Daily Digest 8/23/2023 (David Jacobs)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Broadband Funding

Making Internet for All in America: The Next Steps  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  National Telecommunications and Information Administration
BEAD Build America, Buy America Waiver Request for Comment  |  Read below  |  Public Notice  |  National Telecommunications and Information Administration
We’re Bringing Affordable, High-Speed Internet to Every Single American  |  Read below  |  Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo  |  Press Release  |  Department of Commerce
Initial 20% of BEAD Funding Unlikely to be Used for Broadband Awards  |  Read below  |  Joan Engebretson  |  telecompetitor
Cuba City and Cal-Ore Default Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Awards  |  Read below  |  Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission
Here’s how AT&T decides where to apply for fiber funding  |  Read below  |  Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce
Nextlink, Ting, Calix dish on the dos and don’ts of fiber funding  |  Read below  |  Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce


Experts tout digital twins for dual wins in harsh fiber environments  |  Read below  |  Julia King  |  Fierce


Kansas Broadband Director: BEAD Funds Will Be Enough If 25% Goes to FWA  |  Read below  |  Joan Engebretson  |  telecompetitor


Protecting Broadband Customer Data  |  Read below  |  Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting
Sen. Cantwell Says Privacy Bill Could Protect Against AI Harms  |  Media Post


Media heavyweights form new research group to support free press  |  Read below  |  Sara Fischer  |  Axios
Newsrooms grapple with rules for AI  |  Read below  |  Ryan Heath, Sara Fischer  |  Axios
After Vice’s Downfall, Top Journalists Start Their Own Tech Publication  |  New York Times
What Happened to Wirecutter?  |  Atlantic, The

Platforms/Social Media/AI

Elon Musk to strip headlines off news links on Twitter in latest overhaul  |  Guardian, The
Elon Musk blocks James Woods on X after the actor criticized his move to end blocking  |  Los Angeles Times
The Facebook settlement claim deadline is Aug 25. Here’s how to apply.  |  Washington Post
Sorry, But LinkedIn Is Cool Now  |  Bloomberg

Kids & Media

Screen Time at Age 1 Year and Communication and Problem-Solving Developmental Delay at 2 and 4 Years  |  Journal of the American Medical Association


How the 'Great Catch-Up' of the Strike Era Is Shaping the Future of Television  |  Next | TV
Cox Media Group launches hyper-local streaming service "Neighborhood TV"  |  Axios

Company News

Say Hello to AT&T Internet Air! Plug-And-Play Home Wi-Fi Installed in Less Than 15 Minutes  |  Summary at Benton.org  |  Erin Scarborough  |  Press Release  |  AT&T
Roger Entner | FWA: And then there were three — AT&T joins T-Mobile and Verizon  |  Fierce
Today's Top Stories

Broadband Funding

Making Internet for All in America: The Next Steps

Following President Biden’s State of the Union Address in January 2023, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced that it would take a strict approach to enforcing Build America, Buy America requirements for the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program. Now we’re ready to provide more specifics. The NTIA is proposing a limited and targeted waiver of Build America, Buy America provisions for the BEAD Program that follows this strict approach to enforcing rules that protect and create American jobs. Proposal: Majority of fiber broadband equipment will need to be made in the US, including optical fiber, fiber optic cable, key electronics, and enclosures. The policies recommended in this draft waiver will ensure that close to 90% of BEAD funding spent on equipment will be spent on equipment manufactured in the US. The proposed waiver is the result of months of careful analysis of market conditions and sustained outreach to industry and stakeholders. As a result of these efforts, NTIA established criteria to prioritize products targeted for onshoring:

  • Strategically important technologies, like those that ensure the security, integrity, and reliability of network data, should be produced in America;
  • If a product’s domestic manufacturing line can be scaled quickly, it should be produced in America;
  • And if a product—like the fiber-optic cable so critical to deploying high-speed Internet networks in communities throughout the country—comprises a significant portion of the overall network spend, it should be produced in America.

Over the next 30 days, stakeholders will have an opportunity to comment on this proposal. After final publication, NTIA will continue to monitor implementation to ensure that we’re creating jobs here at home and delivering affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet service to all Americans.

BEAD Build America, Buy America Waiver Request for Comment

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) charged the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) with establishing the $42.45 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program and ensuring that BEAD-funded broadband infrastructure projects comply with the Buy America Domestic Content Procurement Preference (Buy America Preference) of the Build America, Buy America Act (BABA). In accordance with BABA, this notice advises that the Department of Commerce (DOC) is proposing to issue a limited, general applicability, nonavailability waiver of the Buy America Domestic Content Procurement Preference (Buy America Preference) to recipients of federal financial assistance under NTIA’s BEAD Program, which will flow down to subrecipients. The waiver details the following:

  • Incentivizes the domestic production of specific manufactured products based on strategic prioritization criteria, including network and data security, which will directly expand American job opportunities;
  • Promotes broad participation in the BEAD Program;
  • Ensures that BEAD Program awardees will have access to the manufactured products necessary to fulfill their obligations under the program;
  • Allows funding recipients to continue to provide economic opportunity through innovation and timely deployment of broadband infrastructure, which is recognized to expand job opportunities; and  
  • Supports the timely development of critical domestic infrastructure.  

Recipients to whom the waiver applies must report on their purchases of items from foreign sources and as required to ensure BABA compliance. Through this Notice, NTIA seeks public comment on the proposed waiver. Comments are due on or before September 21, 2023.  

We’re Bringing Affordable, High-Speed Internet to Every Single American

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo  |  Press Release  |  Department of Commerce

I am the Secretary of Commerce. And my job is to make sure that America can compete that our businesses and our companies can compete effectively in the world, including our small businesses, our family farms, and Americans, American workers. And I have to tell you, you cannot compete if you don't have the Internet. I just talked to a third-generation family farmer here in Wisconsin who struggles because the Internet is expensive and doesn't have high quality, and you all know it. You all have friends and family who don't have it. So President Biden has said he's committed to making sure every single American, and that means everyone, not most, has high-speed, affordable Internet.  That's what this is about. And that's what I'm doing, is investing $50 billion all around the country to make sure every American is connected.

Initial 20% of BEAD Funding Unlikely to be Used for Broadband Awards

Joan Engebretson  |  telecompetitor

Some states will be filing their initial proposals in the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) rural broadband funding program soon if they haven’t already—and once the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) approves a state’s proposal, the state will be eligible to receive 20 percent of its allocation of funds. That 20 percent can be a big number—exceeding $200 million for some states. It’s unlikely, however, that we will see that money being awarded for broadband deployments, as the rules for how the initial funding can be used are somewhat restrictive. A spokesperson for the NTIA said, “The primary use anticipated for a subset of the 20 percent of initial funds will be use by eligible entities to fund the conduct of their state challenge processes and their subgrantee programs. Once those are complete, eligible entities will submit their final proposal unlocking the remaining funds to implement their projects holistically. We recommend states take this approach prior to looking to use funds for other uses to ensure their deployment projects can be funded in full.” The spokesperson also said that the NTIA doesn’t automatically release the initial 20 percent of BEAD funds when a state’s initial proposal is approved. To access the funding, states and territories must submit an initial proposal funding request, which is different from the initial proposal. “This is essentially the administrative grants process that requires a budget and description of the use of the funds,” the spokesperson said. 

Cuba City and Cal-Ore Default Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Awards

Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission

Cuba City Telephone Exchange Co. and Cal-Ore Communications notified the Federal Communications Commission of their decisions to withdraw from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) support program. Cuba City and Cal-Ore’s letters constitute notification to the FCC that these carriers are defaulting on their obligations to meet their service milestones. At the FCC’s direction, the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) suspended future support payments for these support recipients, and directed USAC to recover RDOF support from Cuba City and Cal-Ore which are wholly-owned subsidiaries of LICT Corporation. Cuba City was authorized in December 2021 to receive a total of $540,329 in support over a 10-year term to offer voice and broadband service to 302 locations in Wisconsin. Cal-Ore was authorized in February 2022 to receive a total of $1,063,513.10 in support over a 10-year term to offer voice and broadband service to 235 locations in California.

Here’s how AT&T decides where to apply for fiber funding

Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce

AT&T is no stranger to public-private partnerships, with deals in place with municipal entities in Indiana, Kentucky and Texas to name a few. It’s also widely expected to participate in the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program given the 21 states comprising its footprint will have some $25 billion in funding available. But to hear AT&T’s VP of Broadband Strategic Initiatives Amanda Cacheris tell it, the operator is picky about where it chooses to apply for public dollars. Cacheris said AT&T currently has about 130,000 customer locations it is building with government funding. When it comes to BEAD, she said the company plans to pursue a “state-specific strategy” to ensure the builds will be mutually beneficial. For it to be worth AT&T’s while, there are a few things the operator is looking for. “It has to do with household density, it has to do with the ability to serve multiple geographies, looking at overall footprint, aggregation, and continuity. In fact, in a lot of previous grant projects, the contiguous build is an element of focus,” she said. According to Cacheris, “aggregation” in this case refers to looking at the entire build picture in the aggregate. That includes whether and how AT&T can connect both un- and underserved households, deployment timelines associated with the funding, how the build overlaps with where it has wireless subscribers and towers, where its existing footprint is, and what opportunities it might have to, say, retire some of its legacy copper. She said ultimately AT&T won’t be able to finalize its bidding strategy until the states release the specifics of their grant programs.

Nextlink, Ting, Calix dish on the dos and don’ts of fiber funding

Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce

It feels like broadband funding is flying at operators from left, right and center. But how does a provider figure out which funding source is the right fit, and what do they need to know about applying for and actually spending that money? A panel comprised of experts from Nextlink, Ting Internet, Calix, Fujitsu, and COS Systems tackled the ins and outs of the funding landscape. Here are the top takeaways from the session:

  • DON'T - Expect all forms of funding to be created equal: There are several different sources of funding on the table for operators at the moment. Patrick Mulhearn, director of Public Policy and Community Engagement at Ting, said the choice of which to pursue will depend on what exactly an operator is trying to accomplish – and how quickly. All in all public and private money come with “very different ways of looking at operating as an [broadband provider],” said Nextlink CSO Claude Aiken.
  • DO - Engage with stakeholders early and often: Jessica Koch is the Broadband Program Manager at Calix said that when it comes to public money, there’s usually a multi-step process involved before the grants go out to bid. And if an ISP hasn’t engaged with the local community and policymakers before the application window opens, “it’s too late oftentimes because of the amount of work that goes into planning for and pitching your story for that build.”
  • DON'T - Expect things to move fast: There’s an old adage that the gears of government turn slowly and that holds true when it comes to broadband funding. Operators looking into public funding should expect something of a wait.
  • DO - Read the fine print: No entity – public or private – is going to hand over thousands or millions of dollars to an operator without expecting something in return. And when it comes to broadband funding, those expectations in many cases are quite specific when it comes to things like deployment timelines, revenue and reporting requirements. Public money can also come with requirements related to specific supply and labor procurement processes, the panel noted.
  • TOP TAKEAWAY - Be prepared: All the panelists agreed work on a project begins well before money is awarded. Due to the strings attached to broadband funding, it’s key for operators to try to prepare as much as possible and eliminate as much risk as possible before an award is made.


Experts tout digital twins for dual wins in harsh fiber environments

Julia King  |  Fierce

Experts at Fiber Connect convened to address the need for new approaches to fiber deployments in challenging environments. Notably, digital twins for network infrastructure emerged as a key strategy for service providers. A digital twin is a virtual representation of a physical network that can be created to simulate its performance, test different scenarios, and identify potential issues before physical production. Scott Casey, VP at CycloMedia Technology, a mapping system software company, said he has seen “a pretty significant trend” over the last three or four years toward operators using a digital outside plant environment “as much as possible.” Especially in harsh environments, using a virtualized digital plant means sending less people out in the field into harm's way. “It also means that you can do some of the work that you might have had to do during the winter, you can do it from the desktop, anytime,” added Casey. Just about every company that CycloMedia works with has a digital system, whether it’s through computer-aided design (CAD) or geographic information system (GIS) software, according to Casey. However, the data quality contributing to these systems is lacking.


Kansas Broadband Director: BEAD Funds Will Be Enough If 25% Goes to FWA

Joan Engebretson  |  telecompetitor

The $451 million that Kansas will receive in the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) rural broadband funding program will be sufficient to make service available to everyone in the state if 25 percent of it goes to fixed wireless access (FWA), said Jade Piros de Carvalho, director of the Kansas Office of Broadband Development. That determination was based on cost modeling, she said. Although Piros de Carvalho was disappointed in the amount of funding that the state received, she said, “I anticipate we’ll be OK. We will get other federal funding opportunities and hopefully more private investment than we’re counting on.”


Protecting Broadband Customer Data

Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting

At the end of July 2023, the Federal Communications Commission proposed a $20 million penalty against Q Link and Hello Mobile for not complying with the Customer Propriety Network Information (CPNI). The FCC concluded that the two companies violated the CPNI rules when they failed to protect confidential user data. The companies both had security flaws in their apps that allowed outside access to customer account information. There are stringent privacy rules in place at the FCC for voice providers, but nothing similar for broadband. Other than perhaps invoking an investigation from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for allowing leaks of broadband customer information, there are no specific prohibitions in place to stop internet service providers (ISP) from misusing customer data. Telephone companies routinely capture details of customer calling – who you call and who calls you. Telephone companies can’t release this information without a warrant. CPNI rules also require phone companies to keep other customer data secure, such as billing records, credit card numbers, etc. Telephone companies are even prohibited from marketing their own products to customers if a customer opts out of such marketing. The FCC's 2016 broadband privacy rules that were in place for only a short time implemented the same sort of privacy rules as voice, but customers were also given the choice to allow or deny access to their records.


Media heavyweights form new research group to support free press

Sara Fischer  |  Axios

A group of prominent media, tech and research executives have raised nearly $3 million to launch an independent policy research center focused on addressing global internet issues, such as disinformation, algorithmic accountability, and the economic health of the news industry. While the Center for News, Technology & Innovation (CNTI) is not designed to lobby or advocate on behalf of specific policy proposals, it does hope to influence future internet policy toward maintaining an open internet and an independent press. The group believes those positions “reinforce the democratic principles of open societies.”  CNTI is led by Executive Director Amy Mitchell, formerly the director of journalism research at Pew Research Center. The group's board is chaired by former McClatchy President and CEO Craig Forman, who serves as a partner at NextNews Ventures, a media and telecommunications investment firm. CNTI will conduct its own research, but it will also synthesize and commission other high-quality research to drive conversations about internet policy. All of its work—including its research, analysis and policy discussions—will be available for free as a resource to anyone looking to shape global internet policy.

Newsrooms grapple with rules for AI

Ryan Heath, Sara Fischer  |  Axios

Leading media organizations are issuing guidance on leveraging artificial intelligence in the newsroom at the same time they're making licensing deals to let AI firms use their content to train AI models. The sudden arrival of publicly and commercially available generative AI tools has forced a new set of ethical choices on media companies struggling to protect public trust while still experimenting with the technology and preserving their legal rights. Most news companies are allowing some use of AI under the editorial supervision of humans, but many of the new guidelines prohibit AI from being used to write articles, and extra scrutiny is applied to AI-generated images and video. The AP became the first major news company to strike an agreement deal with OpenAI that will allow the firm to use AP's content to train its AI models. Because of that partnership, and its history as an early adopter of automation, its editorial guidance will likely weigh heavily with other news organizations. However, the AP's commercial agreement with OpenAI may not serve as a blueprint for other media companies weighing efforts to protect their intellectual property interests. NPR reported that the New York Times is considering legal action against OpenAI for unauthorized use of Times stories as training data. The publication updated its terms of service on Aug. 3, 2023 to forbid using Times content in "training a machine learning or artificial intelligence (AI) system." As news publishers weigh different AI standards, some level of consistency will be necessary to develop broad reader trust.

Submit a Story

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

Kevin Taglang

Kevin Taglang
Executive Editor, Communications-related Headlines
Benton Institute
for Broadband & Society
1041 Ridge Rd, Unit 214
Wilmette, IL 60091
headlines AT benton DOT org

Share this edition:

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society Benton Institute for Broadband & Society Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society All Rights Reserved © 2023