Daily Digest 8/31/2023 (Pat Corrales)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Broadband Funding

FCC Adopts Procedures to Implement Enhanced A-CAM  |  Read below  |  Trent Harkrader  |  Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission
Support grows for ACP to replace Lifeline Program  |  Read below  |  Julia King  |  Fierce
Benton Foundation
Preserving and Advancing Universal Service  |  Read below  |  Adrianne Furniss  |  Editorial  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Keep investing in the American Connectivity Program to bridge the digital divide  |  Read below  |  Fallon Wilson  |  Op-Ed  |  Tennessean, The
Finding Federal Funds for Tribal Digital Inclusion  |  Read below  |  Davida Delmar  |  Analysis  |  National Digital Inclusion Alliance


Is Broadband Affordable for Middle-Class Families?  |  Read below  |  Kathryn de Wit, Colby Humphrey  |  Research  |  Pew Charitable Trusts

State/Local Initiatives

Connecting the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania: A 5-Year Strategy Toward Internet for All  |  Read below  |  Research  |  Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development
Internet for All Wisconsin Five-Year Action Plan  |  Read below  |  Research  |  Wisconsin Public Service Commission
State of North Carolina BEAD Five-Year Plan  |  Read below  |  Research  |  North Carolina Department of Information Technology
South Carolina Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program Five-Year Action Plan  |  Read below  |  Research  |  South Carolina Broadband Office
Kansas 2023 Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment 5 Year Action Plan  |  Read below  |  Research  |  Kansas Department of Commerce
The State of Vermont’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Five-Year Action Plan  |  Read below  |  Research  |  Vermont Community Broadband Board
Google Fiber is expanding to another Colorado city — Wheat Ridge.  |  Google


T-Mobile tells court to deny Dish’s request for extension in 800 MHz deal  |  Read below  |  Monica Alleven  |  Fierce
Let’s Put Spectrum to Use Now for American Consumers  |  Read below  |  Ulf Ewaldsson  |  Editorial  |  T-Mobile
2023 5G Challenge Update: Three Contestant Pairs Pass Stage Three End to End Interoperability Testing  |  Summary at Benton.org  |  Jeremy Glenn  |  Press Release  |  National Telecommunications and Information Administration
Why Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile Want to Access Your Bank Account  |  Wall Street Journal


Train Wi-Fi Can Be Terrible. Operators Are Looking High and Low for Solutions.  |  Wall Street Journal

Artificial Intelligence

Copyright Office Issues Notice of Inquiry on Copyright and Artificial Intelligence  |  Read below  |  Suzanne Wilson, Maria Strong  |  Public Notice  |  United States Copyright Office
Michael Rosen | US District Court Rejects AI-Generated Content as Not Copyrightable  |  American Enterprise Institute
Gannett halts AI-written sports recaps after readers mocked the stories  |  Washington Post

Platforms/Social Media

LinkedIn posts have gotten personal and deep  |  Washington Post


FBI says it dismantled a botnet that hacked hundreds of thousands of computers  |  Washington Post


Your iPhone knows where you go. How to turn off location services.  |  USA Today

Stories From Abroad

Bringing the Internet to One of the Remotest Places on Earth  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Internet Society
Italian government buys 20% stake in some Telecom Italia fixed assets  |  Fierce
Rogers awarded $9 million over drawn-out Shaw merger  |  Fierce

Company News

T-Mobile’s latest offers reinforce pivot to growing average revenue per user  |  Fierce
Kinetic Offers Free Digital Literacy Courses  |  Windstream
Today's Top Stories

Broadband Funding

FCC Adopts Procedures to Implement Enhanced A-CAM

Trent Harkrader  |  Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission

On July 23, 2023, the Federal Communications Commission adopted the Enhanced A-CAM Order, establishing the Enhanced Alternative Connect America Cost Model (A-CAM) program as a voluntary path for supporting 100/20 Mbps broadband deployment throughout the rural areas served by carriers currently receiving A-CAM support and in areas served by legacy rate-of-return support recipients. In that Order, the FCC adopted requirements to ensure that the Enhanced A-CAM program would complement existing federal, state, and local funding programs so that broadband funding can be used efficiently to maximize the deployment of high-quality broadband service across the United States. Now the FCC's Wireline Competition Bureau established: 1) the specific parameters for determining Enhanced A-CAM support offers; 2) a methodology for adjusting support when updated deployment obligations increase or reduce the number of locations a carrier is obligated to deploy to; and 3) further details regarding Enhanced A-CAM carriers’ performance measures testing requirements.

Support grows for ACP to replace Lifeline Program

Julia King  |  Fierce

In comments filed with the Senate Working Group on the future of the Universal Service Fund (USF), many organizations underscored the issue of redundant government expenditure in their submissions, with a notable focus on whether the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) should be integrated into the USF framework. The USF includes four programs targeting different vulnerable portions of the broadband market: the Connect America Fund, Lifeline, Schools and Libraries (E-Rate) and Rural Health Care. Many organizations called for the FCC to consolidate ACP with the Lifeline program, the latter of which provides a $9.25 broadband subsidy for low-income households – less than a third of the $30 benefit households get through the ACP. The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) argued the Lifeline program has become redundant because it provides a smaller benefit to fewer people, as it applies to consumers with an income at or below 135% of the federal poverty line (compared to 200% or below to qualify for the ACP). Because eligibility for Lifeline is one of the ways to qualify for ACP, “there is no one covered by Lifeline who could not get the ACP."  The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW), also in favor of replacing the Lifeline program with ACP, told the USF Working Group that with hundreds of billions of dollars now available for broadband deployment across the country, it is “difficult to continue to justify keeping the USF program at its current level.” The USF should eliminate duplicative programs while supporting those that are operating “effectively and efficiently” such as the ACP, said CCAGW.

Preserving and Advancing Universal Service

Adrianne Furniss  |  Editorial  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

As what we can do with the internet has expanded, so too has the way we connect, and how we use it—at home and on the go. In the United States today, it has become the norm for a majority of households to have two types of subscriptions to the internet—mobile data for their phone and fixed (and for the most part) wireline service for their residence. Over 75 percent of households whose annual incomes exceed $50,000 have cellular data and wireline broadband subscriptions. For households below that level, 44.7 percent have both types of subscription plans. The story is more pronounced at either end of the income spectrum. At upper-income levels—homes whose annual incomes exceed $150,000—85.1 percent had both wireline and cellular data subscriptions. Among households whose annual incomes are $25,000 or lower, the figure is less than half that—36.3 percent. In addition, according to the Pew Research Center, 85 percent of American adults have a smartphone. And smartphone access directly compliments wireline broadband subscriptions at home for most Americans. The norm for internet access is using cellular access when outside of the home, but using Wi-Fi at home off of a wireline subscription for many data-intensive applications, thereby conserving data allotments in mobile broadband plans for use on-the-go. Clearly, given sufficient income, households rely on both wireline and wireless broadband services. They often are not substitutes but a part of a continuum of connectivity that consumers rely upon throughout their daily lives.

Keep investing in the American Connectivity Program to bridge the digital divide

Fallon Wilson  |  Op-Ed  |  Tennessean, The

As of mid-August 2023, nearly 20 million American households have enrolled for the federal Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) – a federal program that’s provided affordable internet to our country’s most vulnerable and enabled them to stand a chance at competing in the quickly digitizing world. However, only a little more than a third of eligible households have enrolled. I launched the Digital Inclusion and Access Taskforce in Nashville (TN) during the pandemic because I saw firsthand the devastating effects the digital divide was having on communities of color. Since then, we’ve made significant progress in getting our neighborhoods the proper resources they need to get connected. However, our work isn’t done. Less than half of Tennesseans who live in Davidson County have reliable internet. Out of almost a hundred thousand eligible households in the Nashville area, only 16% of eligible households have taken advantage of the ACP. Experts estimate that the initial funding approved by Congress for the ACP will run out in early 2024 leaving millions of Americans behind in the digital world. Education is the foundation for a brighter future, and we want to equip our young ones with the tools they need to succeed. We have the opportunity to pave the way for a brighter future, where everyone has the chance to reach their full potential in our rapidly evolving world. Let us seize this moment and work together to build a stronger, more digitally connected Nashville for generations to come.

[Dr. Fallon Wilson is the Co-Founder of the #BlackTechFutures Research Institute and Vice President of the Multicultural Media, Telecom, & Internet Council.]

Finding Federal Funds for Tribal Digital Inclusion

Davida Delmar  |  Analysis  |  National Digital Inclusion Alliance

Tribes are using digital equity funds to do amazing work toward closing the digital divide. Every time we talk to Tribes about digital equity, they have great ideas about how to incorporate digital inclusion in their communities, but they always ask the same question – “Where’s the money for that?” To prepare Tribes for upcoming funding, here’s an overview of existing and forthcoming funding that can help Tribes fund similar programs in their community:

  • State Digital Equity Planning Grants: States should be including Tribes as community partners. Tribes can utilize planning to ensure projects carry on within future Tribal leadership initiatives. The resulting state plans will determine how states use the forthcoming Digital Equity Capacity Building Grants, so Tribes’ voices must be represented. Tribes can comment on their state’s Digital Equity Act (DEA) plans now and as they are released. Connect with your state broadband staff to stay informed.
  • Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP): Tribes can now apply for TBCP round 2. Of the $980 million, up to $100 million will be awarded for digital equity planning and programs, with the rest going towards broadband infrastructure.
  • Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program: Tribal entities are eligible for subgrants from the states under the BEAD for broadband infrastructure and digital equity projects. Tribes can comment on their state’s BEAD proposals now and as they are released.
  • Digital Equity Capacity Building Grants for Tribes: Tribes will also be eligible to apply to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) for the Tribal set-aside in the Digital Equity Capacity Building Grants, which the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) expects to total between $53-$68 million.
  • State Equity Capacity Building Grants: Tribes are eligible to apply for subgrants from states under the State Digital Equity Capacity Grants. We expect the first states to open their grant process at the end of 2024 or early 2025. Amounts and timelines will vary by state.
  • Digital Equity Competitive Grants: Tribes are eligible to apply to NTIA for the $1.25 billion Digital Equity Competitive Grant Program. NDIA expects the Tribal set-aside for this program to be approximately $50-$60 million, but Tribes may also apply for non-Tribal portion of the program, particularly with external partners.


Is Broadband Affordable for Middle-Class Families?

Kathryn de Wit, Colby Humphrey  |  Research  |  Pew Charitable Trusts

Since Congress enacted the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, much of the discussion among policymakers and the public regarding Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program has focused on efforts to connect low-income populations. However, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) does not set a benchmark for such affordability, leaving each state to determine what “reasonable prices” means for its residents. This is a challenging task for states for several reasons, including the need to avoid the perception of “rate regulation”—government authority over utility pricing, which the federal and state governments do not have for internet services. States also have to consider the absence of data and research on affordability, and the effect of broadband subscription costs on the budgets of middle-income households. The Pew Charitable Trusts sought to help states address the reasonable price requirement by demonstrating that what qualifies as affordable broadband for middle-class families could vary widely. No one standard exists for broadband affordability, but in 2016, the Federal Communications Commission began using a benchmark of 2% of monthly household income while acknowledging that this benchmark serves “as a clear yardstick for charting changes, not as an inherently meaningful level.” Pew used the FCC’s benchmark and paired findings with data on county- and state-level broadband plan subscription rates. Overall, Pew’s findings indicate that no single solution or standard can apply across all states. Rather, states will need to take a customized approach to their BEAD-funded broadband access projects to meet the needs of middle-class families across diverse US communities.


Connecting the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania: A 5-Year Strategy Toward Internet for All

Pennsylvania is home to many diverse communities, a large number of which are disproportionately impacted by various barriers and deficiencies that prevent the attainment of digital equity for residents. To address these barriers and deficiencies, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has developed Connecting the Commonwealth: A Five-Year Strategy Toward Internet for All. This plan, developed by the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority (PBDA) through the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), aims to comprehensively assess and resolve the issues regarding broadband access, affordability, and adoption. The Five-Year Plan will guide the PBDA as it ventures to bring a robust, affordable, and equitable broadband ecosystem to all. The PBDA’s findings are founded on direct engagement with residents, businesses, and industry partners. The priorities identified as necessary to achieve this goal are:

  • Expand infrastructure across the commonwealth, which comes from identifying areas with the most need and by defining the technical aspects of implementation for services to accurately and equitably build out.
  • Collaborate with and support Community Anchor Institutions (CAIs) to provide digital literacy training and community access to high-speed broadband.
  • Fortify existing programs throughout communities, where residents are informed of affordability programs and available funding is sought, acquired, and administered by government and community organizations.

Internet for All Wisconsin Five-Year Action Plan

Administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program will provide funding to the State of Wisconsin to expand high speed internet access by funding planning, infrastructure deployment and adoption programs. Wisconsin’s vision is that all Wisconsinites will have equitable access to affordable broadband service and the capacity to fully engage in a digital society. High-speed internet will benefit all residents and communities. This Five-Year Action Plan details the current state of internet access, adoption and affordability in Wisconsin. The plan identifies the needs and gaps and how Wisconsin can achieve universal service by 2030. Over the course of the past year the Wisconsin Broadband Office has engaged in robust outreach and engagement, data collection and technical assistance to create this comprehensive Five-Year plan that reflects community engagement, local coordination, and alignment with digital equity planning. The goals of Wisconsin’s Five-Year Action Plan are to:

  • Achieve the highest possible level of broadband deployment and adoption.
  • Deliver sustained, long-term impact on broadband access and digital opportunity for all Wisconsin residents.
  • Increase the affordability and reliability of broadband service in Wisconsin.
  • Ensure a sufficient and trained broadband workforce for internet service providers, contractors, and subcontractors to construct, operate and maintain current and new broadband infrastructure.

State of North Carolina BEAD Five-Year Plan

North Carolina’s five-year action plan for the state’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program funding has been approved by both the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The  Division of Broadband and Digital Equity made the draft plan available for public comment earlier in summer 2023, refined it based on comments received, and then submitted it to NTIA in late July as part of the process required for North Carolina to access its $1.5 billion federal BEAD funding allocation. The Division of Broadband and Digital Equity’s recent challenges to the Federal Communications Commission’s National Broadband Map aided in surfacing 115,000 additional North Carolina homes and businesses that do not have access to high-speed internet, adding more new unserved locations to the map through this process than any other state. These additions increased North Carolina’s funding allocation from the BEAD program. The division is also developing a draft state digital equity plan that will be posted for public comment later in 2023 before being submitted to NTIA. The state’s initial BEAD proposal is due to NTIA in December 2023, and the BEAD challenge process to determine eligible locations will take place in 2024. Both the BEAD and digital equity plans will be implemented for the five-year period from 2024 to 2028.

South Carolina Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program Five-Year Action Plan

South Carolina is excited to utilize the approximately $551 million of its allocated Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) funding to take the next steps to improve access to high-speed broadband across the state and has articulated its vision, goals, strategies, and other relevant information in this Five-Year Action Plan to describe both what the State of South Carolina intends to accomplish and how it intends to do so. The development of this Five-Year Action Plan involved extensive stakeholder outreach and feedback from residents, businesses, and organizations across the state. Feedback from stakeholders went into identifying needs, gaps and barriers and informing the goals and strategies needed to overcome these challenges. In addition, while South Carolina is continuing to finalize its Digital Equity Plan, outreach was also undertaken to organizations representing Covered Populations. Key digital equity-related observations are included in this plan, with further insights and details to be shared in the Digital Equity Plan.

Kansas 2023 Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment 5 Year Action Plan

The Kansas Office of Broadband Development submitted the state’s comprehensive Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) Five-Year Action Plan (FYAP) to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The required action plan details how universal connection will happen in Kansas, and the planned use of the $451 million NTIA has allocated to the state. The plan outlines the path to making high-speed internet available to all Kansans, with a focus on unserved and underserved areas. The BEAD FYAP consists of a comprehensive strategy that includes the Kansas Office of Broadband Development’s (KOBD) vision to provide universal access to quality broadband, with specific goals and objectives aimed at broadband coverage, adoption rates, and economic growth. This plan also identifies existing programs and assets to reduce overlap and to leverage resources. The plan identifies challenges such as supply chain constraints, labor shortages, digital skill gaps, and how to overcome these obstacles. Presenting a projected timeline, costs and strategies to close gaps in broadband service and ways to ensure fair digital access, the FYAP aligns with state agencies and partners, including NTIA, the federal funding agency.

The State of Vermont’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Five-Year Action Plan

Vermont’s vision for broadband equity, access, and deployment is that Vermonters— now and in the future—have universal access to reliable, high-quality, affordable, fixed broadband at speeds of at least 100/100 Mbps, and that all Vermonters and institutions have the tools and skills to maximize the value Internet connectivity can offer. This Five-Year Action Plan outlines how Vermont can achieve this vision, what its current state is, the state’s needs and gaps, and its plan for action. The goals of Vermont’s BEAD Five-Year Action Plan are to:

  • Mobilize resources for end-to-end broadband infrastructure deployments to all unserved and underserved locations and Community Anchor Institutions (CAIs) in Vermont.
  • Ensure sustainable, community-driven solutions across the entire State.
  • Ensure high-speed broadband services and devices are affordable and advance digital equity for all Vermonters both during the BEAD performance period and into the future.
  • Enhance workforce development for broadband and the digital economy.
  • Improve socio-economic conditions across Vermont


T-Mobile tells court to deny Dish’s request for extension in 800 MHz deal

Monica Alleven  |  Fierce

T-Mobile told a Washington (DC) court not to grant Dish Network’s request for more time to purchase T-Mobile-s 800 MHz spectrum, essentially saying a deal’s a deal and other potential buyers are in the wings. Dish asked the US District Court for the District of Columbia to give it 10 more months to get the financing together to buy T-Mobile’s 800 MHz spectrum for about $3.6 billion. Dish cited the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and other macroeconomic conditions that led to substantial inflation and rising interest rates since a Final Judgment was issued in April 2020. Dish argued that refusing to modify the terms of the final judgment would harm the public interest because the spectrum is an essential component of its 5G network. However, T-Mobile said Dish doesn’t need the 800 MHz spectrum to meet 5G buildout requirements and suggested the spectrum could be put to better use if it were sold to another buyer. Plus, T-Mobile told the court, it’s not a sure thing that Dish will have the funds to buy the spectrum in 10 months.

Let’s Put Spectrum to Use Now for American Consumers

Ulf Ewaldsson  |  Editorial  |  T-Mobile

To maintain American leadership in the global 5G economy, the wireless industry must keep deploying more spectrum for consumers. It’s as simple as that. At T-Mobile, we have a record of putting our spectrum to good use quickly, now covering 326 million Americans with 5G service, 285 million of whom are covered by Ultra Capacity 5G. But in 2023, the government has not been doing its part to keep the pipeline flowing and action is needed. In 2022, the Federal Communication Commission completed Auction 108. In that auction, T-Mobile spent $304 million on more than 7,000 2.5 GHz spectrum licenses to enhance our Ultra Capacity 5G network deployment. Unfortunately, we did not receive access to the spectrum we purchased before the FCC’s Spectrum Auction Authority expired. Congress allowed the FCC’s Spectrum Auction Authority to lapse in March 2023 for the first time in history. While we, along with four former FCC General Counsels, believe the FCC still has authority to either grant the licenses or issue us special temporary authority (STA) to use the spectrum, we also understand the FCC is concerned about getting its auction authority renewed – as it should be. Spectrum auctions are the only viable way to assign licenses to the benefit of consumers and the US Treasury. T-Mobile fully supports the FCC getting that authority back as soon as possible and is working closely with CTIA and the others to accomplish that outcome. While we wait for Congress to act, Americans are losing out on enhanced 5G broadband and economic development opportunities. And as we move through hurricane season and other emergencies, this spectrum could be extremely helpful to provide needed service and additional capacity. Additional 2.5 GHz spectrum helps to increase the capacity of the network, improving connectivity and service in such instances.

[Ulf Ewaldsson is T-Mobile's President of Technology]

Artificial Intelligence

Copyright Office Issues Notice of Inquiry on Copyright and Artificial Intelligence

Suzanne Wilson, Maria Strong  |  Public Notice  |  United States Copyright Office

The US Copyright Office is undertaking a study of the copyright law and policy issues raised by generative AI and is assessing whether legislative or regulatory steps are warranted. The Office will use the record it assembles to advise Congress; inform its regulatory work; and offer information and resources to the public, courts, and other government entities considering these issues. The notice of inquiry (NOI) seeks factual information and views on a number of copyright issues raised by recent advances in generative AI. These issues include the use of copyrighted works to train AI models, the appropriate levels of transparency and disclosure with respect to the use of copyrighted works, the legal status of AI-generated outputs, and the appropriate treatment of AI-generated outputs that mimic personal attributes of human artists. The NOI is an integral next step for the Office’s AI initiative, which was launched in early 2023. So far this year, the Office has held four public listening sessions and two webinars. This NOI builds on the feedback and questions the Office has received so far and seeks public input from the broadest audience to date in the initiative.

Initial written comments are due by 11:59 p.m. eastern time on Wednesday, October 18, 2023. Reply comments are due by 11:59 p.m. eastern time on Wednesday, November 15, 2023. Instructions for submitting comments are available on the Office’s website.

Stories From Abroad

Bringing the Internet to One of the Remotest Places on Earth

Press Release  |  Internet Society

In 2022, Kathmandu-based Bikram Shrestha of the Nepal Internet Foundation was introduced to Chhepal Dorjee Sherpa, a trekking guide and entrepreneur who grew up in Khunde, Nepal. Bikram had prior experience with community networks, and together the two set out to build “the highest community network in the world.” At the time Khunde and Khumjung had patchy mobile phone coverage, with two dozen households paying about 1,000 rupees ($7.55) per month for an unreliable ADSL connection. The new vision: provide residents with fast and reliable Wi-Fi in their homes and businesses. In July 2022, they began with a pilot project and connected the Community Club in Khunde and the Edmund Hillary School in Khumjung. The signal was brought to the village via a wireless link from the Hotel Everest View: the nearest tourist spot where fiber connectivity ends.

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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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