Daily Digest 5/5/2022 (David Corydon Walden)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Digital Inclusion

Benton Foundation
Broadband and Building Community  |  Read below  |  Adrianne Furniss  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Broadband Infrastructure

NTIA Awards Nearly $77 Million to Expand Internet Access in Tribal Communities  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  National Telecommunications & Information Administration
Tribal leaders are building a better internet from the ground up  |  Read below  |  Karl Bode  |  Protocol
New Maps Help Set Priorities for Broadband Deployment  |  Read below  |  Carl Smith  |  Governing
Black Churches Back Tech Neutral Broadband Buildouts  |  Read below  |  John Eggerton  |  Multichannel News

Community Anchor Institutions

FCC Commits Nearly $39 Million In Emergency Broadband Connectivity Fund Support  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission
Los Angeles Unified and AT&T Deliver High-Speed Internet to Students’ Homes to Bridge the Digital Divide  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  AT&T

Net Neutrality

ISPs Drop Challenge to California Net Neutrality Law  |  Read below  |  John Eggerton  |  Multichannel News


The landscape of lawsuits between big and small internet service providers  |  Read below  |  Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting
AT&T Internet raises prices $3 per month  |  Read below  |  Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce

State/Local Initiatives

Broadband expansion is painfully slow for many Mainers despite upgrades  |  Read below  |  Abigail Curtis  |  Bangor Daily News
Remote and Hybrid Work Drive Equity in Alaska Workforce  |  Read below  |  Lauren Harrison, Noelle Knell  |  Government Technology


FCC Grants 3.45-3.55 GHz Licenses  |  Federal Communications Commission
Dish lights up its first 5G market in Las Vegas, Nevada  |  Fierce
Starlink’s new Portability feature brings internet to vanlifers  |  Vox

Platforms/Social Media

Casey Newton: How platform researchers convinced the Senate  |  Platformer
Product Guidelines by Digital Platforms: A Welfare Analysis  |  Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal & Economic Public Policy Studies
Elon Musk Gets $7 Billion in Fresh Financing for Twitter Deal  |  Wall Street Journal
Bill Gates Questions Elon Musk’s Goals for Twitter, Approach to Misinformation  |  Wall Street Journal
Facebook Parent Meta Hits the Brakes on Hiring as Growth Stalls  |  Wall Street Journal
Android apps are getting data safety labels. Here’s what they tell you.  |  Washington Post

How We Live Now

As telework continues for many US workers, no sign of widespread ‘Zoom fatigue’  |  Pew Research Center
Evolution of the internet gender gaps in Spain and effects of the Covid-19 pandemic  |  Telecommunications Policy

Stories From Abroad

How Elon Musk’s Starlink Got Battle-Tested in Ukraine  |  Foreign Policy


The Internet Law & Policy Foundry Welcomes Its Fourth Class of Fellows  |  Internet Law & Policy Foundry
Today's Top Stories

Digital Inclusion

Broadband and Building Community

Adrianne Furniss  |    |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

In a conversation on April 6 at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society’s 40th anniversary celebration, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) and Glen Echo Group CEO Maura Corbett discussed building community—and the role broadband will play in building and strengthening communities moving forward. Congressman Clyburn founded the Rural Broadband Task Force to help find solutions to the digital divide. Much of the discussion on April 6 focused on bringing broadband to rural areas that, of yet, do not have broadband service. But Corbett asked about urban areas, too. When President Joe Biden met with Congressional leaders to help shape the debate around infrastructure legislation, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) deferred to Majority Whip Clyburn to make the case for including broadband under the infrastructure umbrella since, traditionally, infrastructure was thought of as mainly roads, bridges, power systems, and buildings. Congressional leadership agreed that universal broadband is a national challenge. “It is absolutely no different in the inner cities than it is in rural communities,” said Congressman Clyburn. He recognized that deploying broadband networks in rural areas presents its own problems, but “in some urban areas, there's as much disconnect as you'll find in rural communities.”

[Adrianne B Furniss is executive director at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society.]


NTIA Awards Nearly $77 Million to Expand Internet Access in Tribal Communities

The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced that it has awarded 19 grants as part of the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program. The grants, totaling nearly $77 million, are being awarded in 10 states – Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Washington. They will fund internet use and adoption projects to improve healthcare, workforce development, education, housing, and social services in tribal communities. For example, the Gila River Indian Community (AZ) grant will assist in telehealth expansion, distance learning opportunities and digital inclusion efforts. More information on these awards is provided here. NTIA has now made a total of 34 awards totaling about $83 million in funding through the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program. These awards are part of the Biden Administration’s whole-of-government effort to connect everyone in America with affordable, reliable, high-speed internet.

Tribal leaders are building a better internet from the ground up

Karl Bode  |  Protocol

Despite creating the predecessor of the modern internet, US broadband access has remained mired in mediocrity for decades, with Americans paying some of the highest prices in the developed world for spotty, slow connections and abysmal customer support. Somewhere between 14 and 42 million Americans lack access to reliable broadband. Another 83 million Americans currently live under a broadband monopoly, with access to just one internet service provider (ISP). This lack of competition results in high prices, spotty coverage, poor customer service and even privacy violations. It’s a problem forged by federal failure and rampant monopolization, evident everywhere from the densest urban streets to the most remote Tribal territories. For the better part of a generation, US internet access has been at the mercy of gatekeepers for whom community welfare, affordability and ubiquitous access were distant afterthoughts. That’s particularly evident across sovereign Tribal territories where a growing roster of communities, tired of waiting for federal policymakers to act, are taking matters into their own hands in a bid to build the decentralized, more equitable networks of tomorrow.

New Maps Help Set Priorities for Broadband Deployment

Carl Smith  |  Governing

In 2018, Congress provided funding to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to create a National Broadband Availability Map (NBAM) and to work with Federal Communications Commissionas well as state and local governments, nonprofits, network owners and operators and other stakeholders to achieve this goal. So far, 40 states and territories have provided data to NTIA. But much of this data is from resident surveys or requests for service collected via web portals, says William Rinehart, a senior research fellow at Utah State University’s Center for Growth and Opportunity. It might be more than was previously known, but it’s still missing important details; moreover, the data is not available to researchers. One state took a more comprehensive approach to tracking coverage and shared its data set. Rinehart used this work as the basis for a national projection. In June 2021, the state of Georgia published a broadband availability map created by overlapping the location of every home and business in the state with broadband service available to those locations. The work of creating the map was overseen by the Institute of Government at the University of Georgia. The map, the first of its kind, revealed coverage gaps that were not apparent in FCC data.

Black Churches Back Tech Neutral Broadband Buildouts

John Eggerton  |  Multichannel News

The Conference of National Black Churches, along with five other groups representing Black clergy and congregations, has called on the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) to allow the $40 billion-plus broadband subsidy money it is handing out to states to be used for whatever technology -- fiber, wireless, etc. -- best fits their communities. That came in a letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and NTIA administrator Alan Davidson. NTIA has been given the primary oversight role of the broadband subsidies in the President's -- and Congress' -- massive infrastructure plan. "America’s mosaic of diverse people and communities argues for the government’s deployment of broadband to be done in a way that takes advantage of diverse technology options that will provide the best broadband services across remote and underserved areas," they said. The Biden Administration has suggested fiber to the home get priority status in the subsidy handouts, but has not ruled out other technologies so long as they provide sufficient speeds and quality.

Community Anchors

FCC Commits Nearly $39 Million In Emergency Broadband Connectivity Fund Support

Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission committed nearly $39 million in the 14th wave of Emergency Connectivity Fund program support, helping to close the Homework Gap. This latest round of funding is supporting 140 schools, 14 libraries, and 1 consortium across the country, including for students in California, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Michigan, New York, Puerto Rico, and Virginia. The funding can be used to support off-campus learning, such as nightly homework, to ensure students across the country have the necessary support to keep up with their education. Total commitments to date have funded over 10 million connected devices and 5 million broadband connections. To date, the Commission has approved over $4.8 billion in program funding commitments.

May 13, 2022 is the last day for schools and libraries to apply for support to purchase eligible equipment and services for the 2022-2023 school year through a third application window. In this window, the FCC anticipates awarding at least $1 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund program support. This window likely will be the last opportunity for schools and libraries to request funding before available funds in the $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund program are exhausted.

Los Angeles Unified and AT&T Deliver High-Speed Internet to Students’ Homes to Bridge the Digital Divide

Press Release  |  AT&T

Los Angeles (CA) Unified School District and AT&T are providing high-speed broadband to students’ homes at no cost to their families. Through this joint effort, more students and households in Los Angeles will have the reliable internet needed to fully participate in education and digital life. This is an investment in high-speed internet to build a better future for Los Angeles Unified students and their families. The program is funded through the Federal Communications Commission’s Emergency Connectivity Fund through June 2023 and the district is exploring options to make services available to students in need on a longer-term basis. In February 2022, Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Alberto Carvalho announced his 100-Day Plan to expand high-quality academic opportunities at Los Angeles Unified. As part of his plan, the district is launching the “All Families Connected” program, which was created to ensure every student has access to the right technology tools, high-quality connectivity on and off campus, and the digital literacy necessary to advance in a digital world. Families with students who are currently enrolled in a Los Angeles Unified School District school and do not currently have broadband at home are eligible for this program.

Net Neutrality

ISPs Drop Challenge to California Net Neutrality Law

John Eggerton  |  Multichannel News

Lobbying groups representing broadband internet access service providers—including ACA Connects, NCTA, CTIA and USTelecom—dropped their challenge of a federal district court's ruling upholding California's net neutrality law. The ISPs had already lost a federal district court challenge to the law and two appeals court efforts to block enforcement. The suit was dismissed without prejudice, which means ISPs could refile it if they chose. California adopted the prohibitions on blocking, throttling and paid prioritization after the Federal Communications Commission eliminated its similar net neutrality rules and reclassified internet access as a Title I information service under Chairman Ajit Pai.

"The ISPs threw in the towel today on their challenge to California’s net neutrality law," said Andrew Jay Schwartzman, senior counselor to the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, one of those defending the law before both the federal district court and the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. "Realizing that they could not successfully appeal the January 2022 decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to the Supreme Court, the ISPs gave up. They were forced to accept what most observers had seen: in the wake of the Federal Communications Commission’s decision disclaiming interest in treating broadband access service as subject to federal regulation, the states were freed to adopt their own requirements. Several other states have adopted net neutrality requirements by statute or executive order. The reasoning of the 9th Circuit court allows those provisions to remain in effect as well. The end of this litigation is a boon for free speech, competition and innovation on the internet."


The landscape of lawsuits between big and small internet service providers

Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting

One thing that is extremely rare in the broadband industry is lawsuits between internet service providers (ISPs) concerning unfair trade practices. Big ISPs bully and compete unfairly against small ISPs all of the time, and yet you don’t hear of many cases where a small ISP sues the big ISP. There are several reasons for this. One is simple to understand – the big ISPs have a flock of in-house lawyers who can overwhelm anybody who sues them. Little ISPs don’t generally have the deep pockets needed to last through a long, protracted lawsuit. But the harder reason to understand is that the law is basically not on the side of the little guy in this kind of lawsuit. There are a series of laws associated with unfair competition. However, these laws are specific about the kinds of behaviors that would enable a suit based upon the claim of unfair competition, and the fact is that ISPs don’t engage in the kind of behaviors that these laws are designed to prohibit. While the idea of a small ISP taking a big ISP to court to win a big settlement sounds appealing, the reality of winning such a suit is remote. The big guys have monopoly market power, and small ISPs have to accept that as part of competing against them.

[Doug Dawson is president of CCG Consulting.]

AT&T Internet raises prices $3 per month

Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce

News of AT&T’s wireless price hike stole recent headlines, but the operator also quietly unveiled a price increase for certain fixed broadband subscribers. In a notice posted to its customer support website, AT&T said monthly rates for AT&T Internet customers are going up $3 per month. The document is dated May 2, 2022. The jump is half the $6 price increase AT&T just implemented for customers on some of its older wireless plans. An AT&T representative said its nearly 6.3 million fiber customers won’t be impacted by the change. “Like others in the industry, we adjust prices and fees to address costs and the demands of the business,” the representative stated. Recon Analytics founder Roger Entner said AT&T Internet (formerly known as U-verse) is one of four broadband products the operator offers, the others being fiber, fixed wireless access and legacy DSL. He described it as essentially a “fiber to the curb” service. According to its website, speeds for AT&T Internet plans range from 25 Mbps to 100 Mbps. As of the end of Q1 2022, AT&T had nearly 7.6 million non-fiber internet customers, though it did not provide a breakdown of how many were AT&T Internet versus DSL or fixed wireless. The bump follows a $2 per month price increase for DSL customers announced in January.


Broadband expansion is painfully slow for many Mainers despite upgrades

Abigail Curtis  |  Bangor Daily News

Maine resident Michele Richards has a problem that will resonate with other Mainers who live even just slightly off the beaten path: the internet at her house is so slow that it’s affecting her ability to do her job. Richards, who works remotely, needs to be on the computer all the time. She and her husband Jeff pay $70 each month to Consolidated Communications, the only internet provider to serve their road. In return, they’re supposed to get maximum download speeds of 10 megabits per second, but the internet that comes to their house on DSL technology is usually slower than that. Many Maine residents have issues with internet connectivity, mostly because of the old copper wire phone network in place, especially in rural areas, according to Erik Garr, president of consumer and small business for Consolidated Communications. That company plans to add 150,000 homes in 2022 to its fiber internet network and expand it by 450,000 residences over the next four years through a project partially funded by the state and federal governments. For people like the Richardses, whose internet comes over the slow copper DSL technology, fiber would be a game changer.

Remote and Hybrid Work Drive Equity in Alaska Workforce

Lauren Harrison, Noelle Knell  |  Government Technology

We’ve heard a lot over the past two years about the ways in which the shift to remote work and school really exposed the digital divide. Those who could easily connect to high-speed Internet have generally fared better since early 2020 than those who could not. What has been less discussed, however, are ways remote work has improved digital equity. At the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) annual conference, Alaska CIO Bill Smith talked about how remote work has advanced digital equity goals for the state workforce. People who live in farther-flung regions of the large state were previously excluded from state government work because it meant relocating to more populous areas. Now, Smith said, that’s changing, and Alaska is able to recruit from a wider pool of talent and add more diverse voices to its staff. While the state is just beginning to feel the real impact of that shift, he explained, “We’ve got the enduring tools now to start to see that on a larger scale.”

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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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