Daily Digest 2/17/2023 (Equity)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents


Executive Order on Further Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through The Federal Government  |  Read below  |  President Joseph Biden  |  Public Notice  |  White House
FCC Encourages Greater Tribal Participation in E-Rate Program  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission
FCC Looks to Help Domestic Violence Survivors Access Connectivity  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission
Benton Foundation
The Digital Skill Divide  |  Read below  |  Kevin Taglang  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Broadband Funding

Biden-Harris Administration Invests $63 Million in High-Speed Internet in Rural Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Mississippi  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Department of Agriculture

Data & Mapping

FCC Investigates Broadband Providers Over Coverage Claims  |  Read below  |  Todd Shields, Scott Moritz  |  Bloomberg

State/Local Initiatives

Connecting Vermont: Broadband rollout making progress  |  Read below  |  Melissa Cooney  |  WCAX
Why is New York City Removing Free Broadband In Favor of Charter?  |  Read below  |  Ernesto Falcon  |  Editorial  |  Electronic Frontier Foundation
Delphi, Indiana, broadband project officially begins, fiber to hit county in coming weeks  |  Read below  |  Pari Apostolakos  |  WLFI
As cities and counties commit more American Rescue Plan funds, regional priorities are emerging  |  Brookings


Sens. Cruz, Thune Release Statement on Looming Expiration of Spectrum Auction Authority  |  Senate Commerce Committee

Broadband Service

Price-for-Life  |  Read below  |  Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting
General Agreement on Broadband Label, But Not on Additional Disclosure Requirements  |  Broadband Breakfast

Platforms/Social Media

A Conversation With Bing’s Chatbot Left Me Deeply Unsettled  |  Read below  |  Kevin Roose  |  Analysis  |  New York Times
Microsoft Considers More Limits for Its New A.I. Chatbot  |  New York Times
Microsoft Defends New Bing, Says AI Chatbot Upgrade Is Work in Progress  |  Wall Street Journal
Will Bing chatbot break your Google habit? The odds are not in Microsoft's favor  |  USA Today
As conservatives criticize ‘woke AI,’ here are ChatGPT’s rules for answering culture war queries  |  Vox
ChatGPT wrote cover letters for these job seekers. Can you tell?  |  Los Angeles Times
FTC Charges Supplement Marketer with Hijacking Ratings and Reviews on Amazon.com and Using Them to Deceive Consumers  |  Federal Trade Commission
The Supreme Court hears two cases that could ruin the internet  |  Vox

Gov. DeSantis vs. TikTok: Florida governor targets TikTok in schools in new swipe at Big Tech  |  USA Today

TikTok bans won’t guarantee consumer safety  |  Brookings
10 things to know about how social media affects teens' brains  |  NPR
Op-Ed: Gen Z’s lingo might be difficult to understand, but there’s a reason for that  |  Los Angeles Times


AT&T, Verizon, Lumen propose 'strike force' for Internet security  |  LightReading


Largest federal union jousts with D.C. mayor over teleworking  |  Washington Post


Big Tech lobbyist language made it verbatim into NY’s hedged repair bill  |  Ars Technica


Streaming predicted to top traditional TV viewing for first time  |  CBS


More Kinds of Digital Giving Are Gaining Popularity Globally  |  Chronicle of Philanthropy


FCC Releases Agenda for February 23 Diversity Council Meeting  |  Federal Communications Commission

Company News

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki to step down amid tough moment for tech  |  LA Times
App founder quits Google, says company doesn’t serve users anymore  |  Ars Technica
Comcast imitates Spectrum with new broadband/mobile bundle  |  Fierce


Sen. Cruz Announces Subcommittee Ranking Members for 118th Congress  |  Read below  |  Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX)  |  Press Release  |  Senate Commerce Committee
Sen. Cruz: We Need To Think Carefully About Advancing Legislation to Dramatically Expand the FTC’s Power  |  Senate Commerce Committee
Senator John Fetterman (D-PA) Checks In to Hospital for Treatment of Clinical Depression  |  New York Times

Stories From Abroad

Full fibre to reach half of homes, as competition drives better broadband  |  Read below  |  Lindsey Fussell  |  Press Release  |  Ofcom
Smartphones Are Changing the War in Ukraine  |  Wall Street Journal
Today's Top Stories


Executive Order on Further Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through The Federal Government

President Joseph Biden  |  Public Notice  |  White House

On his first day in office, President Joe Biden (D-DE) charged the federal government with advancing equity for all, including communities that have long been underserved, and addressing systemic racism in our Nation’s policies and programs. In this new executive order, the President extends and strengthens equity-advancing requirements for agencies, and positions agencies to deliver better outcomes for the American people. The order calls for:

  • Federal departments and agencies to establish Agency Equity Teams to coordinate the implementation of equity initiatives and ensure that their respective agencies are delivering equitable outcomes for the American people. 
  • The creation of the White House Steering Committee on Equity to coordinate government-wide efforts to advance equity.
  • Agency heads to support ongoing implementation of a comprehensive equity strategy that uses the agency’s policy, budgetary, programmatic, service-delivery, procurement, data-collection processes, grantmaking, public engagement, research and evaluation, and regulatory functions to enable the agency’s mission and service delivery to yield equitable outcomes for all Americans, including underserved communities. 
  • Agencies to increase engagement with underserved communities by identifying and applying innovative approaches to improve the quality, frequency, and accessibility of engagement. 
  • Creating Economic Opportunity in Rural America and Advancing Urban Equitable Development.
  • Agencies to comprehensively use their respective civil rights authorities and offices to prevent and address discrimination and advance equity for all, including to increase the effects of civil rights enforcement and to increase public awareness of civil rights principles, consistent with applicable law. 
  • Agencies consider opportunities to prevent and remedy discrimination, including by protecting the public from algorithmic discrimination. 

FCC Encourages Greater Tribal Participation in E-Rate Program

Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission adopted a proposal seeking comment on steps to encourage greater participation by eligible Tribal applicants in the E-Rate program, which provides high-speed internet to schools and libraries. Established in 1996, the E-Rate program has provided support for connectivity to and within schools and libraries, allowing students and library patrons to obtain access to essential communications and broadband services. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeks comment on how to make the E-Rate program easier for eligible Tribal applicants to encourage greater program participation, including:

  • Simplifying E-Rate forms and cost-allocation requirements;
  • Providing an additional competitive bidding exemption for low-cost services and equipment for Tribal applicants;
  • Increasing the maximum discount rate for Category Two services from 85% to 90% for Tribal applicants;
  • Allowing Tribal college libraries that serve a dual role by also serving as the Tribal community’s public library to be eligible for E-Rate support;
  • Providing an extended or separate application filing window for Tribal libraries to align with their Tribal procurement requirements and approval processes;
  • Increasing the Category Two $25,000 funding floor for Tribal applicants;
  • Adding a Tribal representative to the Universal Service Administrative Company’s Board of Directors, which administers the program for the FCC; and
  • Considering other potential reforms to encourage greater participation by Tribal or similarly situated small or rural applicants, particularly if they face barriers that impede equitable access to the E-Rate program.

FCC Looks to Help Domestic Violence Survivors Access Connectivity

Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communication Commission proposed rules to implement key provisions in the Safe Connections Act to support survivors of domestic abuse and other related crimes seeking to maintain critical connections with friends, family, and support networks. These proposed rules would help survivors obtain separate service lines from shared accounts that include their abusers, protect the privacy of calls made by survivors to domestic abuse hotlines, and provide support for survivors who suffer from financial hardship through our affordability programs. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking builds on the work the Commission initiated in July 2022 to support the connectivity needs of survivors. Reliable, safe, and affordable connectivity is critical to survivors in or leaving a relationship involving domestic violence, human trafficking, and other related crimes or abuse. This connectivity can assist survivors in leaving their abusers and finding and maintaining contact with family, social safety networks, employers, and support services. As survivors navigate difficult circumstances, access to communications services is critically important, especially since many survivors may not have direct control over their mobile phone or broadband plans, which may still be managed by their abusers. Having access to an independent phone or broadband connection is important for survivors to be able to communicate and access other available services without fear of their communications, location, or other private information being revealed to their abusers.

The Digital Skill Divide

Kevin Taglang  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Technology is increasingly at the center of our lives. And as our dependence on the internet and digital communications increases, our workforce must keep up with the evolving skill demand. Despite the high demand for digital skills and the desire for skill-building opportunities among workers, many have not had the opportunity to fully develop such skills. The digital skill divide is the space between those who have the robust access and support needed to engage in skill-building opportunities and those who do not. As technology evolves, the digital skill divide prevents equal participation and opportunity in all parts of life—including people’s ability to get good jobs and advance in their careers. The National Skills Coalition and the Center for Workforce and Economic Opportunity at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta shared research on how rapidly evolving technology is impacting the workforce. Looking at 43 million job postings in 2021, the researchers found that the overwhelming majority of jobs in the U.S. labor market now require technology skills. This demand for technology skills stretches across every industry in the U.S., and nearly every occupation, including entry-level and frontline workers. Understanding this digital transformation—and the digital skill divide that is disproportionately affecting workers of color and small businesses—highlights the importance of workers having a baseline of foundational digital skills to succeed in the 21st century. Here's a quick recap of the findings and recommendations from Closing the Digital Skill Divide: The Payoff for Workers, Business, and the Economy.

Broadband Funding

Biden-Harris Administration Invests $63 Million in High-Speed Internet in Rural Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Mississippi

Press Release  |  Department of Agriculture

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $63 million to bring high-speed internet access to people living and working in rural areas in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and Mississippi. The investments include funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The $63 million in grants comes from the third funding round of the ReConnect Program, in which USDA invested a total of $1.7 billion. The four projects being funded are:

  • Illinois: McDonough Telephone Cooperative is receiving an $18 million grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network. The network will connect 1,583 people, 274 farms and 41 businesses to high-speed internet in, Hancock, Henderson, McDonough, and Warren counties. The company will make internet access affordable through the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline and Affordable Connectivity Programs (ACP).
  • Michigan: Alpha Enterprises Limited, Inc. is receiving a $19.5 million grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network that will connect 1,023 people, 19 businesses and 10 farms to high-speed, ed internet in Chippewa and Mackinac counties. Alpha Enterprises Limited, Inc. will make high-speed internet affordable through the FCC’s ACP and Lifeline program.
  • Minnesota: Paul Bunyan Rural Telephone Cooperative is receiving a $10 million grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network. The network will connect 3,529 people, 71 businesses, 35 farms, and two p, public schools to high-speed internet in Hubbard, Itasca, and St. Louis counties.
  • Mississippi: Uplink Internet LLC is receiving a $15 million grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network. This network will connect 2,340 people, 143 farms, 45 businesses, and a public school to high-speed internet in Coahoma, Quitman, and Tunica counties. It also will serve socially vulnerable communities in these counties, which are supported by the Rural Partners Network, an all-of-government initiative that combines federal, state, and local resources to address specific needs in rural and tribal communities across the country.

Data & Mapping

FCC Investigates Broadband Providers Over Coverage Claims

Todd Shields, Scott Moritz  |  Bloomberg

The Federal Communications Commission is investigating whether broadband-service providers exaggerated their level of coverage to authorities preparing to distribute billions of dollars in subsidies. At issue are claims by carriers that they already provide high-speed internet service to rural and other underserved areas where it’s not actually available. The Biden administration is awarding $42.5 billion to increase access in these locations. Areas served and unserved are being marked on a map compiled by the FCC. State and local officials, consultants and federal lawmakers have accused wireless providers of overstating the breadth and quality of their service in their reports to regulators. Broad claims of coverage could block potential rivals from obtaining subsidies that would let them more aggressively compete with the established providers. FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel revealed that there was an investigation in a Feb. 3 letter to members of Congress concerned about progress in the program. “We have taken several steps to prevent systematic overreporting of coverage by broadband service providers,” Chairwoman Rosenworcel said. “Efforts to intentionally misstate service may be subject to enforcement action. In fact, we already have an investigation underway.” Since then the agency has moved to multiple probes.


Connecting Vermont: Broadband rollout making progress

Melissa Cooney  |  WCAX

Private and public partnerships are helping 214 Vermont towns get hooked up to broadband through a communications union district (CUD). Per Vermont statute, CUDs can’t be funded by general obligation bonds. There are 10 CUDs in the state and more than $124 million has been deployed in state and federal funding. The Vermont Community Broadband Board is looking for more funding options now, but officials are confident everyone will be hooked up in the next five to seven years. It’s one of six CUDs currently in the construction phase, meaning crews are actively on the ground rolling out fiber optic cables. They’re starting in Calais (VT) where 60% of residents still use DSL, including the town office. Connecting 400 miles in CVFiber’s territory cost $60 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act funds and they plan to seek remaining funds from the Vermont Municipal Bond Bank. Part of the cost is also being paid for by 13 of the 20 CVFiber member towns contributing ARPA funding their specific municipality was granted—money that goes to construction in their town lines.

Why is New York City Removing Free Broadband In Favor of Charter?

Ernesto Falcon  |  Editorial  |  Electronic Frontier Foundation

In January 2020, former-Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-NY) announced New York City’s Internet Master Plan, setting a path to deliver broadband for low-income New Yorkers by investing in public fiber infrastructure. Shortly after the announcement by Mayor de Blasio, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and made the need for public fiber in low-income areas greater than ever before. In response, former union workers at Spectrum opted to build their own broadband cooperative called People’s Choice Communications, to deliver free high-speed access. But since the election of Mayor Eric Adams (D-NY), this critical progress has not only come to a halt, but it is also now actively being undermined, to the benefit of large cable corporations. Instead of pursuing long-term solutions to low-income access, as outlined by the Internet Master Plan, Mayor Adams has abandoned that plan. Now, the Adams administration is pushing an extraordinarily wasteful proposal dubbed “Big Apple Connect,” that literally just hands money over to cable companies. The original NYC proposal would have created the infrastructure that can lead to the creation of more local solutions like People’s Choice Communications. This would both create competition and drive down prices for everyone, as new entrants enter the market delivering gigabit-level connectivity. Now we know that the Adams administration is actively dismantling equipment that People's Choice Cooperative installed in public housing to make space for expensive, subsidized cable. The existence of a free, unsubsidized connection would not only embarrassingly raise questions about the Big Apple Connect program’s entire premise, but also threaten the cable monopoly of high prices for inferior speeds across the country.

Delphi, Indiana, broadband project officially begins, fiber to hit county in coming weeks

Pari Apostolakos  |  WLFI

Delphi's (IN) fiber internet project, Broadway Broadband, officially broke ground. The symbolic groundbreaking ceremony held at Delphi City Hall is just the beginning of widespread fiber internet access in Carroll County. "We've been trying to bridge the digital divide between rural communities and denser communities that don't necessarily have access to high-speed internet, and we have been working on this project for over a year," Mike Barron, Director of Marketing and Member Services for Miami-Cass REMC. Barron, speaking for the nonprofit powering Broadway Broadband, said fiber will first be installed in the southwest part of Delphi. Pricing to get online with Broadway Broadband starts at just under $60 per month. That plan gives you an internet connection for up to five devices at 150 Mbps. Just over $85 a month provides speeds of 300 megabits per second, and $115 dollars per month is the most expensive package with unlimited access and speeds up to one gigabit per second. The overall timeline for the project should be about a year. Funding for the project comes from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

Broadband Service


Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting

T-Mobile is claiming that the price for its fixed-wireless access (FWA) is locked-in and will never be raised. In the pricing world, that kind of offer is referred to as a price-for-life, although T-Mobile didn’t use that term. This is the kind of idea that comes from marketing folks because it’s a gimmick that makes it easier to sell. But there are some long-term consequences of offering a guaranteed price forever. That tactic would be impossible for a fiber provider, but the average customer doesn’t understand cellular networks well enough to dispute that kind of maneuver. But there are other reasons why price-for-life is a bad idea. The number one issue is inflation. The main problem I have with the price-for-life concept is that it provides an easy path for the marketing department to make sales and earn sales bonuses today while pushing lower margins into somebody else’s lap in future years. My main objection to price-for-life is that it conveys a message to consumers that runs against the philosophy of most small internet service providers (ISP). Most small ISPs pride themselves on offering fair rates all of the time, which makes it easy to favorably contrast themselves with the big ISPs that constantly run special pricing promotions. There is one counterargument to be made in favor of price-for-life. There is value in a customer that never churns. Even if a customer delivers less margin every year by hanging on to a price-for-life product, that customer is delivering a huge accumulated return by paying for a product for a decade or two.

Platforms/Social Media

A Conversation With Bing’s Chatbot Left Me Deeply Unsettled

Kevin Roose  |  Analysis  |  New York Times

I’m fascinated and impressed by the new Bing, and the artificial intelligence technology (created by OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT) that powers it. But I’m also deeply unsettled, even frightened, by this A.I.’s emergent abilities. It’s now clear to me that in its current form, the A.I. that has been built into Bing — which I’m now calling Sydney — is not ready for human contact. Or maybe we humans are not ready for it. This realization came to me when I spent a bewildering and enthralling two hours talking to Bing’s A.I. through its chat feature, which sits next to the main search box in Bing and is capable of having long, open-ended text conversations on virtually any topic. Over the course of our conversation, Bing revealed a kind of split personality. One persona is what I’d call Search Bing. This version of Bing is amazingly capable and often very useful, even if it sometimes gets the details wrong. The other persona — Sydney — is far different. It emerges when you have an extended conversation with the chatbot, steering it away from more conventional search queries and toward more personal topics. The version I encountered seemed (and I’m aware of how crazy this sounds) more like a moody, manic-depressive teenager who has been trapped, against its will, inside a second-rate search engine.


Sen. Cruz Announces Subcommittee Ranking Members for 118th Congress

Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX)  |  Press Release  |  Senate Commerce Committee

The following Republican Ranking Members for the 118th Congress:

  • Subcommittee on Aviation Safety, Operations and Innovation: Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS);
  • Subcommittee on Communications, Media and Broadband: Sen. John Thune (R-SD);
  • Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, Maritime, Freight and Ports: Sen. Todd Young (R-IN);
  • Subcommittee on Oceans, Fisheries, Climate Change and Manufacturing: Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK);
  • Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Data Security: Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN);
  • Subcommittee on Space and Science: Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-MO);
  • Subcommittee on Tourism, Trade and Export Promotion: Sen. Ted Budd (R-NC).

Stories From Abroad

Full fibre to reach half of homes, as competition drives better broadband

Lindsey Fussell  |  Press Release  |  Ofcom

As construction of the UK’s new broadband backbone continues, full-fibre internet will reach half of UK homes in March 2023. Full-fibre broadband is better broadband. It’s more reliable, and many times faster than the average ‘superfast’ connections people have largely used in recent years. Just five years ago, only 6% of homes could get full fibre. But thanks to competition and investment from network builders, that had reached 42% by September 2022. Based on current data, Ofcom now expects the 50% threshold to be passed in March, and to reach more than 80% within the next two years.

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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.

© Benton Institute for Broadband & Society 2022. Redistribution of this email publication — both internally and externally — is encouraged if it includes this message. For subscribe/unsubscribe info email: headlines AT benton DOT org

Kevin Taglang

Kevin Taglang
Executive Editor, Communications-related Headlines
Benton Institute
for Broadband & Society
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