Daily Digest 12/7/2021 (Lawrence Charles Weiner)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Broadband Infrastructure

Vice President Kamala Harris Promotes Broadband Investments  |  Read below  |  John Eggerton  |  Broadcasting & Cable
New Federal Legislation Eases Access to Financing for Broadband Projects with Qualified Private Activity Bonds  |  Read below  |  John Bryant, Ashley Edwards  |  Research  |  JD Supra
Infrastructure bill provides opportunity for structural separation with state, regional wholesale open access fiber networks  |  Fred Pilot
Telephone Companies Escalate Pressure on Cable with Ongoing FTTH Builds  |  Read below  |  Sean Buckley  |  Broadband Communities
Corning general manager says current fiber lead times are ‘much longer’ than normal  |  Read below  |  Linda Hardesty  |  Fierce
The Vicious Cycle of the Supply Chain in Fiber Broadband – Is an End in Sight?  |  Read below  |  Deborah Kish  |  Op-Ed  |  Broadband Communities


Here We Go Again: The FCC Takes Another Look at Multifamily Broadband  |  Read below  |  Kevin Donnelly, Valerie Sargent  |  Analysis  |  Broadband Communities

State and Local Initiatives

How States Are Using Pandemic Relief Funds to Boost Broadband Access  |  Read below  |  Anna Read, Kelly Wert  |  Pew Charitable Trusts
Is your state ready to handle the influx of federal funds for expanding broadband?  |  Read below  |  Brian Whitacre, Christina Biedny  |  Conversation, The
Maine’s new broadband agency is readying its plan to expand high-speed internet  |  Read below  |  Steve Mistler  |  Maine Public
Grafton County, New Hampshire's broadband push faces challenge from incumbent providers  |  Read below  |  Amanda Gokee  |  New Hampshire Bulletin
Kalamazoo, Michigan, spending $1.1 million over 10 years on fiber network that businesses can connect to  |  MLive
South Charleston, West Virginia, working to improve internet, cable service with fiber network  |  WCHS
Emerging FTTH provider finds community partner in Buffalo, New York  |  Broadband Communities


Consumers ascribe 20x more value to mobile broadband than fixed  |  Read below  |  Bevin Fletcher  |  Fierce

The Future of 5G: Not There Yet, But Getting Closer, Officials Say  |  nextgov


Elon Musk’s satellites are in the middle of a corporate dogpile at the FCC  |  Read below  |  Ben Brody  |  Protocol
Right wing builds its own echo chamber  |  Read below  |  Sara Fischer, Dan Primack  |  Axios

Platforms/Social Media/Content

Donald Trump’s social media start-up, Trump Media and Technology Group, raises $1 billion  |  Financial Times
Rep Devin Nunes Will Quit the House to Take Over Trump’s Media Company  |  New York Times
Trump's social media deal is being investigated by regulators  |  National Public Radio
Instagram unveils new teen safety tools ahead of Senate hearing  |  National Public Radio
BuzzFeed’s stock falls in its public debut, offering a warning to other digital media firms.  |  New York Times
Google, Facebook and Amazon control half of advertising outside China  |  Financial Times
An Open Letter to Mr. Mark Zuckerberg: A Global Call to Act Now on Child and Adolescent Mental Health Science  |  Oxford Internet Institute
Investigating Facebook: a fractious relationship with academia  |  Financial Times
The Popular Family Safety App Life360 Is Selling Precise Location Data on Its Tens of Millions of Users  |  Markup, The
Should abuse survivors have to disappear from the internet?  |  Vox


Editorial | Remote Learning Fails the Test: Student scores fell more sharply where virtual learning was prevalent  |  Wall Street Journal


Democrats Rush to Confirm Biden Picks as Year-End Deadline Looms  |  Read below  |  Nancy Ognanovich  |  Bloomberg
Rep Devin Nunes Will Quit the House to Take Over Trump’s Media Company  |  New York Times
Trail of tweets haunts President Biden’s FCC and FTC nominees  |  Read below  |  Benjamin Din  |  Politico
Gigi Sohn’s Strange Bedfellows  |  Read below  |  Editorial Board  |  Editorial  |  Wall Street Journal

How We Live Now

Maddy Butcher | With rural broadband coming, I’m already mourning JOMO: The joy of missing out  |  Washington Post

Company News

Verizon eyes enterprise opportunity with One Fiber build  |  Fierce

Stories From Abroad

Elon Musk being allowed to ‘make the rules’ in space, European Space Agency chief warns  |  Financial Times
South-east Asian telecommunications companies merge into mega-groups to invest in 5G  |  Financial Times
Microsoft Seizes 42 Websites From a Chinese Hacking Group  |  New York Times
Today's Top Stories

Broadband Infrastructure

Vice President Kamala Harris Promotes Broadband Investments

John Eggerton  |  Broadcasting & Cable

Vice President Kamala Harris talked up the broadband benefits of the recently passed bipartisan infrastructure package, which included $65 billion for broadband buildouts and adoption. Harris was tapped by President Biden early on to be his point person on the goal of universal internet access. Broadband was not a big Administration talking point in the run-up to the package's successful passage, though it did have a prominent place in the President's bill-signing ceremony. In a speech in North Carolina to promote the many infrastructure investments in the new law, Harris put on her broadband point person hat. "With this work we have done together, we will expand broadband in rural and urban areas," she said. As VP, Joe Biden stumped for broadband as a way to help small businesses compete with larger ones, small business acolyte being one of the issues on which President Obama had designated him point person. Harris talked that up as well. "Let’s think about access to high-speed Internet for our small businesses and how that helps and is a necessity for them to be able to do their important work," she said. Harris also talked about broadband's impact on telemedicine in rural areas and its creation of "good-paying union jobs."

New Federal Legislation Eases Access to Financing for Broadband Projects with Qualified Private Activity Bonds

John Bryant, Ashley Edwards  |  Research  |  JD Supra

Congress has passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, which President Biden signed on November 15, 2021. The Act includes approximately $65 billion in funding opportunities for the deployment of broadband services in rural areas. In addition to the creation of a broadband grant program, the new legislation modifies Section 142(a) of the Internal Revenue Code to add broadband as an allowable use for qualified private activity bonds. With the new legislation, state and local governments can issue qualified private activity bonds beginning in 2022 to finance qualified broadband projects for rural areas. A qualified broadband project is any project designed to provide broadband service to underserved geographic areas where a majority of households do not currently receive certain minimum broadband speeds (an “Eligible Area”) and that results in such areas receiving certain minimum broadband speeds after the project is complete (the “Required Results”). Broadband projects in underserved areas now have access to more financing options with the addition of the use of qualified private activity bonds and the federal broadband grant program under the new legislation. However, because of the specific requirements for the Eligible Areas and the Required Results of a qualified broadband project, the number of broadband projects that are eligible to be financed with qualified private activity bonds may be limited.

Telephone Companies Escalate Pressure on Cable with Ongoing FTTH Builds

Sean Buckley  |  Broadband Communities

Telephone companies (telcos) may still be trailing cable operators in the broadband race, but their continuous fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) builds could help narrow the subscriber divide. As more customers want higher speeds, this group is moving to deploy fiber to the home (FTTH) across select markets as their traditional DSL and POTS voice base dwindles. This is being driven on two sides: Tier-1 telcos and Tier-2 telcos. The big three--AT&T, Verizon, and Lumen—are Tier-1 telcos that are all seeing growth in fiber-based broadband. Tier-2 telcos include a diverse mix of players in rural and secondary markets. Like the Tier-1 telcos, several Tier-2 telcos have also expanded their FTTH footprints. Charts by Broadband Communities show how telcos performed during the third quarter, based on the information in service providers’ earnings reports.

Corning general manager says current fiber lead times are ‘much longer’ than normal

Linda Hardesty  |  Fierce

Corning isn’t specifying how long its lead times are for its fiber products, but Mike Bell, senior vice president and general manager of Corning Optical Communications, stated, “Our normal lead time, what we would prefer our lead time to be, is a month. It’s much longer than that right now.” Bell said, “I’ve been in this business for 30 years, and I’ve never seen demand on the scale we’re seeing now. And I’ve never seen us invest in capacity as broadly as we’re doing right now, and frankly as the industry is doing right now.” Corning breaks its fiber business into two categories: optical fiber and the optical cables that house the optical fiber. In September 2021, Corning announced that it is working to support AT&T’s needs by investing $150 million in a new optical cable manufacturing plant in North Carolina, where it will add about 200 jobs. Earlier in 2021, Corning also announced plans to build a new optical fiber manufacturing facility in Poland. “That’s driven by growing demand for optical fiber products in Europe and surrounding regions,” said Bell. “As we add more fiber capacity in other places that will free up US capacity for US demand.” Getting back to the lead times for both optical fiber and optical cable, Bell said there are additional variables at play. For example, if Corning invests heavily in more capacity, but other fiber providers don’t, then more demand comes to Corning, which in turn increases lead times. Bell is optimistic that lead times are going to improve through 2022 and even further into 2023.

The Vicious Cycle of the Supply Chain in Fiber Broadband – Is an End in Sight?

Deborah Kish  |  Op-Ed  |  Broadband Communities

The supply chain is a top concern for nearly every industry and has significantly impacted service provider fiber buildout. New funding and training programs offer hope that supply chain and labor issues won’t stall fiber rollouts forever. Vendors can alleviate the backlog by providing parts or supplies that can scale (up or down) rather than satisfy a small or niche application. This will help consolidate inventory and materials, reducing time to market and leading to fewer supply failure points. Phasing out legacy tools and equipment will force service providers to upgrade toward more modern architectures and network components and potentially keep them on track with deployments. The broadband industry is also experiencing a significant labor shortage, but not because of the pandemic. The need is due to the lack of skilled workers to install fiber. It takes people to connect threads and perform installations, and without them, there’s a real possibility that the speed of rollouts will continue to be slow in the future. New bills and government programs, such as the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, COVID-19 relief as part of the American Rescue Plan Act, and the newly passed $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, of which $65 billion is slated for broadband, will create thousands of jobs. While this lack of materials and labor is slowing down the speed of broadband deployment, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. The newly passed infrastructure bill, state initiatives and a strong nationwide focus on workforce development offer hope for a turnaround that will make broadband more accessible to more people across the US.

[Deborah Kish is vice president for research and marketing at the Fiber Broadband Association.]


Here We Go Again: The FCC Takes Another Look at Multifamily Broadband

Kevin Donnelly, Valerie Sargent  |  Analysis  |  Broadband Communities

Real estate is complicated. Broadband is complicated. Together, they’re very complicated. The Federal Communications Commission recently launched a new proceeding to refresh the record on broadband competition and access in the multifamily and commercial real estate sectors. It sought similar information in 2017 and 2019. In October and November 2021, the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) led a diverse coalition of stakeholders, including the National Apartment Association, the Council for Affordable and Rural Housing, ICSC, the Institute of Real Estate Management, Nareit, the National Leased Housing Association and the Real Estate Roundtable in submitting two rounds of data-driven comments to the FCC. Participants attested to the health of the multifamily broadband market and urged against any regulatory action that could disrupt innovation and investment in the multifamily space. At the heart of the FCC’s review are questions about the ways revenue/cost-share, wiring, marketing and overall access agreements impact broadband competition, deployment and access in the multitenant space. Similar to 2017 and 2019, current industry data shows that, by and large, renters and commercial and retail tenants are well served by the broadband market, which is centered on partnership and collaboration between property owners and broadband providers.

[Kevin Donnelly is vice president of government affairs, technology and strategic initiatives for the National Multifamily Housing Council. Valerie Sargent is a multifamily speaker, trainer and executive consultant and is the multifamily news correspondent for Broadband Communities.]


How States Are Using Pandemic Relief Funds to Boost Broadband Access

Anna Read, Kelly Wert  |  Pew Charitable Trusts

As states start to allocate funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), enacted in March 2021, many policymakers are using some of the new resources to fund broadband expansion, by increasing funding for existing programs or establishing new ones. The relief package, which Congress passed to help Americans struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic, includes two programs administered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury that can be used to fund broadband improvements. The Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund includes $10 billion that states can seek in order to invest in capital assets that enable work, education, and health monitoring, including remote options, and to address critical community needs made apparent by COVID-19. The Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund will provide $350 billion for projects intended to combat the pandemic’s economic fallout and lay the foundation for a strong recovery. With the pandemic driving home the critical importance of high-speed internet, states across the country are using ARPA money to expand broadband access and affordability. Appropriators have increased funds for infrastructure deployment grants, and some have used Capital Projects Fund or State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund allocations to pay for specific projects related to mapping, education, or public health.

Is your state ready to handle the influx of federal funds for expanding broadband?

Brian Whitacre, Christina Biedny  |  Conversation, The

The federal government is pouring billions of dollars into expanding broadband internet access, namely through the $65 billion included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. But it’s at the state level where the financial rubber meets the fiber-optic road. History suggests some states are ahead of the game while others will have to play catch-up. Not all states are equally positioned to handle the funds; some states have operated formal broadband offices for years, and many have extensive experience running their own broadband grant programs. Yet in others there are multiple agencies with jurisdiction over broadband, so even deciding who will develop the action plan may be challenging. Some states have built detailed broadband maps that move beyond the highly criticized FCC versions, and clearly depict areas without access. Others were early adopters of “digital inclusion” efforts and have an established base of nonprofits and public entities that have already been successful at this type of work. In short, states have varying track records when it comes to broadband projects. Rolling out billions of dollars of funding will be a challenge for states without a history of evaluating applications – or those that are brand-new to the quickly growing field of digital equity.

Maine’s new broadband agency is readying its plan to expand high-speed internet

Steve Mistler  |  Maine Public

Later in December 2021, Maine's new broadband agency will submit its plan to the federal government to use $128 million to expand and improve high-speed internet access across the state. The Maine Connectivity Authority is just six months old, but the quasi-governmental agency is already sitting on $21 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan that Democrats in Congress passed earlier this year, and it will soon submit its proposal to the US Treasury Department to spend $128 million more. Board chairman Tim Schneider told lawmakers on the Legislature's Energy and Utility Committee that the agency is in the process of merging with the old ConnectMaine Authority, a small department that's spearheaded broadband expansion with a fraction of the cash that's available now. Schneider says the Treasury released guidelines in October for the $128 million, which focuses on areas where residents are either unserved by broadband, or underserved, a designation currently defined as internet speeds falling below 100 megabits for download and 25 megabits for upload. The broadband agency has mapped areas of the state that fall below those standards, and they're extensive.

Grafton County, New Hampshire's broadband push faces challenge from incumbent providers

Amanda Gokee  |  New Hampshire Bulletin

Nik Coates, the town administrator for Bristol (NH), is working on a project that would bring New Hampshire closer to the goal of universal coverage. Coates is also part of the Grafton County Broadband Committee, which applied for $26.2 million in federal funds that would go toward building out broadband in that county. But the grant process – through the National Transportation Infrastructure Agency – is facing a challenge from incumbent providers who say they are already providing service in the region. Residents of those areas say that’s not the reality on the ground. A survey of nearly 2,500 Grafton County residents found that in all of the county’s 39 communities, residents had speeds that were slower than the federal definition of broadband, registering under 25 megabits per second download speed and 3 megabits per second upload. For Coates, the minimum speeds set in the federal definition are insufficient – which is why the project Grafton County is proposing would build out fiber-optic cable. Fiber can provide faster speeds than options like DSL, and it’s considered more reliable than satellite. Fiber is expensive, and in rural areas the population is too sparse to drive private companies – in search of a return on investment – to build. Coates sees this initiative as a collaborative one: The grant would cover construction costs of what’s called middle-mile fiber, but then companies would be able to build out the final mile, reaching residents at their homes. His concern is that the corporations see the project as competition.


Consumers ascribe 20x more value to mobile broadband than fixed

Bevin Fletcher  |  Fierce

Despite Americans using significantly more data over fixed networks than mobile, a new Mobile Experts report quantifies how consumers put a premium on the value they ascribe to mobile service. "Fixed Mobile Convergence 2021," the report from Mobile Experts, puts figures to the idea of this so-called “mobility premium” and forecasts the trend of fixed mobile convergence. It found that the average US household consumes over 11 times more data over fixed networks versus mobile access. However, when the study compared service revenue generated from actual GB delivered, it found that consumers place roughly 20 times more value on mobile broadband than fixed in terms of what they’re willing to pay for monthly plans. Mobile Experts Principal Analyst Kyung Mun said that even though most consumers spend the majority of time indoors in a stationary environment, the data captures how people are willing to spend more on the idea of being able to consume data while on the go. As for fixed mobile convergence, a concept that Mun said has been around for decades, Mobile Experts expects the trend of deeper integration of 5G network elements to grow gradually over the next few years, particularly leveraging 5G core networks as the so-called anchor.


Elon Musk’s satellites are in the middle of a corporate dogpile at the FCC

Ben Brody  |  Protocol

Scale matters, SpaceX’s lawyer Pratik Shah argued to a panel of three federal appeals court judges — but only the comparatively small-scale plans for upcoming satellite launches, not the gargantuan scale of Elon Musk’s ambitions in the sky and the coming frenzy of launches from some of the most powerful companies on the ground. Shah assured the court the issue wasn’t 4,400 or so satellites originally on the license the Federal Communications Commission granted to SpaceX. Nor was it the additional 38,000 that Musk’s company plans to put into space worldwide someday as part of its Starlink network or even the 100,000, including replacements, that SpaceX might need to put on rockets over the life of the program. Although estimates vary, there are perhaps 8,000 satellites above Earth right now, many of them from Starlink, which claims it can bring internet service to all corners of the globe. The judges, who will have to weigh in on challenges to the FCC’s authorization for SpaceX to operate some future satellites at a lower altitude than first planned, had occasionally struggled with the implications of such exponential increase in what objects are zooming around miles over our heads. The lawsuit has all the trappings of ever-iterative governmental bureaucracy: an appeal by two rival businesses and a group of scientists to a court, claiming an agency ignored existing laws when it allowed a modification to an older order. Amid the flurry of filings and endless process arguments, the controversy has illuminated how billionaires and corporate giants hoping to rule the skies actually battle one another, with the government stuck in the middle.


Right wing builds its own echo chamber

Sara Fischer, Dan Primack  |  Axios

Conservatives are aggressively building their own apps, phones, cryptocurrencies and publishing houses in an attempt to circumvent what they see as an increasingly liberal internet and media ecosystem. Many of these efforts couldn't exist without the backing of major corporate figures and billionaires who are eager to push back against things like "censorship" and "cancel culture." It's still not clear whether demand will match supply. Rumble, a conservative alternative to YouTube, agreed to go public at an implied $2.1 billion valuation via a SPAC merger. Former president Donald Trump's new social media company, Truth Social, also plans to go public via a SPAC and said that it secured $1 billion in so-called PIPE financing. Aside from social networks, conservatives are also pushing to create alternatives to other tech tools and communication platforms. Conservative media has been a powerhouse for a long time, but this phase of its expansion isn't just about more or louder conservative voices — it's about building an entire conservative ecosystem.


Democrats Rush to Confirm Biden Picks as Year-End Deadline Looms

Nancy Ognanovich  |  Bloomberg

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is employing a two-pronged strategy to confirm more of President Joe Biden’s nominees before the end of the year, when many will have to be returned to the White House and renominated. He’s under increasing pressure to overcome the blockade Republicans have mounted on dozens of key defense and foreign policy positions, as well as noncontroversial positions, that are essential to the president carrying out his policy goals. If he doesn’t, the Senate and White House must start anew on a long list of stalled picks for federal agencies and the judiciary. In some cases, Sen Schumer is readying for time-consuming floor debate and votes to fill priority posts. With others, he’s begun quietly negotiating deals to help Republicans attain legislative goals in exchange for letting nominees go through quickly. Sen Schumer kicks off the effort Dec 7 with votes on Biden’s picks for the Federal Communications Commission, National Mediation Board, and US Customs and Border Protection. Behind them are over 100 other nominees, including several for the federal courts.

Trail of tweets haunts President Biden’s FCC and FTC nominees

Benjamin Din  |  Politico

Republican senators are alleging that the Twitter histories of Federal Communications Commission nominee Gigi Sohn [Senior Fellow and Public Advocate at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society] and Federal Trade Commission nominee Alvaro Bedoya, which include jabs at Fox News and ICE, show they are too biased to lead the independent agencies that oversee important tech and telecom issues. Unified GOP opposition to these two nominees would have a big impact, because both are needed to cement Democratic majorities at their respective agencies, now deadlocked along partisan lines. Without them, progressives cannot move ahead with priorities on issues such as net neutrality, competition and privacy. And while Democrats could still push the nominations through, that would require their entire caucus to stick together. But with other legislative priorities in the Senate, the opposition could delay Sohn’s and Bedoya’s confirmations until 2022. The timing matters because it took Biden so many months to name nominees to key tech positions. “Most of the big-ticket items” the FCC would act on “take about a year to process through,” said Ernesto Falcon, senior legislative counsel at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a tech civil liberties group that supports the nominees. (Sohn is an EFF board member.)

Gigi Sohn’s Strange Bedfellows

Editorial Board  |  Editorial  |  Wall Street Journal

Does a progressive activist who wants to weaken copyright and speech protections belong on the Federal Communications Commission? President Biden thinks so, and bizarrely so do the leaders of conservative Newsmax Media and One America News Network (OAN). Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy said Newsmax is “being sidelined in favor of a small number of mega-corporations who dominate the channel line-ups.” OAN President Charles Herring hailed Sohn’s commitment to “diversity in media.” The two execs may be hoping Sohn will target Sinclair and Fox News. But it’s an odd sort of conservative who supports a left-wing nominee who wants to be a speech regulator. Cable networks don’t ignore channels they think will be popular, and it isn’t government’s job to dictate which channels to take. For what it’s worth, OAN’s biggest cheerleader is Donald Trump, who has tried to drive his political supporters to the network. The OAN-Newsmax position is pure self-interest and has nothing to do with free speech or media diversity. Sohn has shown across her career that she wants less political diversity on the airwaves. She would be a polarizing and destructive commissioner at the FCC.

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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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