Daily Digest 4/2/2024 (Paula Weinstein)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Broadband Funding

NTIA Adopts New Measures to Streamline Environmental Impact Permitting Review for “Internet for All” Projects  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  National Telecommunications and Information Administration
BEAD Disparities: As Some States Struggle to Get Everyone Connected, Others May Have Leftover Funds  |  Read below  |  Joan Engebretson  |  telecompetitor
How the FCC could save the Affordable Connectivity Program  |  Read below  |  Nicole Ferarro  |  LightReading
Canadian private equity blocks rural Americans from getting fiber broadband  |  Read below  |  Linda Hardesty  |  Editorial  |  Fierce


Arkansas City to Get High-Speed Broadband Without Government Funding  |  Read below  |  Joan Engebretson  |  telecompetitor


Are There Two Broadband Markets?  |  Read below  |  Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting


Google Pledges to Destroy Browsing Data to Settle ‘Incognito’ Lawsuit  |  Wall Street Journal

Platforms/Social Media/AI

U.S. and UK Announce Partnership on Science of AI Safety  |  Department of Commerce
Google’s AI-‘supercharged’ Search Generative Experience, or SGE, sometimes makes up facts, misinterprets questions and picks low  |  Washington Post
How Tech Skeptic David Autor Decided A.I. Might Benefit the Middle Class  |  New York Times
How Meta’s global head of safety approaches online age verification  |  Vox
Opinion | There’s Valuable Speech on Social Media, Even for Kids  |  New York Times


Jon Stewart claims Apple wouldn't let him interview FTC chair on his podcast  |  Axios

Company News

Huawei turns the corner on profits in 2023  |  Fierce
Today's Top Stories

NTIA Adopts New Measures to Streamline Environmental Impact Permitting Review for “Internet for All” Projects

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced 30 new “categorical exclusions” established to support National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews for broadband infrastructure deployments funded by the Internet for All programs. NTIA has also adopted six additional categorical exclusions from the First Responder Network Authority, an independent agency within NTIA, the nation’s communication network for first responders. NTIA has historically relied on 11 categorical exclusions established by the Department of Commerce in 2009 that remain available to support NEPA reviews. Categorical exclusions are categories of actions that a federal agency has determined, after review by the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment and therefore typically require neither an environmental assessment nor an environmental impact statement. Broadband deployment projects generally have limited potential for significant environmental impacts, and NTIA’s substantial record of related NEPA reviews supports expanding the list of actions categorically excluded from detailed environmental review.

BEAD Disparities: As Some States Struggle to Get Everyone Connected, Others May Have Leftover Funds

Joan Engebretson  |  telecompetitor

Over a quarter of states are expected to be able to have enough Broadband, Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) funding to get broadband to all their unserved and underserved areas and still have money left. At the other end of the spectrum, some states are struggling to meet national goals of making broadband available to everyone and to deploy fiber to the maximum extent possible. In a letter to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), fixed wireless provider association WISPA noted several states–including Minnesota, New York and North Carolina—that have indicated they don’t expect to have enough BEAD funding to reach everyone. Those states that don’t need all their BEAD funding to make broadband available to everyone will be able to use the funds for other purposes. Subject to NTIA approval, the states can use the money toward connectivity for anchor institutions or local governmental facilities or possibly for broadband adoption purposes. 

How the FCC could save the Affordable Connectivity Program

Nicole Ferarro  |  LightReading

A number of former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) officials are pointing to expanding the Lifeline program, under the Universal Service Fund (USF), as the way to save a version of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), and prevent tens of millions of people from losing access to the monthly broadband subsidy. One way the FCC could do that was outlined in a recent petition for expedited rulemaking filed by Conexon Partner Jonathan Chambers, who also previously served at the FCC. In that petition, Chambers urged the Commission to "initiate an expedited rulemaking proceeding to consider adopting a Home Broadband benefit as part of the Lifeline program to offset the adverse effects that will otherwise be caused by exhaustion of ACP funding." According to Chambers, the FCC could accomplish this in part by bumping the subsidy for a new Lifeline program-turned-"Home Broadband Benefit" by an additional $20.75 per month on non-tribal lands (plus the current $9.25 Lifeline subsidy) to equal the current ACP benefit of $30; and by bumping the tribal benefit to $55. That fix wouldn't account for all ACP participants – particularly with a significant portion currently using the ACP for mobile. But it would help many.

Canadian private equity blocks rural Americans from getting fiber broadband

Linda Hardesty  |  Editorial  |  Fierce

A private equity firm based in Canada may prevent a lot of rural US Midwesterners from getting fiber broadband. But that’s OK with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) because it’s all perfectly legal. Mercury Broadband, which is majority owned by the private equity firm Northleaf Capital Partners, has claimed it covers vast swathes of Michigan, Kansas and Indiana with its fixed wireless access (FWA) broadband service. And as a consequence of its claims on the FCC’s broadband map, many areas may not be eligible for Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) funding. The problem is that Mercury’s claims may be grossly overstated. Independent consultants as well as the state broadband officers for Kansas and Michigan think that Mercury has overstated its fixed wireless access coverage claims on the FCC’s broadband map. But due to legal loopholes, the company is getting away with blocking other providers in those areas. In my opinion, it’s a shame that a foreign private equity firm seems to be gaming the maps with the result that many rural Americans won’t get fiber broadband to their homes.

Arkansas City to Get High-Speed Broadband Without Government Funding

Joan Engebretson  |  telecompetitor

The City of Cabot, Arkansas, is getting a high-speed broadband network that the city will own and that will be operated by Connect2First, the broadband unit of local power company First Electric Cooperative Corporation. Unlike many broadband buildouts these days, the network will be built without any government funding. Instead, the project will be funded via $20 million in bonds, which were approved by residents. Until recently, Arkansas municipalities were prohibited from owning broadband networks because of an old law aimed at preventing cities from competing with other entities. Construction already has begun on the network, which will serve 26,000 residents and businesses. 

Are There Two Broadband Markets?

Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting

In a survey of 8,000 broadband customers nationwide, Parks Associates found that FWA cellular wireless customers feel better about the price they pay for broadband than subscribers of other technologies. The survey asked broadband customers to react to the following statement: “I receive Internet service at a fair cost / good price”. The response by technology was as follows:

  • 61% of FWA cellular customers reacted positively to the question.
  • 51% of fiber customers feel they are paying a fair price.
  • 40% of DSL customers responded positively.
  • Only 35% of cable customers think they are paying a fair price.

These responses are measuring two things—the way customers feel about broadband performance of each technology combined with how they feel about the price. My consulting firm conducts surveys, and we’ve been seeing similar results. I’ve recently come to the conclusion that there are two different broadband markets in the country—a market of customers who care about price and one where customers care about speed. It’s virtually impossible for a cable company to satisfy both sets of customers. 

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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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