Daily Digest 9/1/2023

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Broadband Funding

Millions of Households Are at Risk of Losing Internet Access  |  Read below  |  Heather Franklin  |  Analysis  |  Free Press
Reinstating the FCC’s auction authority could save the Affordable Connectivity Program  |  Read below  |  Nicol Lee, Jack Malamud  |  Analysis  |  Brookings
Federal Funding for Affordable Broadband Plans Critical to Achieving Universal Access  |  Read below  |  Kathryn de Wit  |  Analysis  |  Pew Charitable Trusts
Benton Foundation
USF Programs Should Embrace Competition  |  Read below  |  Adrianne Furniss  |  Editorial  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Frequently Asked Questions About the Affordable Connectivity Program  |  Pew Charitable Trusts

Digital Equity

Giving Old Technology a New Purpose  |  Read below  |  Analysis  |  Network-On
FCC Extends Video Relay Services Compensation Period to September 30, 2023  |  Federal Communications Commission


Winning Time: A Look Back at Some of Free Press' Biggest Moments  |  Free Press

Platforms/Social Media

Federal judge blocks Arkansas law curbing kids’ social media access  |  Washington Post
The Real Story of Musk’s Twitter Takeover  |  Wall Street Journal
X Plans to Collect Biometric Data, Job and School History  |  Bloomberg


Remote work is harder to come by as companies push for return to office  |  National Public Radio


FCC Announces Tentative Agenda for September 2023 Open Meeting  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission

Company News

Starry Emerges from Bankruptcy as a Private Company  |  Read below  |  Carl Weinschenk  |  telecompetitor
TDS fiber internet available to first customers in Salem, Kentucky  |  TDS
Today's Top Stories

Broadband Funding

Millions of Households Are at Risk of Losing Internet Access

Heather Franklin  |  Analysis  |  Free Press

Starting after Labor Day 2023, classes will be back in session for members of Congress as they return to Washington (DC) from their August 2023 recess. At the top of their to-do list? Playing what’s become an annual game of chicken over whether to fund the federal government — including extending funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which ensures that tens of millions of households can stay online. The ACP is also on track to run out of money by spring 2024. Access to high-speed internet isn’t a luxury; it’s a human right. Without it, you can’t access basic things like education, health care, jobs, government services, and info about what’s going on in your community. Additionally, affordable internet access is even more crucial in light of the climate crisis. Being able to connect to critical services before and during an emergency can save lives — and a stable connection can help people pick up the pieces afterward. Without further funding for the ACP, untold numbers of low-income families won’t benefit from the newly built broadband networks in their communities.

Reinstating the FCC’s auction authority could save the Affordable Connectivity Program

Nicol Lee, Jack Malamud  |  Analysis  |  Brookings

The $14.2 billion allocated to the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is projected to run out by mid-2024. With the options running thin, there may be a potential source of funding for the ACP for Congress to consider—only this time, it’s intricately connected to the US spectrum auctions that were formerly under Federal Communications Commission jurisdiction. With $230 billion dollars of revenue generated by the process of selling government-owned spectrum assets since it began in 1994, approximately 1/6th of average annual proceeds could keep the ACP afloat, helping new subscribers get online and keeping existing ones connected as the need for affordable broadband grows. But this can only happen if Congress reauthorizes the FCC to restart the process after allowing the agency’s auction authority to lapse earlier in 2023. Restoring the FCC’s authority to conduct spectrum auctions could raise millions—if not billions—of dollars that could help close the digital divide and bridge the gap between those with internet access and those without.

Federal Funding for Affordable Broadband Plans Critical to Achieving Universal Access

Kathryn de Wit  |  Analysis  |  Pew Charitable Trusts

Universal access to high-speed internet is achievable. But even with the federal government deploying billions of dollars to expand networks and connectivity, this goal can only be reached if all Americans can afford broadband subscriptions. Federal lawmakers initially allocated $14.2 billion in funding to the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which has enrolled more than 20 million households, becoming a vital tool in the nationwide effort to connect every household and business. But ACP’s future is uncertain: Projections show program funding will run out by spring 2024 unless Congress acts. Here are some key facts lawmakers should have to understand ACP’s critical role and why it needs secure, ongoing funding to help close the digital divide:

  • The Cost of High-Speed Internet is a Barrier for Many Americans: Research shows that income level is the greatest indicator of whether households have an in-home broadband subscription. In 2021, 57% of adults with annual household incomes under $30,000 did not have a home broadband subscription, and nearly half said the high monthly cost of a connection was one of the reasons.
  • ACP Helps Americans Afford Broadband and Helps Internet Service Providers (ISP) Deliver It: ACP subsidies cover some, but not all, of the cost of broadband subscriptions: Households still pay a median price of $40 per month for internet service. By expanding the number of customers who can afford and maintain subscriptions, the program reduces customer turnover and reduces ISPs’ per-household break-even cost by 25% when building networks in new service locations.
  • Failure to Fund ACP Will Harm Consumers, Businesses, and Nonprofits, and Undermine Billions of Dollars in Taxpayer Investments in Broadband Expansion: To ensure a sufficient subscriber base and thereby help defray the cost to taxpayers and ISPs of new or expanded networks, key federal broadband funding streams require providers to participate in ACP. If program funding is allowed to run out, many low-income households may be unable to afford subscriptions, potentially leaving those networks idle and the money spent to create them wasted. 

USF Programs Should Embrace Competition

Adrianne Furniss  |  Editorial  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

One of the primary goals in enacting the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was to let anyone enter any communications business—to let any communications business compete in any market against any other firm. Changes in the Universal Service Fund (USF) programs should continue to support and advance this goal by encouraging all telecommunications and broadband service providers to compete for USF support and, especially, to serve low-income households in their service areas. Creating or perpetuating anticompetitive markets or even monopolies through USF programs is not the goal of Congress, the law, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), nor the USF programs. As Congress finds in the Infrastructure Investment and Job Act, “In many communities across the country, increased competition among broadband providers has the potential to offer consumers more affordable, high-quality options for broadband service.” The FCC must foster competition to adhere to the principles of Sec 254 of the Communications Act as well as the findings and affordability goals of the Infrastructure Investment and Job Act.

Digital Equity

Giving Old Technology a New Purpose

Analysis  |  Network-On

What do carrots, digital equity, and helping the environment have in common? In 2019, the US generated 7 million tons of electronic waste, with millions of computers, phones, and other internet-enabled devices going to landfills. These staggering numbers are not only a serious environmental concern, but a missed opportunity. As advocates and policymakers work to connect the last 20% of unconnected Americans, a significant obstacle is a lack of affordable devices. In the greater Denver area, this is where Community Computer Connection (C3) comes in. C3 has been refurbishing and rehoming technology since 2000. Local businesses, communities, and residents donate used computer equipment, and the C3 team then repairs the devices and provides them to charities, schools, and families in need. By equipping communities with affordable devices, C3 is helping Coloradoans overcome a significant barrier to digital adoption. But C3’s assistance doesn’t stop at handing over the equipment! C3 staff works with recipients to spread awareness of low-cost internet options and walks them through the application process to ensure they get connected. Thanks to C3, many Colorado students will head back to school equipped with technology that has become critical for the modern classroom. Thanks to refurbished technology from C3, students in Colorado test the energy levels generated by vegetables for a science experiment.


FCC Announces Tentative Agenda for September 2023 Open Meeting

Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission

Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced that the items below are tentatively on the agenda for the September Open Commission Meeting scheduled for Thursday, September 21, 2023. The FCC will consider:

  1. Satellite Application Processing – a Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on facilitating and expediting application processing for satellite and earth station operators in order to advance opportunities for innovation in the new space age.
  2. Updating the 5G Fund for Rural America – a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the implementation of the 5G Fund for Rural America in light of new, precise, and verified mobile coverage data gathered through the Broadband Data Collection.
  3. Direct Access to Phone Numbers – a Report and Order to strengthen the FCC's direct access rules in order to stem the tide of illegal robocalls, protect the nation’s numbering resources from abuse by foreign bad actors, and advance other important public policy objectives tied to the use of numbering resources. The accompanying Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking would seek comment on the duties of existing direct access authorization holders.
  4. Updating Obsolete TV Broadcasting Rules – a Report and Order that would amend Part 73 of the FCC's Rules to update Television and Class A Television Broadcast Station Rules as well as certain rules applicable to all broadcast stations. This would ensure the FCC’s rules better reflect the current broadcast TV operating environment including changes related to major developments like the transition from analog to digital-only operations and the post-incentive auction transition to a smaller television band with fewer channels. 
  5. Enforcement Bureau Action – an enforcement action.
  6. Enforcement Bureau Action – an enforcement action.

Company News

Starry Emerges from Bankruptcy as a Private Company

Carl Weinschenk  |  telecompetitor

Fixed wireless access (FWA) provider Starry Group Holdings has emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy as a smaller, more narrowly focused privately held company. The implementation of Starry’s reorganization plan completes a process that began in February 2023 when the company filed voluntary petitions for bankruptcy in the US Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware and entered into a restructuring support agreement with lenders holding the company’s debt. The court accepted the reorganization plan on May 26, 2023. Starry says it has eliminated and restructured its debt and gotten an infusion of exit funding. Starry also has reduced its workforce and refocused its efforts on five key markets: Boston, New York City, Washington (DC), Denver, and Los Angeles. The company says that it will expand its Starry Connect program, which supports families in public and affordable house communities, and continue participating in the Federal Communications Commission's Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).

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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

Kevin Taglang
Executive Editor, Communications-related Headlines
Benton Institute
for Broadband & Society
1041 Ridge Rd, Unit 214
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