Daily Digest 5/26/2022 (Broadband Funding)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Broadband Funding

Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Support for 88 Winning Bids Ready to be Authorized  |  Read below  |  Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission
FCC Announces Over $2.8 Billion In Funding Requests For Final Window In Ongoing Work To Close The Homework Gap  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission
NTIA's Alan Davidson answers 5 burning broadband funding questions  |  Read below  |  Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce
American Association of Public Broadband raises $200K, concerns about NTIA's broadband funding notice  |  Read below  |  Masha Abarinova  |  Fierce
What Communities Should Know About the BEAD Program NOFO  |  US Ignite
FCC Seeks Comment on National Lifeline Association Petition  |  Read below  |  Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission
Issues FCC Should Address in Future of the Universal Service Fund Proceeding  |  Read below  |  Diana Eisner  |  Analysis  |  USTelecom
Towards A Digital Equity Foundation  |  Read below  |  Charles Bell  |  Research  |  New America

State/Local Initiatives

UTOPIA Fiber wraps work on largest open access broadband network in US  |  Read below  |  Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce
Ten (Suggested) Commandments for Closing the Digital Divide  |  Read below  |  Joe Kane, Jessica Dine  |  Analysis  |  Information Technology & Innovation Foundation
Public-private partnerships can help expand internet access in rural America. Here are the biggest hurdles utility providers and  |  Business Insider
How Co-ops Can Lead the Way for DIY On-Farm Broadband  |  CoBank
Utah seeks Broadband Center Program Manager  |  Utah Governor's Office of Economic Opportunity


Inside the Government Fiasco That Nearly Closed the U.S. Air System  |  ProPublica
FCC Opens Docket to Monitor Verizon's Compliance with TracFone Acquisition Conditions  |  Federal Communications Commission
FCC Opens Docket to Monitor T-Mobile's Compliance with Conditions of Sprint Acquisition  |  Federal Communications Commission
AT&T will activate 5G standalone core when devices are ready  |  Fierce

Platforms/Social Media

Investigation into suspected anti-competitive conduct by Google in ad tech  |  Competition and Markets Authority
FTC Charges Twitter with Deceptively Using Account Security Data to Sell Targeted Ads  |  Federal Trade Commission
Twitter jumps after Musk increases commitment in takeover bid to $33.5 billion, in talks for other funding  |  CNBC
Jack Dorsey leaves Twitter's board of directors  |  Axios
Republicans are leaning on the courts to target social media, but losses are piling up  |  Washington Post
Philip Napoli: It’s time to bring the public interest standard to digital platforms  |  Hill, The
The 2022 Axios Harris Poll 100 reputation rankings  |  Axios


Human rights activists seek moratorium on spyware  |  Axios

Company News

Verizon doesn’t think fiber is a must have for small business customers  |  Read below  |  Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce
CFO: Faster Verizon Fixed Wireless Speed May Soon Come Thanks to C-Band  |  telecompetitor
Charter CFO on multi-gig broadband: ‘If you build it, they will come’  |  Fierce
Entner: Cox has the most to fear from fixed-wireless access  |  Fierce


Michael Hiltik: Big business musters more lies to smear a Biden nominee because she would do her job  |  Los Angeles Times
SHLB Welcomes Policy Counsel, Promotes Staff to Leadership Roles  |  Schools Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition

War & Communications

Ukraine’s information war is winning hearts and minds in the West  |  Nieman Lab
Ukraine War Shows Need for Global Data-Privacy Agreement, EU Officials Say  |  Wall Street Journal
Today's Top Stories

Broadband Funding

Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Support for 88 Winning Bids Ready to be Authorized

Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission's Rural Broadband Auctions Task Force (RBATF), Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB or Bureau), and the Office of Economics and Analytics (OEA) announce they are ready to authorize Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (Auction 904) support for 88 more Auction 904 winning bids. Cyber Broadband will provide service in Alabama. And North Texas Fiber will offer service in Texas. In addition, several winning bidders have notified the FCC that they do not intend to pursue some or all of their winning bids. Farmers Mutual Cooperative Telephone Company is pulling back in Iowa. GigaBeam Networks will not pursue support in two small areas of West Virginia. Newport Utilities reconsidered areas of Tennessee. The Terral Telephone Company will not follow up on bids in Oklahoma. Trailwave Fiber is retreating in Georgia. 

FCC Announces Over $2.8 Billion In Funding Requests For Final Window In Ongoing Work To Close The Homework Gap

Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission has received requests for $2,814,736,532 in the third application filing window of the Emergency Connectivity Fund program to fund 5,120,453 connected devices and 4,285,794 broadband connections. Applications will be prioritized to fund schools and libraries with the greatest need first, with a preference for schools and libraries located in rural areas. With the estimated $1.5 billion remaining in the program, the FCC expects to be able to fund requests from many of the 7,369 schools and school districts, 628 libraries and library systems, and 133 consortia which applied from across the country.

NTIA's Alan Davidson answers 5 burning broadband funding questions

Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce

National Telecommunications and Information Administration chief Alan Davidson spoke at the Mountain Connect conference about broadband infrastructure investment. He expects NTIA to start doling out grant money later this year, though likely not from the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program quite yet because it is tied to the availability of new broadband coverage maps from the Federal Communications Commission. Davidson noted that some have misinterpreted the BEAD rules as treating unserved and underserved locations the same, but that’s a mistake. Covering unserved areas is still top priority, but he explained that those states which can demonstrate in their broadband plans that they will reach all the unserved will also be able to use funding for underserved areas as well. Davidson said he expects satellite and other non-fiber technologies will receive plenty of funding. There have been plenty of concerns about whether BEAD will fuel overbuilding of areas set to be covered by the FCC's Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, especially given the decision to classify areas covered with unlicensed spectrum and satellite as unserved. But Davidson said the NTIA's guidelines were specifically designed to avoid penalizing states for money that’s expected for deployments which haven’t been built yet. But there will be a screening process to avoid overbuilding

American Association of Public Broadband raises $200K, concerns about NTIA's broadband funding notice

Masha Abarinova  |  Fierce

The American Association of Public Broadband (AAPB) is concerned the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s broadband infrastructure funding guidelines pose a challenge for local and state governments seeking to boost municipal broadband. The challenges include a cumbersome application process with a letter-of-credit requirement which serve as steep barriers to entry for local government, nonprofits and small ISPs. Additionally, the multi-year rollout of BEAD funds leave many high-speed broadband projects out in the cold, limiting the options for those deploying prior to 2024. While NTIA tried to remove some of the barriers to federal funding, said AAPB Secretary Kimberly McKinley, its guidelines “put up a few more barriers than they probably intended.” One caveat the NOFO outlined, she explained, was that BEAD applicants must have two years of operational or managerial experience in the broadband space. “How does a community have that if they’ve never owned or operated a municipal broadband system?” McKinley said, arguing that provision further stifles new market entrants.

FCC Seeks Comment on National Lifeline Association Petition

Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission's Wireline Competition Bureau seeks comment on a petition filed by the National Lifeline Association (NaLA) seeking clarification of the Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB) and Enforcement Bureau (EB) Chiefs’ authority to suspend a participating provider’s Affordable Connectivity Program enrollments and hold a participating provider’s funding based on the “adequate evidence” standard , or in the alternative, reconsideration of the removal rule (47 C.F.R. § 54.1801(e)(2)). NaLA also seeks reconsideration or clarification of the requirement that an Affordable Connectivity Program participating provider offering connected devices provide price information for at least one of the analogous devices from a major retailer

Issues FCC Should Address in Future of the Universal Service Fund Proceeding

Diana Eisner  |  Analysis  |  USTelecom

In a meeting with the Federal Communications Commission's Telecommunications Access Policy Division, USTelecom argued that the Commission should commit to launching a proceeding to modernize the Universal Service Fund (USF)  contributions system by ensuring that the services and entities that contribute reflect the purposes and beneficiaries of the USF. USTelecom said the FCC should request additional authority from Congress as necessary to ensure it can substantially expand the contributions base. USTelecom also said that the Future of the Universal Service Fund proceeding should address the following needs:

  • The continuing availability of ongoing support for capital and operating expenses in high-cost areas in the near-term and after the allocation of Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act funds;
  • Reconciling the Lifeline and Affordable Connectivity Programs so that there are clear objectives for either two distinct low-income programs or a single unified program;
  • Considering how subsidy programs can be more efficient by removing providers from the middle where possible;
  • Providing more clarity on the availability of USF support for disaster recovery; and
  • Reexamining incumbent local exchange carrier (“ILEC”)-specific obligations in light of the changing nature of USF and the fact that ILECs no longer receive USF in many areas but continue to be subject to legacy obligations, even in areas where the FCC or another federal or state agency is funding a competitor to serve the same area.

Towards A Digital Equity Foundation

Charles Bell  |  Research  |  New America

Exploring the need for a Digital Equity Foundation, options and best practices for its potential structure, governance, and the benefits such a foundation could bring to the public. 

  • The foundation could provide sustainable, responsive funding for community-based digital inclusion activities. Funds could benefit a wide range of programs, including “digital navigators,” affordable access, rural telehealth initiatives, accessibility, skills training for veterans and the elderly, and education technology that helps to close the “homework gap.”
  • There is a precedent for this type of federally funded foundation. Examples include the FirstNet Public Safety Network Trust Fund that Congress established in 2012 with $7.5 billion in auction revenue, the California Emerging Technology Fund, and the eleven existing “agency-sponsored” foundations, such as the CDC Foundation and the National Parks Foundation.
  • The foundation should be structured to maximize transparency and efficiency. The foundation should be established as a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation and follow best practice requirements for transparency and public accountability—including: a clear and focused mission statement; governance by an accountable board of directors; mechanisms for federal agency oversight, and reporting to Senate and House Commerce Committees; and establishment of robust community advisory mechanisms.
  • The foundation’s governing board and community advisory committee should represent diverse stakeholders. The foundation’s governing board must reflect a balance of expertise and diversity (including geographic diversity) that reinforces the foundation’s mission to promote digital inclusion and equity in communities nationwide. Likewise, the community advisory committee should represent a broad cross-section of beneficiaries, digital equity providers, civil rights groups, and others likely to be impacted by the foundation’s work.


UTOPIA Fiber wraps work on largest open access broadband network in US

Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce

UTOPIA Fiber is putting the finishing touches on the second-largest municipal broadband network in the US, wrapping up a multi-year fiber build to more than 140,000 locations across West Valley City, Utah. UTOPIA executive director Roger Timmerman noted West Valley’s new asset is also the largest open access network in the country. Residents there now have access to broadband speeds ranging from 250 Mbps to 10 Gbps from 16 different residential ISPs and about 30 different business providers riding on the new infrastructure, he said. West Valley was one of the original 11 cities in Utah which joined together to form UTOPIA Fiber in the early 2000s. Work there started in 2004, but was halted soon after as UTOPIA worked its way through financial struggles. Construction resumed in 2009 but was slow going. However, activity picked up in recent years as UTOPIA was able to access the necessary financing to finish its work.

Ten (Suggested) Commandments for Closing the Digital Divide

Joe Kane, Jessica Dine  |  Analysis  |  Information Technology & Innovation Foundation

While the task of permanently closing this gap is daunting, the right policy framework to accomplish it can be summed up in two overarching principles: make the most of available funds, and make sure that the projects on which the money is spent are seen through and bear fruit. By taking the following steps, however, states would be well positioned to direct limited funds in ways that would produce maximum connectivity for their citizens.

  1. Take advantage of market competition by allocating funds via reverse auction.
  2. Allocate funding on a technology-neutral basis to prioritize functionality.
  3. Set reasonable, non-symmetrical speed thresholds that will actually benefit consumers.
  4. Focus on first serving those who currently lack broadband entirely, rather than overbuilding.
  5. Target individuals’ needs by putting money in the pockets of consumers.
  6. Collaborate with other states and the federal government to learn from mistakes and converge on the best practices for efficient deployment.
  7. Evaluate internal regulations and remove barriers to broadband deployment that would eat up time and money without getting services to citizens.
  8. Weed out unsound bidders by withholding full payment until the promised project is complete.
  9. Resist calls for government-owned networks, except as a last resort, and rely instead on experienced broadband providers with economies of scale.
  10. Provide ongoing oversight to incentivize successful project completion.

Company News

Verizon doesn’t think fiber is a must have for small business customers

Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce

Verizon has spent the last several years building fiber rings in more than 60 markets outside of its traditional footprint, but that doesn’t mean it’s planning to use those assets to run fiber directly to every customer. Chief Financial Officier Matt Ellis said it’s currently using its fiber backbone to serve up fixed wireless access (FWA) to business customers and it doesn’t have plans to upgrade them to wired lines anytime soon. Ellis explained fixed wireless allows it to serve new use cases that require a more mobile option, for instance enabling connectivity for food trucks and construction sites. But it’s also suitable for long-term stationary applications too, he said. The benefit there is how quickly it can be rolled out to deliver service compared to waiting for a fiber strand to be run to a building – which he noted could require digging up a business customer’s parking lot.

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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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