Daily Digest 7/18/2022 (How fast is broadband?)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Broadband Speed

FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel Proposes to Increase Minimum Broadband Speeds  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission

Broadband Funding

Benton Foundation
Treasury's Capital Projects Fund Boosts Maryland's Network Infrastructure Grant Program  |  Read below  |  Kevin Taglang  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Benton Foundation
Treasury Support Helps Connect Maine  |  Read below  |  Kevin Taglang  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Estimating cost to serve using available data  |  Read below  |  Mike Conlow  |  Analysis  |  Substack
The Challenges for Broadband Grant Offices  |  Read below  |  Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting
Transformative infrastructure funding is here. The application process for getting it still needs work.  |  Brookings
AT&T Puts Its ‘21 State Footprint’ in Its Mouth.  |  Bruce Kushnick

State/Local Efforts

LiveOak raises $150 million to supplant AT&T and Lumen DSL with fiber in Florida and Georgia  |  Fierce
Shentel Awarded Grant to bring its Glo Fiber High-Speed Network to Frederick County, Maryland  |  Shentel


Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen visits FCC to talk about 5G buildout and 12 GHz band  |  Fierce
New York libraries check out CBRS as Wi-Fi alternative  |  Read below  |  Martha DeGrasse  |  Fierce
WCO Spectrum has $1 billion in active offers to buy 2.5 GHz spectrum  |  Read below  |  Linda Hardesty  |  Fierce


Transition to 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline Begins July 16  |  Department of Health and Human Services


How to protect your privacy when using mental health care apps  |  National Public Radio
Commissioner Carr Testimony on TikTok  |  Federal Communications Commission
Rep Eshoo and Sen Wyden Urge FTC to Address Deceptive Data Practices by VPN Providers  |  House of Representatives


Justice Department Poised to Rebuff Google Concessions, Clearing the Way for Antitrust Suit  |  Bloomberg
Internet Archive Draws Support In Battle Over Digital Book Loans  |  MediaPost


Meet the Lobbyist Next Door  |  Read below  |  Benjamin Wofford  |  Wired

Older Americans

Tech Savvy or Tech Addicted? Older Adults Are Stuck on Screens, Too  |  Wall Street Journal


Tech journalism’s accessibility problem  |  Vox

Company News

Brightspeed goes big with Missouri fiber build plan  |  Read below  |  Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce


President Biden's Broadband Agenda Is at a Do-or-Die Moment  |  Read below  |  Marguerite Reardon  |  CNET
How Silicon Valley's congressman, Rep. Ro Khanna, sees the future  |  Politico

Stories From Abroad

Ukraine Leans on Elon Musk’s Starlink in Fight Against Russia  |  Wall Street Journal
TikTok resists calls to preserve Ukraine content for war crime investigations  |  Ars Technica
Canadian regulators order Rogers Communications to explain its network outage  |  Fierce
Today's Top Stories

Broadband Speed

FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel Proposes to Increase Minimum Broadband Speeds

Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission

Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has circulated to her colleagues a Notice of Inquiry that would kick off the agency’s annual evaluation of the state of broadband across the country. As part of this assessment, Chairwoman Rosenworcel proposed increasing the national standard for minimum broadband speeds and proposed setting a long-term goal for broadband speed. The Notice of Inquiry proposes to increase the national broadband standard to 100 megabits per second for download and 20 megabits per second for upload, and discusses a range of evidence supporting this standard, including the requirements for new networks funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The FCC previously set the broadband standard at 25/3 Mbps in 2015 and has not updated it since. The Notice of Inquiry proposes to set a separate national goal of 1 Gbps/500 Mbps for the
future. Looking beyond speed, Chairwoman Rosenworcel also proposes that the FCC consider affordability, adoption, availability, and equitable access as part of its determination as to whether broadband is being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion.

Broadband Funding

Treasury's Capital Projects Fund Boosts Maryland's Network Infrastructure Grant Program

Kevin Taglang  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Maryland wants broadband networks to reach everyone in the state. Its efforts got a boost this week when the US Department of the Treasury approved the state's plan to apply 55 percent of its allocation from the Capital Projects Fund towards broadband deployment. The Federal Communications Commission estimates that just 2.6 percent of Marylanders lack access to broadband networks that can deliver speeds of 25 Mbps downloads and 3 Mbps uploads. The number is higher for Maryland's rural areas where 7.1 percent of residents do not have broadband access. On July 14, 2022, the US Treasury approved Maryland's plan for $95 million in Capital Projects Fund support. Maryland estimates it will connect 16,667 homes and businesses through its competitive broadband grant program. The program aims to close the racial and socioeconomic digital divide across the state. As reported by Maryland, estimates show that investments made using the Capital Projects Fund will serve approximately 30 percent of locations still lacking high-speed internet access in the state. The operators of Maryland networks that receive Capital Projects Fund support will still be responsible to contribute matching funds, provide internet service with speeds of 100/100 Mbps symmetrical to households and businesses upon project completion, and participate in the FCC's Affordable Connectivity Program, a $30 per month subsidy for low-income families.

[Kevin Taglang is executive editor at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society.]

Treasury Support Helps Connect Maine

Kevin Taglang  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Since 2005, Maine has recognized the importance of adequate internet service to everyday life and commerce, in both urban and rural areas of the state. On July 14, the US Department of Treasury approved the state's plan to connect 22,500 homes and businesses through Maine Infrastructure Ready. Maine has two similar, but separate broadband authorities: the ConnectMaine Authority (ConnectME) and Maine Connectivity Authority. The Maine Connectivity Authority will oversee Maine Infrastructure Ready, a competitive broadband infrastructure grant program. The program will invest in qualified locations that can be served by line extensions of existing networks—or new networks—focusing on serving locations that currently lack access to reliable wireline service at speeds of 100/20 Mbps, including remote locations in Maine’s most rural counties.

Estimating cost to serve using available data

Mike Conlow  |  Analysis  |  Substack

To estimate how much it will cost to close the digital divide in broadband access we need two pieces of information: the cost to serve each location, and how many locations there are. Here I’m going to come up with a proof-of-concept estimate of the cost to serve any location; later I’ll use those two numbers to estimate how far broadband funding might go. To estimate the cost to serve a location I use a simple model where price per location is a function of the density of the census block, the distance from that census block to the nearest census block served by either cable or fiber, an indicator for urban or rural, and state fixed effects to capture differences in cost in each of the states. 

The Challenges for Broadband Grant Offices

Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting

People might wonder why so many people are needed to implement the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program. I think that being in charge of a state broadband grant office has to be one of the toughest gigs in the country right now. The main purpose of this blog is to give folks an idea of the huge challenges facing each state broadband office over the next few years. One of the first things each state will have to do is to develop a detailed broadband plan that describes how the BEAD grant program will work. The BEAD grant rules are complex. States somehow need to understand all of these subtleties and cobble together a state broadband grant plan that meets all of the requirements. Then, one of the biggest challenges of reviewing and choosing grant winners is that there are so many different uses for the funds – broadband last mile, anchor institutions, low-income apartments and neighborhoods, and various digital divide uses. States will somehow have to decide how to judge and balance grant awards between these various areas. After awarding grants, the state broadband office will become the agency that will pay out grant funds. Grant funds are dispersed based upon real invoices, and a grant office will have to make the big pivot from reviewing grants to administering the funds and deciding if the submitted invoices match the intentions of an awarded grant.  All of this workload comes with a shot clock ticking at all times and pre-determined deadlines that must be met. It’s hard to imagine that working in a state broadband office will be anything short of chaotic for the next four or five years.

[Doug Dawson is president of CCG Consulting.]


New York libraries check out CBRS as Wi-Fi alternative

Martha DeGrasse  |  Fierce

In New York City (NY), students without broadband access face additional challenges given the reduced number of parking lots and places more rural students have been forced to go to get wi-fi during the pandemic. “A number of donors offered to help fund initiatives to extend Wi-Fi,” remembers Garfield Swaby, vice president for information technology at the New York Public Library. But Swaby knew Wi-Fi wasn’t the answer. “I don’t know if it would be able to get off the sidewalk,” he said. Conversations with Seattle’s University of Washington researchers and Jason Eyre of Utah's Murray City School District convinced Swaby to evaluate Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) using General Authorized Access. Grants totaling $1.5 million were solicited from S&P Global Fund and another private donor. Swaby knew the libraries would be able to check out CBRS gateways to patrons because they already had a history of hotspot lending. He didn’t know exactly how his team would architect the network, so he invited multiple vendors to trial their technology at various library locations throughout the city. In September 2022, the New York Public Library will evaluate the results of the trial and decide whether to continue investing in CBRS. Swaby said the library might seek federal funding to help subsidize the cost of the gateways for end users. But he’s not completely sure the project will move forward. “CBRS isn’t a panacea,” he said. “It is a layer in a multi-layer solution to bridge the digital divide.”

WCO Spectrum has $1 billion in active offers to buy 2.5 GHz spectrum

Linda Hardesty  |  Fierce

The private investment company WCO Spectrum has been a thorn in the side of T-Mobile for the past year or more. WCO has been reaching out to educational institutions that own 2.5 GHz licenses and who lease that spectrum to T-Mobile. The investment firm has been offering to purchase those licenses, while T-Mobile has fought these transactions tooth and nail. WCO Managing Partner Carl Katerndahl said WCO has been involved in 13 transactions, but T-Mobile used its right-of-first-refusal to buy the spectrum in 10 of the deals. In two cases T-Mobile sued schools to block their sale of spectrum to WCO. There is only one deal in which WCO might finally succeed in buying a 2.5 GHz spectrum license that is leased to T-Mobile. That’s a deal with Owasso public school district, one of the largest school districts in the state of Oklahoma — as reported by Light Reading. Katerndahl said the total value of the 10 deals where T-Mobile exercised its right-of-first-refusal amounted to about $450 million. “That goes to the schools,” he said. He seems proud that WCO’s involvement is causing T-Mobile to probably pay more for these licenses than it would have if there weren’t a competitor vying for the spectrum.


Meet the Lobbyist Next Door

Benjamin Wofford  |  Wired

Washington’s political power brokers are quietly inching toward a full embrace of influencers. If not handled with care, however, that can be hazardous—particularly when the arrangement is unmasked. Urban Legend, a small ad-tech startup operating out of a loft in Alexandria (VA), pledges on its website to “help brands run accountable and impactful influencer campaigns.” Launched in 2020 by a pair of former Trump administration staffers, its more comprehensive mission, one rarely articulated in public, is slightly more ambitious. Staffed by a plucky 14-person team, Urban Legend keeps its largest asset carefully hidden away inside its servers: an army of 700 social media influencers who command varying degrees of allegiance from audiences that collectively number in the tens of millions. The company has painstakingly cultivated this roster to reflect every conceivable niche of society reflected on the internet: makeup artists, Nascar drivers, home improvement gurus, teachers, doulas, Real Housewives stars, mommy bloggers, NFL quarterbacks, Olympians, and the occasional Fox News pundit. Renée DiResta, who studies narrative manipulation at the Stanford Internet Observatory, called influencer disclosure “yet another area in which law hasn’t caught up to digital infrastructure.” Many suspect that the lack of disclosure enforcement has bulldozed political money toward influencers, whose campaigns are not logged in Facebook’s political advertising archive. The Federal Elections Commission, too, has scant rules governing social media, leaving the entire field open, potentially, to anonymous money.

Company News

Brightspeed goes big with Missouri fiber build plan

Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce

Market announcements from new fiber provider Brightspeed continue to roll, with the company setting its sights on a substantial buildout in Missouri as its latest target. The company said it plans to reach more than 130,000 locations across 19 counties in the state by the end of 2023. That figure is set to jump to more than 310,000 by the end of its five-year build plan. At least for its initial build, projects will span Boone, Carroll, Cass, Cedar, Dent, Gasconade, Howell, Jackson, Johnson, Lafayette, Lawrence, Marion, Moniteau, Nodaway, Oregon, Phelps, St. Charles, Texas and Wright (MO) counties. The announcement makes Missouri the third largest build target for 2023 that Brightspeed has announced to date. The operator previously stated it is aiming to reach 300,000 locations in North Carolina and 170,000 locations in Ohio next year as it strives for a total of 1 million locations reached in 2023.


President Biden's Broadband Agenda Is at a Do-or-Die Moment

Marguerite Reardon  |  CNET

Net neutrality and the rest of President Joe Biden's broadband agenda hang in the balance as the president's nominee for the deadlock-breaking fifth commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission awaits a vote in the US Senate. But the process has stalled for nine months and time is running out. Gigi Sohn, a longtime public-interest advocate and former FCC adviser, was nominated in October 2021 to be the third Democrat at the agency. Since then, Sohn [Senior Fellow and Public Advocate at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society] has faced two contentious Senate confirmation hearings in which Republicans grilled her over her social media activity and other issues, like her criticism of Fox News. With a 50-50 Senate and strong opposition to her nomination from Republicans, every Democrat is needed to get her nomination over the finish line. But with only three weeks left on the Senate calendar before the August recess in an election year, the clock could run out on Sohn's nomination, leaving the FCC without a functional majority. The agency has already gone more than 500 days with a deadlocked 2-2 split between Republicans and Democrats.

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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 Grace Tepper (grace AT benton DOT org) — we welcome your comments.

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Kevin Taglang

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Executive Editor, Communications-related Headlines
Benton Institute
for Broadband & Society
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