Daily Digest 4/26/2023 (Harold George Bellanfanti Jr.)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Broadband Funding

NTIA Seeks Comment on BEAD Challenge Process  |  Read below  |  Public Notice  |  National Telecommunications and Information Administration
Representative Baird leads bipartisan effort to prioritize rural broadband access  |  Read below  |  Rep Jim Baird (R-IN)  |  Press Release  |  House of Representatives
Yes, there really is enough money to reach most of the Unserved and Underserved  |  Read below  |  Mike Conlow  |  Analysis  |  Substack

State/Local Initiatives

Southern Vermont CUD fiber build will be completed in 2023  |  Read below  |  Greg Sukiennik  |  Bennington Banner
Nebraska County Undertakes Broadband Expansion Work  |  Read below  |  Margaret Reist  |  Lincoln Journal Star
Conexon to launch first community broadband project in East Carroll, Louisiana  |  Read below  |  Nicole Ferraro  |  Light Reading
Municipal broadband in Quincy (MA)? It's coming to 2 neighborhoods soon  |  Patriot Ledger
Ten Key Issues for Broadband Network Operating Agreements  |  Read below  |  Sean Stokes, Casey Lide, James Baller  |  Analysis  |  Keller & Heckman

Broadband Speeds

Broadband Speed: FCC Should Improve Its Communication of Advanced Telecommunications Capability Assessments  |  Read below  |  Andrew Von Ah  |  Research  |  Government Accountability Office
Measuring network quality to better understand the end-user experience  |  Read below  |  David Tuber  |  Press Release  |  Cloudflare


FCC Announces 2023-2024 Allocations for the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program  |  Read below  |  Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission


Amazon’s Satellite-Internet Ambitions Move Closer to Reality  |  Read below  |  Micah Maidenberg  |  Wall Street Journal
A Satellite Phone That Works Anywhere? The U.S.-China Rivalry Makes That Harder.  |  Wall Street Journal


Increased Wellness and Economic Return of Universal Broadband Infrastructure  |  Read below  |  Ry Marcattilio, Christopher Mitchell  |  Research  |  Institute for Local Self-Reliance


Congressman Castor Reintroduces Kids PRIVACY Act  |  Summary at Benton.org  |  Rep Kathy Castor (D-FL)  |  Press Release  |  House of Representatives


CHIPS for America Outlines Vision for the National Semiconductor Technology Center  |  US Department of Commerce
‘Chromebook Churn’ report highlights problems of short-lived laptops in schools  |  Read below  |  Lucas Gutterman  |  Research  |  US PIRG Education Fund


NAD Recommends T-Mobile Discontinue “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout Speed” Claim for T-Mobile Home Internet Service  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  National Advertising Division

Social Media/Platforms

TikTok Ban in Montana Faces Speed Bump as Governor Gianforte Seeks Changes  |  Wall Street Journal
Cottage industry of Chinese scammers target TikTok  |  Financial Times
Meta’s Clegg Invokes Anti-China Rhetoric Against TikTok  |  Bloomberg

Company News

Verizon begins 2023 with rapid network expansion and the most broadband additions in over a decade  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Verizon
Alphabet Announces First Quarter 2023 Results  |  Alphabet
Earnings Release FY23 Q3  |  Microsoft

Stories From Abroad

Digital Services Act: European Commission designates first set of Very Large Online Platforms and Search Engines  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  European Commission
Today's Top Stories

Broadband Funding

NTIA Seeks Comment on BEAD Challenge Process

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration is proposing to issue 1) a Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program Challenge Process Policy Notice to provide Eligible Entities with additional guidance on how to design and conduct their BEAD challenge process and 2) A BEAD Model Challenge Process to provide Eligible Entities. Under the BEAD challenge process, a unit of local government, nonprofit organization, or broadband service provider may challenge a determination made by a State in the Initial Proposal as to whether a particular location or community anchor institution is eligible for BEAD funds, including whether a particular location is unserved or underserved. Public comments due are on May 5, 2023.

Representative Baird leads bipartisan effort to prioritize rural broadband access

Rep Jim Baird (R-IN)  |  Press Release  |  House of Representatives

Congressman Jim Baird (R-IN) introduced a resolution emphasizing the need to invest in broadband expansion. The resolution, if passed, says the House of Representatives finds that:

  1. the Federal Communications Commission should study the current and projected demands on rural broadband networks associated with services offered by large companies that provide content streaming services;
  2. in order to expand rural broadband assistance and to improve the administration and accountability of the broadband programs at the Department of Agriculture, there should be codification of programs such as the ReConnect Loan and Grant Program; and
  3. access to broadband in the United States is in critical need of improvement, particularly as it affects Americans located in rural communities who continue to struggle to stay connected in an increasingly remote and digitally dependent world.

Yes, there really is enough money to reach most of the Unserved and Underserved

Mike Conlow  |  Analysis  |  Substack

Recently, a wireless company published a study about the cost to reach all the Unserved and Underserved. They estimated we need $307 billion to reach everyone. Generally, they make a case that the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program will run out of money, so the federal government should settle for wireless technology. However, we have almost enough money to reach all the Unserved and Underserved, except for states that are particularly high-cost. Estimating how far the money will go does not require advanced math. We need an average cost to reach a location and the total number of locations. There are 12.8 million Unserved and Underserved locations nationally. Instead of using the FCC data, the wireless study estimates this number from Census data, then adds 10% assuming growth from challenges to arrive at 16 million locations. There’s an important practical takeaway from all this: a public cost curve for every state is critical. If states don’t have the cost curve data and the ability to run a grant program that optimizes on it, BEAD will run out of funding for sure, and it doesn’t matter whose numbers we use for an estimation now.


Southern Vermont CUD fiber build will be completed in 2023

Greg Sukiennik  |  Bennington Banner

The Southern Vermont Communications Union District’s rollout of high-speed fiberoptic cable to Bennington County is entering its second year—and by fall 2023, the work will be done. Consolidated Communications, the firm contracted by the Southern Vermont CUD, ran ahead of schedule stringing cable in Bennington and Shaftsbury in 2022, and has started work in Manchester. A job that was anticipated to take as long as five years in the CUD’s 14 towns is now expected to be completed in a matter of months. How did that happen, when other CUDs had a head start on the Southern Vermont CUD? “Really, it’s our partnership with Consolidated,” said Southern Vermont CUD Board President Eric Hatch. “They have been an amazing partner. They’re very much interested in the same goal as the CUD.” Consolidated, for its part, said the Southern Vermont CUD’s cooperation was essential in making the quick pace of work possible. Overall, the investment is worth $27 million in private and public funds; which includes $9 million from the state through the Vermont Community Broadband program, as well as the federal Rural Development Opportunity Fund (RDOF) and the company's own investment in upgrading its fiber-optic network.

Nebraska County Undertakes Broadband Expansion Work

Margaret Reist  |  Lincoln Journal Star

A $10 million project to bring broadband to rural areas of Lancaster County (NE) is underway, thanks to federal stimulus dollars earmarked by Lancaster County commissioners for the project. The project will install 175 miles of conduit throughout Lancaster County to and between the 12 incorporated cities and villages, and 10 unincorporated communities, according to county officials. Once that's done, telecommunications companies will lease the conduit from the county to install fiber technology to bring services to residents and businesses. In January 2022, the County Board committed $10 million of its federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars to expand broadband infrastructure in rural Lancaster County — a need the pandemic highlighted nationwide. The county got $62 million and the city $46 million from the ARPA— a $1.9 trillion federal stimulus package. The city and county worked together to allocate the money for a variety of programs, and the County Board prioritized the broadband project based on input from the community.

Conexon to launch first community broadband project in East Carroll, Louisiana

Nicole Ferraro  |  Light Reading

Conexon, which typically partners with rural electric cooperatives to launch broadband networks, is planning to deliver its first community broadband partnership project,] in East Carroll Parish, Louisiana. The company says it was selected by "a consortium of community organizations" to build and operate a fiber network across the parish that will connect approximately 1,500 homes and businesses. Chief among those organizations is Delta Interfaith, a community group working to close the digital divide in East Carroll. Delta Interfaith received a $50,000 grant from the non-profit impact fund Connect Humanity to support broadband deployment and digital education. That grant will be matched with funds raised by Delta Interfaith, according to Connect Humanity. But unlike in the other communities Conexon serves, there's no electric cooperative to partner with in East Carroll. Instead, the community will own the fiber infrastructure and lease it to Conexon to act as the operating arm.

Ten Key Issues for Broadband Network Operating Agreements

Sean Stokes, Casey Lide, James Baller  |  Analysis  |  Keller & Heckman

Broadband partnerships have emerged as an attractive option for deployment in many areas of the country. However, in order to be successful in developing a mutually beneficial Network Operating Agreement (NOA), the parties should keep the big-picture goals of the project in mind throughout the negotiations. A successful NOA will typically address the following ten core issues:

  1. Will the Network Operator Construct the Network and/or New Facilities?;
  2. What is the Relationship Between the Parties?;
  3. Will the Network Operator Obtain a Dark Fiber IRU or Lease?;
  4. Securing Right-of-Way and Pole Attachment Authorizations;
  5. Network Performance and Maintenance Requirements;
  6. Compensation and Revenue Sharing;
  7. Regulatory Compliance;
  8. Term; Dispute Resolution; Default; Termination;
  9. Insurance; Liability; Performance Bonds; and
  10. Force Majeure

Broadband Speed

Broadband Speed: FCC Should Improve Its Communication of Advanced Telecommunications Capability Assessments

Andrew Von Ah  |  Research  |  Government Accountability Office

The Federal Communications Commission is required by statute to assess the deployment of broadband across the US.  Although not explicitly required to do so, FCC uses its discretion to set a minimum fixed broadband speed that it uses as a benchmark. Since 2015, FCC has set this benchmark at 25/3 Mpbs. In examining FCC's six reports issued between 2015 and 2021, GAO found inconsistencies in the reported scope of the FCC's analysis of benchmark speed and its reported rationale for updating or not updating the benchmark. Without consistently communicating the scope of its analysis and its rationale for setting the benchmark, FCC's reporting lacks transparency. The GAO recommends that the FCC's Chair provide consistent communication in its reporting on how FCC determines whether advanced telecommunications capability is being deployed and when updating the related metrics that FCC uses to assess broadband speeds and deployment. FCC agreed with this recommendation. For example, FCC could report to the public the scope and steps of its research and analysis, the data and analysis used to support its assertions, and the rationale for why it agrees or disagrees with stakeholder comments it receives.

Measuring network quality to better understand the end-user experience

David Tuber  |  Press Release  |  Cloudflare

Speed tests have barely changed in nearly two decades, even though the way we use the Internet has changed a lot. With so many more people on the Internet, the gaps between speed tests and the user’s experience of network quality are growing. The problem is so important that the Internet’s standards organization is paying attention, too. From a high level, there are three grand network test challenges:

  1. Finding ways to efficiently and accurately measure network quality, and convey to end-users if and how the quality affects their experience.
  2. When a problem is found, figure out where the problem exists, be it the wireless connection, or one of many cables and machines that make up the Internet.
  3. Understanding a single user’s test results in the context of their neighbors’, or archiving the results to, for example, compare neighborhoods or know if the network is getting better or worse.

Cloudflare is excited to announce a new Aggregated Internet Measurement (AIM) initiative to help address all three challenges. AIM is a new and open format for displaying Internet quality in a way that makes sense to end users of the Internet, around use cases that demand specific types of Internet performance while still retaining all of the network data engineers need to troubleshoot problems on the Internet. We’re excited to partner with Measurement Lab on this project and store all of this data in a publicly available repository that you can access to analyze the data behind the scores you see on your speed test page, whose source code is now open-sourced along with the AIM score calculations.


FCC Announces 2023-2024 Allocations for the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program

Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission

Under the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program (NDBEDP), also called “iCanConnect,” the Federal Communications Commission may provide up to $10 million annually from the interstate telecommunications relay service fund (TRS Fund) to support local programs that distribute equipment to eligible low-income individuals who are deafblind, so that these individuals can access telecommunications service, Internet access service, and advanced communications services. On April 25, the FCC announced the funding allocations for the NDBEDP for 2023-2024. View the full list of allocations here.


Amazon’s Satellite-Internet Ambitions Move Closer to Reality

Micah Maidenberg  |  Wall Street Journal

Amazon’s satellite-powered internet business is closer to getting off the ground. The company recently unveiled the antennas that future subscribers of its Project Kuiper internet service would need to communicate with the satellites it plans to start mass producing in 2023. It isn’t clear when the first of those satellites will be blasted into orbit, but Amazon has said it expects to begin delivering broadband connections for some customers by the end of 2024. Amazon is one of several companies that either are offering or plan to offer high-speed, low-latency internet connections via satellites orbiting relatively close to Earth. They say that kind of performance will distinguish their offerings from other internet services that depend on satellites stationed farther away, where beams cover more of Earth at once but face longer times sending and receiving signals. Still, Project Kuiper and the others will have competition from within the satellite industry, as well as from companies that have built out on-the-ground internet infrastructure. 


Increased Wellness and Economic Return of Universal Broadband Infrastructure

Ry Marcattilio, Christopher Mitchell  |  Research  |  Institute for Local Self-Reliance

This report examines 10 counties in rural Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi to explore how the costs of achieving true digital equity—by extending robust broadband infrastructure into areas missing it—can be offset by utilizing the potential of telehealth to improve healthcare delivery. To do so, this report first identifies the most common health issues affecting residents in these 10 counties and draws on an academic scholarship to demonstrate the benefits that could come from effective telehealth interventions for each. It models the cost savings that can be gained from telehealth interventions in reducing the cost of services that are driving the highest costs today. These include preventable hospital admissions, preventable hospital readmissions, and preventable emergency department visits. The results are striking by themselves, but even more so together. By the most reasonable conservative estimates, we show that preventable emergency department visits, preventable hospital admissions and readmissions, and lost economic productivity offer huge savings opportunities for these ten counties, totaling almost $43 million each year. 


‘Chromebook Churn’ report highlights problems of short-lived laptops in schools

Lucas Gutterman  |  Research  |  US PIRG Education Fund

The COVID-19 pandemic pushed schools to provide all their students with their own devices, often low-cost Chromebooks. But now, many of these Chromebooks are failing, according to a new report by U.S. PIRG Education Fund entitled “Chromebook Churn.” Doubling the life of just Chromebooks sold in 2020 could cut emissions equivalent to taking 900 thousand cars off the road for a year, more than the number of cars registered in Mississippi. “We can’t afford to stay on the disposability treadmill,” said Lucas Rockett Gutterman, the author of the report and the director of U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s “Designed to Last” campaign. “For the sake of Americans’ wallets and America’s environment, all tech devices should last longer. Google can lead the way by slowing down the ‘Chromebook churn.’” Chromebooks have a built-in “death date,” after which software support ends. Once laptops have “expired,” they don’t receive updates and can’t access secure websites. The report provides recommendations to Google that could double the life of these popular laptops. For example, Google should extend the Automatic Update Expiration (AUE) for all models to 10 years after their launch dates. The company can also push Chromebook manufacturers to produce spare parts and standardize part design to the greatest extent possible.


NAD Recommends T-Mobile Discontinue “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout Speed” Claim for T-Mobile Home Internet Service

Press Release  |  National Advertising Division

In a Fast-Track SWIFT challenge brought by Comcast, the National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs recommended that T-Mobile discontinue the “Don’t you worry ‘bout speed” claim in reference to T-Mobile’s Home Internet (T-HINT) service. NAD determined that T-Mobile’s unqualified claim conveys the message that internet speeds are sufficient to provide worry-free internet service that will allow users to perform nearly all typical activities on the internet, including intensive uses like gaming or streaming on multiple devices at any time of day. T-Mobile says it will comply with recommendations from the NAD of BBB National Programs that the provider discontinue or modify both a general claim and a specific Internet commercial related to advertising for its Home Internet fixed wireless service. Fast-Track SWIFT is an expedited challenge process designed for single-issue advertising cases brought to NAD. Fast-Track SWIFT are expedited challenges brought to NAD for single-issue advertising cases.


Company News

Verizon begins 2023 with rapid network expansion and the most broadband additions in over a decade

Press Release  |  Verizon

Verizon Communications reported first-quarter results, highlighted by increased cash flow and the largest number of total broadband net additions in more than a decade. Verizon saw a total broadband net addition of 437,000, reflecting strong demand for fixed wireless and Fios products. This result included 393,000 fixed wireless net additions, an increase from 379,000 fixed wireless net additions in the fourth quarter of 2022. Additionally, there have been 67,000 Fios Internet net additions, an increase from 60,000 Fios Internet net additions in the first quarter of 2022. Total wireless service revenue of $18.9 billion, a 3.0 percent increase year over year. Postpaid phone net losses of 127,000, and retail postpaid net additions of 633,000. Total wireless postpaid phone gross additions increased 5.3 percent year over year, primarily driven by an 11.5 percent year over year growth in Consumer phone gross additions.

Stories From Abroad

Digital Services Act: European Commission designates first set of Very Large Online Platforms and Search Engines

Press Release  |  European Commission

The European Commission adopted the first designation decisions under the Digital Services Act (DSA), designating 17 Very Large Online Platforms (VLOPs) and 2 Very Large Online Search Engines (VLOSEs) that reach at least 45 million monthly active users. The countdown has started for them to fully comply with the special obligations that the Digital Services Act imposes on them (August, 25 2023). The EC considers that these platforms and search engines have become systemically relevant and have special responsibilities to make the Internet a safe and trustworthy space, namely on four points:

  • Greater protection, control, and choice for their users: These very large platforms and search engines will have to address any risk they pose to society, including public health, and physical and mental well-being. Any type of advertising (be it display ads or search ads) based on sensitive data, for instance revealing racial or ethnic origin, or political opinions, will be banned.
  • Stronger protection for minors online: The 19 systemic platforms and search engines will have to redesign their systems to ensure a high level of privacy, security, and safety for minors. They will need to include age verification and parental control tools. Any type of targeted advertising towards children will be prohibited.
  • More diligent and trustworthy content moderation, less illegal content, and less disinformation online: Curbing the spread of illegal content, tackling disinformation, and protecting freedom of speech will no longer be just a civic responsibility, but a legal obligation. Very large online platforms and search engines will be obliged to adapt their recommender system to prevent algorithmic amplification of disinformation.
  • More transparency and accountability: The shortlisted platforms and search engines will have to identify advertisements clearly and explain to their users why they are seeing an ad and who is promoting it. They will have to explain how their recommender systems work and what data they collect.

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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 David L. Clay II (dclay AT benton DOT org) — we welcome your comments.

© Benton Institute for Broadband & Society 2023. Redistribution of this email publication — both internally and externally — is encouraged if it includes this message. For subscribe/unsubscribe info email: headlines AT benton DOT org

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Benton Institute
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