Daily Digest 2/27/2023 (State challenge processes)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents


Closing the Digital Divide Among Priorities for 2023 Farm Bill  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  National Association of Counties

Digital Equity

Affordable Connectivity Program Enrollment Specialist Certification  |  Education Superhighway
Affordable Connectivity Program Enrollment Figures  |  Technology Policy Institute

Date & Mapping

State challenge processes are not a panacea for broadband map issues  |  Read below  |  Mike Conlow  |  Analysis  |  Substack

State/Local Initiatives

Benton Foundation
Federal Boost for Tennessee Broadband Accessibility  |  Read below  |  Kevin Taglang  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Colorado Lt. Governor Primavera Announces Statewide Initiative to Increase Affordable Connectivity Program Adoption  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Colorado Governor's Office of Information Technology
PSC Receives 74 Applications Requesting More Than $73 Million from State Broadband Expansion Grant Program  |  Public Service Commission of Wisconsin
Baltimore County Public Library Is Leading The Way On ACP Adoption  |  Read below  |  Analysis  |  Education Superhighway
Martin County (MN) funds rural broadband  |  Read below  |  Erik Kjer  |  Sentinel


Groups Urge FCC to Provide Consumers with Easy-to-Understand Privacy Labels  |  Read below  |  Cody Venzke, Jessica Dheere, Chris Frascella  |  Analysis  |  Center for Democracy & Technology, Electronic Privacy Information Center, Ranking Digital Rights


President Biden finds breaking up Big Tech is hard to do  |  Washington Post
US says Google routinely destroyed evidence and lied about use of auto-delete  |  Ars Technica

Social Media/Platforms

Instagram users are being served gory videos  |  Washington Post
Richard Waters: Subscriptions won’t change social media’s dependence on advertising  |  Financial Times

Industry/Company News

How Big Is the Internet?  |  Read below  |  Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting
Here’s how much fiber US operators are planning to build in 2023  |  Summary at Benton.org  |  Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce
Frontier CEO says it's 'looking at all options' to push fiber reach beyond 10M  |  Read below  |  Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce
WOW! hits 25% penetration in first greenfield fiber market  |  Read below  |  Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce
Ericsson to Cut 8,500 More Jobs as 5G Rollout Stalls  |  Wall Street Journal
Google Chrome’s improved page zoom should help make the mobile web more accessible  |  Vox

Stories From Abroad

Fiber is now the dominant broadband access technology in half of all OECD countries  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
Today's Top Stories


Closing the Digital Divide Among Priorities for 2023 Farm Bill

Press Release  |  National Association of Counties

The National Association of Counties (NACo), which represents all of America's 3,069 county governments, seeks to work with our federal partners to develop a substantive farm bill to strengthen federal resources that allow counties to make critical investments in our nation's most underserved populations. Counties support bridging the Digital Divide as a key recommendation for the 2023 Farm Bill.  According to the Federal Communications Commission, approximately 14.5 million Americans lack access to broadband speeds of at least 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload, with 11 million of these Americans residing in rural areas. Universal deployment of high-speed internet to rural counties would bring major benefits, including improved health care services through telemedicine services, increased ability for remote education and closing of the homework gap, and the promotion of quality economic development through the ability to support remote work opportunities. Counties support utilizing the Farm Bill as a mechanism to provide long-term funding support, including digital literacy, for the universal deployment and adoption of high-speed broadband services in rural America that will help build resilient and future-ready communities in the 21st century.


State challenge processes are not a panacea for broadband map issues

Mike Conlow  |  Analysis  |  Substack

Should states run their own broadband mapping challenges? States could choose to award grants in an technology-aware manner, adding 3.1 million locations currently served or underserved by DSL or 25/3 fixed wireless, which would have the same — or an even better — effect. There are 218,878 locations where a DSL offering is advertising 100 Mbps download throughput and 20 Mbps upload throughput or better, and there is no other offering to the location that would serve them at 100/20. Do we need a lengthy challenge process to determine that these locations should get upgraded service? I certainly don’t think so. I think it would be fair to states' residents if we consider (1) anyone served only by DSL, or (2) underserved by a 25/3 offering to be eligible for a broadband upgrade with this generational funding opportunity. It takes us up from 7.8 million unserved to 10.8 million unserved, and actually lowers the underserved from 5 million to 2.3 million (because so many became unserved). It’s technology-aware and it’s fair.


Federal Boost for Tennessee Broadband Accessibility

Kevin Taglang  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

In 2016, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development published research performed by Strategic Networks Group and NEO Connect aimed at answering four basic questions: 1) What is the technical definition of broadband? 2) How many Tennesseans do not have access to broadband? 3) What is the cost of bringing broadband to Tennesseans that do not have it? 4) What are best practices and lessons learned for promulgating broadband from around the country? In response to the research, then-Governor Bill Haslam (R-TN) proposed and eventually signed the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act in 2017. In the wake of the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act, the Department of Economic and Community Development created the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Grant program, designed to offset the capital expenses in the deployment of broadband in unserved areas. The goal of the program is to facilitate broadband access to all Tennesseans while promoting practices that increase deployment and encourage adoption. Funds will be targeted to areas that are unlikely to receive broadband service without grant funding.  

Colorado Lt. Governor Primavera Announces Statewide Initiative to Increase Affordable Connectivity Program Adoption

Lt. Governor Dianne Primavera (D-CO) announced a statewide initiative to increase awareness of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), a long-term benefit to help eligible households pay for high-speed internet. More than 792,000 Colorado households are eligible for the ACP, while only 23% of those eligible have enrolled. The Colorado ACP Act Now initiative unites a broad coalition of 71 partner cities, community-based organizations, and trusted institutions in partnership with EducationSuperHighway (ESH), the national non-profit with a mission to close the broadband affordability gap. ESH will support statewide awareness efforts by training community leaders and partner organizations and providing outreach materials and tools to help households enroll. The non-profit recently launched GetACP.org/Colorado, a virtual mobile assistant that simplifies the ACP enrollment process by providing real-time support to help eligible households determine the easiest way to qualify. The mobile website is available in four languages and helps applicants overcome critical barriers in the enrollment process by helping them identify the documents needed when applying and find "free with ACP" broadband plans available in their area.

Baltimore County Public Library Is Leading The Way On ACP Adoption

Analysis  |  Education Superhighway

Since the beginning of her tenure in mid-2022, it was imperative to Alex Houff, Digital Equity and Virtual Services Manager, to “establish a vision for a connected Baltimore county and what it takes to make that happen.” To accomplish that mission, she noted three things had to occur:

  • Increase hot spot availability through libraries;
  • Increase availability of connected devices (Chromebooks) for the area’s most socially vulnerable as a priority;
  • Develop an understanding that the first two solutions are short-term and require something more sustainable.

Baltimore County Public Library and partners have incorporated ACP awareness into their existing work through collateral available in our PromoteACP Resource Hub, and the use of our enrollment support tools, GetACP.org, and the Affordable Connectivity Program Enrollment Dashboard. Key activities have included: 

  • Mobile hot-spot and Chromebook check-outs include our GetACP.org postcards along with information on how to access help directly from a representative of the Library. The System has found that many users have at least a mobile device to facilitate scanning QR codes, leading to enrollment assistance.
  • Mobile Libraries carry postcards in English and Spanish to hand out when making stops at Early Childhood Centers, with Seniors, and throughout the community.
  • Co-Location of Events, in conjunction with other local partners, has proven to be an effective avenue to reach eligible households with this helpful information.


Martin County (MN) funds rural broadband

Erik Kjer  |  Sentinel

The Martin County, MN, Board of Commissioners has authorized a historic $1.5 million of funding for rural broadband development assistance. The partnership program would help cover up to half the cost of expanding fiber internet to people’s homes in areas currently underserved by existing internet infrastructure and is expected to generate at least $3 million worth of infrastructure improvements. While larger cities in Martin County such as Fairmont, Sherburn, and Truman already have easy access to broadband, a diminishing economy of scale means speeds quickly decrease for people living outside of these areas. In rural areas, the increased distance between homes means fewer customers per mile of fiber cable installation and higher costs of installation for internet service providers. Subsidizing rural broadband development can help reduce inequalities in access. The program is financed by federal funds disbursed as part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) passed in 2021 and would help pay for the last mile of fiber installation to the premises capable of reaching download and upload speeds of at least 500 megabytes per second. In order to qualify a project must serve an area that is classified as underserved or unserved by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development’s Office of Broadband. These areas have download speeds that don’t exceed 25 megabits per second and upload speeds that don’t exceed three megabits per second.


Groups Urge FCC to Provide Consumers with Easy-to-Understand Privacy Labels

Cody Venzke, Jessica Dheere, Chris Frascella  |  Analysis  |  Center for Democracy & Technology, Electronic Privacy Information Center, Ranking Digital Rights

The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) joined the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and Ranking Digital Rights (RDR) in calling for the Federal Communications Commission to provide broadband consumers with easy-to-understand, accessible notices of broadband providers’ data practices. A 2021 investigation by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) revealed that broadband providers collect and combine a host of individualized data about consumers across their products, including the websites that customers visit, the shows they watch, the apps they use, details about home energy use, their real-time and historical location, internet search queries, and even the content of communications. Broadband providers may then use this information to build profiles about consumers and target them with ads. To ensure consumers can make informed choices about their broadband providers, CDT and its partners urged the FCC to include three simple yes/no notices on the broadband “nutrition” labels it established in 2022:

  • Whether the provider collects or uses consumer data for reasons other than providing broadband service;
  • Whether the provider discloses consumer data to third parties for reasons other than providing broadband service, and
  • Whether the consumer can opt out of this collection, use, and sharing.


How Big Is the Internet?

Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting

Internet usage has continued to grow, and at the end of 2022, there were 5.54 billion Internet users, meaning that 69% of people worldwide have Internet access. Here are some facts:

  • There are still roughly 2.7 billion people with no broadband access. New users on the Internet are growing at a rate of 8.2% annually. 
  • The penetration of Internet usage still varies tremendously by continent. In North America, 93.4% of people use the Internet; followed by Europe at 89.2%; and the lowest penetration is Africa at 43.2% and Asia at 67%. Asia has the most Internet users at over 2.9 billion compared to 747 million in Europe and 348 million in North America. China has over 1 billion Internet users.
  • The overall use of bandwidth continues to grow, and broadband usage for the world grew by 1,355% from the beginning of 2000 to the end of 2022.
  • The fastest-growing use of the Internet is in the Middle East, which saw usage grow by 6,141% since the beginning of 2020. 90% of people in the world use a mobile device to go online. Mobile devices account for 55% of all web traffic. Samsung is the largest mobile vendor with a 28.8 % market share. The second is Apple at 27.8%. 
  • The most popular languages on the Internet are English (25.9%), Chinese (19.4%), and Spanish (8%),
  • About 32% of all Internet users are between the ages of 25 and 34. 
  • The most popular web browser in the world is Chrome (65.5%), followed by Safari (18.8%), Microsoft Edge (4.3%), and Firefox (3.2%). Google controls worldwide search with 92.7% of all searches, with Bing a distant second at 2.8%. Almost 30% of all global web traffic is initiated via an online search. There are currently 106,000 Google searches per second.

Many of these statistics are estimates, and there are varying estimates to be found for many of the statistics. Probably the biggest takeaway is that demand to use the Internet continues to soar, with over 8% more users worldwide every year.

Frontier CEO says it's 'looking at all options' to push fiber reach beyond 10M

Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce

Frontier Communications is all heads down as it works to reach its target of deploying fiber to 10 million locations by the end of 2025. That said, it’s also got an eye on the horizon beyond that goal, with executives saying that subsidy dollars or a potential joint venture (JV) could help it expand further. CEO Nick Jeffery added it would also entertain an open-access network deal to reach more locations. “In terms of open access infrastructures generally, if there is one available that we could use, yes, we’d look at it,” he said. “It can be a capital smart way of operating. If someone else is putting in the capital and we’re using it to sell to customers, yeah, I’m kind of happy with that.” Would Frontier open its own network for an open access deal? Jeffery said that’s “unlikely.”

WOW! hits 25% penetration in first greenfield fiber market

Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce

Consumers in central Florida are apparently hungry for fiber. WideOpenWest (WOW!) CEO Teresa Elder said the company is seeing strong uptake of its service, including its higher-tier products. WOW! announced its launch in Altamonte Springs, FL, in January 2022, noting at the time it had around 1,000 passings in the city. Elder said the market had already achieved a 25% penetration rate – which she noted was quite near the 30% rate WOW! was targeting in the timeframe of a year or more after launch. While Elder acknowledged the penetration figure will likely fluctuate as more passings are added, she said the company is “thrilled” with the early results. According to Elder, around 70% of WOW!’s customers overall are taking speeds of 500 Mbps or above, with more than 50% of its base subscribing to such tiers. CFO John Rego added that up-tiering is happening not only within WOW! legacy markets but also in its greenfield territory WOW! ended 2022 with around 1.9 million homes passed between its cable and fiber assets. Elder declined to provide a target for the number of greenfield fiber passings WOW! is looking to add in 2023. However, she did say it plans to ramp up its expansion work significantly since a lot of the design and permitting groundwork needed to do so was already laid in 2022.

Stories From Abroad

Fiber is now the dominant broadband access technology in half of all OECD countries

High-speed fiber is now the primary fixed broadband technology in 19 out of 38 OECD countries, according to the latest data. Among these countries, 15 have a share of fiber subscriptions of over 50%. The latest update of the OECD broadband portal shows a 12.3% rise in fiber broadband subscriptions across OECD countries between June 2021 and June 2022, a slightly slower growth rate than the previous 12 months.  The need to bolster remote working capacity has remained even as many workers physically returned to the office in 2022, driving demand for fiber connections that provide fast upload and download speeds. Overall, fiber now accounts for 36% of fixed broadband subscriptions in the 38 OECD member countries, up from 22% five years ago. Korea, Japan, and Spain have the highest fiber penetration rates in the OECD at 87%, 84%, and 81%, respectively, and are among the seven countries with a fiber share of total fixed broadband subscriptions of 70% or higher. The highest fiber growth rates in Latin America were observed in Costa Rica, Chile, and Colombia (51%, 35%, and 32%, respectively), while in Europe they were in Belgium, the United Kingdom, and Ireland (87%, 47%, and 40%, respectively).

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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.

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