Wednesday, February 20, 2019
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Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has circulated the draft 2019 Broadband Deployment Report, a report that concludes that the digital divide between Americans with and without access to modern broadband networks has narrowed substantially. The report shows that since the 2018 report, the number of Americans lacking access to a fixed broadband connection meeting the FCC’s benchmark speed of 25 Mbps/3 Mbps has dropped by over 25%, from 26.1 million Americans at the end of 2016 to 19.4 million at the end of 2017. Moreover, the majority of those gaining access to such high-speed connections, approximately 5.6 million, live in rural America, where broadband deployment has traditionally lagged. The private sector has responded to FCC reforms by deploying fiber to 5.9 million new homes in 2018, the largest number ever recorded. And overall, capital expenditures by broadband providers increased in 2017, reversing declines that occurred in both 2015 and 2016. Other key findings of the report include the following, based on data through the end of 2017:
- The number of Americans with access to 100 Mbps/10Mpbs fixed broadband increased by nearly 20%, from 244.3 million to 290.9 million.
- The number of Americans with access to 250 Mbps/50 Mbps fixed broadband grew by over 45%, to 205.2 million, and the number of rural Americans with access to such service more than doubled
Based on these and other data, the report concludes that advanced telecommunications services – broadband – is being deployed on a reasonable and timely basis.
Digital distress areas have a harder time using and leveraging the internet to improve their quality of life due to the type of internet subscription or devices owned. Digital distress is defined here as census tracts (neighborhoods) that had a 1) high percentage of homes not subscribing to the internet or subscribing only through a cellular data plan and a 2) high percent of homes with no computing devices or relying only on mobile devices. Using 2013–2017 US Census Bureau American Community Survey for the nation’s 72,400+ Census tracts, we identified four indicators to measure digital distress based on the percentage of homes:
- With only a cellular-data subscription
- With no internet access (not subscribing)
- Relying only on mobile devices
- Not owning a computing device
[Roberto Gallardo is a Community-Regional Economics Specialist in the College of Agriculture Administration at Purdue University. Cheyanne Geideman is the Marketing and Communications Coordinator for the Purdue Center for Regional Development.]
Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and James Lankford (R-OK) led a bipartisan letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai advocating for a public feedback mechanism to allow consumers and states to help inform broadband coverage maps and report any lack of broadband access to the FCC. “While we are glad the FCC is trying to address some of the issues with their mapping though the ongoing Form 477 proceeding, this alone will not solve everything. As long as we continue to rely solely on carrier-reported Form 477 data, we will never have a complete picture that accurately depicts the real world experiences of Americans.” The senators write, “We are not suggesting that crowdsourced data is perfect and that it alone will be enough to fix the greater challenges with broadband mapping, but it is an important tool we should have in the toolbox. We believe the creation of a public feedback mechanism is feasible and would be a critical first step toward creating more reliable and accurate broadband maps.”
The letter was also signed by Sens Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Angus King (I-ME), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), John Kennedy (R-LA), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Doug Jones (D-AL), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).
City politicians and technology leaders pitch Buffalo (NY) as a nascent tech hub, envisioning a rosy future where every child owns a laptop and geeks flock downtown with their edgy startups. But the city may face a major obstacle before this grand vision even gets off the ground: Its internet speeds rank among the country’s slowest, according to two separate analyses by The Buffalo News and the technology firm Ookla. Ookla’s Dec internet-speed report ranked Buffalo’s speeds fifth-last, ahead of only Cleveland (OH), Toledo (OH), Memphis (TN), and Laredo (TX). More than a mere annoyance to frustrated browsers, the region’s lagging digital grid could hamper efforts to lure new businesses here and modernize other infrastructure, advocates say. And slow speeds – coupled with pricing schemes that make even mediocre service expensive – could risk exacerbating the city's "digital divide," which already disadvantages low-income families.
A battle over network neutrality is heating up in Vermont -- one of at least eight states that recently moved to restore the Obama-era rules. VT's net neutrality law, passed last May, prohibits broadband access providers that contract with state agencies from violating the former rules -- including ones prohibiting blocking or throttling and charging higher fees for prioritized delivery. In 2018, industry associations sued in federal court to block VT's law. VT officials fired back that broadband industry groups shouldn't be allowed to proceed in court, given that their members made well-publicized promises to refrain from violating net neutrality principles. The state argues that if the providers aren't violating net neutrality, they won't be harmed by the new law and therefore, have no grounds to sue. But the broadband groups counter that their definition of “net neutrality” may differ from VT's. “Comcast will be harmed by any application of the state's prohibition on blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization in a manner inconsistent with Comcast's stated commitments,” Mark Reilly, senior vice president at Comcast Cable, stated in a declaration filed in Jan with the US District Court in VT. But VT officials add that Comcast bid on a state contract last July, and certified at the time that it was in compliance with the new law.
‘Zero-Rating’— the commercial practice whereby an internet service provider (ISP) doesn’t count the use of an app or service against your monthly data cap — has come under renewed scrutiny earlier in Feb when a study by digital rights organization Epicenter.works found that countries that allow its use see average data prices increase over time. The thing is, rather than spreading knowledge, zero-rating offers are often vectors of misinformation. At first sight, zero-rating offers look like a sweet deal for consumers and a noble effort to connect the world, but beyond appearances, they’re just a nasty business practice that distorts competition and cripples Internet access in the developing world.
[Davide Banis is an editor and media researcher based in the Netherlands]
A new report from Cisco says that by 2022, fifth-generation (5G) cellular networks will power as many as 9 percent of mobile data connections across North America, compared with 4 percent in Asia. The report underscores the substantial work that countries like China face as they seek to out-develop Western nations. And it reflects US policies that put the United States in a strong position to lead, said Cisco, which makes networking technology. Although the Asia-Pacific region will be home to more than twice the number of 5G devices than North America by 2022, 5G connections will account for a tiny share of the mobile devices in that region, according to Cisco. 5G connections will account for a greater share of mobile devices in Western Europe, about 6.5 percent.
A complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission is accusing Facebook of failing to protect sensitive health data in its groups. The complaint, filed with the agency in Jan and released publicly Feb 18, argues that the company improperly disclosed information on members of closed groups. The issue first came into the public eye in July, when members of a group for women with a gene mutation called BRCA discovered sensitive information, like names and email addresses of members, could be downloaded in bulk, either manually or through a Chrome extension. The complaint, which was filed by a security researcher and BRCA advocates, among others, argues that Facebook has failed to make clear what personal information users might be giving up when they join a group. While the company might have also made changes to the ability to view personal information, the complaint argues that it is still too easy for a member to harvest information on others in a group.
The funding year (FY) 2019 application filing window for the Rural Health Care Universal Service Support Mechanism (RHC Program) opened on February 1, 2019 and will run through May 31, 2019. To assist eligible health care providers participating in the RHC Telecom Program as they compile their applications for FY2019, this Public Notice provides guidance on complying with program rules, including the FCC’s rules for determining rural rates. It also provides a few reminders and tips that provide additional transparency into the program’s application process and will help applicants and service providers prepare their applications so as to expedite application review and the issuance of funding decisions by the program administrator, the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC).
Both DirecTV and long-time rival Dish Network have recently reported fourth quarter 2018 operating results and the numbers are not good. DirecTV lost 403,000 subscribers in the quarter, compared to 147,000 in the same quarter of 2017. The service is now shedding subscribers at a rate of 6.1% per quarter. The satellite operators are suffering from the same problem as cable operators are — the proliferation of broadband over-the-top (OTT) services. None of this is good news for broadcasters since the slow migration of subsribers from cable and satellite to OTT will likely suppress retransmission revenue growth.
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