Daily Digest 4/18/2022 (parallel media universe)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Digital Inclusion

FCC Addresses Service Providers' Petitions for Waiver of Affordable Connectivity Program Rules  |  Read below  |  Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission
Letter to the editor | Why I Sued Comcast for Discrimination: I was shut out of the RISE small-business program due to race, sex  |  Wall Street Journal


Telco consultant says monolithic cable networks are a thing of the past  |  Read below  |  Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce

State/Local Initiatives

New York State Budget Bill Sets Table for Municipal Broadband  |  Read below  |  Sean Gonsalves  |  Institute for Local Self-Reliance
Altice USA and Greenlight Networks say NY fiber tax repeal will speed rollouts  |  Read below  |  Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce
Oregon Seeks Nominees for Broadband Advisory Council  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Business Oregon
Falmouth moves forward with plans for a municipal internet utility; some advise caution  |  Read below  |  Asad Jung  |  Cape Cod Times


T-Mobile rent payments for 2.5 GHz may not be so secret  |  Read below  |  Linda Hardesty  |  Fierce
The economic impact of mobile broadband speed  |  Read below  |  Harald Edquist  |  Research  |  Telecommunications Policy

Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality from the Ground Up  |  Read below  |  Christopher Witteman  |  Research  |  SSRN

Platforms/Social Media/Content

Time for a new digital regulatory authority  |  Read below  |  Tom Wheeler  |  Analysis  |  Brookings
Billionaires eye parallel media universe  |  Read below  |  Dan Primack, Sara Fischer  |  Axios
Twitter adopts poison pill in bid to thwart Elon Musk takeover  |  Axios
Meet the Twitter Army of Elon Musk Superfans  |  Wall Street Journal
What Elon Musk Would Do With Twitter  |  Wall Street Journal
Elon Musk wants a free speech utopia. Technologists clap back.  |  Washington Post
Opinion: The Law That Shaped the Internet Presents a Question for Elon Musk  |  New York Times


Trouble for workers who turn cameras off  |  Read below  |  Erica Pandey  |  Axios

Kids & Media

How to Use Parental Controls on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat  |  Wall Street Journal


Stressed by Smart Tech? Consider These ‘Dumb’ Devices  |  Wall Street Journal

Stories From Abroad

Facebook’s fibre optics in Nigerian state put Africa pivot in focus  |  Read below  |  Emmanuel Akinwotu  |  Guardian, The
Facebook ‘lacks willpower’ to tackle misinformation in Africa  |  Guardian, The
Editorial: TikTok is failing Russia’s citizens  |  Washington Post
Op-Ed: Teachers Aren't Getting Enough Training on Technology. It’s a Global Problem.  |  EdSurge
Today's Top Stories

Digital Inclusion

FCC Addresses Service Providers' Petitions for Waiver of Affordable Connectivity Program Rules

Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission's Wireline Competition Bureau addresses the petitions of USTelecom – The Broadband Association, Verizon, AT&T, and Competitive Carriers Association (CCA). The FCC granted limited waivers of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) rules concerning the requirement that a participating provider allow an eligible household to apply the affordable connectivity benefit to any residential service plan selected by the eligible household (the “all plans requirement”) and non-usage of ACP supported services for which the subscriber does not pay a fee. Specifically, the FCC granted a limited 60-day waiver of the all plans requirement to Verizon and AT&T and a limited 60-day waiver of the non-usage tracking and non-usage de-enrollment rules. The FCC denied AT&T’s petition of the all plans requirement except as otherwise granted, and denied CCA’s petition of the all plans requirement. While the FCC granted a 60-day waiver of the ACP non-usage rules, the agency reminds participating providers that during the waiver period they must continue to comply with the non-usage rules that were in place for the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program.


Telco consultant says monolithic cable networks are a thing of the past

Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce

DOCSIS 4.0 is set to deliver faster speeds for cable network operators, but the next generation technology will also spur an operational sea change, said telecom consultant Sean McDevitt.“Historically, the cable industry had a ubiquitous mentality. DOCSIS 1.0 became 2.0 with 100% coverage and ubiquity to it,” McDevitt said, noting ubiquity refers to the idea that all subscribers in all nodes across the network have access to the same technology. “That mentality has carried forward as DOCSIS 2.0 became DOCSIS 3.0, and most people who have deployed DOCSIS 3.0 have now upgraded to DOCSIS 3.1 with pretty much ubiquity in mind.” But going forward “that’s with almost near certainty not going to be the case anymore.” McDevitt said that’s in part because different operators in the cable industry will have different versions of DOCSIS 4.0 to choose from, not all areas will necessarily need DOCSIS 4.0 and more players are likely to begin rolling fiber out to a portion of their customers.


New York State Budget Bill Sets Table for Municipal Broadband

Sean Gonsalves  |  Institute for Local Self-Reliance

There were some concerns that certain language in New York’s proposed state budget would lock out municipal broadband projects from being able to capitalize on the federal funding bonanza contained in the American Rescue Plan Act and forthcoming money in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. However, the bill that was ultimately signed into law by Gov Kathy Hochul (D-NY) was amended and includes some golden nuggets for municipal broadband. The recently enacted $220 billion budget bill includes $1 billion for the state’s ConnectALL initiative, which Hochul’s office calls “the largest ever investment in New York’s 21st-century infrastructure (that) will leverage public and private investments to connect New Yorkers in rural and urban areas statewide to broadband and establish the first municipal broadband program of its kind in the nation.”

Altice USA and Greenlight Networks say NY fiber tax repeal will speed rollouts

Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce

Frontier Communications, Altice USA and Greenlight Networks praised New York officials for scrapping fees commonly referred to as the state’s “fiber optic tax,” claiming the move will allow them to reallocate thousands of dollars toward deployments and speed broadband rollouts. The “fiber optic tax” refers to fees that in recent years were levied on fiber companies looking to use state-owned rights of way. In New York’s state budget for fiscal year 2020, legislators estimated such fees would generate $15 million in revenue for fiscal 2020, $30 million in fiscal 2021 and $50 million annually thereafter. But politicians repealed the fees as part of the state’s recently approved fiscal 2022 budget. State Senator Tom O’Mara said in a statement “This ‘fiber tax’ repeal is the single most important action the state can immediately take to try to ensure that broadband development across rural, upstate New York receives an equal and fair commitment.”

Oregon Seeks Nominees for Broadband Advisory Council

Press Release  |  Business Oregon

With passage of a new state law (HB 4092), Business Oregon, the state's economic development agency, is seeking applications to fill 11 Oregon Broadband Advisory Council (OBAC) volunteer positions. These positions are executive appointments by the Governor. Applications are being accepted for the following positions: 

  1. One member to represent the counties of this state.
  2. One member to represent the cities of this state.
  3. Two members to represent telecommunications service providers. At least one member must represent a service provider that provides telecommunications services in rural Oregon with preference for appointment given to a service provider that is headquartered in rural Oregon.
  4. One member to represent Oregon tribes.
  5. One member to represent education or public libraries.
  6. One member to represent rural business or economic development districts.
  7. One member to represent urban business or economic development districts.
  8. One member to represent telehealth.
  9. One member to represent the digital equity interests of historically disadvantaged communities.
  10. One member to represent consumers and the public at large.

Individuals who are interested in applying are encouraged to review HB 4092. OBAC’s mission has been to encourage coordination and collaboration between organizations and economic sectors to leverage the development and utilization of broadband for education, workforce development and telehealth, and to promote broadband utilizations by citizens and communities.

Falmouth moves forward with plans for a municipal internet utility; some advise caution

Asad Jung  |  Cape Cod Times

FalmouthNet, a non-profit advocacy group that wants the town to establish its own fiber optic network, recently had a major win at Town Meeting. Voters overwhelmingly approved the creation of a municipal internet utility. The next big step will be in November 2022, when a municipal light board will be elected, which will be tasked with bringing a concrete plan before the town. FalmouthNet is advocating for a fiber optic network that would serve as an alternative to private providers such as Comcast. According to Courtney Bird, founder of FalmouthNet, fiber optic networks can transmit much more data than a typical hybrid network. FalmouthNet is looking at speeds of one gigabyte for both upload and download, at a subscriber cost of about $70 a month, though those numbers are not concrete. Bird said fiber optic networks allow constant upgrades, so the speeds could increase as technology advances. A municipal enterprise would give Falmouth the attention it needs, since Bird believes companies like Comcast aren’t as motivated to bring internet standards up in less-dense areas.


T-Mobile rent payments for 2.5 GHz may not be so secret

Linda Hardesty  |  Fierce

T-Mobile leases much of its 2.5 GHz spectrum from educational institutions around the country. And the carrier has made great efforts to keep the terms of these Educational Broadband Service (EBS) leases private. For instance, it is engaged in a dispute with Christian College of Georgia and demands that the college not reveal the terms of its lease. But, a reporter for Religion News simply looked up the IRS Form 990 for Christian College of Georgia, which is a public record that must be filed by non-profit organizations. He reported that the college receives $55,000 per year for the lease of its 2.5 GHz spectrum. Previously, Fierce Wireless reviewed letters sent from T-Mobile to some schools indicating the carrier really does not want the pricing terms of its leases revealed. T-Mobile considers the pricing terms to be “trade secrets.” One letter sent from T-Mobile’s law firm Williams & Connelly states, “Disclosure of this confidential information would affect T-Mobile’s standing in extremely competitive spectrum negotiations.” The letters from T-Mobile’s law firm also said that access to T-Mobile’s 2.5 GHz leases are only known by fewer than .1 percent of T-Mobile employees. The topic of T-Mobile’s leases is particularly sensitive right now because the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has scheduled Auction 108 of 2.5 GHz spectrum to begin July 29.

The economic impact of mobile broadband speed

Harald Edquist  |  Research  |  Telecommunications Policy

This paper investigates the association between mobile broadband speed and labor productivity. Based on panel data of 116 countries from 2014–2019, it finds no robust contemporaneous relationship, but there is a significant association when a one-year lag of mobile broadband speed is introduced. The interpretation of the results is that a 10 percent increase in mobile broadband speed is associated with 0.2 percent increase in labor productivity. The results are only robust for non-OECD and low-income countries, respectively.

Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality from the Ground Up

Christopher Witteman  |  Research  |  SSRN

In the long-running net neutrality debate, a key assumption has been that broadband and broadband Internet access service are “jurisdictionally interstate.” But are they really? And what does that mean? In practice, the interstate assumption has meant that important decisions about broadband law and policy are made almost exclusively by the federal government. The “who decides” question took on new immediacy in 2017, when the Federal Communications Commission gutted federal net neutrality rules, and then attempted to preempt the states from adopting their own. Several states nevertheless enacted open network/non-discrimination laws; two of them (in California and Vermont) were promptly challenged on preemption grounds. This article examines the interstate assumption “from the ground up.” It starts with wires in the ground and radio links to local cell towers, i.e., “last-mile” infrastructure without which there is no broadband Internet access. It arrives at the conclusion that “jurisdictionally interstate” is more of a fictional construct than a factual description, one that expresses unexamined policy choices more than essential network attributes. It concludes by reflecting on alternate ways that federal, state, and local interests might more harmoniously be integrated in light of the network’s physical presence and the state laws which enable that presence.


Time for a new digital regulatory authority

Tom Wheeler  |  Analysis  |  Brookings

For platform companies, endorsing the concept of a new digital regulatory authority should be an act of enlightened self-interest. The idea that a handful of platforms can continue to make their own behavioral rules even when those decisions harm the public interest is no longer sustainable. The absence of a uniform federal policy is not only not in the interest of the public, but also it is creating problems for these companies. The ultimate uncertainty is a set of unknown decisions from multiple regulators. The benefits of the interconnected digital marketplace are threatened if state and/or national governments chop the previously uniform marketplace into smaller, less efficient pieces. Industrial era policies must be updated to reflect digital era realities. It is necessary to leave behind the kind of rigid micromanagement that characterized industrial regulation in favor of agile risk management that protects consumers and competition while encouraging innovation and investment. It is in this regard that the United States has the opportunity to reassert international policy leadership by advocating a new regulatory paradigm. While the EU and UK have pioneered the need for oversight of the digital platforms, the United States can get back to the international policy table with a new agile regulatory process that will make those efforts more effective in protecting consumers and competition while meaningfully addressing some of the regulatory issues the companies fear.

[Tom Wheeler is Visiting Fellow - Governance Studies, Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings.]

Billionaires eye parallel media universe

Dan Primack, Sara Fischer  |  Axios

Elon Musk doesn't seem to have much of a vision for how to actually run Twitter, if his takeover bid succeeds. He's not alone. A small group of tech moguls believe America is in the midst of what they call a "free speech" crisis, and they're investing time and money to change the terms of public discourse. But so far, they've made more headlines than progress. Just hours after announcing his bid, Musk took the stage at the TED conference in Vancouver, Canada, to explain his takeover rationale. In doing so, he gave Twitter's board of directors ample reason to reject his bid. Instead of delivering a distinct plan for Twitter's future, Musk gave meandering and sometimes contradictory answers about how he would address Twitter's content moderation challenges. He said Twitter should use human judgment to evaluate free speech — while also saying Twitter shouldn't regulate users' speech, except to follow the laws of the countries it operates in. He said he wants Twitter to hold on to as many current shareholders as possible once it goes private. Later he asserted: "I don't care about the economics" that would be paramount to many of those shareholders. Social media companies are increasingly willing to remove certain types of content, and ban those who post it, after years of casting themselves as neutral platforms. This change has triggered an opposite reaction by individuals who prefer the earlier approach.


Trouble for workers who turn cameras off

Erica Pandey  |  Axios

92 percent of executives at medium to large firms think workers who turn cameras off during meetings don't have long-term futures at the company, according to a new survey from software company Vyopta. The data adds grist to the worry that hybrid and remote employees have expressed about the post-pandemic world — that those who choose to work from home some, most or all of the time will be out-of-sight, out-of-mind for bosses. The majority of companies around the world are moving to a hybrid working model, which means more video meetings in the future. But the casual, camera-off and microphone-muted way of taking a meeting might be harming employees' career prospects. There are a slew of reasons people hide their faces during video meetings. And many meetings that may have been handled with a phone call or even an email update in pre-pandemic times are happening via Zoom now — it's just the default way to connect. So we're on more video meetings than ever. While workers may turn off their cameras at their own peril, it's a two-way street: Executives and managers need to get with the times, particularly with the "great resignation" as a backdrop, work experts say.

Stories From Abroad

Facebook’s fibre optics in Nigerian state put Africa pivot in focus

Emmanuel Akinwotu  |  Guardian, The

When government officials in the southern Nigerian state of Edo set about radically improving poor internet access for its population of 4 million, they didn’t have to look far for help. MainOne, a company responsible for laying a vast network of fibre-optic cables across west Africa, was an obvious partner. Another, perhaps less obvious one, was Facebook. A joint agreement was signed to install fibre-optic cables running across the state’s capital, Benin City. Since 2019, 400km (250 miles) of cables have been laid in Edo, about a quarter via the partnership between the two companies and the government. In recent years, as Facebook has come under rising legislative pressure in the west, the company has increased its focus on Africa, particularly in countries where the regulatory and legislative environment tends to be much looser. The combination of weak and expensive internet coverage for most of Nigeria’s fast-growing population of more than 200 million people has meant that companies hoping to tap into a potential goldmine of new users – and their data – have sought to invest in the business of helping those potential users get online in the first place.

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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) and Grace Tepper (grace AT benton DOT org) — we welcome your comments.

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