Thursday, April 21, 2022
Headlines Daily Digest
The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals will not reconsider its decision in January to uphold California's net neutrality law. California's 2018 law barred internet service providers from blocking or throttling traffic, or offering paid fast lanes, but it only took effect in 2021. The court in January said since the Federal Communications Commission reclassified internet services in 2017 as more lightly regulated information services, the commission "no longer has the authority to regulate in the same manner that it had when these services were classified as telecommunications services." “This is hardly a surprise,” said Andrew Schwartzman, senior counselor to the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, and an attorney schooled in appeals court decisions and net neutrality cases. “The 9th Circuit’s unanimous panel opinion affirming the lower court’s decision allowing the new law to go into effect followed established principles. Its finding that federal law does not preclude California from adopting its own network-neutrality rules is rock solid.” Telecom groups could now ask the US Supreme Court to hear the case. Schwartzman said it was "notable that not a single judge on the nation’s largest court of appeals even asked for a vote on the industry’s rehearing petition."
States have made significant strides toward improving the availability and affordability of broadband service in recent years. A key step in many of those efforts has been the development of formal, statewide broadband expansion plans, often at the behest of the state legislature or as a strategic component of the state’s broadband program, that use data and stakeholder input to identify and refine goals, recommend activities, and detail implementation strategies. In its 2020 report, “How States Are Expanding Broadband Access,” The Pew Charitable Trusts examined the importance of plans to the success of state broadband programs. Broadband plans have been essential in guiding states’ efforts to expand high-speed internet access. Since 2021, these plans have taken on a new level of importance because the federal government requires that states create broadband plans to qualify for billions of dollars for new grants through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). For this brief, Pew drew on its previous research and examples from existing state plans to identify the key elements of effective broadband plans. State broadband leaders, federal policymakers, advocates, researchers, and other stakeholders can use this information to support the development and review of state broadband plans.
[Anna Read is senior officer and Kathryn de Wit is project director at The Pew Charitable Trusts' Broadband Access Initiative.]
In late March 2022, Tribal leaders from throughout California met in Temecula (CA) to discuss how to establish and maintain their own broadband networks with the ultimate goal of connecting their communities to the internet. Through a grant from the Michelson 20MM Foundation, and in partnership with other funders, the Institute For Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) hosted the second installment of a series of convenings aimed at providing Tribal leaders with the knowledge and tools they need to provide their communities with access to broadband. As a result, the Tribal nations will be able to participate in the health, economic, educational, workforce, and civic engagement opportunities that a broadband connection affords. The Tribal Broadband Bootcamp is incredibly important because it supports Tribal leaders as they take matters into their own hands to help their residents. For four days, Tribal leaders learn how to crimp wire, test cables, plan out a small network, mount gear, troubleshoot problems, conduct range testing, and confirm coverage. Leaders learn how the internet works, the history of broadband in Indian Country, and how to access current federal funding opportunities to support their efforts. Equally important, participants build a community—a human network through which knowledge, wisdom, and support will flow so that their dependence on private industry decreases or, better yet, is entirely eliminated.
Our broadband policies always seem to lag the market. If and when the Federal Communications Commission seats the fifth Commissioner, it’s expected that the agency will raise the definition of broadband from 25/3 Mbps to 100/20 Mbps. That change will have big repercussions in the market because it will mean that anybody that can’t buy broadband speeds of at least 100/20 Mbps would not have broadband. There is a much easier way to define broadband. The cable companies have regularly increased the speeds of their minimum broadband products, and in my mind, when they do so, they set a new standard target for parity between rural and urban areas. Recently both Charter and Cable One increased the minimum speeds of basic broadband to 200 Mbps download. Charter is increasing speeds automatically with no rate changes. Cable One’s change seems like more of a quiet rate increase since it will charge customers $5 more per month to automatically move them from 100 Mbps to 200 Mbps. It’s ludicrous that there are still federal grants that award more money for serving areas with broadband speeds under 25/3 Mbps. If the real goal of the federal government is to have parity between rural and urban broadband speeds, then Charter and Cable One just provided us with a new definition of broadband. If somebody uses federal grant money to build a rural market with 100 Mbps download technology, it’s already out of parity in 2022, and it’s hard to imagine how far it will be out of parity by the time the grant-funded network is built and operational.
[Doug Dawson is President of CCG Consulting.]
T-Mobile announced that the company has reached 1 million fixed wireless customers after launching the service commercially in 2021. In addition, 10 million additional homes nationwide are now eligible for 5G Home Internet, bringing the total number of eligible households to more than 40 million, all covered with 5G. In Q4 of 2021, T-Mobile added more broadband customers than any other internet service provider (ISP) in the US, the company said. “T-Mobile’s remarkable growth in broadband – a market that’s full of big behemoth corporations – just underscores how hungry customers are for a real alternative to the Carriers and the Landline ISPs,” said Mike Sievert, T-Mobile CEO.
Social media companies are often accused of anti-conservative bias, particularly in terms of which users they suspend. Here, we evaluate this possibility empirically. We begin with a survey of 4,900 Americans, which showed strong bipartisan support for social media companies taking actions against online misinformation. We then investigated potential political bias in suspension patterns and identified a set of 9,000 politically engaged Twitter users, half Democratic and half Republican, in October 2020, and followed them through the six months after the U.S. 2020 election. During that period, while only 7.7% of the Democratic users were suspended, 35.6% of the Republican users were suspended. The Republican users, however, shared substantially more news from misinformation sites – as judged by either fact-checkers or politically balanced crowds – than the Democratic users. Critically, we found that users’ misinformation sharing was as predictive of suspension as was their political orientation. Thus, the observation that Republicans were more likely to be suspended than Democrats provides no support for the claim that Twitter showed political bias in its suspension practices. Instead, the observed asymmetry could be explained entirely by the tendency of Republicans to share more misinformation. While support for action against misinformation is bipartisan, the sharing of misinformation – at least at this historical moment – is heavily asymmetric across parties. As a result, our study shows that it is inappropriate to make inferences about political bias from asymmetries in suspension rates.
Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Philippines, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, and the United States of America are establishing a Global Cross-Border Privacy Rules (CBPR) Forum to promote interoperability and help bridge different regulatory approaches to data protection and privacy. The objectives of the Global CBPR Forum are to:
- establish an international certification system based on the APEC Cross Border Privacy Rules (CBPR) and Privacy Recognition for Processors (PRP) Systems;
- support the free flow of data and effective data protection and privacy through promotion of the Global CBPR and PRP Systems;
- provide a forum for information exchange and cooperation on matters related to the Global CBPR and PRP Systems;
- periodically review data protection and privacy standards of members to ensure Global CBPR and PRP program requirements align with best practices; and
- promote interoperability with other data protection and privacy frameworks.
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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