Friday, April 22, 2022
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The Federal Communications Commission proposed to strengthen the effectiveness of Wireless Emergency Alerts, including through public reporting on the reliability, speed, and accuracy of these messages. The FCC seeks comment on:
- How the reliability, speed, and accuracy of Wireless Emergency Alerts should be defined and whether these are the most pertinent performance measures for the service;
- How participating wireless providers should measure the performance of Wireless Emergency Alerts for the purpose of generating performance reports;
- When and how these performance reports should be provided to the Commission; and
- Whether and how these performance reports should include information collected at the consumer’s device.
The Federal Communications Commission's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau seeks to gain a better understanding of end-to-end Wireless Emergency Alerts performance. The bureau seeks to partner with alert originators to conduct localized, end-to-end WEA performance tests to be conducted in the third quarter of 2022. These tests will be designed to measure WEA’s capabilities with enhanced WEA geo-targeting enabled. The bureau will work with the selected alert originator(s) to define the parameters of the test and the roles and responsibilities of test developers and participants. The bureau seeks testing partners that represent the diverse environments where WEAs are sent (i.e., dense urban, urban, suburban and rural areas). The bureau will select alert originators based on criteria that include:
- The alert originator’s ability to organize test participants that are customers of the several Participating Commercial Mobile Service (CMS) Provider that serve their jurisdiction;
- The alert originator’s ability to organize test participants from geographically diverse locations;
- The alert originator’s ability to conduct a public outreach campaign that ensures public awareness about a WEA test;
- The alert originator’s expertise in collecting data.
The Federal Communications Commission voted to open a proceeding to explore options for promoting improvements in radio frequency (RF) receiver performance, including through use of incentives, industry-led voluntary approaches, FCC policy and guidance, or regulatory requirements. While FCC spectrum management efforts often have focused on transmitter regulations, the Notice of Inquiry will take a fresh look at the role of receivers and how improved receiver performance can promote more efficient spectrum use and enable valuable new services to be introduced that will benefit the American public. Wireless communications require RF systems to transmit and receive radio signals, making both transmitters and receivers vital for enabling innovative and efficient spectrum use. This new proceeding will support FCC efforts to gather up-to-date information on receiver performance, advances in receiver technologies, and various approaches for promoting the development and adoption of more interference-resilient receivers while fostering innovation in the marketplace. It also seeks comment on the FCC’s legal authority for various approaches it could consider. The FCC’s goal in this proceeding is to lay the foundation for future actions that could help create a more transparent and predictable radio frequency environment for all spectrum users.
Local governments all over the country are choosing internet service provider (ISP) partners and making grants from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to help bring better broadband. This blog is a warning to handle the awards of such monies in a way as to be safe from challenges from ISPs you don’t choose to fund. The reason for issuing this warning is that ISPs that don’t get funded can ask to see all of the records that are part of the process of choosing a partner and can sue a local government if they don’t believe the review and award process gave them a fair chance to win the awards. It’s important to remember that although ARPA money came to local governments from a federal grant program, this is still local government money, and the process of spending the money is subject to at least some portion of government procurement rules and certainly is subject to all rules having to do with openness and transparency of records. I strongly advise local governments to include an attorney and perhaps a trusted consultant who has been through this before in the process. A selection committee needs to get the speech about being fair, open, and transparent and warned not to create written records that are derogatory to any of the ISPs in the process. Governments have a legal obligation to be fair and aboveboard when choosing anybody who will receive public funding. I know that picking ISP partners feels like it is an extraordinary thing, but it is not somehow outside the normal government procurement processes.
[Doug Dawson is President at CCG Consulting.]
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) has made money for broadband and other infrastructure much less scarce than it normally is. Unfortunately, the real resources—labor and equipment—appear to be far scarcer than they normally are. Even with the additional money, the IIJA will not succeed if these constraints on real resources are not addressed. The only real-time solution is to waive the “buy American” rules on equipment and encourage more immigration to help ease the labor shortage. Additional government spending makes a difference if it generates something new rather than diverting, supplanting, or otherwise crowding out other potential projects as workers, supplies, and equipment shift to the government’s program. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) should waive the “buy American” provision so that those building new broadband facilities have a larger source of supplies. Supply chains are stressed around the globe, but it is still better to be able to buy inputs from the much larger global market (of unsanctioned countries) than to be restricted to only the domestic market. Similarly, we should welcome with open arms people of all skill levels from other countries who would happily take the un-, semi-, and highly skilled jobs we desperately need to fill to make the IIJA work.
[Scott Wallsten is president and senior fellow at the Technology Policy Institute.]
Indiana granted an additional $189 million on a third round of projects to extend broadband service to rural areas of the state. The money will fund 154 projects to provide broadband infrastructure to more than 52,900 homes and commercial locations in 80 counties. The funding comes as part of the Next Level Broadband Grant Program, which is billed as the largest single state investment in broadband. Two previous rounds of funding awarded $268 million for broadband infrastructure for more than 74,800 homes and commercial locations. The program began in 2018. At the completion of the current round of projects, broadband access will have been improved in 83 of Indiana’s 92 counties. The $189 million awarded was distributed among 35 service providers, who also contributed more than $239 million in matching funds, bringing the total investment to $429 million. Ten of the grant recipients are rural electric maintenance cooperatives (REMCs), which are member-owned nonprofit utility providers
Ten counties across Northwest Colorado joined together for Project Thor, an open access middle mile network dedicated to transport and built for resilience using a series of concentric loops covering nearly 18,000 square miles, with other providers leveraging Thor for delivering last-mile internet access to a quarter-million people in the region. Using a combination of dark fiber and agreement with existing carriers, Thor has dropped bandwidth costs from $1.10 to under 25 cents a megabit. Moving forward, Project Thor will be merged with the Region 10 fiber network on the western edge of Colorado bordering the state of Utah and provide additional resilience and more affordable connectivity to the communities in the region. The longer-term plan is to interconnect the set of publicly owned networks through the entire western half of Colorado, creating multiple fiber loops across the state and supplying broadband to more people and pushing the last mile further out. Funding for the open access middle mile networks is and will come from a combination of Colorado state and federal funding.
The Fiber Broadband Association (FBA) announced the first of its Broadband Community Profiles designed to uncover the economic and societal impact that fiber broadband is having on rural communities across North America. The research, conducted by Futuriom Research, shows that Douglas County (OR) served by internet service provider Douglas Fast Net (DFN), has successfully leveraged fiber broadband to create jobs, improve the quality of living, invest in its future, and even fight forest fires all while creating approximately $28 million in revenue or savings each year. To date, DFN has deployed 2,799 miles of fiber in Douglas County to over 12,531 subscribers and nearly one-third of the local population. DFN plans to expand its network footprint significantly while offering 10G symmetrical services in the near term. It has spent the last two decades adding to its network through organic growth and acquisition, bringing fiber broadband to more people in its region. Despite economic setbacks in Douglas County, fiber optic facilities have been key to preserving business in the region and have contributed significantly to healthcare, education, and government. While Internet service provider competition ramps up in various parts of Douglas County, DFN’s fiber infrastructure has become a source of revenue, as DFN is able to lease fiber to other carriers, even competitors.
Though telehealth has the potential to reduce some health care expenditures, both the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) project that increased use of telehealth will add to overall health care costs. Based on a recent CBO score of a five-month extension of pandemic authorities, permanent expansion could cost Medicare alone $25 billion over ten years, even without expanded use. As telehealth use grows, there is the potential for even greater costs in both federal health care programs and the private sector. With policymakers rapidly approaching a decision point on the direction of telehealth policy, it is important that they take time to fully understand the health and fiscal implications of adding telehealth services to our menu of care. Rather than make permanent decisions in the coming months, any extension of telehealth authorities should have proper guardrails, checkpoints to allow for data analysis and learning, and a way to align incentives for better and less expensive care. Much has been written on the merits and promises of telehealth. The purpose of this paper is to outline key health care costs and federal budget challenges that should be considered when developing long-term regulations surrounding telehealth.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration is requesting comments on competition in the mobile application ecosystem. The data gathered through this process will be used to inform the Biden-Harris Administration’s competition agenda, including, but not limited to, the Department of Commerce’s work developing a report to submit to the Chair of the White House Competition Council regarding the mobile application ecosystem. This study is aimed at examining unique aspects of competition involving apps on mobile phones and tablets. In doing so, the NTIA recognizes that the general mobile ecosystem is comprised of a number of distinct types of entities and interrelated markets. Mobile service providers play a role in a range of relevant aspects, including broadband service and determining which apps are pre-loaded or set as defaults. At the same time, functionality and app distribution are also dependent upon operating systems and app stores, which function as sub-ecosystems. NTIA is seeking to look beyond the general to examine particular environments in which different types of apps and associated businesses operate.
Comments are due on or before 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on May 23, 2022.
In just the last few years, Europe has seen a landmark law for online privacy take effect, approved sweeping regulations to curb the dominance of the tech giants and is nearing a deal on new legislation to protect its citizens from harmful online content. For those keeping score, that’s Europe: three. United States: zero. Global leadership on tech regulations is taking place more than 3,000 miles from Washington, by European leaders representing 27 nations with 24 languages, who have nonetheless been able to agree on basic online protections for their 450 million or so citizens. In the United States, Congress has not passed a single piece of comprehensive regulation to protect internet consumers and to rein in the power of its technology giants. It’s not for lack of trying.
Elon Musk has lined up the funding he needs for his proposed takeover of Twitter. In a new filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission on April 21, Musk laid out his plan for the $46.5 billion worth of loans that will allow him to finance the buyout offer made on April 14th. The funding is provided through two debt commitment letters from Morgan Stanley Senior Funding, in which the bank commits to offering a series of loans worth $25.5 billion. The remaining $21 billion will be covered by Musk himself. Notably, the filing does not list any equity partners to share the cash burden with Musk. The Tesla CEO already owns a 9 percent stake in Twitter, valued at roughly $2.9 billion. The filing also makes clear that Twitter has not formally responded to Musk’s offer. “The Reporting Person is seeking to negotiate a definitive agreement for the acquisition of Twitter by the Reporting Person,” it reads, “and is prepared to begin such negotiations immediately.” Even with funding secured, taking over Twitter will not be easy. The company’s board of directors recently announced measures to block Musk’s hostile takeover. This maneuver, which is known in the finance world as a “poison pill,” allows certain shareholders to purchase more stock in an attempt to block Musk from holding a stake of over 15 percent, Reuters previously reported.
While homes that get over-the-air (OTA) TV content continue to grow slowly, the greatest change over the last three years has been with broadband-only (BBO) homes—comprising 27% of TV homes in Q4 2021, according to Nielsen. In 2018, the percentage was 9%. This has come largely at the expense of homes with traditional cable TV and other TV services—so-called "Cable Plus." These make up 57% of U.S. homes, down from 76% in the fourth quarter of 2018. The remainder are OTA homes—now estimated at 15%, up from 14% three years earlier. Although OTA homes are slowly growing, they have evolved into three distinct groups, says Nielsen. The biggest of these groups is OTA TV homes that have broadband and get at least one individual streaming video-on-demand (SVOD) platform, like Netflix. This group comprises 9.3% of US homes—up from 7.2% three years earlier.
AT&T reported first-quarter results that showed continued success in customer growth across wireless and fiber. Consolidated revenues for the first quarter totaled $38.1 billion versus $43.9 billion in the year-ago quarter, down 13.3% reflecting the impact of divested businesses, mainly U.S. Video in the third quarter of 2021 and Vrio in the fourth quarter of 2021, as well as lower Business Wireline revenues. These decreases were partially offset by higher Mobility revenues and, to a lesser extent, higher WarnerMedia, Consumer Wireline, and Mexico revenues. Total broadband gains, excluding DSL, were 5,000, reflecting AT&T Fiber net adds of 289,000, mostly offset by losses in non-fiber services. AT&T Fiber now has the ability to serve 17 million customer locations. Broadband revenues increased 6.8% due to fiber growth of 24.7%, partially offset by non-fiber revenue declines of 5.3%. Mobility revenues were up 5.5% year over year to $20.1 billion due to higher service and equipment revenues. AT&T had 965,000 postpaid net adds, which excludes impacts of the 3G network shutdown of 900,000. "Our fast-growing fiber revenues now make up nearly half of our consumer wireline broadband revenues,” said AT&T CEO John Stankey
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