Tuesday, August 2, 2022
Headlines Daily Digest
Senate Hearing Today: Future of Spectrum
The Federal Communications Commission's Wireline Competition Bureau announced updated minimum service standards for Lifeline-supported service. The 2016 Lifeline Order established minimum service standards for certain Lifeline-supported services and established annual increases in those standards either in the FCC’s rules or pursuant to calculations set out in the Order and theFCC’s rules. Accordingly, the newly calculated minimum service standard for fixed broadband data usage allowance will take effect on December 1, 2022. On July 1, 2022, the Bureau acted to pause any increase in the Lifeline minimum service standard for mobile broadband data capacity. As such, the standard will continue to be 4.5 GB per month until at least December 1, 2023. Beginning December 1, 2022, the Lifeline minimum service standard for fixed broadband data usage will be 1280 GB per month, as calculated from the 2022 Urban Rate Survey data. On December 1, 2022, the Lifeline minimum service standard for mobile voice service will remain unchanged, at 1000 minutes per month. The budget for federal universal service support for the Lifeline program for calendar year 2023 will be $2,572,862,300.
Keller & Heckman recently highlighted an issue that anybody building fiber on utility poles should be aware of. In some cases, an easement obtained for using private land to bring electric service might not automatically allow an easement for bringing fiber. There is a subtle difference between easements and rights-of-of way. An easement allows somebody to carry out an activity on private land. It was typical when electric companies built the power grid to seek an easement from each landowner to give permission to erect electric poles for bringing electric service. Rights-of-way are generally more specific and wider in scope. A city will often decree that it has a right-of-way in perpetuity to use the first few feet from the street of each property for civic purposes. The city can then use the right-of-way to allow for underground utilities or to place a fire hydrant. Keller & Heckman warned that the original language of the easement might restrict usage for adding fiber. If the original easement language was narrow and only talked about bringing electric service, then somebody adding fiber would need to seek a new easement for every property underneath a pole line. If the original easement was more generic in nature, it might have allowed for electric and other services, in which case the electric company would have an easement to cover allowing others on its poles.
[Doug Dawson is president of CCG Consulting.]
Gov Roy Cooper (D-NC) announced that more than 13,000 households and 582 businesses across North Carolina are set to receive access to high-speed internet thanks to more than $30.8 million in grants. The NC Department of Information Technology (NCDIT) awarded the Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) grants to expand broadband infrastructure in the state. Using funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the GREAT program provides matching grants to internet service providers and electric membership cooperatives that may partner with individual North Carolina counties to compete for funding to expand high-speed internet service to unserved areas of the state. NCDIT awarded more than $23.4 million in GREAT grants to internet service providers in 12 counties on July 18 and will continue to make awards for the remainder of the $350 million total GREAT grant funding in August 2022.
Broadband providers are telling the Federal Communications Commission in no uncertain terms to reject calls by cable programmer Fuse Media and public advocacy groups to mandate that those providers collect data on the diversity of the video content vendors they buy programming from, including for their owned or affiliated streaming services which, they point out, are not regulated by the FCC. And as for unaffiliated streaming companies like Netflix, Apple TV or Roku, they argue that without putting diversity data collection requirements on them, too, the FCC certainly won't be getting a view of the marketplace. NCTA-The Internet & Television Association and USTelecom made those points in comments. “Any report purporting to say anything about the video marketplace without covering these major participants [Netflix, Apple TV, etc.] would be of questionable value,” the groups told the FCC. “[I]t would be inappropriate to place regulatory burdens only on certain online providers that happen to be affiliated with FCC regulatees.” But NCTA and USTelecom aren't looking to have the FCC put diversity reporting requirements on any of the major participants. ”Nothing in the Communications Act authorizes the Commission to collect the broad sets of proposed data from the entities it actually is authorized to regulate or those regulatees’ affiliates that are not regulated by the Commission,” they said, “much less from third-party programming vendors over which the Commission has no authority to mandate such data collections.”
Even though AT&T is running the table on the first-responder market in the US because it won the contract to build the FirstNet network, that doesn’t mean that the other two big carriers don’t still desire to serve first responders. On August 1, T-Mobile announced that first responders who are signed up with its Connecting Heroes program can have their data prioritized in the event of emergencies, via its Wireless Priority Service (WPS), which is part of Connecting Heroes. T-Mobile says the new data priority service was developed in collaboration with the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. During times of emergency or network congestion, critical communication is prioritized across a first responder’s smartphone or other mobile device. During these times, T-Mobile commits available network resources to help maintain a minimum performance of 512 kbps. This means, if a first responder is in a situation where a natural disaster may impact service, T-Mobile will give network resources to them first. Similarly, if a first responder is using data in a low-coverage area, the network will automatically reallocate resources to help maintain that critical connection.
The California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) announced the departure of Senior Vice President Susan Walters to become the US Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Regional Director of Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) with responsibility for the States of Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, and Hawaii. Susan Walters was a founding team leader when CETF began operations in 2006. Walters contributed to strategic policy and grantmaking in order to guide augmenting financial resources and agreements negotiated as public benefits from corporate consolidations. Walters led multiple projects including CETF achieving success in the first decade (ending 2017) reaching of 98 percent broadband deployment and 80 percent home Internet adoption and, the same milestone goals ahead of the 2022 year. Most recently, Walters also collaborated with Los Angeles County to enroll as many residents as possible in the first ever federally funded affordable home Internet subsidy, establishing regional leadership within the county and across cities. Finally, Walters advanced CETF in collecting more than 5,000 supporters for the Digital Equity Bill of Rights.
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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