Daily Digest 8/25/2022 (Middle-Mile)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Broadband Funding

Pine Ridge, Rosebud reservations receive $70 million broadband grant  |  Read below  |  Shalom Baer Gee  |  Rapid City Journal
Federal Communications Commission Reports $42 Million in Emergency Connectivity Funding  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission
Commissioner Carr Criticizes Agency's Abrupt Reversal Of $885 Million Infrastructure Award To Elon Musk's Starlink  |  Read below  |  FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr  |  Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission

Broadband Infrastructure

Middle-Mile Networks: What and Why  |  Read below  |  Research  |  CENIC
Build or Buy Middle-Mile Networks? Diverse Solutions  |  Read below  |  Research  |  CENIC

State/Local Initiatives

Five-County Vermont Organization Shares Details on Rural Broadband Funding  |  Read below  |  Joan Engbretson  |  telecompetitor


Scuffle over 6 GHz band raises questions about Wi-Fi 6E  |  Read below  |  Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce
The 12 GHz Band Is the Easy Case for Spectrum Sharing. Let the FCC Do Its Job.  |  Read below  |  Harold Feld  |  Analysis  |  Public Knowledge

Platforms/Social Media

Meta Signs $37.5 Million Deal Over Facebook Location Tracking  |  Read below  |  Jacklyn Wille  |  Bloomberg
Twitter whistleblower to testify in Congress about security failures  |  Washington Post
Twitter executives push back against whistle-blower complaint.  |  New York Times
Sen Markey Urges Federal Regulators to Crack Down on Twitter's Security Failures Following Whistleblower Report  |  US Senate
Sen Blumenthal Calls on FTC to Investigate Twitter Whistleblower Claims  |  US Senate
Facebook, Twitter and Others Remove Pro-US Influence Campaign  |  New York Times
Facebook, Twitter dismantle a U.S. influence campaign about Ukraine  |  Washington Post
Report | Psychological inoculation improves resilience against misinformation on social media  |  Science
Google Finds ‘Inoculating’ People Against Misinformation Helps Blunt Its Power  |  New York Times
Twitter labeled factual information about covid-19 as misinformation  |  Washington Post
Op-Ed: California’s fight for a safer internet isn’t over  |  Los Angeles Times

Elections & Media

How Tech and Election Officials Can Protect Elections Online  |  Bipartisan Policy Center


The Misleading Promise of Monitoring Students Online  |  Center for Democracy and Technology
Best Back-to-School Student Internet Discounts and Deals  |  CNET
Kelso Schools to Use Equity Grants for New Tools, Training  |  Daily News

Kids & Media

A New Model for Using Phones with Young Kids  |  New America
Op-Ed: California’s fight for a safer internet isn’t over  |  Los Angeles Times


NIH awards $23 million to establish centers of excellence to study telehealth for cancer care  |  National Institutes of Health
Twitter labeled factual information about covid-19 as misinformation  |  Washington Post


Data-tampering attacks are hard to detect, with devastating consequences  |  Protocol
New US Data Privacy Bill to Change the Dynamics of Personal and Business Data  |  nextgov


Report | Closing the Data Divide for a More Equitable US Economy  |  Center for Data Innovation


59% of Adults Watch Video on Non-TV Devices Daily  |  Leichtman Research Group
Smart Thermostats Forecast to be in Less than One-Third of Broadband Households in 2026  |  telecompetitor

Industry News

Cable Companies Tout Speed Increases  |  Read below  |  Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting
Starlink lowers monthly internet prices by 50 percent for some  |  Read below  |  Thomas Ricker  |  Vox
EPB Launches America’s First Community-wide 25 Gig Internet Service  |  EPB
Today's Top Stories

Broadband Funding

Pine Ridge, Rosebud reservations receive $70 million broadband grant

Shalom Baer Gee  |  Rapid City Journal

The Rosebud Indian Reservation and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota will have their own broadband services after being awarded an almost $70 million federal grant that officials predict will connect 3,300 homes. The money will come from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP). The funding can also be used for telehealth, distance learning, broadband affordability, and digital inclusion. The program uses nearly $1 billion from the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 and $2 billion from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). There are 20 communities on the Rosebud Reservation, and the current internet providers can't reach everybody. However, tribal officials believe that these funds will be an important step in reasserting their tribal sovereignty and jurisdiction, strengthening their community's communication capabilities in the long and short-term.  

Federal Communications Commission Reports $42 Million in Emergency Connectivity Funding

Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission committed nearly $42 million in two new funding rounds through the Emergency Connectivity Program (ECP), which provides digital services for students in communities across the country. The funding commitments support applications from all three application windows, benefiting approximately 100,000 students, including students in Arizona, Delaware, Idaho, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin. The funding can be used to support off-campus learning, such as nightly homework, to ensure students across the country have the necessary support to keep up with their education.

Commissioner Carr Criticizes Agency's Abrupt Reversal Of $885 Million Infrastructure Award To Elon Musk's Starlink

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr  |  Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission

I was surprised to find out by an FCC press release that agency leadership had suddenly reversed course on an $885 million infrastructure award that Elon Musk’s Starlink won in 2020 to provide high-speed Internet service to unconnected Americans. The agency’s decision here mirrors the Administration’s broader set of infrastructure missteps by costing taxpayer dollars while leaving rural communities behind. First, the FCC’s announcement claims that the agency is acting to ‘avoid extensive delays in providing needed service to rural areas.’ Yet that is exactly the outcome that this decision ensures. Second, the agency decision casts aspersion on the Starlink system in turning heel on the Commission’s 2020 award—calling the technology “risky” and “still developing.” But those arguments do not bear out. Third, the agency cites Starlink’s price point in denying it this universal service award. Yet right now, the FCC is providing universal service awards for far slower Internet services that cost consumers far more. Fourth, this agency decision will hit taxpayers in their pocketbooks. To the extent the federal government ever makes another commitment to serve these communities, it will cost us orders of magnitude more money to do so. 


Middle-Mile Networks: What and Why

Research  |  CENIC

A middle-mile network is a fiber connection consisting of long-haul core backbone routes and regional routes, and last-mile providers—not unlike the transportation model of high-capacity long-haul interstate highways—can be effective in connecting major cities, inland, cities, remote regions, and everything in-between. In this model, an open-access middle-mile network bridges the gap between the global Internet and any last-mile providers that wish to connect to it, who then bridge the remaining gap to their individual local residential and business customers, as well as fire, earthquake, climate, and smart city sensors. However, to create a truly successful middle-mile network, the following characteristics should be present:

  • Partnerships surrounding existing fiber infrastructure to cut down on steep infrastructure installation costs,
  • Various fiber servicing options--such as on-demand dark fiber and lit/managed services,
  • Design that incorporates resilient and redundant network layout to mitigate natural disaster risk and subsequent broadband outages,
  • Flexible policies that allow for the reconfiguration or expansion of fiber networks based on need and opportunity. 

Build or Buy Middle-Mile Networks? Diverse Solutions

Research  |  CENIC

The most important decision when designing and building a statewide middle-mile fiber-based network is whether to build a brand new long-distance fiber-optic cable route in areas where none exist, or use strands within an already installed cable via a pre-paid, discounted long-term lease called an IRU. In California for example, its great diversity of population centers, geographic and topographic terrains, weather conditions, and natural hazards greatly influences the presence, or absence, of fiber-based middle-mile infrastructure. Often, rural, rugged areas will lack middle-mile infrastructure, while urban areas possess ample amounts of such. Thus, should one build or buy their broadband, middle-mile solution? Building middle-mile connections is preferential in rural or remote areas due to the areas' lack of fiber or any internet service infrastructure, broadly speaking. Though it is intensive in terms of funding, labor, and time. Buying middle-mile connections is preferential in dense urban areas, where there is an abundance of fiber or broadband-related infrastructure already in place, which supports the "dig once" policy of minimizing construction costs and disruption to the local area. Overall, creating a fiber-based middle-mile network requires careful and customized decision-making, where the ideal decision in one area may differ radically from another. Thus, smart partnerships and and utilization of resources can provide ample, equitable, and future-facing broadband capacities for any community's needs.


Five-County Vermont Organization Shares Details on Rural Broadband Funding

Joan Engbretson  |  telecompetitor

Vermont has been funding a considerable portion of projects undertaken by communications union districts (CUDs) – local organizations representing at least two towns that will own the broadband infrastructure that they deploy. One of these CUDs is NEK (Northeast Kingdom) Broadband, which represents five counties. NEK Broadband expects to need between $165 million and $185 million to achieve the goal of ensuring high-speed broadband internet service is available to the most rural and underserved communities. To date, NEK has raised about $30 million and has initiated projects in several areas. Along with grants given by state-based organizations, NEK Broadband has also been leveraging federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program, and the US Department of Agriculture's ReConnect program. Overall NEK, along with other local operators, seek to connect Vermont to high-speed broadband by utilizing a balanced mix of local loans, municipal revenue bonds, and federal grant funding. 


Scuffle over 6 GHz band raises questions about Wi-Fi 6E

Diana Goovaerts  |  Fierce

In April 2020, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to free up 1,200 megahertz of spectrum in the 6 GHz band for unlicensed use, earning cheers from Wi-Fi and fixed wireless groups. But more than two years on, scuffles between industry associations representing cable, broadcasting, utility and public safety interests have left the future of the 6 GHz band in limbo. The spectrum is extremely important to cable operators and operators in general because it enables cable companies to offer the fastest service not only to your home but within your home via Wi-Fi technology. When the FCC adopted its 6 GHz order, it approved operation of low-power indoor devices in the band and opened a proceeding to develop rules for an Automated Frequency Coordination (AFC) system for high-power devices. But the Utilities Technology Council, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, and several other utilities groups petitioned the FCC to revisit its rules for the operation of low-power indoor devices (such as routers). They argued the power-levels adopted by the FCC in its original order would allow for harmful interference with licensed microwave systems used by utilities and public safety agencies for critical communications. The NCTA—Internet and Television Association and the National Association of Broadcasters appear to be at odds in terms of their position on the FCC's official position on the 6GHz band; where the NAB believes in the co-existence of the licensed and unlicensed operation within the band, and the NCTA believes that any delays within the band ruling would "rob consumers of the benefits of better Wi-Fi service." 

The 12 GHz Band Is the Easy Case for Spectrum Sharing. Let the FCC Do Its Job.

Harold Feld  |  Analysis  |  Public Knowledge

The “future of spectrum is sharing.” Basically, the airwaves are now so crowded that the old model of “clear and auction” federal spectrum is unsustainable for a society as connected as ours. With Wi-Fi 7 coming up, we will need channel sizes of 320 MHz of contiguous spectrum to get the benefits. Despite doomsday predictions from incumbents that any change in existing spectrum rules would cause massive destructive interference with valuable existing services, the Federal Communication Commission's engineers successfully evaluated the evidence and created rules that brought us new wireless services without causing harmful (let alone destructive) interference to existing services. The spectrum fight du jour is the 12 GHz band (technically the 12.2-12.7 GHz band). Public Knowledge and other public interest groups support the change to promote competition in the band, which could positively benefit millions of rural Americans. But we also want the FCC to authorize unlicensed access in the band to provide needed spectrum for Wi-Fi 7. If the FCC engineers conclude that neither unlicensed sharing nor new mobile service in the band can coexist with Starlink, then so be it.  But if the engineers find rules that allow coexistence, then we need to trust their analysis.


Meta Signs $37.5 Million Deal Over Facebook Location Tracking

Jacklyn Wille  |  Bloomberg

Meta Platforms signed a $37.5 million class settlement with Facebook users who say the platform continued tracking their locations after they turned off location services on their devices, according to a filing in San Francisco federal court. The settlement by the US District Court for the Northern District of California covered about 70 million US residents who used Facebook between Jan. 30, 2015 and April 18, 2018 and who turned off the location services setting for the Facebook application on their iOS or Android devices. Class members who submit claims through an online system will receive payments electronically or by check. The deal resolves litigation accusing the tech giant of improperly collecting users’ IP addresses and using those addresses to infer their location in contravention of the company’s own policies. Plaintiffs say Facebook profited from this information by using it to target ads.

Industry News

Cable Companies Tout Speed Increases

Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting

The NCTA—The Internet and Television Association, an industry trade and lobbying association for large cable companies, recently touted big increases in broadband speeds since the start of the pandemic. Specifically, NCTA states that the average U.S. download speed has grown from 138 Mbps in March 2020, the first month of the pandemic, to 226 Mbps in June 2022. Obviously, the cable companies are taking credit for much of the speed increase, and to some extent, that’s true. But there are a number of different reasons why average download speeds are increasing. One of the primary reasons is because cable companies have almost universally increased the download speed of the base broadband product to 200 Mbps to 300 Mbps. Another factor is increased fiber broadband infrastructure buildouts to homes, which also contributes positively to broadband speed increases. Finally, the expansion of fiber broadband infrastructure to rural areas thanks to the Federal Communication Commission's Alternative Connect America Model program, federal grants and subsidies like ReConnect and the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, and numerous state broadband grants.

Starlink lowers monthly internet prices by 50 percent for some

Thomas Ricker  |  Vox

Starlink, Elon Musk’s internet-from-space service provided by SpaceX, is notifying customers with some good news: their monthly subscriptions have been reduced in response to “local market conditions.” “The price reduction factors in your local market conditions and is meant to reflect parity in purchasing power across our customers,” a notice to customers reads. The situation in the US, where the dollar has been surging against foreign currencies, is less clear. A person in Nevada reports getting a reduction to $85 (was $110) but Starlink’s own pages still show a monthly subscription price of $110 after a one-time $599 purchase of the hardware kit. Several other people claiming to be from the US say that they haven’t received any price reductions.

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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) and Grace Tepper (grace AT benton DOT org) — we welcome your comments.

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