Friday, July 8, 2022
Headlines Daily Digest
The Federal Communications Commission is in the midst of a multi-year, multi-million-dollar effort to update its broadband coverage map. But the gears of government turn slowly and rather than waiting for the new FCC maps, several states including Virginia, New York, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and Florida have either already released or are developing their own maps. While this might seem like a duplicative effort on the surface, Anna Read, senior officer for Pew's Broadband Access Initiative, said the state-level maps will complement rather than compete with the new FCC map. Officials have touted the forthcoming FCC map as a revolutionary step forward, arguing the data it is set to provide will be significantly more accurate than the Form 477 information the agency has previously relied on to track coverage. But there are limitations to its scope. An FCC representative said that as mandated under the Broadband DATA Act passed in 2020, its new map will specifically measure “broadband availability.” The narrow scope of its data collection means the map won’t include information on things like adoption, affordability or the quality of the broadband service that’s actually delivered. States, in contrast, have been adding a variety of layers to their broadband coverage maps. Read noted these include overlays for things like speed test data, community anchor institutions, transportation corridors and areas which are due to receive federal broadband funding. She added the creation and maintenance of many state maps was mandated by each state’s legislature, meaning these maps aren’t likely to be pushed aside anytime soon.
The Federal Communications Commission is revamping its Broadband Data Collection Program. Meanwhile, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is working to distribute tens of billions of federal dollars to support state and local broadband initiatives. Next Century Cities, the National Broadband Mapping Coalition, Buckeye Hills Regional Council, Access Humboldt, SA Digital Connects, the National Association of Counties, California Community Foundation, and South Bay Cities Council of Governments urged the FCC to clarify what its new broadband mapping challenge process entails. According to their letter, local governments and consumers are directly impacted by inaccurate federal mapping. Uncertainty related to the challenge process can be a drain on already limited community resources. Clarity about what information will be included in the FCC’s updated protocols would boost local leaders’ participation in informing data sets. "The Commission can support complementary local data collection efforts and coordination between entities by defining the challenge process to whether the map accurately depicts speeds offered in the marketplace," it said. "Additionally, the Commission should provide guidance for communities that have not started the data collection process by providing specific examples of local data collection efforts that would assist with national broadband mapping initiatives."
Work-from-home (WFH) and collaboration trends jump-started by the pandemic aren’t going away, according to the latest Futurum Research survey, with large businesses continuing to support WFH in various degrees regardless of the industry. The organization surveyed 525 key decision-makers across important industry verticals, identifying which businesses had an official WFH policy today and those providing support on an informal basis without an established policy. “Almost two thirds are still improvising how they’re going to best approach this new task post-pandemic,” said Ron Westfall, Research Director & Senior Analyst at Futurum Research. “The workforce is jazzed by the opportunity to work more from home, something that I think is improving productivity.” Fiber is desired by businesses because it is more secure than other media and provides symmetrical and faster connections than other alternatives, making the WFH experience both better for the user and less problematic for the organization. Westfall said organizations need to prioritize full fiber use cases to optimize WFH and collaboration implementations while service providers need to prioritize full fiber benefits to secure more WFH business, including the ability to ensure consistent WFH experiences as well as differentiating fiber from other broadband alternatives.
[Doug Mohney is director of content at Connect2 Communications.]
I’m starting to wonder if big cable companies and telecom companies are assuming that a fifth Federal Communications Commissioner will soon be seated because the lobbying arms of these companies have been publishing documents that are an open plea to not regulate them. The latest comes in the form of a whitepaper from ACA Connects, which represents the mid-sized internet service provider (ISP) like Cable ONE, WOW! Internet, Mediacom, TDS, Armstrong, Hotwire, and ISPs of a similar size. You might recall that the giant ISPs put out a whitepaper through USTelecom that made the silly argument that broadband is getting cheaper, with the punch line being, “Don’t regulate us”. The ACA paper takes a different tactic and argues that most of the country already is, or will soon have competition, with the same punch line. It’s important to understand that these papers are not written for the general public so much as for the politicians in Washington (DC). The average consumer knows that broadband is not getting cheaper, and most know they have only one realistic choice of fast ISP. I could write twenty pages commenting on the many things said in the whitepaper that stretch the truth a bit – but it seems unnecessary since the whole point of the paper is to plant that seed that ISPs are taking care of the business of broadband and don’t need to be regulated.
[Doug Dawson is president of CCG Consulting.]
Brightspeed, a new fiber player which is buying Lumen’s ILEC assets in 20 states and is led by former Verizon executives, announced Louisiana as the sixth state set to benefit from its ambitious multi-year deployment plan. Though it has yet to reveal additional plans for individual states, COO Tom Maguire said it is targeting work across “virtually all of our state footprint” in 2022 and 2023. The operator recently secured the last state regulatory approval required for its deal with Lumen and said it expects to wrap up the transaction in late 2022. As part of the deal, it will acquire around 7 million addressable locations. Following the close of the deal, Maguire said Brightspeed will “hit the ground running on Day 1” with its fiber rollout. He added from the time the deal wraps in 2022 to the end of 2023 Brightspeed is planning to “hit upwards of 200 wire centers" across nearly all of its 20-state footprint, though noted certain variables could affect the timing of its work in each state.
The 5G for 12 GHz Coalition, a group that includes Dish Network, RS Access [and the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society], said that it wants to set the record straight on Starlink’s “misinformation campaign.” The most recent spat started when SpaceX encouraged Starlink users to send messages to the Federal Communications Commission and lawmakers about the 12 GHz proceeding. More than 70,000 messages flooded the FCC’s public comment system in a matter of days, mostly from people who said they want to protect the Starlink satellite system from what they perceive as a bad plan by Dish to use the 12 GHz band for 5G. The comments are tied to an online petition, hosted on votervoice.net, designed to send pre-written messages; it’s not clear how many are duplicative or if all the senders are actual Starlink customers. The Starlink internet service had over 400,000 customers around the world as of May 2022. The 5G for 12 GHz Coalition for over a year now has been engaged in a fight with SpaceX over the viability of sharing the 12 GHz band with satellites and terrestrial 5G. The coalition argues that the engineering analysis shows sharing is possible while SpaceX disputes that. “In addition to this manipulated filing, Starlink has initiated a public misinformation campaign by falsely telling customers and the public that coexistence is not possible in the band among Starlink and 5G services – despite nationwide data proving otherwise,” the 5G for 12 GHz Coalition said on July 7. “This tactic, which is commonly used by Elon Musk, is not only disingenuous, but it promulgates an anti-5G narrative that is harmful to American consumers who deserve greater competition, connectivity options and innovation.”
The June 2022 Ookla data tries to spin a rosy picture of SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet performance since its November 2020 public beta launch. While early Starlink users once swooned over the service because they had the only dish in town, they now find their once-speedy connections slowly sliding back to DSL/basic cable-esque performance with more people on the system. The performance slide comes at a time when SpaceX is trying to get its next-generation Starship off the ground, the only rocket capable of carrying its satellites in sufficient quantities. Starlink upload speeds have taken a dramatic hit, per the Ookla report. “Speedtest Intelligence … showed that upload speeds for Starlink decreased at least 33 percent in the US (16.29 Mbps in first quarter 2021 to 9.33 Mbps in first quarter 2022) and at least 36 percent in Canada (16.69 Mbps to 10.70 Mbps) during the same time period,” it reads. A lot of fiber can (and will) be deployed in the years it takes the SpaceX Starlink system to even get close to its promises. Individuals, communities, and states need to avoid the mistakes of the past where they are locked into wireless technologies that will be playing catchup to available future-proof fiber solutions and require multiple equipment upgrades.
[Doug Mohney is director of content at Connect2 Communications.]
The Economic Development Administration has announced a new funding opportunity that includes two programs that will strengthen equitable economic development strategies across the nation. This Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) funds two distinct national programs designed to support underserved communities and populations across the country in developing successful economic development plans and projects. The Economic Recovery Corps program will add staff resources to local organizations focused on improving economic resilience and competitiveness in distressed regions across the country. The Equity Impact Investments program will provide technical assistance to enable organizations serving underserved populations and communities to participate in economic development planning and projects. EDA seeks collaborative and innovative partners to build and launch these new initiatives. We welcome different perspectives and approaches, so please share this opportunity with your networks.
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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