Daily Digest 5/11/2022 (Shireen Abu Akleh)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Digital Inclusion

Introducing the Tribal Broadband Planning Toolkit  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  National Telecommunications and Information Administration
Free Internet? How a New Law Could Cut Costs to Zero  |  Read below  |  Katie Teague  |  CNET
Looking for free broadband in Southern California? Here’s how to find it  |  Read below  |  Jon Healey  |  Los Angeles Times
Comporium Announces Connected Internet Program Made Possible Through the Affordable Connectivity Program  |  Comporium
Public Library Association’s new and updated digital literacy courses and training materials developed with AT&T  |  American Library Association
Bridging the Digital Divide for the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Community  |  AT&T

Broadband Funding

FCC Eases Budget Restrictions for Rural Rate-of-Return Carriers Receiving High-Cost Universal Service Support  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission
Sen Gillibrand receives bipartisan support for full funding of USDA Rural Broadband Program  |  Read below  |  Basil John  |  WAVY.com
Minnesota telecom companies are seeking to block a controversial broadband developer from using $311 million in federal grants  |  Read below  |  Walker Orenstein  |  MinnPost
Gateway Fiber Awarded $10 Million from NTIA to Expand Broadband Internet Coverage in Lincoln and St Charles Counties in Missouri  |  Gateway Fiber
SHLB Requests Public Interest Waiver of “Build America” Requirements  |  Schools Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition


FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel's Remarks at the 2022 5G Summit  |  Read below  |  FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel  |  Speech  |  Federal Communications Commission
WOW! inches closer to wireless launch in late May 2022  |  Fierce

Emergency Communications

AT&T Launches First-Ever Nationwide Location-Based Routing with Intrado to Improve Public Safety Response for Wireless 911 Calls  |  AT&T
FirstNet focuses on in-building coverage  |  RCR Wireless


Explosive Fiber Broadband Expansion Drives Need for Fiber Technician Training Programs  |  Read below  |  Joan Engebretson  |  telecompetitor
Tech Industry Warns That More Remote-Work Jobs Are Headed Out of US  |  Wall Street Journal


HHS Announces $16.3 Million to Expand Telehealth Care in the Title X Family Planning Program  |  Department of Health & Human Services

Company News

Frontier launches $1.2 billion fundraising bid to fuel fiber build  |  Read below  |  Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce

Platforms/Social Media

Elon Musk Says He Would Reverse Twitter’s Ban on Donald Trump  |  Wall Street Journal
Trump says he’s done with Twitter. That’s hard to believe.  |  Vox
Nicholas Goldberg: Musk is the one who’s ‘flat-out stupid’ about Trump on Twitter  |  Los Angeles Times
Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen works to pass new internet laws  |  Los Angeles Times
Mark MacCarthy | Transparency is the best first step towards better digital governance  |  Brookings
Social media and happiness nexus in the millennial generation  |  Telecommunications Policy


American Dragnet: Data-Driven Deportation in the 21st Century  |  Georgetown Law Center on Privacy & Technology


Impremedia, publisher of Spanish-language newspapers, has a new owner, My Code  |  New York Times


Farewell to the iPod  |  New York Times

War & Communications

US Support for Connectivity and Cybersecurity in Ukraine  |  Department of State
Crowdfunding a War: How Online Appeals Are Bringing Weapons to Ukraine  |  New York Times
Russia Was Behind Cyberattack in Run-Up to Ukraine War, Investigation Finds  |  New York Times
Secretary of State Antony Blinken Identifies Russia as Responsible for Satellite Interference and Cyberattacks in Ukraine  |  Department of State
How Starlink Scrambled to Keep Ukraine Online  |  Wired

More Stories From Abroad

What we know about Spain’s cyber-espionage spyware scandals  |  Guardian, The
Today's Top Stories

Digital Inclusion

Introducing the Tribal Broadband Planning Toolkit

BroadbandUSA’s Tribal Broadband Planning Toolkit provides the guidance, knowledge, and resources to design, implement, and then execute a broadband plan in Tribal communities. The toolkit outlines seven, common elements that serve as the building blocks of a Tribal broadband plan:

  1. Assemble a Team: Build a team with the skills needed to accomplish your broadband goals.
  2. Determine Your Priorities: Create a set of priorities to help your community build or expand meaningful access to broadband.
  3. Explore the Data: Measure current broadband availability and use in your community.
  4. Build Relationships for Success: Identify partners to engage throughout the broadband planning process.
  5. Select the Right Solutions: Determine the specific methods to use to reach your broadband goals.
  6. Prepare a Budget: Set a budget for the various expenses included in your broadband plan.
  7. Chart a Path Forward: Develop a project plan to guide execution of your broadband plan.

Free Internet? How a New Law Could Cut Costs to Zero

Katie Teague  |  CNET

The White House announced the expansion of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) with the launch of a new website and agreements with internet service providers that could cut internet costs to zero for some Americans. Created by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the ACP gives eligible households up to $30 per month off their internet bills, as well as discounts on computers or tablets from participating retailers. ACP eligible households who live on Tribal lands can receive up to $75 per month. The program aims to help families who either can't afford to pay for internet access or who have to cut back on other essentials to budget for the service. The Biden administration's new agreements with 20 leading internet providers -- including AT&T, Comcast and Verizon -- ensure that they provide ACP eligible households with high-speed internet service (at least 100 Mbps download speed) for no more than $30 per month. A $30 monthly grant from the ACP means some qualifying Americans could receive free internet access. We'll tell you how to find out if you're eligible for ACP and how to sign up.

Looking for free broadband in Southern California? Here’s how to find it

Jon Healey  |  Los Angeles Times

Lower-income Americans now have more options for free high-speed internet access, including at least eight providers that serve Southern California. The federal government launched the Affordable Connectivity Program at the end of 2021 to provide $30-per-month subsidies for households with incomes no more than twice the federal poverty level. On May 9, the White House revealed that 20 broadband providers across the country, including five of the largest cable TV and telephone companies, had agreed to provide “sufficiently high-speed” connections at no more than $30 a month to qualifying homes. Eight of those serve communities in Southern California: AT&T, Comcast, Cox, Frontier, Mediacom, Spectrum, Starry and Verizon. Eliminating the cost of a broadband connection removes just one of the barriers to wider internet adoption, however. Sunne Wright McPeak, head of the California Emerging Technology Fund, said other hurdles include the need for a smart device and the know-how required to use it. The biggest problem, though, may be that most of the people eligible for subsidies aren’t aware of or interested in them. For example, nearly half of households in Los Angeles County have incomes low enough to qualify for the federal subsidy, McPeak said, but less than a quarter of that group has signed up. And it could be difficult to reach the remainder; they’re not likely to see a broadband provider’s online advertisements touting the subsidies, for example. Here’s how to tell whether you qualify for the subsidies and which broadband providers offer them.

Broadband Funding

FCC Eases Budget Restrictions for Rural Rate-of-Return Carriers Receiving High-Cost Universal Service Support

Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission temporarily waives, on its own motion, the application of the budget control mechanism for rate-of-return carriers that receive high-cost universal service support from legacy mechanisms. The FCC adopts instead a full waiver of the budget constraint for the July 2022 to June 2023 tariff year. The budget control mechanism is designed to essentially put a cap on the high-cost loop support (HCLS) and Connect America Fund broadband loop support (CAF-BLS) rural carriers receive annually, Telecompetitor reports. It caps the fund at the previous year’s level plus an inflation factor. These support funds help cover the cost of delivering telecom and broadband services to high cost rural areas, helping achieve universal service. The FCC finds that a waiver is in the public interest given the substantial reduction in support that would result from the imposition of the budget constraint, as well as the unique and continued cash flow and other economic challenges carriers face as a result of the pandemic.

Sen Gillibrand receives bipartisan support for full funding of USDA Rural Broadband Program

Basil John  |  WAVY.com

Sen Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) says the pandemic confirmed internet access is no longer a luxury, but a necessity in rural America. “Across the country 17.3 percent of Americans in rural areas don’t have access to reliable broadband, compared to only 1 percent of Americans in urban areas,” Gillibrand said. Gillibrand said that’s why she’s pushing to fully fund the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Broadband Program, using $350 million to get rural Americans online. “Encourages more high speed broadband deployment to high need areas by awarding grants in combination with loan funding available through the USDA rural utility service,” Gillibrand said. It’s a goal Republicans, like Sen Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), support. “I am absolutely committed too. I would join with senator Gillibrand to ask for full funding on the reconnect program through USDA,” Capito said. Gillibrand says the bipartisan effort will target previously neglected areas. “Any place that the private sector won’t cover rural broadband, these grants will cover,” Gillibrand said. Capito says she’s also advancing legislation to let the Federal Communications Commission ensure rural areas have strong signal quality.

Minnesota telecom companies are seeking to block a controversial broadband developer from using $311 million in federal grants

Walker Orenstein  |  MinnPost

The controversial telecom company LTD Broadband has long been criticized by those who argue it can’t deliver high-speed internet to Minnesotans as promised using an unprecedented $311 million in grants from the federal government. Now, those critics are trying again to block the small Nevada-based company from getting any of that federal money for work in Minnesota. On May 6, two trade groups representing telecom companies and rural electric cooperatives filed a petition with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) that says LTD will waste taxpayer time and money in the company’s bid to serve more than 160,000 people. “Public funding is essential to bring broadband to unserved and underserved areas of rural Minnesota,” says the filing submitted by the Minnesota Telecom Alliance and the Minnesota Rural Electric Association. “But public dollars are limited, making it essential that those who obtain public funding can be counted on to deliver broadband to those areas as intended. The record will show that LTD cannot.” If the PUC sides with the coalition of telecom providers and electric cooperatives, it would be the latest in a string of defeats for LTD Broadband across the country — and another reversal for a company that shocked the broadband industry by winning $1.32 billion in subsidies in 15 states from one of the country’s largest efforts to bring high-speed internet to rural areas.


FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel's Remarks at the 2022 5G Summit

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel  |  Speech  |  Federal Communications Commission

At the [Federal Communications Commission], we are determined to make progress. We are pursuing a 5G agenda that I believe can move the country forward, expand infrastructure investment, and pry open the doors of opportunity for all. And thanks to our work over the last year, we are making real strides toward building that 5G future. So here it goes—five things we are doing right now to support the future of 5G. First, we are investing in broadband and wireless coverage data. Second, we are making wireless service more affordable. The FCC launched the nation’s largest-ever broadband affordability effort—now called the Affordable Connectivity Program. Third, we are freeing up more spectrum—and especially mid-band spectrum—for 5G. Fourth, on the equipment side, we are diversifying what goes into our 5G networks. Fifth, we are improving the way we coordinate with our federal partners. Earlier this month I announced a new Spectrum Coordination Initiative with Assistant Secretary Alan Davidson at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

I started with five things we are doing for 5G, and now I am going to close with five ideas about what we can do next. First, we should provide certainty around near-term spectrum opportunities. Second, we should explore updating the Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act to make it a more effective tool for repurposing spectrum. Third, we should explore receiver performance. Fourth, we should consider the broader use of incentives. Fifth and finally, we should use this opportunity to solve our most pressing communications challenges. We can put our public airwaves to broader public purpose in any spectrum auction reauthorization


Explosive Fiber Broadband Expansion Drives Need for Fiber Technician Training Programs

Joan Engebretson  |  telecompetitor

As fiber sees record-setting deployment levels, the demand for fiber optic technicians is stronger than ever. To meet this demand, we’re seeing a slew of training programs nationwide. Community colleges will play an important role in training a new generation of fiber technicians. In one example, the State University of New York Westchester Community College (SUNYWCC) offers a three-day fiber technician training course that does not require participants to be enrolled in a degree program. The course is designed to prepare the students to take the Certified Fiber Optic Technician examination sanctioned by the Fiber Optics Association (FOA) and given at the end of the course. SUNYWCC is offering the course three times in 2022. In addition, companies looking to hire skilled technicians are electric cooperatives that are undertaking fiber deployments to support broadband service and smart grid initiatives. In northern Alabama, Cullman Electric Cooperative partnered with Cullman Area Technology Academy (CATA) to develop a program designed to teach high school students to prepare them for jobs that could involve both fiber optics and electric lineman work. Another certification program for fiber optic technicians comes from the Fiber Broadband Association (FBA). The organization’s program, known as OpTICTM Technician (for Optical Telecom Installation Certification) will be offered at vocational schools and community colleges nationwide.

Company News

Frontier launches $1.2 billion fundraising bid to fuel fiber build

Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce

Frontier Communications is looking to raise a total of $1.2 billion through a debt offering of lien-secured notes to help keep its fiber expansion plan rolling along. The company originally planned to seek $800 million, but subsequently bumped up its target figure by $400 million. It did not provide a reason for the change. The notes on offer will bear interest at a rate of 8.75 percent each year and must be repaid by 2030. Alongside the debt, Frontier announced it increased its revolving credit facility to a total of $900 million. In a brief statement, Frontier said the money it raises will be used “to fund capital investments and operating costs arising from the company's fiber build and expansion of its fiber customer base, and for general corporate purposes.” Analysts at New Street Research wrote in a note to investors Frontier likely doesn’t need the capital today but is looking to lock in favorable interest rates. “Given the uncertainty around rates, we think this is a smart move that removes risk and protects the growth plan,” they concluded. The move comes a year after Frontier emerged from bankruptcy and as the operator works to deliver fiber to 10 million locations by 2025. It built 211,000 new locations in Q1 2022, raising its total passed to 4.2 million, and expects to hit a total of more than 5 million by the end of 2022.

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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) and Grace Tepper (grace AT benton DOT org) — we welcome your comments.

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