Daily Digest 12/5/2023 (Community Anchors)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Community Anchor Institutions

How Have California School Districts Used the Emergency Connectivity Fund?  |  Read below  |  Joseph Hayes, Niu Gao  |  Analysis  |  Public Policy Institute of California
Rep Danny Davis (D-IL) Announces Legislation to Benefit the Nation's Parks  |  Read below  |  Representative Danny Davis (D-IL)  |  Press Release  |  House of Representatives
Inside America’s School Internet Censorship Machine  |  Read below  |  Todd Feathers, Dhruv Mehrotra  |  Wired

Broadband Service

Is Broadband Essential?  |  Read below  |  Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting


Benton Foundation
A Plan for Digital Equity in Delaware  |  Read below  |  Grace Tepper  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
New investment in broadband expansion 'an equalizing opportunity' for Wisconsin's rural communities  |  Read below  |  Hope Kirwan  |  Wisconsin Public Radio
Charter’s $1.3 Billion Texas Investment  |  Read below  |  Joan Engebretson  |  telecompetitor


President Biden's spectrum plan doesn't quell 5G capacity worries  |  Read below  |  Mike Dano  |  Light Reading
Wireless Broadband Alliance: Wi-Fi 7 on track to nearly 50% adoption by 2024-end  |  RCR Wireless News
Senators Markey (D-MA) and Blackburn (R-TN) Send Letter To FCC On 12 Gigahertz Proceeding  |  Read below  |  Senator Edward Markey (D-MA), Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)  |  Letter  |  US Senate
AT&T wants National Spectrum Strategy to focus more on mid-band  |  Fierce
Shane Tews | Exploring the Federal Communications Commission’s Challenges in 5G Leadership  |  American Enterprise Institute
AT&T Drops Nokia for Ericsson in $14 Billion Deal  |  Wall Street Journal
AT&T is Gung-Ho on Open RAN, Upgrading 70% of Mobile Network by 2026  |  telecompetitor


Meta, IBM Create Industrywide AI Alliance to Share Technology  |  Bloomberg


Why mental health apps need to take privacy more seriously  |  Brookings Institute

Company News

Connect2First claims 40 to 60 percent take rates for Arkansas fiber build  |  Read below  |  Julia King  |  Fierce
Comcast President: ‘We know how to compete against fiber’  |  Read below  |  Masha Abarinova  |  Fierce
Brightspeed’s Plans to Invest That $2 Billion in Its Network  |  Read below  |  Joan Engebretson  |  telecompetitor

Stories From Abroad

Commission approves up to €1.2 billion of State aid by 7 Member States for a Project in cloud and edge computing technologies  |  European Commission
Meta Faces Lawsuit From Spanish Media Over Advertising Practices  |  Wall Street Journal
Today's Top Stories

Community Anchors

How Have California School Districts Used the Emergency Connectivity Fund?

Joseph Hayes, Niu Gao  |  Analysis  |  Public Policy Institute of California

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is preparing to close out its Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF), which Congress authorized in 2021 to facilitate remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nationwide, eligible schools, districts, libraries, and consortia have requested over $9.2 billion through the program to provide internet connectivity and devices for instruction, research, and homework. In California, most applicants were school districts, and the majority of these funds went to districts with high percentages of students with historically tenuous internet access. Districts were also more likely to use ECF funds for connectivity services, rather than devices. Californian school districts submitted 2,206 applications, and the ECF approved about $859 million in funding requests. The majority of these funds went to districts with high proportions of Black, Latino, or low-income students, groups that tend to have lower levels of internet access. Districts with high concentrations of Black or Latino students garnered a majority of the funds ($511 million), an outsize share given their proportion of applications. Similarly, low-income districts also received more than half of the total ($447 million), though they submitted a smaller proportion of applications. Districts with high percentages of English Learners (ELs) represented a little less than a third of applications and received $210 million, or about a quarter of the total funds. Districts without high concentrations of any of these student groups secured $246 million.

Rep Danny Davis (D-IL) Announces Legislation to Benefit the Nation's Parks

Representative Danny Davis (D-IL)  |  Press Release  |  House of Representatives

Lessons learned from the Technology in the Parks initiative in Columbus Park have inspired comprehensive legislation with three major components: 

  1. Firstly, we propose to expand the Federal Communications Commission E-rates program to include local parks. This initiative is crucial in bringing broadband access to these community spaces, aligning with the program's existing coverage for schools and libraries.

  2. Secondly, our legislation aims to specifically include local parks in the U.S. General Services Computers for Learning Program. This will provide our parks with access to computer equipment that federal agencies have identified as excess property, facilitating technological advancements and digital literacy in our communities.

  3. Lastly, we will require the U.S. Department of Labor to implement a program that provides grants for technology training programs in local parks. This not only supports skill development but also ensures that local parks hosting such programs are eligible for E-Rate support, creating a more connected and tech-savvy environment for all.

Inside America’s School Internet Censorship Machine

Todd Feathers, Dhruv Mehrotra  |  Wired

Thanks in large part to a two-decade-old federal law, school districts across the US restrict what students see online using a patchwork of commercial web filters that block vast and often random swathes of the internet. Companies like GoGuardian and Blocksi govern students’ internet use in thousands of US school districts. As the national debate over school censorship focuses on controversial book-banning laws, an investigation reveals how these automated web filters can perpetuate dangerous censorship on an even greater scale. An analysis of more than 117 million censorship records confirms what students and civil rights advocates have long warned: Web filters are preventing kids from finding critical information about their health, identity, and the subjects they’re studying in class. Virtually every school in the US uses an automatic web filter, largely due to the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) passed by Congress in 2000. The law requires schools and libraries to block “child pornography” and other content deemed “obscene” or “harmful to minors” in order to be eligible for federal technology aid known as E-rate funding.

Broadband Service

Is Broadband Essential?

Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting

For many years, I’ve heard people say that broadband is essential. But what exactly does that mean? Does it mean that broadband is important in a lot of people’s lives, or does it mean that broadband is something that society can’t live without? Grocery stores, gas stations, and auto repair shops could all be considered essential for society. However, these industries are operated by commercial businesses, and they are only lightly regulated, mostly to protect the public from harm. Nobody forces these industries to serve everybody, and nobody protects the companies in these industries from failing; there are plenty of failed grocery stores and gas stations around the country. There is another set of industries that are so essential that the government regulates them as monopolies. It’s unheard of for somebody to build a second water system to serve homes. It’s rare to have anybody building a second set of electric wires. These essential industries are heavily regulated. Where does broadband fit into this spectrum of businesses? When people say broadband is essential, do they mean essential like grocery stores or essential like water companies? If broadband is essential, but total heavy regulation isn’t the right answer, then what is?


A Plan for Digital Equity in Delaware

Grace Tepper  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Delaware seeks to promote digital equity to ensure that all residents, regardless of their background or location, have equal opportunities to access education, health care, job prospects, government services, and information critical to personal growth and well-being. To do so, the Delaware Broadband Office has released the state's draft Digital Equity Plan for public comment. The State of Delaware envisions a future where every individual, regardless of their location or background, has full access to high-speed internet connectivity and the tools necessary to harness its transformative potential. In this vision, urban and rural communities alike can fully participate in the digital economy. In this vision, comprehensive infrastructure investment will eliminate connectivity gaps, bridging the urban-rural divide and fostering a connected ecosystem that empowers residents, businesses, and governments to thrive in a digital society. In this vision, digital equity goes beyond infrastructure, emphasizing digital literacy and skills development as critical components. Residents are equipped with the knowledge to confidently navigate the digital landscape, access online resources, and protect their privacy and security. Digital skills training is integrated into educational curricula, workforce development programs, and community initiatives to create an informed and empowered citizenry. Furthermore, the vision encompasses targeted support for underserved communities, ensuring that they are not left behind in the digital transformation.

New investment in broadband expansion 'an equalizing opportunity' for Wisconsin's rural communities

Hope Kirwan  |  Wisconsin Public Radio

Leaders from the Biden Administration said access to high-speed internet will bring opportunity and dignity for residents of rural communities in Wisconsin and across the country. Tom Perez, White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, and Don Graves, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce, visited Dairyland Power Cooperative in La Crosse (WI) on November 30 to talk about federal money for broadband infrastructure. Dairyland is one of the recipients of the Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Grant, a program created through the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The power cooperative received nearly $15 million in June 2023 to retrofit 240 miles of transmission lines with fiber optic cable for broadband over three years. CEO Brent Ridge said the funding has allowed Dairyland to "accelerate projects that would have been done eventually, but far too late." Chris McArdle Rojo, La Crosse County (WI) Library Director, spoke in a roundtable discussion on the ripple effects of broadband access, and said the growing expansion of broadband represents a first step in bringing new life to rural communities. 

Charter’s $1.3 Billion Texas Investment

Joan Engebretson  |  telecompetitor

Charter celebrated the $1.3 billion that the company is investing in rural areas of Texas. Charter will invest $700 million of the money to cover the full cost of network upgrades. The remaining $420 million will cover some of the cost of fiber deployment. The remainder of the cost of fiber deployment will come partially from money Charter won in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund program in 2020, and partially from public-private partnerships with counties and cities. The $700 million that Charter will invest in its existing network is part of the company’s network evolution plans, which call for upgrading the company’s entire DOCSIS/ hybrid fiber coax footprint by 2025 to support symmetrical and multi-gigabit speeds. The company didn’t detail whether the upgrades planned for Texas would be part of any certain phase or phases of the network evolution plans, but hinted that it might invest more in Texas, in connection with additional subsidies that are allocated for broadband expansion in the state.


President Biden's spectrum plan doesn't quell 5G capacity worries

Mike Dano  |  Light Reading

Two top executives in the 5G industry renewed calls for more spectrum for commercial uses just weeks after the Biden administration released a 26-page national spectrum strategy. AT&T CEO John Stankey and Verizon's top networking chief, Joe Russo, both said that companies need access to more spectrum in order to innovate and grow the industry. Critics of President Joe Biden, including Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr, argue that his administration hasn't done enough to support the 5G industry. However, in testimony before the House of Representatives, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel cheered the agency's progress on spectrum. One topic with wide agreement is the need for Congress to renew the FCC's auction authority, which lapsed on March 9, 2023 but is necessary for the FCC to conduct spectrum auctions. Commissioner Carr and Chairwoman Rosenworcel have both spoken about the need to renew the authority. Chairwoman Rosenworcel said, "Restoring this authority will provide the United States with the strongest foundation to compete in a global economy, counter our adversaries' technology ambitions, and safeguard our national security."

Senators Markey (D-MA) and Blackburn (R-TN) Send Letter To FCC On 12 Gigahertz Proceeding

Senator Edward Markey (D-MA), Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)  |  Letter  |  US Senate

Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to act expeditiously in its proceeding regarding the 12.2-12.7 GHz spectrum band while continuing to maintain an evidence-based approach.  With the 12.2-12.7 GHz band, the FCC has a unique near-term opportunity to expand broadband access, improve the distribution of spectrum resources, and put our spectrum to its most efficient use, especially in rural areas of the country. In particular, if the FCC determines that fixed broadband operations can coexist in the 12.2-12.7 GHz band without interfering with incumbent users, the FCC should move swiftly to permit such use, particularly as the federal government deploys additional resources to close the digital divide. The FCC can do this by updating twenty-year-old rules for the band to account for new technological advances, which can make sharing possible, and considering the creation of a sharing framework to permit local access to unused spectrum channels in this band; ensuring tribes have adequate spectrum access in the band; and potentially authorizing low-power, indoor-only unlicensed use of the band.”

Company News

Connect2First claims 40 to 60 percent take rates for Arkansas fiber build

Julia King  |  Fierce

Connect2First has constructed 4,371 miles of fiber network across 18 Arkansas counties, and the internet service provider still has over 600 miles to go. Sales and Marketing Director Candace Looper said the company is seeing take rates between 40 and 60 percent in areas where service is already available. Connect2First is a wholly owned subsidiary of First Electric cooperative that provides fiber-to-the-home internet and home phone service to the coop’s members. Looper said that once completed, the entire network build will have taken a total investment of around $240 million, including funds from several government programs. To build its fiber network, Connect2First received $17.8 million from the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. It also received over $15 million in Arkansas’ Rural Connect Grant funds. Connect2First expects to serve 30,000 active customers once the buildout is completed.

Comcast President: ‘We know how to compete against fiber’

Masha Abarinova  |  Fierce

As fiber deployments grow, Comcast President Mike Cavanaugh thinks the company is well-positioned to handle the competition. “We’re very focused on the key competitor over the long term being fiber,” Cavanaugh said “The good news is we’ve competed against fiber for 20 years, we know how to compete against [it].” What’s driving the current competitive landscape, Cavanaugh went on to say, is “low move activity” and “the entry of fixed wireless.” He noted it’s difficult to say “which one is more significant.” Cavanaugh predicts fixed wireless access (FWA) will “run for a while,” but said Comcast believes FWA providers are mainly targeting the lower end of the market, “serving a purpose for folks that can live with a product that has its characteristics.” That’s not to say FWA won’t have a permanent fixture in the broadband market in the future. But Cavanaugh thinks “at some point…the excess capacity that’s being used up to provide it as a service will start to tap out.” 

Brightspeed’s Plans to Invest That $2 Billion in Its Network

Joan Engebretson  |  telecompetitor

Brightspeed’s origin story isn’t typical for the telecommunications industry, at least not for a company of its size. It all started with an investment premise that Apollo Global Management wanted to test. That premise: “If we invested in an under-invested wireline company, could we turn it into a growth company?” Apollo negotiated a deal to buy CenturyLink’s local service business in 20 states, which appeared to be an excellent place to test the premise. Only 2 to 3 percent of the footprint that Apollo bought from CenturyLink had been upgraded to fiber when the ownership was transferred. Brightspeed’s goal is to get fiber to 50 percent of its footprint using the $2 billion in funding that Apollo made available to the company for deployments. As the company deploys fiber, it is using a rather uncommon network architecture that management expects to be more efficient, thereby maximizing the number of locations that can be upgraded. One aspect of that architecture is eliminating fiber distribution hubs. In addition, the company began using plug-and-play fiber connections as an alternative to splicing. This approach saves installation time and helps the company maintain deployment schedules, even when technicians who are adept at splicing are in short supply. Perhaps it’s too soon to determine the accuracy of Apollo’s theory that boosting fiber deployments can turn a traditional company into a growth machine. But we should get the answer within the next few years as we watch what happens with Brightspeed.

Submit a Story

Benton (www.benton.org) provides the only free, reliable, and non-partisan daily digest that curates and distributes news related to universal broadband, while connecting communications, democracy, and public interest issues. Posted Monday through Friday, this service provides updates on important industry developments, policy issues, and other related news events. While the summaries are factually accurate, their sometimes informal tone may not always represent the tone of the original articles. Headlines are compiled by Kevin Taglang (headlines AT benton DOT org), Grace Tepper (grace AT benton DOT org), and David L. Clay II (dclay AT benton DOT org) — we welcome your comments.

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

Kevin Taglang

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

Share this edition:

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

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

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