Daily Digest 8/17/2023 (Dorothy Casterline)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Broadband Funding

The Transformative Power of the Affordable Connectivity Program  |  Read below  |  Broderick Johnson  |  Press Release  |  Comcast
C Spire’s backhaul network gets a $26.2 million boost from Middle Mile program  |  Read below  |  Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce
Co-Ops Can Look to Counties for BEAD Match Requirement  |  Read below  |  Teralyn Whipple  |  Broadband Breakfast
BEAD Buy America Goals Get a Boost from Adtran  |  Read below  |  Joan Engebretson  |  telecompetitor
Sens. Bennet and Budd Introduce Legislation to Connect More Rural Communities to High-Speed Internet  |  Read below  |  Sen Michael Bennet (D-CO)  |  Press Release  |  US Senate
FCC's Enhanced A–CAM program rules effective on Aug 17, 2023  |  Federal Communications Commission

State/Local Initiatives

Wisconsin PSC Opens Broadband Infrastructure Program Grant Round  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Public Service Commission of Wisconsin
Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program Five-Year Action Plan  |  Read below  |  Public Notice  |  Colorado Broadband Office


Lower 12 GHz can be a win-win-win for consumers, competition and U.S. leadership  |  Read below  |  Michael O'Rielly  |  Op-Ed  |  Fierce
AT&T takes advantage of early C-band clearing  |  Read below  |  Monica Alleven  |  Fierce
FCC Requires Alaska Plan mobile participants to file mobile wireless coverage data thru March 2028  |  Federal Communications Commission


Who Still Has Landlines?  |  Read below  |  Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting


Apple agrees to pay up to $500 million in settlement over slowed-down iPhones: What to know  |  Read below  |  Emily DeLetter  |  USA Today


Ohio Deal: NKTelco Acquires Hometown Cable  |  Read below  |  Carl Weinschenk  |  telecompetitor
China Torpedoes Intel’s Bid to Buy Israeli Chip Maker Tower Semiconductor  |  Wall Street Journal

Emergency Communications

Comcast Is The First Internet Provider to Offer a Back-Up Connectivity Device Designed to Keep Customers Connected During a Storm  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Comcast


Broadcast and cable made up less than 50% of TV usage in July, 2023  |  Read below  |  Sara Fischer  |  Axios

Platforms/Social Media/AI

Center for Countering Digital Hate fights GOP allegations that it supported a ‘censorship regime’  |  Washington Post
Anti-Defamation League and Tech Transparency Project find social media platforms pushing antisemitic recommendations  |  USA Today
YouTube Ads May Have Led to Online Tracking of Children, Adalytics Research Says  |  New York Times
NYC bans TikTok on city-owned devices  |  Vox
When Hackers Descended to Test A.I., They Found Flaws Aplenty  |  New York Times
Computer Scientists Tap A.I. to Identify Risky Apps  |  New York Times
University of East Anglia researchers say ChatGPT leans liberal  |  Washington Post
Mason City (IA) schools' libraries used artificial intelligence software to review and ban books  |  Gazette, The
New York Times considers legal action against OpenAI as copyright tensions swirl  |  National Public Radio
Standards around generative AI  |  Associated Press
Google Tests an A.I. Assistant That Offers Life Advice  |  New York Times


More Cyber Companies Announce Layoffs  |  Wall Street Journal
With Collective Action School, Xiaowei Wang hopes to redefine what it means to work in tech  |  MIT Technology Review


CBO scores Securing Global Telecommunications Act (HR 4741)  |  Congressional Budget Office
CBO scores Cybersecurity Act of 2023 (S 2251)  |  Congressional Budget Office


Majority Leader Schumer and Speaker McCarthy Agree Stopgap Spending Bill Necessary to Avoid Shutdown  |  New York Times


Opinion | The Senate confirmation process is broken. Here’s how we can fix it.  |  Washington Post

How We Live Now

The rise of the tech ethics congregation  |  MIT Technology Review
Today's Top Stories

Broadband Funding

The Transformative Power of the Affordable Connectivity Program

Broderick Johnson  |  Press Release  |  Comcast

The federal government’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) announced a new milestone. Launched nearly two years ago in 2021, it has now connected more than 20 million households to the Internet. This is a remarkable achievement and we at Comcast are proud to participate in the program. The ACP provides families with a $30/month benefit, $75/month on Tribal lands, toward their Internet bill. When applied to Comcast’s Internet Essentials or Internet Essentials Plus tiers, it makes connectivity to the Internet effectively free. However, we still face the challenge of getting millions more ACP-eligible households to enroll. Great progress is being made to close the digital divide, but too many families, in communities across the nation, have yet to take advantage of this once-in-a-generation opportunity. Since day one, Comcast has been working to raise awareness about the ACP, and we are investing in hundreds of non-profit partners because closing that divide cannot be achieved without collaboration. For this reason, we are supporting Digital Navigators – people who teach digital skills at the neighborhood level – because we know they are key to the trust-building necessary for success. Unfortunately, the success of the ACP is causing an emerging dilemma. The $14 billion allocated to the FCC to provide vouchers to eligible households is likely to be exhausted early in 2024. Congress and the Biden Administration must work together to ensure that the ACP is fully funded – so tens of millions of Americans aren’t left without affordable Internet when the initial allocation of funding for the program is runs out.

C Spire’s backhaul network gets a $26.2 million boost from Middle Mile program

Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce

C Spire has been working to bridge the middle-mile gap in the rural southeastern US, plugging away at construction of a backhaul network in the area for the past few years. Its effort just got some fresh legs in the form of $26.2 million in funding from the federal government’s Middle Mile grant program. The money will cover roughly half the cost of what will ultimately be a $52.6 million, 677 route-mile project designed to connect its existing assets around Birmingham, Alabama, to parts of more than two dozen un- and underserved counties. Out of the total miles built, 411.5 will be used to connect unserved areas, 29.8 to underserved regions, and 235.8 to reach four internet peering points. According to its award notice, C Spire plans to use 144-count buried fiber for the project. It will offer symmetrical 1-gig services to anchor institutions within 1,000 feet of the network and support both wholesale and retail services. The operator already has “documented interest” from two last mile service providers, the notice states. As of July 2023, C Spire said its fiber service was available across more than 100 communities in Alabama and Mississippi as well as “several Tennessee communities.”

Co-Ops Can Look to Counties for BEAD Match Requirement

Teralyn Whipple  |  Broadband Breakfast

Partnering with counties is an asset for electric co-operatives seeking capital for the matching requirement in the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program, said an expert. Darren Farnan, chief operating officer of rural electric co-op United Fiber. He said that Missouri counties used Capital Project Fund (CPF) and Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) money to help with the co-op’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) application. Counties have the same goal as co-ops to connect every address to high-speed internet, said Farnan. He said that many counties will work with co-ops to help them in their applications for more federal funding. Additionally, electric co-ops entering into the broadband space can use community buildouts as a funding mechanism, said Farnan. Electric co-ops have an advantage to traditional internet service providers in that they can guarantee financing a letter of credit because they are accustomed to long-term builds like fiber projects, noted Farnan, saying that his co-op is in a “favorable position” to handle the requirements that come with the BEAD program. He added that banks are seeing success in co-ops providing broadband and are more willing to finance these programs.

BEAD Buy America Goals Get a Boost from Adtran

Joan Engebretson  |  telecompetitor

Adtran will invest up to $5 million in its Huntsville, Alabama, manufacturing facility to support domestic manufacturing of fiber broadband equipment. The move should make it easier for broadband providers receiving funding in the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) rural broadband program to meet Buy America requirements of that program. As Adtran CEO Tom Stanton explained, Adtran’s domestic manufacturing has “waned and flowed” over the 30 years that the company has been active “based on global markets and where the business has been.” Like many manufacturers, the company has moved some of its manufacturing to other countries. According to Stanton, the decision to bring that activity back to the US was directly driven by the BEAD program. Several manufacturers of fiber cabling also have announced initiatives aimed at enabling their products to meet Buy America requirements. Among these are Corning, Commscope and Prysmian. Adtran also noted that 57% of manufacturing employees are women, compared with a manufacturing industry average of 30%.

Sens. Bennet and Budd Introduce Legislation to Connect More Rural Communities to High-Speed Internet

Sen Michael Bennet (D-CO)  |  Press Release  |  US Senate

Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Ted Budd (R-NC) introduced the Connecting Our Neighbors to Networks and Ensuring Competitive Telecommunications (CONNECT) Act of 2023 to reform the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) ReConnect Loan and Grant Program. The CONNECT Act makes it easier for small providers to apply to this program, and ensures federal funding reaches rural communities faster by shortening required permitting deadlines. Millions of rural Americans continue to lack adequate access to the internet, where the costs of connection can be high and existing service too slow or expensive to be of much use. While the ReConnect Loan and Grant program provides broadband funding for eligible rural areas, the application process can be complicated and prohibitively expensive for small providers. Specifically, the CONNECT Act would:

  • Establish an Office of Technical Assistance to aid eligible providers with application forms;
  • Create a Mini-Grant Program offering grants up to $20,000 for small providers;
  • Prioritize applications from local governments, nonprofit organizations, or cooperatives;
  • Designate rural areas that receive broadband service via non-wireline technology as eligible for ReConnect funding;
  • Shorten certain permitting deadlines for USDA-funded broadband projects from 270 to 180 days;
  • Create an interagency Broadband Council to recommend uniform speed and application requirements for federal programs; and
  • Expand federal easements for certain electric utilities to enable them to lease existing fiber capacity. 


Wisconsin PSC Opens Broadband Infrastructure Program Grant Round

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) announced the Broadband Infrastructure Program grant round is now open. Under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the US Department of Treasury awarded Wisconsin $42 million through the Capital Projects Fund (CPF) to administer the Broadband Infrastructure Program and invest in broadband construction and deployment that will provide high-quality internet to locations that lack access to adequate, affordable service. Eligible entities for the competitive grant program include internet service providers, telecommunications utilities, co-operatives, local governments, and for-profit and non-profit organizations. The funding is available to construct broadband infrastructure projects to deploy reliable internet service that will meet or exceed 100/100 Mbps symmetrical speed internet service and include at least one low-cost option for work, education, and health monitoring. The deadline to apply is Tuesday November 7, 2023 at 1:30 pm. More information on the Capital Projects Fund can be found on the Capital Projects Broadband page on the PSC website.

Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program Five-Year Action Plan

Public Notice  |  Colorado Broadband Office

Broadband plays a pivotal role in facilitating essential activities for residents and fostering societal advancements across various domains, including economic development, healthcare, public safety, government services, and education. The federal government is embarking on an unprecedented investment in broadband, allocating over $100 billion nationwide. Notably, Colorado is set to receive a substantial share of this funding, amounting to $826.5 million dedicated to Broadband, Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) initiatives over the next five years. The primary objective of the Five-Year Action Plan is to establish a solid framework that aligns seamlessly with future Initial and Final Proposals mandated by the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA). This proposal is integral to the successful implementation of the BEAD Program, should draw inspiration from, complement, and build upon the strategic directions outlined in Colorado’s Five-Year Action Plan. This symbiotic relationship ensures a cohesive and progressive approach to expanding universal broadband access in Colorado. Through the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), Colorado has access to funding resources to bridge the digital divide. Based on this opportunity, the Five-Year Action Plan includes specific goals and recommendations. The implementation of these goals can be found in detail in the Implementation Section of the plan. The Five-Year Action Plan recommends the following goals to achieve universal coverage:

  • Goal One: Build a network for future generations.
  • Goal Two: Expand digital inclusion and adoption to achieve affordability, access, and digital literacy.
  • Goal Three: Enable Colorado to thrive by fostering and supporting a digital economy.
  • Goal Four: Strengthen resilience across Colorado communities through broadband.


Lower 12 GHz can be a win-win-win for consumers, competition and U.S. leadership

Michael O'Rielly  |  Op-Ed  |  Fierce

The Federal Communications Commission has lost—albeit hopefully temporarily—its authority to conduct spectrum auctions. But luckily for consumers and industry, the agency still has tools to make desperately needed mid-band spectrum immediately available for terrestrial broadband uses. Thanks to changes in technology, the landscape around the lower 12 GHz band (12.2-12.7 MHz) has evolved significantly over the last several years. At the same time, 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) has taken the connectivity world by storm. Given the importance of identifying and maximizing the use of spectrum bands, I urge my peers at the FCC to immediately issue new rules to enable the use of 500 MHz of spectrum in the 12 GHz band for high-power fixed broadband. Authorizing the 12 GHz band for fixed broadband would represent a historic spectrum policy win: it is one of the few bands of scarce spectrum resources that is ready for immediate deployment — just in time for the National Telecommunications and Information Information's (NTIA) $42.5 billion investment in broadband. It can be utilized for higher power services without harming incumbent users or needing coordination with any government entities, allowing government dollars to go further and connect people sooner.

[Michael O’Rielly served as a Commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission from 2013-2020.]

AT&T takes advantage of early C-band clearing

Monica Alleven  |  Fierce

AT&T, which was the second biggest spender in the Federal Communications Commission's C-band auction in 2021, is taking advantage of the satellite companies’ early clearing of the band to access its full C-band spectrum holdings. AT&T has been deploying a combination of C-band and 3.45 GHz across the country, with its 5G network mid-band network now covering more than 175 million people. AT&T’s nationwide 5G network, which includes low-band spectrum, covers about 290 million people. AT&T said it’s now doubling its available C-band spectrum for deployment. Specifically, AT&T now has access to a minimum 100 megahertz of total mid-band spectrum in the contiguous US and an average of 120 megahertz nationwide; that’s bandwidth in every available city, or 406 locations in total.


Who Still Has Landlines?

Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting

Who still has landline telephones? The Washington Post's Andrew Van Dam found the answer in the National Health Interview Survey that is conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics. Over the years, the survey has shown a correlation between having a landline and overall health. According to the survey, people who cut the cord and only use cell phones are more likely to engage in risky behavior. They are more likely to binge drink, more likely to smoke, and more likely to go without health insurance. The folks who conduct the survey don’t know why that is—it’s just a statistical trend that has held true for many years. Van Dam speculates that the northeastern US has the highest percentage of landlines because Verizon built FiOS fiber networks back before the giant drop in landline subscriptions. He thinks it’s likely that people who have used Verizon FiOS for a long time have never bothered to drop the landline service. I always find it interesting when broadband providers choose to offer broadband and no telephone service. It’s really easy these days to layer on VoIP service, and it’s an easy margin with little headaches. I think many providers will be surprised to find that over one-fourth of homes still are willing to pay for a landline.


Apple agrees to pay up to $500 million in settlement over slowed-down iPhones: What to know

Emily DeLetter  |  USA Today

Years after a lawsuit alleged Apple was adding software that slowed down older iPhones, the tech giant has agreed to pay a settlement worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Cotchett, Pitre & McCarty, one of the firms representing Apple customers in the suit, announced Aug. 9, 2023, that the 9th Circuit US Court of Appeals dismissed two appeals from people challenging the settlement. Apple has agreed to pay a minimum of $310 million and up to $500 million in compensation for approximately 100 million iPhone users, in what the firm is calling the "largest-all cash recovery in a computer intrusion case in history." Between December 2017 and June 2018, there were 66 class action lawsuits filed against Apple alleging this issue, including that Apple deliberately slowed down battery performance of older iPhones with iOS updates. Payments will be distributed to people who filed claims before the October 2020 deadline and owned one of these phones:

  • iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6S Plus and/or SE device that ran iOS 10.2.1 or later before Dec. 21, 2017,
  • iPhone 7 or 7Plus that ran iOS 11.2 or later before Dec. 21, 2017.


Ohio Deal: NKTelco Acquires Hometown Cable

Carl Weinschenk  |  telecompetitor

In a deal involving Ohio service providers, NKTelco has acquired Hometown Cable. The deal includes more than 6,000 addresses in and around the communities of Coldwater, St. Henry and Montezuma, as well as fixed wireless access assets serving Mercer, Auglaize, Miami and Darke counties. Former Hometown Cable customers will be supported by NKTelco’s fiber ring, which offers status monitoring and continuity services. They also will have access to the Flight Data packages and multi-gigabit broadband, NKTelco says. All customers will get access to NKT.tv, a streaming service that will provide local scholastic sports on an on-demand basis. Details about the acquisition such as price paid were not revealed.

Emergency Communications

Comcast Is The First Internet Provider to Offer a Back-Up Connectivity Device Designed to Keep Customers Connected During a Storm

Press Release  |  Comcast

Comcast becomes the first internet service provider to offer a product designed to maintain connectivity when a storm hits, trees are down, or a customer experiences a local outage, with the launch of Storm-Ready WiFi. With severe weather impacting many parts of the country, there has never been a greater need for a back-up connectivity solution. The Storm-Ready WiFi solution is equipped with cellular back-up enabling customers to work and stream without interruption. The device doubles as a WiFi extender and delivers a strong Wi-Fi signal to hard-to-reach corners of the home.


Broadcast and cable made up less than 50% of TV usage in July, 2023

Sara Fischer  |  Axios

Broadcast and cable usage fell below 50% of total TV usage in the US for the first time in July 2023, the lowest linear total to date, according to Nielsen's latest viewership data from its monthly survey, The Gauge. The lack of major sporting events in July 2023 took a toll on traditional TV networks, which still hold the majority of major sports broadcast rights. Both broadcast and cable saw all-time usage lows. Cable's share specifically fell below 30% for the first time. Streaming, meanwhile, garnered a record 38.7% of total TV usage in July. Entertainment giants now need to wrestle with what to do with their linear TV assets, given the increasing pace of cord-cutting in the US.

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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), Grace Tepper (grace AT benton DOT org), and David L. Clay II (dclay AT benton DOT org) — we welcome your comments.

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