued at $3.1 billion and includes assumption of the company’s debt.

Stories From Abroad

Connected Nations 2023

Research  |  Ofcom

Full-fibre broadband is now available at more than half of UK residential premises (57%), sharply up from 42% in 2022. Gigabit-capable broadband coverage levels now exceed three-quarters (78%) of UK residential premises, up from 70% in 2022. Ofcom saw 1.7 million new full-fibre consumer connections in the year to May 2023, out of a total of 4.6 million full-fibre connections. This means that just over a third of all full-fibre connections have been taken up in the twelve months to May 2023. As a proportion of premises where it is available, take-up rose by three percentage points from 25% in 2022 to 28%. Take-up varies significantly across nations, between urban and rural areas and local authorities; for example, in local authorities with at least 20% full fibre coverage, take-up as a proportion of premises with full fibre coverage ranges from 6% to 64%. Ninety-seven per cent of residential premises are able to access at least "superfast broadband" (with speeds of at least 30 Mbit/s). Take-up of superfast services as a proportion of all UK premises rose marginally to 72%.  The level of 5G coverage provided outside of premises by at least one mobile network operator (MNO) rose from 67-78% in 2022 to 85-93% in 2023.  As of September 2023, there were more than 18,5001 5G deployments in place across around 81,0002 sites in the UK, up from around 12,000 5G deployments reported in 2022.  

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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 (zwalker 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

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Benton Institute
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