Daily Digest 12/8/2023 (Alaska)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Broadband Funding

Remarks by US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo at the White House Tribal Nations Summit  |  Read below  |  Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo  |  Speech  |  Department of Commerce
Counties urge Congress to extend Affordable Connectivity Program  |  Read below  |  Meredith Moran  |  Analysis  |  National Association of Counties
Benton Foundation
Takeaways from the FCC’s LTD Decisions  |  Read below  |  Carol Mattey  |  Op-Ed  |  Benton Institute for Broadband and Society
Comments in E-rate/Remote Learning Proceeding due January 8, 2024  |  Federal Communications Commission
Removing Broadband Construction Barriers  |  Read below  |  Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting

State/Local Initiatives

State Broadband Officials Gear Up for Map Challenges as Some Still Concerned About Resources  |  Read below  |  Jericho Casper  |  Broadband Breakfast
Benton Foundation
Alaska's Plan to Address Broadband Adversity  |  Read below  |  Grace Tepper  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Counties are partners, not barriers to broadband. It’s time to tell Congress the same  |  Read below  |  Seamus Dowdall  |  Editorial  |  National Association of Counties

Community Anchor Institutions 

Digital Public Library Ecosystem 2023  |  Read below  |  Rachel Noorda, Kathi Inman Berens  |  Research  |  American Library Association


Comments in Implementation of the National Spectrum Strategy proceeding due January 2, 2024  |  National Telecommunications and Information Administration
The race to 5G is over— now it’s time to pay the bill  |  Read below  |  Allison Johnson  |  Vox
T-Mobile touts speeds over 4 Gbps using mmWave, 5G SA  |  Fierce

Platforms/Social Media/AI

Big Tech Backslide  |  Read below  |  Nora Benavidez  |  Research  |  Free Press
Sen. Cruz, Chair Rodgers Want Eventbrite To Answer for De-platforming Riley Gaines And Promoting Pro-Hamas Groups  |  US Senate
Public Knowledge Urges Supreme Court To Strike Down Unconstitutional State Social Media Laws |  Public Knowledge
Google calls Drive data loss “fixed,” locks forum threads saying otherwise  |  ars technia
How an unfiltered tween became a social media sensation  |  Washington Post
Google Deepmind's new Gemini model looks amazing—but could signal peak AI hype  |  MIT Technology Review
Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Gemini and the coming age of AI  |  MIT Technology Review

Emergency Communications

Now Android phones can automatically send medical data during 911 calls  |  Vox


HHS’ Office for Civil Rights Settles First Ever Phishing Cyber-Attack Investigation  |  Department of Health and Human Services

Stories From Abroad

U.K. Says Russia Has Targeted Lawmakers and Others in Cyberattacks for Years  |  New York Times
Russian spies targeting UK MPs and media with ‘cyber interference’  |  Guardian, The
Apple Aims to Make a Quarter of the World’s iPhones in India  |  Wall Street Journal
Today's Top Stories

Broadband Funding

Remarks by US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo at the White House Tribal Nations Summit

Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo  |  Speech  |  Department of Commerce

At the Department of Commerce, we are laser-focused on building a 21st century economy, and that starts with high-speed internet. For too long, tribal communities have been cut off from reliable, affordable internet. But that’s changing. Through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, we have awarded over $1.8 billion to more than 220 tribal entities to expand high-speed internet network deployment and digital skills training. In July 2023, we announced another billion in additional funds available for this program. When I met in 2022 with tribal leaders in Arizona, they told me how these grants are going to transform the way their communities work, learn, and access health care while enabling them to preserve their cultural traditions. Together, we can bring opportunity to our tribal communities and ensure that tribal businesses and workers are equipped for success.

Counties urge Congress to extend Affordable Connectivity Program

Meredith Moran  |  Analysis  |  National Association of Counties

Elected officials at the local and federal level are urging Congress to extend funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which offers discounted broadband service to low-income households, providing access to healthcare, education and employment. Lake County (IL) Board Member Jennifer Clark, who is also chair of the county’s special committee on broadband, said the program is “absolutely vital” to bridging the digital divide. Clark said that because Congress has not yet extended the funding, Lake County has seen a stagnation in people signing up for the benefits. “A lot of people say, ‘Why should I take the time to sign up for this when it might end in a few months?’” she said. “… It’s so important for Congress to act soon, because if the money runs out, then millions of people will lose their internet access overnight, but it also makes it difficult to sign people up now, because they don’t know if it’s going to continue and don’t want to fill out the forms if it might end.” 

Takeaways from the FCC’s LTD Decisions

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

In a one-two punch, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rejected LTD’s appeal of the earlier decision declaring it to be in default for its Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) winning bids and proposed to fine LTD over $21 million for its defaults. The two decisions provide a cautionary tale for states as they begin their competitive grant processes in 2024 for National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s $40+ billion Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program. The FCC has been much criticized for the outcome of the RDOF auction, even though other RDOF awardees are busy at work, building networks and offering high-speed, reliable broadband service to customers ahead of schedule. In the case of LTD, the FCC staff found, after extensive review of LTD’s long-form application, that LTD was not reasonably capable of complying with the FCC’s requirements. In the coming year, many states will be commencing competitive grant processes to award their allotted BEAD funding. Whether there are multiple competing applications for a given geography, with the one with the highest score selected, or only one applicant for a given area, it is critical that states conduct a rigorous process to ascertain whether prospective BEAD grantees have access to capital sufficient to complete the proposed project, and the managerial capability to execute. The LTD experience shows that it’s not wise to rely on applicant certifications; someone needs to dig into the details and assess the ability to perform. 

[Carol Mattey is a former senior official from the Federal Communications Commission, where she led teams working on initiatives to modernize the FCC’s $9 billion Universal Service Fund to support broadband. She currently is the principal of Mattey Consulting LLC, which provides strategic and public policy advisory services to broadband providers and other entities seeking funding for broadband.]

Removing Broadband Construction Barriers

Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting

One of the provisions of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is a directive that states should take steps to reduce costs and barriers to fiber deployment. The legislation lists specific ways that states can reduce the cost of a Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) grant project: promoting the use of existing infrastructure, adopting dig-once policies, streamlining the permitting processes, providing cost-effective access to poles, conduits, easements, and rights-of-way, and requiring reasonable access requirements. Congress hoped that states would reduce barriers, reduce costs, and shorten timelines for BEAD project. The legislation not only directs states to make these changes for building along state highways but implies that states should ask counties and municipalities to make the same changes. Anybody who has ever built fiber would agree on the benefits that come from most of the items on the list. But I’ve seen very little evidence that most states have taken any action, and for the most part, states seem to have ignored the IIJA directive. Most of the changes listed either require legislative change or would mean making changes at embedded bureaucracies like State Highway Departments: two things that are far outside the reach and power of a State Broadband Office.


State Broadband Officials Gear Up for Map Challenges as Some Still Concerned About Resources

Jericho Casper  |  Broadband Breakfast

As US states and territories put the final touches on Initial Proposals outlining how they will utilize funding for broadband expansion through the Broadband, Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, state broadband offices are gearing up for what is expected to be a months-long challenge process ahead, said panelists at the Digital Infrastructure Investment Summit 2023. While each of the 56 states and territories may determine their own preferred approach, each challenge process is required to include the following four phases: (1) publication of locations deemed eligible for BEAD funding; (2) a challenge process in which a unit of local government, a nonprofit organization, or a broadband service provider may submit refuting evidence; (3) the challenged service provider may rebut the reclassification of a location with evidence; and (4) states and territories determine of the final classification of the location. The panelists voiced concern over the vast range in different communities’ current understanding of the BEAD program, stating that broadband offices should err on the side of over communication with communities as they advance toward their challenge processes. Looking ahead, the panel agreed that BEAD will not connect 100 percent of the unserved, and called for the creation of a sub-grant program to reach universal connectivity.

Alaska's Plan to Address Broadband Adversity

Grace Tepper  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

laska’s residents know what adversity looks like when it comes to accessing high-speed internet. The scale of unserved and underserved communities across Alaska is an obstacle to community and economic development, particularly for Tribal and rural communities. With federal resources and strong collaboration with Tribal partners, the nonprofit sector serving Alaska’s most vulnerable communities, and cities and boroughs, the State of Alaska is working toward changing this landscape. The Alaska Broadband Office released its draft Digital Equity Plan to the public in November 2023, detailing a statewide effort to close the digital divide. The state's plan is open for public comment until December 9, 2023. A key charge of the Digital Equity Act is to listen and learn from some of the country’s most vulnerable, difficult-to-reach populations—Americans who experience challenging physical, language, economic, and cultural barriers every day. Outreach to these populations is difficult under any circumstances but accomplishing it in Alaska—where travel to a “neighboring community” often requires a flight, boat ride, and a 4-wheeler—required a unique approach. Three teams played key roles in developing and drafting Alaska’s Digital Equity Plan: The Core Planning Team, the Working Group, and the Steering Committee (collectively called the ConnectAK Planning Team). 

Counties are partners, not barriers to broadband. It’s time to tell Congress the same

Seamus Dowdall  |  Editorial  |  National Association of Counties

Recently proposed legislation in the House of Representatives has sought to up-end the role of local governments in the siting decisions process of both wireless and wireline broadband infrastructure. The legislation, The American Broadband Deployment Act of 2023 (H.R. 3557), would enact a series of preemptions that would severely limit the ability of counties to engage in the permitting process, perform land use and zoning reviews and offer sensible feedback for internet service providers on how to deploy their infrastructure in a manner that will protect the public’s interest from a public safety perspective. The National Association of Counties (NACo) Telecommunications & Technology Policy Steering Committee has long-adopted language in the NACo American County Platform that supports the preservation of local decision-making authority in the siting decisions of both wireless and wireline telecommunications infrastructure. As such, we encourage members to vote NO on H.R. 3557, and to remind Congress of the numerous ways in which counties have played a role as facilitators for broadband access and services in their communities. 

Community Anchors

Digital Public Library Ecosystem 2023

Rachel Noorda, Kathi Inman Berens  |  Research  |  American Library Association

The Digital Public Library Ecosystem is the network of digital book collection and circulation specifically through public libraries. Three factors contribute to current confusion about the digital public library ecosystem. One, essential terms like reading, library use, circulation, and holds have been inconsistently defined across the industry and in other reports. Two, the digital public library ecosystem is complex, and different elements of the ecosystem do not necessarily work or communicate with each other directly. Three, availability of books in the digital public library ecosystem is limited by digital licensing and the contractual limitations for digital materials. This report: 

  • Defines terms related to digital library lending and licensing
  • Identifies the current players and processes in the digital public library ecosystem
  • Explains how digital licensing and circulation work
  • Contextualizes why these matter:
    • Digital book borrowing has increased 34% since 2019, with a 10% growth “postpandemic” between 2021–2022.2
    • Gen Z and millennials don’t understand that digital books provided through services like OverDrive’s Libby app are connected to their local public library. As the book industry competes in an increasingly crowded entertainment marketplace, flexible licensing terms of digital books reduce patron waits, and allow libraries to maximize their digital collections budgets.


The race to 5G is over— now it’s time to pay the bill

Allison Johnson  |  Vox

The Consumer Electronics Show 2024 is just around the corner, and while telecommunications executives were eager to shout about 5G to the rafters just a few years ago, you’ll probably be lucky to hear so much as a whisper about it this time around. While it’s true that 5G has actually arrived, the fantastic use cases we heard about years ago haven’t materialized. But deploying 5G at the breakneck speeds required to win an imaginary race resulted in one fewer major wireless carrier to choose from and lots of debt to repay. 5G will improve as time marches on as it tends to, particularly when the networks have fully deployed standalone 5G. But we can probably stop holding our breath for that killer app and make peace with the fact that technological progress is often slow and boring — moving forward cell tower by cell tower, not by leaps and bounds. In the short term, its greatest effect might be a more consolidated, more expensive wireless broadband market. If it’s any consolation, you can take some comfort in the fact that we probably won’t be seeing commercials for 6G anytime soon.


Big Tech Backslide

Nora Benavidez  |  Research  |  Free Press

After the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, tech companies finally seemed to accept that their failure to moderate content was undermining public safety and democracy. In the aftermath, most social-media companies removed users who spread anti-democratic conspiracies or used their online platforms to incite violence. Leading up to the 2022 U.S. midterm elections, tech companies promised users, civil-society groups and governments that they would safeguard election integrity and free expression on their platforms. In 2022, Free Press graded the four major platforms’ policies against 15 recommendations we helped develop that are designed to curb the spread of election disinformation and extremism. Our research found that although tech companies have long promised to fight disinformation and hate, there is a notable gap between what the companies say they want to do and what they actually do in practice. We found that in 2023, the largest social-media companies have deprioritized content moderation and other user trust and safety protections, including rolling back platform policies that had reduced the presence of hate, harassment and lies on their networks. These companies have also laid off critical staff and teams tasked with maintaining platform integrity. Taken together with the preferential treatment of VIP users — reflected in the reinstatement of Donald Trump’s accounts on Meta, Twitter and YouTube — these developments represent a dangerous backslide. In turn, this has created a toxic online environment that is vulnerable to exploitation from anti-democracy forces, white supremacists and other bad actors.

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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 David L. Clay II (dclay AT benton DOT org) — we welcome your comments.

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