Daily Digest 3/25/2024 (Preserving the ACP)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Broadband Affordability

Millions of Low-Income Families Set to Lose Internet Subsidies  |  Read below  |  Madeleine Ngo  |  New York Times
Millions of Americans could soon lose home internet access if lawmakers don’t act  |  Read below  |  Brian Fung  |  CNN
Preserving the Affordable Connectivity Program is Crucial for Continued American Success  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  US Congress Joint Economic Committee

Net Neutrality

NTIA urges FCC to reinstate strong net neutrality rules  |  Read below  |  Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission


Colorado Broadband Office Announces Capital Projects Funding  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Colorado Broadband Office
Benton Foundation
Guam's Journey to Digital Inafa'maolek  |  Read below  |  Grace Tepper  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Kendall County, Illinois Receives $15 Million for Broadband  |  Read below  |  Kendall County
Video | The Challenges and Successes of Vermont’s Rural Broadband Efforts  |  telecompetitor

Platforms/Social Media

‘Social media is like driving with no speed limits’: the US surgeon general fighting for youngsters’ happiness  |  Guardian, The
Users shocked to find Instagram limits political content by default  |  Ars Technica
Agents of platform governance: Analyzing U.S. civil society's role in contesting online content moderation  |  Telecommunications Policy
Truth Social is going public  |  Vox


Mozilla just ditched its privacy partner because its CEO is tied to data brokers  |  Vox
Apple Turned On a Buried iPhone Setting. You Might Want It Off.  |  Wall Street Journal

Artificial Intelligence

CDT Joins Mozilla, Civil Society Orgs, and Leading Academics in Urging U.S. Secretary of Commerce to Protect AI Openness  |  Center for Democracy and Technology


Conservative nonprofit didn’t disclose some political spending, filings show  |  Politico

Industry News

The future of broadband mergers and acquisitions  |  Read below  |  Masha Abarinova  |  Fierce
Watchdog Reports Charter to the FTC Over Ad Claims Against T-Mobile Fixed Wireless Access  |  telecompetitor

Stories From Abroad

EU Launches Probes Into Apple, Meta, Google Under New Digital Competition Law  |  Wall Street Journal
Valuing the virtual: The impact of fiber to the home on property prices in France  |  Telecommunications Policy
Today's Top Stories

Broadband Affordability

Millions of Low-Income Families Set to Lose Internet Subsidies

Madeleine Ngo  |  New York Times

The $14.2 billion Affordable Connectivity Program provides low-income households up to $30 off their internet bill each month, and households living on eligible tribal lands can receive a discount of up to $75 a month. More than 23 million households receive either reduced bills or effectively free internet service through the program. But federal officials began winding down the program in early March 2024, when they stopped accepting new applications and enrollments. The program was tucked into the 2021 infrastructure law as a replacement for a pandemic-era program that provided certain households discounts on their internet bills. Although there is some bipartisan support to continue the subsidies, lawmakers have not passed an extension. The end of the subsidy program could also complicate the Biden administration’s other $42.5 billion program to provide every American access to broadband, said Drew Garner, the director of policy engagement at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society. The funds, which will be distributed as grants to internet providers, are meant to cover much of the cost of building broadband infrastructure.

Millions of Americans could soon lose home internet access if lawmakers don’t act

Brian Fung  |  CNN

As soon as May, more than 23 million US households––currently receiving Affordable Connectivity Program funding––risk being kicked off their internet plans or facing skyrocketing bills that force them to pay hundreds more per year to get online, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The looming disaster could affect nearly 1 in 5 households nationwide, or nearly 60 million Americans, going by Census Bureau population estimates. Such broad disruptions to internet access would affect people’s ability to do schoolwork, seek and do jobs, visit their doctors virtually or refill prescriptions online, or connect to public services, widening the digital divide between have and have-nots and potentially leading to economic instability on a massive scale. Lawmakers have known for months about the approaching ACP deadline. Yet Congress is nowhere close to approving the $6 billion that President Joe Biden says would renew the ACP and avert calamity for tens of millions of Americans.

Preserving the Affordable Connectivity Program is Crucial for Continued American Success

In 2021, the Biden Administration and Congress passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that appropriated $14.2 billion to establish the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which has now helped over 23 million households sign up for discounted broadband internet. Unfortunately, the program is running low on funds and will stop providing full discounts in April unless Congress provides more funding. Congress has an opportunity to preserve this crucial program and maintain internet service for communities at risk of being left behind in the digital age. 

  • The ACP has provided affordable broadband and massive economic relief for millions of American families, but too many will be left behind if funding expires.

  • The ACP has expanded internet access and is essential for communities to stay connected in an increasingly digital society.

  • Bridging the “digital divide” will deliver positive health, educational, and economic outcomes.

Congress needs to act now to prevent the discontinuation of the ACP in April. The bipartisan and bicameral Affordable Connectivity Program Extension Act of 2024 would add $7 billion in additional ACP funding while policymakers consider more permanent fixes. The ACP made vital progress in closing the digital divide while bringing affordable broadband to millions of families. Protecting and expanding the ACP is pivotal to ensure that no American is left behind as society becomes increasingly digitized.

Net Neutrality

NTIA urges FCC to reinstate strong net neutrality rules

Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission

On March 20, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) N. NTIA urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reinstate strong net neutrality rules. "The Commission should act to reinstate strong net neutrality rules," said NTIA's comments. "An Internet that is open, secure, and accessible to all is an Internet that drives innovation, economic growth, and the free exchange of ideas around the world." NTIA also emphasized that reclassification can further national security objectives. "NTIA supports reclassification on these grounds, while urging the Commission to reaffirm its long-running commitment to a whole-of-government and multistakeholder approach toward these complex national security matters." Read the full comments here.


Colorado Broadband Office Announces Capital Projects Funding

Press Release  |  Colorado Broadband Office

The Colorado Broadband Office announced additional grants using stimulus funding from the US Treasury’s Capital Projects Fund (CPF) program. As a result of the Advance-CPF Challenge Process, some of the previously awarded projects were reduced in size, leading to additional availability of funding. Subsequently, five new projects were awarded. The five new projects are:

  1. Kersey Connects (Allo Communications LLC): $1,107,318
  2. Colorado Springs Utilities - Cedar Heights (Colorado Springs Utilities): $1,831,840
  3. SECOM FTTP on Highway 12 west of Trinidad (Southern Colorado Economic Development District): $3,371,190
  4. Teller County FTTH Project (Vero): $2,469,018
  5. Gilcrest FTTH Project (Vero): $700,826

Guam's Journey to Digital Inafa'maolek

Grace Tepper  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Guam's Office of Infrastructure Policy and Development (OIPD) has released its draft Digital Equity Plan. In the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, the island of Guam, an unincorporated territory of the United States, emerges as a testament to resilience, unity, and evolution. Its history is a rich tapestry of cultures, forged by the perseverance of its indigenous people and the influences of various settlers and conquerors throughout the millennia. The journey of Guam has been one of transformation. The essence of the island remains in the spirit of Inafa’maolek, a concept of the indigenous CHamoru people of restoring harmony and balance, promoting mutual respect and working collaboratively for the common good. In Inafa'maolek lies Guam's vision for digital equity.

Kendall County, Illinois Receives $15 Million for Broadband

  |  Kendall County

A $15 million grant from the Illinois Office of Broadband will make Kendall County’s plan to provide high-speed internet to nearly all residents of the County possible. Kendall County announced that with the grant award, it intends to develop a public-private partnership that will result in more than $40 million in investment in a community-owned broadband network. The network will provide broadband access to portions of the County not currently served high-speed internet, allow for an expanded public safety communication network, provide the best and most cost-effective access to other government agencies, and support economic development. More than 1,900 homes in Kendall County are considered unserved or underserved with internet access. The Connect Kendall County Commission was established in 2023 by the County Board to study connectivity and ways to deliver high-speed internet across Kendall County. As part of the public-private partnership, Pivot Tech plans to bring more than $25 million in additional private capital and project-based revenue bonds to finance the project.

Industry News

The future of broadband mergers and acquisitions

Masha Abarinova  |  Fierce

You can’t go far in the broadband industry without hearing about some internet service provider getting acquired or an investment from a private equity company. BrightspeedConsolidated Communications and Wire 3 are a few recent examples. Ropes & Gray, a law firm that’s advised private equity firms in investments in fiber companies, estimates digital infrastructure mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity will pick up in the next year and will likely grow even further with the increased need for applications like generative AI (GenAI). The digital infrastructure space isn’t immune to the macroeconomic factors that are impacting the broader M&A market, Ropes & Gray attorney Taylor Hart pointed out, such as interest rates and geopolitical issues. But he thinks digital infrastructure “is much more insulated” in that there’s lots of interest and growth. 

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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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Executive Editor, Communications-related Headlines
Benton Institute
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