Tuesday, June 11, 2019
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The Federal Communications Commission authorized $166.8 million in funding over the next decade to expand broadband to 60,850 unserved rural homes and businesses in 22 states, representing the second wave of support from 2018's successful Connect America Fund Phase II auction. Providers will begin receiving funding in June. In total, the auction last fall allocated $1.488 billion in support to expand broadband to more than 700,000 unserved rural homes and small businesses over the next 10 years. The FCC authorized the first wave of funding in May, providing $111.6 million in funding over the next decade to expand service to 37,148 unserved homes and businesses in 12 states. To date, the first two rounds of authorizations are providing $278.4 million over the next decade to expand service to 97,998 new locations. Over the coming months, the FCC will be authorizing additional funding as it approves the final applications of the winning bidders from the auction.
US broadband provider capital investment increased by approximately $3 billion in 2018, continuing the positive momentum shift that began in 2017 when the Federal Communications Commission initially signaled its intention to restore a forward-looking regulatory framework for broadband. According to a preliminary analysis of 2018 company data, USTelecom estimates that US broadband providers invested approximately $75 billion in 2018, up from $72 billion the prior year. These figures confirm that the growth trend identified in USTelecom’s Feb analysis of the top six broadband providers applies more broadly. By 2016, broadband providers’ annual capital investment had declined by several billion dollars from the recent peak in 2014. Annual broadband investment rebounded in 2017 and the data now confirms that the upward momentum continued in 2018 – at least for the providers analyzed here, who historically account for nearly 95 percent of aggregate capital expenditure. USTelecom will publish final 2018 numbers once it can account for non-reporting companies.
The decline in capital investment starting in 2015 and the recovery that started in 2017 suggest the likelihood of a negative regulatory impact from the 2015 utility classification of broadband providers and, conversely, a positive impact from a return to a more forward-looking policy environment in 2017. Therefore, these capital investment data warrant further economic analysis. Of course, many factors affect company investment decisions, such as macroeconomic conditions, technological developments, capital costs, taxes, competitive upgrade cycles, and regulation. A key question when formulating broadband policy is the long-term impact of differing regulatory regimes on aggregate investment, holding these and any other relevant factors constant.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai issued the following statement regarding USTelecom’s release of broadband investment figures for 2018:
When I became FCC Chairman in January 2017, investment in our nation’s broadband networks had declined for two straight years. So we turned the page on the failed policies of the past and charted a new course. We focused on reducing unnecessary regulatory burdens and cutting red tape that discourages broadband deployment. And we concentrated on updating our rules to match the modern communications marketplace...The latest evidence reaffirms that our policies are working. Today’s figures show that investment in our nation’s broadband networks rose in 2018 for a second straight year, with an estimated increase of $3 billion...In short, we’re moving in the right direction. So in the time to come, we’ll continue on the same course—full speed ahead. That means getting rid of more unnecessary regulatory burdens and updating more outdated rules so that we can continue to connect more Americans with high-speed broadband and digital opportunity.
According to recent National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) survey data, roughly 28 million households in the United States still do not use the Internet at home (Goldberg, 2019). In its survey, the NTIA also asked why households did not use the Internet at home, with 58 percent citing a lack of interest as their main reason for being offline and every fifth household (21%) stating that it is too expensive. Out of those who cited cost as their main reason for not having home access, half had annual household incomes lower than $25,000 (Goldberg, 2019). But an aspect that is often missing from Internet use survey data is the complexity of potential reasons why households might think they have no need or no interest in home Internet access and how this is often closely intertwined with their ability to afford a home Internet connection. In our recent paper, published in a special issue of Communications Research and Practice, we present findings from two separate studies on digital inclusion in the United States that sought to gain a deeper understanding of the ability of low-income individuals to spend their money on wired broadband internet connections at home. We believe the findings from the studies can be useful to policymakers, practitioners, and other stakeholders interested in developing effective digital inclusion and broadband adoption policies. Although those with a limited monthly budget have an acute understanding of the value of home broadband, the costs associated with home broadband service make it difficult for them to afford - with some having to prioritize other everyday expenses and others delaying paying other important bills just to be able to maintain their Internet access.
[Colin Rhinesmith is an assistant professor in the Simmons University School of Library and Information Science. Bianca C. Reisdorf is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Madison Bishop is the Head of Youth Services at the Plymouth Public Library in Plymouth, Massachusetts.]
The Department of Education urged the Federal Communications Commission to maintain and modernize the current educational priority of the Educational Broadband Service (EBS) spectrum by keeping the current eligibility requirments for EBS licenses, modernizing the educational use requirement, and issuing new EBS licenses using local priority filing windows.
Within the next five years, 5G networks will generate more than one quarter (26%) of wireless service revenue, according to new research from Strategy Analytics. But despite the expected impressive technical performance of 5G, the overall 5G revenue impact globally on the wireless service providers will be stagnant, the research firm added. The latest research also shows that any growth in 5G will be slow for the next 18 months before the technology gains strong momentum in 2021 as network coverage improves, phone prices fall, and use cases mature. The relatively flat impact of 5G will be similar to the slow initial growth of 4G, the research firm said. Between 2012 and 2018, 4G grew from 4% of all mobile subscriptions to 61% globally, but service revenue increased by less than 1%.
The chatter about 5G is everywhere. Lost in the glowing headlines is the fact the US is making choices that will leave rural America behind. These choices will harm our global leadership in 5G and could create new challenges for the security of our networks.
By ceding international leadership when it comes to developing 5G in the mid-band, we miss the benefits of scale and face higher costs and interoperability challenges. It also means less security as other nations’ technologies proliferate. Indeed, the most effective thing the US can do in the short term to enhance the security of 5G equipment is make mid-band spectrum available, which will spur a broader market for more secure 5G equipment that will also benefit other countries that are pursuing mid-band deployments.
By auctioning only high-band spectrum, we also risk worsening the digital divide that already plagues so many rural communities in the United States. That’s because recent commercial launches of 5G service across the country are confirming what we already know—that commercializing millimeter wave will not be easy or cheap, given its propagation challenges. We need to make it a priority to auction mid-band airwaves right now. The longer we wait, the further behind the United States will fall—and the less likely our rural communities will see the benefits of next generation of wireless technology.
Unlike many of the distinguished panelists and engineers in this room who will be actively involved in planning and deploying the next-generation networks, smart cities, and connected transportation systems of the future, the Federal Communications Commission’s role is to provide the environment that will allow much of the relevant technology to happen. Key to this is making the necessary resources available to those focused on deployment and ensuring that the regulatory – or, better put, the deregulatory – structure is in place to promote the network construction needed to bring these new, disruptive services to the American consumer.
Federal Communications Commissioner Geoffrey Starks sent letters to executives of 14 major phone and voice service providers seeking details about their plans to offer free, default call blocking services to consumers to combat disruptive and dangerous robocalls. “Carriers made clear to the Commission: they want to offer call blocking services to consumers by default. My colleagues and I made clear to carriers: they should not charge consumers for these services. The Commission has acted. Now it is industry’s turn to put these new tools to work for consumers. I’m looking forward to learning the details of their plans to do so,” he said. Commissioner Starks is seeking details about how and when they plan to roll out default call blocking and whether they intend to charge consumers for these services. Responses will be due by July 10, 2019.
Apparently, some of the world’s biggest tech companies have told their employees to stop talking about technology and technical standards with counterparts at Huawei in response to the recent US blacklisting of the Chinese tech firm. Chipmakers Intel and Qualcomm, mobile research firm InterDigital Wireless, and South Korean carrier LG Uplus have restricted employees from informal conversations with Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker. Such discussions are a routine part of international meetings where engineers gather to set technical standards for communications technologies, including the next generation of mobile networks known as 5G. While the US Department of Commerce has not banned contact between companies and Huawei, these handful of major companies are telling their employees to limit some forms of direct interaction, apparently, as they seek to avoid any potential issues with the US government.
In an interview with CNBC, President Donald Trump criticized the antitrust fines imposed by the European Union on US tech companies, suggesting that these tech giants could, in fact, be monopolies, but the US should be the political body raking in the settlement fines. “Every week you see them going after Facebook, and Apple, and all of these companies that are, you know, great companies," President Trump said. "But I will say that the European Union is suing them all the time." “Well, we should be doing this. They’re our companies. So, [the EU is] actually attacking our companies, but we should be doing what they’re doing. They think there’s a monopoly, but I’m not sure that they think that. They just think this is easy money.” Responding to the question of whether tech giants like Google and Facebook were monopolies, President Trump said, “I think it’s a bad situation, but obviously there’s something going on in terms of monopoly.”
But President Trump stopped short of committing to what his administration would consider doing to crackdown on a monopoly. "I can tell you they discriminate against me," President Trump said when asked about companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon. “People talk about collusion. The real collusion is between the Democrats and these companies because they were so against me during my election run."
The Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which administers the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) through which all Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) are authenticated, validated, and delivered to participating Commercial Mobile Service Providers, has informed the Federal Communications Commission's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau that IPAWS will not be ready to support certain improvements to WEA as of June 10, 2019, as previously expected. Accordingly, until such time as IPAWS will support and deploy the State/Local WEA Test option, alert originators may not conduct an end-to-end WEA test to the public without first obtaining a waiver of the FCC’s rules3 The Bureau will issue a Public Notice announcing when IPAWS is available to fully support these WEA enhancements and providing further guidance on their use.
The Supreme Court said that it would hear a case alleging that Comcast discriminated against an African-American owned media company in declining to take up its channels. The justices said in an unsigned order that the court will consider whether the network needs to prove that Comcast meant to act in a discriminatory way in the case. Byron Allen, the owner of the Entertainment Studios Network (ESN), alleged that Comcast violated the Civil Rights Act of 1866 in rejecting to carry his channels. His network initially lost its case in district court, but that ruling was overturned by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The judges wrote in that decision that “[e]ven if racial animus was not the but-for cause of a defendant’s refusal to contract, a plaintiff can still prevail if she demonstrates that discriminatory intent was a factor in that decision." Comcast had asked the Supreme Court to take up the case, alleging that ESN's claims are "based on an outlandish racist conspiracy between Comcast, the NAACP, and other civil-rights groups and leaders to disadvantage wholly African American–owned networks." ESN has pushed back against that argument, claiming that its channels were repeatedly passed over in favor of white-owned networks despite Comcast saying the channels were “good enough” and on the “short list” to be picked up.
The newspaper industry has crawled up Capitol Hill once again to beg for an antitrust exemption it believes would give the business needed in its fight with Google and Facebook for advertising dollars. Currently, Google and Facebook collect 73 percent of all digital advertising. Members of the news industry believe that the two tech giants have exploited their dominance of the Web to unfairly collect digital dollars that rightfully belong to them. The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act of 2019, introduced in the House in April, would allow print and online news companies to cartelize into a united front against Google and Facebook. Under the new law, which would sunset in four years, the cartel could collectively withhold their content from Google, Facebook, and other sites and negotiate the terms under which the two tech giants could use their work. Anti-trust law currently prohibits such industry-wide collusion. This proposed antitrust exemption—being pushed by the 2,000-plus member News Media Alliance trade group—is misguided on several levels. For one thing, it would be wrong to pass a law that would prop up one media sector by selectively bestowing special competitive privileges on it. Instead of petitioning Congress for special privileges, the news industry needs to compete. If it can’t wrangle enough customers, it deserves what’s coming to it.
[Jack Shafer is Politico’s senior media writer.]
After high-tech phone network outages hit major US cities in 1991, the Federal Communications Commission chartered an advisory group to help the agency troubleshoot emerging technology issues. Yet instead of helping solve problems, this industry-dominated group has at times been a barrier to strengthening the security of America’s communications.
The group is now called the Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council, and is known within the commission by its acronym, CSRIC, pronounced “scissor-ick.” The council’s current charter calls for a mixture of representatives from the government, non-profit consumer advocates, and the private sector to “balance the expertise and viewpoints” on technical topics. In addition, the council falls under the purview of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, a statute that sets certain minimum transparency and membership requirements. The Federal Advisory Committee Act requires that memberships of advisory committees “be fairly balanced in terms of the points of view represented and the functions to be performed by the advisory committee”—potentially putting the group on the wrong side of the law. Our analysis found that the council, which is typically chartered for two-year sessions and whose members are appointed by the FCC chairman, is dominated by industry influences and falling short of legal requirements. Since March 2011, when cybersecurity officially became part of the group’s mission, there have been four iterations of the council. Each of those times, more than half of its members represented private sector interests, either as a direct employee of a for-profit company or via affiliation with an industry trade group.
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 Robbie McBeath (rmcbeath AT benton DOT org) — we welcome your comments.
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