Thursday, June 16, 2022
Headlines Daily Digest
Stories From Abroad
If the federal government’s investments in broadband connectivity are to be effective, different programmatic pieces must work together. Broadband infrastructure funds are necessary to ensuring universal access, but not sufficient to achieve full digital equity. Equitable broadband adoption depends on people having the financial means to maintain service, which the Affordable Connectivity Plan (ACP) facilitates, as well as access to wrap-around digital inclusion services (such as tech support and skills training). Effective coordination between infrastructure and digital equity investments can ensure that people subscribe to new networks that the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program funds. ACP enrollment data offers clues as to how well a community is positioned to take advantage of funds to promote digital equity. Abysmal ACP enrollment levels may indicate a capacity deficit; a community may have a dearth of institutions that can make people aware of ACP benefits and aid in enrollment. Strong ACP enrollment invites exploring why. Are particular places doing outreach that might explain high enrollment levels? If so, state policymakers would be wise to consult with digital inclusion advocates in these areas (as BEAD planning requires) and explore whether initiatives in high-enrollment areas might be replicated elsewhere. Understanding the geography of ACP adoption can therefore help states more effectively prioritize resources for digital equity. If, for instance, Digital Equity Act (DEA) funds will provide grants to entities providing digital inclusion services in cities and communities, wouldn’t it help to know which places have the greatest need? Patterns of ACP enrollment help answer that question.
The Michelson 20MM Foundation is proud to launch the Digital Equity in Tribal Communities Project, a new multi-year effort to address digital inequity in indigenous communities. This project looks to empower tribal nations with the knowledge, tools, and means necessary to access the internet and the opportunities that come with it. We aim to center the voices, expertise, and wisdom of tribal leaders in our efforts because the solutions for the challenges faced by the community must come from those most knowledgeable of the community’s needs. In partnership with the Institute for Local Self Reliance, we have created this series to provide tribal communities with resources to establish and maintain broadband networks and help their communities connect to the economic, health, education, and civic engagement opportunities to thrive. These bootcamps align with the Michelson 20MM Foundation’s philosophy of affecting catalytic change and centering community as the foundation for that change. The convenings foster digital sovereignty and center tribal communities as the source for solutions to digital inequity on tribal lands.
he House Appropriations Committee today released the draft fiscal year 2023 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies funding bill. The legislation funds agencies and programs within the Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and the Farm Credit Administration. For 2023, the bill provides funding of $27.2 billion– a critical increase of $2.075 billion, 8 percent– above 2022. In total, the bill includes $195 billion for both discretionary programs funded on an annual basis and mandatory programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The legislation would grow opportunity and lift up rural communities with a critical increase for rural broadband, a new 1 percent loan program for water programs for rural areas, and a record investment of $1.5 billion in single family home loans. The bill provides over $4.2 billion for rural development programs. The bill invests over $560 million for the expansion of broadband service, including $450 million for the ReConnect Program.
The US government has spent billions of dollars on several rounds of programs to upgrade internet speeds in rural areas over the past decade. Despite those efforts, many residents are still stuck with service that isn’t fast enough to do video calls or stream movies—speeds that most take for granted. Many communities have been targeted for broadband upgrades at least twice already, but flaws in the programs’ design have left residents wanting. The Wall Street Journal analyzed 1.4 million largely rural census blocks that were included in a series of nationwide Federal Communications Commission broadband programs over the past decade. In the latest program, the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, rolled out in 2020, internet service providers won rights to public funding in about 750,000 census blocks, covering every state except Alaska. The Journal's analysis found that more than half of those census blocks—areas with a combined population of 5.3 million people—had been fully or partially covered by at least one previous federal broadband program.
The broadband industry is at a unique crossroads. Between the many federal and state broadband funding opportunities that are now in play, well over $100 billion will be made available over the next five years. This funding cycle can help fuel the dramatic expansion of fiber broadband across the entire country, helping bring the promise of broadband to the unserved and underserved. Our broadband future will be far more sustainable and future ready as a result, but communications service providers (CSPs) will have a golden opportunity to leverage that new infrastructure to fuel even future expansion and growth. The future is indeed bright. But only for those CSPs who seize it. The current broadband funding cycle creates a once-in-a-generation opportunity. By leveraging this opportunity, CSPs can lay the foundation for decades of growth and prosperity.
[Keith Russell is responsible for Nokia Fixed Networks marketing in North America]
The OpenVault Insights Report for the first quarter of 2022 shows that broadband usage remains high. Average household broadband usage in March 2022 was measured at 514 gigabytes, staying over half a terabyte of data used for the average household. This is a drop from 536 gigabytes in the fourth quarter of 2021, but the first quarter has always shown seasonally lower usage than at the end of the previous year. Usage for the first quarter is up 11% from the 462 gigabytes in the first quarter of 2021. That’s a lower growth rate than the 20% growth rate we’ve come to expect – however, 2021 was not a normal year due to the extraordinary growth from the pandemic. The OpenVault statistics continue to show a huge number of users that are consuming more than 1 terabyte of data per month. At the end of the first quarter, 14.6% of homes used more than 1 terabyte of data, including 2.4% who used over 2 terabytes. That’s a significant increase since the first quarter of 2021 when 10% of homes used more than 1 terabyte of data – a year-over-year growth rate of 46%. One of the most interesting statistics reported by OpenVault is the migration of customers over time to faster broadband tiers. OpenVault’s conclusion from the latest data is that ISPs should expect the continued growth of customers who use more than a terabyte of data per month. They also note that there is a marketing opportunity for ISPs since customers seem willing to pay to upgrade to faster speeds.
Indiana is positioned to be well connected with the second announcement of a statewide fiber network consortium. The newest entrant, Accord Telecommunications Collaborative, LLC, is owned by 21 electric and telephone cooperative service providers and covers 75% of the state’s land mass. Accord’s owners, which are non-profit organizations, collectively service more than 300,000 homes and businesses in Indiana. They own 20,000 miles of fiber and about 40,000 miles of electric lines. Announcements about partnerships with other providers are expected to be made in the coming weeks. The emphasis will be on using assets from its members rather than leasing or purchasing fiber from others.
Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel shared with her colleagues new draft rules to improve the reliability and resiliency of wireless networks during emergencies. If adopted by a vote of the full FCC, the rules would help reduce wireless phone outages for the public and support faster service restoration after hurricanes, wildfires, and other disasters. In September 2021, the FCC adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to improve communications during disasters. The FCC also convened a field hearing on this topic, where stakeholders from public safety, industry, and consumer groups testified. The draft rules result from this effort. Disaster recovery activities in the wireless industry are currently supported by the Wireless Network Resiliency Cooperative Framework, a voluntary industry agreement to promote resilient communications and situational awareness during disasters through roaming agreements, mutual aid, and other measures. At present, the nation’s largest wireless providers are signatories to this agreement. If adopted, the rules would codify the Framework and expand its applicability to all facilities-based wireless providers. Among other changes, the rules would require facilities-based wireless providers to enter into mutual aid arrangements that enable them to request, or receive a request, for assistance during emergencies. The rules would also require that facilities-based wireless providers enter into bilateral roaming agreements in advance of disasters to help the public communicate. In addition, the rules would expand the triggers for activation of these provisions, and provide for critical testing and reporting on wireless roaming implementation during disasters. If adopted, the rules would take a significant step forward to improve network resiliency. At the same time, the FCC would continue examining the record in this proceeding and real-world performance during disasters in order to take any necessary further actions.
YouTube videos viewed by children do not reflect the ethnic diversity of young children, tweens, and teens across the United States. In videos watched by young children, portrayals of BIPOC characters are disproportionately negative when compared to White characters. In videos watched by 0- to 8-year-olds, Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) character portrayals were shallow or missing almost three-quarters of the time. For tweens and teens, ethnic-racial stereotypes, including using inappropriate accents, saying the N-word, or jokes with ethnic-racial themes, appeared in about 1 in 10 videos, on average. Videos containing ethnic-racial stereotypes had lower viewership compared to videos without stereotypes. Gender stereotypes pervaded videos viewed by tweens and teens and tended to occur in videos that also had ethnic-racial stereotypes. Teaching about race and ethnicity was extremely rare; of the 1,242 videos watched by children in the study, only two (0.002%) discussed race and ethnicity. Although tweens and teens watched videos with characters that reflected their own ethnic-racial identity, this was not the case for 0- to 8-year-olds.
These BEREC Guidelines are designed to provide guidance on the implementation of the obligations of national regulatory authorities (NRAs). Specifically, this includes the obligations to closely monitor and ensure compliance with the rules to safeguard equal and non-discriminatory treatment of traffic in the provision of internet access services and related end-users rights as laid down in Articles 3 and 4. These Guidelines constitute recommendations to NRAs, and NRAs should take utmost account of the Guidelines. The Guidelines should contribute to the consistent application of the Regulation, thereby contributing to regulatory certainty for stakeholders.
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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