Thursday, June 23, 2022
Headlines Daily Digest
The New York State Public Service Commission released a first-of-its-kind, interactive broadband map to provide the most detailed depiction of broadband infrastructure in New York to date. The map, along with an accompanying report, is the result of months of field assessments conducted by the Commission in the state's most remote areas, covering more than 80,000 miles. In order to collect accurate data, the Commission collaborated with 60 internet service providers and surveyed tens of thousands of New York consumers. The new map will allow individual New Yorkers and policymakers to analyze a more accurate representation of which locations are served, underserved or unserved. The Commission found that 97.4 percent of New York State address locations are served by high-speed broadband service providers. The map demonstrates that high-speed broadband services remain unavailable to many New Yorkers in predominately rural areas, in places like Hamilton County, and Lewis County, which are 70.2 percent and 73 percent served, respectively. Furthermore, it shows that counties with the lowest median income were found to have the highest average prices for broadband and the lowest percentage of served locations. The Commission's broadband mapping division will continue to prioritize refining this data through the rest of 2022.
The Indiana statewide fiber scene is heating up with two recently formed cooperatives, Hoosier Net and Accord Telecommunications Collaborative, joining forces to tackle fiber connectivity. Hoosier Net, a consortium of 17 internet service providers (ISPs), will leverage its combined assets with Accord to facilitate broadband deployment throughout rural Indiana. Accord, a group of 21 electric and telephone cooperatives, was the second Indiana statewide fiber network announced in June 2022, along with Hoosier Net. Hoosier Net specializes in fiber backbone capabilities for commercial clients like hospitals, schools and government organizations. Its services include direct internet access scalable between 10 Mbps to 100G, dark fiber, Ethernet transport and more. Accord’s members collectively own 20,000 miles of fiber infrastructure, serving around 300,000 homes and businesses across Indiana. Hoosier Net and Accord’s partnership marks the first statewide network that’s composed of both telephone companies and electric co-ops.
Brightspeed is looking to deploy fiber at a furious pace following the expected close of its deal to buy ILEC assets from Lumen Technologies, targeting rollouts to 1 million locations by end-2023. It has now laid out plans to reach more than half of its goal, naming Alabama as the fourth state where it’s planning a significant project. The operator said it will initially target 60,000 fiber passings in the state by the end of 2023, adding to the more than 10,000 existing passings it will have there once the Lumen deal wraps. Work will be focused in Baldwin, Covington, Dale, Elmore, Fayette, Geneva, Henry, Pickens and Tallapoosa (AL) counties. In subsequent years, Brightspeed said it plans to build up to 60,000 additional passings in Alabama to take its total new passings there to 120,000 as it works its way to an overall goal of reaching 3 million locations over the next five years. Beyond its own plans, Brightspeed’s Operations Strategy Lead Sherry Hessenthaler said it is also eyeing an “opportunity to partner with the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) to pursue a possible extension of the build and bring fiber-based internet to even more customers in the state.”
A bipartisan group of lawmakers has banded with industry and consumer advocates to press the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to reject a challenge to fees on telecom services that pay for multiple Federal Communications Commission subsidy programs. In a flurry of filings, members from both sides of the aisle joined trade groups including USTelecom to argue that the FCC's reliance on the Universal Service Fund (USF)–a separately run body that oversees the collection of fees–is not only legal, but "essential" and aligned with congressional goals. Consumer-oriented groups, such as Public Knowledge and the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, as well as stakeholders that include a coalition of libraries and schools that depend on FCC subsidies for high-speed connectivity, also asked the Fifth Circuit to reject petitions seeking to strike down the method for calculating fees. Seven petitioners urged the appeals court in January 2022 to overturn the USF contribution factor, the quarterly calculation of fees, in what would effectively kill the fee regime. But several lawmakers including Sens John Thune (R-SD) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Reps Jim Clyburn (D-SC) and Mike Doyle (D-PA) told the court on June 17 that the FCC has every right to collect the fees, even through a separately created body, the Universal Service Administrative Co. They also backed the system as good policy.
To aid state and local policymakers, this report offers an engineering analysis of fixed-wireless technologies and their suitability for delivering broadband service in various environments. The report addresses a range of critical technology and cost considerations related to fixed-wireless networks—and, as a point of comparison, to fiber-to-the-premises networks. At a high level, the report concludes the following:
- Fixed-wireless technologies will continue to improve but will not match the performance of fiber-optic networks—primarily because the existing and potential bandwidth of fiber is thousands of times higher than wireless.
- Fixed-wireless network coverage is adversely affected by line-of-sight obstructions (including buildings and seasonal foliage) and weather.
- Scalability is a critical challenge to fixed-wireless deployments, both technically and financially. It is challenging to design a fixed wireless network that will provide sufficient, robust upstream and downstream capacity and reach all the addresses in unserved areas.
- The fastest fixed-wireless technologies (such as those that use millimeter-wave spectrum) are effective in delivering short-range service to closely grouped households in urban and suburban settings, but are largely unsuitable for serving rural communities.
- Fiber is sustainable, scalable, and renewable. It offers greater capacity, predictable performance, lower maintenance costs, and a longer technological lifetime than fixed-wireless technologies.
[This publication was commissioned by the Communications Workers of America and prepared by CTC Technology & Energy in the spring of 2022.]
North America is forecast to lead the world in 5G subscription penetration in the next five years with nine-of-every-ten subscriptions in the region expected to be 5G in 2027. The forecast is contained in the June 2022 Ericsson Mobility Report, which also predicts that current global 5G subscriptions will pass the one billion milestone by the end of 2022. 5G is also forecast to account for almost half of all subscriptions by 2027, topping 4.4 billion subscriptions. The report reveals that global mobile network data traffic doubled in the past two years. This traffic growth was driven by increased smartphone and mobile broadband usage, as well as the digitalization of society and industries. The recent statistics and forecasts highlight the strong demand data connectivity and digital services have, and are expected to have, despite the global Covid-19 pandemic and geopolitical uncertainties. Several hundred million people are becoming new mobile broadband subscribers every year. The report also highlights the increasingly important role that Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) is playing in the delivery of broadband services. Ericsson predicts that the number of FWA connections will exceed 100 million in 2022, a figure that is forecast to more than double by 2027, reaching almost 230 million.
So much for the “win-win-win” scenario that Dish Network envisioned for the 12 GHz band. Dish and RS Access have argued that the 12 GHz band can be used by both satellite players like SpaceX’s Starlink and by companies like Dish that want to use it for 5G, all for the public’s benefit. Yet SpaceX recently submitted its own analysis of the effect of terrestrial mobile deployment on non-geostationary orbit fixed satellite service (NGSO FSS) downlink operations. According to the SpaceX study, terrestrial mobile service would cause harmful interference to SpaceX’s Starlink terminals in the 12.2-12.7 GHz band more than 77 percent of the time, resulting in full outages 74 percent of the time. Although entities like RS Access note that SpaceX has access to plenty of other spectrum to accomplish its broadband mission, SpaceX insists that the 12 GHz band has become one of the most important and intensely used spectrum bands for Americans who depend on satellite services. In fact, SpaceX said it depends on the 12 GHz band for the workhorse frequencies in critical downlink services to serve Americans “in every corner of the nation.”
The Arctic region has largely been left out of the broadband arena in the past due to the high cost of building last-mile broadband infrastructure. But this lack of broadband looks to be changing as multiple satellite companies are targeting the region as a good business opportunity. A number of satellite companies are also developing plans and partnerships around bringing their services to the Arctic region. Satellite broadband is an awesome solution for places where there are likely to be no alternatives. I understand why rural residents of the US are flocking to Starlink since, for many of them, it’s the only workable broadband solution on the horizon. I continue to wonder how satellite broadband will stay competitive in the lower forty-eight after the many grant-funded networks are finally built. But there will always be homes in the US out of reach of landline networks or customers that don’t like the landline providers, so it would not be surprising to see the satellite companies with a small but steady customer base south of the Arctic for the long-haul. But satellite broadband ought to dominate the Arctic for decades to come. It can bring decent bandwidth to remote places that may never be candidates for building landline networks. It will be an interesting change for the area as it goes from barely connected to fully connected.
[Doud Dawson is president of CCG Consulting.]
Senate Commerce Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA), whose panel controls the fate of any data privacy bill, stated she’s not close to supporting a major proposal recently unveiled by Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate. In addition, she said Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) has said he will not bring the current bill up for a vote in the upper chamber, signaling roadblocks for the push. Lawmakers including Cantwell have tried to hash out a deal on a bipartisan privacy law for years, amid mounting concerns over the data protection practices of Silicon Valley giants, to little avail. But the recent introduction of the bipartisan proposal has breathed new life into the negotiations, which have languished amid partisan disagreements over the scope of the bill. Cantwell cited concerns that the legislation has “major enforcement holes” and is too weak as it stands to warrant passing a federal law that could override state privacy laws, such as the landmark California Consumer Privacy Act. “People who want to get a bill know that you can’t preempt states with a weak federal standard, so hopefully they’ll come back to the table,” said Cantwell, seemingly referring to Reps Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Sen Roger Wicker (R-MS). Schumer’s office indicated that he would support legislation that has the backing of Cantwell, Wicker, Pallone and McMorris Rodgers.
Antitrust action is desperately needed to reel in the practices of Big Tech companies, especially around privacy, according to Google's former head of advertising. Competition in tech is needed to ensure people are able to have private online experiences, because large companies like Google will never truly care about user privacy, Sridhar Ramaswamy said. Ramaswamy spent 15 years running Google's lucrative advertising business before launching Neeva, a subscription-based search engine. Regulators around the world have put increasing pressure on the largest technology companies over anti-competitive practices. Ramaswamy pointed to the US Justice Department's ongoing case against Google as a promising development for other browsers seeking to reach customers on their smartphones without tracking them across the internet: "It is going to unleash competition. They have no interest in privacy because their business is built on mass collection and exploitation of information." It will take years, even decades, for regulators and companies to catch up with laws that protect consumer data and practices that put user privacy first. In the meantime, people can arm themselves with digital privacy literacy, said Brittany Kaiser, a whistleblower in the Cambridge Analytica data scandal who now runs a foundation called Own Your Data.
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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