Daily Digest 3/5/2024 (Junk Fees)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Broadband Prices

President Biden Announces New Actions to Lower Costs for Americans by Fighting Corporate Rip-Offs  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  White House

Broadband Funding

FCC Issues Formal Notice That April Is Final Full Month of ACP Program  |  Read below  |  Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission
RIP ACP: December 31, 2021—May 30, 2024  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
State Broadband Directors Talk BEAD Timelines, Provider Participation  |  Read below  |  Joan Engebretson  |  telecompetitor
The Sudden Mad Rush of BEAD  |  Read below  |  Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting

State/Local Initiatives

Meridiam rides fiber train in Alabama with $230 million investment  |  Read below  |  Masha Abarinova  |  Fierce


Cable and wireless lobbyists clash over the future of FWA  |  Read below  |  Mike Dano  |  Light Reading


Visionary Broadband Acquires Aristata Communications  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Visionary Broadband

Platforms/Social Media/AI

Forced to Change: Tech Giants Bow to Global Onslaught of Rules  |  Read below  |  Adam Satariano, David McCabe  |  New York Times
How Regulations Fractured Apple’s App Store  |  New York Times
Google Settles Smaller Lawsuits as It Prepares for More Antitrust Fights  |  New York Times
Elon Musk vs. Everyone: The New Fight in AI  |  Wall Street Journal
TurboTax and H&R Block now use AI for tax advice. It’s awful.  |  Washington Post
How do we protect societies from synthetic media and "deepfakes"?  |  Center for News Technology & Innovation


AI Talent Is in Demand as Other Tech Job Listings Decline  |  Wall Street Journal
The internet is built on unpaid labour – take it away, and the whole thing crumbles  |  Guardian, The
Former Twitter Executives Sue Elon Musk for $128 Million for Unpaid Severance  |  New York Times

Kids & Media

Screen Time and Parent-Child Talk When Children Are Aged 12 to 36 Months  |  JAMA Pediatrics

Company News

Ergen’s EchoStar Concedes ‘Substantial Doubt’ About Its Future  |  Next TV

Stories From Abroad

Forced to Change: Tech Giants Bow to Global Onslaught of Rules  |  Read below  |  Adam Satariano, David McCabe  |  New York Times
Red Sea Conflict Threatens Key Internet Cables  |  Wall Street Journal
Today's Top Stories

Broadband Prices

President Biden Announces New Actions to Lower Costs for Americans by Fighting Corporate Rip-Offs

Press Release  |  White House

President Joe Biden is focused on lowering costs for hardworking Americans by taking action to end corporate rip-offs and other unfair practices that keep prices high. Under the President’s leadership, agencies across the Administration are working to promote competition, protect consumers, and lower prices. The Federal Communications Commission is circulating a proposed rule that would lower costs and increase choice for consumers by banning “bulk billing” arrangements, a practice by which landlords or providers charge everyone living or working in a building for a particular internet, cable, or satellite service, even if they don’t want it or haven’t opted in. These arrangements limit consumer choice by preventing tenants from choosing the services at the price point and level that are best for their needs, and can impose fees for unnecessary services and deter competition. In addition, the proposed rule seeks to address other exclusive arrangements between service providers and landlords that impede competition and drive-up prices, such as exclusive wiring arrangements, exclusive marketing arrangements, and certain revenue sharing agreements. Later this month the FCC will vote to finalize a rule to mandate all-in pricing for cable and satellite services. The FCC is working to restore net neutrality, which will prohibit Internet Service Providers from blocking legal content, throttling speeds, and creating fast lanes that favor those who can pay for access. The FCC also adopted rules that prohibit digital discrimination in high-speed Internet access based on income, race, ethnicity, religion, and national origin, which will protect civil rights, lower costs, and increase internet access for Americans across the country.

Broadband Funding

FCC Issues Formal Notice That April Is Final Full Month of ACP Program

Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission formally notified Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) providers that, due to a lack of additional funding from Congress, the agency will only be able to fully fund the program through the month of April. The Public Notice also (1) provides guidance on the May 2024 partial reimbursement month; (2) reminds participating providers of the notices they must send to ACP households; and (3) provides guidance on the consumer protections for ACP households during wind-down and after the ACP ends. The instructions and guidance further the goal set forth in the ACP Wind-Down Order of keeping as many households as possible connected to broadband service after the end of the ACP.  Also, in a letter to congressional leaders, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel urged immediate action before the program runs out of funds and participating households no longer receive the full ACP benefit. The letter also highlighted the immediate impact that the ACP enrollment freeze has had on households wishing to enroll in the program but are now unable to do so.  [See extended summary]

State Broadband Directors Talk BEAD Timelines, Provider Participation

Joan Engebretson  |  telecompetitor

The thinking behind the $42.5 billion BEAD rural funding program was that individual states were better positioned than the federal government to understand their local needs and tailor state-level rules accordingly, and we are seeing a lot of variation from state to state. A case in point: Two Midwestern states—Minnesota and Missouri—have mapped out two somewhat different paths for administering the BEAD program. Missouri will be one of the largest recipients of BEAD funding, with $1.7 billion allotted to the state. One of the things Missouri wants to do differently from other states is to allow providers to determine the areas where they would like to build, said BJ Tanksley, director of Missouri’s Office of Broadband. On the other hand, Minnesota will prioritize local coordination and support. Local support can be critical to preventing a provider from doing a deployment that requires the provider to charge a price that is so high that residents do not sign up for service, said Bree Maki, executive director of Minnesota’s Office of Broadband Development. 

The Sudden Mad Rush of BEAD

Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting

From an internet service provider perspective, the BEAD grant program has progressed at a glacial scale. The BEAD grants were signed into law on November 15, 2021, as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Folks in the industry assumed that BEAD would follow a timeline similar to the earlier grants that were awarded using federal CARES and ARPA funding, and vendors certainly thought that grant awards would start in 2023 with construction underway by 2024. And then nothing happened. The BEAD process got bogged down in paperwork and bureaucracy. The NTIA required states to write extensive grant and policy manuals which were never required for earlier state grant programs. The paperwork process for states has been numbing. So here we sit 28 months after the announcement of the grant program and no grant money has flowed to states. After the delays and endless paperwork, States will now be under tremendous pressure to award the grants and quickly shove the money out the door. This will lead to big mistakes and bad grant awards—the exact things the process was designed to try to avoid.


Meridiam rides fiber train in Alabama with $230 million investment

Masha Abarinova  |  Fierce

Alabama is getting a major open access fiber boost via private investment. Meridiam, an infrastructure investment firm, is kicking off a $230 million project to build an open access network that will reach 17 Alabama cities, including Selma and Demopolis. It aims to eventually cover 53,000 homes and businesses in partnership with Yellowhammer Networks, a fiber-to-the-premises network developer that’s financed by Meridiam. This is far from Meridiam’s first time riding in the broadband infrastructure rodeo. According to Omri Gainsburg, COO of Meridiam in the Americas, the firm’s current fiber portfolio includes projects with more than 16,000 miles of fiber infrastructure, passing nearly 1.5 million premises. 


Cable and wireless lobbyists clash over the future of FWA

Mike Dano  |  Light Reading

Lobbyists backed by the cable industry are working to prevent 5G providers from obtaining more spectrum in the lower 3GHz band. Cable's goal is to prevent the expansion of fixed wireless access (FWA) services across the US, according to lobbyists from the wireless industry. "Instead of innovating to meet the new competitive challenge they face, cable is trying to block policies that stimulate investment and competition," wrote Nick Ludlum, a top official with the CTIA, which is the main trade association for wireless network operators like AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile. Ludlum argued that FWA services are cutting into cable's core Internet business, and as a result the cable industry is working to "cut off access to the raw material that would supercharge competition—dedicated licensed spectrum."


Visionary Broadband Acquires Aristata Communications

Press Release  |  Visionary Broadband

Visionary Broadband—a provider of high-speed internet service to communities in the rural West including Colorado, Wyoming and Montana—announced the acquisition of Aristata Communications. Aristata CEO Carlin Walsh said the acquisition will provide Aristata access to capital to upgrade aging and outdated infrastructure in order to provide its current and future customers with reliable high-speed internet they need and deserve. Aristata has long used Visionary’s dual-routed network to reach the internet and observed Visionary’s technical and operational abilities during that time. Visionary has a deep bench of staff that will improve Aristata’s abilities to grow and stay at pace with the broadband market. Visionary has a long track record of providing high-speed internet service in the challenging terrain of the Rocky Mountains, even in the most remote mountain communities.


Forced to Change: Tech Giants Bow to Global Onslaught of Rules

Adam Satariano, David McCabe  |  New York Times

Soon, Google will have changed how it displays certain search results. Microsoft will no longer have Windows customers use its Bing internet search tool by default. And Apple will give iPhone and iPad users access to rival app stores and payment systems for the first time. The tech giants have been preparing ahead of a March 6 deadline to comply with a new European Union law intended to increase competition in the digital economy. The law, called the Digital Markets Act, requires the biggest tech companies to overhaul how some of their products work so smaller rivals can gain more access to their users. “This is a turning point,” said Margrethe Vestager, the European Commission executive vice president in Brussels, who spent much of the past decade battling with tech giants. “Self-regulation is over.”

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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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