Daily Digest 9/1/2022 (Esther Victoria Cooper)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Broadband Funding

Federal Communications Commission Authorizes Additional $800 Million for Rural Digital Opportunity Fund  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission
Benton Foundation
Capital Projects Fund Helps Link Indiana to the World  |  Read below  |  Kevin Taglang  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute
Biden-Harris Administration Awards $2.9 Million to Louisiana in First of "Internet for All" Planning Grants  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  National Telecommunications and Information Administration
US Department of Commerce Invests $4.5 Million to Increase High-Speed Internet Connectivity in Idaho  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Economic Development Administration
Department of Commerce Invests $2.7 Million in American Rescue Plan Funds for Expansion of High-Speed Internet in Rural California  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Economic Development Administration
Sen Bennet highlights bipartisan efforts to close the digital divide  |  Read below  |  Sen Michael Bennet (D-CO)  |  Speech  |  US Senate

State/Local Initiatives

Gov Cooper Announces $206 Million in GREAT Grants to Expand Internet Access in North Carolina  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  North Carolina Office of the Governor
Rural Areas in Nevada See Broadband as Key to Progress  |  Read below  |  Jared Brey  |  Governing
How Seattle Public Library’s Wi-Fi hot spot program has fared  |  Read below  |  Jenny Kwon  |  Seattle Times
St. Louis Public Library adds thousands of hotspots, Chromebooks for long-term loans  |  Read below  |  Jane Henderson  |  St. Louis Post-Dispatch
How Odessa delivers broadband to homes and businesses at no cost to the city  |  Read below  |  Chris Teale  |  GCN
City of Syracuse Is Seeking Proposals to Build Community Broadband Program  |  City of Syracuse
Nextlink to Deploy Up to 500 Mbps Broadband Service Across Wise County, Texas  |  Nextlink


FCC Directs USAC To Fully Fund Eligible E-Rate Requests  |  Read below  |  Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission

Emergency Communications

FirstNet Authority’s Broadband Integration Guide, Collaboration with Indian Gaming Association  |  Read below  |  Jacque Waring  |  Press Release  |  First Responder Network Authority


To trace Big Tech competition, follow the money  |  Read below  |  Ina Fried  |  Analysis  |  Axios
Comcast and Charter face a grim new reality: actual competition  |  Read below  |  Jared Newman  |  Fast Company


T-Mobile Lays Off Workers in Engineering, Network Jobs  |  Wall Street Journal
Airline Wi-Fi is improving, though prices still vary widely  |  Wall Street Journal
Royal Caribbean partners with SpaceX’s Starlink for onboard internet  |  CNBC
Boost Infinite names its first 25 markets  |  Fierce
Joe Madden: Setting realistic expectations on satellite phones  |  Fierce

Platforms/Social Media

Reps Rodgers, Comer and Jordan introduce the Protecting Speech from Government Interference Act to prohibit Biden administration  |  House of Representatives


What Is a State Broadband Advisory Board?  |  Read below  |  Katya Maruri  |  Analysis  |  Government Technology
NDIA Names 32 Digital Inclusion Trailblazer Local Governments & Regions  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  National Digital Inclusion Alliance

Stories From Abroad

Many Developed Countries View Online Misinformation as ‘Major Threat’  |  New York Times
Today's Top Stories

Broadband Funding

Federal Communications Commission Authorizes Additional $800 Million for Rural Digital Opportunity Fund

Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission authorize $791,604,299 through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) to six providers to fund new broadband deployments to over 350,000 estimated locations in 19 states. The top three states receiving funding include Illinois, $212 million, Arizona, $140 million, and Iowa, $113 million. This round of funding supports projects using a range of network technologies, including gigabit service hybrid fiber/fixed wireless deployments that will provide end-user locations with either fiber or fixed wireless network service using licensed spectrum. The providers are: NextLink (AMG Technology Investment Group), GeoLinks, Starry (Connect Everyone), GigaBeam Networks, Safelink Internet,  and Shenandoah Cable Television.

The public notice also includes a list of winning bidders that have notified the FCC s that they do not intend to pursue all or some of their winning bids in a state. These bidders include GeoLinks, Starry, Monster Broadband, and Shenandoah Cable Television.

Capital Projects Fund Helps Link Indiana to the World

Kevin Taglang  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute

Indiana Governor, Eric Holcomb (R-IN) and Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch (R-IN) are leading the largest broadband investment in the state's history. Ball State University researchers found that thousands of homes across the state--urban and rural, low-income, and non-English speaking--experience the brunt of lacking access to broadband internet access. To combat this, Lt. Gov Suzanne Crouch created the Office of Broadband Opportunities in 2018 to identify needs and eliminate roadblocks to broadband deployment and digital literacy in the state. The office is meant to be a one-stop shop for all things broadband in Indiana. With this, and several other efforts to strategically combat Indiana's digital divide, the US Treasury approved Indiana's plans to use $187 million of Capital Projects Fund support for Next Level Connections. Indiana is using 92% of its total Capital Projects Fund allocation to bring high-speed internet to 50,349 locations—7.4% of the locations in the state still lack broadband. Each of the internet service providers funded by the program will participate in the Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)—a $30 per month subsidy for low-income families.

Biden-Harris Administration Awards $2.9 Million to Louisiana in First of "Internet for All" Planning Grants

The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced that Louisiana is the first state to receive planning grants for deploying high-speed Internet networks and developing digital skills training programs under the Biden-Harris Administration’s Internet for All initiative. Louisiana is receiving $2,941,542.28 in funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Louisiana will receive $2 million from the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program to fund:  

  • Identification of unserved and underserved locations; 
  • Outreach to diverse stakeholders across all entities and geographies within the state; 
  • Training for employees of the broadband program; 
  • Asset mapping across the Eligible Entity to catalog broadband adoption, affordability, equity, access and deployment activities; 
  • Surveys of unserved, underserved, and underrepresented communities to better understand barriers to adoption; 
  • Efforts to support local coordination including capacity building at the local and regional levels. 

In addition, Louisiana will receive $941,542.28 from the State Digital Equity Planning Grant Program to fund:

  • Development of a Statewide Digital Equity Plan;  
  • Hiring of a Digital Equity/Inclusion Specialist who will create and execute the state digital equity strategy;  
  • Partnerships with a consortium of our higher education institutions; 
  • Engagements with the National Digital Inclusion Alliance to provide direct advice and best practices.  

US Department of Commerce Invests $4.5 Million to Increase High-Speed Internet Connectivity in Idaho

The Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) awarded a $4.5 million Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Recovery Assistance grant to the Port of Lewiston, Lewiston, Idaho, to expand internet connectivity for commerce, public health and safety and learning in North Central Idaho. This project will support the construction of a 95-mile segment of fiberoptic cable running from Moscow to Grangeville. This EDA grant will be matched with $1.1 million in local funds and is expected to create 120 jobs, according to grantee estimates. 

Department of Commerce Invests $2.7 Million in American Rescue Plan Funds for Expansion of High-Speed Internet in Rural California

The Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) awarded a $2.7 million grant to Golden State Finance Authority, Sacramento, California, for high-speed internet planning. This grant is funded by the American Rescue Plan. This project will support the development of a strategic plan to guide the expansion of high-speed internet across 26 rural counties of California. This EDA grant will be matched with $1.2 million in local funds and is expected to generate $400 million in private investment, according to grantee estimates.

Sen Bennet highlights bipartisan efforts to close the digital divide

Sen Michael Bennet (D-CO)  |  Speech  |  US Senate

At the annual National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA) conference in Denver, Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) highlighted the progress Congress has made to expand access to high-speed, affordable broadband and close the digital divide. In 2021, Sen. Bennet introduced the bipartisan Broadband Reform and Investment to Drive Growth in the Economy (BRIDGE) Act with Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Angus King (I-MA), which was incorporated into the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to make the single largest investment in broadband in history. Sen Bennet has helped lead the effort to bridge America’s digital divide in Congress. Sen. Bennet, alongside Senators King, Portman, and Joe Manchin (D-WV) urged the Biden Administration to establish a consistent, 21st-century definition of broadband to reflect the modern demands of families, farms, and businesses. Additionally, Sen. Bennet and others welcomed the Federal Communication Commission's proposal to redefine broadband connections as 100 Mbps or faster for download speeds. During the pandemic, Sen. Bennet also consistently called for more funding and flexibility for the FCC’s E-Rate program to connect low-income students online and helped secure more than $7 billion to close the digital divide for students nationwide in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).


Gov Cooper Announces $206 Million in GREAT Grants to Expand Internet Access in North Carolina

Gov Roy Cooper (D-NC) announced that nearly 85,000 households and more than 2,400 businesses in 69 North Carolina counties are set to receive access to high-speed internet thanks to more than $206 million of Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) grants. This is the state’s largest round of GREAT grant awards to date. With this announcement, over $260 million in GREAT grants have been awarded to providers since July 2022. Additional grants are expected to be announced this fall. As part of the GREAT grant eligibility requirements, all internet service provider applicants must be participating in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which provides eligible low-income households a $30 per month discount on high-speed internet service or provide access to a comparable low-cost program.

Rural Areas in Nevada See Broadband as Key to Progress

Jared Brey  |  Governing

Pershing County, Nevada is one of many rural communities throughout the US that will receive new, fiber optic, high-speed internet connections through the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) ReConnect Program. The grant awarded to Pershing County totals up to $27 million and will connect around 5,000 people to high-speed broadband internet. Among those 5,000, there are approximately 150 members of the Lovelock Paiute Tribe in the Lovelock Indian Colony, according to Stacey Montooth, executive director of the NV Indian Commission. The $27 million grant for the county will go to Uprise Fiber, a company that has built fiber networks in cities around Washington and Oregon for years and relocated to Reno in 2019. Uprise will start work early in 2023 and eventually provide fiber connections for 4,884 people, 130 businesses, 22 farms, and seven public schools. The company will offer two plans, including a 200MB plan for $30 a month, which around two-thirds of Lovelock residents will be able to access for free through the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).

How Seattle Public Library’s Wi-Fi hot spot program has fared

Jenny Kwon  |  Seattle Times

Seattle residents don’t have to be at a Seattle Public Library (SPL) branch to use the internet. In a 2013 study about technology access and adoption in Seattle, the city found that 15% of 4,315 Seattle residents couldn’t access the internet, despite resources such as community center and library computers. In 2015, SPL launched the Wi-Fi hot spot circulation program as a way to address the lack of affordable, widespread internet access. While anyone with a library card can check out a hot spot for up to 21 days from their nearest library branch, outreach hot spots can be loaned out for much longer. While SPL’s yearlong closure caused a dip in checkouts in 2020, Seattle residents used their checked-out hot spots even more during the pandemic. In 2021, additional general circulation hot spots shortened the waiting time for a hot spot from 10, to 4 or 5 weeks. Residents and community partners generally agree the hot spot program has been beneficial. It currently has a rating of 4.5 stars on its website, averaging 418 reviews as of August 17. Seattle community leaders have emphasized that the ultimate solution is to have broadband access more widely and permanently across the city. 

St. Louis Public Library adds thousands of hotspots, Chromebooks for long-term loans

Jane Henderson  |  St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The St. Louis Public Library is adding 8,000 hotspots and 1,500 Chromebooks for city patrons who don't have internet or computer access at home. Residents can check out these devices for free for more than a year. Money for the library's total 17,500-device program comes from the federal Emergency Connectivity Fund. Through an earlier allocation by the fund, the library had already bought and loaned 4,000 Chromebooks and 4,000 hotspots. Because of the new funding, due dates for those devices have also been extended until Sept. 30, 2023. To check out a device, an individual must: be a resident of St. Louis city; visit one of the 16 library locations; have a St. Louis Public Library card, or sign up for one.

How Odessa delivers broadband to homes and businesses at no cost to the city

Chris Teale  |  GCN

In Texas, the Odessa City Council voted to allow the installation of infrastructure for citywide broadband internet under its streets by SiFi Networks in a deal worth more than $100 million. Under the terms of the 30-year contract elected officials agreed to, SiFi has access to all public rights-of-way to install, maintain and operate the fiber optic infrastructure necessary for an open access network. SiFi will lay fiber along city streets passing every home and business. The process of building out the broadband infrastructure is expected to take between three and five years, after which SiFi would sell access to the network to retail internet providers, which will increase competition. It is the profit made by selling access to the network that allows SiFi to operate its network at no cost to consumers. However, SiFi will be required to pay the city a license fee of either $8,000 or $2.99 per connected premises each quarter, whichever is greater. The company has agreed to prioritize delivery to low-income and under-connected areas. The city will not be paying for any infrastructure that is installed, and SiFi will be required to maintain a bond through the construction process to ensure that all rights-of-way are restored properly.


FCC Directs USAC To Fully Fund Eligible E-Rate Requests

Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission's Wireline Competition Bureau announced that there is sufficient funding available to fully meet the Universal Service Administrative Company’s (USAC) estimated demand for category one and two requests for E-Rate supported services for funding year 2022. USAC estimates the total demand for funding year 2022 will be $3.15 billion, which includes $1.64 billion for category one services and $1.51 billion for category two services. The FCC announced that the E-Rate program funding cap for funding year 2022 is $4.46 billion. Additionally, according to USAC projections, $500 million in unused funds from prior funding years is available for use in E-Rate funding year 2022. In light of the current funding cap of $4.46 billion and available carry forward funding of $500 million, the FCC directs USAC to fully fund eligible category one and category two requests, using the $500 million in E-Rate funds unused from prior years, and any additional funds needed under the current funding cap to fully meet the demand.

Emergency Communications

FirstNet Authority’s Broadband Integration Guide, Collaboration with Indian Gaming Association

Jacque Waring  |  Press Release  |  First Responder Network Authority

The First Responder Network Authority has made it a priority to bring broadband to all first responders — local, state, federal and tribal — in rural and urban areas. Its nation-to-nation relationships with tribes help determine how FirstNet can best serve communities across Indian Country. The FirstNet team continues to develop resources and collaborate with key voices in the tribal community to bring broadband to those communities. To help tribal first responders integrate broadband, the FirstNet Authority developed the "Preparing for Public Safety Broadband: Considerations for Tribal Public Safety Planning" guide. The guide is a "go-to" resource for tribal agencies interested in adopting broadband-based technologies. It covers important topics related to broadband implementation, such as operations, technology, policies, and acquisition. Addressing these areas early on can make broadband adoption more successful. The guide is available upon request to the FirstNet Authority Tribal Team


To trace Big Tech competition, follow the money

Ina Fried  |  Analysis  |  Axios

How Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft make their revenue today shapes the battles they will fight tomorrow. For years, the largest tech companies each had their own fiefdom where they garnered the lion's share of revenue and profits. While tech companies competed at the edges, the market was big enough that each had plenty of green fields to expand into. They might step on each other's toes, but they took pains — and sometimes struck deals — to steer clear of the others' core businesses. However, as they have each become enormous, their search for growth has begun leading them onto one another's turf. Amazon and Apple, for example, are getting more revenue than ever from advertising — the heart of Google's and Facebook's business. Bottom line: Competition among these companies is increasingly a global affair, as the search for growth draws them onto terrain outside the U.S. where they face big challenges based on culture, language and economics. Additionally, given geopolitical tensions between the US and China, these US-based companies can appeal to nationalist sentiments to thwart regulators ability to rein in their power. "Hurt us, they argue, and you'll hurt America."

Comcast and Charter face a grim new reality: actual competition

Jared Newman  |  Fast Company

Comcast and other cable companies have leaned on a simple strategy to offset the effects of cord-cutting: Charge a steep price on home internet service, and enjoy soaring profits thanks to little or no competition. That strategy may now be in jeopardy. Comcast’s internet subscriber growth was essentially flat last quarter, while Charter lost 21,000 Spectrum internet subscribers. For both companies, it’s the first time they’ve failed to grow their home internet businesses in a given quarter. The reason isn’t a mystery, either: All around the country, T-Mobile and Verizon have been rolling out cheap home internet service powered by their 5G networks, at last giving customers an alternative where none previously existed. It’s a rude awakening for cable companies, whose broadband monopolies in many markets have allowed them to raise prices—and, in Comcast’s case, enforce data caps. While Comcast and Charter have tried to downplay the threat posed by wireless home internet, experts say the competition is here to stay. For broadband consumers, this means a cheaper alternative to cable internet and, ultimately, the return of choice. 


What Is a State Broadband Advisory Board?

Katya Maruri  |  Analysis  |  Government Technology

To help coordinate broadband efforts at the state level, policymakers have turned to legislation and executive orders to create statewide broadband advisory boards, task forces, and other similar agencies. At its core, a broadband advisory board is made up of individuals from different sectors who advise state broadband programs, governors, or legislatures. However, not all advisory boards are the same. Some serve as a temporary entity that guides the outset of a broadband program for states, while others are long-serving advisory entities that are helping to create new state broadband offices. While the overarching goal of almost all of these boards is the same — to help the state government get high-speed Internet access for its residents — the approaches, makeup, and longevity of state broadband groups tend to vary. For example, Kansas and Alaska initially had temporary task forces that put together reports and offered recommendations about the states’ different programs. Based on that work, each state then used the findings to create more permanent solutions. Other states also have ongoing and formalized groups. In all, these entities serve the purpose of connecting Americans to the 21st century. 

NDIA Names 32 Digital Inclusion Trailblazer Local Governments & Regions

The National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) announced its largest group yet of Digital Inclusion Trailblazers. 2022 saw a record number of submissions pour in from across the country, with the highest number of applicants yet achieving a six-star score, meeting 100 percent of the evaluation criteria. Being named a “Digital Inclusion Trailblazer ” has been a coveted honor from NDIA since its start in 2016. The Trailblazers project features an open-access catalog of materials used by local governments in their pursuit of digital equity. These materials serve as guides and inspiration to cities and local regions as they pursue digital equity and being named as future Trailblazers. “Trailblazers is not only a showcase of high-quality digital inclusion work, it is also an invaluable cache of information for those looking to replicate tested tactics and strategies that push the envelope of what it means to pursue digital equity,” said Angela Siefer, executive director of NDIA. NDIA applauds the tireless work these local governments engage in on a daily basis in moving their community towards digital equity. NDIA encourages those cities who haven’t achieved all six criteria, to use them as a guide to continue working toward digital equity. The full list can be found here.

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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.

© Benton Institute for Broadband & Society 2022. Redistribution of this email publication — both internally and externally — is encouraged if it includes this message. For subscribe/unsubscribe info email: headlines AT benton DOT org

Kevin Taglang

Kevin Taglang
Executive Editor, Communications-related Headlines
Benton Institute
for Broadband & Society
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