Daily Digest 3/15/2024 (100/20)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

News From the FCC

Federal Communications Commission Increases Broadband Speed Benchmark  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission
Benton Foundation
FCC Commissioners Again Plead for Additional ACP Funding  |  Read below  |  Kevin Taglang  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Benton Foundation
How the FCC Got to 100/20  |  Read below  |  Kevin Taglang  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
FCC Proposes New Emergency Alert Code for Missing and Endangered Persons  |  Federal Communications Commission
FCC Votes to Require Cable and Satellite TV Pricing Transparency  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission

FCC Opens Proceeding on Space and Earth Station Regulatory Fees  |  Federal Communications Commission

Broadband Funding

Benton Foundation
Broadband Provisions in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2024  |  Read below  |  Kevin Taglang  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Benton Foundation
What's in the Budget for Broadband?  |  Read below  |  Grace Tepper  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Affordable Connectivity Program Extension Act (H.R. 6929) now has 197 Co-Sponsors  |  House of Representatives
White House calls for ACP renewal at Connected America  |  Read below  |  Brad Randall  |  Broadband Communities
Industry Experts Pessimistic On Potential ACP Extension  |  Read below  |  Corey Walker  |  Broadband Breakfast
Repeating Telecommunications History  |  Read below  |  Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting

Digital Equity

Broadband expansion alone is not enough to improve access to digital services  |  Read below  |  Skylar Rispens  |  State Scoop
Sens. Cruz and Lee Lead Senate Republicans in Challenging FCC’s Unlawful ‘Digital Equity’ Rules  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Senate Commerce Committee


ACHP Announces Program Comment Amendment to Support President Biden’s Broadband Initiative  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
Expanding Internet Access and Protecting Historic Properties  |  Read below  |  Jill Springer  |  National Telecommunications and Information Administration
Statement of Assistant Secretary Davidson on the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation's Action to Streamline Broadband Permitting Efforts  |  Summary at Benton.org  |  Administrator Alan Davidson  |  Press Release  |  National Telecommunications and Information Administration

Community Broadband

DIY public broadband guide gives power to the people  |  Read below  |  Julia King  |  Fierce


NTIA’s spectrum implementation plan elicits mostly praise  |  Fierce
Monetizing fixed wireless access is the next big thing  |  Summary at Benton.org  |  Dan Jones  |  Fierce

Charter's Alderfer pushes for more spectrum sharing  |  Light Reading


China Signals Opposition to Forced Sale of TikTok in the U.S.  |  Wall Street Journal
What Happens Next With TikTok?  |  New York Times
TikTok’s US revenues hit $16 billion  |  Financial Times
TikTok Made Them Famous. What If It All Goes Away?  |  Wall Street Journal
Why a Sale of TikTok Would Not Be Easy  |  New York Times
TikTok Turns to Creators to Fight Possible Ban  |  New York Times
TikTok Is Its Own Worst Enemy  |  New York Times
It’s not just Gen Z. Here’s what TikTok’s user base tells us about a potential ban’s impact.  |  Vox
Julia Angwin: Why Are Lawmakers Trying to Ban TikTok Instead of Doing What Voters Actually Want?  |  New York Times

More Platforms/Social Media

CIA allegedly made fake social media accounts to troll the Chinese government  |  Vox
George Will: Government has no business bullying social media platforms on speech  |  Washington Post
One Big Reason Gen Z Is Still on Facebook: To Save Money  |  New York Times
SEC is sick of Elon Musk’s attempts to delay its Twitter investigation  |  Vox
Google says Chrome can now protect you better while preserving your privacy  |  Vox
Meta is ready to drop news in Illinois if forced to pay local publishers  |  Vox
Spotify says its iPhone app updates in the EU are getting held up by Apple  |  Vox
Website in Disabled Texas Over Age-Verification Law  |  Variety

Stories From Abroad

Much of west and central Africa without internet after undersea cable failures  |  Guardian, The
Today's Top Stories

Federal Communications Commission Increases Broadband Speed Benchmark

Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted its annual assessment of whether advanced telecommunications capability is being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion across the US. In addition to deployment, the Report considers broadband affordability, adoption, availability, and equitable access, when determining whether broadband is being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion to “all Americans.” The FCC’s Report, issued pursuant to section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, raises the FCC’s benchmark for high-speed fixed broadband to download speeds of 100
megabits per second and upload speeds of 20 megabits per second—a four-fold increase from the 25/3 Mbps benchmark set in 2015. The increase in the Commission’s fixed speed benchmark for advanced telecommunications capability is based on the standards now used in multiple federal and state programs (such as the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s BEAD Program and multiple Universal Service Fund programs), consumer usage patterns, and what is actually available from and marketed by internet service providers. The Report concludes that advanced telecommunications capability is not being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion based on the total number of Americans, Americans in rural areas, and people living on Tribal lands who lack access to such capability, and the fact that these gaps in deployment are not closing rapidly enough.

FCC Commissioners Again Plead for Additional ACP Funding

On March 14, the Federal Communications Commission adopted its annual assessment of whether broadband is being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion. In addition to considering deployment of physical broadband networks, the FCC also examined broadband affordability, adoption, availability, and equitable access to determine whether broadband is being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion to “all Americans.” In their remarks explaining their support for adopting the report, FCC Commissioners Geoffrey Starks and Anna Gomez mentioned the wind down of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), the largest and most successful broadband affordability effort in U.S. history. As Congress considers providing additional support for ACP, the program is expected to run out of funding in the coming weeks.

How the FCC Got to 100/20

Kevin Taglang  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

In its 2024 Broadband Deployment Report, the Federal Communications Commission raised its fixed speed benchmark for broadband to 100 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 20 Mbps upload. The FCC last updated these benchmark speeds in 2015 when it set the speeds at 25/3 Mbps. There is an obvious, short answer to how the FCC reached its 100/20 determination: Congress. In the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Congress determined that locations without access to networks that can deliver 25/3 Mbps service are "unserved" and locations without access to 100/20 Mbps service are "underserved." Obviously, the FCC could not continue to set standards for broadband internet access service that Congress considered inadequate. But the FCC did not rely solely on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to reset the broadband standard. The longer answer to today's question is that the FCC applied a five-step examination to come to 100/20. 

  1. Recent Congressional Action: We start with the FCC's acknowledgment that Congress has established a new standard for broadband. "We find that Congress’s determination that areas receiving broadband speeds of less than 100/20 Mbps are not adequately served necessitates that the Commission raise its fixed speed benchmark accordingly," the report reads. 
  2. What Broadband Providers are Deploying to American Households: In its examination, the FCC found that deployment of infrastructure capable of delivering service of at least 100/20 Mbps is widespread and the speeds marketed by many internet service providers (ISPs) generally substantially exceed 25/3 Mbps.
  3. Speeds Required for Common Applications: As the New York Public Service Commission told the FCC, “[U]se of the current 25/3 Mbps benchmark...is simply out of step with a typical customer’s broadband needs.” The FCC finds that the requirements for high-quality applications necessitating higher speeds have dramatically increased since 2015 and appear to trend towards requiring more bandwidth over time.
  4. Consumer Choice: The FCC examined data regarding consumer choice and found that consumers are adopting higher speeds where they are available. Almost 68 percent of households have subscribed to services meeting a 100 Mbps download speed threshold where it is available.
  5. Other Relevant Broadband Programs: The FCC, the Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service, the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications Administration (NTIA), and the Department of Treasury all administer federal broadband deployment programs. The FCC examined the requirements in these various programs to inform its decision on benchmark speeds. A number of programs and initiatives at the federal, state, local, and Tribal levels already require speeds at or above 100/20 Mbps.

FCC Votes to Require Cable and Satellite TV Pricing Transparency

Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission adopted new rules requiring cable and satellite TV providers to specify the “all-in” price clearly and prominently for video programming service in their promotional materials and on subscribers’ bills. The FCC aims to eliminate the misleading practice of describing video programming costs as a tax, fee, or surcharge. This updated “all-in” pricing format allows consumers to make informed choices, including the ability to comparison shop among competitors and to compare programming costs against alternative programming providers, including streaming services. TV providers often use deceptive junk fees to hide the real price of their services. The FCC is putting an end to this form of price masking, increasing competition, and reducing confusion among consumers. These new rules require cable operators and direct broadcast satellite (DBS) providers to state the total cost of video programming service clearly and prominently, including broadcast retransmission consent, regional sports programming, and other programming-related fees, as a prominent single line item on subscribers’ bills and in promotional materials. These new rules continue a series of consumer-focused proposals to combat junk fees and support transparency for consumers

Broadband Provisions in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2024

Kevin Taglang  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

On March 9, 2024, President Joe Biden signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2024 (H.R. 4366) legislation that funds, through September 30, departments and agencies of the Federal Government covered by six appropriations bills. Here we look at broadband-related funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). 

What's in the Budget for Broadband?

Grace Tepper  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

This week, the Biden-Harris Administration announced its proposed 2025 fiscal year (FY) budget. According to the White House, President Biden's top economic priority in the FY 2025 budget is to lower costs for American consumers–reducing junk fees, lowering healthcare costs, and the prices of everyday goods and services. Broadband programs play a key role in these efforts, reflecting a priority to connect US residents and bring the opportunities that the internet has to offer. Here we look at how the FY 2025 budget is promoting broadband for all. President Biden often says, "My father had an expression: 'Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget—and I’ll tell you what you value.'" The Biden-Harris Administration's proposed 2025 budget shows that its broadband values lie in promoting affordable broadband and deploying adequate high-speed broadband to consumers in hard-to-reach areas.

White House calls for ACP renewal at Connected America

Brad Randall  |  Broadband Communities

On Day 2 of Connected America, a surprise guest took to the stage to issue a rallying cry for affordable connectivity across the USA. Austin Bonner, Deputy US CTO from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, warned that 23 million people stood to lose affordable connectivity if the Affordable Connectivity Program’s (ACP) funding is not renewed and urged a divided Congress to make additional funding a priority. Despite only around half of eligible households taking advantage of the program, funding is running out. Currently, the ACP’s last fully funded month is set to be April, with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issuing advice to affected households about finding alternative means of connectivity. Exactly where this newfound connectivity might come from, however, it unclear. New survey data from FCC showed that nearly half of ACP households had no broadband service or relied wholly on mobile connectivity prior to receiving ACP support.

Industry Experts Pessimistic On Potential ACP Extension

Corey Walker  |  Broadband Breakfast

Even though there are enough Republicans in Congress to pass an extension of the soon-expiring Affordable Connectivity Program, industry observers are pessimistic about its passage. Because House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) is not supportive, said Blair Levin, the measure is unlikely to get a vote before the House of Representatives. Paul Gallant, a technology policy analyst for investment bank TD Cowen, agreed. “Congress is probably going to do nothing,” said Levin. "If it were to hit the floor, it would pass, and I don’t think Speaker Johnson is going to let it go to the floor. We’ll see.” Gallant agreed that an ACP extension would be an “uphill battle” and that, “day by day it gets tougher." Levin added that the bill is getting caught up in electoral politics, with Republicans not wanting President Biden to get the credit during an election year.

Broadband expansion alone is not enough to improve access to digital services

Skylar Rispens  |  State Scoop

Federal broadband expansion efforts aim to ensure that every American household has a reliable and affordable internet connection in order to learn, work and access online services. But even with a fiber connection, many challenges still stand in the way of access to the internet and digital services. Some are unable to afford the necessary devices or internet services. Others lack a high-quality connection or digital literacy skills altogether. As a result, the relatively new field of digital equity and inclusion rose into prominence during the COVID-19 pandemic. “The use of that infrastructure—the network, the internet—means that the digital services that the government has is engaging and now more folks can participate in it,” said Angela Siefer, executive director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance. “One of the things that became very clear to a lot of folks during the pandemic was: Just because an infrastructure is available, doesn’t mean folks are using it.” Some argue that digital inclusion should be included in conversations about broadband expansion and closing the digital divide. So far, policymakers seem to be responding to the call. The historic $42.45 billion Broadband Equity Access and Deployment program was a landmark 2021 federal initiative aimed at closing the digital divide that also requires recipients to create and execute digital equity plans in addition to their efforts to expand fiber connections.


Sens. Cruz and Lee Lead Senate Republicans in Challenging FCC’s Unlawful ‘Digital Equity’ Rules

Press Release  |  Senate Commerce Committee

Sens Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) led a group of 19 senators in introducing a Congressional Review Act (CRA) joint resolution of disapproval to nullify the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) so-called “Digital Discrimination” order. The order, which the FCC voted to finalize in November, gives the federal government control over nearly every aspect of the broadband industry while exposing companies to expansive, indeterminate, and crippling liability under a “disparate impact” standard. The FCC’s order, which ignores the plain language of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, will harm broadband investment and undermine the goal of promoting high-speed internet access for all Americans. Under the FCC’s new order, nearly every aspect of the internet—including a broadband provider’s deployment decisions, network reliability, network maintenance, equipment, pricing, promotional discounts, customer service, language options, credit checks, marketing and advertising, and more—will be subject to potential FCC enforcement actions, including multi-million-dollar forfeitures and injunctive orders, under a disparate impact standard.

ACHP Announces Program Comment Amendment to Support President Biden’s Broadband Initiative

Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) Chair Sara Bronin announced her approval of the Amended Program Comment for Federal Communications Projects. The amendment was requested by the US Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The purpose of the amendment is to assist federal agencies in efficiently permitting and approving the deployment of wired and wireless next generation technologies of communications infrastructure, including 5G, to connect all communities with reliable, high-speed Internet. The Program Comment provides an alternative way for federal agencies to comply with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act to take into account the effects of undertakings under its scope on historic properties and afford the ACHP a reasonable opportunity to comment on them. The amendment also adds a provision that requires federal agencies to offer compensation when they ask Tribes to provide additional services beyond responding to findings and determinations under the Program Comment’s terms. 

Expanding Internet Access and Protecting Historic Properties

Our journey towards providing Internet for All will only succeed if we are able to quickly build high-speed Internet networks and get people the connections they need for doctor’s visits, distance learning, and applying for jobs. One important way to meet this moment is to streamline permitting reviews. Internet for All projects are estimated to require hundreds—if not thousands—of historical preservation reviews alone nationwide. We’re excited to share that the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) announced that it will make a 2017 program comment establishing streamlined historic preservation rules for communications infrastructure projects available to all federal agencies for projects on and off federal lands, immediately benefitting all Internet for All programs. This action will increase the predictability and efficiency of permit application reviews for NTIA and other federal agencies supporting high-speed Internet deployments. At NTIA’s request, ACHP amended the Program Comment to expand its availability to any federal agency and establish the streamlined Section 106 review standard for all broadband projects in all states and territories—both on and off federal lands.  

Repeating Telecommunications History

Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting

I believe we can’t ignore the history of our industry if we want to avoid the worst of it from happening again. There are a variety of factors that led to the rural mess that created the need for BEAD and other broadband grant programs. I think the downward trajectory started with the divestiture of AT&T into AT&T as a long-distance company and large regional telephone companies. The newly-formed company lobbied hard to be able to make profits over and above the low, but steady profits that could be earned by a regulated utility. The lobbying worked, and regulators across the country deregulated the big telephone companies from their many obligations. The companies ran with the power that came from deregulation. The changes were mostly, but not always, gradual. Verizon was the abruptest and decided early on to divest itself of its rural networks. Eventually, the other companies joined Verizon, cutting back on maintenance, leaving positions open, and slowly backing out of rural markets. We are now poised to do it all over again. We have a gigantic broadband grant program that clearly favors big companies over small ones, companies that can use equity instead of debt for grant matching, and companies with the resources to pursue giant multi-county grants. Watching this cycle repeat itself will give me fodder to write about how we screwed it all up again—but I’d much rather be writing about rural success stories.

DIY public broadband guide gives power to the people

Julia King  |  Fierce

In news that's probably not sitting well with public broadband naysayers, communities now have a handy guidebook to build their own networks. On first glance, the idea of a guide might seem dull, but if you've been following the news around opposition facing public broadband, the new book is akin to putting more power in the hands of the people. Written for the American Association for Public Broadband (AAPB) by Bill Coleman and published by the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, the book outlines the necessary steps and decisions for establishing a public network, and gives resources from law firms to equipment vendors. The guidebook walks communities through the process, from creating a community broadband vision to accessing and understanding the tools and data available (ie. surveys and maps), said Adrianne Furniss, executive director of the Benton Institute. Getting to know existing internet service providers, as well potential new providers and their business models, is key to success. Coleman, a consultant and noted broadband-for-all advocate, said he interviewed “community champions from about six communities and combined that with [his] own experience," in order the write the book. Best practices from those community testimonies are highlighted in profiles within the guidebook. 

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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.

© Benton Institute for Broadband & Society 2023. Redistribution of this email publication — both internally and externally — is encouraged if it includes this message. For subscribe/unsubscribe info email: headlines AT benton DOT org

Kevin Taglang

Kevin Taglang
Executive Editor, Communications-related Headlines
Benton Institute
for Broadband & Society
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