Daily Digest 2/25/2021 (Fernando Hidalgo)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents


Senators Collins, Rosen Introduce the American Broadband Buildout Act  |  Read below  |  Sen Susan Collins (R-ME)  |  Press Release  |  US Senate
FCC Announces Winning Bidders in C-band Auction  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission
FCC Grants Additional Rural Tribal Spectrum Licenses  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission

Digital Inclusion

FCC Extends COVID Lifeline Program Waivers to June 30, 2021  |  Read below  |  Kris Anne Monteith  |  Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission
AT&T to distribute hotspots nationwide to expand student broadband access  |  Read below  |  Ryan Johnston  |  StateScoop

Millions Of Kids Learn English At School. Teaching Them Remotely Hasn't Been Easy  |  NPR

Net Neutrality

Benton Foundation

Reactions to Court Ruling on California Net Neutrality Law  |  Summary at Benton.org  |  Robbie McBeath  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society


Democrats attack fake news, and Republicans cry foul  |  Read below  |  John Hendel  |  Politico

Australia passes law forcing Google and Facebook to pay news publications  |  C|Net

Facebook to Spend $1 Billion on News Content Over Three Years  |  Read below  |  Paul Ziobro  |  Wall Street Journal

Twitter removes hundred of accounts tied to Iran, Russia  |  Hill, The


Is Wi-Fi Sickness a Disability? California Appellate Court Holds That It Is Under Fair Employment and Housing Act  |  Lexology


Executive Order on America’s Supply Chains  |  White House

Brotman: Digital privacy laws should reflect our work from home pandemic lives  |  Roanoke Times

Facebook, Google Face ‘Strong Pipeline’ of Privacy Rulings in Europe  |  Wall Street Journal


Progressives want President Joe Biden to go big for FCC chair. Does President Biden?  |  Read below  |  Andrew Wyrich  |  Daily Dot

West Virginia's Bipartisan Approach to Closing the Digital Divide  |  Read below  |  Kathryn de Wit  |  Pew Charitable Trusts

Spotlight on Commerce: Scott Woods, Senior Broadband Program Specialist, NTIA  |  Read below  |  Scott Woods  |  Press Release  |  Department of Commerce

Today's Top Stories


Senators Collins, Rosen Introduce the American Broadband Buildout Act

Sen Susan Collins (R-ME)  |  Press Release  |  US Senate

Sens Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) introduced the American Broadband Buildout Act (ABBA), a bipartisan bill to ensure that rural Americans have access to broadband services at speeds they need to fully participate in the modern society and economy. The legislation would help close the “digital divide” between urban and rural America by providing up to $15 billion in matching grants to assist states and state-approved entities build the “last-mile” infrastructure to bring high-speed broadband directly to homes and businesses in areas that lack it.The American Broadband Buildout Act would:

  • Require that projects that receive funding be located in “unserved” areas, where broadband is unavailable at speeds that meet the Federal Communications Commission’s standard. Narrowing the focus to these areas will ensure that the money goes where it is needed most and will also protect against “over-building” where broadband infrastructure is already in place;

  • Require that this federal funding be matched through public-private partnerships between the broadband service provider and the state in which the infrastructure project will be built.  This means that state, local, and private sector partners, along with the federal government, will have a shared commitment, ensuring that projects will be well thought-out and designed to be sustainable;

  • Require that projects be designed to be “future proof,” meaning that the infrastructure installed must be capable of delivering higher-speeds as broadband accelerates in the future.  This will ensure that federal tax dollars are used to help build a network that serves rural Americans now and, in the future, without having to rebuild it every time technology advances;

  • Direct the FCC to prioritize the funding of projects in states that have traditionally lagged behind the national average in terms of broadband subscribers and are at risk of falling further behind as broadband speeds increase; and,

  • Provide grants to states and state-designated entities for digital literacy and public awareness campaigns highlighting the benefits and possibilities of broadband service.

The bill has been endorsed by the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, NCTA – The Internet and Television Association, the Telecommunications Association of Maine, and Mission Broadband.

Summary on Benton.org

FCC Announces Winning Bidders in C-band Auction

Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission announced the winning bidders and the final bid totals in Auction 107—commonly referred to as the C-band auction. Auction 107 net winning bids totaled $81,114,481,921 and gross winning bids totaled $81,168,677,645. Twenty-one bidders won all of the available 5,684 licenses. Verizon was the big winner -- nearly $45.5 billion spent to gain 3,511 licenses. AT&T was a distant second: nearly $23.5 billion spent on 1,621 licenses. T-Mobile spent $9.3 billion on 142 licenses. Down payments on the spectrum licenses are due March 10. The winning bidders will also spend an estimated $14 billion more to cover the costs of the satellite operators shifting their operations to a narrower band of the spectrum. Other expected bidders remained largely on the sidelines. An affiliate of Dish Network bid $2.5 million, suggesting the satellite-TV operator will rely on its existing cache of spectrum to build a new 5G network from scratch. C&C Wireless Holding Co., a joint venture of cable operators Comcast and Charter Communications, won no licenses.

Summary on Benton.org

FCC Grants Additional Rural Tribal Spectrum Licenses

Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau granted an additional 21 spectrum licenses in the 2.5 GHz band to help connect rural Tribal communities across the country. To date, the agency has granted 205 licenses in the 2.5 GHz band to help address rural Tribal connectivity needs. These licenses provide for exclusive use of up to 117.5 megahertz of 2.5 GHz band spectrum that Tribes can use to connect their rural communities to wireless broadband and other advanced services. FCC staff continues to review and process additional applications filed in the Rural Tribal Priority Window.

Summary on Benton.org

Digital Inclusion

FCC Extends COVID Lifeline Program Waivers to June 30, 2021

Kris Anne Monteith  |  Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission

In light of the ongoing pandemic, the Federal Communications Commission's Wireline Competition Bureau finds good cause to extend, on its own motion, its prior waivers of the Lifeline program rules governing documentation requirements for subscribers residing in rural areas on Tribal lands, recertification, reverification, general de-enrollment, and income documentation through June 30, 2021.1 However, the bureau declines to further extend the existing waiver of the FCC's Lifeline usage requirement beyond May 1, 2021. At the expiration of the current waiver period on February 28, 2021, the requirement that Lifeline subscribers who are not paying an end-user fee for their Lifeline service must use their service at least every 30 days, with an additional 15-day cure period, will have been waived for almost a year. As the length of the non-usage waiver has increased, so has the likelihood that universal service funding is being disbursed for connections that have not been used.

Summary on Benton.org

AT&T to distribute hotspots nationwide to expand student broadband access

Ryan Johnston  |  StateScoop

School districts that serve vulnerable and disabled students in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and 24 other states will receive free Wi-Fi hotspots from AT&T and Connected Nation, a nonprofit that provides communities with broadband technology and support. Through a portion of a $10 million award from AT&T, Connected Nation will provide 124 school districts and community organizations with hotspots, data subscriptions and content filtering services, potentially providing internet access to at least 35,000 school-age kids who don’t have reliable internet access. 

Summary on Benton.org


Democrats attack fake news, and Republicans cry foul

John Hendel  |  Politico

Democrats are morphing their scrutiny of online falsehoods into a broader campaign against misinformation on right-leaning television outlets — a development that Republicans and some media organizations are calling a government attack on the First Amendment. The Democratic efforts include a House hearing where lawmakers lambasted conservative-leaning broadcasters and cable channels as sources of dangerous conspiracy theories about the pandemic and the November election. Two House Democrats also sent letters to cable, satellite and streaming providers asking why they carry Fox News, Newsmax and One America News Network, all of which had spent months echoing President Donald Trump's baseless claims of election fraud. Democrats, who have spent years pounding online companies like Facebook and Twitter for spreading misinformation, say it's just as important to scrutinize falsehoods by media outlets whose coverage reaches tens of millions of Americans. Their questions also reflect the blurring lines between the broadcasting and online realms, as more televisions are hooked to the internet and more video-streaming platforms begin to resemble traditional cable TV. But Republicans said Democrats are steering their misinformation crusade in a dangerous direction by wielding the government’s powers against the editorial decisions of news outlets and television providers.

Summary on Benton.org

Facebook to Spend $1 Billion on News Content Over Three Years

Paul Ziobro  |  Wall Street Journal

Facebook said it would spend at least $1 billion to license material from news publishers over the next three years, a pledge that comes as tech giants face scrutiny from governments around the world over paying for news content that appears on their platforms. The spending plans are in addition to $600 million that Facebook paid since 2018 in deals with publishers like the Guardian, Financial Times and others to populate its Facebook News product in some countries. The social-media giant’s new pledge is similar to a plan Alphabet’s Google announced in 2020 to pay more than $1 billion to license news content for its Google News Showcase over a three-year period. Facebook removed news from its platform in Australia recently as the country’s legislature debated a proposal that would have required Facebook and Alphabet’s Google to pay traditional media companies for their content. Facebook reached a deal with the government Feb 23 that would restore news to the platform in exchange for measures like additional negotiation with media companies before binding arbitration kicks in. The revised legislation cleared its last major parliamentary hurdle on Feb 24.

Summary on Benton.org


Progressives want President Joe Biden to go big for FCC chair. Does President Biden?

Andrew Wyrich  |  Daily Dot

Without the fear of Republican obstruction, tech and public interest advocates have begun pushing for President Joe Biden to act quickly to fill out the Federal Communications Commission. They say the president has come at a "critical opportunity" to pick a "bold" choice. President Biden can go one of two ways to fill out the FCC. He could elevate Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel to become the permeant chair of the agency, or he could nominate someone who would come in with the expectation that they would become the chair. Any pick would have to go through a Senate confirmation process, but with Democratic control, it is likely they would be confirmed. He will need to pick someone he is confident can make it through the process. 

Summary on Benton.org

West Virginia's Bipartisan Approach to Closing the Digital Divide

Kathryn de Wit  |  Pew Charitable Trusts

An interview about West Virginia’s bipartisan approach to closing the digital divide, with state Senator Robert “Bob” Plymale (D) and state Delegate and Assistant Majority Whip Daniel Linville (R). Broadband expansion is unusual in these politically polarized times: a public policy issue that enjoys bipartisan support. As state and federal leaders consider ways to make high-speed, reliable, and affordable internet connections available to all Americans, many have moved to work with colleagues and partners across the political spectrum.

Summary on Benton.org

Spotlight on Commerce: Scott Woods, Senior Broadband Program Specialist, NTIA

Scott Woods  |  Press Release  |  Department of Commerce

I am a Senior Broadband Program Specialist with the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) BroadbandUSA Program promoting the expansion of broadband access across America. In my role, I manage the BroadbandUSA Technical Assistance Program and serve as a principal liaison between BroadbandUSA and key strategic partners and external stakeholder groups.  This includes representatives from state and local governments, telecommunications companies, for-profit and non-profit corporations and colleges and universities. Prior to my BroadbandUSA management responsibilities, I also worked to increase broadband access and oversaw  numerous broadband  network  projects  within the  Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), including projects in CA, AZ, VA, GA, FL, LA, TX, WV, AR, HI, PR, and the USVI.

Summary on Benton.org

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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 Robbie McBeath (rmcbeath AT benton DOT org) — we welcome your comments.

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Benton Institute
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