Friday, February 24, 2023
Headlines Daily Digest
Broadband is Part of Wyoming's Strategy to Survive, Drive, and Thrive
A look at the Affordable Connectivity Program’s inaugural year through interactive dashboards
The CHIPS Act and a Long-term Vision for America’s Technological Leadership
House Commerce Committee GOP Chairs Lay Out Expectations for Biden Agency Cooperation
Data & Mapping
Stories From Abroad
The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is the most ambitious federal initiative put into place to bridge the broadband connectivity gap for low-income Americans. The ACP launched in January 2022, serving almost 10 million households that were transitioned from the Emergency Broadband Benefit program (EBB). By the end of 2022, it had enrolled another 5.4 million households for a total of about 15.4 million subscribers in December 2022. Using data from the ACS 2021 1-year estimates, our estimation is that about 55.3 million households are eligible for ACP. This represents a nationwide uptake rate of approximately 28% and, the rate of growth in new enrollments has slowed down considerably. A closer look at the data reveals significant geographical variation in the participation rate as well as in the rate of program growth since January 2022. To inform the policy conversation about ways to improve program performance, we present a set of interactive maps and dashboards that combine enrollment data from USAC with county-level demographic characteristics. They allow for comparisons within as well as across states and provide tools that help identify areas of high growth and strong program performance for policy benchmarking.
In his State of the State Address to the 65th Wyoming Legislature on January 9, 2019—just two days after he was sworn in as Wyoming’s 33rd governor—Mark Gordon (R-WY) outlined his top priorities: fiscal discipline, economic development, and improving Wyoming people’s quality of life. “I support the ongoing effort to improve access to broadband internet coverage throughout the state," he said. "This has been an appropriate partnership between government and private industry. Not only does broadband give our students a tool to compete with the rest of the world, it is necessary for healthcare delivery—especially in rural areas where other specialized doctors are not available." As a result of a 2018 law, the state's broadband efforts are administered by the Wyoming Business Council, the state's economic development agency. Created in 1998, the council is a team led by a board of directors consisting of 13 business leaders from across the state. Governor Mark Gordon serves as co-chair of the board. The law also appropriated $10 million to establish the Broadband Infrastructure Grant Fund.
Consolidated Communications Awarded $40 Million in Grants to Aid in Building Fiber to 57,000 Homes in New Hampshire
Consolidated Communications was awarded $40 million in funding from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to build fiber to nearly 25,000 unserved homes throughout New Hampshire. Consolidated will invest its own capital to bring fiber to more than 32,000 additional homes. In total, the entire project will provide reliable fiber internet services to more than 57,000 homes across six different counties. Upon completion, residents will have access to Consolidated’s fiber internet service, Fidium, which offers multi-gig speeds and WiFi6 without data caps, contracts, or hassles. The unanimous vote to approve Consolidated’s grant took place during the Feb. 22 meeting of the New Hampshire Executive Council meeting. The grant was offered by the NH Department of Business and Economic Affairs Office of Broadband Initiatives, with funding from the federal ARPA and Capital Projects Fund (CPF). Construction is expected to begin at the end of 2023 and be largely completed by the end of 2024. Consolidated has partnered with 23 New Hampshire towns since 2018, building and delivering fiber connectivity to 32,750 homes. Since 2021, Consolidated has built fiber to more than 244,000 New Hampshire homes and small businesses.
Comcast has fessed up to another mistake on the national broadband map after previously insisting that false data it gave the Federal Communications Commission was actually correct. A report on February 9, 2023, showed that when residents in two Colorado cities objected to Comcast's coverage claims through the FCC challenge system, the company disputed those challenges even though it was impossible to order Comcast Internet service at the challenged addresses. Comcast only admitted to the FCC that it submitted false data in Arvada, Colorado, one day after Ars Technica contacted the company's public relations department. But Comcast hadn't yet admitted that it gave the FCC false data in Fort Collins, Colorado. That changed recently in a letter to the FCC. "Upon further review of the location ID in question, Comcast has determined that the location is currently not serviceable by Comcast," the company told the FCC. Comcast said it submitted an update to mark the challenged address as "not serviceable." The change hasn't taken effect on the public version of the FCC map yet, which is updated with corrections every two weeks. Correcting false data is important because the map will be used to determine which parts of the US are eligible for $42.45 billion in Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) grants to expand broadband availability starting in mid-2023.
I am often asked by cities about the option of building a municipal fixed wireless broadband network. My response has been that it’s possible but that the resulting network is probably not going to satisfy the performance goals most cities have in mind. There are several limitations of fixed wireless technology in an urban that must be considered:
- The first is the spectrum to be used. Cities tend to be saturated with unlicensed Wi-Fi signals, and the amount of interference will make it a massive challenge to use unlicensed Wi-Fi for broadband purposes.
- Licensed spectrum can provide better broadband results. But in cities of any size, most of the licensed spectrum is already spoken for and belongs to cellular companies or somebody else that plans to use it.
- Even if licensed spectrum is available, most fixed wireless radios can only serve a relatively small number of customers. Cities are probably not going to be willing to make an investment that can only serve a limited number of people.
- Another issue to consider is line-of-sight. In practical terms, this means that neighbor A’s home might block the signal to reach neighbor B. In the typical city, there are going to be a lot of homes that cannot be connected to a fixed wireless network unless there are a lot of towers – and most cities are averse to building more towers.
- Even when there is a decent line-of-sight, an urban wireless signal can be disturbed by the many routine activities in the city, such as seasonal foliage, bad weather, and even traffic.
- A point-to-multipoint fixed wireless system is also not a great solution for multi-tenant buildings. These networks are designed to provide bandwidth connections to individual users, and there is not enough bandwidth to deliver broadband from one connection to serve multiple tenants.
I’d like to talk about the incredible opportunity we have as a nation to unleash the next generation of American innovation, protect our national security, and preserve our global economic competitiveness as we implement the historic CHIPS and Science Act....Today, because of President Biden’s leadership, working with Congress, the CHIPS and Science Act presents us with an opportunity to make investments that are similarly consequential for our nation’s future. But only if we--as a nation—unite behind a shared objective, generate a similar public-private mobilization and think boldly. The research, innovation, and manufacturing sparked by this law can enable us to be the technological superpower, securing our economic and national security future for the coming decades. Years from now, when we judge the success of this program, we will be measured on at least two key imperatives. First, whether this program enabled us to build a reliable and resilient semiconductor industry that protects America’s technological leadership for the coming decades. Second, we will be judged on whether we were good stewards of taxpayer dollars. We are making a public investment in private industry without recent precedent, and taxpayers deserve transparency and accountability. These are the goals we aim to achieve by 2030: First, America will design and produce the world’s most advanced chips on our shores. Specifically, the U.S. will have at least two new large-scale clusters of leading-edge logic fabs, that will have been built by highly-skilled union labor. Additionally, the U.S. will develop multiple high-volume advanced packaging facilities, and become a global leader in packaging technologies. U.S.-based fabs will also produce advanced memory chips on economically competitive terms. And the U.S. will strategically increase its production capacity for the current-generation and mature-node chips most critical to our economic and national security. These are the chips that go into cars, medical devices, and many of our defense capabilities.
House Commerce Committee Chair Cathy Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Communications and Technology Chair Bob Latta (R-OH), Subcommittee on Health Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY), Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Subcommittee on Innovation, Data, and Commerce Chair Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Subcommittee on Environment, Manufacturing, and Critical Materials Chair Bill Johnson (R-OH), and Subcommittee on Energy, Climate, and Grid Security Jeff Duncan (R-SC) wrote to the heads of the Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Department of Commerce laying out expectations for intergovernmental cooperation regarding oversight. The members outline seven principles for each agency or department to comply with Congressional requests and provide answers the American people deserve.
- For all requests or questions, please reproduce the requests or questions presented in a written letter with the department or agency response.
- In the spirit of comity and inter-branch accommodation, your department or agency should endeavor to cooperate as much as possible with committee oversight requests. If your department or agency has determined it will not voluntarily cooperate with the requests, please provide electronic written notice within two business days specifying which requests you are declining to cooperate with and the stated reasons for voluntary noncooperation.
- Your department or agency should make a determination on whether certain requests cannot be fulfilled as presented. Provide electronic written notice within one business week of receipt of the request about such determinations, stating the reasons why. If there is an alternative approach that could address the Committee’s request, then such an alternative approach should be suggested in the interests of comity and inter-branch accommodation.
- If the department or agency needs clarification about a Committee request, your staff should make good faith efforts to contact Committee staff for assistance as soon as possible.
- We expect your department or agency to provide a written response to our oversight requests within two weeks of receipt of the letter. If the department or agency needs additional time to respond to Committee requests, your staff should make good faith efforts to contact Committee staff for assistance as soon as possible.
- If your department or agency has determined that certain requested documents cannot be produced pursuant to a privilege or other legal basis, your department or agency should submit an index of the withheld documents and the privilege asserted within two business weeks of receipt of the request letter.
- If your department has determined that a requested witness cannot be made available pursuant to a privilege or other legal basis, your department or agency should submit in writing an explanation of the privilege or other legal basis asserted within two business weeks of receipt of the request letter.
The European Commission has launched an exploratory consultation to gather views on the potential developments of the connectivity sector and its infrastructure. The aim is to gather views on the changing technological and market landscape and how it may affect the sector for electronic communications. It also touches upon the types of infrastructure and amount of investments that Europe needs to lead the digital transformation in the coming years. Digital markets and in particular connectivity markets are facing transformative technological and market developments. These include cloud data storage, the transition to edge computing, the usability of the Metaverse, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and more. Moreover, such developments are not isolated from the challenging geopolitical and the broader economic situation. Therefore, it is now a good moment to look at the connectivity sector by way of a consultation and gather stakeholders’ views as to where the electronic communications sector stands and where it will and should be in the future.
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.
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