Daily Digest 3/20/2024 (ACP Benefits)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Broadband Affordability

FCC Announces Reimbursement Rate Estimates For May 2024 Affordable Connectivity Program Benefits  |  Read below  |  Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission
What Factors Drive Broadband Affordability for Middle-Class Families?  |  Read below  |  Kathryn de Wit  |  Analysis  |  Pew
Internet access isn’t a luxury—it’s a ‘must have.’ The Affordable Connectivity Program is crucial  |  Read below  |  Carrie Coogan, Tom Esselman  |  Op-Ed  |  Kansas City Star
BEAD Pressure on Broadband Rates  |  Read below  |  Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting
Editorial | Internet access is a necessity today. But millions could soon lose it.  |  St. Louis Post-Dispatch


Connecticut Residents Bracing for Loss of ACP Subsidiary  |  Read below  |  Steven Goode  |  News-Times
Pennsylvania Broadband Director Talks BEAD  |  Read below  |  Doug Adams  |  telecompetitor
Federal Money Bringing High-Speed Internet to Rural Nevada  |  Read below  |  Lydia Snow  |  Elko Daily Free Press
Monterey County, California supervisors object to AT&T plan to dump landlines  |  Monterey Herald


FCC Adopts 'All-In' Cable and Satellite Video Pricing  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission

Platforms/Social Media

Anika Collier Navaroli, Ellen Pao | Everyone wants to rein in social media. This is one obvious solution.  |  Los Angeles Times
Facebook and Instagram may cut fees by nearly 50 percent in scramble for Digital Markets Act compliance  |  Ars Technica

Artificial Intelligence

Google has a new head of Search—Liz Reid—and she’s all in on AI  |  Vox
The AI Act is done. Here’s what will (and won’t) change  |  MIT Technology Review


Chairwoman Rosenworcel's Remarks to Satellite Industry Association 25th Anniversary Dinner  |  Read below  |  Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel  |  Speech  |  Federal Communications Commission
Spectrum IT Modernization: Incorporating Leading Practices Could Improve Planning Effort  |  Government Accountability Office

Company News

AT&T Gigapower Joint Venture Adds More Open Access Markets  |  telecompetitor
Today's Top Stories

Broadband Affordability

FCC Announces Reimbursement Rate Estimates For May 2024 Affordable Connectivity Program Benefits

Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission reminds providers that May 2024 will be the last month for which providers will be able to seek reimbursement for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) benefits passed through to ACP households. Absent additional funding from Congress, the ACP will not be able to reimburse providers for the full statutory benefit amount for service and device benefits applied to ACP service bills in May 2024. To allow providers to plan for May 2024 service month offerings and to provide notice to their ACP households regarding May 2024 ACP service, the FCC is providing an estimated reimbursement range for each benefit type, within which the partial reimbursement amount may fall:

  • Non-Tribal Service Benefit: $7-16
  • Tribal Land Service Benefit: $18-39
  • ACP Connected Device Benefit: $24-54

The estimates presented in the above table take into account factors such as open claims for past service months, recent program activity, and claims trends. These are estimated ranges and the final maximum reimbursement amounts announced in April 2024 may fall outside this range. The FCC also directs providers to notify the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) of their intent to participate during the May 2024 service month by filling out the survey that USAC will distribute to providers. USAC will distribute the survey to providers within a week of release of this public notice. Providers will have two weeks from distribution of the survey to respond. Timely responses to the survey will aid our administration of the wind-down.

What Factors Drive Broadband Affordability for Middle-Class Families?

Kathryn de Wit  |  Analysis  |  Pew

This brief examines how place-based factors—such as education levels, social vulnerability, regional economic strength, and measures of income inequality—influence broadband affordability. These measures reinforce that income is not the only factor policymakers should consider when seeking to understand broadband affordability and adoption challenges. Together, these metrics provide a more holistic understanding of the variables that affect households’ ability to adopt broadband, which can help states develop effective, targeted policies for delivering affordable broadband to middle-class families. Pew’s analysis indicates that these and other social and demographic factors drive middle-class broadband affordability and that state broadband offices must account for these variables when evaluating whether their definition of “reasonable prices” is sufficient to yield truly affordable subscription plans for their communities. Accordingly, state policymakers should:

  • Incorporate local social and economic demographics in their scoring metrics for BEAD applications to better reflect middle-class affordability in their communities.
  • Consider multiple factors when crafting affordability plans to avoid pricing out targeted households.

Internet access isn’t a luxury—it’s a ‘must have.’ The Affordable Connectivity Program is crucial

Carrie Coogan, Tom Esselman  |  Op-Ed  |  Kansas City Star

Reliable internet is a basic need for families today. For thousands that access is made possible through government support programs. One of the most important of these is the Affordable Connectivity Program or ACP, which helps bridge the digital divide significantly. ACP has provided in-home internet access to more than 23 million households in the United States—including more than 400,000 in Missouri and 150,000 in Kansas—when people needed that connection most. Without the additional help that ACP provides, many families, students, veterans and older adults are very much at risk of losing this essential connection. Despite being an almost universally popular bipartisan program with supporters at every level of government, no additional funding has been allocated so far to ensure the ACP’s continuation. The Affordable Connectivity Program Extension Act of 2024 was introduced on Jan. 10 with bipartisan support in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. If passed, this legislation would provide the critical funding to extend the ACP through the end of the year. To date, more than 400 organizations and industry leaders have voiced their support, but our elected officials also need to hear from their constituents.

[Carrie Coogan is deputy director of public affairs and community engagement at the Kansas City Public Library. Tom Esselman is executive director of Kansas City’s Digital Equity Program Office.]

BEAD Pressure on Broadband Rates

Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting

State Broadband Offices and the BEAD grant process have designed grant rules that put pressure on internet service providers to provide inexpensive rural broadband. But in doing so, I’m not sure that they understand the high prices that rural folks are paying for broadband today. In rural areas I've looked at, most households are paying over $100 a month for broadband. There are state BEAD rules that are trying to force rates down to rates between $50 and $75 per month for gigabit speeds. I find several faults with these rate-setting efforts:

  • The rates the Broadband Offices are seeking are typically far cheaper than what the large cable companies charge the companies that have the most customers in almost every state. It’s hard to think of a reason why grant offices want rural rates to be lower than urban rates, particularly when operating costs are higher in rural areas.
  • The low rates don’t acknowledge that rural residents are already paying a lot more for inferior broadband. Do we really need to cut what folks are paying in half if they are going to upgrade from crappy broadband?
  • The high rates are counterproductive. I talked to an electric cooperative this week that has zero interest in BEAD grants due entirely to the insistence on low rates. They understand the rates necessary to win BEAD would create a losing business plan.
  • Probably most important is that the IIJA legislation strictly forbids NTIA and the States from using the grants for setting rates—and yet States are openly doing it anyway. Why isn’t the NTIA rejecting these rate plans?


Connecticut Residents Bracing for Loss of ACP Subsidiary

Steven Goode  |  News-Times

The clock is ticking on a federal internet subsidy that affects about 5,000 East Hartford (CT) households. The Affordable Connectivity Program provides $30-a-month subsidies to low-income households and requires internet providers to offer packages as low as $30 a month to those households to make it more affordable to needy families. But unless the federal government acts soon, the program could go away by the end of April. Representative John Larson (D-CT) visited Raymond Public Library on March 14 to let its staff and members of the town's Coalition for Digital Equity know that he and others in Washington are working to make sure the program gets funding for this year and expand it into more homes in the future. According to the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, the program currently serves 23.2 million households in the US. 

Pennsylvania Broadband Director Talks BEAD

Doug Adams  |  telecompetitor

Pennsylvania will be getting $1.2 billion in Broadband, Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program rural broadband funding, making it one of the top states in terms of the amount awarded. Telecompetitor spoke with Brandon Carson, executive director of the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority, about BEAD and other efforts to make broadband available throughout the state. Pennsylvania aims to deliver service to 236,000 unserved and 52,000 underserved locations. Carson points out that the most recent under/unserved numbers are down 40,000 locations; he attributes the reduction to significant recent private investment and the completion of some enforceable funding commitments. In its Volume II BEAD proposal, the Commonwealth outlines plans for two rounds of funding, with the first round soliciting proposals starting in the summer of 2024. Round one applicants will be required to cover at least 95 percent of eligible broadband serviceable locations in the proposed project area., which Carson hopes will maximize investments.

Federal Money Bringing High-Speed Internet to Rural Nevada

Lydia Snow  |  Elko Daily Free Press

Broadband, Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program Director Evan Feinman spoke to the Elko Daily Free Press about what the BEAD program means for Nevada and how citizens can get involved. Feinman called the program "a partnership between the federal government and the state government," which will "close the digital divide and get every single American home and business access to an affordable, reliable high-speed internet connection." He explained that Nevada is currently in the challenge process, where citizens can make sure their homes and businesses are accurately represented on the Federal Communications Commission's broadband map. "There is an urgent call to action right now for citizens to make sure their home or business or both are accurately reflected on the map." Feinman said that the partnership between the federal and state government and internet service providers reduces the cost of building in low-density, rural areas, so it makes economic sense for a provider to build and then operate the network.


FCC Adopts 'All-In' Cable and Satellite Video Pricing

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. On June 20, 2023, the Commission released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), observing that consumers who choose a video service based on an advertised monthly price may be surprised by unexpected fees that cable operators and direct broadcast satellite (DBS) providers charge and list in the fine print separately from the top-line listed service price. In the NPRM, the Commission proposed to enhance pricing transparency by requiring cable operators and DBS providers to provide the “all-in” price for video programming in their promotional materials and on subscribers’ bills. In this Order, we adopt the proposal in the NPRM to require that cable operators and DBS providers provide the “all-in” price of video programming as a prominent single line item on subscribers’ bills and in promotional materials that state a price.


Chairwoman Rosenworcel's Remarks to Satellite Industry Association 25th Anniversary Dinner

Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel  |  Speech  |  Federal Communications Commission

On March 18, Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel delivered remarks at the 25th annual Satellite Industry Association Leadership Dinner. In her remarks, Rosenworcel highlighted recent efforts by the FCC Space Bureau, as well as the Commission's recent vote to create a spectrum framework for supplemental coverage from space. "It is one small and meaningful step toward the Single Network Future," she added. "In the Single Network Future, we will connect everyone, everywhere. But to do it we can’t limit ourselves to using only one technology. We are going to need it all—fiber networks, licensed terrestrial wireless systems, next-generation unlicensed wireless technology, and satellite broadband, seamlessly interacting in a way that is invisible to the user. To be clear, this vision does not work without satellites. The way I see it, satellites may be in our skies, but they are the anchor tenant in our communications future."

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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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