Daily Digest 8/28/2023 (The Importance of the USF)

Will Politicians Ban Their Best Way of Reaching Young Voters?  |  Politico Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Table of Contents

Broadband Funding

Biden-Harris Administration Announces Nearly $3.5 Million in Internet for All Grants to Tribal Lands  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Department of Commerce
Broadband subsidy program that millions use will expire next year if Congress doesn’t act  |  Read below  |  Kavish Harjai  |  Associated Press
Benton Foundation
The Importance of the Universal Service Fund  |  Read below  |  Adrianne Furniss  |  Editorial  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Report | Exploring the link between broadband investment and coverage expansion  |  Telecommunications Policy

State/Local Initiatives

Texas, Louisiana and New Mexico laying groundwork for greater internet connectivity  |  Read below  |  Prithvi Kalkunte, Xiaohan Zhang  |  Analysis  |  Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
ConnectLA Releases BEAD Initial Proposal Volume 2  |  Read below  |  Research  |  Louisiana Broadband Office of Development & Connectivity
Boulder City (CO) Council explores possibilities for community broadband service  |  Daily Camera


The beautiful complexity of the US radio spectrum  |  Read below  |  Jon Keegan  |  Op-Ed  |  MIT Technology Review
Dish isn’t the only one interested in T-Mobile’s 800 MHz spectrum  |  Read below  |  Monica Alleven  |  Fierce
FCC Announces Commencement of Testing of the 6 GHz Band Automated Frequency Coordination Systems  |  Federal Communications Commission


The FCC's new power over prison call costs  |  Axios

Emergency Communications

FCC Helps Hawai'i Wildfire Survivors Stay Connected  |  Read below  |  Marlene Dortch  |  Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission
FCC Says All Maui Radio Stations Are Up And Running.  |  Inside radio

Platforms/Social Media/AI

ChatGPT says no political targeting. It’s easy to break the rules.  |  Washington Post
Clay Calvert | The Government Weighs In on the First Amendment Rights of Social Media Platforms  |  American Enterprise Institute
How culture drives foul play on the internet, and how new “upcode” can protect us  |  MIT Technology Review

Will Politicians Ban Their Best Way of Reaching Young Voters?  |  Politico

Digital Assets

U.S. Department of the Treasury, IRS Release Proposed Regulations on Sales and Exchanges of Digital Assets by Brokers  |  US Department of the Treasury


Chromebooks, Once a Good Deal for Schools, Are Now Becoming E-Waste  |  Wall Street Journal


Who are the wireless and wired telecom trade associations?  |  Read below  |  Karen Fischer  |  Fierce

Industry News

Reevaluating the cable-fiber rivalry: Much ado about nothing?  |  Read below  |  Julia King  |  Fierce
AT&T’s Cricket prepaid brand offers multi-month discounts  |  Fierce
Investment Firm Owner Helps Great Plains Communications Continue Rapid Expansion  |  Read below  |  telecompetitor


FCC Seeks Nominations for Six Board Member Positions on the Universal Service Administrative Company Board of Directors  |  Read below  |  Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission
FCC Seeks Nominations for Membership on Technological Advisory Council  |  Read below  |  Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commisison
Today's Top Stories

Broadband Funding

Biden-Harris Administration Announces Nearly $3.5 Million in Internet for All Grants to Tribal Lands

Press Release  |  Department of Commerce

The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) awarded seven grants totaling $3,449,227.56 to seven Tribal entities as part of the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP).  With funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, these new grants bring the total of the program to more than $1.79 billion awarded to 198 Tribal entities. Record investments in high-speed Internet deployment are a key part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda. This funding will help directly connect Tribal households and businesses to high-speed Internet service, plan for future Internet infrastructure investments, and upgrade network equipment.

Broadband subsidy program that millions use will expire next year if Congress doesn’t act

Kavish Harjai  |  Associated Press

One of the features that President Joe Biden cited in his plan to bring internet to every home and business in the United States by 2030 was affordability. But an important federal program established to keep broadband costs down for low-income households is set to expire in 2024. The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) has not reached everyone who is eligible. According to an Associated Press analysis of enrollment and census data, less than than 40 percent of eligible households have utilized the program. But the program’s future is uncertain. Its primary source of funding, a $14.2 billion allocation, is projected to run out by the middle of 2024. That could end access to affordable broadband for millions of people and hinder the Biden administration’s push to bring connectivity to the people who need it most. “ACP is the best tool we’ve ever had to help people afford broadband,“ said Drew Garner, broadband policy advisor for Common Sense Media.

The Importance of the Universal Service Fund

Adrianne Furniss  |  Editorial  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

On July 27, 2023, the U.S. Senate's Universal Service Fund (USF) Working Group invited public comment on the future of the USF with the stated goal of creating a bipartisan forum to guide education, awareness, and policymaking on the USF. The opportunity to weigh in with the senators has had me thinking about the importance of the USF for bringing affordable broadband infrastructure and services to millions of people around the country. So I'm taking this opportunity to share my thoughts on one of the most important tools in our national effort to reach truly universal broadband.


Texas, Louisiana and New Mexico laying groundwork for greater internet connectivity

Prithvi Kalkunte, Xiaohan Zhang  |  Analysis  |  Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

Digital inclusion took on new urgency in the U.S. when the COVID-19 pandemic thrust the issue into the spotlight, forcing schools, governments and businesses to expedite the move online. While broadband access is necessary to fully participate in society and the economy, it’s not available or affordable for many. The costs of having inadequate access—or no internet at all—can be high, limiting opportunities for success, educational achievement, positive health outcomes, social inclusion and civic engagement, according to the Digital Equity Act of 2021. The act seeks to promote digital literacy and access, establishing the State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program to help communities advance telecommunications capabilities. In this first article in a series on digital inclusion, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas documents the level of digital connectivity in 2022 in the Federal Reserve’s Eleventh District—Texas, northern Louisiana and southern New Mexico. This article finds that while the digital divide is wide in poor and more isolated areas of the states, concerted efforts are taking shape across the region to close it. It documents some of the ongoing public efforts to improve digital inclusion in the Eleventh District, including the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and the Digital Navigator program specific to Louisiana.

ConnectLA Releases BEAD Initial Proposal Volume 2

ConnectLA published the second volume of Louisiana’s draft Initial Proposal for the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program, and is asking for feedback from the public. Louisiana received more than $1.35 billion from the BEAD program for the construction of broadband infrastructure and the development of programs to eliminate the digital divide. Volume 1 focused on answering questions three, five, six and seven of the Initial Proposal, and Volume 2 will respond to the remaining 15 questions. The public comment period will close on Sept. 25, 2023, and the feedback form can be found here. The proposal will be updated based on new data and public suggestions. Given the state's unique challenges with geography and workforce, a few topics were important in Vol. 2:

  • Infrastructure needs to be resilient to weather damage. Burying fiber (especially in coastal areas) and building redundant systems will ensure fewer outages and improve emergency preparedness and response.
  • This amount of infrastructure needs a robust workforce to build and maintain it. The Louisiana Community and Technical College System will offer broadband certifications for telecommunications-related jobs and play a major role in developing the state's broadband workforce.
  • Once all Louisianians have internet access, it is crucial that we invest in the "future of work activities." New jobs in areas such as cybersecurity, computer programming, telehealth, and artificial intelligence will be open to people for the first time. This is a large step toward eliminating Louisiana's "brain drain."


The beautiful complexity of the US radio spectrum

Jon Keegan  |  Op-Ed  |  MIT Technology Review

Somewhere above you right now, a plane is broadcasting its coordinates on 1090 megahertz. A satellite high above Earth is transmitting weather maps on 1694.1 MHz. On top of all that, every single phone and Wi-Fi router near you blasts internet traffic through the air over radio waves. A carefully regulated radio spectrum is what makes it possible for these signals to get to the right place intact. The Federal Communication Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) share the task of managing radio frequencies for US airwaves. The NTIA manages all federal radio uses (including military use), while the FCC manages everything else. It is an incredibly complex system, and to help with the job of explaining the importance of managing this invisible natural resource, the NTIA publishes the United States Frequency Allocation Chart (which you can order as a wall chart for $6). The chart uses 33 color-coded categories to visualize the information in a crazy quilt of blocks (some wide, some narrow), spread from 9 kHz (very low frequency) all the way to 300 GHz (extremely high frequency). It does suffer from scale distortions, not unlike a map of Earth.

Dish isn’t the only one interested in T-Mobile’s 800 MHz spectrum

Monica Alleven  |  Fierce

Dish Network isn’t the only entity eyeing T-Mobile’s 800 MHz spectrum. Someone else who’s intimately affiliated with the spectrum is showing an interest, and it’s not one of the big wireless carriers. Burns & McDonnell (B&M), a large engineering and consulting firm, is seeking permission to participate in the court proceeding where Dish is asking for more time to buy T-Mobile’s 800 MHz spectrum licenses, according to a research note by New Street Research (NSR). Dish filed for an extension with the US District Court for the District of Columbia earlier in August, 2023. However, B&M’s petition doesn’t change NSR’s view that Dish is more likely than not to get an extension of time. NSR analyst Blair Levin said B&M is likely to be a stalking horse for a fragmented group of electric utilities who have spectrum needs. Electric utilities represent a large traditional client base for B&M.

Emergency Communications

FCC Helps Hawai'i Wildfire Survivors Stay Connected

Marlene Dortch  |  Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission

To assist those affected by the Hawai’i Wildfires, this temporary waiver of certain Lifeline program eligibility rules will ensure that consumers receiving federal disaster assistance can easily apply for and enroll in the Lifeline program. Because of the exigent circumstances arising from the Hawai’i Wildfires, the FCC finds that there is good cause for further action to ensure that consumers in the affected areas receive critical assistance for their communications needs. The FCC temporarily waives the Lifeline eligibility requirements to permit households to enter the Lifeline program if they are receiving individual assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Individuals and Households Program (IHP) as a result of the impacts of the Hawai’i Wildfires.


Who are the wireless and wired telecom trade associations?

Karen Fischer  |  Fierce

There are a large number of wireless and wired telecommunications trade associations; so many that it can be hard to keep track. Fierce Telecom created this list of the most well-known trade groups in the industry.

Industry News

Reevaluating the cable-fiber rivalry: Much ado about nothing?

Julia King  |  Fierce

An unsurprising theme at Fiber Connect 2023 was executives from the fiber industry dragging its cable counterpart. For example, AT&T Fiber’s EVP Chris Sambar said, “don’t ask cable about symmetrical speeds, they don’t even know what that means.”  Derek Kelly, Lumos’ VP of market development, went as far as to say that “fiber is always the answer,” and suggested cable alternatives will not stand the test of time. But with all this talk about fiber versus cable, is the rivalry being overplayed? Over the last seven years, the definition of a "served location" has evolved significantly, with required internet speeds progressing from 4 Mbps upload and 1 Mbps download speeds to the current Federal Communication Commission threshold of 25/3 Mbps. Kelly highlighted that as $42.5 billion is set to roll out through the Broadband, Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program, relying on investments in fiber will provide stability over the next 15 years. While acknowledging the need for funding in areas without even cable access, Kelly noted another large-scale program after the BEAD initiative is unlikely. Kelly noted Lumos defines “unserved being no cable, underserved means they're stuck with cable. And then there's everyone else that has life-changing fiber,” adding “So we don't care about speeds at this point.” Fiber execs mostly targeted cable’s “Achilles heel,” Jay Lee, CTO of ATX Networks, said, which is lacking symmetrical speed capabilities. But he noted cable operators are “right in the throes” of upgrading their networks to get to full DOCSIS 3.1, and that high-split type of architecture will allow them to achieve competitive speeds in the upstream.

Investment Firm Owner Helps Great Plains Communications Continue Rapid Expansion

  |  telecompetitor

Great Plains Communications is one of a growing number of tier 2 and 3 providers with long-term roots that has been acquired by an investment firm, a move that has helped the company expand rapidly. In 2018, the Hunt family sold the business to investment firm Grain Management. The company has now expanded its 9,500-mile fiber network to 18,000+ miles in 13 states, offering customers a robust portfolio of services that include traditional residential/commercial internet service, business services, services to both multi-dwelling units and greenfield developments, and carrier services. Since Grain Management bought the company, Great Plains Communications has made five separate acquisitions that have been pivotal to its growth. “Our differentiator is service. The quality of the experience,” said Great Plains Communications CEO Todd Foje. 


FCC Seeks Nominations for Six Board Member Positions on the Universal Service Administrative Company Board of Directors

Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission’s Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB) seeks nominations for the following Board member positions on the Board of Directors of the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) listed below for a three-year term:

  • Representative for incumbent local exchange carriers (non-Bell Operating Companies) with $40 million or less in annual revenues (position currently held by Geoffrey A. Feiss, General Manager, Montana Telecommunications Association);
  • Representative for competitive local exchange carriers (position currently held by Joseph Gillan, Consultant, Gillan Associates);
  • Representative for low-income consumers (position currently held by Ellis Jacobs, Senior Attorney, Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc.);
  • Representative for interexchange carriers with annual operating revenues of $3 billion or less (position currently held by Michael Skrivan, former Vice President, Regulatory, Consolidated Communications);
  • Representative for schools that are eligible to receive discounts pursuant to section 54.501 of the Commission’s rules (position currently held by Joan H. Wade, Ed.D., Executive Director, Association of Educational Service Agencies);
  • Representative for rural health care providers that are eligible to receive supported services pursuant to section 54.601(position currently held by Katharine Hsu Wibberly, Ph.D., Director, Mid-Atlantic Telehealth Resource Center).

All nominations must be filed with the Office of the Secretary by October 24, 2023.

FCC Seeks Nominations for Membership on Technological Advisory Council

Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commisison

The Federal Communications Commission is seeking nominations for membership on the Technological Advisory Council (TAC). Following consultation with the General Services Administration, the FCC anticipates renewing the charter of the TAC, for a period of two (2) years starting on or about September 7, 2023. The FCC anticipates that the first meeting of the TAC will be in December 2023. Nominations for membership must be submitted to the FCC no later than September 22, 2023. The mission of the TAC is to provide technical advice and recommendations to the FCC on the issues and questions presented to it by the FCC. The TAC will focus on key issues affecting the development and deployment of emerging communications technologies to spur opportunities for innovation, competition, adoption, greater efficiencies, job creation, and other national priorities. The FCC is particularly interested in receiving nominations and expressions of interest from individuals and organizations in the following categories:

  • Communications service providers, and organizations representing communications service providers, including wireline and wireless communications service providers, broadcast radio and television licensees, cable television operators and other multichannel video programming distributors, satellite communications service providers, and Internet Service Providers;
  • Manufacturers of communications equipment and organizations representing manufacturers of communications equipment;
  • Providers of internet applications or cloud-based services;
  • Scientists and engineers from academia, or who serve as independent consultants, who are recognized experts in their field; and
  • Qualified representatives of other stakeholders and interested parties with relevant expertise.

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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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Kevin Taglang
Executive Editor, Communications-related Headlines
Benton Institute
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