Daily Digest 5/12/2022 (Leonid Makarovich Kravchuk)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Digital Equity

New NTIA Data Show Enduring Barriers to Closing the Digital Divide, Achieving Digital Equity  |  Read below  |  Rafi Goldberg  |  Research  |  National Telecommunications and Information Administration

Broadband Funding

Stronger Together  |  Read below  |  Research  |  Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce
Pressure mounts for NTIA to waive Infrastructure Act “Buy American” rule for internet service providers  |  Read below  |  Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce
New push to make Big Tech pay more for bandwidth  |  Read below  |  Ashley Gold, Margaret Harding McGill  |  Axios

Digital Discrimination

A Disturbing View of Future Cable Broadband  |  Read below  |  Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting


FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel Circulates Ruling Making Wi-Fi On School Buses Eligible For E-Rate Funding  |  Read below  |  Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel  |  Speech  |  Federal Communications Commission
Benton Foundation
Benton Welcomes FCC Proposal to Turn Buses into Rolling Study Halls  |  Read below  |  Kevin Taglang  |  Press Release  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
SHLB Applauds FCC Proposal to Fund Wi-Fi on School Buses  |  Schools Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition

State/Local Initiatives

Database of state broadband bills  |  National Conference of State Legislatures
Statewide Middle-Mile Network Design  |  Read below  |  Research  |  California Department of Technology
Can Open Access Solve California's Rural Broadband Dilemma?  |  Read below  |  Jed Pressgrove  |  Government Technology
Missouri Legislature’s broadband spending falls short of governor’s proposal  |  Read below  |  Ryan Pivoney  |  Fulton Sun
In Maine and nationwide, high broadband cost is part of the digital divide  |  Read below  |  Editorial  |  Portland Press Herald
Maine communities lacking broadband look for boost amid record funding  |  Read below  |  Dan Lampariello  |  WGME
KentuckyWired leaders say ‘mid-fall’ is target to complete state fiber broadband network  |  WKMS
Local Areas Band Together for Rural Broadband in Nebraska  |  Read below  |  Andrew Kiser  |  Columbus Telegram
How small Kansas companies bring fast internet to rural places that telecom giants ignore  |  Read below  |  David Condos  |  KCUR
El Paso, Texas, approves $154 million from federal COVID-19 funds to city programs  |  Read below  |  Anthony Jackson  |  El Paso Times

Broadband Competition

Broadband Market Share Battles Heat Up as Money Flows In  |  Read below  |  Carl Weinschenk  |  telecompetitor
Mike Dano | Thoughts on the evolving battle among US fiber, cable and 5G providers  |  Light Reading
Podcast: Lessons on Retail and Wholesale Broadband Models from Europe, Asia, and the US  |  Institute for Local Self-Reliance


WebTV founder's decade-long quest to improve wireless  |  Read below  |  Ina Fried  |  Axios
T‑Mobile Launches "Rage Against Big Internet" Tour  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  T-Mobile

Government & Communications

Battle lines for the future of the internet  |  Read below  |  Cameron Kerry  |  Op-Ed  |  Brookings


Chinese Telecom Equipment Remains in US Long After Orders to Rip It Out  |  Read below  |  Sheridan Prasso  |  Bloomberg
Annual Report on Technology Transfer: Approach and Plans, Fiscal Year 2021 Activities and Achievements  |  Department of Commerce


Sens Whitehouse and Eshoo Introduce Bill to Stop Excessively Loud Commercials on TV and Streaming Services  |  US Senate

Industry News

NCTC Launches Connectivity Exchange  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  National Cable Television Cooperative

Platforms/Social media

Texas Regulation of Social-Media Platforms Allowed by Appeals Court  |  Wall Street Journal
Appeals court rules Texas social media law can proceed  |  Protocol
Elon Musk’s Belated Disclosure of Twitter Stake Triggers Regulators’ Probes  |  Wall Street Journal
Google pitches for user trust with expanded privacy controls  |  Vox


Alvaro Bedoya is confirmed to the Federal Trade Commission  |  Read below  |  Cat Zakrzewski, Felicia Sonmez  |  Washington Post
Statement of FTC Chair Lina Khan on the Confirmation of Alvaro Bedoya to Serve as a Commissioner  |  Federal Trade Commisson
Sen Cantwell Applauds Senate Confirmation of Final FTC Member, Unlocking New Opportunities to Protect Consumers  |  Senate Commerce Committee
Antitrust Chief Jonathan Kanter Barred From Google Cases Amid Recusal Push  |  Bloomberg
Rep Tom Reed resigns, setting up a second special House election in New York  |  Politico

Stories From Abroad

US government and Jamaica partner for high-speed internet deployment  |  Read below  |  Loop News
European Commission proposes new rules to protect children  |  European Commission
Google and Meta’s subsea cables mark a tectonic shift in how the internet works and who controls it.  |  Read below  |  Andrew Blum, Carey Baraka  |  Rest of World
Countries are taking more steps to compel social-media platforms to shield users from material they deem harmful  |  Wall Street Journal
Facebook withdraws guidance request for Ukraine war content policies  |  Axios
Today's Top Stories

Digital Equity

New NTIA Data Show Enduring Barriers to Closing the Digital Divide, Achieving Digital Equity

Rafi Goldberg  |  Research  |  National Telecommunications and Information Administration

Data from the 2021 NTIA Internet Use Survey show that historically less-connected communities used the Internet and connected devices in greater numbers than they did two years ago before the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite that progress, the substantial disparities that NTIA has tracked for decades continued to be evident, highlighting the urgent need to work toward digital equity in the United States. Overall, 80 percent of Americans ages 3 and older used the Internet in some fashion in 2021, which represents a modest increase from 79 percent in 2019. However, this top-line number masks some progress among groups that too often are left on the wrong side of the digital divide. For example, even as Internet use among White non-Hispanics was unchanged at 82 percent from 2019 to 2021, it increased from 75 percent to 77 percent during this period among both African Americans and Hispanics. There were also outsized increases in connectivity along other demographic lines, including seniors, persons with disabilities, and those in low-income households. These groups made significant gains in the breadth of tools at their disposal, including in their computing devices and types of Internet access services. Yet, in many cases, they remain at a substantial disadvantage. Overall, 69 percent of Americans lived in a household with both fixed and mobile Internet services, compared with 67 percent in 2019 and 65 percent in 2017.  These gains came almost exclusively from those in households with incomes below $50,000 per year, and seemed to accelerate between 2019 and 2021. Similarly, the shares of Americans living in mobile-only households and in households with no Internet service subscriptions at all dropped during this period.


Stronger Together

Strategic economic development revitalizes communities. Approached holistically, it attracts investments, builds wealth, and promotes sustainability. As a foundational first step, planning is crucial to successful economic development. It encourages us to leverage resources, build partnerships, advance the principles of equity, and strengthen systems to address global threats like climate change. By sequencing – or “stacking” – funding opportunities, you can effectively meet your community’s economic development goals. There is a wide range of federal resources available to help you identify complementary programs, but it can be daunting to know where to begin. Together, the Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA) and the Department of Agriculture Rural Development (USDA RD) are pleased to offer this joint planning resource guide, designed to help you eliminate barriers and encourage collaboration among your stakeholders. The resource guide outlines programs and services that can be used to advance community and economic development in rural communities through four key focus areas:

  • Planning and technical assistance
  • Infrastructure and broadband expansion
  • Entrepreneurship and business assistance
  • Workforce development and livability

Pressure mounts for NTIA to waive Infrastructure Act “Buy American” rule for internet service providers

Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce

A key provision in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs ACT (IIJA) calls for funding for broadband and other projects to go toward those which use products and materials containing primarily domestic-made components. But a growing number of broadband groups and vendors have told the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) that’s just not realistic. Back in January 2022, the NTIA put out a call for comment on how it should implement the broadband grant programs through which more than $48 billion in federal funding will flow. Several prominent broadband groups, including USTelecom, NCTA – The Internet and Television Association, NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association and the Telecommunications Industry Association, quickly chimed in and flagged the so called “Buy American” clause as a problem. They pressed the NTIA to waive the requirement. That request has since been seconded by an array of additional parties, including the likes of Cisco, Dell Technologies, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Intel, Samsung, WISPA, the US Chamber of Commerce, INCOMPAS, the Telecommunications Law Professionals and the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition. The IIJA requires products used for broadband deployments to contain at least 55 percent domestic content. But as Cisco noted, though broadband equipment including switching, routing, transport and access gear is “largely developed and designed in the US, it is not manufactured in America by and large.” That means “it will not be possible for NTIA, eligible entities and subgrantees to procure the broadband equipment they need to build the networks envisioned in the IIJA on the timelines that the law requires while meeting the 55 percent domestic content threshold,” Cisco wrote.

New push to make Big Tech pay more for bandwidth

Ashley Gold, Margaret Harding McGill  |  Axios

Regulators around the world are exploring forcing Big Tech companies to pay more for the internet service they rely on to make their billions. A growing number of governments think tech giants should up their contributions to the basic internet service that makes their success possible. That money could prop up local economies or help close the digital divide. The Senate Commerce Committee on May 11 voted to approve the Funding Affordable Internet with Reliable Contributions (FAIR Contributions) Act (S.2427), bipartisan legislation that would order the Federal Communications Commission to study the feasibility of collecting fees from companies like Google and Netflix to shore up the agency's broadband deployment subsidy fund, the Universal Service Fund. Meanwhile, in Europe, antitrust chief and European Commission executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager said that "the issue of fair contribution to telecommunication networks" is something lawmakers should consider "with a lot of focus." The idea to tax Big Tech to underwrite the FCC's broadband fund, which supports internet service in rural areas, schools, libraries and hospitals, picked up steam among Republicans in 2021. Companies that connect people to the internet and those that provide what people access on the internet, like videos, TV shows and music, are battling over who should foot the bill as streaming's costs and popularity grow. Netflix is already engaged in this fight in South Korea. Internet service providers in the US have argued Big Tech should pay into the increasing cost of broadband.


A Disturbing View of Future Cable Broadband

Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting

Sean McDevitt, a partner at Arthur D. Little, a consulting firm that largely works for the giant ISPs, says cable companies are not likely to universally upgrade broadband networks in the future. In the past, when a cable company migrated from DOCSIS 1.0, to 2.0, and to 3.0 everybody in a community was upgraded to the latest technology. He says going forward that it’s almost certain that there will not be across-the-board upgrades. He says there will be neighborhoods upgraded to fiber, neighborhoods migrated to the next-generation DOCSIS 4.0, and neighborhoods that will see no upgrades at all. I label this as disturbing because it raises the possibility of digital redlining in communities if cable companies start upgrading selectively. The upgrades to fiber or DOCSIS 4.0 will bring faster upload speeds to match fast download speeds. Any neighborhood left on the current DOCSIS 3.1 platform will be stuck with inadequate upload speeds, which was the predominant problem with cable broadband during the pandemic and continues to be a problem for the millions who want to work from home. It will be ironic if a decade from now, we’ll be talking about digital redlining from the cable companies while the telcos will have upgraded to symmetrical fiber. That would be a complete reversal of past history.


FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel Circulates Ruling Making Wi-Fi On School Buses Eligible For E-Rate Funding

Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel  |  Speech  |  Federal Communications Commission

For more than two decades, E-Rate has provided vital support to help connect schools and libraries to high-speed, modern communications all across the country. It got its start as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Over 25 million children take the bus to school every day. In rural areas that ride can be long. It can easily be an hour to school and an hour to return home at the end of the day. It’s good for young people to spend some time daydreaming, decompressing, and talking to friends, but wouldn’t it be nice if kids had the option of using this time to connect for homework? The good news is we have a workable, common-sense solution. We can connect our school buses and make them Wi-Fi-enabled—think of it as Wi-Fi on wheels. I am proposing a plan to my colleagues to make Wi-Fi on school buses eligible for E-Rate support. This is not a far leap to make. It’s both consistent with the law and the history of the program. After all, for many years E-Rate supported the use of communications for school buses—like wireless phones used by drivers—when shepherding students to and from school.

Benton Welcomes FCC Proposal to Turn Buses into Rolling Study Halls

Kevin Taglang  |  Press Release  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Benton applauds Chairwoman Rosenworcel and this critical effort to support a continuum of connectivity for America's schoolchildren. As far back as 2016, approximately 3 percent of the schools had begun to offer Wi-Fi on school buses, and nearly 4 percent were planning to do so in the near future. The reasoning is clear: school buses can be an extension of the school and facilitate online study. The FCC should seize this opportunity to turn school buses into rolling study halls.


Statewide Middle-Mile Network Design

draft map and design recommendations for California's proposed statewide broadband middle mile network. The map outlines nearly 9,000 miles of infrastructure intended to serve as a backbone for last-mile connection projects to underserved and unserved communities throughout the state. The state’s third-party administrator, GoldenStateNet, drafted the maps based on public comment gathered by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in August and September 2021. The California Department of Technology will work with GoldenStateNet, CPUC and Caltrans to refine the recommended project routes and begin the preconstruction process. Following additional planning and evaluation, including a more precise estimation of construction costs, GoldenStateNet will produce a finalized map that includes build and leased Indefeasible Right of Use (IRU) routes to create a statewide open-access network.

Can Open Access Solve California's Rural Broadband Dilemma?

Jed Pressgrove  |  Government Technology

One could be forgiven for assuming that California, a state famous for technology, would have better connectivity for even its rural residents. But many of the state's counties have profound broadband challenges, including the classic example of big telecommunications companies not investing in infrastructure in more remote areas due to a lack of a compelling business case. This is part of the reason why the Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC), an organization that represents 38 of the state's 58 counties, has chosen the open access municipal broadband model as the most viable solution to the high-speed Internet problems faced by its member counties. And the rural counties won't have to implement the open access network idea by themselves, thanks to a new partnership between RCRC affiliate Golden State Connect Authority and Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency (UTOPIA) Fiber. To date, UTOPIA has done about $450 million worth of fiber projects. All together, UTOPIA's networks are approaching 50,000 subscribers. One of the most notable things about UTOPIA's success is its lack of traditional broadband funding — notwithstanding that the organization isn't opposed to California tapping into such funds where appropriate.

Missouri Legislature’s broadband spending falls short of governor’s proposal

Ryan Pivoney  |  Fulton Sun

The Missouri Legislature approved several pockets of broadband funding in the state budget this session, but the total remains millions short of the governor's recommendations. The Missouri General Assembly passed a record state budget totaling $49 billion, which now awaits Gov Mike Parson (R-MO)'s approval. The budget includes roughly $372 million for broadband internet development and programs -- nearly $100 million lower than a plan proposed by Parson. At the 2021 state fair, Parson announced a plan to invest $400 million in broadband development across the state. He then laid out more details for the spending during his State of the State address in January, where the plan grew to more than $460 million. While funding for broadband infrastructure and coverage mapping remained intact through the legislative process, the General Assembly slashed funding for broadband towers, rural telehealth access, broadband grants and the Public Safety Broadband Network at the Capitol Complex. Parson's proposed $30 million for a digital literacy campaign, $9.6 million for public wifi at state parks and $30 million to assist Missourians with monthly internet bills were entirely cut through the legislative process. The General Assembly designated broadband funding through a few bills, but a bulk of the funding is in House Bill 3020, a spending bill appropriating the state's use of federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars.

In Maine and nationwide, high broadband cost is part of the digital divide

Editorial  |  Portland Press Herald

The Biden administration rolled out the Affordable Connectivity Program to help low-income people pay for service. The federal government should not stop with this subsidy program when it addresses the affordability component of the digital divide. Internet service providers (ISPs) will get a lot of new customers as the government pays to extend service to areas that have not been worth serving when the companies were stringing the wires, and it would be a shame if the businesses were allowed to use their near-monopolies to drive up prices for everyone else. Cable TV companies are famous for using predatory pricing tactics to drive out competitors, even when the competition comes from municipal broadband agencies. The cable companies famously offer low introductory offers that shoot up after a few months, and the real cost of service is obscured by hidden fees that aren’t disclosed until after the service is hooked up. These practices are barely tolerable for an entertainment product like cable TV, but they cannot be accepted for a necessary service, especially since the infrastructure is so heavily subsidized by the public. Competition between ISPs would be one way to control costs, but it is not always possible to create competitive markets in remote areas. Public and municipal systems will be needed to keep the commercial providers honest.

Maine communities lacking broadband look for boost amid record funding

Dan Lampariello  |  WGME

A connection to high-speed and reliable internet is a necessity in most homes, but tens of thousands of Mainers are still lagging behind. According to state data, nearly 80,000 households in Maine don't meet the minimum standard for high-speed internet. The State of Maine is expected to distribute a record amount of funding in 2022 to help connect the tens of thousands of residents who are considered unserved by high-speed internet. "That number is getting chipped away at as we speak," said Andrew Butcher, President of the Maine Connectivity Authority. "In 2022, we're seeing about $44 million worth of investment deployed and providing service to more than 21,000 households." The Maine Connectivity Authority is a quasi-government agency tasked with planning, developing, investing and managing broadband infrastructure in the state. They also play a critical role in hitting a goal set by Governor Janet Mills (D-ME); connecting every Mainer who wants broadband with broadband in less than 2 years. Recently the Governor's Office announced the approval of the 2nd round of broadband infrastructure projects funded by a voter-approved bond. The nearly $24 million in projects will help connect around 6,000 Maine homes and businesses with high-speed internet. It's expected that even more projects will get the kickstart they need when the state begins receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding that's been earmarked for broadband expansion.

Local Areas Band Together for Rural Broadband in Nebraska

Andrew Kiser  |  Columbus Telegram

Loup Power District is developing a funding resolution that can lead to the construction of a 300-mile backbone network to help area farmers receive high-speed broadband. The effort will affect residents in four rural counties: Boone, Colfax, Nance and Platte (NE). The power company is developing a funding resolution that would be executed by each public entity involved in a potential backbone network in the four-county area. A separate funding resolution would be executed by each county, Loup and any other public entity that could be interested in partnering for the backbone broadband network. Loup Power District — along with Nebraska Public Power District and Boone, Colfax, Nance and Platte counties — had previously entered a memorandum of understanding (MOU) regarding rural broadband issues in the area. Meanwhile, the MOU is how the permit public entities can work together to pursue funding opportunities to bring high-speed broadband service to rural locations of the Loup's service area. The MOU also allows discussions with private entities that could be willing to become providers of broadband services in Loup's service area rural sections.

How small Kansas companies bring fast internet to rural places that telecom giants ignore

David Condos  |  KCUR

Installing fiber-optic internet in sparsely populated places like western Kansas is extremely expensive, even with government subsidies. But some smaller, local broadband providers are finding ways to make it work where the big national companies have not. Federal and state governments have poured billions into trying to bring more bandwidth to the remote corners of the country. But for many people in rural places, it hasn’t made any difference. An estimated 42 million Americans still don’t have high-speed internet, or what most people today simply think of as internet. With fiber-optic cable installation costing tens of thousands of dollars per mile, it’s unlikely that big national providers will ever find a way to make money — or even avoid losses — by hooking up people in rural areas like parts of Kansas. But a growing number of small towns, farms and ranches are finally joining the Digital Age with help from small, local companies that have more of a stake in the rural areas they call home. They’ve found ways to stretch state and federal subsidies to strategically install high-capacity wires to homes, or construct over-the-air relays, to bring more robust speeds to remote outposts, town-by-town, farmstead-by-farmstead. Now, with $42 billion in new federal broadband funding about to go to state governments, those local companies say how much money they get could decide how many more rural Americans get connected.

El Paso, Texas, approves $154 million from federal COVID-19 funds to city programs

Anthony Jackson  |  El Paso Times

The city of El Paso (TX) is shifting its focus from providing COVID-19 relief to recovery as the county experiences low weekly coronavirus cases. More than $154 million were allocated from the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds in accordance with the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) requirements to various departments and programs across the city. Of this funding, El Paso is devoting $10 million to last-mile broadband infrastructure to expand the city's backbone to areas 54 percent below the poverty line. “The allocation of the ARPA funding will allow our community to continue fighting the pandemic, while also providing key resources to support our families; maintaining vital public services such as the crisis intervention support and broadband expansion; and investing in the City’s economic growth through small and local businesses,” El Paso City Manager Tommy Gonzalez said. Since April 2020, the city has received almost $400 million in federal funds, from 11 different agencies.


Broadband Market Share Battles Heat Up as Money Flows In

Carl Weinschenk  |  telecompetitor

Market share, not households new to broadband, is the focus of “intense competition” between four types of service providers, according to Kagan, the media research unit of S&P Global Market Intelligence. Here is how Kagan positions the four types of providers:

  • Cable: HFC networks continue to dominate residential broadband and have aggressive buildout plans. Kagan estimates the segment is positioned to limit market share loss amid intensifying competition and control with 61.9 percent share through 2026.
  • Telecom: The impact of fiber upgrades is limited by legacy copper. Kagan predicts the segment can reverse declines but its market share will slip below 25 percent by 2026.
  • Wireless: Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile are ramping up fixed wireless access (FWA) networks and targeting both rural and non-rural areas. Kagan expects wireless-only homes will grow from 8 to 12.6 percent of broadband subscribers by 2026.
  • Satellite: The next generation of satellite broadband offers optimism, but the unfavorable cost and speed comparisons limit growth expectations. It’s a niche service for the residential sector. Kagan expects it to hold 1 percent share through 2026.


WebTV founder's decade-long quest to improve wireless

Ina Fried  |  Axios

For nearly a decade, veteran technologist Steve Perlman has been trying to sell the world on pCell, a complicated but potentially far speedier way to make use of crowded wireless airwaves. Now, for the first time, Perlman's Artemis has a commercial customer for the technology, with San Jose (CA)'s SAP Center, home to the San Jose Sharks arena, installing a private pCell network. Artemis says its networks can deliver 10 times as much data compared to traditional cellular networks. Perlman — a co-founder of WebTV who also did stints at Apple and Microsoft — has won praise for the novel approach, but has struggled to make inroads into the cellular industry. In 2015, Nokia agreed to test the technology but never made it commercially available. With a new wave of technology around 5G and the prospect of more corporate campuses and venues building private wireless networks, Perlman sees a renewed opportunity for the technology, which he has been self-funding through his Rearden incubator. Essentially, rather than trying to fight wireless interference, pCell actually relies on the competing signals to help deliver packets of information faster and more efficiently. In its latest iteration, Artemis is using an unlicensed band of spectrum, known as CBRS, as home for its wireless networks.

T‑Mobile Launches "Rage Against Big Internet" Tour

Press Release  |  T-Mobile

T-Mobile unveils its Rage Against Big Internet Tour, a series of pop-ups happening nationwide that "provide an outlet for frustrated Big Internet customers to let out their angst." The first experience as part of Rage Against Big Internet is Whack-an-Internet Provider, which made its debut recently in Santa Monica (CA). “The Un-carrier has always stood for one simple thing: obsessing about the experience that our customers get and bending industry rules in their favor," said Mike Katz, CMO at T-Mobile. Big Internet – Comcast, Charter, Cox, Verizon Fios, AT&T – has been one of the most hated industries in America for decades. T-Mobile recently unveiled Internet Freedom, making it easy for broadband customers to break up with Big Internet. In addition, the company launched T-Mobile Business Internet nationwide with new plans, expanding service to any business within T-Mobile’s wireless footprint. Broadband customers can all now take advantage of Internet Freedom.

Government & Communications

Battle lines for the future of the internet

Cameron Kerry  |  Op-Ed  |  Brookings

When the late Grateful Dead lyricist John Perry Barlow penned his “Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace” in 1996, proclaiming “our virtual selves immune to your sovereignty,” he railed against “the great invertebrate in the White House” and the “Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel.” So what would Barlow have thought when, on April 28, 2022, 60 governments, mostly from the industrial world, met (in person or in their virtual selves) at the White House to sign a “ Declaration on the Future of the Internet,” initiated by the United States along with Australia, Canada, the European Union, and the United Kingdom? Despite the irony, this international declaration articulated an optimistic and participatory vision under the heading “reclaiming the promise of the Internet.” It celebrated the Internet as “a single interconnected communications system for all of humanity” with benefits for innovation and entrepreneurship, for creators, and for every person. It reaffirmed long-standing principles, referring several times to an Internet that is “open, free, global, interoperable, reliable, and secure” and to the importance of multistakeholder governance of the Internet rather than government fiat. Sovereignty may endure, but with a flavor of Barlow. Rather than simply a restatement of these policy principles, though, the Declaration of the Future of the Internet frames a global divide that presents “serious challenges” to this hopeful vision. In particular, it calls out “efforts to splinter the global Internet” and “some authoritarian governments,” as well as use of platforms and technology for repression, surveillance, and disinformation. It also adds to this list concentrations of market power, the “quantity and security of personal data collected,” and the role of platforms in spreading disinformation and other harmful content.

[Cameron Kerry is an Ann and Andrew Tisch Distinguished Visiting Fellow of Governance Studies at the Brookings Center for Technology Innovation.]


Chinese Telecom Equipment Remains in US Long After Orders to Rip It Out

Sheridan Prasso  |  Bloomberg

It’s been three years since US officials sounded the alarm: Citing national security threats, the White House, Congress and federal agencies began ordering that certain Chinese-made equipment had to be ripped out from telecommunications and security networks. But delays, deferrals and a serious funding shortfall have left that threat largely unaddressed, and Chinese technology remains in place throughout the US — including in some surprising places. More than 100 telecom providers are still connecting mobile phone calls for hundreds of thousands of customers with gear from Huawei and ZTE. Chinese-made equipment is also still serving Department of Defense facilities, the corporate jets of some of the largest US companies and the biggest commercial airlines. Meanwhile, the mandate to rid US telecom networks of billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese tech is also posing a public safety risk. Carriers say that without adequate funding for a federal aid program known as Rip and Replace, they’ll have to cut service to swaths of rural America, reducing the reach of 911 services along busy highways — or halt it altogether. While there’s no penalty for failing to meet the mandate, there is a pressing deadline: Because the Chinese manufacturers are ending their US-based service programs, networks that rely on their equipment are one lightning strike away from a crisis.

Industry News

NCTC Launches Connectivity Exchange

The National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC), representing more than 700 independent broadband and pay-TV providers serving all 50 states and the US territories, announced the launch of Connectivity Exchange, a new program that allows its member operators to compete for and win bids to provide broadband network services to national brands or large-scale RFPs through a members-only, industry-first, fully automated platform from quote to order with unified billing and support. By joining Connectivity Exchange, NCTC’s member operators can unlock new revenue opportunities by extending broadband network sales efforts to customers and markets they may not have been able to reach previously. NCTC’s members cover many of the areas of the country that are hard to reach today and with the Connectivity Exchange, buyers will more easily be able to access these locations. Connectivity Exchange is being launched through a partnership with Connectbase, formerly known as Connected2Fiber, and Neustar services, providing best-in-class pricing and services to participating member companies. NCTC’s members have already registered over six million locations with Connectbase, creating an aggregate network that is automatically surfaced to prospective wholesale network buyers using the Connectbase platform. Their world class technology platform enables NCTC members to streamline their wholesale buying and purchasing.


Alvaro Bedoya is confirmed to the Federal Trade Commission

Cat Zakrzewski, Felicia Sonmez  |  Washington Post

The Senate on May 11 voted to confirm law professor Alvaro Bedoya to serve on the Federal Trade Commission, solidifying a Democratic majority at the agency that will enable FTC Chair Lina Khan to move on her ambitious agenda to rein in Big Tech’s power. Fifty senators voted in favor while 50 voted against. Vice President Harris cast the tiebreaking vote in her role as president of the Senate. Bedoya’s confirmation breaks a months-long deadlock at the FTC, the federal watchdog tasked with overseeing competition and consumer protection in key industries, including Silicon Valley. While the agency was split along party lines, Khan had to negotiate compromises with Republican commissioners who disagreed with some of her signature policy positions. Now that Khan again has a majority, she is widely expected to pursue more aggressive cases against tech giants and new regulations governing privacy and competition in the digital economy. Bedoya takes a seat formerly held by Rohit Chopra, who left the agency in September 2021 when he was confirmed to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Bedoya’s background positions him to be a strong ally of Khan, especially in enacting more stringent data privacy protections. He is the founder of Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy and Technology, and he has led research into how the government’s use of facial recognition and other surveillance tools threatens civil rights.

Stories From Abroad

US government and Jamaica partner for high-speed internet deployment

  |  Loop News

Experts from the US Department of Commerce's Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP) partnered with the Spectrum Management Authority and other technology agencies within the Government of Jamaica to expand and expedite broadband internet service to underserved communities in the country. During a workshop in Kingston, Jamaica, CLDP brought together representatives of the Jamaican Spectrum Management Authority, the Office of Utilities Regulation, and other governmental agencies to hear from the Federal Communications Commission, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Microsoft's Airband Initiative, and the Wireless Internet Service Provider Association. Day one of the conference focused on rural connectivity through private sector solutions while the second day will cover governmental programs such as the FCC's Universal Service Fund. The keystone of the event was the signing of a memorandum of understanding creating a framework for future collaboration between the two governments ad the strong interest to continue working closely together on common information and communications technology objectives.

Google and Meta’s subsea cables mark a tectonic shift in how the internet works and who controls it.

Andrew Blum, Carey Baraka  |  Rest of World

For more than a decade, US tech giants have had designs on building Africa’s internet. Alphabet is now at work on Project Taara, a “moonshot” project to connect rural Africa and other locations to the internet, using balloons floating in the stratosphere. Project Taara aims to repurpose Alphabet's previous Loon project's balloons’ airborne lasers. Meta — previously Facebook — has also floated airborne internet delivery systems, including using a satellite that would beam data to Africa from space (which was abandoned when the rocket carrying it was engulfed in flames on the launchpad) and its Aquila solar-powered drones (which were grounded after disappointing performances, including a crash landing). Elon Musk’s SpaceX seems to have had better luck, having now launched over 1,700 small satellites as part of its Starlink constellation, although it won’t begin providing internet service in Africa to consumers until later in 2023. But beneath these shiny objects in the sky — laid, in fact, on the ocean floor — are a series of more traditional and likely much more transformative efforts to bridge the connected and the unconnected. After years of anticipation, massive undersea fiber-optic cables, stretching thousands of miles, have begun arriving on African and European shores.

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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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Kevin Taglang

Kevin Taglang
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Benton Institute
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