Tuesday, June 21, 2022
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As might be expected when there is $42.5 billion in grant funds available, we are probably not done with the rules for the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program grants. There are several areas where heavy lobbying is occurring to change some of the rules established by the National Telecommunication and Information Administration (NTIA) in the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the grants. One of the areas with the most lobbying is coming from wireless internet service providers (WISPs) that are complaining that the NTIA has exceeded its statutory authority by declaring a strong preference for fiber. The NTIA went so far as to declare that fixed wireless technology that doesn’t use licensed spectrum is not a reliable source of broadband and isn’t eligible for BEAD grants. The wireless industry says that the NTIA is out of bounds and not sticking to a mandate to be technology neutral. The primary reason I wrote this blog is for it to be a warning that lobbying and/or lawsuits might delay the BEAD grants. I think the NTIA has done what the legislation required, but obviously, anybody who is being excluded from the grants has nothing to lose by trying to get reinstated in the grants. When there is this much money at stake, I don’t expect those who don’t like the NTIA rules to go away quietly.
[Doug Dawson is president of CCG Consulting.]
In the first quarter of 2022, half of the new broadband customers went to the fixed-wireless access products from Verizon and T-Mobile. T-Mobile and Verizon are aggressively marketing the product, which is touted to have download speeds over 100 Mbps. The market is going to get hotter when Dish gets its launch underway soon. AT&T has also been promising a major new marketing effort to sell the product.
This paper documents home Internet access, types of Internet access, connection speeds, and prices for basic home Internet in tribal areas of the United States. It finds that the share of households with Internet access is 21 percentage points lower in tribal areas than in neighboring non-tribal areas. When compared to these non-tribal areas, download speeds, whether measured using fixed or mobile broadband networks, are approximately 75 percent slower in tribal areas, while the lowest price for basic Internet services in tribal areas is 11 percent higher. Traditional cost factors such as terrain and population density fully explain the price gap but account for only a fraction of the tribal differences in Internet access and connection speeds. Income differences are strong predictors of Internet access but do not affect connection speeds. A sizable amount of the variation in the access and home connection gap between tribal and non-tribal areas is left unexplained. The research concludes with a discussion of how federal broadband programs have penetrated Indian Country, how tribal-specific factors are related to the variation in Internet access within Indian Country, and the potential policy implications of our findings.
The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) helps low-income families and individuals ease the financial burden of making tough choices between paying for groceries and other household necessities or paying for high-speed internet service. The funds that the ACP provides for eligible households to afford high-speed internet access can help level the playing field for low-income families and individuals by increasing their access to educational, employment, and entrepreneurship opportunities; civic engagement; telehealth services; and more. High-speed internet service is no longer a luxury—it is a necessary lifeline. Equitable access to high-speed internet service for low-income families and individuals is imperative for the US to close the internet access gap and build a viable workforce and economy, innovative businesses, and increase civic engagement. The ACP is a step in the right direction to make all of this happen. Spread the word about the ACP which is located at AffordableConnectivity.gov.
[Joycelyn Tate is the senior technology policy advisor for the Black Women’s Roundtable, CEO of Tate Strategies, and co-founder of Make Innovative Technology for Change (MakeIT4Change) Innovation Hub, a nonprofit organization that empowers youth and adults to create technology for social change.]
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. Comments are due on or before July 18, 2022 and reply comments are due on or before August 1, 2022. [WC Docket Nos. 21–450, 20–445; DA 22– 574.
As part of his Better Kentucky Plan, Gov Andy Beshear (D-KY) announced a historic investment of over $203 million to expand reliable and affordable high-speed internet to more than 34,000 Kentucky families and businesses. The state’s Better Internet program is providing more than $89.1 million in 46 grant awards to 12 internet service providers and local governments across 35 Kentucky counties. Grant recipients have pledged funds to match the state’s contributions, bringing the total investment for this round of broadband expansion awards to over $203 million. The awards were made using a competitive process managed by the Finance and Administration Cabinet, which issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) in August 2021. An evaluation team comprised of state government employees spent six months evaluating and scoring the nearly 100 proposals received in response to the RFP. The 12 successful applicants, representing 46 projects, were selected based on their demonstrated ability to meet certain conditions required to receive this funding. Charter Communications received the most funding for its 18 grant awards, totaling over $49 million with an overall project investment of $118,808,035 including the required matching funds.
In May 2022, Verizon said it was making fee “adjustments,” which included an administrative charge increase of $1.35 per voice line to $3.30. The carrier recently confirmed to CNET that it’s raising rates for older, shared data plans as well, and those are very similar to what AT&T announced. On June 17, Verizon releases a statement clarifying its price increase. "While we recommend our Shared Data Plan customers migrate to an unlimited plan to take advantage of all we have to offer, we are not requiring it," stated the carrier. "That said, for the limited number of consumer customers remaining on these accounts, we will be introducing a rate plan adjustment in their next bill to account for the added cost of maintaining these legacy plans." Wireless postpaid consumer customers on all metered shared data plans will see a plan rate adjustment charge of $6 per month for a single-line phone account and $12 per month for multi-line phone accounts, effective with their next bill cycle, according to Verizon. Pricing in wireless looks to be all over the place these days as inflation worries trigger increases and others seek to do the opposite. AT&T CFO Pascal Desroches warned there could be additional price increases.
The Biden-Harris Administration kicked off a summer-long Talent Pipeline Challenge to fill high-quality jobs to help rebuild our infrastructure and supply chains in the US. This is a nationwide call to action for employers, education and training providers, states, local, Tribal, and territorial governments, and philanthropic organizations to make tangible commitments that support equitable workforce development in three critical infrastructure sectors: Broadband, Construction, and “Electrification” (EV Charging Infrastructure and Battery Manufacturing). The Department of Commerce’s Internet for All program’s Notice of Funding Opportunities (NOFOs) prioritize high labor standards and protections, as well as workforce development initiatives, to ensure there is a trained, diverse workforce ready to support the programs. In particular, the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) NOFO makes workforce development an eligible use of grant funds, and requires a highly-skilled workforce, which can be fulfilled through use of graduates of registered apprenticeships or other joint labor-management training programs. The NOFO also requires Eligible Entities to develop a plan for ensuring an available and highly skilled workforce in order to receive their funds.
A glut of major tech policy bills await action as Congress' summer recess looms — and anything that doesn't pass by then is unlikely to pass at all in a midterm election season. The ambitious tech agenda this Congress started out with 18 months ago is getting squeezed out by other legislative priorities, including gun control, the Jan. 6 investigation, and the economy. Here's what's in the queue:
- The United States Innovation and Competition Act: This measure to strengthen the U.S. chip industry was thought of originally as an easy win for both parties to boost American tech competitiveness.
- The American Innovation and Choice Online Act: The most-likely-to-pass of this Congress' spate of tech antitrust bills would significantly change how giants like Apple, Amazon, Google and Meta do business by not allowing them to preference their own products.
- The American Data Privacy and Protection Act: Congress has been trying to pass a comprehensive personal data privacy bill for years now, with many stops and starts.
- Filling the Federal Communications Commission's empty seat: Democratic FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel's agenda is stymied without the confirmation of Gigi Sohn as a Democratic commissioner.
- Curbing data brokers: After the leak of a U.S. Supreme Court draft decision overturning Roe v. Wade, a number of lawmakers said legislation would be needed to protect online data around reproductive care and abortion access.
The UK has nearly 5 million houses with more than three choices of ultrafast fibre-optic broadband, while 10 million homes do not have a single option, according to analysis that points to the inequality in internet infrastructure across Britain. While some parts of the country are benefiting from high internet speeds, others have been left behind, according to research conducted by data group Point Topic with the Financial Times. The government has pledged to bridge the digital divide and level up the economy by extending fast broadband to all homes. Its manifesto outlined plans to deliver “full-fibre and gigabit-capable broadband to every home and business across the UK by 2025”, later revised to 99 per cent of homes by 2030. But a land grab by network providers for regions where it is cheaper and easier to build has created a fragmented market that some experts say makes little sense and will culminate in competitive options being unequally spread. The sluggish rollout of full-fibre technology by Openreach, BT’s networking division, led the government to stimulate competition in part by limiting the amount the former monopoly could reduce prices. That helped “alternative networks” — backed by billions in private capital — flourish. With companies overbuilding one another, by the end of the decade there are likely to be fibre lines to 80 million premises, way over double the 31 million housing stock, according to the analysis.
In the days after Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops into Ukraine, Elon Musk made the decision to support Kyiv. Fewer than 48 hours later, Musk’s commercial rocket and satellite business SpaceX dispatched a shipment of Starlink satellite kits to fortify the country’s internet network against Putin’s forces. Musk was commended by the west but his aid was viewed differently by China, a critical growth market for his business empire, where Tesla makes a quarter of its revenues. Now Musk is under increasing pressure from Beijing’s national security and data hawks, because SpaceX and Starlink were considered critical parts of the “US space military-industrial complex.” Beijing’s military planners fear a scenario in which thousands of Musk’s satellites are deployed to conduct surveillance of China or, more sensitively, support Taiwan.
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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