Thursday, January 5, 2023
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The Federal Communications Commission committed over $34 million in a new funding round through the Emergency Connectivity Program (ECP), which provides digital services for students in communities across the country. The funding commitments support applications from the third application window, benefiting approximately 80,000 students across the country—including students in Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, and Washington—through over 250 schools, 15 libraries, and 2 consortia. To date, the FCC has committed approximately $6.5 billion to schools and libraries across the country as part of the Emergency Connectivity Program, which launched in 2022.
The Federal Communications Commission's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau reminds potential applicants that complete applications to the Affordable Connectivity Outreach Grant Program (ACP Outreach Grant Program) must be received electronically through Grants.gov no later than 11:59 PM Eastern Standard Time (EST) on Monday, January 9, 2023. Additionally, completed applications for the Your Home, Your Internet Pilot Program (YHYI) and the ACP Navigator Pilot Program (NPP) must be received electronically through both the USAC Application Portal and through Grants.gov no later than 9:00 PM EST on January 9, 2023. In November 2022, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) launched the ACP Outreach Grant Program to raise awareness about the nation’s largest-ever broadband affordability effort, the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). The ACP Outreach Grant Program provides grant funding for four complementary programs: the National Competitive Outreach Program (NCOP); the Tribal Competitive Outreach Program (TCOP); the YHYI Outreach Grants; and the NPP Outreach Grants. These programs provide new federal funding for the FCC to grant eligible governmental and nongovernmental entities funding and resources needed to increase awareness of and participation in the ACP among those households most in need of affordable connectivity
While there has been a lot of activity on the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) grant program, there is still a long way to go before this grant money is used to build new broadband infrastructure. Most of the delay is due to the incredible complexity of the BEAD grant rules. The priority for state grant programs is usually to quickly get the money out the door and spent on infrastructure. Why are the BEAD grants so complicated? It starts with Congress, and a lot of the complexity is directly specified in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act legislation that created the grants. My pet theory is that the complexity was introduced by lobbyists of the large broadband providers that wanted to make the grants unfriendly to everybody other than big providers with the resources to tackle the complex rules. The big challenge facing state grant offices is how hard they are willing to push back against the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the agency embellished and strengthened the congressional language and made it even more complex to file for grants.
The Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission grants a request filed by seventeen groups and individuals for an extension of the time in which to file comments in response to the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Empowering Broadband Consumers Through Transparency docket. As determined by the date of publication in the Federal Register, comments and reply comments were originally due on January 17, 2023 and February 14, 2023, respectively. The FCC extends the comment date 30 days to February 16, 2023. Reply comments are now due March 16, 2023. [CG Docket No. 22-2]
New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D-NY) has suspended the city’s Internet Master Plan, creating uncertainty for New Yorkers waiting for fiber broadband and also for the vendors tapped to deploy fiber and deliver service. T-Mobile, Starry and Flume were among the 12 companies named by former Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-NY) when he announced the $157 million plan in 2021. At that time, Mayor de Blasio said the plan would incentivize high-quality affordable internet at scale and help reverse New York’s digital divide. He wanted to let providers use city-owned real estate to deploy infrastructure and offer service to New Yorkers at discounted rates. Mayor Adams, who was sworn in a year ago, has apparently shifted the city’s focus to subsidizing end users of internet services, and to educating people about the availability of broadband. For now, the city’s leaders seem focused on making sure more people who have access to broadband can afford to purchase it. The city’s Office of Technology and Innovation is subsidizing up to 100% of the cost of internet for residents of select New York City Housing Authority buildings in all five boroughs.
While millions of dollars in federal and state grants are helping bring fiber optic cable for broadband service to ever more rural locations, a wireless internet provider serving them remains confident of its future. MVTV Wireless Internet continues to serve and add customers in some rural areas where new fiber optic cable has been installed for broadband services. Costs remain an important factor for customers deciding to link to fiber optic. MVTV serves rural customers dispersed among 27 counties in southwestern Minnesota as well as in bordering areas of South Dakota and Iowa. It is the dominant rural provider in this area, with 25 to 30% of the rural households. The company is looking to continue to increase the available capacity on the system for subscribers. It is looking at options for next-generation services and waiting for decisions by the Federal Communications Commission on licensing for the frequencies needed. The company takes a hybrid approach to broadband, as fiber optic cable provides the backbone of the system, linking the towers that provide wireless service to customers.
House Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) announced the staff that will lead the six subcommittees in the 118th Congress:
- Jennifer Epperson: Will serve as Chief Counsel of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee. For the past three years, Epperson has served as Counsel and then as Senior Counsel on the Communications and Technology Subcommittee. At the Committee, she was instrumental in expanding access to highspeed internet service and making broadband more affordable.
- Lisa Hone: Will serve as Chief Counsel of the Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee. Hone joins the Committee after recently departing the National Economic Council and the Office of Management and Budget where she worked as a Senior Advisor on Broadband. Hone also spent 12 years at the Federal Communication Commission as a Deputy Bureau Chief, Legal Advisor to then-Chairman Tom Wheeler, and Deputy Division Chief.
- Will McAuliffe: Will serve as Chief Counsel of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. McAuliffe joined the Committee in 2021 as a Counsel on the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, where he worked on several investigations including the approval process and pricing of Aduhelm, the high price of insulin, and the implementation of cybersecurity measures at federal agencies within the Committee’s jurisdiction.
I’m proud of the work the Commission has accomplished in the last two years. Closing the Homework Gap, broadband access and affordability, telehealth, mapping, and network security are top priorities and we’ve acted accordingly. Gigi [Sohn] is a knowledgeable nominee with a long record of commitment to the issues before the FCC and I congratulate her on nomination as a Commissioner at the agency. I look forward to the day we have a full complement of five commissioners.
As I said during the last Congress, Gigi Sohn is ‘an accomplished leader whose talent, expertise, and experience will invigorate our work at the FCC.’ I continue to hold that view. Whether we’re protecting consumers, securing our networks, or bringing the promise of new technologies to every community, Americans deserve an FCC that is working at full strength.
The third time might be the charm for [Senior Fellow and Public Advocate at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society] Gigi Sohn. New Street Research analyst Blair Levin predicted Sohn will once again be approved by the Senate Commerce Committee “relatively quickly.” If Sohn does finally make it to the Federal Communications Commission, Levin said she could help advance action on issues like net neutrality, digital discrimination, and spectrum. However, there’s a catch: namely the fact that controversial FCC orders usually end up in court. For context, the FCC’s decision in late 2017 to repeal its previous net neutrality rules faced a court challenge. That case was ultimately decided by an appeals court in October 2019 and the FCC completed a court-ordered review of the repeal’s impacts a year later.
Stories From Abroad
The Data Protection Commission (DPC) announced the conclusion of two inquiries into the data processing operations of Meta Platforms Ireland Limited (“Meta Ireland”) in connection with the delivery of its Facebook and Instagram services. (Meta Ireland was previously known as Facebook Ireland Limited). DPC fined Meta Ireland € 210 million ($220 million) (for breaches of the GDPR relating to its Facebook service), and €180 million ($190 million) (for breaches in relation to its Instagram service). Meta Ireland has also been directed to bring its data processing operations into compliance within a period of 3 months. The inquiries concerned two complaints about the Facebook and Instagram services, each one raising the same basic issues. One complaint was made by an Austrian data subject (in relation to Facebook); the other was made by a Belgian data subject (in relation to Instagram).
Canada’s competition tribunal approved Rogers Communications’ CAD 20 billion ($14.77 billion) bid for rival operator Shaw Communications. The ruling, which dismissed the Commissioner of Competition’s petition to oppose the proposed merger, also stated the Rogers-Shaw merger after the sale of Freedom Mobile may not prevent or lessen competition or lead to higher prices or a decline in the quality of service. In a joint statement, Rogers Communications and Shaw Communications welcomed the decision by the competition tribunal allowing the proposed acquisition of Freedom Mobile by Videotron a wholly-owned subsidiary of Quebecor, and the subsequent combination of Rogers and Shaw.
The Office of the Special Envoy for Critical and Emerging Technology begins operations at the Department of State. Secretary Blinken established the office as part of the wider modernization agenda because the constellation of critical and emerging technologies reshaping the world is now an integral part of the conduct of US foreign policy and diplomacy. The Office of the Special Envoy will bring additional technology policy expertise, diplomatic leadership, and strategic direction to the Department’s approach to critical and emerging technologies. As the Department works to strengthen tech diplomacy across the organization, the office will provide a center of expertise and energy to develop and coordinate critical and emerging technology foreign policy, and to engage foreign partners on emerging technologies that will transform our societies, economies, and security—including biotechnology, advanced computing, artificial intelligence, and quantum information technologies. It will work in close coordination with the various bureaus and offices across the Department that are engaging on these and other technology topics that are central to our foreign policy.
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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