Daily Digest 7/6/2021 (Lifeline)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

FCC Programs

FCC Releases Report on the State of the Lifeline Marketplace  |  Read below  |  Kris Anne Monteith  |  Research  |  Federal Communications Commission
Lifeline Program 2020 Program Evaluation  |  Read below  |  Shiva Verma  |  Research  |  Universal Service Administrative Company
Digital Wish and BrightBytes Offer Free Survey so Schools can Qualify for $7 Billion in Tech Funding  |  Digital Wish


Rural America doesn’t have good broadband — and needs it  |  Read below  |  Dan Glickman, Ann Veneman, Mike Espy  |  Op-Ed  |  Chicago Tribune
   See also: NDIA Recommends the Senate Triple the Digital Equity Act Allocation in the Infrastructure Bill  |  National Digital Inclusion Alliance
   See also: Opposition to the BRIDGE Act  |  Taxpayers Protection Alliance
The Future Is in Symmetrical, High-Speed Internet Speeds  |  Read below  |  Ernesto Falcon, Katharine Trendacosta  |  Analysis  |  Electronic Frontier Foundation
Corporations join push for rural broadband  |  Read below  |  Paula Mohr  |  Farm Progress
Possible solutions to Dallas's internet access problem  |  Read below  |  Emily Donaldson  |  Dallas Morning News
Knoxville Utilities Board clears final hurdle to provide broadband internet for customers  |  Read below  |  Vincent Gabrielle  |  Knox News
The Fastest ISPs of 2021  |  PC Magazine

Platforms/Social Media/Content

Justices Gorsuch and Thomas call to revisit New York Times v. Sullivan  |  Read below  |  Ariane de Vogue  |  CNN
After Apple Tightens Tracking Rules, Advertisers Shift Spending Toward Android Devices  |  Wall Street Journal
Apps with 5.8 million Google Play downloads stole users’ Facebook passwords  |  Ars Technica
Big Instagram and TikTok changes mean you’ll see longer videos, fewer friends  |  Washington Post
What If Regulating Facebook Fails?  |  Wired
What a Tech Breakup Could Mean for You  |  Wall Street Journal
Bret Swanson | Big Tech and Big Finance Breed Hubris: With ‘pretense of knowledge,’ Facebook makes it harder to find the truth  |  Wall Street Journal


Your smartphone is breaking up  |  Read below  |  Ina Fried  |  Axios
FTC Charges Broadcom with Illegal Monopolization  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Federal Trade Commission
Newport Wafer Fab, the UK’s largest producer of semiconductors, purchased by Nexperia, a Dutch firm owned by China’s Wingtech  |  Guardian, The
Japan launches bid to regain its semiconductor crown  |  Financial Times


Remote workers are moving out of big cities—but not to the Midwest  |  Vox
Apple Decentralizes From Silicon Valley, but Workers Just Want to Be Remote  |  Bloomberg


Broadband is the new electricity: interagency agreement acknowledges national need  |  Read below  |  NorthcentralPA
Chairman Pallone announces new top staff for House Committee on Energy and Commerce  |  Read below  |  Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ)  |  Press Release  |  House Commerce Committee
Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel Gets Labor Union Endorsement for Permanent FCC Chair  |  telecompetitor
Editorial | Lina Khan’s Power Grab at the FTC: New Chair snatches unilateral authority, rescinds bipartisan Obama-era standards  |  Wall Street Journal
Robert Atkinson | Antitrust Can Hurt US Competitiveness: Actions against RCA, AT&T and Xerox gave a leg up to Europe and Japan  |  Wall Street Journal

Stories From Abroad

Chinese Regulators Target Ride-Hailing Company Didi Just Days After IPO  |  Wall Street Journal
China’s Crackdown on Didi Is a Reminder That Beijing Is in Charge  |  New York Times
Facebook, Twitter, Google Threaten to Quit Hong Kong Over Proposed Data Laws  |  Wall Street Journal
Norway Law Forces Influencers to Label Retouched Photos on Instagram  |  Vice
Today's Top Stories


FCC Releases Report on the State of the Lifeline Marketplace

Kris Anne Monteith  |  Research  |  Federal Communications Commission

In this report, the Federal Communications Commission's Wireline Competition Bureau provides a summary of the state of the Lifeline marketplace as directed by the 2016 Lifeline Order. This report informs the FCC about the current state of the Lifeline marketplace, identifies areas for future FCC consideration regarding the continued transition of the Lifeline program from a program that primarily supports Lifeline voice services to one with a greater focus on supporting Lifeline broadband Internet access service, and offers potential considerations relevant to the Lifeline Program’s continued ability to ensure that low-income Americans have access to affordable communications services. In developing the report, the Bureau relied on information about the Lifeline marketplace from the Lifeline administrator, the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), publicly available information about general market trends, and comments submitted by various Lifeline stakeholders.

The Lifeline program remains a key component of the FCC’s efforts to address broadband availability and affordability across the country. Over the past several years, the FCC has taken important steps to transition the Lifeline program to a program that supports access to broadband Internet access services, allowing Lifeline eligible consumers to benefit from these services in a modern world. While progress has been made to advance affordability, this report offers several areas of consideration for the FCC.

Lifeline Program 2020 Program Evaluation

Shiva Verma  |  Research  |  Universal Service Administrative Company

The key findings of this report reflect the need to establish a clearer connection between Federal Communications Commission policy and how Universal Service Administrative Company operationalizes this policy through an FCC-directed Lifeline program strategic plan. Currently no such document exists. This prescriptive document will significantly contribute to the resolution of many of the findings. Broadly, findings, observations, and recommendations span two main categories:

Program Design – considerations for FCC based on its role to establish the vision and guiding policies for the design of the Lifeline program; and

Program Operations – considerations for USAC based on its processes and procedures to administer the Lifeline program according to FCC guidance and policies.

Performance criteria and metrics for the delivery of the Lifeline program’s objectives do not currently exist and needs to be designed in such a way that clearly links FCC’s intended policy outcomes to expectations of USAC in delivering those outcomes. In terms of program design, FCC’s establishment of agreed upon program performance metrics across Availability, Affordability, Burden and Cost Effectiveness is essential to clearly articulate the service delivery expectations of USAC. Across program operations, USAC will use these performance criteria and metrics to distribute resources to most effectively and efficiently deliver the services under the Lifeline program.

Broadband Infrastructure

Rural America doesn’t have good broadband — and needs it

Dan Glickman, Ann Veneman, Mike Espy  |  Op-Ed  |  Chicago Tribune

The all-out push in Congress to pass a historic infrastructure bill offers an unprecedented opportunity to bring high-speed internet to unconnected rural areas. It’s a watershed moment for rural America, one that could turbocharge economic development and help reverse long-standing health and education challenges. It’s also one of the clearest opportunities Congress has for true bipartisan cooperation — a chance for lawmakers to demonstrate that we can still work together across party lines to do big things. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and John Cornyn (R-TX) have crafted a rarity in today’s political environment: a truly bipartisan package that is very likely to work. The Manchin-Cornyn bill would surgically target our limited federal dollars to build out networks in communities that don’t have broadband. It calls for a truly competitive process to ensure taxpayers get the greatest bang for their buck and requires buildout projects to be completed within three years. Transparency, competition, and accountability: it’s a common-sense approach offering the fastest pathway to universal broadband access. And one both parties should eagerly embrace. 

Congress is facing pressures to reroute a big slice of the pie to more heavily populated metro areas — even where high-speed broadband networks have already been built. Some, for example, want to divert funds so that municipal governments can build and operate their own broadband networks to compete with existing high-speed options — a gamble that has previously produced a mostly unhappy win-loss track record. Others want to redefine “broadband” to require 100 Mbps upload speeds — far in excess of what you would use. These sideshows risk snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. 

The Future Is in Symmetrical, High-Speed Internet Speeds

Ernesto Falcon, Katharine Trendacosta  |  Analysis  |  Electronic Frontier Foundation

Congress is about to make critical decisions about the future of internet access and speed in the United States. It has a potentially once-in-a-lifetime amount of funding to spend on broadband infrastructure, and at the heart of this debate is the minimum speed requirement for taxpayer-funded internet. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the granularity of this debate, but ultimately it boils down to this: cable companies want a definition that requires them to do and give less, one that will not meet our needs in the future. If Congress goes ahead with their definition of 100 Mbps of download and 20 of upload (100/20 Mbps) instead of what we need—100 Mbps of download and 100 Mbps of upload (100/100 Mbps)—we will be left behind. Building a 100/20 Mbps infrastructure can be done with existing cable infrastructure, the kind already operated by companies such as Comcast and Charter, as well as with wireless. But raising the upload requirement to 100 Mbps—and requiring 100/100 Mbps symmetrical services—can only be done with the deployment of fiber infrastructure. That number, while requiring fiber, doesn’t represent the fiber’s full capacity, which makes it better suited to a future of internet demand.

[Ernesto Falcon is Senior Legislative Counsel at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Katharine is the Associate Director of Policy and Activism at EFF.]

Corporations join push for rural broadband

Paula Mohr  |  Farm Progress

While federal and state broadband investments surge and fade, there is one supporter is carrying the banner for rural interconnectivity. Leadership at the farmer-owned co-op Land O’Lakes has voiced concern about the digital divide for several years. More than a year ago, it started the American Connection Project (ACP), which encompasses a three-point mission: lobbying for interconnectivity, providing free Wi-Fi in rural areas and training young adults to help rural communities navigate broadband implementation and stimulate economic development. ACP’s policy coalition now has more than 150 companies and organizations on board to advocate nationally for $80 billion over the next five years for border-to-border broadband. Additionally, the ACP's American Connection Corps is providing two-year fellowships for 53 young professionals in 12 states to expand digital literacy and work on coordinating local, state and federal resources for broadband access.

Possible solutions to Dallas's internet access problem

Emily Donaldson  |  Dallas Morning News

Thousands of Dallas students still don’t have access to reliable internet even after a year and a half of depending on online connections to keep learning. While the city turned to wireless hotspots for expanded broadband access in the early months of the pandemic, they were often unreliable and became expensive as time went on. Now the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) is exploring two potential solutions as a more permanent fix to the digital gulf that has plagued Dallas since the internet was invented: expanding infrastructure throughout the district to broaden the reach of existing Wi-Fi networks and using federal money to bulk-buy internet subscriptions for families in need. Public officials across Texas say they’re committed to better access, as a new law requiring the state to craft a plan to expand broadband access and create an office to oversee the work passed with widespread approval from Republicans and Democrats in the last legislative session. Overall, a number of different plans are being considered city officials and the city and district expect to publish a draft plan by mid-July 2021 that will guide their efforts.

Knoxville Utilities Board clears final hurdle to provide broadband internet for customers

Vincent Gabrielle  |  Knox News

Tennessee's Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB) has the green light to provide a public fiber broadband network to its customers. It will be a years-long process to provide 1-gigabit, symmetrical fiber internet service to every customer in KUB's electrical footprint; that's approximately 210,000 households in mostly Knox, Grainger and Union counties. According to KUB's proposal, service would start at about $65 a month and could begin as early as 2022. Service would extend to all of KUB's territory by 2029. The plan is inspired by Chattanooga's municipal broadband system, touted as one of the fastest and most reliable broadband networks in America, and is estimated to cost $702 million over ten years. KUB also said the utility is exploring offering broadband access for lower income homes that might not be able to afford the service. The utility has been authorized to enter into partnership with the City of Knoxville to provide a low-income option. While internet service providers and corporate lobbying groups are against the proposal, saying more time is needed to flesh out the city's plans, many social justice advocates, professors and Knoxville community members have spoken in favor of the broadband proposal.

Social Media

Justices Gorsuch and Thomas call to revisit New York Times v. Sullivan

Ariane de Vogue  |  CNN

Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch on said the Supreme Court should revisit the breadth of the landmark First Amendment decision in New York Times v. Sullivan and explore how it applies to social media and technology companies. That 1964 ruling created a higher bar for public figures to claim libel and has been a bedrock of US media law, but the two conservative justices said it's time to take another look. Gorsuch and Thomas dissented when the court declined to take up a case from the son of a former prime minister of Albania who claimed several statements were defamatory in a book that was later turned into "War Dogs," the Hollywood film. While Thomas has consistently called to revisit the historic ruling, this marks the first time that Gorsuch joined his efforts. "Since 1964," Gorsuch wrote, "our Nation's media landscape has shifted in ways few could have forseen." He added that "thanks to the revolutions in technology, today virtually anyone in this county can publish virtually anything for immediate consumption virtually anywhere in the world."


Your smartphone is breaking up

Ina Fried  |  Axios

The smartphone became what it is by combining the functions of a host of other devices—telephone, camera, web browser, handheld games, music player—into one package. Now that process is moving in reverse. Tech giants are scrambling not only to figure out how the future fits together, but to seize turf before new markets solidify. Devices worn on the wrist, inside the ear and on the face can together replicate many of the smartphone's key features while allowing users to remain focused on the world around them. There's a big business incentive for companies like Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft to want to move beyond the phone era: Apple and Google control the phone through their operating systems and app stores, limiting what other companies can do. "Lots of little pieces that are in the phone are starting to have a life beyond the phone," said Andrew Bosworth, the longtime Facebook executive who heads Facebook Reality Labs and is working on a number of these devices. "It’s happening in plain sight. This isn’t a future thing; you can go buy these things today."

FTC Charges Broadcom with Illegal Monopolization

Press Release  |  Federal Trade Commission

The Federal Trade Commission has issued a complaint charging Broadcom with illegally monopolizing markets for semiconductor components used to deliver television and broadband internet services through exclusive dealing and related conduct. The FTC's proposed consent order states that Broadcom must stop requiring its customers to source components from the company on an exclusive or near exclusive basis. Broadcom is a monopolist in the sale of three types of semiconductor components, or chips, used in devices that deliver television and broadband internet services, according to the FTC’s complaint. These chips are the core circuitry that run traditional television broadcast set top boxes, as well as DSL and fiber broadband devices. Under the proposed consent order, Broadcom will be prohibited from entering into certain types of exclusivity or loyalty agreements with its customers for the supply of key chips for traditional broadcast set top boxes and DSL and fiber broadband internet devices. The FTC vote to issue the complaint and accept the proposed consent order for public comment was 4-0-1, with Chair Lina Khan not participating.


Broadband is the new electricity: interagency agreement acknowledges national need

  |  NorthcentralPA

"Broadband internet is the new electricity," said US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The Federal Communications Commission, US Department of Agriculture, and the National Telecommunications and Information Agency have entered into an interagency agreement to coordinate the distribution of broadband deployment federal funds. In accordance with the Broadband Interagency Coordination Act, agency leaders pledged that they will consult with each other and share information about the distribution of the FCC's rural broadband programs; the USDA's Rural Utilities Services grant/loan programs; and NTIA programs. Each agency partner will, upon request, identify entities providing broadband services in a specified geographic area, the levels of service in that area (broadband speeds and technologies used), the geographic scope of service, and a list of all entities that have or will receive funds from these programs. The agreement also requires the federal agency partners to consider basing the distribution of funds from the programs on standardized broadband coverage data.

Chairman Pallone announces new top staff for House Committee on Energy and Commerce

Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ)  |  Press Release  |  House Commerce Committee

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) announced a transition of his top Committee staff as longtime Staff Director Jeff Carroll prepares to depart Capitol Hill. With Carroll’s departure, Pallone announced that Deputy Staff Director Tiffany Guarascio has been promoted to Staff Director and General Counsel Waverly Gordon has been promoted to Deputy Staff Director and General Counsel. Carroll became Pallone’s Chief of Staff within 6 years of working for the Congressman, and served in the role for 12 years. When Pallone became the Ranking Member of the full Committee in 2015, Carroll became the Committee’s Staff Director. Guarascio has served as the Deputy Staff Director of the Committee since Pallone became the top Democrat back in 2015, and until 2019 had served as both Deputy Staff Director and Chief Health Adviser. Prior to 2015, she was Pallone’s Legislative Director in his Congressional office, where she also staffed him as Chairman and Ranking Member of the Health Subcommittee. Gordon has served as the General Counsel of the Committee since last year. She joined the Committee in 2015 as a Counsel on public health and then became Deputy Chief Counsel in 2019.

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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.

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Executive Editor, Communications-related Headlines
Benton Institute
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