Daily Digest 2/28/2024 (Charles D. Ferris)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Affordable Connectivity Program

'$30 Goes a Long Way': SNAP Households and the Affordable Connectivity Program  |  Read below  |  Research  |  Propel
Missouri households in danger of losing affordable internet access  |  Read below  |  Kelton Turner  |  Missouri Times
Only Conservatives Can Save the Affordable Connectivity Program  |  Read below  |  Bartlett Cleland  |  Op-Ed  |  Broadband Breakfast

Broadband Service

Is There Pent-up Upload Demand?  |  Read below  |  Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting


Joint Statement Endorsing Principles for 6G: Secure, Open, and Resilient by Design  |  Read below  |  Public Notice  |  White House
Buckle up, cable—AT&T just gave FWA fresh legs  |  Read below  |  Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce
How Wi-Fi sensing became usable tech  |  Read below  |  Meg Duff  |  MIT Technology Review
FCC Wins Emmy for Creativity and Engineering Design of the Broadcast Incentive Auction  |  Federal Communications Commission


President Biden Issues Executive Order to Protect Americans’ Sensitive Personal Data  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  White House

Artificial Intelligence

Will telephone companies be the railroad tycoons of the AI age?  |  Read below  |  Mike Dano  |  Light Reading
Bans on deepfakes take us only so far—here’s what we really need  |  MIT Technology Review

Platforms/Social Media

Instagram and Facebook Subscriptions Get New Scrutiny in Suit  |  New York Times
Attor­ney Gen­er­al Ken Pax­ton Sues Aylo Global Entertainment for Vio­lat­ing Texas Age Ver­i­fi­ca­tion Laws  |  Texas Attorney General

Elections & Media

New marketplace launches to shift more political ads to streaming  |  Axios


Investing in Leading-Edge Technology: An Update on CHIPS Act Implementation  |  Department of Commerce

Company News

Here's how Verizon plans to revive its ailing wholesale business—hint, fiber is key  |  Summary at Benton.org  |  Julia King  |  Fierce
Charter potentially eyes merger with Altice USA  |  Fierce


Charles D. Ferris, a champion of deregulation at the FCC  |  Read below  |  Harrison Smith  |  Washington Post
Federal Communications Commissioner Starks Statement on the Passing of Former FCC Chairman Ferris  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission
FCC Announces the Membership and First Meeting of the Technological Advisory Council  |  Read below  |  Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission
Celebrating Black History Month: A Q and A With Dr. Jon Gant  |  Summary at Benton.org  |  Maya James  |  Press Release  |  National Telecommunications and Information Administration

Stories From Abroad

China’s Rush to Dominate A.I. Comes With a Twist: It Depends on U.S. Technology  |  New York Times
Silicon Valley Venture Capitalists Are Breaking Up With China  |  New York Times
Today's Top Stories

'$30 Goes a Long Way': SNAP Households and the Affordable Connectivity Program

Research  |  Propel

Recently, we surveyed over 1,700 Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) enrollees who use the Providers app about what the broadband benefit has meant to them and how their lives will change if it expires. Here’s what we found:

  • Nearly one-quarter of low-income households surveyed said that they would stop internet services altogether if ACP funding were to expire.
  • Survey respondents use the internet for essential everyday activities, including work/job opportunities (44%), education (40%), health care (41%), online banking (48%), accessing government services (53%), finding food (33%).
  • 58% of respondents say that affording internet access is at least somewhat difficult, even with the ACP.
  • 60% of respondents are first-time subscribers to internet service through the ACP.

The takeaway is clear: Unless the ACP is extended, families will have to make impossible tradeoffs between essential expenses or lose internet services altogether. 

Missouri households in danger of losing affordable internet access

Kelton Turner  |  Missouri Times

The future of affordable broadband internet access is uncertain for 1 in 6 households across Missouri as the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) runs out of funding. Launched in December 2021, the ACP allows households that qualify to save up to $30 a month on their internet bill. The program also helps households obtain technology, such as laptops and other computers. 394,043 Missouri households are currently enrolled in the program. But that number could soon drop to zero as funding for the program is running out. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) website, the program stopped taking in new applicants earlier this month. The FCC states that “Barring additional funding from Congress, April is expected to be the last month enrolled households will receive the full benefit.” Jannie Dunning of the Show Me Broadband spoke about the importance of the ACP at a press conference earlier this week. “No one should have to choose between the ability to improve their lives with access to the internet or food. This is unacceptable,” Dunning said. 

Only Conservatives Can Save the Affordable Connectivity Program

Bartlett Cleland  |  Op-Ed  |  Broadband Breakfast

Our federal deficit is exploding, and America’s financial house is in disarray. The country’s borrowing costs are at their highest level in over 20 years, and the national debt has surpassed $34 trillion for the first in history. In this environment, implementing stringent fiscal policy should be the standard operating procedure for all conservatives. Yet it would be folly to allow the Affordable Connectivity Program, a federal broadband subsidy program, to expire. The resistance to supporting another federal subsidy is more than valid. Yet even hardline conservatives should rally behind the ACP and the additional funding needed to keep the program alive. Why? The ACP is not a program that makes people dependent on the government. Instead, it helps them address their specific needs and participate in the digital economy, which is increasingly essential for routine life and prosperity. There are valid criticisms of the ACP and other federal connectivity programs. But for now, we need a solution and fast. We can’t get lost in the fallacy of the perfectwe need to live in the reality of the pretty good. Don’t pull the plug on the millions of conservative American households that rely on the ACP.

[Bartlett Cleland is the Executive Director of the Innovation Economy Alliance]

Is There Pent-up Upload Demand?

Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting

It’s easy to understand the growth in download bandwidth due to people streaming higher quality video and similar uses. Why do you think upload broadband usage is growing even faster? According to OpenVault, average upload usage has increased 290% since 2019, while average download usage has increased by 270%. There are some obvious reasons why upload bandwidth usage has been growing. There is now a substantial percentage of people who work from home. Several studies I’ve seen and surveys we’ve conducted show that over 30% of homes have somebody who works at home at least part of each week—with many folks now working from home full time. But as I’ve been thinking about upload usage, I also think there has been a lot of pent-up demand that is getting slowly resolved as internet service providers improve upload speeds. I talk to people about their home bandwidth a lot, and I realized that I probably know a dozen people who have told me that they have to ration upload broadband. We’re seeing providers bringing faster upload speeds, and this will ease a lot of these problems. As pent-up upload demand is resolved, we should continue to see average upload usage growing faster than download usage over the next few years.

Joint Statement Endorsing Principles for 6G: Secure, Open, and Resilient by Design

Public Notice  |  White House

The Governments of the United States, Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Sweden, and the United Kingdom concur on these shared principles for the research and development of 6G wireless communication systems; and recognize that by working together we can support open, free, global, interoperable, reliable, resilient, and secure connectivity. We believe this to be an indispensable contribution towards building a more inclusive, sustainable, secure, and peaceful future for all, and call upon other governments, organizations, and stakeholders to join us in supporting and upholding these principles. Collaboration and unity are key to resolving pressing challenges in the development of 6G, and we hereby declare our intention to adopt relevant policies to this end in our countries, to encourage the adoption of such policies in third countries, and to advance research and development and standardization of 6G networks that fulfill the following shared principles:

  1.  Trusted Technology that is Protective of National Security
  2. Secure, Resilient, and Protective of Privacy     
  3. Global Industry-led and Inclusive Standard Setting & International Collaborations 
  4. Cooperation to Enable Open and Interoperable Innovation
  5. Affordability, Sustainability, and Global Connectivity
  6. Spectrum and Manufacturing

Buckle up, cable—AT&T just gave FWA fresh legs

Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce

First, cable and fiber companies dismissed fixed wireless access (FWA) completely. Then, they passed it off as a temporary fad. Subscribers, they said, will return to their wireline providers when wireless bandwidth inevitably runs out. While that may still prove true in the long run, the team at New Street Research (NSR) indicated things aren’t exactly looking pretty in the short term. Until now, the FWA market has been dominated by T-Mobile and Verizon, with the former adding a total of 541,000 FWA subs in Q4 2023 and the latter 375,000, according to NSR’s count. AT&T ended 2023 with 93,000 Internet Air subs after launching in the back half of the year. NSR said based on early results, AT&T’s FWA trajectory looks a lot like T-Mobile’s. While AT&T executives haven’t given much insight into the growth they expect, NSR predicted the company will add around 180,000 FWA subs per quarter over the next few quarters, with a peak expected to come in six to eight quarters. One thing that’s not factored into NSR’s forecast is AT&T’s hiccup, a cellular outage which left tens of thousands of customers in the U.S. and Canada stuck without service.  It’s not entirely clear what caused the disruption, but given Internet Air runs on AT&T’s cellular network, it’s worth considering how it will play into AT&T’s efforts.

President Biden Issues Executive Order to Protect Americans’ Sensitive Personal Data

Press Release  |  White House

A new Biden Executive Order will protect Americans’ sensitive personal data from exploitation by countries of concern. The Executive Order, which marks the most significant executive action any President has ever taken to protect Americans’ data security, authorizes the Attorney General to prevent the large-scale transfer of Americans’ personal data to countries of concern and provides safeguards around other activities that can give those countries access to Americans’ sensitive data. The President’s Executive Order focuses on Americans’ most personal and sensitive information, including genomic data, biometric data, personal health data, geolocation data, financial data, and certain kinds of personally identifiable information. To protect Americans’ sensitive personal data, President Biden is directing:

  • The Department of Justice to issue regulations that establish clear protections for Americans’ sensitive personal data from access and exploitation by countries of concern. 
  • The Department of Justice to issue regulations that establish greater protection of sensitive government-related data, including geolocation information on sensitive government sites and information about military members.
  • The Departments of Justice and Homeland Security to work together to set high security standards to prevent access by countries of concern to Americans’ data through other commercial means
  • The Departments of Health and Human Services, Defense, and Veterans Affairs to help ensure that Federal grants, contracts, and awards are not used to facilitate access to Americans’ sensitive health data by countries of concern, including via companies located in the United States.
  • The Committee for the Assessment of Foreign Participation in the United States Telecommunications Services Sector (often called “Team Telecom”) to consider the threats to Americans’ sensitive personal data in its reviews of submarine cable licenses.
  • That these activities do not stop the flow of information necessary for financial services activities or impose measures aimed at a broader decoupling of the substantial consumer, economic, scientific, and trade relationships that the United States has with other countries.

How Wi-Fi sensing became usable tech

Meg Duff  |  MIT Technology Review

Over a decade ago, Neal Patwari lay in a hospital bed, carefully timing his breathing. Around him, 20 wireless transceivers stood sentry. As Patwari’s chest rose and fell, their electromagnetic waves rippled around him. Patwari, now a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, had just demonstrated that those ripples could reveal his breathing patterns. A few years later, researchers from MIT were building a startup around the idea of using Wi-Fi signals to detect falls. They hoped to help seniors live more independently in their homes. It’s a tantalizing idea: that the same routers bringing you the internet could also detect your movements. Fast-forward nearly a decade: we have yet to see a commercially viable Wi-Fi device for tracking breathing or detecting falls. In 2022, the lighting company Sengled demonstrated a Wi-Fi lightbulb that could supposedly do both—but it still hasn’t been released. Wi-Fi sensing as a way to monitor individual health metrics has, for the most part, been eclipsed by other technologies, like ultra-wideband radar. But Wi-Fi sensing hasn’t gone away. Instead, it has quietly become available in millions of homes, supported by leading internet service providers, smart-home companies, and chip manufacturers. Soon, thanks to better algorithms and more standardized chip designs, it could be invisibly monitoring our day-to-day movements for all sorts of surprising—and sometimes alarming—purposes. Yes, it could track your breathing. The flip side of this, however, is that it could also be used for any number of more nefarious purposes.

Will telephone companies be the railroad tycoons of the AI age?

Mike Dano  |  Light Reading

During America's Gilded Age, a handful of scrappy entrepreneurs built the nation's railway system and in the process created huge piles of money by controlling shipping and travel lanes across the country. Today, as AI hype begins consuming everything in sight, some are hinting that mobile network operators—and their equipment vendors—may be sitting in a similar position thanks to the data they own. After all, AI models are only as good as the data they're trained on. That's why Google is reportedly paying Reddit $60 million every year. And the telecommunications industry has an enormous amount of data. "It's very valuable," said Elena Fersman, an Ericsson VP. Fersman, the head of Ericsson's Global AI Accelerator effort, said network data can be used to train AI models. However, there are only a few companies talking publicly about how they might use—and profit—from their data troves. For example, AT&T business exec Mike Troiano declined to discuss whether AT&T would consider selling access to its data in order to train AI models.

Charles D. Ferris, a champion of deregulation at the FCC

Harrison Smith  |  Washington Post

Charles D. Ferris, a Washington lawyer who helped enact landmark civil rights legislation as a top aide to Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield (D-MT) and who helped usher in an era of telecommunications deregulation as head of the Federal Communications Commission, died Feb. 16 at his home in Chevy Chase (MD). He was 90. As chairman of the FCC from 1977 to 1981, Ferris loosened restrictions on the radio, telephone, cable, and satellite television industries, arguing that the public interest was often better served by a competitive marketplace rather than government regulators trying to play the role of referee. His tenure “transformed how the FCC does business,” according to broadcast and media scholar Reed W. Smith, with deregulation only escalating during the Reagan administration. Ferris “changed the FCC’s status from being a behind-the-times and sluggish agency to being one that was activist and innovative,” Smith wrote in a 2014 article for the Journal of Radio & Audio Media. Nominated by President Jimmy Carter and unanimously confirmed by the Senate in October 1977, Ferris had hardly any technical knowledge of broadcasting and communications, though he dryly noted that he had been “using a telephone and listening to the radio” since boyhood and had “been watching television” for nearly as long. What he lacked in policy expertise he made up for in political experience, having spent nearly 14 years on Capitol Hill as an adroit and decisive chief counsel to Sen Mansfield and, briefly, Speaker of the House Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill Jr. Ferris sided with fellow Carter administration officials such as Alfred E. Kahn, the head of the Civil Aeronautics Board, in championing a looser approach to government oversight. He hired a bevy of economists to an agency that had long been staffed primarily by lawyers, and argued that unless regulations were “improving the market,” they “were nothing but a nuisance.” Under his direction, the agency removed rate regulations on telephone equipment and paved the way for consolidation between the telephone and computer industries, notably by allowing AT&T to enter the computer field through a subsidiary. The agency was also credited with helping encourage a cable television boom by eliminating key restrictions on programming and satellite use; eliminating paperwork requirements for local radio broadcasters; simplifying the licensing procedure for new radio stations; and helping women and minorities qualify for broadcast station ownership.

Federal Communications Commissioner Starks Statement on the Passing of Former FCC Chairman Ferris

Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission

“I am greatly saddened to hear of Chairman Ferris’ passing. His career in public service is an inspiration and his leadership of the Commission during the Carter Administration laid the groundwork for so many of the technological advances of the past 40 years. Under his tenure, Chairman Ferris helped reshape the communications marketplace by allowing AT&T to use computers in its networks, removing rate regulation on telephone equipment, and supporting the growth of cable television. Consumers still benefit from his foresight today. It is also fitting that we remember Chairman Ferris in February, Black History Month, as he was integral to the enactment of both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Chairman Ferris will be missed, but the positive impact he has had on the country and so many will not be forgotten.”

FCC Announces the Membership and First Meeting of the Technological Advisory Council

Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission

Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has appointed members to serve on the Technological Advisory Council (TAC). The TAC is comprised of a diverse group of leading technology experts. It provides technical expertise to the Commission to identify important areas of innovation and develop informed technology policies supporting the United States’ competitiveness in the global economy.  The TAC will consider and advise the Commission on topics such as continued efforts at looking beyond 5G advanced as 6G begins to develop so as to facilitate US leadership; studying advanced spectrum sharing techniques, including the implementation of artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve the utilization and administration of spectrum; and other emerging technologies. Dean Brenner, a former executive at Qualcomm, serves as Chairman of the Council. Martin Doczkat, Chief of the Electromagnetic Compatibility Division in the Office of Engineering and Technology, serves as the Designated Federal Officer. Sean Yun, Deputy Chief of the Electromagnetic Compatibility Division in the Office of Engineering and Technology, is the Alternate Designated Federal Officer. Members of the Technological Advisory Council listed at the link below.

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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 Zoe Walker (zwalker AT benton DOT org) — we welcome your comments.

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