Daily Digest 12/21/2023 (Winter)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Digital Equity

Benton Foundation
Deployment Alone Does Not Tell the Full Story of the Digital Divide  |  Read below  |  John Horrigan  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
What Does Artificial Intelligence Mean for Digital Equity?  |  Read below  |  Angela Siefer  |  Editorial  |  National Digital Inclusion Alliance
Verizon announces partnership with Detroit NAACP to advance digital equity  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Verizon

Broadband Funding

Wavelength's Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Bids in Default Announced  |  Read below  |  Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission
Benton Foundation
Setting the Extremely High Cost Per Location Threshold for BEAD  |  Read below  |  Carol Mattey  |  Op-Ed  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
What’s in it for rural?  |  Read below  |  Anthony Pipa, Elise Pietro  |  Research  |  Brookings Institution
Earth to the FCC: Elon Musk’s Starlink Works  |  Read below  |  John Stokes  |  Op-Ed  |  Wall Street Journal
FCC denies NTCA's petition for waiver of the deadline for Enhanced A-CAM carriers to certify and submit cybersecurity and supply  |  Federal Communications Commission

Data & Mapping

Broadband Data Collection Window Opens January 2, 2024  |  Read below  |  Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission


California’s Digital Equity Bill of Rights  |  Read below  |  Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting


President Biden signs into law Sen Kennedy's (R-LA) bill to require FCC to expand 5G access to rural Americans by releasing previously auctioned spectrum  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  US Senate


Schools could be better protected against cyber attacks if FCC approves changes pushed by 1100 districts  |  Read below  |  Lisa Fletcher  |  WJLA


FTC Proposes Strengthening Children’s Privacy Rule to Further Limit Companies’ Ability to Monetize Children’s Data  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Federal Trade Commission

Emergency Communications

FirstNet: Initial Buildout of Public Safety’s Network Verified, Delivering for America’s First Responders  |  Read below  |  Joe Wassel, Jim Bugel  |  Press Release  |  FirstNet Authority

Platforms/Social Media/AI

How Search Engines Boost Misinformation  |  Scientific American
How TikTok Brings War Home to Your Child  |  Wall Street Journal
4 Practical Ways Nonprofits Can Use A.I. to Drive Innovation and Increase Impact  |  Chronicle of Philanthropy
National Science Foundation appoints new special assistant to the director for artificial intelligence  |  National Science Foundation


FCC temporarily extends current waivers and updates VRS rules for at-home call handling and the use of contract CAs  |  Federal Communications Commission


The Monthly Price of a Full Collection of Premium U.S. SVOD Services Went Up $17 in Just One Year  |  Nexttv

Consumer Protections

Federal Trade Commission Extends Public Comment Period on Proposed Rule Prohibiting Junk Fees for 30 Days, until February 7, 202  |  Federal Trade Commission


Chairwoman Announces Advisory Committee on Forward-Looking Tech Issues  |  Read below  |  Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission
National Science Foundation appoints new special assistant to the director for artificial intelligence  |  National Science Foundation

Company News

Charter running steep 1-Gigabit promo in Kansas City (MO) area  |  Read below  |  Jeff Baumgartner  |  Light Reading
WOW! Offers 2 Gbps Broadband in Trial Market, Thanks to Cable Network Upgrades  |  telecompetitor
Mediacom Network Upgrades Support Speeds Up to 2/1 Gbps in First Market, Priced At…  |  telecompetitor
Mediacom launched its first DOCSIS 4.0 market, lighting up service in West Des Moines  |  Fierce

Stories From Abroad

Telefónica shares jump after Spain announces plan to buy 10% stake  |  Financial Times
Today's Top Stories

Deployment Alone Does Not Tell the Full Story of the Digital Divide

John Horrigan  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

How should broadband adoption, affordability, and equity impact the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s assessment of the availability of broadband for all Americans? A review of recent research indicates that it is not enough for networks to meet just certain deployment benchmarks. Consumer behavior is part of the picture: We cannot reach our universal broadband goals without widespread adoption, and we cannot achieve universal broadband adoption if service is not affordable. Evidence of extensive build-out of very-high-speed networks is a partial indicator of progress toward universal broadband goals. Whether service offerings are affordable and how adoption of them unfolds along lines of income, race, ethnicity, and geography are also important metrics. Determining whether the United States is progressing toward its universal broadband goals means more than measuring the “where” and “how fast.” The FCC must also include metrics about affordability, adoption, and equity. With broadband adoption gaps still very real and the Affordable Connectivity Program that addresses some of them at risk of ending, the FCC should come to the determination that universal broadband goals are not being met. Going forward, the FCC should take a systematic approach to tracking broadband affordability.

[John B. Horrigan is a Benton Senior Fellow and a national expert on technology adoption, digital inclusion, and evaluating the outcomes and impacts of programs designed to promote communications technology adoption and use.]

What Does Artificial Intelligence Mean for Digital Equity?

Angela Siefer  |  Editorial  |  National Digital Inclusion Alliance

Wherever you’re at in your AI journey, it’s time for a digital inclusion community discussion. What we know for sure is that AI will cause another digital divide, or further exacerbate the one we already have. To jump-start the discussion, I have some overarching thoughts about AI and digital inclusion: 

  1. Digital Skills Training Programs Are Essential for People to Safely and Confidently Use AI: Teaching how to use AI tools and how to be safe around AI is a natural addition for digital inclusion skills programs. Just as digital inclusion instructors teach community members how to be safe by identifying bogus websites and phishing, they’ll also have an essential role in teaching others how to verify content provided by a generative AI tool.
  2. Grassroots Based Advocacy Supports Responsible, Meaningful Regulation: Digital inclusion practitioners are experts who should be guiding tech equity policy impacting their communities. They can represent community voices by advocating for local AI use that will benefit their communities, with special attention on avoiding potential bias and harm from AI tools.
  3. Successful Digital Navigation Services Are Built on Trust: AI tools are already being created to support digital navigators. Future digital navigation AI tools will need to be developed carefully to guide human digital navigators ethically and accurately. All of that is dependent on deep involvement from community digital inclusion practitioners and digital navigators – the experts on community needs. These humans – experts from the digital inclusion community – need to be part of the whole process, from development, to equity and inclusion testing, to feedback loops for continuous improvement, and onto user support.

Wavelength's Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Bids in Default Announced

Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission's Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB or Bureau) and the Office of Economics and Analytics (OEA) announced that Wavelength LLC, a Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF or Auction 904) long-form applicant, has defaulted. The Bureau has concluded its review of Wavelength’s long-form application in Arizona. The Bureau has determined that, based on the totality of the long-form application and its inadequate responses to the Bureau’s follow-up questions, Wavelength has failed to demonstrate that it is financially qualified to receive support to meet its RDOF program obligations in the areas where it has winning bids in Arizona. A defaulter is subject to a base forfeiture per violation of $3,000. A violation is defined as any form of default with respect to the census block group. In other words, there shall be separate violations for each census block group assigned in a bid. So that this base forfeiture amount is not disproportionate to the amount of a winning bidder’s bid, the FCC  has limited the total base forfeiture to 15% of the bidder’s total assigned support for the bid for the support term. 

Setting the Extremely High Cost Per Location Threshold for BEAD

Carol Mattey  |  Op-Ed  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Over the last 18 months, there’s been a lot of discussion about whether National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) struck the right balance in urging states to extend fiber as far as possible when implementing the $40+ billion Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program. With all due respect to those who are passionate about their respective point of view—it’s time to step back and take a deep breath.

  • It’s highly unlikely that many states will be able to use their BEAD allocation to get fiber 100 percent everywhere. There are a lot of reasons for that, but can we at least agree with that basic point, and move on?
  • Congress and NTIA have given the states the responsibility for deciding where to draw the line—which areas are just “too costly” for fiber. The relative mix will vary from state to state, due to a variety of factors, including geography, who’s already in the state, and other rules that each state adopts for BEAD, such as how it defines proposed project areas.
  • There will be locations served with other technologies. Fixed wireless and satellite are not excluded from BEAD. There’s a market for other technologies.

A critical tool that will determine the relative mix of fiber and other technologies is where states choose to set their Extreme High Cost Per Location Threshold (EHCPLT or Extremely High Cost Threshold).

What’s in it for rural?

Anthony Pipa, Elise Pietro  |  Research  |  Brookings Institution

By passing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the CHIPS and Science Act (CHIPS), and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the 117th Congress approved over a trillion dollars in immediate appropriations and nearly $600 billion more in authorizations to invest in infrastructure, clean energy, climate resilience, and industrial policy. Given the complex challenges that rural communities face to achieve and sustain prosperity, we examined the provisions of this legislation to identify where rural places are statutorily included or where funding objectives are exceptionally relevant to rural community and economic development. Broadband funding has particular importance for rural communities, given the persistent gap in rural access. These resources focus on closing the gap in physical deployment as well as ensuring accessibility through initiatives such as the new Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program, which will allocate $42.5 billion to the states to distribute; the Affordable Connectivity Program, $14.2 billion to enable low-income households to subscribe to high-speed internet; and the three State Digital Equity Programs, worth $3.29 billion. The USDA ReConnect program received $1.9 billion in appropriations, which the department reported as financing $2.86 billion in loans and $140 million in technical assistance.

Earth to the FCC: Elon Musk’s Starlink Works

John Stokes  |  Op-Ed  |  Wall Street Journal

It is clear that nobody at the Federal Communications Commission has used the Starlink service. We have a cabin in the woods in rural South Carolina that is in an internet desert. It gets no wired internet, no wired telephone service and weak and spotty cellphone service, with no prospect of improvement. I recently subscribed to the Starlink standard service. The equipment arrived promptly, setup was quick and easy, and the signal is rock solid, with no weather interruptions. Download speed is as fast as the wired internet service at our home in town. Upload speed is faster than at home. We now have streaming TV, reliable internet phone and plenty of speed to support Zoom calls for work—and the cost is reasonable. The FCC may think that this technology is unproven, but it works pretty well for us.

Verizon announces partnership with Detroit NAACP to advance digital equity

Press Release  |  Verizon

Verizon announced a $100,000 award to the Detroit Branch NAACP for the Digital Education, Training, and Access (E.T.A.) program. The partnership is part of the Verizon Forward Community Enhancement Award, a $1 million national initiative equipping communities with the tools to navigate an increasingly technological world. The Detroit Branch NAACP will partner with local organizations to provide technology-focused training to seniors and formerly incarcerated community members. Participants will learn how to use technology to access healthcare, banking, social services, social media, and employment opportunities. Additionally, 50 small business owners will be introduced to emerging technologies in operations, marketing, and financial management to support their growth and will receive a free one-year business management software subscription.

Broadband Data Collection Window Opens January 2, 2024

Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission's Broadband Data Task Force announced that the Broadband Data Collection (BDC) filing window for submitting broadband availability and other data as of December 31, 2023, will open on January 2, 2024. The December 2023 update (Version 4) of the Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric (Fabric) will be available to existing Fabric licensees starting on December 27, 2023. Beginning January 2,  facilities-based broadband service providers may begin submitting data into the BDC system that identifies where they made mass-market broadband internet access service available as of December 31, 2023. Such entities, and providers of fixed voice services, must also submit their December 31, 2023, subscription data into the BDC system. All availability and subscription data must be submitted no later than March 1, 2024. 

California’s Digital Equity Bill of Rights

Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting

In October 2023, Governor Gavin Newsom (D-CA) signed the Digital Equity Bill of Rights. This is an interesting law that guarantees that Californians have the right to, among other things:

  • Broadband that is sufficient and reliable and that can support basic digital needs like distance learning, telehealth, and remote working.
  • Ubiquitous broadband that is available everywhere in the State, including rural areas, tribal lands, and all low-income neighborhoods. The legislation requires public investments in broadband to connect entire communities and address digital redlining.
  • Affordable rates with broadband plans work for all Californians, regardless of geographic location or household income.

The big question for sweeping legislation of this scope is how the law translates into practical changes. I can think of several immediate consequences. First, any broadband grants or subsidies created by the State must be aimed at furthering these goals. The chances are that grants probably already did this to some extent, but after the passage of this law, the intent of grants will have to be more focused and specific. More subtly, this legislation is a directive to the California Public Service Commission on how it should regulate broadband. Over time this will create some interesting regulatory battles as the CPUC tries to influence or force ISPs to adhere to these principles. This new legislation provides cover for the CPUC to consider creating regulations for a range of issues, such as prohibiting redlining, requiring affordable rates, mandating workable emergency alert systems, and the many other possible regulations that might be created under this new and broad umbrella. This law does not directly create any regulations, but it provides a framework for California regulators to tackle issues that they might have been cautious about tackling.

President Biden signs into law Sen Kennedy's (R-LA) bill to require FCC to expand 5G access to rural Americans by releasing previously auctioned spectrum

Press Release  |  US Senate

President Joe Biden signed Sen. John Kennedy’s (R-LA) 5G Spectrum Authority Licensing Enforcement (SALE) Act into law. The legislation will require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to release previously auctioned spectrum to expand 5G broadband access to rural communities. The US Senate passed Kennedy’s legislation in September 2023, and the House of Representatives passed Kennedy’s legislation in December. The 5G SALE Act will temporarily grant the FCC auction authority it needs to complete spectrum transfers, which will allow broadband services to provide greater 5G network coverage to Americans in rural areas.

Schools could be better protected against cyber attacks if FCC approves changes pushed by 1100 districts

Lisa Fletcher  |  WJLA

Schools across the country are under attack, increasingly held hostage to ransomware and other vicious online assaults costing more than $10 billion a year in downtime alone. Contracts, tax forms, and passports, along with social security numbers, birth dates, and addresses for students, parents, and staff are up for grabs on poorly secured networks that are easily taken hostage. This is why more than 1,100 school districts, along with nearly two dozen groups, signed a letter asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to react now. The FCC recently announced a three-year, $200 million trial to study how to best help schools secure themselves, but advocates for improved cybersecurity for schools said there's a much quicker and more efficient way to help schools immediately. The FCC collects $3 billion every year in fees from telecommunications companies to help schools build out their broadband networks. Cybersecurity advocates say some of that money could be used to help schools secure those networks right now, if the FCC agreed to make immediate adjustments to the framework for the use of those funds.

FTC Proposes Strengthening Children’s Privacy Rule to Further Limit Companies’ Ability to Monetize Children’s Data

Press Release  |  Federal Trade Commission

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has proposed changes to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA Rule) that would place new restrictions on the use and disclosure of children’s personal information and further limit the ability of companies to condition access to services on monetizing children’s data. The proposal aims to shift the burden from parents to providers to ensure that digital services are safe and secure for children. In a notice that will be published in the Federal Register, the FTC has proposed several changes to the rule, including:

  • Requiring Separate Opt-In For Targeted Advertising
  • Prohibition against conditioning a child’s participation on collection of personal information
  • Limits on the support for the internal operations exception
  • Limits on nudging kids to stay online
  • Changes related to Ed Tech
  • Increasing accountability for Safe Harbor programs
  • Strengthening data security requirements
  • Limits on data retention

FirstNet: Initial Buildout of Public Safety’s Network Verified, Delivering for America’s First Responders

Joe Wassel, Jim Bugel  |  Press Release  |  FirstNet Authority

“The initial build of the FirstNet network was done on time, on budget and on task.” With those words, the First Responder Network Authority Board Chair Chief Richard Carrizzo confirmed and validated the successful completion of the initial 5-year buildout of FirstNet, America’s public safety broadband network. The journey to this moment has been remarkable—it started with the development of custom FirstNet state plans for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the 5 US territories. Through our public-private partnership, and close collaboration with the public safety community across the country, we have achieved many milestones, with completion of the initial phase of buildout of FirstNet representing a defining accomplishment. FirstNet is one of the most significant infrastructure programs in our county, and it has delivered for America’s first responders on time and on budget. Every US state, territory and the District of Columbia benefits from the FirstNet infrastructure investment. Additionally, the FirstNet Authority’s licensed Band 14 spectrum was deployed across the country to give all first responders—career or volunteer; federal, tribal, state or local; urban, suburban or rural—the dedicated connectivity they require when and where they need it.

Chairwoman Announces Advisory Committee on Forward-Looking Tech Issues

Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission

Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced that the FCC will re-establish the Communications Security, Reliability, and Interoperability Council (CSRIC), with its primary focus to include how artificial intelligence and machine learning can enhance the security, reliability, and integrity of communications networks in a nondiscriminatory, transparent, and socially responsible manner. The Chairwoman also plans to task the next CSRIC with addressing forward-looking issues including the security and reliability risks unique to emerging 6G networks and the reliability of Next Generation 911 networks. CSRIC is a federal advisory committee that provides recommendations to the Commission to improve the security, reliability, and interoperability of the nation’s communications systems. The Commission announced its intention to re-establish CSRIC on or before March 30, 2024, for a period of two years. This will be the FCC’s ninth charter of CSRIC, with an expected first meeting in June 2024. The FCC is seeking nominations for membership and a chairperson for CSRIC IX.

Charter running steep 1-Gigabit promo in Kansas City (MO) area

Jeff Baumgartner  |  Light Reading

Charter Communications is running a promotion in the Kansas City, Missouri, area that pitches a 1-Gigabit broadband service for $39.99 per month for a period of two years. Under the terms of the promotion, Charter is also tossing in a $100 Visa Rewards Card and offering a line of Spectrum Mobile for 12 months. Pricing on the 1-Gig promotion rises after a two-year period. Per a "multi-year manageable step-up plan," the price for 1-Gig eventually rises to $119.99 per month after about six years. Even with the future pricing step-up, the first two years of the promotion make 1-Gig speeds attractive when compared to Charter's other tiers while giving Charter a high-level tier to wield against area broadband competition. Charter's promotion surfaces as it and other cable operators are struggling to grow broadband subscribers in the face of more competition from fiber and fixed wireless access options, record low churn rates, and a sluggish housing move environment.

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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.

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