Daily Digest 8/25/2023

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Digital Equity

National Lifeline Association Submits Comments to Senate Universal Service Fund Working Group  |  Read below  |  John Heitmann, Joshua Guyan  |  Analysis  |  National Lifeline Association
Increasing the Affordable Connectivity Program Subsidy  |  Read below  |  Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting
California Community Foundation Gives EveryoneOn $175,00 to Fund its First-Ever Digital Equity Advocacy Program  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  EveryoneOn

News From the FCC

Chairwoman Rosenworcel's Response to Members of Congress Regarding the E-Rate Program  |  Read below  |  FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel  |  Letter  |  Federal Communications Commission
Chairwoman Rosenworcel's Response to Senators Concerning the Ongoing Proceeding Expanding Flexible Use of the 12.2-12.7 GHz Band  |  Read below  |  FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel  |  Letter  |  Federal Communication Commission

Comments in FCC's Cybersecurity Labeling for Internet of Things proceeding due September 25  |  Federal Communications Commission

Broadband Funding

NTCA Asks NTIA for Alternatives to BEAD Letter of Credit Requirements  |  NCTA - The Internet & Television Association

State/Local Initiatives

Benton Foundation
West Virginia's Plan to Conquer the Digital Divide  |  Read below  |  Grace Tepper  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Oklahoma Broadband Office Launches Interactive Internet Service Map  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Oklahoma Broadband Office
Local Philadelphia advocates explain why affordable internet is important for digital equity  |  Read below  |  Sarah Huffman, Julie Zeglen  |  Technical.ly


Federated CEO refutes those CBRS slams  |  Read below  |  Monica Alleven  |  Fierce
5G small cell deployments will likely get a boost  |  Read below  |  Sue Marek  |  Fierce


Can Congress fill the broadband labor pool?  |  Read below  |  Julia King  |  Fierce
T-Mobile cuts its workforce by 7 percent, about 5,000 jobs  |  Read below  |  Linda Hardesty  |  Fierce

Justice Department Sues SpaceX, Alleging Discrimination Against Refugees  |  Wall Street Journal

The Disconnect Between Remote Workers and Their Companies Is Getting Bigger  |  Wall Street Journal

In Reversal Because of A.I., Office Jobs Are Now More at Risk  |  New York Times


Verizon, AT&T struck by shareholder lawsuits over lead cables  |  Read below  |  Masha Abarinova  |  Fierce
California deploys AI-powered wildfire detection systems  |  Ars Technica
As fires and floods rage, Facebook and Twitter are missing in action  |  Read below  |  Will Oremus  |  Washington Post

Elections & Media

For Trump, X marks the spot for his social media return. Why that could really matter  |  National Public Radio
Elon Musk stopped policing political misinformation. The tech industry followed.  |  Washington Post
Judge tosses Republicans’ lawsuit accusing Google’s spam filters of bias  |  Washington Post
X Blocks Links To Political Organizing Platform Used By Democratic Party  |  Media Post

Platforms/Social Media/AI

How social media fuels gun violence among teens  |  National Public Radio
Facebook Labels of Government-Controlled Media Reduced Users' Engagement When They Noticed  |  Carnegie Mellon University
Department of Agriculture is taking a ‘cautious’ approach to generative AI  |  nextgov
New York Times, CNN and Australia’s ABC block OpenAI’s GPTBot web crawler from accessing content  |  New York Times
More human than human: measuring ChatGPT political bias  |  Springer Link
The U.S. Regulates Cars, Radio and TV. When Will It Regulate A.I.?  |  New York Times

Meta Must Face Privacy Claims Over Data Collection From Motor Vehicles Site  |  Media Post


Apple’s surprising about-face on 'right to repair'  |  Washington Post


Amazon in Talks With Disney About ESPN Streaming Partnership  |  Information, The

Stories From Abroad

Big Tech isn’t ready for landmark EU rules that take effect Aug 25  |  Ars Technica
Today's Top Stories

Digital Equity

National Lifeline Association Submits Comments to Senate Universal Service Fund Working Group

John Heitmann, Joshua Guyan  |  Analysis  |  National Lifeline Association

Congress and the Federal Communications Commission must act swiftly and purposefully to ensure that low-income households continue to have sustainably affordable access to communications services through a fully funded low-income program that is structured to effectively close the affordability component of the digital divide while preserving program integrity. National Lifeline Association (NaLA) offers the following recommendations and observations:

  • Congress and the FCC should either consolidate the Lifeline program with the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) or reform both so that they better serve the goal of making essential communications services affordable each and every month. Consolidating the ACP and Lifeline program would require reconciling policy differences.
  • Any future low-income program should be designed to ensure that low-income households have sustainably affordable access to essential communications services by carrying forward key program design elements from the ACP
  • The effectiveness of a low-income support program should be measured by whether low-income households have sustainably affordable access to essential communications services
  • Appropriated funding will be needed at least until USF reform can be accomplished
  • If ACP and Lifeline remain separate programs, they should be reformed to be more complementary and consistent
  • The FCC and USAC must be more transparent and accountable in the administration of any low-income affordability program

Increasing the Affordable Connectivity Program Subsidy

Doug Dawson  |  Analysis  |  CCG Consulting

The Federal Communications Commission recently implemented an increase in the monthly Affordable Connectivity Program subsidy in qualifying high-cost areas from $30 to $75. The reason for the change is easy to understand – this was codified in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) legislation. The legislation required higher ACP payments be higher in areas of the country designated as high-cost. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has been working with State Broadband Offices to designate the high-cost areas in each state – because such areas are also eligible for special treatment and consideration in the upcoming Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) grants. Now that high-cost areas are being defined, the FCC can implement the legislatively mandated ACP change. What puzzles me is why this was in the legislation. The concept seems to be that areas with higher costs need additional support. I agree with the concept that areas with particularly high costs might need some kind of broadband subsidy. But the extra ACP subsidy doesn’t help internet service providers (ISP). ISPs use the ACP program to discount customer rates and then get reimbursed for the customer discount from the ACP funding provided by Congress. Whether the discount is $30 or $75, this is a net wash for the ISP. None of this support goes to the ISP and all of the benefit flows directly to the customer. It appears to me that the folks who wrote the legislation thought the ACP benefits ISPs and not low-income households. I have a hard time rationalizing why this extra discount is only given in high-cost areas. Isn’t a low-income household located elsewhere just as worthy of extra help? This extra subsidy would a little make more sense if ACP was a permanently funded program. But it seems like a rural ISP can be badly harmed if it relies on ACP and suddenly loses a lot of customers if the ACP fund runs dry.

California Community Foundation Gives EveryoneOn $175,00 to Fund its First-Ever Digital Equity Advocacy Program

Press Release  |  EveryoneOn

EveryoneOn - a national digital inclusion organization with local impact - is investing its first-ever digital advocacy grant to train community members in how to advocate for fair digital inclusion policies to close the digital divide in their communities. The grant is part of California Community Foundation’s (CCF) Digital Equity Initiative - a multi-year project that is seeding a digital equity movement in Los Angeles County (CA) to advocate for fast, reliable and affordable broadband for all Angelenos. The grant to EveryoneOn is part of CCF’s move to provide larger grants to organizations that are active partners in its Digital Equity LA coalition. During the one-year grant period, EveryoneOn will develop and implement an advocacy curriculum to train a corps of volunteer digital equity ambassadors from communities disproportionately affected by the digital divide in Los Angeles County. Class participants will learn how to engage in digital advocacy activities, like making public comments, calling local electeds, and attending meetings and events. Specific areas of Los Angeles County where EveryoneOn will concentrate efforts are Central Los Angeles, Gateway Cities, San Fernando Valley and Boyle Heights (CA).

News From the FCC

Chairwoman Rosenworcel's Response to Members of Congress Regarding the E-Rate Program

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel  |  Letter  |  Federal Communications Commission

On August 14, 2023, Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel responded to lawmakers' concerns about the E-Rate Program and the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking circulated amongst the FCC. With the sunset of the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) slated for June 30, 2024, the FCC is seeking public comment on how to develop a long-term solution for the kinds of ongoing remote learning challenges that Congress sought to address with the ECF. To this end, the FCC proposes to permit eligible schools and libraries to receive E-Rate program support for wireless connections like Wi-Fi hotspots that can be used off-premises. It seeks comment on the eligibility of such services and equipment and asks related questions regarding legal authority. In doing so, it points to the FCC's past actions to provide E- Rate support for certain off-premises use. The FCC has previously determined that off-premises use of equipment and services may be eligible for E-Rate support after first finding that the off-premises provision of such services is “integral, immediate, and proximate to the education of students or the provision of library services to library patrons, and thus serves an educational purpose." Chairwoman Rosenworcel is fully committed to protecting the integrity of the E-Rate program, including taking steps necessary to prevent duplicative funding for the same Wi-Fi hotspots and services across other funding programs, including the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and the Lifeline program, as well as other federal, state, Tribal, or local funding programs.

Chairwoman Rosenworcel's Response to Senators Concerning the Ongoing Proceeding Expanding Flexible Use of the 12.2-12.7 GHz Band

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel  |  Letter  |  Federal Communication Commission

Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel responded to lawmakers' concerns over the ongoing proceeding expanding flexible use of the 12.2-12.7 GHz band. In the August 16, 2023 letter, the Chairwoman detailed the FCC's evaluations of the 12.2 GHz band and actions to mitigate issues. "In May 2023, the FCC evaluated and addressed the complex engineering challenges in the 12.2 GHz band, finding that authorizing two-way, high-powered terrestrial mobile service in that spectrum would impose a significant risk of harmful interference to existing and emergent services in the band, including satellite services," said Chairwoman Rosenworcel. "At the same time, the FCC began a further investigation of the potential to expand terrestrial fixed use or to permit unlicensed use in the 12.2 GHz band. In addition to our actions in the 12.2 GHz band, the FCC sought comment on a proposal to repurpose some or all of the 550 megahertz in the 12.7-13.25 GHz band for terrestrial mobile service or other expanded use." Chairwoman Rosenworcel continued, "I am grateful that you have acknowledged the agency’s expertise in overseeing commercial use of spectrum, as well as your recognition of the difficult and complex engineering issues that required careful assessment in this proceeding. I also share your interest in closing the digital divide by efficiently using spectrum to support 5G, fixed wireless, and satellite networks. I believe the [FCC] thoughtful approach to this swath of more than 1000 megahertz of mid-band spectrum is a smart investment in our wireless future."


West Virginia's Plan to Conquer the Digital Divide

Grace Tepper  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

In July, the West Virginia Department of Economic Development (WVDED) released the state's Draft Digital Equity Plan for public comment, asking stakeholders to weigh in on WVDED's strategy for bridging the digital divide. West Virginia’s Digital Equity Plan is a five-year, action-oriented roadmap for the WVDED—in collaboration with statewide partners—to ensure that every West Virginian can participate in today's increasingly digitally connected society. In shaping the Digital Equity Plan, WVDED actively solicited input from stakeholders, citizens, and state government leaders to define the state's vision. West Virginia's vision for digital equity is to ensure that all West Virginians have the resources they need to participate in the digital world and achieve the economic benefits of digital equity.

Oklahoma Broadband Office Launches Interactive Internet Service Map

Press Release  |  Oklahoma Broadband Office

The Oklahoma Broadband Office (OBO) has launched an interactive online map detailing availability of high-speed internet service throughout the state. The Oklahoma Broadband Map offers Oklahomans a way to track improvements in broadband infrastructure as federal grant funds are deployed statewide over the coming years. Developed using federal grant funds appropriated by the Legislature, the state map offers information and functions not available in either of two maps maintained by the Federal Communications Commission – one showing service availability and the other outlining areas receiving enhancements through federal grants. The state map empowers users to:

  • Search addresses;
  • View unserved/underserved/served locations;
  • Distinguish between different technologies in use;
  • See reported internet speeds by location;
  • View areas receiving upgrades through federal grant funds.

A brief tutorial video is also available on the Oklahoma Map web page.

Local Philadelphia advocates explain why affordable internet is important for digital equity

Sarah Huffman, Julie Zeglen  |  Technical.ly

The Federal Communications Commission announced that over 20 million households across the country are enrolled in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). Between this push to spread the word about ACP and the billions of dollars that will be put toward broadband infrastructure expansion, the federal government is investing mightily in digital access. At a local level, even if there is broadband infrastructure in Philadelphia (PA), thousands of families still can’t afford to pay for internet service. That’s why the City of Philadelphia and other local digital equity advocates have been pushing for eligible families to sign up for ACP, especially as the 2023-2024 school year begins.


Federated CEO refutes those CBRS slams

Monica Alleven  |  Fierce

In 2022, a study commissioned by CTIA basically called Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) a failure, in part due to its low power levels and limited use cases. Some saw it as a smear campaign against CBRS because CTIA would prefer the 3.1-3.45 GHz band to be licensed rather than end up looking more like CBRS, which involves a three-tiered sharing system to protect Department of Defense (DoD) incumbents. Federated Wireless at that time defended CBRS and its role as an Innovation Band. But what does Federated Wireless CEO Iyad Tarazi say of those criticisms? Federated Wireless is a Spectrum Access System (SAS) administrator and built a coast-to-coast Environmental Sensing Capability (ESC) network that is designed to protect incumbent DoD users while allowing commercial operations to use the 3.5 GHz spectrum. “I personally think CBRS is one of the cleanest and most interference-free spectrum [bands] out there because of all the automation and because of all the data we collect,” he said. “It’s almost astonishing, but we’re close to almost 400,000 radios on this system now. We get less than maybe 20 interference investigation requests a year and we handle all of them.” The best proof points for CBRS are all the DoD deployments that are using General Authorized Access (GAA), the unlicensed portion of the CBRS band, and it works for them, he said. “If we can optimize GAA for a DoD deployment that’s very demanding, you know we can do it.”

5G small cell deployments will likely get a boost

Sue Marek  |  Fierce

Some experts anticipate that US mobile operators will spend more on their small cell deployments in the coming months and use the technology to fill in coverage gaps and boost capacity in their 5G networks. Joe Madden, founder and lead analyst at Mobile Experts predicts that now that operators have deployed much of their 5G macro network, they will turn their attention to small cells and use the technology to fill in coverage gaps, solve capacity issues and provide in-building coverage. Although small cell deployments didn’t get a lot of attention in 2022, industry trade group CTIA reported in its 2023 annual survey, released in July 2023, that small cell deployments increased 13% in 2022 as compared to 2021. CTIA said that as of the end of 2022 there were 142,000 small cells deployed across the country compared to 125,000 at the end of 2021. However, the Small Cell Forum noted that it expects North America to have the slowest small cell growth compared to other regions like Latin America and Africa. The forum said that the reason North America will be slower is that it believes this market deployed more small cells earlier than other regions so its growth will not be as extreme.


Can Congress fill the broadband labor pool?

Julia King  |  Fierce

In 2023, American employers were anticipated to need an additional 500,000 positions across all construction industries on top of normal hiring levels. Other estimates show the US will separately need as many as 4.6 million manufacturing jobs filled by 2028. To make matters worse, it's probable those numbers will soar even higher when $42.5 billion in Broadband, Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) money starts to reach the market. Labor and materials are the main obstacles to the broadband funding rollout said Zachary Perconti, director of government affairs at Power and Communication Contractors Association (PCCA). And the federal government inevitably will have a hand in whether the broadband industry can overcome those "twin bottlenecks." “Keep in mind for this rollout, we've just required many of these materials to be produced domestically. There's tremendous demand for entry-level positions across all of the infrastructure market,” he added, referring to the Biden-Harris Administration’s Buy America initiative. Advocating for immigration reform in federal legislation is “one possible solution" PCCA is pursuing to help overcome the workforce shortage. Another avenue might be found through several bills up for reauthorization in Congress, including the Higher Education Act and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

T-Mobile cuts its workforce by 7 percent, about 5,000 jobs

Linda Hardesty  |  Fierce

T-Mobile announced to its employees that it is planning to reduce its workforce by about 7%, which equates to about 5,000 jobs. In a letter sent to employees, T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert wrote that the cuts will impact employees in locations across the country, primarily in corporate and back-office, and some technology roles. This round of cuts will not affect retail and consumer care employees. “After this process is complete, I do not envision any additional widespread company reductions again in the foreseeable future,” wrote Sievert. “Impacted roles are primarily duplicative to other roles, or may be aligned to systems or processes that are changing, or may not fit with our current company priorities.” He added that T-Mobile is going to “build bigger, broader people manager roles with deeper spans and fewer layers…At the same time, we’ll also be decreasing our reliance and spend on external workers and resources.” Recon Analytics analyst Roger Entner said, “It’s an admission that when you run a high-octane offense like T-Mobile does, this costs money.” He said T-Mobile mocks its competitors for buying new subscribers with subsidized phones, but recently it’s been doing the same thing. It just launched a new offering that allows people to get a subsidized phone every year. “Acquiring as many customers as they do, costs a lot of money,” said Entner. Whenever Entner sees companies touting 5G standalone core, more automation, artificial intelligence and cloud-native technologies, “I also see job cuts. You need fewer people to deliver more data for lower costs. The two major costs centers are power and people.”


Verizon, AT&T struck by shareholder lawsuits over lead cables

Masha Abarinova  |  Fierce

Verizon was hit with a fresh pair of class action lawsuits from investors, who claim the operator misled the public about the environmental and health risks of lead-clad cables. The lawsuits were filed in a western Pennsylvania federal court by the Gross Law Firm and Levi & Korsinsky, both of which urged Verizon shareholders to register for the class action. Investors can apply if they’ve purchased company stock between October 30, 2018 and July 26, 2023. AT&T is facing similar litigation over the lead cable issue, as the company’s stock in July 2023 reached its lowest level in 30 years. Gross Law Firm and Levi & Korsisnsky have also filed class action lawsuits on behalf of AT&T shareholders. The litigation stems from a Wall Street Journal investigative report published on July 9, 2023 which said at least 2,000 old telecom cables across the country contain degraded lead. Many of those cables are in places where people live and work. In regard to Verizon, both law firms claim the carrier allegedly concealed that it faces “potentially significant litigation risk, regulatory risk, and reputational harm” due to its lead cable ownership. The complaint said Verizon was warned about the risks presented by these cables but “did not disclose that they posed a threat to employee safety, to everyday people, and communities around the country.” Verizon declined to comment on the litigation.

As fires and floods rage, Facebook and Twitter are missing in action

Will Oremus  |  Washington Post

As wildfires ravage western Canada, Canadians can’t read the news about them on Facebook or Instagram. During August 2023, Facebook parent company Meta blocked links to news organizations on its major social networks in Canada to protest a law that would require it to pay publishers for distributing their content. As a freak tropical storm flooded swaths of Southern California, residents and government agencies who turned to X, formerly known as Twitter, for real-time updates struggled to discern fact from fiction. That has gotten far more difficult, officials say, since Elon Musk jumbled the site’s verification policies, removing the blue check marks from verified journalists and media outlets — instead granting them to anyone who pays a monthly fee. Facebook and Twitter spent years making themselves essential conduits for news. Now that government agencies, the media and hundreds of millions of people have come to rely on them for critical information in times of crisis, the social media giants have decided they’re not so invested in the news after all. Tech titans Mark Zuckerberg and Musk may not agree on much. But both have pulled back, in different ways, from what their companies once saw as a responsibility, to both their users and society, to connect people with reliable sources of information.

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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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