Daily Digest 2/10/2023 (Burt Freeman Bacharach)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Broadband Funding

Biden-Harris Administration to Give $3 Million in an Internet for All Grant to Universidad del Sagrado Corazón in Puerto Rico  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  National Telecommunications and Information Administration
Making Internet for All Right Here in America  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  National Telecommunications and Information Administration
Bipartisan Legislation to Prevent Taxation of Broadband Grants Reintroduced in the Senate, House  |  Read below  |  Sen Mark Warner (D-VA)  |  Press Release  |  US Senate

Digital Equity

EducationSuperHighway Launches Affordable Connectivity Program Enrollment Support Training  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Education Superhighway
T-Mobile expands participation in dwindling Affordable Connectivity Program  |  Read below  |  Linda Hardesty  |  Fierce
Verizon’s Visible aims to help people who are laid off  |  Read below  |  Monica Alleven  |  Fierce


Northern Virginia is the heart of the internet. Not everyone is happy about that.  |  Read below  |  Antonio Olivo  |  Washington Post

Data & Mapping

Verizon, T-Mobile Overstate Claims With $43 Billion at Stake  |  Read below  |  Todd Shields, Scott Moritz  |  Bloomberg
Comcast gave false map data to FCC—and didn’t admit it until Ars Technica got involved  |  Read below  |  Jon Brodkin  |  ars techncia
SHLB Meets with FCC Broadband Data Task Force  |  Read below  |  Kristen Corra  |  Letter  |  Schools Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition


What to expect from T-Mobile's Fixed Wireless Access in 2023: Slowing growth, rural expansion  |  Read below  |  Mike Dano  |  LightReading
FCC Grants Amazon/Kuiper Satellite Modification  |  Read below  |  Thomas Sullivan  |  Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission
Verizon achieves upload speeds surpassing 1 GBPS using 5G Ultra Wideband technology  |  Verizon


Free Speech vs. Disinformation Comes to a Head  |  Read below  |  Steven Lee Myers  |  New York Times
Toxic Twitter: How Twitter Generates Millions in Ad Revenue by Brining Back Banned Accounts  |  Read below  |  Research  |  Center for Countering Digital Hate
Influence Networks in Russia Misled European Users, TikTok Says  |  New York Times
Audible reckoning: How top political podcasters spread unsubstantiated and false claims  |  Brookings
Former employees say Twitter is stuck in a recurring code loop nightmare—and things might only get worse  |  Fast Company


Op-ed | Tech lay-offs are a golden opportunity for public sector: There is a wealth of talent out there ready to be snapped up  |  Financial Times

Consumer Protections

Free Press and Allies Urge FTC to Protect Telecom Consumers from Burdensome 'Junk Fees'  |  Free Press


How Big Tech Rewrote the Nation’s First Cellphone Repair Law  |  Markup, The

Company News

Alaska Communications Expansion  |  Read below  |  Joan Engebretson  |  telecompetitor
Comcast says its network upgrades are ahead of schedule  |  Fierce
SpaceX President Says Satellite-Internet Business Expected to Make Money This Year  |  Wall Street Journal


Authorization and Oversight Plan of the Committee on Energy and Commerce US House of Representatives, 118th Congress  |  Read below  |  Public Notice  |  House Commerce Committee


Benton Foundation
Introducing Your Senate Commerce Committee  |  Read below  |  Kevin Taglang  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Letter to US Senate calling for the swift confirmation of Gigi Sohn so that the FCC can protect reproductive rights  |  Fight for the Future

Stories From Abroad

Ofcom to review inflation-linked telecoms price rises  |  Ofcom
Apple/Google: Japan’s regulators focus on high app store fees  |  Financial Times
China pulls back from global subsea cable project as US tensions mount  |  Financial Times
EU Warns Twitter Over Incomplete Content-Moderation Report  |  Wall Street Journal
Today's Top Stories

Broadband Funding

Biden-Harris Administration to Give $3 Million in an Internet for All Grant to Universidad del Sagrado Corazón in Puerto Rico

The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced it has awarded Universidad del Sagrado Corazón a $2,978,187.00 grant from the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program (CMC). This grant will help fund Universidad del Sagrado Corazón’s "Accessing Broadband Connectivity (ABC): A Pilot Project Catalyst in a Hispanic Institution and Communities Setting." The project aims to expand educational instruction and remote learning opportunities, spur economic development, and create opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship by building high-speed Internet and digital capacity at Sagrado. The project will build and strengthen a robust and resilient broadband network by installing fiber optic cabling through existing underground and existing or refurbished above-ground conduits throughout the campus and provide technology training for students and staff (administrative, faculty, and IT) on the benefits and use of the robust broadband network to be installed.

Making Internet for All Right Here in America

The Internet for All initiative is a critical component of the Biden-Harris Administration’s overall strategy to build a more dynamic economy. It will enable American workers and businesses to compete on the global stage and generate new economic opportunities in overlooked communities throughout the country. Internet for All will create as many as 150,000 jobs nationwide – but to maximize the economic potential of this initiative, manufacturers and Internet service providers will need to build right here in America. President Biden made clear that while Buy America has been the law of the land since 1933, too many administrations have found ways to skirt its requirements. We will not. The iron and steel, manufactured products, and construction materials needed to deliver affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet service to millions of Americans is an opportunity to create jobs and opportunities right here in America. That’s why the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) believes that if it can be Made in America, it should be made in America – and it’s why we’ll strictly enforce ‘Build America, Buy America’ (BABA) requirements outlined in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the Internet for All Notices of Funding Opportunity (NOFOs). We look forward to working with suppliers and manufacturers to ensure that the future of affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet service in America is built right here at home.

Bipartisan Legislation to Prevent Taxation of Broadband Grants Reintroduced in the Senate, House

Sen Mark Warner (D-VA)  |  Press Release  |  US Senate

Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) along with Reps. Mike Kelly (R-PA-16) and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-19) reintroduced the Broadband Grant Tax Treatment Act (BGTTA) — legislation that would amend the Internal Revenue Code to ensure that funding for broadband deployment from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) will not be considered taxable income. This legislation was first introduced last Congress in both the Senate and the House of Representatives with bipartisan support. Grants awarded for the purposes of broadband deployment are currently factored into a company’s income and are subject to taxation. This bipartisan, bicameral legislation moves to exclude broadband deployment grants awarded through the IIJA, ARPA, and Tribal Broadband Connectivity Fund from an organization’s income, ensuring the entirety of federal dollars awarded to companies for the purpose of deploying broadband around the country can be used wholly for that purpose, rather than making their way back to the government through taxes. The full text of the legislation is available here

Digital Equity

EducationSuperHighway Launches Affordable Connectivity Program Enrollment Support Training

Press Release  |  Education Superhighway

EducationSuperHighway released LearnACP, a new training course and certification for states, cities, and community-based organizations working to increase awareness and adoption of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). The new training is offered for free by the national non-profit and is designed to prepare individuals who support potential beneficiaries to determine if they qualify for the program, complete the application, and enroll in an affordable internet plan. LearnACP takes 45-60 minutes to complete, providing enrollment advocates with a comprehensive understanding of the adoption process to confidently answer questions and support eligible individuals. Those who enroll will learn how the ACP can help households get connected, who is eligible, and how to:  

  • Navigate the ACP application with screen-by-screen guidance, tips, and advice on special considerations;
  • Apply for the applicant’s ACP benefit with an internet service provider;
  • Assist special populations, including Tribal communities, undocumented, and houseless individuals, through the application process;
  • Access resources to use when assisting your community members in enrolling in the ACP and avoiding common pitfalls. 

Upon completion of the course, users receive a certificate of completion, creating a community of trained ACP enrollment specialists nationwide that are critical to increasing ACP enrollment and closing the broadband affordability gap.

T-Mobile expands participation in dwindling Affordable Connectivity Program

Linda Hardesty  |  Fierce

T-Mobile is expanding its participation in the federal government’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) through its Lifeline Assistance brand – Assurance Wireless. Lifeline is a Federal Communications Commission program for low-income consumers, which provides a discount on qualifying monthly phone and broadband services. T-Mobile said that it is offering ACP in seven more states, bringing the total number to 48 states and the District of Columbia. The seven new states are Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming. With the ACP benefit at Assurance Wireless, subscribers can receive data, text, and calls via the power of T-Mobile's nationwide network. Assurance Wireless is also offering a free Android smartphone for new customers. T-Mobile said that during congestion, customers choosing Assurance Wireless may notice lower speeds than other customers due to data prioritization. 

Verizon’s Visible aims to help people who are laid off

Monica Alleven  |  Fierce

Verizon’s all-digital Visible prepaid brand is trying to give back to communities, and one way is through Connection Protection, a new program designed to help people keep a wireless connection when they’re laid off. The program provides three months of free Visible service to people who qualify through its partner, Empower Work, a non-profit providing resources for people who are laid off. Of course, Visible hopes people will stick with its brand after those three months; it offers single-line $30/month unlimited plans. The program was launched in conjunction with Visible Impacts, a new social impact platform focused on powering connections to people’s most basic needs. Connection Protection customers need to pay $5 per month for the first three months to receive service, and they’ll be reimbursed with a gift card once enrolled to cover this expense. 


Northern Virginia is the heart of the internet. Not everyone is happy about that.

Antonio Olivo  |  Washington Post

Northern Virginia is home to about 275 data centers, handling at least a third of the world’s online use, with dozens more of the massive structures either under construction or planned as local officials seek to tap into the hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue generated by an industry that requires few government services in return. And as more people use cloud computing devices in their daily lives — streaming video, storing files, Zooming to work — their actions fuel a demand for even more data centers to store, process and disseminate that digital information. The growth in the industry has sparked debates about local land use policies in neighborhoods where data center buildings — some the size of several football fields — sit less than 100 feet from the nearest home. Residents and some local legislators argue that the industry’s footprint in the region is expanding too much, too fast and in the wrong places, posing potential risks to the surrounding environment — and, in some cases, creating noise from cooling fans that disrupt neighborhoods.

Data & Mapping

Verizon, T-Mobile Overstate Claims With $43 Billion at Stake

Todd Shields, Scott Moritz  |  Bloomberg

Tiny Gerlach, NV, looks like the ideal place to receive some of the $42.5 billion in Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) funding targeted to provide internet access to underserved areas. There’s just one catch: The town of 161, gateway to the state’s Black Rock Desert, already has broadband access, according to a government map showing that T-Mobile US Inc. provides service there. If that’s true, Gerlach is unlikely to be eligible for help from the once-in-a-generation program. “There is no reliable broadband up there,” insists Washoe County Manager Eric Brown, whose jurisdiction includes Gerlach. “The fact that the maps reflect that is inaccurate.” Wireless providers have exaggerated the breadth and quality of their service — complicating efforts to identify areas in need, according to state and local officials, consultants, and US lawmakers. By doing so, they can block potential rivals from obtaining subsidies and invading their markets. T-Mobile claims its fixed wireless can serve 45 million addresses or more than one-third of the 114 million places listed in the maps when they were revealed last fall. Verizon Communications Inc. said it can reach almost 19 million. According to Christopher Ali, a telecommunications professor at Pennsylvania State University, carriers are allowed to report places they could potentially reach and those they already serve. “They’re reporting hypothetical service, not actual service,” Ali said. The practice follows rules set down by the Federal Communications Commission, yet creates “the false impression of rural and connected America. But we know this is wrong.”

Comcast gave false map data to FCC—and didn’t admit it until Ars Technica got involved

Jon Brodkin  |  ars techncia

Matthew Hillier can't get Comcast service at his home in Arvada, CO. But that didn't stop Comcast from claiming it serves his house when it submitted data for the Federal Communications Commission's new broadband map. Comcast eventually admitted to the FCC that it doesn't serve the address—but only after Ars got involved. Comcast will have to correct its submission for Hillier's house, and a bigger correction might be needed because it appears Comcast doesn't serve dozens of other nearby homes that it claimed as part of its coverage area. When Hillier looked up his address on the FCC map, it showed Comcast claims to offer 1.2Gbps download and 35Mbps upload speeds at the house. In reality, he makes do with CenturyLink Internet which tops out at 60Mbps downloads and 5Mbps uploads. Just as Hillier told the FCC, Comcast's online availability checker says it's an "invalid address"—even though Comcast not only told the FCC it serves the home but also disputed Hillier's challenge when he pointed out the error. 

SHLB Meets with FCC Broadband Data Task Force

Kristen Corra  |  Letter  |  Schools Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition

The American Library Association and the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition spoke with the Federal Communications Commission's Broadband Data Task Force staff and FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel’s advisor on Feb. 6, 2023 about including community anchor institutions (CAIs) on the FCC’s National Broadband Map. The groups expressed concerns about the current treatment of libraries and said CAIs that purchase mass-market broadband service should be included on the map. They asserted the FCC’s fabric and the map make the inaccurate assumption CAIs purchase custom broadband service and are classified as not broadband serviceable simply because E-rate Program participants are required to issue a request for proposal (RFP) for service. They recommended the presumption should be CAIs in rural areas purchase mass-market service and designated as broadband serviceable locations in the next version of the map’s underlying fabric, with the ability for broadband providers to prove otherwise.


What to expect from T-Mobile's Fixed Wireless Access in 2023: Slowing growth, rural expansion

Mike Dano  |  LightReading

T-Mobile's fixed wireless access (FWA) Internet business appears headed into a new phase that will likely involve an expansion into rural areas of the US. "We believe this is the beginning of a slowdown in the pace in existing markets," said analysts at Evercore. However, Evercore analysts noted that T-Mobile is also in the midst of expanding its speedy 2.5 GHz mid-band 5G network to around 35 million new locations – mostly in rural areas – during 2023. That project, they said, will help prop up T-Mobile's fixed wireless growth curve, albeit with a rural focus. However, it will likely also involve an overall slower rate of growth. Additionally, analysts at New Street Research said that T-Mobile's FWA offering has begun to run up against competition from Verizon's own FWA service as well as Charter Communications' new Spectrum One bundle of mobile and home Internet services. Partly as a result, T-Mobile is shifting more of its FWA efforts toward prepaid customers, business users, and subscribers in rural areas – instead of the postpaid customers living in urban areas that it previously courted.

FCC Grants Amazon/Kuiper Satellite Modification

Thomas Sullivan  |  Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission's International Bureau granted, subject to conditions, the application of Kuiper Systems LLC for modification of its license for a non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) satellite constellation providing fixed-satellite service (FSS) and Mobile Satellite Service (MSS) using Ka-band radio frequencies. Specifically, the bureau grants Kuiper’s request for approval of its updated orbital debris mitigation plan, thereby satisfying a condition of the FCC's action in 2020 conditionally granting Kuiper’s request to deploy and operate its NGSO system. This decision will allow Kuiper to begin deployment of its constellation in order to bring high-speed broadband connectivity to customers around the world. In granting this modification, the bureau has considered the issues raised by interested parties in the record. These issues include, but are not limited to, collision risk, post-mission disposal reliability, completion of satellite design, and orbital separation. To address these and other issues, the FCC is requiring Kuiper to comply with a series of conditions. Kuiper will report mitigation actions taken to avoid collisions in space and to coordinate and collaborate with NASA to ensure continued availability of launch windows and on other matters.


Free Speech vs. Disinformation Comes to a Head

Steven Lee Myers  |  New York Times

Dozens between government officials and executives at Facebook, Google, Twitter and other social media companies that have spilled into public are at the heart of a partisan legal battle that could disrupt the Biden administration’s already struggling efforts to combat disinformation. The attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana, both Republicans, have sued the White House and dozens of officials, accusing them of forcing the platforms to stifle the voices of its political critics in violation of the constitutional guarantee of free speech. The outcome could help decide whether the First Amendment has become, for better or worse, a barrier to virtually any government efforts to stifle a problem that, in the case of a pandemic, threatens public health and, in the case of the integrity of elections, even democracy itself. Government officials have long urged social media companies to fight illegal or harmful content online, especially when it comes to terrorism or other criminal activity, like child sexual abuse or human trafficking. The attorneys general, though, accuse the Biden administration of taking the effort too far.

Toxic Twitter: How Twitter Generates Millions in Ad Revenue by Brining Back Banned Accounts

Since announcing his policy of a “general amnesty” for banned Twitter users in November 2022, Elon Musk has reinstated tens of thousands of accounts, including neo-Nazis, white supremacists, misogynists, and spreaders of dangerous conspiracy theories. Now new research by the Center for Countering Digital Hate estimates the value of these reinstatements to Twitter, providing further evidence that Musk’s decision to welcome them back is driven by a desperate drive for revenues. By analyzing new publicly available figures on tweet impressions, the Center estimates that just ten reinstated accounts renowned for publishing hateful content and dangerous conspiracies will generate up to $19 million a year in advertising revenue for Twitter. The analysis shows that the ten accounts have already amassed 2.5 billion tweet impressions since Twitter rolled out publicly visible impression counts on 15th December 2022, putting them on track to reach 20 billion impressions over the course of a year. The Center has also found ads appearing next to toxic content from each of these reinstated accounts, showing how companies are putting their brand safety and consumer trust at risk by continuing to advertise on Twitter. Finally, industry information from the social media analytics firm Brandwatch shows that Twitter ads cost an average of $6.46 per 1,000 impressions. Pulling these elements together results in a total figure of up to $19 million in estimated annual ad revenues across the accounts.

Company News

Alaska Communications Expansion

Joan Engebretson  |  telecompetitor

Alaska Communications expanded broadband availability and boosted speeds to almost 5,000 homes in the Interior region of the state in 2022. The company used a wide range of last-mile technologies – from XGS-PON to fixed wireless, even some DSL — to achieve that. The Alaskan Interior can be thought of as the center of the state – the area most removed from the state’s lengthy coastline. Much of the area is wilderness. One Interior town carries the name North Pole. North Pole was one of two communities, along with Fairbanks, the biggest Interior city, to receive service at symmetrical 2.5 Gbps speeds. A total of 1,200 homes in those communities now have access to the offering, which as the spokesperson confirmed, is based on XGS-PON fiber broadband. Some other people in Fairbanks and North Pole also have new options in broadband but at considerably lower speeds. Alaska Communications expanded service to 2,400 locations in those markets and in several others using a mix of DSL and fixed wireless supporting speeds up to 50 Mbps. That build was funded, in part, through the Connect America Fund II (CAF II) program. Fixed wireless also underlies a project completed in 2022 that made gigabit service available to more than 1,200 homes at Fort Wainwright. The company plans further expansion into the Interior in 2023 and beyond


Authorization and Oversight Plan of the Committee on Energy and Commerce US House of Representatives, 118th Congress

Public Notice  |  House Commerce Committee

The committee's oversight plan for the 118th Congress. Concerning "Communications and Technology Issues," the committee will focus on the following:

  • A Modern Communications Framework for the Innovation Age: Continue to exercise its jurisdiction over wired and wireless communications to ensure our nation’s policies governing voice, video, audio, and data services are promoting investment, innovation, and job creation. The Committee will examine whether regulations should be updated to better meet the communications needs of the country and to ensure its citizens enjoy cutting-edge services and the economic benefits they bring.
  • Federal Communications Commission (FCC): Conduct oversight of the FCC, including the efforts to reverse the reclassification of Broadband Internet Access Service as a telecommunications service subject to Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 and efforts to bring transparency and accountability to the Commission’s processes. The Committee will also focus its oversight efforts on the Commission’s administration of funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF), and investigate cases of waste, fraud, and abuse.
  • National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA): Conduct oversight of the NTIA, including its administration of broadband grant programs created in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and efforts to bring transparency and accountability to NTIA’s processes. The Committee will also look into NTIA’s authorities and determine whether NTIA needs additional authorities to keep pace with the advancement of modern technology and the advancement of the communications marketplace.
  • Spectrum Management: Conduct oversight of the Federal Communications Commission’s and the NTIA's management and allocation of the nation’s spectrum for commercial and government use. The Committee will evaluate spectrum management policies to ensure efficient use of the public airwaves for innovative communications services. The Committee will also examine whether plans for allocating spectrum maximize broadband deployment and encourages investment.
  • Availability of Broadband: Investigate whether regulatory policies are helping or hindering broadband deployment. In particular, the Committee will examine the need for reforms to State and Federal permitting processes to speed the deployment of fiber optic systems and 5G wireless services. Additionally, the Committee will conduct oversight of funding mechanisms for broadband deployment and adoption, including the $9 billion per year Universal Service Fund, the $42 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) grant program created in the IIJA, and other federal grant programs that could be awarded for broadband deployment.
  • Internet: Exercise its jurisdiction over wired and wireless communications to ensure continued growth and investment in the Internet. In particular, the Committee will monitor efforts to employ the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance—in which governmental and non-governmental entities develop best practices for the management of Internet networks and content.


Introducing Your Senate Commerce Committee

Kevin Taglang  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

One of the oldest standing legislative committees in the U.S. Senate, the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has jurisdiction over communications, interstate commerce, science, and technology policy. In the Senate, Commerce is the main committee concerned with universal broadband. The committee convened this week for the first time in the 118th Congress. The committee is tasked with oversight of the broadband programs included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and other legislation aimed at addressing the digital divide during the COVID-19 pandemic. Following the 2022 elections, there are a few changes in the committee's leadership and membership. 

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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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Benton Institute
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