Daily Digest 12/22/2022 (Franco Harris)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Headlines Daily Digest

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FCC Takes Next Steps to Combat Digital Discrimination

USTelecom: The Case for Modern Net Neutrality Legislation

A dangerous side of America’s digital divide: Who receives emergency alerts

Table of Contents

News From the FCC

FCC Takes Next Steps to Combat Digital Discrimination  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission
Benton Foundation
Reactions to the FCC's Steps to Combat Digital Discrimination  |  Read below  |  Grace Tepper  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
FCC Proposes New Rules for Captioned Phone Calls  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission
FCC Proposes Rules to Improve Routing of Wireless 911 Calls and Texts  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission
FCC Takes Latest Step to Improve Satellite Application Processing  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission
FCC Proposes Largest Fine Ever Against Auto Warranty Scam Robocaller  |  Federal Communications Commission
FCC waives requirement that Verizon submit broadband availability and quality of service data for its 3G network  |  Federal Communications Commission

Broadband Data and Mapping

State office may not challenge broadband maps, risking hundreds of millions of federal funds for Texas  |  Read below  |  Paul Flahive  |  Texas Public Radio
New FCC Data Confirms Cable Gigabit Speeds Are Deployed Equitably  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  NCTA
Access to the FCC Broadband Maps  |  Read below  |  Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting

Net Neutrality

The Case for Modern Net Neutrality Legislation  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  USTelecom

Emergency Communications

A dangerous side of America’s digital divide: Who receives emergency alerts  |  Read below  |  Brianna Sacks  |  Washington Post


FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan: Our job is to prevent illegal mergers, not to make the world a better place.  |  Wall Street Journal


U.S. Cyber Command disrupted Russian and Iranian hackers throughout the midterms  |  Washington Post
Enduring Security Framework Potential Threats to 5G Network Slicing  |  Department of Homeland Security
How Hackers Used One Software Flaw to Take Down Suffolk County (NY) Computer System  |  New York Times
Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook are always listening unless you change these settings  |  USA Today


Congress kicks the can on wireless, telecommunications issues as 2022 ends  |  Read below  |  Linda Hardesty  |  Fierce

Social Media/Platforms

Twitter changed science — what happens now it’s in turmoil?  |  Nature
Musk Lifted Bans for Thousands on Twitter. Here’s What They’re Tweeting.  |  New York Times
Does Netflix chill our free will?  |  University of Chicago

Industry/Company News

Fiber Broadband Deployments Accelerate in 2022 Ahead of BEAD Funding Infusion, Setting New Homes Passed Record  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Fiber Broadband Association
AT&T Teams With Satellite Provider AST SpaceMobile as It Looks to Boost Coverage  |  CNET


Broadband Leaders Gather  |  Read below  |  Shirley Bloomfield  |  Editorial  |  NTCA
Fiber Broadband Association Elects 2023 Board of Directors  |  Fiber Broadband Association

Stories From Abroad

Ukraine to Get Thousands More Starlink Antennas, Minister Says  |  Read below  |  Volodymyr Verbyany, Drayna Krasnolutska  |  Bloomberg
Two Airbus Satellites Are Lost After Rocket Fails  |  Wall Street Journal
Mark MacCarthy: UK government purges “legal but harmful” provisions from its revised Online Safety Bill  |  Brookings
Today's Top Stories

News From the FCC

FCC Takes Next Steps to Combat Digital Discrimination

Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission is seeking comment on next steps to promote and facilitate equal access to broadband internet service for everyone, with the goal of creating a framework for combatting digital discrimination that has caused harm to historically excluded and marginalized communities. Specifically, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeks comment on:

  • A proposed definition of “digital discrimination of access” as used in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).
  • Proposed revisions to the FCC’s informal consumer complaint process to accept complaints of digital discrimination.
  • Proposed adoption of model policies and best practices for states and localities to combat digital discrimination based on recommendations from the Communications Equity and Diversity Council.
  • Further details of the rules the Commission should adopt to facilitate equal access to broadband internet service and prevent “digital discrimination of access,” as well as identification of necessary steps for the elimination of such discrimination.

Section 60506 of the IIJA charged the FCC with several directives to combat digital discrimination, including those addressed in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. 

Reactions to the FCC's Steps to Combat Digital Discrimination

"Today we move forward with a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking," said Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. "This document builds on our earlier efforts. That means we now seek more targeted comment on how to define digital discrimination. We also propose reforms to our consumer complaint system to create a dedicated pathway for digital discrimination complaints. And we propose to adopt the model policies and best practices for states and localities that our Communications Equity and Diversity Council recently adopted. Getting to final rules next year will require more engagement, more collaboration, and more work. The input we have received thus far from stakeholders is an awfully good start. But to get this right, we still need more input and ideas because we can’t reach our goal of connecting everyone, everywhere unless we eliminate digital discrimination. So let’s get to it."

"Much of what we do here at the FCC will last years, decades even," said Federal Communication Commissioner Geoffrey Starks. "But some of what we do will impact generations of Americans. This is such a proceeding. Eradicating digital discrimination is not just a promise for today—it’s also a guarantee for a more just and equitable future tomorrow. That’s why I’m thrilled to see us work together in support of this important goal. With this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, we move one step closer to completing not only our statutory obligation—but our moral obligation—to facilitate equal access to broadband and prevent digital discrimination. [P]rogress is important. Past claims that there was no business case to deploy services in certain communities are just that—stuck in the past—thanks to the Affordable Connectivity Program and the proven evidence that consumers will sign up for broadband if you make a quality service available and put in the effort to reach them. I look forward to the digital future we all deserve: the one where no community struggles to find basic connectivity while others pass them by with constant service upgrades.”

“We applaud the FCC’s effort to meet the congressionally mandated deadline to create rules preventing and eliminating digital discrimination, although we’ll still need to fill the fifth Commissioner seat to achieve this goal," said Jenna Leventoff, Senior Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge. "The Commission’s forthcoming rules around digital discrimination, if implemented correctly, could prove one of the most effective mechanisms available to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, reliable internet service. In order to fulfill its congressional intent to end the disproportionate impact of the digital divide on low-income and marginalized communities, we hope that the Commission’s forthcoming rules will hold broadband providers liable for acts that lead to a discriminatory impact, whether. Moreover, we urge the Commission to take a holistic view of comparable service that reflects all components of the customer experience and to interpret its mandate to ‘take into account issues of technological and economic feasibility’ narrowly by adopting a rebuttable presumption that service is technically and economically feasible."

“There is no disagreement that there should be equal access to broadband for all the people of the United States and that digital discrimination should be prevented," says Free State Foundation President Randolph May and Director of Policy Studies Seth Cooper. "But it is unnecessary, and likely to be counterproductive to the achievement of that worthy objective, for the Commission to adopt a rule which allows discrimination to be proved based on a showing of unintentional 'disparate impact' rather than on a showing of intentional discrimination. And it is likely that a rule adopting a ‘disparate impact’ test wouldn’t survive a judicial challenge because the text and structure of the Infrastructure Act, along with relevant judicial precedents, require an intent-based definitional standard to prove digital discrimination.”

FCC Proposes New Rules for Captioned Phone Calls

Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission approved a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for a new three-year plan for compensation rates for Internet Protocol Captioned Telephone Service (IP CTS). This service, supported through the Interstate Telephone Relay Service (TRS) Fund, allows individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing to read captions of phone conversations as they occur. The FCC is proposing that IP CTS providers be compensated using separate per-minute formulas, based on whether captioning for a telephone call is provided on a fully automatic basis or with the help of a communications assistant (CA). It costs less per minute to provide captions using only automatic speech recognition (ASR) than if a CA is involved. The NPRM approved seeks comment on the proposed compensation plan, along with other issues, including: identifying costs attributable to ASR-only captioning; adjusting certain recoverable-cost criteria; setting the duration of the compensation period; and making midperiod adjustments for inflation and productivity.

FCC Proposes Rules to Improve Routing of Wireless 911 Calls and Texts

Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission proposed rules to more precisely route wireless 911 calls and texts to 911 call centers, which can result in faster response times during emergencies. Wireless 911 calls have historically been routed to 911 call centers based on the location of the cell tower that handles the call. But in some cases—for example, if a 911 call is made near a county or a city border—the nearest cell tower may be in a neighboring jurisdiction. In these cases, the call may be routed to a 911 call center in that neighboring jurisdiction, not the call center that serves the caller’s location. These wireless 911 calls must then be re-routed to the proper 911 call center, which can waste valuable time and resources during emergencies. The FCC adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would require wireless providers and certain text providers to:

  • Deploy technology that supports location-based routing on their Internet Protocol (IP)- based networks (i.e., 4G, LTE, 5G, and future generations of IP networks);
  • Use location-based routing to route all 911 voice calls and texts originating on their IPbased networks when caller location information meets certain requirements for accuracy and timeliness;
  • Use best available location information (which could be longitude/latitude of the cell tower) to route these 911 voice calls and texts when caller location information does not meet the proposed requirements; and
  • Deliver 911 calls, texts, and associated routing information in IP format upon the request of 911 authorities who have the capability to accept it

FCC Takes Latest Step to Improve Satellite Application Processing

Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission launched a proceeding to streamline its review processes for satellite applications. As the space economy booms, the agency will look to further update its rules and processes to ensure that its critical review responsibilities are met as efficiently and effectively as possible. Through the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking adopted, the FCC seeks comment on changes to its rules, policies, or practices to help FCC processing stay apace with the number of innovative satellite applications in the new space age. This proceeding aims to help facilitate the acceptance for filing of satellite and earth station applications under Part 25. Specifically, the FCC seeks comment on:

  • allowing licensees to apply for more than one unbuilt non-geostationary satellite system in a given frequency band;
  • how the FCC should handle inconsistencies and omissions in applications – such as helping applicants and/or quickly dismissing the applications so they can be refiled;
  • processing timelines for review of applications and how policy changes might be applied from elsewhere in the FCC’s processes; and
  • allowing consideration of satellite applications and petitions that request waiver of the Table of Frequency Allocations to operate in a frequency band without an international allocation. 

Data and Mapping

State office may not challenge broadband maps, risking hundreds of millions of federal funds for Texas

Paul Flahive  |  Texas Public Radio

Billions of dollars are up for grabs to expand broadband availability across the country. But the Federal Communication Commission maps that will determine where the money goes are inaccurate, according to the Texas comptroller, because internet service providers inflated their coverage areas. The Texas office charged with challenging and improving those maps at the state level says it can’t. And that could leave hundreds of millions of dollars on the table that should have gone to expanding broadband in underserved areas. John Speirs, manager for the Harris County Office of Broadband, said communities are having to step up and challenge the maps themselves but it is unlikely they can replace the statewide effort. The challenge process is complex and the federal government gave them less than two months to do it — two months that include three recognized holidays.

New FCC Data Confirms Cable Gigabit Speeds Are Deployed Equitably

Press Release  |  NCTA

Before the US can accomplish the important task of connecting all Americans, it is important to understand where broadband already exists in both rural and urban areas. Having accurate data about existing broadband networks will enable billions of federal and state funding and other resources to be dedicated where they are needed most (communities without service). The newly released Federal Communications Commission Broadband Map is just the first iteration and needs to be further refined through the challenge process. However, one clear takeaway from the FCC data is that cable providers deploy gigabit service equitably regardless of income level or racial composition. As of June 2022, gigabit broadband service is available from cable providers to 96% of the locations they serve. These offerings are widely available in all areas regardless of household income, where between 95% and 97% of all locations in cable provider service areas can access gigabit speeds no matter what their household income is. There is virtually no difference in cable gigabit availability based on the racial composition of a given area. Bottom line: As the cable broadband industry forges ahead with next-generation 10G networks, government data shows that providers have a track record of deploying their fastest services ubiquitously to communities they serve regardless of income level or race.

Access to the FCC Broadband Maps

Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting

I suspect that there are already a lot of communities and other folks who are in violation of the license agreement to view and use the new Federal Communications Commission mapping fabric and associated data. CostQuest, the firm that created the mapping fabric, has provided communities and others with a basic license to view and utilize the mapping data strictly for the purpose of the Broadband Data Collection (BDC) process – for reviewing and challenging the FCC maps. Anybody that wants to use the mapping data for any other purpose must sign a different agreement and pay to utilize the data. I am completely flabbergasted by this whole process. The FCC paid CostQuest $44 million to create the maps. One would think that would mean the resulting maps and data belongs to the FCC, and that CostQuest is just a vendor hired to create the maps and mapping fabric. But it appears that having created the maps is creating a permanent revenue stream for CostQuest, and the company is acting as if it is the owner of the federal mapping data. This raises a lot of questions, starting with the big question of why the FCC would allow a vendor to extract big fees to utilize a software system and data mandated and paid for by the FCC. Perhaps the bigger question is why broadband mapping data isn’t publicly available to everybody. I hope that the FCC will come to its senses and reclaim its own data, or at least mandate that it should be easily available to everybody. 

Net Neutrality

The Case for Modern Net Neutrality Legislation

Press Release  |  USTelecom

Broadband companies have long practiced net neutrality and do not block, throttle, or unfairly prioritize content. We support legislation that codifies into law open internet protections across consumers’ online experience. Only modern net neutrality rules can deliver the full protections all consumers deserve. This requires modern rules that apply not only to broadband, but also to online commerce, search, social media and other areas where significant real-world neutrality concerns have emerged. Such key points include the following:

  • Broadband Companies Support MODERN Legislation: Reinstating old regulations would grant the government sweeping powers that would degrade consumers’ online experience and threaten US competitiveness.
  • Net Neutrality Principles Should Apply Across the Internet: The regulations this bill seeks to reinstate pre-date the internet. Consumers deserve equitable protections across their online experience.
  • Broadband is a Bright Spot for Consumers, and Economy: Today’s consumers benefit from a thriving, open, and dynamic internet, complete with countless choices and low-cost options.
  • US Innovation Policy Helps Power This Success Story: Significant credit for our nation’s broadband strength is due to US innovation policy which emphasizes constructive engagement between the public and private sectors— protecting consumers while advancing investment and innovation.
  • Reclassifying Broadband = Dramatic Reversal: If reaching back to the distant past for regulatory authority doesn’t protect consumers from new online platforms and only governs companies that already practice net neutrality, then what does this retro approach achieve?
  • Only Congress Can Deliver a Modern Approach: A modern statute should focus on securing open internet principles across the connected world—without granting the government broad powers over virtually all aspects of consumers’ online experience.

The bottom line: Resuscitating rules from the pre-internet past is no way to govern our nation’s connected future.

Emergency Communications

A dangerous side of America’s digital divide: Who receives emergency alerts

Brianna Sacks  |  Washington Post

While America’s digital divide has been improving, large chunks of the country, especially rural and tribal lands, are still lagging behind in connection, according to research and experts, and that significantly hampers their access to vital, potentially lifesaving information. Without cell towers, urgent emergency alerts can’t get to phones and it is more difficult for residents to warn one another of danger or contact authorities. It’s a tough sell to get private companies to spend the time and money to build towers in rural areas, according to reports and experts. However, the federal government has launched several initiatives to help improve access to reliable services and spur investment. In 2020, the Federal Communications Commission created the 5G Fund for Rural America, a $9 billion program aimed at bringing broadband service to underserved areas.


Congress kicks the can on wireless, telecommunications issues as 2022 ends

Linda Hardesty  |  Fierce

Congress is again kicking the can down the road on several issues important to the US telecommunications industry. A 4,155-page omnibus spending package bill that Congress unveiled is expected to pass in order to keep the government operating. But Congress punted on a long-term extension of the Federal Communications Commission’s auction authority, covering the shortfall for rip and replace funding, and consideration of more mid-band spectrum for wireless use. One tiny blurb of the bill was devoted to the FCC’s auction authority, extending it until March 9, 2023. Traditionally, the FCC’s auction authority has been extended in 10-year increments, but this Congress just keeps renewing it for three-month time frames. Steve Berry, president and CEO of the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA), has been following this issue closely. He said he’s grateful that the bill will ensure the FCC’s spectrum auction authority does not expire, but he noted that the March deadline is less than 80 days away.

Industry News

Fiber Broadband Deployments Accelerate in 2022 Ahead of BEAD Funding Infusion, Setting New Homes Passed Record

Press Release  |  Fiber Broadband Association

More fiber was deployed in 2022 than ever before. Research performed by RVA LLC Market Research & Consulting (RVA) shows that fiber providers passed 7.9 million additional homes in the US in 2022—the highest annual deployment ever, even with challenges in the materials supply chain and labor availability. According to RVA, there are now a total of 68 million fiber broadband passings in the US, up 13% over the past 12 months and up 27% over the past 24 months. Excluding homes with two or more fiber passings, 63 million unique homes have now been passed. Fiber has passed nearly half of primary homes and over 10% of second homes. Fiber broadband buildout continues to expand in Canada as well with about 66% of homes passed as 2022 comes to a close.


Broadband Leaders Gather

Shirley Bloomfield  |  Editorial  |  NTCA

When Jase Wilson with Broadband Money reached out to share that he was convening a gathering of broadband leaders in Florida to have some off-the-record conversations about funding, state activity, challenges, and opportunities and asked me to be around the table, it was hard to say no. From state broadband office leaders to community leaders to a few policymakers and interested parties, the conversations were fast-paced and ran the gamut from technology to deployment to sustainability of networks to the role that anchor institutions play in the mix. We also all committed to Chatham House rules which meant that what was said in the hotel conference room stayed there. My one take-away that I can share was my own reflection that, after sitting with these folks for 24 hours, it is extremely important to expand and engage our NTCA member companies in our Smart Communities and particularly our Smart Rural Community program. The need to differentiate yourself as a community-based provider has never been more important. Much of the conversation on un/underserved areas of the country was teed up with a subtle (and sometimes not subtle) dig at incumbents. 

Stories From Abroad

Ukraine to Get Thousands More Starlink Antennas, Minister Says

Volodymyr Verbyany, Drayna Krasnolutska  |  Bloomberg

Ukraine reached a deal with Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies to receive thousands more Starlink antennas to help counter Russian air attacks. More than 10,000 of the devices, which provide internet service beamed down from satellites, will be sent to Ukraine in the coming months, said Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine's deputy prime minister and minister for digital transformation. SpaceX’s satellites are part of the Starlink network, which transmits high-speed internet service to antennas on Earth. Starlink played an important early role in the war in Ukraine, as Russia’s military focused on destroying communications. Starlink antennas allowed Ukraine’s troops to maintain contact as they repelled Russia’s opening onslaught. Ukraine has received about 22,000 Starlink antennas since the war began in February.

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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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