Daily Digest 5/2/2022 (Diana Ellen Judd)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Digital Equity

Benton Foundation
E Pluribus Unum and Universal Broadband  |  Read below  |  Adrianne Furniss  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Using Data to Advance Digital Skills: A State Playbook  |  Read below  |  Research  |  National Governors Association
Deputy Secretary Graves and Gov Pierluisi Highlight Digital Equity Programs in Puerto Rico  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Department of Commerce
Centri Tech Foundation awards more than $195,000 in innovation grants to digital equity organizations across five US cities  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Centri Tech Foundation
How Can the United States Address Broadband Affordability?  |  Read below  |  Anna Read  |  Analysis  |  Pew Charitable Trusts
Incorporating Equity Concerns in Regulation  |  Read below  |  Caroline Cecot, Robert Hahn  |  Research  |  Technology Policy Institute

State/Local Initiatives

Digital equity workers in Pennsylvania, this is your moment  |  Read below  |  Sophie Burkholder  |  Technically
How Rappahannock's universal broadband plan – powered by federal subsidies – became irresistible  |  Read below  |  Tim Carrington  |  Rappahannock Times

Broadband Funding

NTIA Awards Infrastructure Grant to Bring Critical Internet Connections to Alaska Native Community  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  National Telecommunications and Information Administration
Sen Wicker's Remarks at Department of Commerce Budget Priorities Hearing  |  Read below  |  Sen Roger Wicker (R-MS)  |  Speech  |  US Senate
Treasury Department Expects Majority of Capital Projects Funds Will Be Spent on Fiber  |  Read below  |  TJ York  |  Broadband Breakfast

Platforms/Social Media

Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene Introduces 21st Century FREE Speech Act  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  House of Representatives
How a billionaires boys’ club came to dominate the public square  |  Washington Post
Poll: Americans support removing troubling tweets  |  Axios
Elon Musk’s Early Twitter Purchase is Under FTC Scrutiny  |  Read below  |  Josh Sisco, Jessica Toonkel  |  Information, The
How Twitter’s Board Went From Fighting Elon Musk to Accepting Him  |  New York Times
The Shadow Crew Who Encouraged Elon Musk’s Twitter Takeover  |  Wall Street Journal
How Elon Musk might shift Twitter content moderation  |  Brookings

Privacy

FBI Conducted Potentially Millions of Searches of Americans’ Data Last Year  |  Read below  |  Dustin Volz  |  Wall Street Journal
Applied for Student Aid Online? Facebook Saw You  |  Markup, The
Cloud data is why the Warriors know so much about their fans  |  Axios

Labor

Wireless retail workers see rising pay, show interest in unions  |  Fierce

Kids & Media

How parents’ views of their kids’ screen time, social media use changed during COVID-19  |  Pew Research Center

Satellites

Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos Face Off in a Satellite Space Race  |  Wall Street Journal

Company News

Charter's First-Quarter 2022 Report shows a 185,000 increase in broadband subscribers  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Charter Communications
Charter CEO says Comcast video joint venture will be a boon for broadband  |  Fierce
Charter taps its Wi-Fi to provide speed boost for its mobile customers  |  Fierce
Altice USA sees decrease in broadband subscribers in its first-quarter 2022 results  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Altice USA
C Spire's $500 million fiber buildout thrives on grassroots efforts  |  Read below  |  Masha Abarinova  |  Fierce

Policymakers

Benton Foundation
Benton Institute for Broadband & Society Welcomes New Director of Research and Fellowships  |  Read below  |  Adrianne Furniss  |  Press Release  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Law360's 2022 Telecommunications Editorial Advisory Board  |  Read below  |  Law360
The Attacks on the Proposed FCC Commissioner, Gigi Sohn, Are Also Attacks on Our Democracy  |  Bruce Kushnick

Stories From Abroad

Apple Abused Dominance in Mobile-Wallets Markets, According to Preliminary EU View  |  Wall Street Journal
Impact of high-speed broadband access on local establishment dynamics  |  Read below  |  Martin Falk, Eva Hagsten  |  Research  |  Telecommunications Policy
“Broadband for All” Project Recruiting a Postdoctoral Researcher  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  University of Pennsylvania
Rural broadband: Gaps, maps and challenges  |  Read below  |  Helen Hambly, RezaRajabiun  |  Research  |  Telematics and Informatics

War & Communications

Hacking Russia was off-limits. The Ukraine war made it a free-for-all.  |  Washington Post
Today's Top Stories

Digital Equity

E Pluribus Unum and Universal Broadband

On April 6, House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-SC) joined a packed house at the First Congregational United Church of Christ in downtown Washington, DC to help the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society celebrate its 40th anniversary. Congressman Clyburn (D-SC) is the third-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, and also serves, importantly, as chair of the House Rural Broadband Task Force. Not only was his presidential endorsement credited with nearly single-handedly changing the trajectory of the presidential race in 2020, but his development of the Accessible Affordable Internet for All Act changed the trajectory of the infrastructure bill itself. His legislation incorporated a bold broadband vision and laid out a critical set of challenges, principles, and goals. Things that every state, local policymaker, every community leader, and every broadband provider could embrace and evangelize. And he helped build the critical momentum necessary to ensure broadband became a foundational pillar of the historic Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Representative Clyburn was joined by Maura Corbett, CEO and Founder of the Glen Echo Group, for a conversation on a range of issues. Corbett asked Congressman Clyburn about the divisions in our country and he immediately thought of the U.S Postal Service. He noted how it is in the U.S. Constitution of the United States to provide a service to connect communities. “That's what it's all about,” said Representative Clyburn. “Bring all the communities together—rural, and urban, and everything—so that we can fulfill our nation's motto: e pluribus unum. Out of many one.”

Using Data to Advance Digital Skills: A State Playbook

Digital skills – the skills associated with technology that enable users to find, evaluate, organize, create, and communicate information – are ubiquitous throughout the workforce. Today’s changing labor market indicates that there is a critical need for action to ensure all workers gain the skills needed to meaningfully participate in work and life. The Digital Equity Act (DEA), a provision within the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, includes a historic federal investment to promote digital equity, literacy, and inclusion. In particular, the State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program will award nearly $1.5 billion in federal funds to states to support the development and implementation of Digital Equity Plans to promote digital equity and digital skill development. Governors have authority to select the entity that administers these plans and may select one of many eligible entities to implement the host of new grant programs that, together, can help states close the digital divide through promoting access, affordability, and adoption of digital technologies. To assist states in closing digital skill gaps and preparing for digital equity planning, this brief offers key questions and resources for state leaders to consider.

Deputy Secretary Graves and Gov Pierluisi Highlight Digital Equity Programs in Puerto Rico

Press Release  |  Department of Commerce

Deputy Secretary Graves met with the Governor of Puerto Rico Pedro Pierluisi, in addition to a wide range of local leaders and stakeholders, to discuss how the federal government and Puerto Rico can work together to advance a shared economic development agenda in partnership with the people of Puerto Rico. Together, they met with public and private groups to discuss challenges and recommendations for economic growth on the island. This included a Build Back Better Regional Challenge (BBBRC) Coalition Conversation consisting of a tour and roundtable with the Puerto Rico Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC) — a BBBRC Finalist. The Commerce Department will ultimately award 20-30 regional coalitions between $25 and $100 million to implement 3-8 projects that support an industry sector. In addition to these key engagements, the Deputy Secretary also convened with public and private sector officials at the Center for a New Economy (CNE) think tank. Representatives from Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association, the Chamber of Commerce and NGO leaders in education, energy, housing, and telecommunications explained their goals for digital equity and economic development on the island as a part of this meeting.

Centri Tech Foundation awards more than $195,000 in innovation grants to digital equity organizations across five US cities

Press Release  |  Centri Tech Foundation

Centri Tech Foundation (CTF) announced that community development nonprofit organizations in five US cities were awarded more than $195,000 to foster programmatic innovations that promote a more equitable digital economy. Together, the grantees have demonstrated success in closing the digital divide in Boston, Detroit, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington (DC). CTF's inaugural 2022 Digital Integrators Pilot Program aims to demonstrate how community-based digital equity organizations can continuously improve and modernize workforce development programs to address digital inequities, particularly within public housing and low-income communities, communities of color, and intergenerational households.

How Can the United States Address Broadband Affordability?

Anna Read  |  Analysis  |  Pew Charitable Trusts

The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need for high-speed internet access in Americans’ homes and elevated debate about the cost and affordability of connections and devices. Congress responded with emergency measures designed to keep households online. Lawmakers enacted two laws: the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), both of which included provisions for improving affordability and transparency in the broadband marketplace. These policies are informed by research and lessons learned by broadband practitioners over many years on how to address barriers to broadband access and adoption. As the field continues to evolve, policymakers at various levels must remember that broadband affordability can be divided into two separate challenges: high average monthly costs for home broadband connections across the board, and cost as a barrier to adoption for low-income families. These two distinct but interrelated challenges require not only more research, but also different policy solutions.

Addressing affordability for all broadband consumers requires supply-side solutions—steps that reduce the cost of building networks and delivering service to American homes. The field will benefit from research into different models of deployment and ways in which they affect consumer costs. These efforts should include research on the effects of competition on consumer prices in broadband markets. Finally, improving affordability for all consumers requires more transparency to help customers understand the cost of the service they are purchasing. But these will not fully address the challenge of affordability as a barrier to adoption for low-income households. Doing so will require demand-side policy interventions that remove cost as a barrier, such as policies and programs that help cover the cost of both connections and devices, as well as efforts to help connect households with those programs.

[Anna Read is senior officer of the Broadband Access Initiative at Pew Charitable Trusts.]

Incorporating Equity Concerns in Regulation

Caroline Cecot, Robert Hahn  |  Research  |  Technology Policy Institute

US regulatory agencies have been required to consider the equity and distributional impacts of regulations for decades. This paper examines the extent to which such analysis is done and provides recommendations for improving it. The Technology Policy Institute (TPI) analyzed 187 cost-benefit analyses (CBAs) prepared by agencies from October 2003 to January 2021. TPI finds that only two CBAs provided net benefits of a policy for a specific demographic group. Furthermore, only 20 percent of CBAs calculate some benefits by group (typically for demographic groups) and only 19 percent calculate some costs by group (typically for industry groups such as small entities). Overall, the differences between presidential administrations are relatively small compared to the differences between agencies in their performance using TPI's measures of distributional analysis. And virtually no CBAs provide a distributional analysis that could help regulators evaluate whether the regulation, on net, advantages or disadvantages a particular group.

State/Local

Digital equity workers in Pennsylvania, this is your moment

Sophie Burkholder  |  Technically

The University of Pittsburgh hosted the 2022 Pennsylvania Broadband Symposium in April 2022 alongside state and regional partners to discuss challenges and strategize solutions around expanding broadband internet access in the state. The virtual summit convened amid growing national interest in bridging the digital divide, with recent funding allocations from the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the formation of the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority. Sponsored by local organizations such as the Pittsburgh Technology Council, Meta Mesh Wireless Communities and the Metro21: Smart Cities Institute, the symposium brought together key partners to discuss policy solutions, digital ecosystems and access to the resources afforded by those ecosystems. The exact use of the federal money is still in deliberation, and much of the symposium pushed for digital equity workers everywhere to make their concerns heard while state and federal government entities are listening. Every discussion is worth watching on the event’s site if you have the time, but Technically has also rounded up some of the top talking points of the symposium here.

Back to Table of Contents


How Rappahannock's universal broadband plan – powered by federal subsidies – became irresistible

Tim Carrington  |  Rappahannock Times

As Rappahannock County approaches a decision point on participating in an ambitious eight-county high-speed broadband plan, advocates might pause to salute two events that make the milestone project possible: the outbreak of Covid-19 in March 2020 and the resulting passage of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act in March 2021. The virus shone a spotlight on the digital divide that leaves many Americans without fast and reliable internet service. More importantly, it led to the sprawling American Rescue Plan Act, which pumped money into pandemic-stricken communities and localities needing an economic jump-start after months in lockdown. Without Covid, the robust subsidies that make the broadband plan hard to resist would never have materialized. And policymakers and industry experts alike say that without generous subsidies, Rappahannock — with 27 residents per square mile and many hills and hollows — could never attract private internet providers to install the infrastructure necessary for county-wide, high-speed service at affordable rates. The complex broadband venture isn’t a service procurement but a public-private economic development program presented to Rappahannock and seven other counties as a package. Responsibilities and roles involve a mosaic of federal and state agencies, private interests and utilities.

Broadband Funding

NTIA Awards Infrastructure Grant to Bring Critical Internet Connections to Alaska Native Community

The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced it has awarded a $500,000 grant to build out high-speed Internet infrastructure in Healy Lake Village in Fairbanks (AK). The grant, awarded under the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, is part of President Biden's commitment to ensuring everyone in America has access to reliable, affordable, high-speed internet. This grant will connect unserved Alaska Native households with high-speed service, and connect critical facilities in the community, including the Healy Lake Village’s courthouse, library, and health clinic. The Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, which was funded by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, makes $980 million available for grants to eligible Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian entities for broadband deployment, digital inclusion, workforce development, telehealth, and distance learning.

Sen Wicker's Remarks at Department of Commerce Budget Priorities Hearing

Sen Roger Wicker (R-MS)  |  Speech  |  US Senate

Sen Roger Wicker (R-MS) participated in a hearing to consider the Department of Commerce budget for Fiscal Year 2023, which featured testimony from Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. "Last year’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law placed the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration at the center of our efforts to expand broadband access and close the digital divide," said Wicker. "I look forward to hearing an update on NTIA’s preparation to distribute over $40 billion for broadband buildout to the states, as well as any updates on when the FCC’s new broadband maps will be completed. One key aspect of broadband expansion is improved spectrum coordination. Today’s hearing is an opportunity to discuss how NTIA’s recently announced Spectrum Coordination Initiative with the FCC will promote more efficient and effective spectrum management policies for federal and non-federal users."

Treasury Department Expects Majority of Capital Projects Funds Will Be Spent on Fiber

TJ York  |  Broadband Breakfast

The director of the Department of Treasury’s Capital Projects Fund for broadband expansion projects in response to the coronavirus pandemic said that most dispensed funds will ultimately go towards fiber broadband projects. The Capital Projects Fund was established from the reserve of $10 billion dedicated to capital projects enabling work, education and health monitoring when President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was passed in March 2021. Recently, questions have arisen surrounding whether Treasury’s 2026 deadline for ARPA funds to be disbursed provides enough time for all projects to receive their necessary federal funding. Fund director Joseph Wender spoke on how what type of technology he thinks broadband funds from the program will be directed towards. Wender stated that the Treasury is encouraging that fund broadband projects be built with fiber because it is a future-proof technology. “We have put our thumb on the scale for fiber,” said Wender.

Platforms/Social Media

Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene Introduces 21st Century FREE Speech Act

Press Release  |  House of Representatives

Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) introduced the 21st Century FREE Speech Act (H.R.7613) on April 28, 2022. Greene is partnering with Sen Bill Hagerty (R-TN) to pass the bill in both the House and Senate. The 21st Century Free Speech Act centers on the following policy objectives:

  • Providing Reasonable, Non-Discriminatory Access: Because the dominant technology platforms function as common carriers, Americans should have access to them on reasonable, non-discriminatory terms.
  • Ensuring Consumer Transparency: The bill would require Big Tech to disclose its content moderation practices to users, so that American consumers understand and control the information they receive.
  • Creating a Private Right of Action: Consumers can address violations of the previous two provisions via civil action.
  • Abolishing Section 230: The bill would abolish Section 230 in favor of a liability protection framework that marries that Section’s original intent with the ensuing 25 years of enormous technological change. The bill would continue liability protection for third-party speech and urge family-friendly moderation, without providing limitless, special protection for tech platforms’ own speech and viewpoint censorship.

Elon Musk’s Early Twitter Purchase is Under FTC Scrutiny

Josh Sisco, Jessica Toonkel  |  Information, The

Elon Musk’s $44 billion Twitter takeover is unlikely to raise antitrust concerns. But what is already being scrutinized is Musk’s failure to comply with rules regarding disclosure of his initial 9 percent stake, according to people with knowledge of the situation. The Federal Trade Commission recently opened an inquiry into whether Musk failed to comply with an antitrust reporting requirement as he amassed his initial 9.1 percent stake in Twitter between the end of January and the beginning of April 2022. At the heart of the inquiry is whether Musk was initially buying as someone who wanted to influence Twitter management or whether he saw himself as more of a passive shareholder. Notably, Musk’s initial filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission categorized his purchase as a passive stake—which immediately raised questions given his public comments about how Twitter is run.

Privacy

FBI Conducted Potentially Millions of Searches of Americans’ Data Last Year

Dustin Volz  |  Wall Street Journal

The Federal Bureau of Investigation performed potentially millions of searches of American electronic data in 2021 without a warrant, US intelligence officials said April 29, a revelation likely to stoke longstanding concerns in Congress about government surveillance and privacy. An annual report published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence disclosed that the FBI conducted as many as 3.4 million searches of US data that had been previously collected by the National Security Agency. The report doesn’t allege the FBI was routinely searching American data improperly or illegally. The disclosure of the searches marks the first time a US intelligence agency has published an accounting, however imprecise, of the FBI’s grabs of American data through a section of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the 1978 law that governs some foreign intelligence gathering. The section of FISA that authorizes the FBI’s activity, known as Section 702, is due to expire in 2023.

Company News

Charter's First-Quarter 2022 Report shows a 185,000 increase in broadband subscribers

Press Release  |  Charter Communications

Charter Communications reported financial and operating results for first-quarter 2022. First quarter total broadband customers increased by 185,000. As of March 31, 2022, Charter served a total of 30.3 million broadband subscribers. Wireless increased by 373,000. As of March 31, 2022, Charter served a total of 3.9 million mobile lines. First quarter revenue of $13.2 billion grew by 5.4 percent year-over-year, driven by residential revenue growth of 3.7 percent, mobile revenue growth of 40.2 percent and commercial revenue growth of 4.3 percent. First quarter capital expenditures totaled $1.9 billion and included $232 million of rural construction initiative capital expenditures and $74 million of mobile-related capital expenditures.

Altice USA sees decrease in broadband subscribers in its first-quarter 2022 results

Press Release  |  Altice USA

Altice USA reported its first-quarter 2022 results. Total Revenue declined -2.3 percent in first-quarter 2022 to $2.42 billion. Net income attributable to stockholders was $196.6 million in first-quarter 2022 compared to net income of $274.1 million in first-quarter 2021. Residential broadband net losses were -13,000 in first-quarter 2022, compared to +12,000 broadband net additions in first-quarter 2021. Altice USA is executing on an accelerated fiber deployment over the next four years across its Optimum and Suddenlink footprint (under the Optimum Fiber brand), expecting to reach 6.5 million fiber passings by the end of 2025. As of first-quarter 2022 Altice has 1.32 million fiber to the home passings, adding 146,000 new fiber to the home passings in the quarter. The company reported +11,000 fiber to the home customer net additions in first-quarter 2022, reaching 6.1 percent penetration of the fiber to the home network.

C Spire's $500 million fiber buildout thrives on grassroots efforts

Masha Abarinova  |  Fierce

Regional US operator C Spire continues its fiber buildout in the South, having begun work in Hoover and Homewood, Alabama. The operator is investing $500 million of its own funding over a three-year period, its deployment driven by crowdsourcing and grassroots campaigns. Ben Moncrief, C Spire’s EVP for Alabama markets, said the company encourages people to visit its website, where they can input their addresses and let the company know where they want fiber deployed. He added C Spire “absolutely” places emphasis on local community feedback. “We want to build anywhere we’re wanted,” Moncrief said. “We look at those results weekly and generate something of a heat map to see where demand for fiber service is the greatest, and that’s how we prioritize where we’ll build.” Moncrief offered the example of Greenwood (MS) where fiber expansion happened primarily due to local efforts. In 2021, Greenwood’s city leadership approached C Spire about deploying fiber in the area. The city then sought feedback from residents to determine how much fiber interest there was on the local level. “After a six-month grassroots campaign led by local leaders [in Greenwood], it was clear that was the place where we could be successful,” said Moncrief. “And now we’re deploying and connecting customers there.”

Policymakers

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society Welcomes New Director of Research and Fellowships

Adrianne Furniss  |  Press Release  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Executive Director Adrianne B. Furniss announced the appointment of Dr. Revati Prasad as the Benton Institute's new Director of Research and Fellowships. Revati will recruit and manage a diverse cohort of fellows—researchers, advocates, and practitioners—and their projects supported by the newly created Marjorie & Charles Benton Opportunity Fund. In addition, Dr. Prasad will lead Benton's research efforts and help develop resources and strategies any state or community can use to bring broadband to everyone. 2022 will be a historic year for federal investment in digital equity including broadband infrastructure, adoption, and affordability. Dr. Prasad's work will help policymakers, advocates and practitioners better understand how people gain access to and expertise in using the critical communications and information tools of modern society.

Most recently, Dr. Prasad was an American Council for Learned Societies Leading Edge Fellow at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance studying efforts by indigenous communities to improve broadband access for themselves. She holds a Ph.D. in Communication from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and an MPA from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. Her doctoral work examined efforts to “connect the unconnected” in rural India, including telecommunications policy, infrastructure projects, and small networks run by wireless internet service providers (WISPs). Dr. Prasad's research has been published in Media, Culture & SocietyInformation, Culture & SocietyCommunication, Culture and Critique, and Journalism. She has received awards from the Global Communication and Social Change and the Media Industries Divisions of the International Communication Association.  

Law360's 2022 Telecommunications Editorial Advisory Board

  |  Law360

Law360 announced the formation of its 2022 Telecommunications Editorial Advisory Board which will provide feedback on the publication's coverage and expert insight on how best to shape future coverage. Included on the board is Benton Senior Counselor Andrew Jay Schwartzman. 

Stories From Abroad

Impact of high-speed broadband access on local establishment dynamics

Martin Falk, Eva Hagsten  |  Research  |  Telecommunications Policy

The aim of this study is to examine the relationship between high-speed fibre broadband access and establishment dynamics at the municipality level. Special emphasis is placed on micro as well as on small and medium-sized establishments in contracting areas. Data cover information on 290 municipalities in Sweden for the period 2010–2018. Results of Fixed Effects and Spatial Durbin model estimations reveal a significant but rather small direct effect of lagged high-speed broadband access, driven by the micro establishments. However, when the proportion of establishments with high-speed broadband access is combined with the local presence of university educated employees and researchers, a stronger indirect relationship appears. There is also some evidence that the broadband availability in neighbouring municipalities has a spillover effect. A high degree of heterogeneity is found in the results, where the relationship is far weaker in contracting municipalities and in those with a low-skilled workforce.

“Broadband for All” Project Recruiting a Postdoctoral Researcher

Press Release  |  University of Pennsylvania

The Media, Inequality & Change (MIC) Center at the University of Pennsylvania occupies the intersection of technology, policy, and social justice. It is committed to studying the political economy of social problems, media, and democracy, while engaging local activist projects, and drawing connections with national and international social movements. The US continues to suffer under a decades-old digital divide that disproportionately harms marginalized communities, especially communities of color and poor households. What are the structural causes of these digital inequities and what are the systemic solutions? With these questions in mind, this study will build on the MIC Center’s ongoing research analyzing Philadelphia (PA) residents’ access to broadband services during the pandemic that shows a racialized digital divide resulting in part from “digital redlining” based on unaffordable services. Working with researchers and advocacy groups in Philadelphia and beyond, this project will develop a policy advocacy approach to expanding municipal broadband internet access. MIC is seeking a postdoctoral fellowship candidate for this project.

Rural broadband: Gaps, maps and challenges

Helen Hambly, RezaRajabiun  |  Research  |  Telematics and Informatics

This paper examines challenges to evidence-based decision-making in the design and implementation of rural broadband investment programs. Our focus is on Canada, and the apparent need for further intra-rural broadband research and better data and mapping for informing public investment decisions, but similar challenges are evident in the international literature. Based on proprietary telecommunication provider datasets, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunication Commission (CRTC) estimates that broadband services with advertised speeds that meet its basic universal service targets (50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload) are available to 87.4 percent of households in Canada. In rural areas however, services that meet CRTC’s speed targets are available to 45.6 percent of households. Moreover, effective speeds and service quality levels that suppliers deliver and users experience tend to fall well below the government’s aspirational targets. In response to demand for better broadband, a variety of initiatives are directing public investment to the deployment of regional and rural broadband networks, which are typically owned and operated by private companies. There remains a serious lack of relevant data and its effective use in creating rural broadband strategies and managing public investment projects. Evidence from the literature suggest that this affects the degree and quality of geo-spatial and econometric analysis that results in a limited empirical basis to allocate scarce public investments, aggregate demand of consumers/communities, and assess the outcomes of rural broadband initiatives ex post. This paper provides a historical overview of rural broadband development in Canada and questions if the body of knowledge to inform public investment initiatives has grown sufficiently to ensure their effectiveness and sustainability. With a regional case from southwestern Ontario, Canada, we discuss the findings of the literature review, characterize the broadband data challenge, and discuss the importance of proprietary provider data cross-referenced with Internet user experience data.

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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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