Daily Digest 5/4/2022 (Norman Yoshio Mineta)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

News From the FCC

FCC Announces $200 Million for New Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Broadband Deployments  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission
Federal Universal Service Support Mechanisms Fund Size Projections for Third Quarter 2022  |  Read below  |  Michelle Garber  |  Research  |  Universal Service Administrative Company
FCC grants AST SpaceMobile an experimental license to test satellite  |  Read below  |  Linda Hardesty  |  Fierce
FCC Proposes $100,000 Fine Against LTD for Prohibited Communications  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission

Broadband Funding

Sens Capito and Klobuchar Introduce Rural Broadband Protection Act  |  Read below  |  Sen Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV)  |  Press Release  |  US Senate
AT&T expects broadband grant funding landscape to firm up within 30 days  |  Read below  |  Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce
Broadband Financials: A Practical Primer  |  Read below  |  Paul de Sa  |  Research  |  Quadra Partners
Get Ready for Middle-Mile Grants  |  Read below  |  Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting

State/Local Initiatives

Gov Evers’ broadband veto riles rural Wisconsin Republicans  |  Read below  |  Benjamin Yount  |  Center Square
Oakland, California’s New CIO to Tackle Digital Divide  |  Read below  |  Suman Bhattacharyya  |  Wall Street Journal
TDS signs agreement with Janesville, Wisconsin, to build an all-fiber network  |  TDS Telecommunications


AT&T tries pushing customers to new wireless plans with price hikes on old ones  |  Vox
Samsung will supply software and radios for Dish’s much-delayed 5G network  |  Vox
“Amazon Tax” Could Harm 5G Broadband Buildout  |  Read below  |  Daniel Lyons  |  Analysis  |  American Enterprise Institute


Journalism is under "digital siege"  |  Read below  |  Sara Fischer  |  Axios

Platforms/Social Media

Evan Greer | Big Tech Lobbyists Use Trans People to Avoid Antitrust Regulation  |  Vice
Apple's closed world draws new fire  |  Axios
Facebook Struggles With E-Commerce as Meta Looks to Revamp its Ads Business  |  Wall Street Journal
Matt Levine | Twitter's board gave up  |  Bloomberg
Katrina vanden Heuvel | We cannot rely on billionaires to create necessary guardrails on social media  |  Washington Post


US District Judge Katherine Polk Failla orders every ISP in the US to block three pirate streaming services  |  Ars Technica


Nicol Turner Lee's Testimony on Preparing and Supporting the Broadband Workforce  |  Brookings
Amazon could stymie unions for years by going to the courts  |  Washington Post


Data Broker Is Selling Location Data of People Who Visit Abortion Clinics  |  Vice
CDC Tracked Millions of Phones to See If Americans Followed COVID Lockdown Orders  |  Vice


Sen Rubio Urges FCC to Audit, Further Tamp Down on Chinese Telecom Companies  |  US Senate
Editorial | Ignore the hysteria over the Disinformation Governance Board  |  Washington Post


Global Chip Shortage’s Latest Worry: Too Few Chips for Chip-Making  |  Wall Street Journal

War & Communications

Ukraine’s Online Volunteers Go After Russian Targets  |  Foreign Policy
SpaceX Starlink Internet Has 150,000 Daily Users in Ukraine  |  CNET


CBO Scores H.R. 4067, the Communications Security, Reliability, and Interoperability Council Act  |  Congressional Budget Office

Company News

Paramount+ adds 6.8 million subscribers, but first quarter revenue misses Wall Street expectations  |  Wrap, The
Today's Top Stories

News From the FCC

FCC Announces $200 Million for New Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Broadband Deployments

Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission is ready to authorize $199,336,695 through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to fund new broadband deployments in 26 states and the Northern Mariana Islands, bringing service to over 230,000 locations. This is the ninth round of program funding since July 2021, when the FCC announced the first approvals for applicant bids meeting the stringent requirements that Chairwoman Rosenworcel put in place to ensure the integrity of the program, which draws on funding in the high-cost universal service program. The FCC also announced a number of defaulted bids, making the census blocks in those defaulted bids potentially eligible for other funding programs. A list of the eligible census blocks previously covered by defaulted bids is available here.

Federal Universal Service Support Mechanisms Fund Size Projections for Third Quarter 2022

Michelle Garber  |  Research  |  Universal Service Administrative Company

Fund size and administrative cost projections for the third quarter of calendar year 2022 (3Q2022). USAC projects a consolidated budget of $61.60 million for 3Q2022. Direct costs for all support mechanisms total $32.38 million. Joint and common costs (including billing, collection, and disbursement activities) total $29.22 million. For 3Q2022, High Cost Support Mechanism funding requirements are projected as follows: $86.36 million for High Cost Loop support, $252.36 million for Connect America Fund (CAF) Broadband Loop Support (BLS), $9.29 million for frozen Price Cap Carrier Support, $4.92 million for CAF Phase II, $38.70 million for CAF Phase II Auction, $91.89 million for frozen Competitive Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (CETC) Support, $92.08 million for CAF/Intercarrier Compensation (ICC) Support, $32.08 million for Alaska Plan Support, $107.86 million for Alternative Connect America Model (A-CAM), $126.91 million for A-CAM II, $26.86 million for Uniendo a Puerto Rico/Connect USVI, and $168.61 million for Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

USAC projects $287.08 million will be required for Lifeline support. The Rural Health Care Support Mechanism collection requirement of $159.43 million represents one quarter of the cap for Funding Year 2022. The amount includes collection requirements for the Telecommunications Program, the Healthcare Connect Fund, and administrative costs. The collection requirement of $159.43 million is adjusted as follows: decreased by a prior period adjustment of $0.18 million; resulting in a total projected 3Q2022 funding requirement for the Rural Health Care Support Mechanism of $159.25 million. Total projected funding requirement for the Connected Care Pilot Program is $8.34 million. The funding requirement for the Schools and Libraries Support Mechanism is $606.99 million.

FCC grants AST SpaceMobile an experimental license to test satellite

Linda Hardesty  |  Fierce

AST SpaceMobile has been granted an experimental license from the Federal Communications Commission to conduct US-based testing of its BlueWalker 3 satellite. The company launched its first satellite in March 2019, and it plans to launch its second satellite, BlueWalker 3, summer 2022. AST Space Mobile, based in Midland (TX), plans to build the first space-based cellular broadband network designed to be accessible directly by standard mobile phones. The new experimental license covers BlueWalker 3 space-to-ground testing in the United States using 3GPP low-band cellular frequencies and Q/V-band frequencies, subject to certain restrictions. The company aims to close the digital divide and bring cellular broadband to approximately half of the world's population who remain unconnected. In addition to Rakuten Mobile, AST is also working with Vodafone and American Tower. AST SpaceMobile continues to pursue additional authorizations with the FCC related to its planned constellation of BlueBird satellites.

FCC Proposes $100,000 Fine Against LTD for Prohibited Communications

Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission is proposing a forfeiture of $100,000 against LTD Broadband for repeatedly engaging in prohibited communications of its bidding and bidding strategies during the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) Phase I Auction (Auction 904), and its failure to timely report such prohibited communications. The FCC has long-standing rules that bar communications between and among auction applicants during an auction that could detract from a fair and competitive auction process. To that end, the Commission also requires auction applicants to self-report such violations promptly upon their occurrence. Timely reporting of these “prohibited communications” allows the agency to address swiftly the effects to the auction process.The FCC finds that LTD, an applicant in Auction 904 bidding for financial support to offer voice and broadband service in underserved areas, apparently violated FCC rules by willfully and repeatedly engaging in prohibited communications of its bidding, bidding strategies, and bidding results to Cox Communications via LTD’s investment agent, RJM & Company. The FCC also finds that LTD apparently violated agency rules by failing to report these communications within the required five-day reporting window.

Broadband Funding

Sens Capito and Klobuchar Introduce Rural Broadband Protection Act

Sen Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV)  |  Press Release  |  US Senate

Sens Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced the Rural Broadband Protection Act (S.4126), which would require a more thorough vetting and verification process for internet service providers seeking to participate in the Federal Communications Commission's high-cost programs. The bill would provide essential safeguards to the Universal Service Fund's high-cost programs by ensuring that funding goes to companies with both a proven track record of success and have demonstrated sound judgment in deploying in hard-to-serve areas. 

AT&T expects broadband grant funding landscape to firm up within 30 days

Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce

Communities across the US are struggling to navigate a maze of government funding opportunities for broadband. AT&T’s broadband grant chief said a key piece of the puzzle is expected to drop in the next 30 days which could help make the path forward much clearer. Jeff Luong is president of Broadband Access and Adoption and head of AT&T’s quest to secure government grants. He said state and local officials are still trying to hash out how best to use money allocated by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) to achieve their broadband goals. But there’s a hitch: it’s difficult for communities to decide what to do with their ARPA funding without knowing how they’ll be able to use money from the IIJA’s Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program. BEAD will be the vehicle for $42.45 billion of the $65 billion for broadband allocated by the IIJA. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which is responsible for distributing that money, began crafting its rules for the program in January. Luong said an initial version of the rules is expected to be unveiled sometime in the next 30 days. “I think it’ll provide some clarity for a lot communities and states to say ‘ok, now that we understand how the BEAD funding will be utilized and what are the rules around that, then we can determine how aggressive or conservative to be with the ARPA funding,’” he said.

Broadband Financials: A Practical Primer

Paul de Sa  |  Research  |  Quadra Partners

With the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program the federal government has made a historic investment of $42.5 billion into broadband infrastructure. This is an unprecedented amount of funding to universalize broadband in the United States – but without proper guidance, it could easily be wasted. This primer provides an introduction to broadband financials and some key questions broadband officials should consider incorporating into their evaluation process. The aim is to help readers manage broadband programs efficiently and effectively, aligned with two fundamental principles. First, even with billions of dollars available, there is not enough money to achieve broadband policy goals if recipients are awarded much larger subsidies than they actually need. To make efficient use of public funds, broadband officials must consider not just build costs but also revenues, operating expenses, and the availability of private capital. Second, investments in broadband should deliver lasting infrastructure. Federal policy envisions a wide range of players participating in broadband, including municipal networks, community institutions, rural cooperatives and, of course, communications companies. Any of these can successfully deliver broadband projects but all, whether for profit or nonprofit, need to have a viable financial plan.

Get Ready for Middle-Mile Grants

Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting

Alan Davidson, the Administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), recently held a press conference and webcast talking about the $1 billion Middle-Mile Broadband Infrastructure grant program. The biggest takeaway from that conversation is that the NTIA is likely to make these awards much sooner than the awards from the $42.5 billion Broadband, Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) grants for last-mile broadband. Davidson was not specific about the dates of these grants, but anybody wanting to request one of these grants should start getting ready. It’s worth noting that the last-mile BEAD grants will not fund middle-mile fiber. The early NTIA rules indicate that the grants will expect any constructed fiber to have closely-spaced and regular access points. This is what distinguished last-mile fiber from middle-mile fiber. Anybody wanting the Middle-Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program grants needs to craft a good story about why a specific middle-mile grant is needed. $1 billion might sound like a lot of money, but on the national scale, it’s not a lot. This works out to an average of only $20 million per state. If you assume an average cost of middle-mile fiber at between $35,000 and $50,000, that’s only 400 – 575 miles of new fiber, on average, per state. To put this grant program into perspective, California has established a $3.5 billion middle-mile grant program just for within the state.

[Doug Dawson is president of CCG Consulting.]


Gov Evers’ broadband veto riles rural Wisconsin Republicans

Benjamin Yount  |  Center Square

A disagreement over who should get free access to high speed internet in some parts of Wisconsin likely means no one is getting a new connection anytime soon. Gov Tony Evers (D-WI) last week vetoed SB 365, which would have expanded high speed internet service in rural parts of the state. The governor said expanding broadband access is one of his top priorities, but scuttled the plan because he doesn’t like how Republican lawmakers were going about it. “The Broadband Expansion Grant Program provides funding for broadband infrastructure in areas where private sector investment is insufficient,” Evers wrote in his veto message. “[The] statutory challenge process will delay the delivery of critical broadband services to rural parts of Wisconsin.” But Sen Howard Marklein (R-WI) said Evers’ veto will actually hurt rural communities across Wisconsin. “This is just another example of the Governor’s preference for urban cities over the rural people I serve,” Marklein said Monday. “The Governor decided that he would rather be able to send these funds to places like the city of Milwaukee and other cities that already have multiple telecommunications providers and options for consumers.  He also wants to be able to send these funds to communities that may have a federal project starting soon, rather than sending it to a community that has no options in sight.” Gov Evers said he’s already pledged $280 million for broadband internet projects, though much of the money remains unspent and undesignated.

Oakland, California’s New CIO to Tackle Digital Divide

Suman Bhattacharyya  |  Wall Street Journal

Oakland (CA)’s new chief information officer Tony Batalla said he would work to reduce internet access gaps in the city and support digital literacy efforts. Oakland is home to a major port, adjacent to the University of California, Berkeley, and near Silicon Valley, but along with those economic advantages are some neighborhoods in the city beset by crime and poverty. Batalla, who started May 2, sees internet access and technology helping address the needs of those communities. “In the most underserved areas of Oakland, there’s still a lot of opportunity to connect homes, to bring internet directly to residents,” he said. The chief technology officer in the neighboring San Francisco Bay Area city of San Leandro (CA) from 2014 to early 2022, Batalla comes to the role with experience overseeing internet infrastructure projects. In San Leandro, he was responsible for managing the rollout of the city’s fiber-optic network, which supported citywide free Wi-Fi and high-speed business and residential internet services. Batalla said he expects to work with a network of municipal organizations, nonprofits and private-sector partners to help expand digital access. His priorities also include connecting underserved communities with training and hardware, building on prior experience. In San Leandro, Batalla helped lead a partnership with the nonprofit Tech Exchange to donate refurbished computers to residents in need.


“Amazon Tax” Could Harm 5G Broadband Buildout

Daniel Lyons  |  Analysis  |  American Enterprise Institute

As the midterms approach, the White House may resurrect earlier proposals to overhaul the corporate tax program. One component, sometimes called the “Amazon tax,” would impose a 15 percent minimum tax on large corporations’ book income (the income reported to investors on financial statements) rather than taxable income, to ensure all companies pay each year. This impulse may seem egalitarian, but because of a quirk in accounting rules governing spectrum licenses, this proposal disproportionately harms wireless companies and could deter broadband buildout. While the book-income tax targets large corporations generally, wireless companies and others that hold spectrum licenses are uniquely affected by the proposal. This is because unlike most other corporate assets, the costs of spectrum licenses are not deducted for book-income purposes when calculating a firm’s financial income. As a result, the shift to taxing book income would effectively make spectrum licenses more expensive. The effect is also likely to fall disproportionately on the broadband industry. Spectrum markets will be distorted by the difference in bids offered by firms subject to the book minimum tax versus those that are not. And because the effect will be felt uniquely by spectrum licensees, it will tilt future broadband investment away from wireless solutions and toward wired broadband deployment, reducing the intermodal competition that has historically propelled industry growth.

[Daniel Lyons is a nonresident senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.]


Journalism is under "digital siege"

Sara Fischer  |  Axios

The global climate for journalists has become more perilous as autocrats weaponize the media to consolidate power. Those efforts are increasingly being carried out through surveillance and digital attacks. The theme for the 2022 World Press Freedom Day, which occurs annually on May 3, is "journalism under digital siege." The day is meant to highlight the growing risks journalists face online that are compromising free and fair journalism, including digital surveillance, online threats and harassment, or laws meant to stifle digital reporting. 

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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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