Friday, April 28, 2023
Headlines Daily Digest
Does FCC’s Broadband Speed Benchmark Represent Actual Use and Needs? Nobody Knows.
Treasury Department Announces Approval of Federal Funds to Connect Hawaii Homes and Families to Affordable, High-Speed Internet
GOP debt plan would hurt internet access efforts, Democrats say
Stories From Abroad
Treasury Department Announces Approval of Federal Funds to Connect Hawaii Homes and Families to Affordable, High-Speed Internet as Part of President Biden’s Investing in America Agenda
The Department of the Treasury approved $115.5 million for high-speed internet projects in Hawaii under the American Rescue Plan’s Capital Projects Fund. The state will invest $101.7 million of the award in the Hawaii Subsea Middle Mile Program designed to address the unique subsea cable infrastructure that’s needed to provide connectivity between the islands to ensure they have reliable, high-speed internet access. Hawaii will additionally invest $8 million towards the Hawaii Public Housing Authority (HPHA) Connections Program to upgrade public housing facilities to provide residents with access to affordable, high-speed internet. The plan approved by the Treasury Department represents 100% of the state’s total allocation under the Capital Project Funds program.
Democratic officials are expressing concern that the House Republican debt limit plan would undermine bipartisan efforts to boost internet access nationwide and secure U.S. networks. While the issue has flown under the radar in the high-stakes showdown over the bill, which House Republicans approved April 26 but President Biden threatened to veto, Democrats say it could still hamper key connectivity initiatives. At odds is a section in the Republican bill that would roll back unspent money lawmakers dolled out in a series of COVID-19 aid packages, including the bipartisan $900 billion spending bill signed in 2020 and the Democratic-led $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package from 2021. “This bill revokes funding for students’ internet connectivity, accurate broadband mapping, and ensuring our communications equipment is protected from espionage and disruption by hostile foreign governments like China,” said a Democratic aide for the House Energy and Commerce Committee. They added that the proposal would “claw back money that was greenlit by Republicans themselves and passed on a bipartisan basis.” The panel has primary jurisdiction over internet access and network security issues. A Republican aide for the committee said the bill “would lift the debt ceiling and rein in out-of-control spending.”
Testimony Concerning A Review of the President’s Fiscal Year 2024 Funding Request for the Department of Commerce
The Commerce Department is hard at work. Thanks to major investments like the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the CHIPS and Science Act, and your support through the appropriations process, the Commerce Department is making substantial progress on some of our nation’s most pressing economic and national security priorities, including those related to our supply chains, manufacturing, innovation, and workforce. The Department must maintain sufficient oversight of the grants it makes. While grantees can draw down on broadband grants provided under the IIJA and economic development grants provided under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) until the late 2020s or early 2030s respectively, the Department will begin to run out of funding to oversee certain programs in FY 2024. The Budget includes $35 million for the US Economic Development Administration (EDA) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to continue appropriate oversight of those grants.
When the Federal Communications Commission last updated the benchmark speeds for broadband, Barack Obama was president, Bruno Mars was at the top of the charts dancing through Uptown Funk, Fifty Shades of Grey [NSFW] was steaming up movie theaters, and the New England Patriots had just beat the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. More than eight years later, you might ask: why hasn't the FCC yet moved the dial on broadband speeds? Congress has been wondering and this week it received a partial answer from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO): despite the significance of the benchmark, the FCC’s reporting of the analysis and data it considers when assessing whether to raise the speed benchmark has been inconsistent and therefore falls short of the FCC’s own goal of having a transparent process. Congress, administrators of federal and state broadband programs, service providers, you and me—no one knows how FCC commissioners determine whether and how to revise the benchmark.
AT&T CFO Pascal Desroches said that the cost of building fiber has increased and that those costs are pushing up against the company’s goal of not spending more than $900 – $1,000 per new fiber passing. Any time I see a broadband provider talking about fiber costs, my first question is: What's included in the costs? AT&T’s low target number highlights two things – its advantage of being able to overlash, and a willingness to skip neighborhoods with higher costs. AT&T’s low target price also highlights that the company is shooting for a higher margin goal than most overbuilders. The $1,000 top target cost also tells us a lot about AT&T’s market plan. To stay under that number means being very careful about where the company builds. It seems likely to me that inflation isn’t the only reason that AT&T’s costs are rising. I would guess that the company has already constructed the locations with the lowest cost per passing and that the remaining 6 million passings likely have higher costs than the places already built.
Wisconsin Public Service Commission Awards Nearly $140,000 in Lifeline Outreach Grants for 2 Projects
The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) awarded $139,929.92 in funding from the Universal Service Fund Lifeline Outreach Grant Program to two recipients. The grants were awarded to entities that will assist low-income customers in obtaining affordable access to telecommunications services through the Lifeline program. Project 211 Get Connected was awarded $89,576.92, and the Indianhead Community Action Agency (ICAA) Lifeline Outreach Program was awarded $50,353.00. The Lifeline program provides low-income Wisconsin residents affordable access to essential telecommunications services by discounting the cost of phone, cell, and internet services. The Lifeline Outreach Grant Program is funded through the Wisconsin Universal Service Fund (USF), which provides funding to help Wisconsin residents access essential telecommunications services. The PSC began accepting Lifeline Outreach Grant Program applications for Fiscal Year 2023 on January 4, 2023. For more information about the two recipients, visit here.
Comcast reported results for the quarter ended March 31, 2023. The company reported that its domestic broadband average rate per customer increased by 4.5%, driving domestic broadband revenue growth of 4.8% to $6.3 billion. Total domestic broadband customer net additions were 5,000, total domestic wireless line net additions were 355,000, and total domestic video customer net losses were 614,000. Residential connectivity revenue increased, driven by domestic broadband, domestic wireless, and international connectivity revenue growth. Domestic broadband revenue increased primarily due to an increase in average rates. Domestic wireless revenue increased due to an increase in the number of customer lines and device sales. International connectivity revenue increased due to an increase in wireless revenue, reflecting higher sales of devices and wireless services, and an increase in broadband revenue, partially offset by the negative impact of foreign currency.
US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo Announces Appointment of Chief Richard Carrizzo as Chair of FirstNet Authority Board
US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo appointed Chief Richard Carrizzo to serve as Board Chair of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority). Carrizzo is the Fire Chief for the Southern Platte Fire Protection District in Missouri who was first appointed to the FirstNet Authority Board in 2018 and reappointed in 2021, serving as the Board Vice Chair and the Advocacy Committee Chair. He succeeds Mayor Stephen Benjamin, who resigned as Board Chair effective March 31, 2023, to assume a position in the White House.
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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