Daily Digest 7/12/2021 (Competition)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents


Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy  |  Read below  |  President Joseph Biden  |  Public Notice  |  White House
Reaction to Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy  |  Summary at Benton.org  |  Kevin Taglang  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Biden order on broadband competition could hit wall at FCC  |  Read below  |  Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce, Ars Technica
Why Net Neutrality Can’t Wait  |  American Civil Liberties Union
Netflix Quietly a Huge Winner in Biden’s Order Targeting Big Business  |  Hollywood Reporter
What Biden’s executive order on noncompete agreements means for tech workers  |  Los Angeles Times
Editorial: Don’t want the FTC to act on antitrust? Tell Congress to get moving.  |  Washington Post
Michael Hiltzik: President Biden takes aim at the multitude of ways that businesses can make your life miserable  |  Los Angeles Times


Lawmakers to Determine Fate of Infrastructure, Antipoverty Plans  |  Read below  |  Andrew Duehren  |  Wall Street Journal
Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework Creates Economic Opportunities for Rural America  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  White House

Digital Divide

Benton Foundation
2016 Called. It Wants to Know How Lifeline is Doing  |  Read below  |  Kevin Taglang  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Expanding Broadband in the Black Rural South  |  Read below  |  Dominique Harrison  |  Research  |  Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies
Make digital rights part of digital infrastructure  |  Read below  |  Priya Vora  |  Op-Ed  |  Hill, The

Broadband Data

Sen Wicker Asks NTIA to Reassess Data Collection Processes  |  Read below  |  Sen Roger Wicker (R-MS)  |  Letter  |  Senate Commerce Committee


The Spectrum Needs of US Space-Based Operations: An Inventory of Current and Projected Uses  |  Read below  |  Charles Cooper  |  Research  |  National Telecommunications and Information Administration
Cable Companies: FCC Must Give New Entrants Fair Shot at 12 GHz  |  Read below  |  John Eggerton  |  Next TV
SpaceX attacks Dish over 12 GHz argument  |  Read below  |  Monica Alleven  |  Fierce
The ugly side of 5G: New cell towers spoil the scenery and crowd people’s homes  |  Washington Post
Mobile industry needs 2 GHz of mid-band spectrum by 2030 according to GSMA  |  Fierce
NFL wins waiver of FCC Citizens Broadband Radio Service rules for in-game coach-to-coach communications system  |  Federal Communications Commission
JASON Report on the Impacts of Large Satellite Constellations  |  National Science Foundation


Minnesota Department of Commerce and the Minnesota Attorney General's Office blast CenturyLink for landline service shortcomings  |  Minneapolis Start Tribune


Opinion: The US Desperately Needs a Civilian Cybersecurity Corps  |  nextgov


Shira Ovide: We Need Remote Work for Everyone  |  New York Times
How to Achieve Sustainable Remote Work  |  New Yorker

Elections and Media

How online fundraising led voters to donate more money than they realized  |  Vox

Company News

Midco targets 10 Gbps fiber to homes in the Midwest  |  Read below  |  Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce


Meet Tim Wu, the Man Behind Biden’s Push to Promote Business Competition  |  Read below  |  Ryan Tracy  |  Wall Street Journal

Stories From Abroad

China Orders Stores to Remove More Apps Operated by Didi Global’s China Arm  |  Wall Street Journal
Today's Top Stories


Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy

President Joseph Biden  |  Public Notice  |  White House

President Biden is taking decisive action to reduce the trend of corporate consolidation, increase competition, and deliver concrete benefits to America’s consumers, workers, farmers, and small businesses. This Executive Order established a whole-of-government effort to promote competition in the American economy. The Order includes 72 initiatives by more than a dozen federal agencies to promptly tackle some of the most pressing competition problems across our economy. Once implemented, these initiatives will result in concrete improvements to people’s lives. The Order tackles four issues that limit competition, raise prices, and reduce choices for internet service.

  1. Lack of competition among broadband providers: More than 200 million U.S. residents live in an area with only one or two reliable high-speed internet providers, leading to prices as much five times higher in these markets than in markets with more options. A related problem is landlords and internet service providers entering exclusivity deals or collusive arrangements that leave tenants with only one option. This impacts low-income and marginalized neighborhoods, because landlord-ISP arrangements can effectively block out broadband infrastructure expansion by new providers. In the Order, the President encourages the FCC to: Prevent ISPs from making deals with landlords that limit tenants’ choices.
  2. Lack of price transparency: Even where consumers have options, comparison shopping is hard. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), actual prices paid for broadband services can be 40% higher than advertised. During the Obama-Biden Administration, the FCC began developing a “Broadband Nutrition Label”—a simple label that provides basic information about the internet service offered so people can compare options. The Trump Administration FCC abandoned those plans. In the Order, the President encourages the FCC to: Revive the “Broadband Nutrition Label” and require providers to report prices and subscription rates to the FCC.
  3. High termination fees: If a consumer does find a better internet service deal, they may be unable to actually switch because of high early termination fees—on average nearly $200—charged by internet providers. In the Order, the President encourages the FCC to: Limit excessive early termination fees.
  4. Companies discriminatorily slowing down internet access: Big providers can use their power to discriminatorily block or slow down online services. The Obama-Biden Administration’s FCC adopted “Net Neutrality” rules that required these companies to treat all internet services equally, but this was undone in 2017. In the Order, the President encourages the FCC to: Restore Net Neutrality rules undone by the prior administration.

Biden order on broadband competition could hit wall at FCC

Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce, Ars Technica

President Joe Biden prepared to sign an executive order which among other things aims to boost broadband competition, but progress could be limited by a deadlocked Federal Communications Commission. The order largely aims to bring back policies championed by the Obama Administration which were either reversed or abandoned under President Donald Trump, but this may be unlikely without a Democratic majority in the FCC. The five-member FCC is currently one head short, with the current four Commissioners evenly divided along political lines. Biden has yet to nominate a fifth Commissioner. Industry groups are also blasting the order over what they say are heavy-handed net neutrality regulations. In the event that net neutrality does make a comeback despite the current situation at the FCC, the issue is likely to end up back in the courts.


Lawmakers to Determine Fate of Infrastructure, Antipoverty Plans

Andrew Duehren  |  Wall Street Journal

Democrats are racing to finalize a bipartisan infrastructure deal and set the contours of a broad child-care and education plan, aiming to maintain a delicate agreement with Republicans while simultaneously plowing forward with their own priorities. After a two-week recess, senators return to Washington this week to determine the fate of much of President Biden’s roughly $4 trillion agenda. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told Senate Democrats that he expects that the chamber will take up both a roughly $1 trillion infrastructure agreement and a resolution setting the parameters of a bill encompassing other Democratic priorities in the coming weeks. While staff have been filling in details of the infrastructure agreement, Democrats remain divided over the size and scope of the other, broader bill. Liberals such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) have called for as much as $6 trillion in spending in the package, while moderates have favored a smaller number. Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee are seeking to reach an agreement on the top-line cost of the package soon and bring a budget resolution to the Senate floor in the coming weeks, the first step before other committees will craft the details of the legislation.

Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework Creates Economic Opportunities for Rural America

Press Release  |  White House

Despite the fact that rural and Tribal communities across the country are asset-rich, they make up a disproportionate number of persistent poverty communities. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework invests in rural and Tribal communities, creating jobs in rural America and wealth that stays in rural America. The Framework delivers 100% broadband coverage, rebuilds crumbling infrastructure like roads and bridges, eliminates lead pipes and service lines, builds resilience to climate change and extreme weather events, and puts Americans to work cleaning up pollution that has impacted fossil fuel communities in rural America. More than 35 percent of rural Americans and Tribal communities lack wired access to broadband at acceptable speeds. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework invests $65 billion, including through USDA rural broadband programs, to make high-speed internet available to all Americans, bring down high-speed internet prices across the board, and provide technical assistance to communities seeking to expand broadband. With the 1936 Rural Electrification Act, the Federal government made a historic investment in bringing electricity to nearly every home and farm in America, and millions of families and our economy reaped the benefits. Broadband internet is the new electricity. It is necessary for Americans to do their jobs, to accelerate precision agriculture, to participate equally in school learning and health care, and to stay connected.

Digital Divide

2016 Called. It Wants to Know How Lifeline is Doing

Kevin Taglang  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

In 2016, the Federal Communications Commission adopted a comprehensive reform and modernization of its Lifeline program. For the first time, the FCC included broadband as a supported service in the program, allowing support for stand-alone mobile (think cell phone) or fixed broadband Internet access service (think home broadband service delivered over a wire), as well as bundles including fixed or mobile voice and broadband. But the 2016 decision also set out to zero-out support for voice-only services. With such major changes to the program, the FCC's 2016 Lifeline decision included two mechanisms to review the impact of the reforms. As we noted back in March, the FCC directed its Wireline Competition Bureau, by June 30, 2021, to review the Lifeline program and submit a report to the full FCC recommending whether action should be taken to adjust course. To help inform that report, the FCC also mandated that the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), which administers the FCC's universal service programs (including Lifeline), obtain an independent program evaluation of the Lifeline program’s design, function, and administration by December 31, 2020 so that the evaluation’s findings could be incorporated, as appropriate, into the State of the Lifeline Marketplace Report. Both of these reports became available last week.

Expanding Broadband in the Black Rural South

Dominique Harrison  |  Research  |  Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies

More than almost any other group, Black communities in the Black Rural South lack affordable, high-speed, quality broadband—38 percent of African Americans there report they do not have access to home internet. Expanding broadband could help reduce the deep racial and economic inequalities in education, jobs and healthcare in the region. Too often, efforts to close the digital divide conflate “rural” with “White” and “urban” with “Black.” The Joint Center's report authored by Dr. Dominique Harrison examined the unique plight of Black residents in rural counties with populations that are at least 35 percent Black (152 counties in 10 Southern states), which we refer to as the “Black Rural South," and found that:

  • Affordability is a reason that Black families in the Black Rural South lack broadband.
  • Lack of availability of broadband is another factor driving less access to broadband in the region. 
  • Broadband access could advance education and workforce training in the Black Rural South. 
  • Broadband access could create job opportunities. 
  • Broadband access can help improve health. 

Dr. Harrison’s issue brief includes further research, analysis and solutions that will be detailed in her forthcoming 45-page report on this same topic, which will be released later in the summer of 2021.

Make digital rights part of digital infrastructure

Priya Vora  |  Op-Ed  |  Hill, The

The bipartisan infrastructure bill is still far from a done deal, but after the political wrangling over what is and isn’t “infrastructure,” at least one area of firm bipartisan agreement has emerged: broadband digital access is infrastructure, but if the US lags behind our economy will not remain competitive. The broad agreement on broadband for all is a positive, overdue development. But by itself, without better digital norms and governance, universal broadband access in the US won’t do much to secure Americans’ digital rights, equitably distributed economic growth, or stronger competitiveness. Achieving those things requires another kind of digital “infrastructure”—data sharing systems that bake in users’ rights to privacy and control of their data. As long as the US government is agreeing to spend billions on improving and expanding broadband infrastructure, let’s also agree that at the same time, we should also invest in approaches to digital governance that expand user rights and create a more equitable data economy. Building trust and rights, not just cables and servers, is critical infrastructure for US competitiveness and democracy.

[Priya Vora is the co-founder of Future State and the Africa Data Leadership Initiative, programs affiliated with the United Nations. Previously she launched the Financial Services for the Poor program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.]


Sen Wicker Asks NTIA to Reassess Data Collection Processes

Sen Roger Wicker (R-MS)  |  Letter  |  Senate Commerce Committee

Ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee Roger Wicker (R-MS) sent a letter to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) asking the agency to reassess its data collection processes and sources, and to use only the most up-to-date and accurate data as it updates its map. "Recently, NTIA released its 'Indicators of Broadband Need' interactive map," says Sen Wicker. "This map represents a compilation of a variety of datasets depicting the state of broadband access in the United States. Although it is a novel approach to the challenge, I am concerned that this map is as inaccurate as previous federal maps. Indeed, releasing it has only created confusion regarding the state of broadband availability in the United States. I urge NTIA to reassess its data collection processes and sources, and use only the most up-to-date and accurate data as it updates its Indicators of Broadband Need map and begins administering its broadband grant programs."


The Spectrum Needs of US Space-Based Operations: An Inventory of Current and Projected Uses

Charles Cooper  |  Research  |  National Telecommunications and Information Administration

A first-of-its-kind report documenting the wide array of current and projected spectrum uses by space-based systems. The report addresses a wide range of government and commercial space-based operations and the value they provide to the economy and our quality of life, both in the United States and globally. All of these operations depend on a key public resource–radiofrequency spectrum–both for controlling space-based systems and for relaying communications and data to and from Earth. To help policymakers, regulators and the general public understand the broad scope of space-based systems and their spectrum needs, the report offers an extensive and detailed appendix describing individual spectrum bands, allocations to space-based services, and illustrative examples of the systems using those bands.

Cable Companies: FCC Must Give New Entrants Fair Shot at 12 GHz

John Eggerton  |  Next TV

Cable broadband operators are telling the Federal Communications Commission that if it opens up the 12 GHz band for sharing between direct broadcast satellite (DBS) and terrestrial 5G, it should not be influenced by incumbent users. The band is currently used for licensed DBS, fixed satellite service, and multichannel video and data distribution (MVDDS). In January 2021 the FCC voted unanimously to propose opening up the 500 GHz midband spectrum for unlicensed 5G use, but said that could only happen if incumbent users are protected from interference. The FCC wanted input on whether to allow 5G sharing throughout the band, modification of existing MVDDS incumbents' licenses to grant flexible use licenses for terrestrial 5G and traditional DBS, or auction "overlay" licenses in the band. In reply comments, NCTA-The Internet & Television Association said it was not weighing in on whether or not the FCC should open up the 12 GHz band—suggesting there was still work to be done to conclude sharing would not interfere with current users—but that if it did, the FCC should allow new entrants an “equal opportunity to access the spectrum.”

SpaceX attacks Dish over 12 GHz argument

Monica Alleven  |  Fierce

SpaceX said it’s up to Dish and its allies to show their proposed use of 12Ghz spectrum won’t harm satellite companies. SpaceX told the Federal Communications Commission that it should move "expeditiously” to terminate the Multichannel Video Distribution and Data Service (MVDDS) licensees, of which Dish is the biggest one, because it’s a “failed service” encumbering next-generation satellite services that are trying to put the spectrum “to its highest and best use.” The comments come as the FCC is contemplating future uses of the 12 GHz band through a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) process that started in early 2021. Dish and other MVDDS licensees have been pushing the FCC for years to change the rules so that they can use the spectrum for 5G, which currently is prohibited under the rules. Satellite companies, including SpaceX, want to use the band for their own next-generation satellite services, like Starlink, which they argue already are serving hard-to-reach areas of the country with broadband. The FCC is gathering comments from all sides on the issues, and ultimately, it will be up to the FCC to decide the fate of the band and its current and intended users.

Company News

Midco targets 10 Gbps fiber to homes in the Midwest

Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce

Regional US broadband provider Midco announced a $500 million fiber project, aiming to deliver 10 Gbps service to hundreds of thousands of locations in the Midwest. Midco currently provides fiber service to around 460,000 homes and businesses across the Midwest; the company said its multi-year Fiber Forward initiative will connect 300,000 homes and businesses with 10-gigabit capabilities, with 150,000 locations each in North and South Dakota. Midco President and CEO Pat McAdaragh said in a statement that the company will “deploy a mix of next gen fiber technologies” to realize its goal. He added the advanced network will “provide fast symmetrical speeds, low latency, unmatched reliability and rock-solid security.”


Meet Tim Wu, the Man Behind Biden’s Push to Promote Business Competition

Ryan Tracy  |  Wall Street Journal

Tim Wu is getting a second chance to change how the government regulates American corporations. Wu, a law professor and progressive antitrust leader, is a key architect of the executive order aimed at making US businesses more competitive. He helped write a similar order in the waning months of the Obama administration, which resulted in a handful of new regulations. Then Donald Trump won the 2016 election, scuttling plans for a broad regulatory push and later repealing some of the new rules. Wu is back in the White House as special assistant to the president for technology and competition policy, and he and other Biden administration officials are picking up where the Obama team left off five years ago.

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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 Robbie McBeath (rmcbeath AT benton DOT org) — we welcome your comments.

© Benton Institute for Broadband & Society 2021. Redistribution of this email publication — both internally and externally — is encouraged if it includes this message. For subscribe/unsubscribe info email: headlines AT benton DOT org

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