Thursday, July 14, 2022
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News from the House
On July 13, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee passed five health and telecommunications bills. This includes:
- The Spectrum Innovation Act of 2022 (H.R. 7624);
- The Ensuring Phone and Internet Access Through Lifeline and Affordable Connectivity Program Act of 2022 (H.R. 4275);
- The Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS) Codification Act (H.R. 4990); and
- The Safe Connections Act of 2022 (H.R. 7132).
More information on each of these bills can be found here.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced that all states and territories have confirmed their participation in the Biden-Harris Administration’s Internet for All initiative announced in May 2022. The Administration engaged in a comprehensive outreach and technical assistance campaign to ensure no state or territory was left behind. The $42.45 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program enables states and territories to expand high-speed internet access by funding planning, infrastructure deployment and adoption programs. A separate State Digital Equity Planning Grant Program supports developing digital skills training and workforce development plans. In total, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act funds $65 billion to ensure all Americans have access to affordable, reliable high-speed internet. Digital Equity applications were due July 12th and all Letters of Intent to participate in the BEAD program were submitted ahead of the July 18th deadline. Hundreds of Tribal Nations have also submitted Letters of Intent to participate in the State Digital Equity Planning Grant program. Tribal entities can also apply for subgrants through their state or territory’s digital equity program.
The Federal Communications Commission announced it is committing over $266 million in two new funding rounds through the Emergency Connectivity Program, helping to close the Homework Gap. The funding supports applications from all three of the program’s application windows, supporting over 1 million students across the country, including in Delaware, Maryland, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, and Oregon. Over $12 million from the first and second application windows will provide support in the upcoming school year for approximately 15 schools, 2 libraries, and 1 consortium. For the third application window, the FCC is committing over $254 million that will support over 400 schools, 45 libraries, and 15 consortia. Of the nearly $5.6 billion funding commitments approved to date, approximately $4.1 billion is supporting applications from Window 1; $826 million from Window 2; and $656 million from Window 3.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) set a new definition of broadband at 100/20 Mbps for purposes of the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program grants – if a customer fails that test they are considered either unserved or underserved. Everybody nationwide has been so focused on download speeds that we are largely ignoring the fact that a huge number of nationwide broadband customers are not getting upload speeds of 20 Mbps. All of the speed test efforts I’ve seen have focused on whether homes and businesses are receiving 100 Mbps download and have largely ignored any implications of customers not achieving the NTIA’s 20 Mbps upload stream to qualify for a broadband grant. This raises an interesting question, which I’m sure is going to be the core of the cable company’s response to this question. In some places I've seen, gigabit customers are getting upload speeds between 30 Mbps and 40 Mbps. I’m sure the cable company will argue that since a few customers are getting speeds over 20 Mbps that the network is capable of faster speeds. This is an interesting question for state broadband grant offices to consider because it’s inevitable that people are going to seek grants where there is a cable company operating, using the argument that the cable company doesn’t meet the NTIA’s definition of broadband.
[Doug Dawson is president of CCG Consulting.]
The Arizona Commerce Authority announced 20 awardees of the Arizona Broadband Development Grant Program (ABDG). Gov Ducey (R-AZ) launched the program in November 2021, investing $100 million to expand high-speed broadband to Arizona’s unserved or underserved areas. The grant allocated a total of $75.7 million to 14 awardees in rural counties and $23.6 million to six awardees in urban counties, spurring $112.8 million in local matching funds. Grants were awarded through a competitive process based on criteria such as return on investment and local support. When completed, the grant projects will increase connections for homes, businesses, public safety agencies, medical facilities, schools, libraries and more while catalyzing new economic development and enhancing opportunities for sectors such as tourism, trade, and agriculture. Examples of projects include installing high-speed fiber-optic infrastructure, deploying Wi-Fi access points and networking equipment for broadband internet, and expanding existing and middle-mile fiber networks.
Patrick Perdue, a radio enthusiast who is blind, regularly shopped for equipment through the website of Ham Radio Outlet. The website’s code allowed him to easily move through the sections of each page with his keyboard, his screen reader speaking the text. That all changed when the store started using an automated accessibility tool, often called an accessibility overlay, that is created and sold by the company accessiBe. Suddenly, the site became too difficult for Perdue to navigate. The accessiBe overlay introduced code that was supposed to fix any original coding errors and add more accessible features. But it reformatted the page, and some widgets — such as the checkout and shopping cart buttons — were hidden from Perdue’s screen reader. Labels for images and buttons were coded incorrectly. He could no longer find the site’s search box or the headers he needed to navigate each section of the page, he said. Perdue is one of hundreds of people with disabilities who have complained about issues with automated accessibility web services, whose popularity has risen sharply in recent years because of advances in A.I. and new legal pressures on companies to make their websites accessible.
Opensignal released its July 2022 5G Experience Report. This report shows data collected between March 16 and June 13, 2022. Key findings include:
- T-Mobile users’ 5G Download Speed reaches 171 Mbps.
- Verizon and AT&T users saw 5G Download Speed improvements thanks to C-band deployments.
- In 5G Availability T-Mobile tops the 40 percent mark.
- Only Verizon users enjoyed a Good 5G Games Experience and 5G Voice App Experience.
- T-Mobile maintains its lead in 5G Upload Speed.
MoffettNathanson joined the recent chorus of a steeper-than-anticipated slowdown in broadband subscriber growth for the second quarter of 2022, expecting large operators like Comcast and Charter Communications to report less than half the customer gains they did in the first quarter, while wireless customer additions are anticipated to maintain their recent upward momentum. After its purchase by SVB Financial Group, MoffettNathanson was required to reinitiate its coverage of the sector, and on July 12 it did just that. Of the nine cable and telecom stocks MoffettNathanson follows, four have an “outperform” rating: T-Mobile, Comcast, Charter and fixed-wireless access provider Starry. The rest — Altice USA, Cable One, AT&T, Verizon Communications and Dish Network — have a “market perform” rating. Several analysts have already modified their broadband subscriber growth forecasts for the bigger operators, with some expecting full-year 2022 additions to be nearly one-third of those of the peak year of 2020. Driving those modifications are the added pressure of increased fiber buildouts by telecom companies like AT&T and Verizon, aggressive pricing, the near disappearance of digital subscriber line customers — once a top feeding ground for cable broadband — and sluggish new household formation. MoffettNathanson senior analyst Craig Moffett estimated that both Comcast and Charter would report broadband growth of 91,000 and 90,000 in second quarter 2022, less than half the 262,000 and 185,000 they added, respectively in the first quarter.
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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