Daily Digest 5/22/2023 (James Nathaniel Brown)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Broadband Funding

FCC Directs USAC to Fully Fund Eligible E-Rate Requests  |  Read below  |  Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission
Charter Has Received Funding for 260,000 More Rural Builds Since Big RDOF Win  |  Read below  |  Joan Engebretson  |  telecompetitor

State/Local Initiatives

Alabama Hosts Community Broadband Meetings in All 67 Alabama Counties  |  Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs
Our Uneven Regulatory System  |  Read below  |  Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting


AT&T tries to block Starlink/T-Mobile plan for satellite-to-phone service  |  Ars Technica

Platforms/Social Media

Europe Issues $1.3 billion fine on Meta for data privacy violations  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Data Protection Commission
Supreme Court Won’t Hold Tech Companies Liable for User Posts  |  Read below  |  Adam Liptak  |  New York Times
As Preteens Ignore Social-Media Age Limits, Governments Push for Better Checks  |  Wall Street Journal
Twitter may be getting a new CEO, but Musk hasn’t changed  |  MediaMatters for America


An industry short on enthusiasm: Where are all the fiber technicians?  |  Read below  |  Julia King  |  Fierce


Benton Foundation
What did NTIA's Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth Accomplish in 2022?  |  Read below  |  Grace Tepper  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Today's Top Stories

Broadband Funding

FCC Directs USAC to Fully Fund Eligible E-Rate Requests

Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission announced that there is sufficient funding available to fully meet the Universal Service Administrative Company’s (USAC) estimated demand for category one and category two requests for E-Rate-supported services for the funding year 2023. On March 29, 2023, USAC submitted a demand estimate for the E-Rate program for funding year 2023. USAC estimates the total demand for the funding year 2023 will be $2.944 billion, which includes estimated demand for category one services of $1.658 billion and $1.286 billion for category two services. The FCC announced that the E-Rate program funding cap for the funding year 2023 is $4.768 billion. Additionally, as of March 31, 2023, USAC projects that $440.22 million in unused funds from prior funding years are available for use in the E-Rate funding year 2023.

Charter Has Received Funding for 260,000 More Rural Builds Since Big RDOF Win

Joan Engebretson  |  telecompetitor

Charter has received funding to cover some of the costs of deploying broadband to 260,000 more rural locations from state and “other” sources, said Charter CEO Chris Winfrey. And there likely will be more to come. “Our BEAD chances are very good,” said Winfrey, in a reference to the upcoming $42.5 billion Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program. The company was one the largest winners in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction, which awarded funding for an area to the company that committed to deploying service for the lowest level of government support. Charter is now ahead of schedule on its $5 billion RDOF build, to which the government contributed about $1 billion. Winfrey cautioned, though, that the company might not seek BEAD funding in some states, depending on the rules that those states put in place. The company, he said, wants to make sure that rules work for private capital – an apparent reference to rules that some states have contemplated that would require public ownership of BEAD-funded projects.


Our Uneven Regulatory System

Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting

The Florida Legislature recently passed a bill that brings poles under state jurisdiction for any electric cooperative that elects to enter the broadband business. That would be a change from current regulatory rules that exempt cooperatives and municipally-owned electric companies from federal and state oversight of pole regulation. Over the years, State legislatures have passed laws that create regulatory rules that apply only to specific entities and not to everybody. Laws affecting electric cooperatives related to broadband are a good example. Over the last several decades, a lot of states passed laws that prohibited electric cooperatives from entering the broadband business. These laws were clearly prompted by telephone and cable companies that didn’t want a new competitor. However, a lot of legislatures reversed these laws due to pressure from the public to allow their local electric cooperatives to bring them fiber broadband. Most of the legislation that created exceptions has been aimed at squelching broadband competition. A lot of states have laws that either prohibit or restrict municipalities from entering the broadband business. Most of the restrictions against municipal broadband are written in such a way as to make it seem like there is a path for cities to provide broadband. But most such laws often have a kicker that makes it extremely difficult for a municipality to comply. As the new Florida law shows, it’s a never-ending battle with incumbents trying to legislate away competition. 

Platforms/Social Media

Europe Issues $1.3 billion fine on Meta for data privacy violations

Press Release  |  Data Protection Commission

The Data Protection Commission (“the DPC”) concluded its inquiry into Meta Platforms Ireland Limited (“Meta Ireland”), examining the basis upon which Meta Ireland transfers personal data from the European Union/ European Economic Area to the US in connection with the delivery of its Facebook service. Meta Ireland infringed Article 46(1)  General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) when it continued to transfer personal data from the EU/EEA to the USA following the delivery of the Court of Justice of the European Union’s judgment in Data Protection Commissioner v Facebook Ireland Limited and Maximillian Schrems. While Meta Ireland effected those transfers on the basis of the updated Standard Contractual Clauses (“SCCs”) that were adopted by the European Commission in 2021 in conjunction with additional supplementary measures that were implemented by Meta Ireland, the DPC found that these arrangements did not address the risks to the fundamental rights and freedoms of data subjects that were identified by the CJEU in its judgment. The DPC includes:

  1. an order, made pursuant to Article 58(2)(j) GDPR, requiring Meta Ireland to suspend any future transfer of personal data to the US within the period of five months from the date of notification of the DPC’s decision to Meta Ireland;
  2. an administrative fine in the amount of €1.2 billion (reflecting the EDPB’s determination that an administrative fine ought to be imposed, to sanction the infringement that was found to have occurred. The DPC determined the amount of the fine to be imposed by reference to the assessments and determinations that were included in the EDPB’s decision); and
  3. an order, made pursuant to Article 58(2)(d) GDPR, requiring Meta Ireland to bring its processing operations into compliance with Chapter V of the GDPR, by ceasing the unlawful processing, including storage, in the US of personal data of EU/EEA users transferred in violation of the GDPR, within 6 months following the date of notification of the DPC’s decision to Meta Ireland.

Supreme Court Won’t Hold Tech Companies Liable for User Posts

Adam Liptak  |  New York Times

The Supreme Court handed twin victories to technology platforms on May 18 by declining in two cases to hold them liable for content posted by their users. In a case involving Google, the court for now rejected efforts to limit the sweep of the law that frees the platforms from liability for user content, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. In a separate case involving Twitter, the court ruled unanimously that another law allowing suits for aiding terrorism did not apply to the ordinary activities of social media companies. The rulings did not definitively resolve the question of what responsibility platforms should have for the content posted on and recommended by their sites, an issue that has grown increasingly pressing as social media has become ubiquitous in modern life. But the decision by the court to pass for now on clarifying the breadth of Section 230, which dates to 1996, was cheered by the technology industry, which has long portrayed the law as integral to the development of the internet.


An industry short on enthusiasm: Where are all the fiber technicians?

Julia King  |  Fierce

The federal government has been trumpeting its efforts to expand access to high-speed internet service for underserved areas across the US, namely through $42.5 billion in Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program funding. But in BEAD’s shadow stands another obstacle to closing the digital divide: a massive shortage of fiber technicians. Flume Internet CEO Prashanth Vijay put a salient reason for that shortage simply enough. “There's just not much enthusiasm to go and like… dig a trench,” he told Fierce Telecom. Flume Internet is a fiber provider of gigabit services that started in New York City and has since expanded to Los Angeles and Philadelphia, with plans to reach areas of Connecticut. The Government Accountability Office estimated that around 34,000 workers might be needed this year to support the government’s broadband-expansion programs, depending on ever-changing project timelines. Some internet service provider have even offered hiring bonuses up to $5,000 for technicians in high-need markets. “This issue of alignment and aligning calendars between crews that are available in your city, that have the skill set you need at the time you need it, is something that a lot of ISPs are having issues with,” Vijay added.


What did NTIA's Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth Accomplish in 2022?

Grace Tepper  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

The Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth (OICG) is housed within the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Congress created OICG in the ACCESS BROADBAND Act of 2021, part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, to oversee all broadband activity at NTIA and lead federal efforts to fund and expand broadband access across the country. On May 8, 2023, OICG released its 2022 Annual Report detailing the work it accomplished as it administers the federal broadband grant programs established by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 as well as NTIA’s broadband technical assistance programs that facilitate access to affordable, high-speed Internet service.

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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), Grace Tepper (grace AT benton DOT org), and David L. Clay II (dclay AT benton DOT org) — we welcome your comments.

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