Monday, August 14, 2023
Headlines Daily Digest
News From the FCC
Illinois Just Passed the Country's First Law Protecting Children of Influencers | Teen Vogue
Stories From Abroad
News From the FCC
On November 15, 2022, the Federal Communications Commission adopted a Report and Order establishing the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) Transparency Data Collection to collect information related to the price, subscription rates, and plan characteristics of the internet service offerings of participating providers, as required by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. In the Report and Order, the FCC directed its Wireline Competition Bureau (Bureau) to establish a compliance date, or data submission deadline, which could be no sooner than ninety days after the FCC announces that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has completed its review required under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA). The Report and Order also directed the Bureau to announce a “snapshot” date for the data collection. Now the Bureau announces that OMB completed its PRA review on August 11, 2023. The Bureau establishes a compliance date, or data submission deadline, for the collection of November 9, 2023, based on a reference or snapshot date of August 1, 2023. ACP providers must submit data through the ACP Data Collection System hosted by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC). Providers can begin submitting data on September 8, 2023.
Recognizing the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on financial markets and on the ability of providers to successfully conduct their operations, the Federal Communications Commission's Wireline Competition Bureau (Bureau) waived the FCC’s letter of credit (LOC) rules for Connect America Fund Phase II auction (Auction 903) and Rural Broadband Experiments (RBE) support recipients in 2020 and 2021. Recipients of support from both programs were permitted to comply with the less extensive letter of credit rules established by the FCC for the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). In December 2022, the Bureau, while acknowledging the improving financial conditions that existed throughout the Nation, extended that waiver, on a limited basis, until the end of 2023. From June 2020 through December 2022, all Auction 903 support recipients were permitted to comply with the RDOF LOC rules. In 2023, however, because of the improvement in financial conditions, the Bureau concluded that a waiver of the Auction 903 LOC rules was only appropriate for Auction 903 support recipients that had met each of their previous program deadlines. Now the Bureau seeks comment on the merits of extending beyond December 31, 2023 the waiver of the letter of credit rules for Auction 903 support recipients that have met each of their deadlines and whether, and to what extent, the pandemic or other factors continue to affect the operations of telecommunications services providers and the condition of financial markets and supply chains. Are there still unique financial challenges that providers are facing that interfere with their ability to obtain the letters of credit required under the Auction 903 rules? Are there additional dynamics now that may not have been present when the FCC first granted the letter of credit waiver? If so, the FCC encourages commenters to provide specific details about the experiences they face and how these have or have not changed since the original waiver was granted.
Interested parties may file comments on or before September 11, 2023 and reply comments on or before September 26, 2023.9 All filings should refer to WC Docket Nos. 10-90, 14-58, and AU Docket No. 17-182.
The Federal Communications Commission's Broadband Data Task Force, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, Wireline Competition Bureau, and the Office of Economics and Analytics seek comment on a Petition for Extension of Waiver (Petition) filed by the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) and USTelecom – The Broadband Association (USTelecom and, together with CCA, Petitioners). Petitioners request that the Bureaus renew for an additional three filing cycles the BDC Limited Waiver, which temporarily waives the requirement that Broadband Data Collection (BDC) filings be verified by a licensed Professional Engineer (PE), thus allowing BDC submissions to be certified by an otherwise qualified engineer who does not hold the PE credential.
We write to request information about the security risks posed by cellular connectivity modules provided by companies subject to the jurisdiction, direction, or control of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) or the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Connectivity modules are components that enable Internet of Things (IoT) devices—from cars to medical equipment to tractors—to connect to the internet. Connectivity modules are typically controlled remotely and are the necessary link between the device and the internet. Recent events demonstrate the power of these small modules. In 2022, Russia stole $5 million worth of farm equipment from a John Deere dealership in Ukraine and attempted to bring it back to Russia. Luckily, that equipment was embedded with Western-made connectivity modules. Because the modules can be controlled remotely and the vehicles require internet connectivity to operate, remotely shutting down the module allows the module provider to shut the vehicle down. When Russia moved the stolen John Deere vehicles across the border into Russia, the modules were disabled—shutting down the equipment and effectively turning the vehicles into bricks. Connectivity modules are used in a wide variety of devices throughout the US, from consumer ‘smart devices’, to electric cars, to US telecommunications networks regulated by the FCC. Serving as the link between the device and the internet, these modules have the capacity both to brick the device and to access the data flowing from the device to the web server that runs each device. As a result, if the CCP can control the module, it may be able to effectively exfiltrate data or shut down the IoT device. This raises particularly grave concerns in the context of critical infrastructure and any type of sensitive data.
Broadband operators are looking for some movement on broadband “nutrition” labels. Congress mandated the labels so consumers can better gauge just what kind of broadband service they are getting, including price, speed and quality. The Federal Communications Commission then came up with rules for the program, which it released in a Nov 2022 Report and Order. A couple of those rules didn’t sit well with cable-operator groups ACA Connects and NCTA–The Internet & Television Association, which joined in a petition to clarify or reconsider a couple of requirements. A petition that was filed Jan 17, 2023 concerning 1) a requirement that operators itemize federal, state and local government fees being passed on to consumers and 2) a mandate that ISPs “create and retain documentation” regarding “each instance when [a provider] directs a consumer to the label at an alternative sales channel,” i.e. in retail stores or phone interactions. The operators said documenting each instance of a labeling redirect is unwarranted and poses “significant burdens” on operators large and small “with no discernible benefit.” If the FCC wants to make sure an operator is directing consumers to the label, they should accept a general business practices plan to that effect, with documentation retained for two years, the operators said.
The basic tenet of universal internet service—that the government should assist those who cannot afford basic access to the network—has long been a cornerstone of American telecommunications policy. Unfortunately, it is far from clear whether Lifeline, the federal program tasked with getting low-income households online, actually addresses this problem. The recently enacted Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) threatens to compound Lifeline’s errors. The advent of ACP provides a unique opportunity to rethink our approach to broadband affordability initiatives. Rather than replicating a faulty subsidy model originally developed during the Reagan administration for landline telephones, Congress should adopt a tailored, data-driven program targeting only those low-income households that currently lack broadband service or that are at significant risk of losing access absent a subsidy. With a targeted, market-based approach in place, Congress should shutter the largely duplicative and potentially ineffective Lifeline program and alleviate the pressure that it puts on the Universal Service Fund (USF) and consumers.
Portable mobile hotspots have arrived in Maui (HI) to help bring internet service to the thousands of people who may have been unable to call for help since the wildfires started to rage out of control on the island. Verizon is currently deploying the first batch of satellite-based mobile hotspots at evacuation sites in areas of greatest need, particularly the west side of the island, west of Maalaea, Lahaina, and Northern Kapalua. Verizon’s larger equipment, which is being barged over from Honolulu, is expected to arrive later. This includes Cells on Light Trucks (COLTs) — a mobile site on wheels that connects to a carrier’s service via a satellite link — and a specialized satellite trailer used to provide service to a cell site that has a damaged fiber connection. Verizon is working closely with the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency and the Maui County Emergency Operations Center to prioritize its network recovery. Other carriers continue to mobilize their efforts, too. AT&T is working with local public safety officials to deploy (Satellite Cells on Light Trucks (SatCOLTs), drones with cell support, and other solutions across the island, as equipment comes in from neighboring islands. Meanwhile, a T-Mobile spokesperson said its cell sites are “holding up well during the fires” but commercial power outages may be disrupting the service for some customers.
Officials from New Mexico and Minnesota are the latest to declare that federal and state funds currently available to them will not be enough to bring broadband to the underserved and unserved in their states. Bree Maki, the executive director of Minnesota’s Office of Broadband Development, said the state’s Broadband, Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) allotment of about $651.8 million is “very close to” what her office expected. “However, we have statutory goals that are different when we talk about what unserved is,” said Maki. The state of Minnesota considers unserved locations to be those without access to 100/20 Mbps speeds. New Mexico received an allocation of $675.3 million. Ovidiu Viorica, the broadband and technology manager for Connect New Mexico, said that while that is “a lot of money, the preliminary estimates indicate that it’s not going to be enough to get the job done in New Mexico, regardless of the type of technology that that we're looking at.” “We have a significant gap. A big missing piece is the middle mile on the infrastructure side,” Viorica noted. And because BEAD funding won’t be enough to complete infrastructure in New Mexico, it won’t reach into “the digital equity side, the affordability, which leads to adoption.”
Rural electric cooperatives, rural telephone companies, and Comcast were the biggest winners in the latest broadband funding announcement from the state of Minnesota. The awards were made on June 30, 2023, although it isn’t clear if an announcement was released at that time. The biggest winner was Federated Rural Electric Association, which was awarded a $7 million grant in the Low Density Broadband Grant Program. The next biggest winners were Paul Bunyan Rural Telephone and Comcast, both of whom will receive about $5.5 million. Paul Bunyan’s award also came through the low density program, while Comcast’s funding came through two awards in the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program. Both programs. cover some of the costs of deploying broadband in rural areas. In addition, funding recipients are required to contribute matching funds. Minnesota awarded over $66.8 million in the two programs in the announcement. Matching funds will bring the total that will be invested to almost $138.5 million.
The latest battle between free and expensive information started with a charitable gesture. Brewster Kahle runs the Internet Archive, a venerable tech nonprofit. In that miserable, frightening first month of the Covid pandemic, he had the notion to try to help students, researchers and general readers. He unveiled the National Emergency Library, a vast trove of digital books mostly unavailable elsewhere, and made access to it a breeze. This good deed backfired spectacularly. Four publishers claimed “willful mass copyright infringement” and sued. They won. On Aug 11, the publishers said that they had negotiated a deal with the archive that would remove all their copyright books from the site. The archive had a muted response, saying that it expected there would be changes to its lending program but that their full scope was unknown. There is also an undisclosed financial payment if the archive loses on appeal. The case has generated a great deal of bitterness, and the deal, which requires court approval, is likely to generate more. Each side accuses the other of bad faith, and calls its opponents well-funded zealots who won’t listen to reason and want to destroy the culture. In the middle of this mess are writers, whose job is to produce the books that contain much of the world’s best information. Despite that central role, they are largely powerless.
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), Grace Tepper (grace AT benton DOT org), and David L. Clay II (dclay AT benton DOT org) — we welcome your comments.
© Benton Institute for Broadband & Society 2023. 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 © 2023