Monday, March 6, 2023
Headlines Daily Digest
Today: State of the Net 2023 and Digital Ecosystem Forum
CostQuest Breaks Its Silence on Broadband Map Issues
Google conducting civil rights review, caving to years of pressure
Data & Mapping
Universal Service Fund
Stories From Abroad
Alabama Governor Ivey Continues Progressing Broadband Across the State, Awards $24.7 Million in Grants
Governor Kay Ivey (R-AL) awarded nearly $25 million in grants to expand broadband services throughout the state. The nine grants, totaling $24.72 million, were awarded to broadband providers across the state to support projects in unserved or underserved areas of Alabama. The completed projects will enable nearly 20,000 households, businesses, and community anchors to have access to high-speed internet. Households and businesses must subscribe to paid services to receive broadband. Broadband providers only supply access, but households and businesses must still pay for connecting to the service. The expansion will also provide additional links to make it more feasible to supply future broadband service within those areas. [Grants awarded and affected areas at the link below]
States are poised to play a critical role in the broadband funding landscape, but each state has a different approach to selecting broadband projects and administering funds. State broadband directors from Georgia, Pennsylvania and Virginia delved into how they’re tackling broadband funding opportunities, namely for the $10 billion Capital Projects Fund (CPF). Virginia, which was one of the first states to get CPF funding. “We already had locations in the queue, we were actually finalizing our challenge process when the General Assembly allocated our CPF funds,” said Tamarah Holmes, broadband director for the Virginia Department of Housing & Community Development. “So we quickly had to work with the applicants.” In January, Georgia awarded more than $234 million in CPF funding to 12 service providers, including Comcast, Charter and Windstream. What Georgia did was look at each county to check if there were at least 2,500 unserved locations or if 20% of the county’s total locations were unserved. Pennsylvania has yet to announce CPF project awards. Brandon Carson, executive director of the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority, said his office is currently digging into the weeds of the program’s guidelines. The state is also working on standing up three programs to allocate those funds.
The Federal Communications Commission's update of the National Broadband Map has received considerable criticism. And some of that criticism has been leveled at CostQuest, the contractor that created the database of broadband serviceable locations nationwide that is a key underpinning of the map. “The Broadband Data Collection program is an iterative process,” said Cost Quest Vice President Mike Wilson. It’s a process that follows the Broadband DATA Act, he said and is designed to improve over time. CostQuest, which had previously created cost models that were used in earlier broadband funding programs, was chosen to create the locations database, known as the broadband serviceable location (BSL) fabric. “Addresses by themselves aren’t necessarily BSLs,” he said. “Rather, BSLs refer to a structure or building, which then may have an associated address. An address could be assigned to a parcel that has no building whatsoever. And addresses can be units within a structure or building.” When the providers began working with the fabric, reports emerged of missing locations and of boulders being misidentified as broadband serviceable locations. The company focused on “reducing the number of false positives — a structure or natural feature showing up as a BSL, and false negatives – we missed an actual BSL,” Wilson explained. Between the FCC’s efforts and CostQuest’s efforts, the second version of the map has 1.04 million locations that were not included in the first version, according to FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel.
SpaceX submitted its Broadband Data Collection filing, which includes subscription and availability data related to Starlink services as of December 31, 2022. In connection with this filing, the Federal Communications Commission requires all internet service providers to submit supporting information regarding the methodology underlying its availability data. This information is relatively difficult to find within the National Broadband Map, and thus, SpaceX files a copy in this docket for greater accessibility. SpaceX crafted its availability data based on the technical capabilities of the Starlink system and a close reading of the rules governing the program. Although SpaceX’s first submission complied with all applicable program rules, SpaceX understands that some users of the National Broadband Map have been confused when comparing it to the Starlink homepage.
Universal Service Fund
Federal Universal Service Support Mechanisms Quarterly Contribution Base for the Second Quarter 2023
The total projected collected interstate and international end-user revenue base to be used in determining the contribution factor for the Universal Service Fund support mechanisms for the second quarter of calendar year 2023 (2Q2023) is $8,761,742,607.
The Federal Communications Commission granted licenses to seven of the smaller winning bidders in the 2.5 GHz auction, which was completed in August 2023. But the biggest winner in the auction – T-Mobile—still has not had its licenses granted. This is the third announcement about licenses granted that the FCC has made in the auction, in which T-Mobile won more than 90% of the licenses. The FCC accepted T-Mobile’s long-form application for the auction in October 2022. The 2.5 GHz band is considered mid-band spectrum, which is widely viewed as supporting the optimum mixture of coverage and speeds for 5G. T-Mobile already has licenses in the band covering a large part of the US. The auction in August 2022, known as Auction 108, only included licenses not already held by T-Mobile and others. Many of the available licenses were in rural areas. Licenses in the 2.5 GHz band are for individual counties. Up to three blocks of spectrum – ranging in size from 17.5 MHz to 50 MHz — were available per county. T-Mobile won over 7,000 licenses in the auction.
An oft-invoked pun in broadband policy circles is the exhortation to support a fiber-rich diet. But data indicate that actual dietary benefits may arise out of strong broadband connections. Several inquiries have explored the role of internet connectivity in resolving the adverse impacts of “food deserts,” namely, areas in which there is low availability of healthy foods. The underlying theory is that internet connectivity may enable users to identify retail sources of healthful foods more easily or to even order those foods online. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service reports that approximately 2.3 million people live in low-income, rural areas that are more than 10 miles from a supermarket. But the potential efficacy of online food purchases for rural areas remains unknown. A potential challenge for rural areas may be identifying participating retailers who can support online ordering, especially for perishable foods.
Apparently, Google has quietly tapped an outside law firm to review how its services and policies impact civil rights and racial equity, following years of pressure from advocates and Democratic lawmakers to conduct such an assessment. The civil rights audit has been months in the making and is set to examine how the company’s diversity and inclusion policies and approach to content moderation may affect marginalized communities, including at its subsidiary YouTube. Google has hired WilmerHale, a prominent law firm that has represented a number of industry heavyweights, to carry out the assessment. Democratic lawmakers and civil rights leaders in 2021 called on Google to hire an independent auditor to vet its products and policies for potential racial biases and discriminatory practices, citing concerns that the company could be exacerbating inequities.
Congresswoman Lori Trahan (D-MA), a member of the House Commerce Committee’s Innovation, Data, and Commerce Subcommittee released summaries of gaming company responses to a December 2022 request from lawmakers for information on actions being taken to stem the rise of harassment and extremism in online video games. The initial request was sent after an Anti-Defamation League (ADL) report found increases in hate, harassment, and extremism in the companies’ online games. According to ADL, the proliferation of white supremacy and other forms of extremism has also increased dramatically, with 15 percent of gamers under 18 years old and 20 percent of adults reporting encounters with white supremacy while online – more than double what gamers reported the year before. Additionally, 77 percent of adults and 66 percent of teens have reported experiences of harassment while playing online games, including three out of every five children. Despite these alarming trends, a majority of gaming companies failed to address some of the lawmakers’ most pressing questions:
- 9 out of 14 companies failed to mention policies or actions they deploy to specifically assess and mitigate extremist content;
- 7 out of 14 companies did not mention how they engage with marginalized and at-risk communities who are most impacted by online hate and harassment;
- 8 out of 14 companies do not have or declined to describe transparency in reporting about the proliferation of harassment and extremist content in their games.
A summary of each company’s response to the questions lawmakers sent can be accessed HERE.
President Biden’s nominee for an open seat on the Federal Communications Commission, Gigi Sohn [Senior Fellow and Public Advocate at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society], appears stalled in committee and is in danger of failing to reach the full Senate floor for a vote. If Sohn's nomination falters, the FCC will remain deadlocked with two Republican and two Democratic commissioners — hindering the Biden administration’s effort to implement key parts of the president’s agenda. After a contentious Commerce Committee hearing, Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA) has yet to schedule a vote on Sohn's confirmation. That delay — coupled with skepticism from Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and continued opposition from the Fraternal Order of Police — has led some Senate officials to conclude that Sohn's nomination is in serious trouble.
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 David L. Clay II (dclay AT benton DOT org) — we welcome your comments.
© Benton Institute for Broadband & Society 2022. 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
Executive Editor, Communications-related Headlines
for Broadband & Society
1041 Ridge Rd, Unit 214
Wilmette, IL 60091
headlines AT benton DOT org
The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society All Rights Reserved © 2022