Daily Digest 3/8/2024 (Shafiqah Hudson)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Broadband Funding

State of the Union Address  |  Read below  |  President Joe Biden  |  Speech  |  White House
The Affordable Connectivity Program Extension Act (H.R. 6929) now has 176 cosponsors  |  House of Representatives
Chairwoman Rosenworcel's Update to Members of Congress Regarding the Affordable Connectivity Program  |  Read below  |  Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel  |  Letter  |  Federal Communications Commission
Alarm Sounded on Expiring Affordable-Internet Subsidy  |  Read below  |  Rob Pegoraro  |  PC Mag
From BEAD to AI: NTIA chief unpacks top of mind issues  |  Read below  |  Masha Abarinova  |  Fierce

Broadband Service

About 3,500,000 Added Broadband From Top Providers in 2023  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Leichtman Research Group
Comcast Boosts Speeds, Provides Info on Post-ACP Options  |  Read below  |  Carl Weinschenk  |  telecompetitor


FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel Highlights 1-year Expiration of Spectrum Auction Authority  |  Read below  |  FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel  |  Press Release  |  Federal Communciations Commission
AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon outline their FWA, fiber expansion plans  |  Read below  |  Mike Dano  |  Light Reading
T-Mobile is lighting up new 5G spectrum won in Auction 108  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  T-Mobile
Charter CEO Chris Winfrey Dismisses FWA as ‘Cellphone Internet’  |  Next TV
Update on Dish Cellular  |  Read below  |  Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting


Lt Gov Gilchrist II Celebrates Biden Administration Paving Way for Michigan to Enhance High-Speed Internet Access  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity
Louisiana’s New Crop of Fiber Optic Technicians  |  National Telecommunications and Information Administration
Signing on: Westmoreland's 'high priority areas' soon to get online  |  Read below  |  Kris Mamula  |  Pittsburgh Post Gazette
David Isenberg op-ed | Progress Toward A Falmouth Network  |  Falmouth Enterprise

Community Anchor Institutions

Brick by Brick: HBCUs Are Using the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program to Fortify the Communities They Serve  |  Read below  |  Brittany-Rae Gregory  |  Research  |  Next Century Cities
Meet the woman who helped libraries across the U.S. 'surf the internet'  |  Read below  |  Diba Mohtasham  |  National Public Radio

Platforms/Social Media

House Commerce Committee approves bipartisan legislation after briefing on data risks to American users  |  Financial Times
TikTok is urging users to call Congress about a looming ban  |  Vox
Trump claims TikTok ban would only help "enemy" Facebook  |  Axios
Temu’s Push Into America Pays Off Big Time for Meta and Google  |  New York Times

Artificial Intelligence

Senators Lead Effort to Establish US Artificial Intelligence Safety Institute  |  United States Senate


Espionage Probe Finds Communications Device on Chinese Cranes at U.S. Ports  |  Wall Street Journal
Spate of Mock News Sites With Russian Ties Pop Up in U.S.  |  New York Times


Rep Katie Porter (D-CA), a Rising Star in Congress, Finds Herself Without Another Seat  |  New York Times

Stories From Abroad

China Intensifies Push to ‘Delete America’ From Its Technology  |  Wall Street Journal
Big American Tech Profits From Chinese Ad Spending Spree  |  New York Times
How Apple Stands to Lose From Europe’s New Tech Law  |  Wall Street Journal

How We Live Now

The Youths Have Spoken: Wallets Are Uncool. Go Digital.  |  New York Times
Today's Top Stories

Broadband Funding

State of the Union Address

President Joe Biden  |  Speech  |  White House

Thanks to our Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, 46,000 new projects have been announced across your communities – modernizing our roads and bridges, ports and airports, and public transit systems. ... Providing affordable high speed internet for every American no matter where you live. 

Chairwoman Rosenworcel's Update to Members of Congress Regarding the Affordable Connectivity Program

Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel  |  Letter  |  Federal Communications Commission

On March 4, 2024, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel wrote to congressional leaders to update them on the status of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). In her letter, the Chairwoman highlighted the impact of the February 8 freeze on ACP enrollments. "This enrollment freeze was necessary to begin the process of winding down the program, but already its effects are being felt by households that wish to enroll and are unable to do so. Many of these households have contacted the Commission to express their disappointment and frustration that they can no longer sign up for the program. Others have contacted the agency to express concern about the impending end of the program, noting its impact on older adults, families with school children, and military families at risk of losing their internet service without the ACP benefit." Chairwoman Rosenworcel also urged immediate action to fully fund the ACP, saying "I believe we have come too far with the ACP to turn back and lose the gains we have made connecting so many households across the country. Accordingly, the Commission continues to stand ready to assist Congress with any efforts to fully fund the ACP into the future."

Alarm Sounded on Expiring Affordable-Internet Subsidy

Rob Pegoraro  |  PC Mag

Most of the concern over the impending demise of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)—the federal subsidy that’s made broadband cheaper or free for more than 23 million households—has focused on the people about to have a new hole drilled in their monthly budgets. Attendees at a DC conference hosted by an association of smaller telecom firms feel their pain: “Half of our problem in this nation is not accessibility, it's affordability,” said ACA Connects President and CEO Patricia Jo Boyers, at the group’s ACA Connects Summit. But speakers at this event also pointed to a less obvious set of potential victims: internet providers now working to expand connectivity with $42 billion in federal funding, and which have been doing so under the assumption that ACP subsidies will boost their potential customer base. These Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) grants, provided in 2021’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act with the aim of connecting every American to broadband, underwrite providers’ buildout costs. But their operating-cost spreadsheets may need post-ACP revisions. 

From BEAD to AI: NTIA chief unpacks top of mind issues

Masha Abarinova  |  Fierce

We’ve heard the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) say 2024 is “the year of execution” for the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program. NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson revealed how the agency is juggling BEAD along with its initiatives focused on digital equity and artificial intelligence (AI) risks. When Davidson first took the helm at NTIA, plenty of states didn’t even have broadband offices. Fast-forward two years, states have “built out much more robust capacities…they’ve all gotten their initial plans in the door.” Expanding general connectivity is only one piece of the puzzle for NTIA. The agency is also focused on the role that digital equity plays in BEAD. As of March, every state and territory "will have submitted" a digital equity plan, which outlines how they aim to address gaps in digital access, skills and affordability, according to Davidson. Maine was the first state to get its digital equity plan greenlit by NTIA. AI is another important topic for NTIA — and not just because you can’t go far in the telecom space without hearing about AI these days. The White House tasked NTIA along with several other agencies in October 2023 to "evaluate and mitigate the risks of AI ensure safety, security and trust." The NTIA plans to publish a report on AI accountability sometime this spring, tackling the question of, “how do you tell if an AI system is doing what it says it’s going to do?”

Broadband Service

About 3,500,000 Added Broadband From Top Providers in 2023

Press Release  |  Leichtman Research Group

Leichtman Research Group (LRG) found that the largest cable and wireline phone providers and fixed wireless services in the US—representing about 96 percent of the market—acquired about 3,520,000 net additional broadband Internet subscribers in 2023, similar to a pro forma gain of 3,530,000 subscribers in 2022. These top broadband providers account for about 114.7 million subscribers, with top cable companies having 76.1 million broadband subscribers, top wireline phone companies having over 30.7 million subscribers, and top fixed wireless services having over 7.8 million subscribers. Findings for the year include:

  • The top cable companies lost about 65,000 subscribers in 2023—compared to about 530,000 net adds in 2022
  • The top wireline phone companies lost about 80,000 total broadband subscribers in 2023—compared to about 180,000 net losses in 2022
  • Fixed wireless/5G home Internet services from T-Mobile and Verizon added about 3,665,000 subscribers in 2023—compared to about 3,185,000 net adds in 2022

Comcast Boosts Speeds, Provides Info on Post-ACP Options

Carl Weinschenk  |  telecompetitor

Comcast increased the speeds of four of its service tiers at no charge and made two announcements aimed at households enrolled in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which is slated to begin winding down in April 2024. Comcast has doubled its Connect tier from 75 Mbps to 150 Mbps. Connect More has moved from 200 Mbps to 300 Mbps; and the Fast tier moves from 400 Mbps to 500 Mbps. Xfinity Prepaid has been increased by a factor of four, from 50 Mbps to 200 Mbps. The speed increases are available to both new and existing customers. ACP. Service providers face some choices in how to wind down their participation. For its part, Comcast may be sending a message of support in combining the announcement of the speed increases with insight into how it will try to help ACP participants deal with the close of the program. The service provider advised that new and existing Xfinity customers who use the ACP should contact the company to learn what offers may be available in their areas. The company said its goal is to help them find connectivity that fits their needs and budgets without the benefit the program provides. The company noted that Xfinity customers enrolled in ACP are automatically eligible to enroll in Internet Essentials, which provides speeds up to 50 Mbps, for $9.95 per month.


FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel Highlights 1-year Expiration of Spectrum Auction Authority

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel  |  Press Release  |  Federal Communciations Commission

For more than thirty years, the Federal Communications Commission’s authority to auction the nation’s airwaves proved to be an indispensable tool for harnessing the promise of new wireless technologies while also spurring economic growth, creating jobs, and strengthening our national security and international leadership. However, in light of the reality the agency has faced for almost a year, we are now compelled to ask what we can do with our current unassigned spectrum in order to keep innovation moving ahead in a global market for wireless that is not slowing down. I remain hopeful that the FCC’s auction authority will be restored quickly so that this important program is once again able to produce results for consumers and the economy. The agency stands ready to work with lawmakers to ensure we don’t find ourselves in the same place next year.

AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon outline their FWA, fiber expansion plans

Mike Dano  |  Light Reading

Each of the big telephone company operators in the US—Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T—plans to expand the reach of its broadband home Internet service in the coming years. Further, each company plans to do so via a combination of fiber and fixed wireless access (FWA) connections. Those efforts could be supercharged if the operators tap into subsidies from the US government. US states are currently in the process of allocating $42.5 billion in Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) money, with initial network-construction projects expected to start next year. T-Mobile officials suggested that, after trials of the technology, the operator is getting closer to implementing a broader fiber play. That effort would represent a significant development for T-Mobile because—unlike AT&T and Verizon—T-Mobile does not own a wired network. AT&T COO Jeff McElfresh said that the company remains on track to expand its fiber network to 30 million locations by 2025. The company is in the process of replacing large portions of its aging DSL copper network with a combination of fixed wireless and fiber. Verizon's networking chief Joe Russo said that the company remains on track to hit its goal of between 4 million and 5 million FWA customers by 2025. But he also suggested the company could grow beyond that figure.

T-Mobile is lighting up new 5G spectrum won in Auction 108

Press Release  |  T-Mobile

T-Mobile announced it’s adding new capacity to the country’s leading 5G network by activating the 2.5 GHz spectrum it won in auction 108, expanding its Ultra Capacity 5G coverage to new communities and significantly increasing Ultra Capacity 5G bandwidth in many places across the US. That means tens of millions of the Un-carrier’s 5G customers, primarily those in rural areas, will get an immediate performance boost when spectrum comes online. Wondering if you will get a taste of the added capacity? The answer is very likely a resounding yes. That’s because T-Mobile won licenses in nearly EVERY county across the US—so even if you aren’t one of the 80 million+ people living in an area with this new spectrum, there’s a good chance you’ll get a 5G boost where you travel, work or play. This is just one of the many ways T-Mobile’s industry-leading 5G network is getting bigger, faster and more powerful by the day.

Update on Dish Cellular

Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting

I recently checked on the status of Dish, which is trying to become the fourth major cellular company in the country. Dish entered the cellular business in 2020 as a consequence of the merger of Sprint and T-Mobile. Dish was already under pressure at the time from the FCC to use its spectrum portfolio, and the FCC gave Dish until June 2023 to cover 70% of the U.S. population with cellular facilities. Dish got a jump on the business side of things by buying Boost Mobile for $1.1 billion. Dish has struggled, and only has about 7.5 million customers left from its acquisition of 9 million Boost Mobile customers in 2020. A lot of analysts are pessimistic about Dish’s future, and some of them expect the company to eventually go bankrupt. However, Dish has the resources to make it until the end of 2026. Its chances were increased by a recent merger with Echostar, where Dish now has a minority position. Echostar had $2 billion in cash reserves that will buy time for Dish. I think it's still a little early to bet against Dish.


Lt Gov Gilchrist II Celebrates Biden Administration Paving Way for Michigan to Enhance High-Speed Internet Access

Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II (D-MI) and the Michigan High-Speed Internet Office (MIHI) announced that the Biden Administration has approved Michigan’s proposed State Challenge Process, which will give Michiganders an opportunity to help identify locations across the state that are eligible for high-speed internet infrastructure expansion through the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program. Through the State Challenge Process, MIHI will identify unserved and underserved homes, businesses and institutions in the state to ensure they can get connected to high-speed internet through the BEAD program. Current state maps of internet service are based on existing information from federal and state sources. However, through the State Challenge Process, the state is inviting stakeholders to verify the accuracy of current maps and submit additional information, or “challenges,” where they are incorrect. Challenges will be accepted March 25 through April 23 through an interactive State Challenge Portal that MIHI has designed. 

Signing on: Westmoreland's 'high priority areas' soon to get online

Kris Mamula  |  Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Construction is scheduled to begin in the spring to bring internet service to four high priority areas of Westmoreland County (PA). Westmoreland County commissioners have partnered with Verizon to bring broadband service to 400 locations in parts of Derry, Fairfield and Ligonier townships that currently have no service. The total cost of the project is $3.5 million, with the county picking up $1.7 million, or 48 percent of the total cost, and Verizon contributing $1.8 million or 52 percent of the cost. Construction of the necessary infrastructure is expected to take a year, with county funding coming from Westmoreland’s share of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, economic stimulus legislation that was enacted in 2021. The sites without internet access were identified in a 2023 feasibility report. The next step in the Westmoreland Broadband Program is a competitive bidding process to identify internet service providers interested in partnering with the county to expand service to other places lacking adequate service. Contract awards are expected to be announced in early spring. Residents can find out whether their home has adequate broadband service by referring to the county’s new service area map.

Community Anchors

Brick by Brick: HBCUs Are Using the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program to Fortify the Communities They Serve

Brittany-Rae Gregory  |  Research  |  Next Century Cities

A look at how Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are using Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program funding to impact the students, faculty, staff, and residents in the communities that they serve. According to a 2021 report by McKinsey & Company, 82% of HBCUs are located in broadband deserts. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s funding for minority communities intends to elevate community partners and work toward closing deep-rooted digital divides. Each institution that applied for the funding outlined specific goals that they hope to achieve over the two-year period of the grant. Though each institution has considered the unique needs of the communities and populations they serve, the future institutional work plans fit into one of the following categories: community building, infrastructure expansion, upskilling the campus population, and device distribution. 

Meet the woman who helped libraries across the U.S. 'surf the internet'

Diba Mohtasham  |  National Public Radio

When former librarian and author Jean Armour Polly first introduced the idea of having computers in libraries in the early 1980s, she was met with pushback. "People scoffed and said, 'Why would you go to a library to use a computer?'" she said. Even when the internet rolled around, many librarians felt they were supposed to be the sole gatekeepers of knowledge and information. "But I just knew it would be a wonderful thing. You know, school kids could use [computers] in schools, but what about the lifelong learners? And adults and seniors?" Polly said.

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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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