Daily Digest 1/9/2023 (Naomi Replansky; Dusan Simic)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents


McCarthy's fast start: Big Tech is a top target  |  Read below  |  Mike Allen  |  Axios
Tech legislation is shifting from antitrust focus to broadband, cybersecurity  |  Read below  |  Jon Swartz  |  MarketWatch

State/Local Initiatives

What States Need to Know About Federal BEAD Funding for High-Speed Internet Expansion  |  Read below  |  Kathryn de Wit  |  Analysis  |  Pew Charitable Trusts
Nevada Asks FCC to Reconsider ‘Deeply Flawed’ Broadband Maps  |  Read below  |  Casey Harrison  |  Las Vegas Sun
Benton Foundation
American Rescue Plan Act Will Help Connect Illinois  |  Read below  |  Kevin Taglang  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society


NTIA to develop national spectrum strategy in 2023  |  Read below  |  Linda Hardesty  |  Fierce
FAA to require airplanes to upgrade altimeters by early 2024  |  Read below  |  Sue Marek  |  Fierce, Federal Aviation Administration
Challenging Cellular Data Speeds  |  Read below  |  Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting
Mobilitie rolls into 2023 with San Francisco transit deployment  |  Fierce

Platforms/Social Media

Groundbreaking Resolution to Address Discriminatory Delivery of Housing Advertisements  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Department of Justice
Exposure to the Russian Internet Research Agency foreign influence campaign on Twitter in the 2016 US election and its relationship to attitudes and voting behavior  |  Read below  |  Gregory Eady, Tom Paskhalis, Jan Zilinsky, Richard Bonneau, Jonathan Nagler, Joshua Tucker  |  Research  |  Nature Communications


For California Consumers: Your Rights Under the California Consumer Privacy Act  |  Consumer Federation of America

Kids & Media

Schools sue social networks, claim they “exploit neurophysiology” of kids’ brains  |  Ars Technica

Company News

FCC Finds 11 Broadband Providers That Cover 5% or More of the U.S. Population, Number 11 is a Surprise  |  Read below  |  Joan Engebretson  |  telecompetitor
What’s going on with Verizon’s One Fiber project?  |  Read below  |  Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce
Community Phone Aims to Cash in on Simple Landline Replacement  |  Read below  |  Joan Engebretson  |  telecompetitor
Oregon Cooperatives DirectLink and Scio Mutual Telephone Association Buy into Cascade Divide Data Center  |  Cascade Divide


Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) officially steps down, opening up appointment to seat  |  NBC

Stories From Abroad

England just made gigabit internet a legal requirement for new homes  |  Read below  |  Jess Weatherbed  |  Vox
Beijing Signals Two-Year Internet Crackdown May Be Coming to an End  |  Wall Street Journal
The attack on Brazil's Congress was stoked by social media — and by Trump allies  |  National Public Radio
Today's Top Stories


McCarthy's fast start: Big Tech is a top target

Mike Allen  |  Axios

House Republicans plan to launch a new investigative panel that will demand copies of White House emails, memos, and other communications with Big Tech companies. The new panel, the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, is partly a response to revelations from Elon Musk in the internal documents he branded the "Twitter Files." The subcommittee will be chaired by House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) — a close ally of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and a favorite of the hard right. The probe into communications between tech giants and President Biden's aides will look for government pressure that could have resulted in censorship or harassment of conservatives — or squelching of debate on polarizing policies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on COVID.

Tech legislation is shifting from antitrust focus to broadband, cybersecurity

Jon Swartz  |  MarketWatch

Affordable broadband, cybersecurity in the development of healthcare systems, and technology competition with China head the to-do list in 2023, said Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA). Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), a former computer programmer, hammered home the importance of cybersecurity with broadband, and its impact on telemedicine and remote work. She is pushing legislation that would require the Food and Drug Administration to review and update medical device cybersecurity guidelines to protect them from hacking and cyber-attacks.


What States Need to Know About Federal BEAD Funding for High-Speed Internet Expansion

Kathryn de Wit  |  Analysis  |  Pew Charitable Trusts

In November 2021, President Joe Biden (D) signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) into law. Among many other provisions, the law established the Broadband Equity, Adoption, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, the federal government’s most ambitious investment in high-speed, affordable internet to date. Congress established the BEAD Program to address the persistent digital divide in the United States and outlined three associated priorities for use of the funds: building infrastructure, developing broadband action plans, and supporting programs to promote user adoption of new networks. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) clarified in its June 2022 Notice of Funding Opportunity that BEAD spending should prioritize: “[F]iber connectivity directly to the end user;” “Unserved” locations—those without access to 25-megabit-per-second (Mbps) download service and 3-Mbps uploads, commonly expressed as 25/3-Mbps service; and “[P]roposals that improve affordability to ensure that networks built using taxpayer dollars are accessible to all Americans.

The NTIA is responsible for overseeing the distribution of funding to “eligible entities,” which are the 50 US states and all US territories, and it has established five minimum requirements for all BEAD-funded projects. They must:

  • Deliver internet service that is not subject to data caps and has reliable speeds of at least 100/20 Mbps and low enough latency—the time it takes for data to travel to its destination and back along the network and which consumers experience as a delay, such as choppiness and buffering—to support real-time applications such as videoconferencing.
  • Build and operate networks with average combined outages that do not exceed 48 hours a year (with exceptions for natural disasters).
  • Provide broadband service to end users within four years of receipt of funds, carry out public awareness campaigns, and make connections available to any customer within the service area covered by the funding award.
  • Develop cybersecurity and supply chain risk management plans to ensure that critical infrastructure is protected from threats such as hacking.
  • Participate in the Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides a $30-a-month discount to eligible households ($75 a month for households on Tribal lands), and offer at least one low-cost broadband service option.

Nevada Asks FCC to Reconsider ‘Deeply Flawed’ Broadband Maps

Casey Harrison  |  Las Vegas Sun

Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NM) and Jacky Rosen (D-NM) sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission asking the body to reconsider maps drafted for the Silver State's broadband Internet connectivity, calling the drafts "deeply flawed" and warning that such maps could perpetuate the digital divide among the state's urban and rural areas. The senators detailed concerns from state and local leaders after the Nevada Office of Science Innovation & Technology found more than 20,000 purported "broadband-serviceable" locations the agency believes overstates coverage. They asked for the FCC to coordinate with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to give the state's broadband office and other entities 60 days to verify and submit more accurate data. The Office of Science, Innovation & Technology's most recent comprehensive broadband connectivity report states that over 99 percent of Nevadans living in urban areas have access to broadband access at or above 25 megabit per second download speeds and upload speeds of three megabits per second, the current FCC standard. In the state's rural areas, however, access to broadband is at just 66 percent.

American Rescue Plan Act Will Help Connect Illinois

Kevin Taglang  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

As part of his $45 billion Rebuild Illinois investment strategy, Governor JB Pritzker (D-IL) launched a statewide initiative, Connect Illinois, in August 2019 to expand broadband access across the entire state. Connect Illinois includes a capital investment from Rebuild Illinois, the creation of a Broadband Advisory Council and Broadband Office, and a new program that will provide all Illinois public K-12 students access to high-speed broadband at no charge. The initiative also includes a $400 million broadband grant program and a $20 million capital program for the Illinois Century Network, a high-speed broadband network serving K-12 and higher education institutions, among others. Governor Pritzker also set the goals that by 2024, Illinois homes, businesses, and community anchor institutions throughout the state should have access to basic service of at least 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload (25/3 Mbps), and that by 2028, all should have access to at least one provider offering 100/20 Mbps service.


NTIA to develop national spectrum strategy in 2023

Linda Hardesty  |  Fierce

Alan Davidson, head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, talked about the agency’s plan to advance open Radio Access Networks (open RAN). The NTIA manages federal spectrum use and serves as the President’s advisor on spectrum policy. This means that the NTIA works together with the Federal Communications Commission to manage spectrum when a federal user is involved. In 2023 NTIA will be working with federal agency partners to develop a national spectrum strategy, which will provide a long-term plan to meet both commercial and federal spectrum needs. Currently, there are myriad organizations lobbying for more spectrum. The most immediate concern is the 3.1-3.45 GHz band. Some companies — namely the big wireless carriers represented by the trade group CTIA — want this spectrum auctioned for exclusive, licensed use. While other organizations prefer spectrum-sharing schemes such as what the FCC and Department of Defense implemented for the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum. The agency is looking for broad input on the best way to catalyze the open RAN market.

FAA to require airplanes to upgrade altimeters by early 2024

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will require both cargo and passenger airplanes in the US to install 5G C-band tolerant radio altimeters, or an approved radio frequency (RF) filter, by February 24, 2024. The FAA said that this latest directive is an update to the FAA’s December 2021 requirement that prohibited passenger and cargo planes from operating in the vicinity of 5G C-band wireless transmitters unless they were approved by the FAA. To give the airlines more time to upgrade their altimeters and to allow normal flight operations to continue, Verizon and AT&T responded to the FAA’s December 2021 directive by voluntarily modifying their 5G C-band deployments. Both companies agreed to use lower power transmitters and incorporate buffer zones around airports. The FAA said that airlines are making progress at retrofitting their airplanes to accommodate the 5G C-band transmissions, but added that this longer-term solution makes the retrofits mandatory. In addition, the FAA is requiring airlines to revise their flight manuals to prohibit low-visibility landings after June 30, 2023, unless the retrofits have been completed on that airplane. AT&T and Verizon implemented 5G buffer zones around certain airport runways and also limited their 5G C-band power levels around airports; meaning the directive likely comes as a welcome relief.

Challenging Cellular Data Speeds

Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting

There has been a lot of recent press about the new ability for households to challenge broadband coverage claimed at their homes by internet service providers (ISP). The Federal Communications Commission's new National Broadband Map also allows folks to challenge the coverage claimed by cellular carriers. There are two ways to challenge the claimed cellular coverage – by individuals or by local governments. The challenge process for individuals is as follows:

  • First, a challenger must download the FCC Speed Test App, which is available on the Google App store for android or the Apple Store for IOS devices. The app is set to not use more than 1 gigabyte of data in a month without permission. 
  • Tests should only be taken between 6:00 AM and 10:00 PM.
  • Users will have to make sure to disconnect from a Wi-Fi network since the goal is to test the cellular connection. 
  • The FCC provides only two options for taking the test – either outdoors and stationary, or in a moving car. You’ll have to verify that you are not taking the test indoors.
  • You can take the test anonymously. But if you want the FCC to consider the test results, you’ll have to provide your contact information and verify that you are the authorized user of the cellphone.
  • Individual speed tests are not automatically sent to the carriers until there are enough results in a given local area to create what the FCC is calling a crowdsourced data event.

There are some major flaws in testing rural cellular coverage. If you are in any areas where a certain carrier doesn’t provide service, you obviously can’t take the speed test if you can’t make a cellular connection; and the other flaw is the low thresholds that constitute a successful test. The test for acceptable 4G coverage is a paltry 5/1 Mbps. The FCC has two thresholds for 5G at 7/1 Mbps and 35/3 Mbps. These speed definitions are out of touch with actual cellular performance.

Platforms/Social Media

Groundbreaking Resolution to Address Discriminatory Delivery of Housing Advertisements

Press Release  |  Department of Justice

The Justice Department reached a key milestone in its settlement agreement with Meta Platforms, formerly known as Facebook, requiring Meta to change its advertisement delivery system to prevent discriminatory advertising in violation of the Fair Housing Act (FHA). As required by the settlement entered on June 27, 2022, resolving a lawsuit filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, Meta has now built a new system to address algorithmic discrimination. The parties informed the court that they have reached agreement on the system’s compliance targets. This development ensures that Meta will be subject to court oversight and regular review of its compliance with the settlement through June 27, 2026. Meta developed the Variance Reduction System (VRS) to reduce the variances between the eligible audiences and the actual audiences. The United States has concluded that the new system will substantially reduce the variances between the eligible and actual audiences along sex and estimated race/ethnicity in the delivery of housing advertisements. The VRS will operate on all housing advertisements across Meta platforms, and the agreement requires Meta to meet certain compliance metrics in stages. For example, by Dec. 31, for the vast majority of housing advertisements on Meta platforms, Meta will reduce variances to less than or equal to 10% for 91.7% of those advertisements for sex and less than or equal to 10% for 81.0% of those advertisements for estimated race/ethnicity. For more information on the operation of the VRS, read Meta’s technical paper. The Justice Department and Meta have also selected an independent, third-party reviewer, Guidehouse, to investigate and verify on an ongoing basis whether the VRS is meeting the compliance metrics agreed to by the parties. Under the agreement, Meta must provide Guidehouse and the United States with regular compliance reports and make available any information necessary to verify compliance with the agreed-upon metrics. The court will have ultimate authority to resolve any disputes over the information that Meta must provide. Finally, as also required by the settlement agreement, Meta has ceased delivering housing advertisements using the Special Ad Audience tool (which delivered advertisements to users who “look like” other users), and Meta will not provide any targeting options for housing advertisers that directly describe or relate to FHA-protected characteristics.

Exposure to the Russian Internet Research Agency foreign influence campaign on Twitter in the 2016 US election and its relationship to attitudes and voting behavior

Gregory Eady, Tom Paskhalis, Jan Zilinsky, Richard Bonneau, Jonathan Nagler, Joshua Tucker  |  Research  |  Nature Communications

There is widespread concern that foreign actors are using social media to interfere in elections worldwide. Yet data have been unavailable to investigate links between exposure to foreign influence campaigns and political behavior. Using longitudinal survey data from US respondents linked to their Twitter feeds, we quantify the relationship between exposure to the Russian foreign influence campaign and attitudes and voting behavior in the 2016 US election. We demonstrate, first, that exposure to Russian disinformation accounts was heavily concentrated: only 1% of users accounted for 70% of exposures. Second, exposure was concentrated among users who strongly identified as Republicans. Third, exposure to the Russian influence campaign was eclipsed by content from domestic news media and politicians. Finally, we find no evidence of a meaningful relationship between exposure to the Russian foreign influence campaign and changes in attitudes, polarization, or voting behavior. The results have implications for understanding the limits of election interference campaigns on social media.

Company News

FCC Finds 11 Broadband Providers That Cover 5% or More of the U.S. Population, Number 11 is a Surprise

Joan Engebretson  |  telecompetitor

JAB Broadband, also known as Rise Broadband, is a fixed wireless provider with a geographical footprint that reaches about 5.4% of the US population. JAB is one of just 11 US broadband providers that   cover 5% or more of the population. Its presence on the list underscores the importance of fixed wireless beyond the metro areas, which are the primary markets for Verizon and T-Mobile. Many of the nation's 2,201 fixed broadband providers are small fixed wireless providers, some serving just a handful of customers. But JAB/Rise has been acting as a consolidator in that market.

What’s going on with Verizon’s One Fiber project?

Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce

Verizon’s One Fiber Build dates back to 2016, when the operator decided it would rather own than lease the fiber running to its cell towers. The logic was that the same transport network could be used for wireless towers, residential broadband, and business services. Verizon’s messaging around its One Fiber build has been – to put it kindly – a bit messy. Back in June 2021, President of Global Networks and Technology Kyle Malady said Verizon was 80% finished with core construction on its new sprawling backbone. Then in November 2021, Verizon exec Ed Chan said the company expected to be two-thirds done with its One Fiber build by the end of that year. About a year and a half later, Malady provided the same 80% progress figure. So, what gives?  Investors can rest assured the project hasn’t been idling at a standstill. Malady’s seemingly conflicting statements were the result of a messaging mix-up. In June 2021 Malady was referring to progress in several specific markets whereas recently he was speaking to progress on the overall build. “In 2023, the entire One Fiber initiative is 80% complete with many markets already 100% built,” said a Verizon representative.

Community Phone Aims to Cash in on Simple Landline Replacement

Joan Engebretson  |  telecompetitor

More than 20 million businesses have a landline phone as their main business number. Three-quarters of people over the age of 75 rely on a landline phone. And one-third of US households have a landline phone. As providers begin to decommission copper networks, startup Community Phone sees an opportunity to cash in by serving people who would prefer not to make any big changes. The company’s goal, Community Phone CEO and Founder James Graham said, is to “make it as easy as possible to let humans reach other humans.” The offering works over a cellular connection but works with an existing landline phone and doesn’t require internet connectivity. The company has agreements with multiple cellular providers and can provide service even in rural areas where people may think cellular doesn’t work, thanks to the company’s antenna design and because service isn’t mobile. 

Stories From Abroad

England just made gigabit internet a legal requirement for new homes

Jess Weatherbed  |  Vox

The UK government introduced new rules that make it easier to install faster broadband into apartments and flats across. Additionally, a new law has been introduced that requires new properties in England to be built with gigabit broadband connections, sparing tenants from footing the bill for later upgrades. Amendments to Building Regulations 2010 were announced by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) on January 6 mandate new homes constructed in England to be fitted with infrastructure and connections required to achieve gigabit internet connectivity. Connection costs will be capped at £2,000 per home, and developers must still install gigabit-ready infrastructure (including ducts, chambers, and termination points) and the fastest-available connection if they’re unable to secure a gigabit connection within the cost cap. The UK government estimates that 98 percent of installations will fall comfortably under that cap, so it’s likely been put in place to avoid spiraling chargings in remote, rural areas that need widescale line upgrades.

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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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