Thursday, August 4, 2022
Headlines Daily Digest
Stories From Abroad
Fiber-optic internet (often just known as “fiber”) can be staggeringly faster than the DSL, cable or satellite internet connections that many Americans rely on. It’s also pretty uncommon, relatively speaking. According to a January study from the Fiber Broadband Association, 43 percent of US households can access fiber internet service — but that may soon start to change. Between a presidential push to expand high-speed internet access and a handful of recent broadband funding announcements from different agencies, fiber service could become much more readily available. That’s especially valuable for corners of the country where reliable internet access is hard to find. But who’s going to bury all these new cables in the ground? And what does any of this mean for you? Here’s what you should know about fiber internet and how the government’s internet-for-all push could affect you.
Both AT&T and Verizon are pointing out how reliant their 5G wireless networks are on fiber – and how they’re reinforcing their investments to handle all the 5G data traffic that’s coming down the pike. Verizon said it’s “supercharging” the core of its fiber network by upgrading older router equipment with new gear provided by Juniper Networks. When it’s done, the upgrade will significantly increase the bandwidth needed to support wireless, home internet, enterprise, small business and its FIOS customers. Rival AT&T has been talking about its fiber expansion for a while now. According to AT&T Network EVP Chris Sambar, AT&T said it already has the country’s largest fiber internet coverage, but “we’re not sitting back.” Rather than resting on its laurels, AT&T is “out there building more fiber than anyone else, adding on average more than 350 customer locations per hour across the country,” Sambar said. “This fast track puts our fiber network on pace to cover more than 30 million locations by the end of 2025.”
In early June 2022, around 500 young people from more than 100 countries descended on Kigali, Rwanda for the International Telecommunication Union’s first Generation Connect Global Youth Summit. Throughout my brief visit to Kigali, a number of themes emerged:
- Young people are engaged and insist on a seat at the table. Broad participation in the Youth Summit, both in person and with thousands more online, was a testament to the urgency that global youth feel to make their voice heard.
- The stakes are high. Global stakeholders were called upon to recognize the central role digital policy plays in shaping our current and future lives.
- Digital inclusion is paramount. The transformative power of digital connectivity begins with granting young people access to the Internet, building digital literacy, and promoting digital hygiene.
- Human rights extend to online spaces. Governing online spaces requires nuanced and thoughtful approaches to sensitive problems, and young people are capable of participating in these evolving debates.
[Peal Risberg is an intern in NTIA’s Office of International Affairs.]
The Federal Communications Commission permits use of the 17.3-17.7 GHz band by geostationary satellite orbit (GSO) space stations in the fixed-satellite service (FSS). The FCC also permits limited GSO FSS use of the 17.7-17.8 GHz band on an unprotected basis with respect to fixed service operations. Permitting use of the 17.3-17.8 GHz band to include FSS downlinks increases intensive and efficient use of the band and provides additional downlink capacity for high-throughput satellite communications. The FCC seeks comment on whether to allow operations of non-geostationary satellite orbit (NGSO) in the FSS in the 17.3-17.8 GHz band, similar to our action with regard to GSO FSS operations in these bands. The agency seeks comment on whether such an action would serve the public interest, and, if adopted, what technical rules and standards it would need to prevent harmful interference between authorized services in these bands while increasing efficient and effective use of the spectrum.
The broadband landscape looks different after the two biggest wireless carriers added more than two-thirds of a million subscribers to their residential 5G-based services. However, the two biggest cable providers both lost internet customers. On July 22, Verizon reported that it had gained 168,000 new residential customers to reach 384,000 total home subscribers for its “fixed wireless” service. A week later, T-Mobile posted 560,000 new customers for its own fixed wireless – which includes home and business accounts, which the company does not break out further – bringing it to 1.54 million subscriptions. The story was different at the biggest and second-biggest cable operators. On July 27, Comcast reported it lost 10,000 residential broadband customers in the quarter, ending with 29.83 million. A day later, Charter revealed a drop of 42,000 residential broadband subscribers, leaving it with 28.26 million.
More than two and half years into a global pandemic, school districts continue to struggle with high-speed Wi-Fi and the inequities that result when students and families can’t get consistent and reliable access to essential learning. As communities adjust to life with COVID-19 and students and teachers return to school full-time, the widening of the so-called “homework gap” — where some learners unwillingly forfeit access to educational content outside of the traditional school day — has IT directors and their teams working overtime to deliver instruction and close learning gaps, especially for at-risk students. Access to reliable broadband remains central to that equation. Doing the work is easier said than done — and how you do it often depends on where you live. Whether students hail from rural communities or urban centers, when it comes to digital learning, research suggests the barriers boil down to one of three critical factors: access to hardware or devices, funding levels or network infrastructure. School districts across the country are coming up with innovative solutions to help tackle each of these factors.
AT&T announced that it is on track to cover more than 30 million locations by the end of 2025 with its fiber network. This expansion is in part because the company expects data consumption in the US to increase 5 times as much from 2021 to 2025. And according to AT&T, closing the digital divide with high-speed internet access to more kids and families also drives more demand. "Our approach is to engineer and operate one large fiber network serving the gamut of customer segments and use cases – that’s our integrated fiber planning model in action to ensure we size our fiber deployment for as many potential endpoint demands as possible," the company stated. This includes integrating its new fiber network with its wireless service, expanding 5G and improving its public safety network FirstNet among other aims.
When I look at all of the new market entrants into the broadband industry and the frenetic pace that internet service providers (ISPs) of all sizes are building fiber, one of the first thoughts that come to my mind is this is an industry that is headed for a roll-up. There has already been some consolidation of last-mile fiber networks, but the handful of networks that have been purchased will pale against the big roll-ups that I think will be coming in a few years. The industry will be ripe for roll-ups for several reasons. Probably the most important is that the private equity that is being invested in fiber today is not going to be satisfied with the slow but steady utility-like earnings made by last-mile ISPs. I also think that the day-to-day hard work of operating an ISP will set in at some point. As the huge amounts of fiber construction on the horizon come to fruition, the opportunities for additional expansion are going to quickly disappear. That’s the point when industries consolidate – because growing by acquisition can be profitable when organic growth is not possible. The other reason for eventual roll-ups is that operating fiber-based networks is an economy-of-scale business. The overheads per customer are a lot less in an ISP with 200,000 customers compared to one with 20,000. Size also brings operational improvements in areas like customer service and software systems that favor big ISPs over small ones.
[Doug Dawson is president of CCG Consulting.]
Tim Wu, the White House adviser helping to drive the administration’s push to rein in corporate giants with tougher antitrust enforcement is planning to leave his position in the coming months. Wu is expected to return to teaching at Columbia Law School after a roughly year-and-a-half as special assistant to President Biden for technology and competition policy. Wu was part of a trio of antitrust hawks President Joe Biden installed in 2021 as part of a push to curb the power of sprawling companies — a fight that has focused in particular on tech titans like Amazon and Google. It’s unclear what Wu’s departure means for the Biden administration’s antitrust strategy, but it does mean one of the key drivers of Biden’s antitrust strategy won’t be there to push for those changes anymore. From his position on the National Economic Council, Wu was a primary architect of Biden’s wide-ranging executive order from July 2021 designed to boost competition throughout the economy. The executive order included 72 initiatives targeting a range of industries including technology, transportation, health care and agriculture.
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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