Daily Digest 3/22/2024 (Apple)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Digital Equity

Organizations Urge FCC to Establish an Office of Civil Rights  |  Read below  |  Letter  |  Federal Communications Commission

Broadband Funding

Public Interest Groups Urge Congress To Renew FCC Auction Authority, Fund ACP  |  Read below  |  Letter  |  Public Knowledge
ACP, excluded from House spending package, creeps closer to death  |  Read below  |  Nicole Ferraro  |  Light Reading
The fight to ensure internet access for low-income Americans  |  Read below  |  Grace Segers  |  New Republic
The Universal Service Fund is stuck in its own Groundhog Day  |  Read below  |  Julia King  |  Fierce


Commissioner Starks Delivers Remarks at US Tech for Climate Action  |  Read below  |  Federal Communications Commissioner Geoffrey Starks  |  Speech  |  Federal Communications Commission
Report: 42 Percent of Rural/Small Town Homes Passed by Fiber  |  Read below  |  Carl Weinschenk  |  telecompetitor


Chairwoman Rosenworcel Calls for Improved Wireless Calls Routing to 988 Lifeline  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission
Richard Bennet | When Wi-Fi doesn’t save the day  |  Fierce


Lawmakers Introduce the Bipartisan Satellite and Telecommunications Streamlining Act  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Senate Commerce Committee


Justice Department Sues Apple for Monopolizing Smartphone Markets  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Department of Justice
What the DOJ’s antitrust suit against Apple means for everyone with an iPhone  |  Los Angeles Times
The Trustbuster Who Has Apple and Google in His Sights  |  New York Times

Platforms/Social Media

Senators push to declassify TikTok intel and hold a public hearing ahead of ban vote  |  National Public Radio
Survey Says Media Skills Important to Counter Disinformation  |  Boston University College of Communications


Some of the Most Popular Websites Share Your Data With Over 1,500 Companies  |  Wired

Artificial Intelligence

United Nations General Assembly Adopts Landmark Resolution on Steering Artificial Intelligence towards Global Good  |  United Nations
AI is 'blowing up' data center and fiber industries says Light Source CEO  |  Fierce
AI images and conspiracy theories are driving a push for media literacy education  |  National Public Radio
Bill Wong, Mindy Romero | AI is turbocharging disinformation attacks on voters, especially in communities of color  |  Los Angeles Times
Today's Top Stories

Digital Equity

Organizations Urge FCC to Establish an Office of Civil Rights

In a March 19 letter to the Federal Communications Commission, the National Urban League (NUL), National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (NCBCP), and Black Women’s Roundtable (BWR) write to express our strong support for the establishment of an Office of Civil Rights within the FCC. According to the organizations, the creation of such an office would be a fundamental step towards inclusivity and equity in the digital age and would ensure that the FCC’s policy initiatives are developed and implemented with a keen understanding of their effects on historically unserved and underserved communities. "The proposed Office of Civil Rights would be instrumental in identifying, investigating, and addressing instances of digital discrimination," said the letter. "The office would also serve as a central hub for expertise on the intersection of civil rights and telecommunications policy, aiding the FCC in developing remedies for discrimination and in promoting digital equity in alignment with President Biden’s Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government."

Broadband Funding

Public Interest Groups Urge Congress To Renew FCC Auction Authority, Fund ACP

Letter  |  Public Knowledge

On March 21, Public Knowledge joined 24 other public interest and consumer advocacy groups in a letter to congressional leaders about the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). The groups urged Congress to renew the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) spectrum auction authority and use some of the projected revenue to help fund the ACP. "Congress has a unique opportunity to advance our national spectrum goals while simultaneously generating sufficient revenue to support the connectivity needs of millions of Americans," said the letter. "We urge you to take swift action to protect these gains in connectivity by passing legislation to renew the FCC’s auction authority and fund the ACP." The groups also highlighted the financial benefits of the ACP, adding "Due to the interconnected nature of the internet, the ACP offers a host of direct and indirect social and economic benefits. Research analysis from the Benton Institute has shown that for every dollar of ACP subsidy, there are nearly two dollars in financial returns to those using the program, including gains in professional productivity and opportunities as well as time saved from access to online commerce."

ACP, excluded from House spending package, creeps closer to death

Nicole Ferraro  |  Light Reading

The House of Representatives unveiled a $1.1 trillion spending package on March 21 that, if passed, will keep the government from shutting down this weekend. What it won't do, however, is fund the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) before it ends in May 2024. With April set as the ACP's final month of full funding, advocates had hoped to see Congress fund the program in must-pass spending legislation. In addition to the ACP, another top priority for the telecom industry is getting more funding for the Secure Networks Program, also known as rip-and-replace. Network operators have been sounding the alarm that the funding allotted for that 2020 program is less than 40 percent of what's needed to cover the costs of ripping out and replacing Chinese-made telecommunications equipment. President Biden had initially requested $6 billion for ACP, and $3 billion for rip-and-replace in his FY 2024 budget released last October. In a letter last week, a group of Democratic and Independent Senators also urged Congressional leadership to fund both programs in must-pass legislation.

The fight to ensure internet access for low-income Americans

Grace Segers  |  New Republic

Every once in a while, a bipartisan group of lawmakers comes together to support a popular policy that fulfills the interests of industry leaders and everyday Americans alike. These instances are supposed to be the slam dunks of legislating, a time for lawmakers to prove they are interested in governing to the advantage of their constituents. It’s all easier said than done. So it goes with the Affordable Connectivity Program Extension Act, bipartisan and bicameral legislation to fund a program that aims to provide 23 million households with affordable internet access. Unless the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) receives an additional $7 billion in funding from Congress, April 2024 will be the final full month that households will receive the benefit. In early February, the program stopped accepting new enrollment. As a supplemental funding request, the ACP Extension Act was designed to be attached to a larger legislative vehicle. Congress is now considering the second tranche of bills to fund the government for the current fiscal year. It’s unlikely that the bill will be tacked onto this spending minibus, and it’s unclear when another opportunity to approve the additional funding for the ACP might arise. So the Federal Communications Commission, telecommunications companies, and low-income Americans alike are bracing for the end of the program.

The Universal Service Fund is stuck in its own Groundhog Day

Julia King  |  Fierce

It seems like the Universal Service Fund (USF) has been stuck in a loop for years, as debates over how it could be improved and better funded rage on. There are plenty of possible solutions on the table, yet the wheels just keep on spinning. The USF is dedicated to broadband builds in rural and Tribal areas, a low-income affordability program and for connections in schools, hospitals and libraries. Since its launch in 1997, the USF has been propped up by fees tacked onto phone bills but USTelecom, NTCA, and WTA have advocated that the burden on phone companies should be lightened by taxing broadband and edge providers. Over the past few years lawmakers have made several attempts to fix the USF, but nothing seems to stick. New Street Research’s Blair Levin said it’s possible that the Congress in 2025 will reform the USF system, “but several FCC's and Congress' have kicked the can down the road so it is possible for it to happen again.”


Commissioner Starks Delivers Remarks at US Tech for Climate Action

Federal Communications Commissioner Geoffrey Starks  |  Speech  |  Federal Communications Commission

On March 21, Federal Communications Commissioner Geoffrey Starks delivered remarks at the US Tech for Climate Action Conference. Starks spoke about his perspective on climate action in his role as a Commissioner of the FCC. "In my mind, meeting the climate challenge is about a sustained effort and a sustained dialogue, both in and out of government, to reduce our emissions and secure opportunities in a clean energy economy," said Starks. Commissioner Starks concluded with two suggestions for the communications and technology industry. "First, as we focus on enabling others to reduce emissions, we should also find ways to reduce our carbon footprint ourselves," he said. "Second, see what you can do to make more of the future happen today. Ingenuity isn’t just about doing something no one has thought of before ... So invest, incubate, partner, and scale."

Report: 42 Percent of Rural/Small Town Homes Passed by Fiber

Carl Weinschenk  |  telecompetitor

Among residents in cities and suburbs, about 55 percent have been passed by at least one fiber provider, while among those in small towns and rural areas, only about 42 percent have been passed, according to a study by RVA LLC. This leaves a small town/rural opportunity for an initial passing of about 22 million homes. The “2024-2028 North American Fiber Broadband Report: FTTH and 5G Review And Forecast,” said that $150 billion will be spent on fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) networks during the next five years. That spending, which the research firm claimed is more than has been spent on fiber to date, will come from network operator capex reinvestment, private equity investment, government subsidies and other sources. The report noted that growth of route miles of fiber will increase at almost double the rate of home passings during the forecast period. RVA stated that the great increases in fiber deployment will be made by many types of service providers, including telecom companies, cable MSOs, private competitive providers, municipalities and rural electric cooperatives.


Chairwoman Rosenworcel Calls for Improved Wireless Calls Routing to 988 Lifeline

Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel shared with her colleagues a proposal that would improve how wireless calls to the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (988 Lifeline) are routed to ensure that callers in crisis have access to behavioral health resources in the state or territory they are calling from while protecting their privacy. Calls to the 988 Lifeline are currently routed based on the caller’s area code and exchange, which presents some obstacles to callers whose area code does not correspond the caller’s location when in crisis. For instance, under current practices if a wireless caller with a 703 Virginia area code dials the 988 Lifeline, that call will be routed to a Virginia crisis center, regardless of where the caller is located. Under the FCC’s proposal, if that caller dials the 988 Lifeline while located in California, that call would be routed to a local crisis center in California, near the caller’s physical location.


Lawmakers Introduce the Bipartisan Satellite and Telecommunications Streamlining Act

Press Release  |  Senate Commerce Committee

U.S. Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) introduced the Satellite and Telecommunications Streamlining Act. This legislation would: 

  • Require the FCC to create rules to streamline procedures for granting initial licenses, renewals, and modifications for both geostationary satellite orbits (GSOs) and non-geostationary satellite orbits (NGSOs); 
  • Establish a 1-year shot clock for the FCC to grant or deny license applications for GSOs and NGSOs; 
  • Establish a 1-year shot clock for the FCC to grant or deny earth station license applications; 
  • Establish a 180-day shot clock for the FCC to grant or deny a renewal of (1) GSO and NGSO licenses, (2) grants of market access, or (3) earth stations; 
  • Allow the FCC to authorize emergency licenses for 180 days if needed for national security or defense purposes; 
  • Establish a 30-day shot clock for the FCC to put an application out for public notice or notify the applicant if their application is incomplete; and, 
  • Require the FCC to update its rules for interference protection and spectrum sharing every two years.


Justice Department Sues Apple for Monopolizing Smartphone Markets

Press Release  |  Department of Justice

The Justice Department, joined by 16 other state and district attorneys general, filed a civil antitrust lawsuit against Apple for monopolization or attempted monopolization of smartphone markets in violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Act. The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, alleges that Apple illegally maintains a monopoly over smartphones by selectively imposing contractual restrictions on, and withholding critical access points from, developers. Apple undermines apps, products, and services that would otherwise make users less reliant on the iPhone, promote interoperability, and lower costs for consumers and developers. Apple exercises its monopoly power to extract more money from consumers, developers, content creators, artists, publishers, small businesses, and merchants, among others. Through this monopolization lawsuit, the Justice Department and state Attorneys General are seeking relief to restore competition to these vital markets on behalf of the American public.

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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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Benton Institute
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