Daily Digest 7/20/2021 (AT&T and Dish)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Digital Inclusion

Kentucky, Louisiana, and some Tribal areas lead early uptake of Emergency Broadband Benefit Program  |  Read below  |  Scott Wallsten  |  Analysis  |  Technology Policy Institute
Addressing Military Veterans’ Economic and Broadband Needs  |  Read below  |  Trace Chesser, Tom Ferre  |  Op-Ed  |  Broadband Communities

Broadband Infrastructure

Senators and Biden Aides Struggle to Save Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal  |  New York Times
Public-Private Partnerships Offer Digital Divide Solution  |  Read below  |  David Gilford  |  Op-Ed  |  Broadband Communities
Collaboration on Telecommunications Infrastructure Can Help Bridge the Digital Divide  |  Read below  |  Stephen Szymanski  |  Analysis  |  Broadband Communities
Broadband access eyed for wide swath of Central Virginia  |  Read below  |  Allison Wrabel  |  Daily Progress
2021 Fiber-To-The-Home Top 100  |  Broadband Communities
Deploying Fiber Faster and Cost-Effectively With Microtrenching  |  Broadband Communities
Orange County, Virginia’s broadband network, subscriber base continues to grow  |  Daily Progress
Creating a Frictionless Fiber Broadband Experience: Sunbridge in Central Florida  |  Broadband Communities


Spectrum Management: Agencies Should Strengthen Collaborative Mechanisms and Processes to Address Potential Interference  |  Government Accountability Office
AT&T, Dish Strike $5 Billion Deal to Support Boost Mobile  |  Read below  |  Drew FitzGerald  |  Wall Street Journal
Could Fixed Wireless Access Bridge the Digital Divide?  |  Read below  |  William Webb  |  Analysis  |  Broadband Communities

Platforms/Social Media

White House Dispute Exposes Facebook Blind Spot on Misinformation  |  Read below  |  Sheera Frenkel  |  Washington Post
Twitter Suspends Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene for Posting Coronavirus Misinformation  |  New York Times
Inside Facebook’s $1.6 Billion Bid to Save Journalism: Secret Deals, Favored Partners and Few Details  |  Wrap, The
Google delays in-app billing crackdown after wave of US antitrust lawsuits  |  Ars Technica
Zoom buys Five9 for $14.7 billion to ‘deliver even more happiness’  |  Vox
Confidence in Big Business, Big Tech Wanes Among Republicans  |  Gallup


Comcast-ViacomCBS Streaming Partnership in Works?  |  Wall Street Journal

Elections & Media

Midterm-Election Ad Spending Poised to Soar as Streaming TV Attracts Campaigns  |  Wall Street Journal


The US, Joined by Allies and Partners, Attributes Malicious Cyber Activity and Irresponsible State Behavior to China  |  White House
How China Transformed Into a Prime Cyber Threat to the US  |  New York Times
How African states can tackle state-backed cyber threats  |  Brookings

FTC Reform

Rep Castor Introduces the 21st Century FTC Act  |  Read below  |  Rep Kathy Castor (D-FL)  |  Press Release  |  House of Representatives


Broadband Gatekeepers  |  Read below  |  Yosef Getachew, Jonathan Walter, Beth Rotman, Paul Ryan  |  Research  |  Common Cause


Public Knowledge Welcomes New Policy Counsel Nicholas P. Garcia To Bolster Advocacy Efforts  |  Public Knowledge
Q&A with Mignon Clyburn: How the Telecommunications Act of 1996 Unleashed a New Era of Competition  |  Broadband Communities
Q&A with Jonathan Chambers of Conexon: Electric Cooperatives’ Covenant With Members Will Fill Rural Broadband Gap  |  Broadband Communities

Stories From Abroad

The spyware is sold to governments to fight terrorism. In India, it was used to hack journalists and others.  |  Washington Post
How African states can tackle state-backed cyber threats  |  Brookings
How China Transformed Into a Prime Cyber Threat to the US  |  New York Times
Today's Top Stories

Digital Inclusion

Kentucky, Louisiana, and some Tribal areas lead early uptake of Emergency Broadband Benefit Program

Scott Wallsten  |  Analysis  |  Technology Policy Institute

Kentucky, Louisiana and Tribal areas have the largest shares of households signing up for the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program subsidy. The Technology Policy Institute's (TPI) Broadband Map uses EBB data from the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) to display program usage and overall progress across the country. As of July 11, almost 3.6 million households had participated in EBB. As of July 15, USAC had not updated the amount of subsidy support claimed; the most recent listing includes data only through May, at which time only $34.6 million of $3.2 billion has been claimed. While the share of eligible households that have signed up for EBB by itself provides only limited generalizable information outside of specific areas, a broader question that can be answered statistically is what types of households are generally receiving EBB support. TPI's analysis of the EBB data suggests that areas with higher shares of low-income households with broadband are signing up at lower rates than elsewhere. This correlation suggests—but does not prove—that the households who could benefit the most are not the ones primarily benefiting from the program. It will be some time before we know how the benefits from the EBB were distributed, yet it is worth tracking closely and making public more detailed data so that we can learn what is working and what isn’t, and apply that knowledge towards future programs.

Addressing Military Veterans’ Economic and Broadband Needs

Trace Chesser, Tom Ferre  |  Op-Ed  |  Broadband Communities

USA Cares and Connected Nation are asking leaders to consider using a portion of the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund–which recently allocated $350 billion across states, territories and tribal governments to use for pandemic-related economic recovery activities–to provide immediate relief and long-term support for veterans and military spouses. USA Cares works daily with veterans struggling with financial needs and other challenges that made adapting to life outside the military difficult. Connected Nation, dedicated to helping local communities, states, and federal agencies create and implement solutions to their broadband and digital technology gaps, is setting up veterans and military spouses for long-term success through its Digital Works program. Together, they help veterans and military families with their immediate needs while setting them up for long-term success. The Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds provide enough money to address both needs and still tackle other issues. US leaders have an unprecedented opportunity to help veterans and military spouses in their states, counties and cities, but they must act now.

[Trace Chesser is the president and CEO of USA Cares and Tom Ferree is the CEO and chairman of Connected Nation.]

Broadband Infrastructure

Public-Private Partnerships Offer Digital Divide Solution

David Gilford  |  Op-Ed  |  Broadband Communities

Federal action is making significant new resources available to states and localities for broadband programs. The magnitude of this funding enables cities of all sizes to consider bold investments in broadband infrastructure. Where private internet service providers (ISPs) failed to provide adequate service, cities often turn to municipal fiber to the premises (FTTP) models. With the government becoming both infrastructure owner and service provider, these approaches enable municipalities to design networks that serve their residents and achieve policy objectives. However, analysis by University of Pennsylvania researchers of the financial performance of such networks illustrates the barriers to sustainable operation. Analyzing 20 municipal fiber networks, the study found the majority were cash-flow negative over four years, with only two networks on a path to pay off the debt incurred within a network’s 30–40-year typical useful life. Recognizing these challenges, new public-private partnership (P3) approaches that combine elements of both public and private models are emerging. A proposal from the Coalition for Local Internet Choice (CLIC) [and published by the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society], “Public Infrastructure/Private Service,” outlines what the authors call “a pragmatic, community-driven, pro-market, pro-business approach to advancing broadband in communities where solutions have not already emerged.”

[David Gilford is a co-founder of the Broadband Equity Partnership, which helps government, nonprofit organizations, and innovative businesses close the digital divide.]

Collaboration on Telecommunications Infrastructure Can Help Bridge the Digital Divide

Stephen Szymanski  |  Analysis  |  Broadband Communities

The US faces complex choices in how to fix broadband infrastructure to close the digital divide. Governments, businesses, service providers, telecommunication infrastructure companies, and other players will need to work together to connect users in a scalable, cost-effective way while weighing new technology advancements to build a future-proof network available to and affordable for all. A key factor is dense and quick fiberization; the high cost of building infrastructure that supports both mobile and fixed-network functionality will drive operators to optimize investments to make the case work. In many cases, fiber will provide the necessary backbone to support hyperscale growth and future-proof networks. What’s also clear is that data consumption is growing relentlessly. With data consumption reaching unseen levels during the pandemic, it’s important to build new networks or modernize existing ones. Ultimately, the goal is to deliver on scale, latency and agility requirements that factor in the reality of customer demand and provider infrastructure–whether greenfield or brownfield–and prevent over or underbuilding of assets. Building a sophisticated optimal network that meets the most granular of requirements is a huge, daunting task, but new infrastructure providing internet access for all is more necessary than ever.

[Stephen Szymanski is the general manager for Americas at STL.]

Broadband access eyed for wide swath of Central Virginia

Allison Wrabel  |  Daily Progress

Central Virginia counties could see nearly all of their residents receive access to fiber-optic broadband service over the next few years. Nine counties have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that could lead to a partnership to bring high-speed internet to residents who don’t have access, and four additional counties have projects in the works. The MOU is between Firefly Fiber Broadband, which is a subsidiary of the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative; Dominion Energy Virginia; the Rappahannock Electric Cooperative; and the participating localities. It kicks off the possibility of bringing fiber broadband to unserved areas of Albemarle, Appomattox, Buckingham, Cumberland, Fluvanna, Goochland, Greene, Louisa and Powhatan counties. Once the counties sign on and commit to local funding, Firefly plans to submit an application to the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative with a regional plan for broadband service and Dominion will have to take its proposal to the State Corporation Commission for regulatory approvals. Firefly will work with localities to identify the unserved areas and come back with final proposals in late August and early September 2021. As part of this effort, the company set up a web page for Virginians to put in their address and do a speed test if they do have slow service.


AT&T, Dish Strike $5 Billion Deal to Support Boost Mobile

Drew FitzGerald  |  Wall Street Journal

AT&T struck a deal to carry Dish Network’s existing cellphone customers over its wireless network, bringing two erstwhile rivals closer as they each pursue more advanced 5G technology. The nonexclusive deal would pay AT&T at least $5 billion over 10 years to support Dish’s consumer cellphone brands, which include Boost Mobile, Ting, and Republic Wireless. The agreement also provides an avenue for AT&T to use some Dish wireless spectrum licenses to support both companies’ customers. The partnership will likely attract scrutiny from the Justice Department, which helped Dish’s entry into the wireless market through a complex deal that cleared the way for cellphone carrier T-Mobile US to buy Sprint. The government allowed the asset swaps to proceed under the assurance that Dish would build a new fifth-generation network over several years. Dish’s nearly 9 million wireless customers currently use T-Mobile’s network. The two companies have tussled over various issues, including T-Mobile’s plan to shut down its 3G network by Jan. 1, 2022. Dish has said the early sunset could cut off many of its customers who need more time to upgrade their cellphones to 4G and 5G smartphones. AT&T has said it would wind down its 3G service in early 2022.

Could Fixed Wireless Access Bridge the Digital Divide?

William Webb  |  Analysis  |  Broadband Communities

With the ability to be deployed more quickly than fiber at a possible lower cost–especially in rural, hard-to-reach areas–fixed wireless access (FWA) offers service providers another tool to give more people access to internet connectivity. A digital divide exists because provision of broadband is uneconomical. Both the terms of broadband subsidies and the desires of users require relatively rapid deployment, and FWA can be deployed much more quickly than fiber. It can also cost less, especially in the areas where a digital divide is more likely to persist. For homes outside urban areas, the cost of delivering high-speed broadband may be higher than the amount operators can afford to pay; FWA can deliver gigabit connectivity while having the advantage of being less expensive than fiber outside of urban areas, where buildings are spaced further apart and the distances over which the fiber needs to be “dug” are greater. Intuitively, FWA is increasingly advantageous compared with fiber when homes are more widely spaced and the subscription rate is lower. When looking at ways to bridge the digital divide, FWA has a low up-front cost–which is minimally affected by how rural deployments are–and low risk if fewer homes take the service.

[William Webb is the CTO of Cambridge Broadband Networks Group.]

Platforms/Social Media

White House Dispute Exposes Facebook Blind Spot on Misinformation

Sheera Frenkel  |  Washington Post

At the start of the pandemic, a group of data scientists at Facebook held a meeting with executives to ask for resources to help measure the prevalence of misinformation about Covid-19 on the social network. The data scientists said figuring out how many Facebook users saw false or misleading information would be complex, perhaps taking a year a more, according to two people who participated in the meeting. But they added that by putting some new hires on the project and reassigning some existing employees to it, the company could better understand how incorrect facts about the virus spread on the platform. The executives never approved the resources, and the team was never told why. Now, more than a year later, Facebook has been caught in a firestorm about the very type of information that the data scientists were hoping to track.

FTC Reform

Rep Castor Introduces the 21st Century FTC Act

Rep Kathy Castor (D-FL)  |  Press Release  |  House of Representatives
Rep Kathy Castor (D-FL) introduced the 21st Century FTC Act, legislation that would give the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Administrative Procedure Act rulemaking authority and first offense civil penalty authority. “For too long, the FTC has been hamstrung in its ability to promulgate effective rules of the road for consumers and penalize companies that harm our friends and neighbors," stated Castor. "This bill will ensure that the FTC has all the tools it needs to protect Americans from scam artists and bad actors in an increasingly online world.” The 21st Century FTC Act is supported by a number of organizations, including the Center for Digital Democracy, Common Sense, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Reports, Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), and many more. “The 21st Century FTC Act gives the Federal Trade Commission improved tools to address the corporate surveillance systems that are harming individual privacy, civil rights, and our democracy," said Caitriona Fitzgerald, Deputy Director at EPIC. "The United States needs a dedicated Data Protection Agency, but in the meantime, streamlined rulemaking procedures for the FTC are a step in the right direction.”


Broadband Gatekeepers

Yosef Getachew, Jonathan Walter, Beth Rotman, Paul Ryan  |  Research  |  Common Cause

Major broadband providers, both telecom and cable, have chosen not to build their networks to areas they deem less profitable and not to upgrade many existing customers left behind by outdated technology. These choices entrench the far too wide digital divide and mean Americans pay some of the highest prices for service. At the same time, the largest ISPs have used their outsized influence in Congress to block any legislation that would undermine their stranglehold over the broadband marketplace. In the 116th Congress alone, these corporations spent an astounding $234 million on lobbying and federal elections, as detailed next. This report examines the political spending and lobbying of the largest ISPs and their trade associations and how these activities have shaped the digital divide. The report connects the dots on how ISPs and their trade associations use political spending and lobbying to block or derail legislation that would bridge the gaps in connectivity we face today. Specifically, the report provides a snapshot of ISP political spending and lobbying during the 116th Congress on broadband-related legislation. The report highlights the real-world impact of ISP political spending and lobbying on broadband access and affordability.

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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

Kevin Taglang

Kevin Taglang
Executive Editor, Communications-related Headlines
Benton Institute
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