Daily Digest 5/19/2022 (Digital Discrimination)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Broadband Funding

34 States and Territories Sign On to Internet for All Initiative  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  National Telecommunications and Information Administration
A New Definition of Broadband Technology  |  Read below  |  Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting
FCC Seeks Comment on NTCA Petition for Waiver of ACP Rules  |  Read below  |  Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission

Digital Discrimination

Advocacy Organizations Submit Joint Comments to FCC on Digital Discrimination  |  Read below  |  Ernesto Falcon, Paul Goodman, Chao Jun Liu  |  Analysis  |  Common Sense Media
NDIA Submits Comments to FCC on ‘Digital Discrimination’ Definition and Rules  |  Read below  |  Angela Siefer  |  Analysis  |  National Digital Inclusion Alliance
Public Knowledge Submits Comments to FCC on Digital discrimination Notice of Inquiry  |  Read below  |  Jenna Leventoff, Harold Feld, John Bergmayer, Greg Guice, Nick Garcia  |  Analysis  |  Public Knowledge


EdTech Advocacy Day: Modernizing E-Rate is a Policy Priority  |  Read below  |  Brandon Paykamian  |  Government Technology


Kandiyohi County, Minnesota, and Charter Communications partner on $800,000 broadband project  |  West Central Tribune
Mercer County, West Virginia, Seeks to Expand Internet Access  |  Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Cass County, Indiana, Utility Works to Install Fiber Ring  |  Pharos-Tribune


Wireless Phone Service and Cell Phone Study 2021-2022  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  American Customer Satisfaction Index
Thomas Hazlett | The US May Repeat Mexico’s Wireless Spectrum Mistake  |  Wall Street Journal 


FCC Announces Agenda for 988 Geolocation Forum  |  Federal Communications Commission
HHS Announces $2 Million Funding Opportunity to Establish National Center of Excellence on Social Media and Mental Wellness  |  Department of Health and Human Services

Platforms/Social Media

New York Attorney General James Launches Investigations Into Social Media Companies for Role in Buffalo Attack  |  New York State Office of the Attorney General
Texas and 12 states fire back at tech industry in Supreme Court filings  |  Washington Post
Texas social media law will cause “chaos” online, groups tell Supreme Court  |  Ars Technica
Elon Musk’s Pursuit of Twitter Leads to Complicated Next Steps and Legal Questions  |  Wall Street Journal


Department of Homeland Security "pauses" Disinformation Governance Board after its head was the victim of online attacks  |  Washington Post
Half of Voters Support Homeland Security Department’s Proposed Disinformation Governance Board  |  Morning Consult


FTC Chair Lina Khan Testifies Before the House House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government  |  Federal Trade Commission

Company/Industry News

Altice USA hikes internet prices by $10 for new customers  |  Read below  |  Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce
About 1,065,000 Added Broadband in First Quarter 2022  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Leichtman Research Group
Charter still seeing fewer broadband sales opportunities  |  Fierce
Optimum to Roll Out Multi-Gigabit Fiber Broadband in the New York Tri-State Area  |  Altice USA

Stories From Abroad

China’s Internet Censors Try a New Trick: Revealing Users’ Locations  |  New York Times
Today's Top Stories

Broadband Funding

34 States and Territories Sign On to Internet for All Initiative

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced that 34 states and territories have “Signed On” to participate in the Biden-Harris Administration’s Internet for All initiative, which will invest $45 billion to provide affordable, reliable high-speed internet for everyone in America by the end of the decade. Since NTIA announced the initiative, the following states and territories have sent in their letter of intent or indicated they will participate: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, American Samoa, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Tennessee, United States Virgin Islands, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin. To participate in the $42.45 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, states and other eligible entities must submit a letter of intent and a planning funds budget, which will unlock up to $5 million in planning funds and allow states to begin creating their five-year action plan. Each state will have direct support from dedicated NTIA staff through every step of the process. Each participating state is guaranteed a minimum $100 million allocation, with additional funding determinations made based on the forthcoming coverage maps from the Federal Communications Commission.

A New Definition of Broadband Technology

Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting

The Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the $42.2 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) grants establishes new rules for the grants that might have a wider implication for broadband elsewhere. One of the most interesting aspects of the NOFO was the definition of a new term – Reliable Broadband Service. The NOFO defines Reliable Broadband Service to means a broadband service that is shown to be providing broadband in the FCC maps using (i) fiber-optic technology; (ii) Cable Modem/ Hybrid fiber-coaxial technology; (iii) digital subscriber line (DSL) technology; or (iv) terrestrial fixed wireless technology utilizing entirely licensed spectrum or using a hybrid of licensed and unlicensed spectrum. The key purpose of this new term is to define the technologies that can’t be overbuilt if the speeds on those technologies meet the BEAD speed requirements. The more interesting aspect of this definition is that the BEAD grants can be used to overbuild any other technology such as satellite broadband or fixed wireless networks using unlicensed spectrum. It doesn’t matter what the speeds are for these networks since NTIA has declared these technologies to be unreliable.

[Doug Dawson is president of CCG Consulting.]

FCC Seeks Comment on NTCA Petition for Waiver of ACP Rules

Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission's Wireline Competition Bureau seeks comment on a petition filed by NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association. NTCA seeks a waiver of the FCC’s rules for small broadband internet access service providers that apply a $75 per month Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) benefit to the bills of qualifying Tribal consumers resulting in a free-to-the-end-user service. NTCA requests modification of the requirement to track usage every rolling 30-days for subscribers who receive free-to-the-end-user service, or in the alternative an effective date of September 15, 2022. Interested parties may file comments on or before May 26, 2022. Comments may be filed using the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System.

Digital Discrimination

Advocacy Organizations Submit Joint Comments to FCC on Digital Discrimination

Ernesto Falcon, Paul Goodman, Chao Jun Liu  |  Analysis  |  Common Sense Media

A group of organizations referred to as the Joint Advocates [including the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society] submitted comments to the Federal Communications Commission regarding the implementation of the anti-digital discrimination section in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. In their comments, the Joint Advocates requested that the FCC conduct a study to assess preferential treatment for high-income broadband users over the needs of low-income users. The group makes the following arguments in its filing:

  • The FCC should analyze digital discrimination based on the infrastructure deployed as well as the type services being offered
  • Historical context of past discrimination is necessary to understand the importance of an anti-discrimination rule for broadband infrastructure
  • The economic outcomes of current discrimination are significant and addressing discriminatory infrastructure deployment will improve the US economy
  • Projected broadband demand growth must be part of the discrimination analysis to avoid justifying ‘separate but equal’ infrastructure
  • The nature of internet service provider digital discrimination takes many forms
  • A new FCC study conducted this year will build on existing evidence of digital discrimination

NDIA Submits Comments to FCC on ‘Digital Discrimination’ Definition and Rules

Angela Siefer  |  Analysis  |  National Digital Inclusion Alliance

The National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) submitted comments to the Federal Communications Commission regarding the implementation of the digital discrimination section in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. NDIA submitted comments urging the FCC to:

  • Recognize that digital discrimination can occur regardless of whether discriminatory intent is involved. Digital discrimination is not a problem of intent. It is a problem of drastically unequal digital opportunities and outcomes.
  • Understand that digital discrimination involves more than just discriminatory broadband deployment but also discrimination in broadband adoption, broadband affordability, and the actual use of broadband.
  • Elevate the transparency of existing data and collect additional data that can be used to identify and measure digital discrimination.
  • Establish a dedicated and transparent complaint process through which the public can lodge complaints related to digital discrimination and unequal access to broadband— where the responses from internet service providers are made publicly available.

Public Knowledge Submits Comments to FCC on Digital Discrimination Notice of Inquiry

Jenna Leventoff, Harold Feld, John Bergmayer, Greg Guice, Nick Garcia  |  Analysis  |  Public Knowledge

Public Knowledge submitted comments to the Federal Communications Commission on May 16, in response to the FCC's Notice of Inquiry regarding digital discrimination rules in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. "Digital discrimination is not just unjust towards individuals, but can hold back entire communities and prevent the nation from living up to its potential," states Public Knowledge in its filing. "Thankfully, the Commission now has not merely the legal authority, but an affirmative obligation, to end digital discrimination. In order to do so successfully, it must compare all facets of broadband service between low-income and marginalized communities with service in wealthier or whiter communities– including the quality of service, price, and other terms and conditions. It then must adopt broad and flexible rules and definitions that target discrimination of all types. When the Commission is evaluating if digital discrimination has occurred, it should look for “discriminatory impact” and not just “discriminatory intent.” It should also recognize that Congress’ instruction to “consider issues of technological and economic feasibility” requires providers to offer comparable service, and is not a safe harbor from which to perpetuate digital discrimination. Finally, Congress’s command that the Commission take proactive steps to identify the causes of digital discrimination and affirmatively eliminate them requires the Commission to take proactive action to set policies that will end digital discrimination and promote equal access."


EdTech Advocacy Day: Modernizing E-Rate is a Policy Priority

Brandon Paykamian  |  Government Technology

When ed-tech leaders from 21 states met with lawmakers to discuss 2022 policy priorities at EdTech Advocacy Day in Washington (DC), they coalesced around the idea of modernizing federal E-rate funding for new expenses. The May 12 event brought together officials from the US Department of Education, Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington and FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks. Participants also spoke about a range of policies to bolster ed-tech funding in schools and universities, protect student data privacy, expand student connectivity and close the “homework gap,” among other digital learning topics. The event was led by ed-tech advocacy groups such as the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) and the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA), with the goal of identifying policies that would provide much-needed support for digital equity efforts and student access to digital learning. CoSN CEO Keith Krueger said the event touched on the importance of utilizing federal E-rate funding from the FCC for ed-tech needs and expanding student connectivity moving forward. Among the most notable topics was a proposal to use the funding for Wi-Fi on school buses.


Wireless Phone Service and Cell Phone Study 2021-2022

Customer satisfaction with wireless service overall retreats 1.4 percent to a score of 73 (out of 100), according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) Wireless Phone Service and Cell Phone Study 2021-2022. Mobile network operators (MNOs) and full-service mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) are steady at 73 apiece. Satisfaction with value MVNOs also is unchanged yet still outperforms the other wireless categories. After a slight dip last year, customer satisfaction with cell phones is stable. T-Mobile moves back into first place in the MNO category. Last year’s leaders, AT&T and Verizon, tie for second. US Cellular finishes last despiteseeing improvements in customer satisfaction. Although Verizon slips, it remains first place among MNOs in network quality. AT&T is second, followed by T-Mobile and then US Cellular. According to ACSI data, customers who spend $26 to $50 per month are the most satisfied with their wireless companies. These customers are tied for the most loyal with customers who spend more than $500 per month. The most dissatisfied customers spend between $201 and $500 per month, while the least loyal customers spend $151 to $200 per month.

Company/Industry News

Altice USA hikes internet prices by $10 for new customers

Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce

Altice USA followed rival AT&T in hiking service costs for consumers, raising internet pricing by $10 per month for new customers and also bumping up promotional rates for TV and phone service. An Altice representative stated the change applies to promotional rates for new customers rather than the monthly cost for existing customers, and said rates will vary by market. Though CEO Dexter Goei did not disclose the amount of the increase, an Altice representative said change will bump promotional rates for both cable and fiber internet service by $10 per month, $15 for TV service and $5 for phone service. “Across all of our footprint that’s what we viewed as non-competitive, we’ve been raising prices and even in all the Fios zones we’ve raised prices,” the CEO stated. “For the areas that we view as new competition – so that would be Connecticut with Frontier or certain markets in the Suddenlink market – we have not raised prices because we’re going to be thoughtful about competing against the fiber overbuilders there.” He added price increases aren’t something Altice does every year, and when it does it takes into account different cohorts within its subscriber base. “We’re very, very focused on keeping our subscribers that are tenured at three-plus years happier,” he said.

About 1,065,000 Added Broadband in First Quarter 2022

Press Release  |  Leichtman Research Group

Leichtman Research Group found that the largest cable and wireline phone providers and fixed wireless services in the US – representing about 96 percent of the market – acquired about 1,065,000 net additional broadband Internet subscribers in first quarter 2022, compared to a pro forma gain of about 1,120,000 subscribers in first quarter 2021. These top broadband providers account for about 109.3 million subscribers, with top cable companies having about 75.6 million broadband subscribers, top wireline phone companies having about 32.3 million subscribers, and top fixed wireless services having about 1.4 million subscribers. Overall, broadband additions in first quarter 2022 were 95 percent of those in first quarter 2021. The top cable companies added about 480,000 subscribers in first quarter 2022 – 52 percent of the net additions for the top cable companies in first quarter 2021. The top wireline phone companies added about 50,000 total broadband subscribers in first quarter 2022 – compared to about 80,000 net adds in first quarter 2021. Wireline telecom companies had about 480,000 net adds via fiber in first quarter 2022, and about 430,000 non-fiber net losses. Fixed wireless/5G home Internet services from T-Mobile and Verizon added about 530,000 subscribers in first quarter 2022 – compared to 110,000 net adds in 2021.

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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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