Tuesday, April 25, 2023
Headlines Daily Digest
Chattanooga Invests in 1,000 Telehealth Accounts for Low-Income Residents
Senators Request GAO to Review Federal Broadband Programs
Are Individual Broadband Map Challenges on a Different Timeline from Bulk Challenges?
New "Reach Me" Grant Funding Expands Reliable Internet in 73 Maine Communities
Stories From Abroad
A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report uncovered that “federal broadband efforts are fragmented and overlapping, with more than 100 programs administered by 15 agencies.” We request that GAO build upon this work and conduct an additional review of federal, state, and local broadband efforts to determine the effectiveness of each program. Specifically, we request that GAO examine the following issues and questions and provide recommendations on any actions Congress and the relevant agencies should take to improve the broadband regulatory structure:
- Of the 133 broadband funding programs GAO identified, and any new programs that have been created since, were the programs established in line with Congress’ directive on the funding’s intended purpose? What was the statutory basis for the establishment of each program?Did each agency charged with establishing its broadband funding program follow Congress’ directive on the funding’s intended purpose?
- Of the 133 broadband funding programs previously identified by GAO, and any new programs identified, what were the specific policy goals for each program and to what extent did each program meet these goals?
- How often have federal programs’ funding overlapped other federal programs and on what basis did they do so?
- How has the fragmented and overlapping approach the federal government taken with respect to broadband deployment affected the success of each program?
- Did the Federal Communications Commission, U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and U.S. Department of the Treasury fulfill the agreements set forth in the May 9, 2022, Memorandum of Understanding?
- How have federal agencies coordinated their broadband programs with state and local broadband funding programs?
Are Individual Broadband Map Challenges on a Different Timeline from Bulk Challenges?
The Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) have recommended filing dates for bulk challenges to the National Broadband Map, which is updated twice yearly. But stakeholders hadn’t seen similar guidance from either agency about individual challenges. An FCC spokesperson said that individual challenges could be addressed more quickly than bulk challenges – at least when it comes to availability challenges. Bulk challenges can only be filed by states, service providers, and certain other entities that can include multiple challenges in a single filing. An individual challenge is filed through the interactive National Broadband Map by clicking on a specific location and entering certain details. Regarding the timing of availability challenges from individuals, the spokesperson noted that after a preliminary review by commission staff, fixed availability challenges are sent to providers, usually within only a few days. Providers then have 60 days to either concede the challenge (in which case the provider’s availability at challenged locations will be removed from the map) or to provide evidence to dispute the challenge.
How do big broadband providers get away with charging the same prices in urban areas for both slow and fast broadband? An Associated Press article found that one customer was paying the same price for 1 Mbps DSL from AT&T as other city residents were paying for a fiber connection. It would be easy to justify charging the same price for both technologies if AT&T was in the process of converting everybody in New Orleans to fiber, but this is not the case. The most likely answer to the question is the ugliest: AT&T doesn’t feel like it needs to reduce the price of DSL in the city because DSL customers are a captive audience. Another reason that AT&T can charge the same for DSL and fiber is that there isn’t anybody to tell the company that it shouldn’t do so. The Federal Communications Commission eliminated broadband regulation and the Louisiana Public Service Commission doesn’t assert any authority over broadband prices.
Fourteen Maine counties and 73 communities will benefit from $20 million in grant funding from the Maine Connectivity Authority (MCA) as part of its Reach Me Line Extension Program that will expand reliable, fast and affordable internet. The Reach Me grant funding will be matched by $13 million in private investment and will extend broadband service to 6,300 potential subscriber locations across 14 counties. Through this program, MCA worked directly with nine internet service providers (ISPs) to identify portions of their existing networks that would benefit from line extensions. These new connections will provide service to all locations in each area currently unserved by high-speed internet. Maine Connectivity Authority received over $60 million of funding requests for the program, which was designed to leverage and optimize existing ISP infrastructure with a focus on deploying funding where needed most. New connections provided through the Reach Me Line Extension program will provide high-speed broadband service at levels of at least 100/100 Mbps. Service providers receiving awards must participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which guarantees internet access to low-income households for no more than the fully federally subsidized amount of $30 per month. Funding for the Reach Me Program was made available through the American Rescue Plan Capital Projects Fund. [see awardees at link below]
Chairwoman Rosenworcel Remarks to National Science Foundation '6G: Open and Resilient By Design'
We are gathered at this summit because someday soon someone will make the very first 6G connection. And we need to prepare now for the wireless world it will bring. Much like in the early days of 5G, the scrum for 6G is already intensifying. If we have learned anything from our experience rolling out 5G, it is that wireless policy matters for economic and national security. My contribution to this effort is to quickly tell you about five things we are doing now at the Federal Communications Commission to help shape the future of wireless. First, we are imagining and defining what 6G will be. At the FCC, I started the Nation’s first federal effort to plan for 6G in our Technological Advisory Council. Second, the FCC is working to free up more spectrum to serve as a launching pad for this new technology. We have already identified the 7-16 GHz band as prime mid-band airwaves for the 6G era. Third, we are preparing for the coming convergence of satellite and terrestrial communications in 6G. We call it the Single Network Future because we believe next-generation communications will combine traditional ground-based airwaves with satellite signals. Fourth, we are creating space for innovation. Recently, the FCC adopted a new Policy Statement that, for the first time, established principles for receiver performance. And fifth, we are working to harmonize our efforts with our peers around the world. Restoring the FCC's auction authority will provide the US with the strongest foundation to compete in a global economy, counter our adversaries’ technology ambitions, and safeguard our national security.
AT&T's fixed wireless access (FWA) product is called Internet Air and sells for $55/month. AT&T is currently offering Internet Air to a limited set of copper-based customers in places where AT&T has wireless coverage and the capacity to deliver a “high-quality” customer experience. There will be places where a fixed wireless service will enable a better experience for customers than their existing copper-based service can provide, according to AT&T. Eligible customers will receive direct mail and email that instructs how to migrate to AT&T Internet Air from their current copper-based service. There are no data caps or overage fees, and customers do not need to be AT&T wireless customers in order to get the Internet Air service.
As economies around the world rebound from the pandemic, there are significant variations in the pace and strength of the recovery. The one segment that has seen consistent growth across markets and regions is the demand for high-speed broadband access. Much of the focus on broadband has been on building out or upgrading transport networks or in the last mile access networks, where there has been significant activity in fiber passes for neighborhoods as well as increasing activity in 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) as a new access technology. However, these technologies are very much focused on “wide area” or macro connectivity. In other words, while significant work has been done to bring broadband to the home, premise or even the curb, not enough focus has gone into bringing quality and cost-effective broadband indoors. This is particularly true for residential consumers living in multi-dwelling unit (MDU) legacy or “brownfield” buildings and venue sites, as opposed to single-unit homes. Taking a wireless approach to indoor backhaul can be a game changer for the smart building industry, by bringing legacy and brownfield MDUs and venues into the addressable market.
[Shiv Putcha is the Founder and Principal Analyst at Mandala Insights, an independent, boutique analyst firm that offers insights, opinions and research on the network and emerging technologies that will drive the next billion digital opportunities in Asia.]
Chattanooga Invests in 1,000 Telehealth Accounts for Low-Income Residents, Social Determinants of Health
Too often policymakers, political leaders, contractors, and consultants want to tell communities just how broadband should work for their unserved and underserved. But there should be a Prime Directive, borrowing from Star Trek, that every application presented to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) for the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) and Digital Equity Act (DEA) grant programs should bear evidence of an aggressive, community-level needs analysis conducted in all eight “covered populations” identified in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. “We are not telling folks, we're asking them… ‘These resources - how can we be of assistance to you?’” said Deb Socia, President and CEO of The Enterprise Center, a Chattanooga nonprofit that works at the intersection of technology and inequality. “With this [telehealth] project, there’ll be a large community conversation where people tell us they need from us. Too often I’ve watched people go into a neighborhood and try to make change. But change has to come from the people who live there.”
Sens. Hickenlooper, Fischer Lead Effort to Finish Removal of Chinese Communications Equipment from the United States
Senators John Hickenlooper (R-CO) and Debra Fischer (R-NE) introduced the Defend Our Networks Act. The Federal Communications Commission confirmed in 2022 that the Rip and Replace program was $3.08 billion short in fulfilling eligible applications, disproportionally impacting smaller carriers in rural areas that possess more at-risk network gear. The bill would address the FCC's funding shortfall by reallocating roughly 3 percent of unobligated emergency COVID-relief funds to the program, strengthening communications networks nationwide and bolstering US national security. The program reimburses smaller communications service providers for the costs of removing and replacing risky Chinese network equipment.
The Supreme Court will consider whether the First Amendment prohibits a public official from blocking constituents from personal social media accounts when those accounts are used to communicate with the public. The court took two cases for the term that begins in October 2023 to decide a digital-age issue that has been active in lower courts. In 2021, the justices dismissed a similar challenge to President Donald Trump’s efforts to block critics on Twitter, after he lost reelection and his Twitter account was suspended. The court’s decision will have implications nationwide for how public officials use social media accounts, which according to many lower courts function as public bulletin boards for officials and inform constituents about the business of government.
Many Americans lack access to high-speed broadband which has allowed communities to get what they need without having to leave their homes. And so, just as the oceans commission developed the facts necessary to create solutions, Pew convened experts and conducted research to gather the data that policymakers need to make a difference and to expand access to this critical broadband infrastructure. Pew has been working at both the state and federal levels on broadband issues. Far from just a rural issue, broadband access is a concern all around us, in unserved city blocks and neighborhoods, with cost and other obstacles preventing many people from having a service that so many others now take for granted. We approach this as an issue not only of technology but of equity.
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 David L. Clay II (dclay AT benton DOT org) — we welcome your comments.
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