Friday, July 15, 2022
Headlines Daily Digest
News From the FCC
Stories From Abroad
News From the FCC
Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced the agenda for the FCC's August 5, 2022 Open Commission Meeting. The FCC will:
- Vote to establish a multi-million-dollar Outreach Grant Program that would enlist partners to inform people in their communities about the Affordable Connectivity Program’s benefits, eligibility requirements, and how to apply;
- Vote to establish a one-year pilot program, titled “Your Home, Your Internet,” with the goal of increasing awareness of the Affordable Connectivity Program among recipients of federal housing assistance and facilitating enrollment in the program by providing targeted assistance;
- Launch an inquiry to examine the opportunities and challenges of in-space servicing, assembly, and manufacturing capabilities—or “ISAM”—that can support sustained economic activity in space;
- Vote on rules to use spectrum in the 17.3-17.8 GHz more efficiently and expand the downlink capacity for high-throughput satellite communications;
- Consider an adjudicatory matter from the Media Bureau; and
- Consider an action from the Enforcement Bureau.
The Federal Communications Commission's Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB), in conjunction with the Rural Broadband Auctions Task Force (RBATF) and the Office of Economics and Analytics (OEA), authorizes Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (Auction 904) support for more winning bids. For each of the winning bids identified, the FCC has reviewed the long-form application information, including the letter(s) of credit and Bankruptcy Code opinion letter(s) from the long-form applicant’s legal counsel. Based on the representations and certifications in the relevant longform application, the FCC authorizes and obligates support for the winning bids. [See list of winning bids]
The Federal Communications Commission voted to create a new Enhanced Competition Incentive Program (ECIP) to establish incentives for wireless licensees to make underutilized spectrum available to small carriers, Tribal Nations, and entities serving rural areas. The new program encourages licensees to partition, disaggregate, or lease spectrum to better match available spectrum resources with entities that seek to provide needed services to under-connected communities. The FCC's action builds upon Congressional goals in the MOBILE NOW Act to incentivize beneficial transactions in the public interest. Under this new program, small carriers and Tribal Nations can qualify, as can rural-focused entities. Transactions through the new program must offer at least half of the licensed spectrum from a given Wireless Radio Service license to an unaffiliated eligible entity for long-term use within specific geographic parameters. Under the program, any covered geographic licensee may offer spectrum to an unaffiliated eligible entity through a partition and/or disaggregation, and any covered geographic licensee eligible to lease in an included service may offer spectrum to an unaffiliated eligible entity through a long-term leasing arrangement.
The Federal Communications Commission proposed rules that would modify the intercarrier compensation regime to address ongoing harmful arbitrage practices that raise costs for long-distance carriers and their customers. The FCC seeks comment on proposed changes to its Access Stimulation Rules to ensure that they apply to traffic that terminates through providers of IP-enabled services (IPES Providers). In the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the FCC proposes to require these providers to count and report their call traffic volumes to the FCC to determine compliance with the Access Stimulation Rules.
The Federal Communications Commission opened an inquiry to evaluate how FCC programs might help survivors of domestic violence and other harmful abuse get access to connectivity services. The Notice of Inquiry seeks comment on whether the Lifeline and Affordable Connectivity Programs can be modified to support the connectivity needs of survivors. Specifically, the inquiry seeks comment on whether survivors are currently able to fully utilize these programs and to gain a better understanding of whether and how these programs might be modified to support survivors, while continuing to protect the programs against waste, fraud, and abuse. The FCC also explores ways to keep calls to hotlines and shelters from appearing on call logs, due to the potential for abusers to exploit this information.
The US Department of the Treasury announced the approval of an additional group of four states under the American Rescue Plan’s Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund (CPF): Kansas, Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota:
- Kansas, approved for $83.5 million, estimates it will connect 21,300 homes and businesses by building high-speed internet service in areas where there is a demonstrated need. The Broadband Acceleration Grant Program, a competitive grant program, will contribute to bridging the digital divide by providing access to reliable high-speed internet connections. CPF dollars will help build reliable infrastructure that is affordable in the areas the program is designed to serve.
- Maine, approved for $110 million, estimates it will connect 22,500 homes and businesses by supporting the Maine Infrastructure Ready to invest in qualified locations that can be served by line extensions of existing networks or new networks. This competitive grant program is focused on serving locations that currently lack access to reliable high-speed internet access , including remote locations in Maine’s most rural counties.
- Maryland, approved for $95 million, estimates it will connect 16,667 homes and businesses by supporting the Network Infrastructure Grant Program, a competitive broadband grant program that will provide funding directly to internet service providers (ISPs) for qualifying large-scale broadband projects in areas that lack service. The program aims to close the racial and socioeconomic digital divide across the state.
- Minnesota, approved for $68.4 million, estimates it will connect 23,517 homes and businesses by using the funds for its Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program, a competitive grant program designed to provide financial resources for new and existing ISPs to invest in building broadband infrastructure in areas of the state that currently lack high-speed internet.
People living in rural Kansas have been concerned about their lack of access to reliable broadband for over 20 years. As part of a second wave of Capital Projects Fund awards, Kansas will receive $83.5 million from the US Department of the Treasury to increase access to affordable, reliable, high-speed internet. According to BroadbandNow, 15 percent of households in Kansas have no access to the internet. Kansas ranks 35th among states in internet coverage, speed and availability. On July 14, Treasury approved Kansas’ plan for $83.5 million (representing 58% of the state's available Capital Projects Fund funding). With these funds, Kansas estimates it will connect 21,300 homes and businesses by building high-speed internet service in areas where there is a demonstrated need. The broadband networks deployed with this funding will be designed to provide internet service with speeds of 100/100 Mbps symmetrical to households and businesses upon project completion. Each of the broadband providers funded by the Kansas Office of Broadband Development’s use of the Capital Projects Fund will participate in the Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program—a $30 per month subsidy for low-income families. The Capital Projects Fund support will accelerate broadband deployment in Kansas, but the state estimates that this investment will only help connect 8 percent of the locations in the state still lacking broadband service. Kansas still has a long way to go to achieve universal broadband.
[Kevin Taglang is executive editor at the Benton Insitute for Broadband & Society.]
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently filed a request for a six-month waiver from the Build America, Buy America Act (BABA) – more colloquially referred to as the Buy American rules. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) legislation updated the BABA rules to apply to all projects that receive federal funding for infrastructure as of November 18, 2021, the date the IIJA was published in the Federal Register. In the broadband world, this means the updated Buy American rules apply to federal grant programs administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), USDA, Economic Development Administration (EDA), and any other agency that awards a broadband infrastructure grant or loan. For broadband purposes, the USDA 6-month waiver, if awarded, would relax the rules for any ReConnect grants awarded by the agency during that time frame. If the USDA is granted this waiver, then any winners of the last round of ReConnect (which should be awarded soon) might get some breaks from the Buy American rules. But the USDA waiver makes it clear to me that folks need to be braced for Buy America to apply to the upcoming Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program grants. I’ve heard folks on industry panels predicting waivers for broadband projects, and my bet is that isn’t going to happen.
[Doug Dawson is president of CCG Consulting.]
Microsoft released a new Digital Equity Data Dashboard to help create better understanding of the economic opportunity gaps in towns, cities and neighborhoods across the United States. The new tool was developed by Chief Data Science Officer Juan Lavista Ferres and the Microsoft AI for Good Lab, and aggregates public data from the Census Bureau, Federal Communications Commission, BroadbandNow and Microsoft’s own Broadband Usage Data. It goes census tract-by-census tract, examining 20 different indicators of digital equity – such as broadband access, usage, education and poverty rates – to create one of the most complete pictures of digital equity in these areas to date. The dashboard confirms what we have long known: the digital divide isn’t just felt in rural areas – it also deeply impacts cities. The dashboard also offers the opportunity to examine a city neighborhood-by-neighborhood, helping identify which areas most urgently need digital equity investments. The dashboard can be accessed here.
A new site aims to tackle a problem that in a more logical universe would not exist: real-estate listings that offer only vague details about the internet service available at an abode or don’t even address that issue. Fiber Homes promises less-chancy connectivity details in house listings. The Columbia (SC)-based site works with fiber-optic broadband providers to verify the access available at a home. It highlights matching listings with a “certified” label and details about the broadband plans available, in some cases with sign-up discounts, so home shoppers shouldn’t have to check a future home’s address at multiple providers’ sites to see which one offers the fastest connection. So far, those providers—which pay Fiber Homes for the certification and the publicity unless they choose a free-listing option that doesn’t include sales tools—are on the smaller side, with the biggest ones being Allo, Ting, and Point Broadband. CEO Robert Gilbert said he expects the site to include 4 to 5 million listings by the end of 2022.
In a previous study, CoSN examined the network connectivity experience of students who participated in virtual learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that many students have returned to their school locations, CoSN wanted to see how things changed. Major findings of the 2022 Home Internet Connectivity Study include:
- Addressing insufficient home internet connectivity must continue to be a priority for educators and policymakers.
- Students experience significantly slower network speeds outside of school hours than during school hours.
- There remain ongoing gaps in network performance and Internet speeds at all grade levels for students connecting from outside the school.
- Large disparities persist among student subgroups around home connectivity, particularly by ethnicity and for socioeconomically disadvantaged students.
Amazon has proposed concessions to settle two antitrust cases against it in the European Union, a fresh sign of changing strategy from big tech companies after the bloc passed a strict new digital-competition law. The US-based online retailer offered a pledge not to use nonpublic data about sellers on its marketplace, after the EU accused Amazon of violating competition law by using nonpublic information from merchants to compete against them. The European Commission, the bloc’s top competition regulator, said it was seeking feedback on commitments offered by Amazon to settle the cases. If the commitments are accepted, they would become binding and apply to Amazon’s activities in the EU over a five-year period. Although a settlement wouldn’t require Amazon to make any changes to its business practices outside of Europe, lawyers said the commitments could end up having wider repercussions because companies sometimes choose to apply changes they are compelled to make in Europe to their global operations.
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.
© Benton Institute for Broadband & Society 2022. 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
Executive Editor, Communications-related Headlines
for Broadband & Society
1041 Ridge Rd, Unit 214
Wilmette, IL 60091
headlines AT benton DOT org
The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society All Rights Reserved © 2022