Daily Digest 1/25/2023 (Victor Saul Navasky)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Platforms/Social Media

Justice Department Sues Google for Monopolizing Digital Advertising Technologies  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Department of Justice
Google to stop exempting campaign email from automated spam detection  |  Washington Post

State/Local Initiatives

Governor Walz Proposes Budget that would Invest in Minnesota’s Economic Future, Broadband  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Minnesota Office of the Governor
Alaska (Still) Aims to Use State Broadband Map to Get Its Fair Share of BEAD Funding  |  Read below  |  Joan Engebretson  |  telecompetitor


The fight for the airwaves in your house  |  Read below  |  John Hendel  |  Politico
The Disappointment of 5G  |  Read below  |  Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting


Rebuild Local News Launches Ambitious New Drive for Public Policies to Help Save Local News  |  Read below  |  Steven Waldman  |  Press Release  |  Rebuild Local News

Government Performance

Broadband Funding: Stronger Management of Performance and Fraud Risk Needed for Tribal and Public-Private Partnership Grants  |  Read below  |  Andrew Von Ah  |  Research  |  Government Accountability Office

Company/Industry News

Verizon adds 416,000 broadband subscribers  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Verizon
For Tech Companies, Years of Easy Money Yield to Hard Times  |  New York Times
Today's Top Stories


Justice Department Sues Google for Monopolizing Digital Advertising Technologies

Press Release  |  Department of Justice

The Justice Department—along with the Attorneys General of California, Colorado, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Virginia—filed a civil antitrust suit against Google for monopolizing multiple digital advertising technology products in violation of Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act. Filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, the complaint alleges that Google monopolizes key digital advertising technologies, collectively referred to as the “ad tech stack,” that website publishers depend on to sell ads and that advertisers rely on to buy ads and reach potential customers. Website publishers use ad tech tools to generate advertising revenue that supports the creation and maintenance of a vibrant open web, providing the public with unprecedented access to ideas, artistic expression, information, goods, and services. Through this monopolization lawsuit, the Justice Department and state Attorneys General seek to restore competition in these important markets and obtain equitable and monetary relief on behalf of the American public. Google’s anticompetitive conduct has included:

  • Acquiring Competitors: Engaging in a pattern of acquisitions to obtain control over key digital advertising tools used by website publishers to sell advertising space;
  • Forcing Adoption of Google’s Tools: Locking in website publishers to its newly-acquired tools by restricting its unique, must-have advertiser demand to its ad exchange, and in turn, conditioning effective real-time access to its ad exchange on the use of its publisher ad server;
  • Distorting Auction Competition: Limiting real-time bidding on publisher inventory to its ad exchange, and impeding rival ad exchanges’ ability to compete on the same terms as Google’s ad exchange; and
  • Auction Manipulation: Manipulating auction mechanics across several of its products to insulate Google from competition, deprive rivals of scale, and halt the rise of rival technologies.


Governor Walz Proposes Budget that would Invest in Minnesota’s Economic Future, Broadband

Press Release  |  Minnesota Office of the Governor

Governor Tim Walz (D-MN) and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan (D-MN) share the goal of ensuring all homes and businesses have access to broadband by 2026. Governor Walz and Lieutenant Governor Flanagan recommend $276 million to expand the reach of the Border-to-Border Broadband Program to areas of Minnesota that are unserved or underserved. Since its inception in 2014, the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program has provided nearly $230 million to connect 90,000 Minnesota homes and businesses to high-speed internet.

Alaska (Still) Aims to Use State Broadband Map to Get Its Fair Share of BEAD Funding

Joan Engebretson  |  telecompetitor

Engineering firm Dewberry Alaska—in collaboration with mapping company Ecopia AI, Rasmuson Foundation, and the State of Alaska—is working on a broadband map based on what Ecopia AI is calling “an accurate, up-to-date and complete map of every building, in both rural and urban areas, in the state.” Ecopia AI’s specialty is applying artificial intelligence (AI) to satellite imagery to identify buildings. Using data from Ecopia AI, Dewberry’s job is to identify broadband serviceable locations throughout the state for purposes of allocating funding for the state in the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program.


The fight for the airwaves in your house

John Hendel  |  Politico

For years, big consumer-tech companies like Meta, Apple and Google have been leaning on the government to free up little pieces of the wireless spectrum as “unlicensed” airwaves — meaning anyone can use those airwaves for free. What are they after, exactly? Their interest in the airwaves says a lot about where they think the future of human connection will be. And it’s partly inside your house. Bluetooth devices and home routers use “unlicensed” parts of the spectrum, which means that anyone can make devices that use those airwaves. The consumer-tech companies notched a big win in 2020 when they convinced the Federal Communications Commission to free up a giant band known as the 6 GHz for unlicensed use — giving home Wi-Fi devices access to new bandwidth that boosted their capacity fivefold. More unlicensed spectrum means less congestion for Wi-Fi and other devices that send data wirelessly. These Wi-Fi advocates are now pushing US federal regulators to both target brand-new chunks of spectrum — like the adjacent 7 GHz band — for unlicensed use, as well as to allow even more freedom for how companies can tap into the 6 GHz band. The underlying goal of these tech companies and their allies in the push for unlicensed spectrum, like cable operators, is to free up a pipeline of available, unlicensed frequencies enabling the huge amounts of data transfer needed for futuristic apps like augmented and virtual reality.

The Disappointment of 5G

Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting

Karl Bode recently wrote an excellent article highlighting the overhyping of wireless technologies. No wireless technology has been a bigger flop than 5G when comparing the hype to the eventual reality. The wireless carriers and vendors blitzed the country in a coordinated effort to paint 5G as the solution that would bring broadband everywhere. Along with the public, the cellular carriers did a non-stop blitz on federal officials, getting them to buy into the amazing wireless future. The main problem with all of this hype is that the rhetoric didn’t match the specifications for 5G that were adopted by international standards bodies. The 5G specifications included a few key goals: get cellular speeds over 100 Mbps, allow for more simultaneous users at a given cell site, allow a cellphone to use two different spectrum bands at the same time, and allow a user to connect to more than one cell site if the demand needed it. The primary purpose of the 5G spec was to eliminate cell site congestion in places where there are a lot of people trying to simultaneously use the cellular network. Nothing in the 5G specification is earth-shattering. The specification, as a whole, seemed like the natural evolution of cellular to better accommodate a world where everybody has a cell phone. I have no doubt that the public will buy into the hype and want 6G phones when they hit the market, but I also know that none of them will see any difference in performance.


Rebuild Local News Launches Ambitious New Drive for Public Policies to Help Save Local News

Steven Waldman  |  Press Release  |  Rebuild Local News

With the collapse of local news accelerating, Steve Waldman, co-founder of Report for America, leads new independent nonprofit organization developing non-partisan public policies to strengthen community journalism. The Rebuild Local News Coalition, an alliance of local news organizations launched in 2020, has now become an independent nonprofit organization and plans a drive to advance a range of public policies to address the accelerating crisis in local news that threatens so many communities. The coalition will research, develop and champion public policies at the state, local and national levels – including payroll tax credits to hire and retain local reporters, proposals to target government advertising spending toward local news instead of social media, and reducing the influence of hedge funds on local newspapers. The organization is funded by a combination of support from journalism organizations and leading philanthropic organizations. Philanthropic and private sector supporters include: the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Microsoft,  the Yellow Chair Foundation, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Charles H. Revson Foundation, the Argosy Foundation, and the Posner Foundation. Previous support has come from Democracy Fund.

Government Performance

Broadband Funding: Stronger Management of Performance and Fraud Risk Needed for Tribal and Public-Private Partnership Grants

Andrew Von Ah  |  Research  |  Government Accountability Office

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, established two new broadband grant programs—the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP) and Broadband Infrastructure Program (BIP), administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) within the Department of Commerce. NTIA’s process generally aligned with recommended practices. However, NTIA’s current performance goals and measures will not tell the whole story of whether these programs succeed. In TBCP, NTIA does not have a performance goal or measure for funding broadband use and adoption projects on tribal lands—a stated program purpose. NTIA also has no way of measuring if the broadband deployed under TBCP is reliable and affordable even though it established those as goals of the program. Similarly, NTIA established affordability as a goal for broadband deployed under BIP but does not have a way of measuring affordability. NTIA officials said that they are still developing performance goals and measures for the programs, but without more complete goals and measures, the extent to which these two important grant programs, totaling billions of dollars, succeed will be unclear. As NTIA prepares for the next round of funding for the TBCP program, establishing clear goals and measures that reflect all of the program’s purposes prior to receiving applications and making award decisions would help NTIA ensure that it is making award decisions that consider those goals and measures. In addition, although NTIA has taken some steps to identify fraud risks, NTIA’s actions did not align with leading practices for fraud risk management in two key ways. First, NTIA has not designated a dedicated entity to lead its fraud risk management efforts. Instead, NTIA has several offices with different responsibilities associated with TBCP and BIP oversight without a clearly designated entity leading these efforts. Leading practices indicate that one entity should lead efforts to identify and manage fraud risks. Second, NTIA has not conducted fraud risk assessments for TBCP or BIP, as called for by leading practices. Without designating an entity to oversee fraud risk management activities and conducting a fraud risk assessment, NTIA lacks assurance that its controls are mitigating fraud risks in TBCP and BIP and that it is sufficiently positioned to combat fraud in the programs.

Company News

Verizon adds 416,000 broadband subscribers

Press Release  |  Verizon

Verizon Communications closed 2022 with fourth-quarter results marked by wireless service revenue growth and the highest total wireless retail postpaid net additions in seven years. Total broadband net additions of 416,000 was the best total broadband performance in over a decade, reflecting a strong demand for Fios (59,000 net additions) and fixed wireless products. This result included 379,000 fixed wireless net additions, an increase of 37,000 fixed wireless net additions from third-quarter 2022. The company reported sequential quarterly net addition growth in fixed wireless throughout 2022. Full-year 2022 total broadband net additions were 1,290,000, an increase from 409,000 total broadband net additions in full-year 2021.

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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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