Tuesday, September 13, 2022
Headlines Daily Digest
Call for Fellows
Data & Mapping
Stories From Abroad
Call for Fellows
Through the Marjorie & Charles Benton Opportunity Fund, the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society aims to support a new generation of broadband scholars, practitioners, and advocates. Benton welcomes applications from people working on broadband access, adoption, equity, and use. We are interested in supporting a range of projects that can better inform our current or emerging broadband policy debates, either through critical research about the future of the internet in our communities or the development of best practices and tools to advance our field’s work. Proposed projects can yield either practice or research-focused publications or multimedia content. Some potential topics include:
- How are grassroots organizations and coalitions working to advance digital equity?
- How can we best measure and map the availability and quality of broadband?
- What state and local policy levers can influence broadband availability and adoption?
- How does improved access to broadband impact local economies and communities?
- What resources and information do state legislators or government agencies need to ensure universal broadband access and adoption?
We especially welcome applications that focus on historically marginalized communities. Fellowships will range from $5,000-$20,000, with a tenure ranging from 6 months to 2 years. All applications are due on October 15th and should be emailed as PDFs to [email protected]. More information can be found here.
Broadband usage patterns of participants in the Federal Communications Commission's Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) are significantly exceeding those of the broader connected population, according to initial results contained in the second quarter 2022 OpenVault Broadband Insights (OVBI) report. Data from several thousand ACP households during 2Q22 has revealed the following:
- ACP participants’ average usage of 654 GB per month is 33.3 percent higher than the average of 490.7 GB for all subscribers.
- ACP participants’ median usage of 499.3 GB per month is almost 60 percent higher than the median of 313.9 GB per month for all subscribers.
- ACP participants are 36 percent more likely to be power users of 1 TB or more, and 52 percent more likely to be super-power users of 2 TB or more.
The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) has been wrestling with a ruling from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) which will effectively allow billions in federal funding to go toward wireline overbuilds of areas already covered by fixed wireless access (FWA) broadband. WISPA CEO David Zumwalt said it’s been unable to get a straight answer from the NTIA about why it decided FWA services based on unlicensed spectrum don’t count as reliable broadband. Zumwalt’s questions specifically relate to the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, because the NTIA unveiled rules for the program which specify areas served exclusively by fixed wireless services based on unlicensed spectrum will be considered “unserved.” According to Zumwalt, the decision affects a “pretty large subset” of wireless broadband providers. That’s in part because unlicensed spectrum offers service providers more deployment flexibility than licensed spectrum. The response WISPA got from the NTIA was that the issue doesn’t have to do with the fundamental reliability of FWA systems, but about the future availability of unlicensed spectrum. However, when that information was brought to the Federal Communications Commission, which has regulatory responsibility for spectrum in the country, the FCC indicated it didn’t have any concerns about the availability of unlicensed spectrum.
Starlink asked the Federal Communications Commission to reconsider a decision to deny it $885.5 million in rural broadband funding. The company filed what is known as an Application for Review with the FCC, which is an appeal from an aggrieved party that asks the FCC to revisit actions taken on the grounds that they conflict with established statutes, regulations, precedent, or policy or rely on a policy or precedent that should be changed or overturned. The FCC rejected Starlink’s winning bids for broadband subsidies from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction, citing Ookla data which showed Starlink’s broadband speeds were below the service benchmark set for its subsidies. However, Starlink accused the FCC of making the decision “in service to a clear bias towards fiber, rather than a merits-based decision to actually connect unserved Americans.” It noted SpaceX has demonstrated an ability to quickly expand and upgrade its satellite network and pointed out that it actually isn’t required to meet RDOF’s speed requirements until 2025. Additionally, Starlink noted that not only will it take time for money from other government initiatives like the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program to be allocated to projects in those areas, it wrote, but it will also take time for service providers to finish buildouts there.
Alan Davidson, the head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), stated that the agency is canceling plans to use the first iteration of the new Federal Communications Commission maps that the agency says will be available by early November 2022. Davidson says that he feels obligated to let the FCC’s challenge process play out before using the mapping data in hopes of greater accuracy from the maps. This decision will clearly add more time and delay to the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) grant program. I’m sure this wasn’t an easy decision, but it says that it’s better to hold out for a more accurate map rather than settling for the first iterations of the new FCC maps. This decision will clearly add more time and delay to the $42.5 billion BEAD grant program, but the decision to wait recognizes that using incorrect maps would almost inevitably mean lawsuits that could delay the grant program even longer. I guess we’ll find out in a few months how the first draft of the maps turns out. I expect there are a whole lot of folks who are poised to compare the new maps to their local knowledge of actual broadband usage – and then the challenges will begin.
[Doug Dawson is president of CCG Consulting.]
Colorado’s Broadband Deployment Board (BDB), which operates under the Colorado Broadband Office (CBO), has awarded more than $22.8 million to 15 broadband projects that will connect 4,267 additional households to high-speed internet. This is the most funding awarded during a BDB grant cycle in the board’s eight-year history, and it moves the state closer to achieving its goal of connecting 99 percent of Colorado households to fast, reliable broadband by 2027. Of the 15 broadband projects awarded grants, 10 will be funded by the State and Local Federal Recovery Fund (SLFRF), which is dedicated to helping states recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. In the 2021 legislative session, the Colorado General Assembly approved and Gov Polis (D-CO) signed bipartisan legislation to direct $35 million in SLFRF funding to the BDB for broadband expansion, part of which was awarded earlier in 2022. The BDB also awarded five additional grants through a state broadband fund called the High-Cost Support Mechanism.
Lieutenant Gov Jon Husted (R-OH) is launching the newly designed Broadband Infrastructure Training Program at Buckeye Hills Career Center in Rio Grande (OH). Students will go through an approximately 12-week interactive learning journey that includes the design, installation, and service components of broadband networks. Along with the technical understanding of broadband technologies and associated hands-on exercises, the training emphasizes the safety, customer service, and digital literacy aspects of the network buildout process. Graduates of this program will help supply the telecommunications industry in Ohio with the talent needed to expand broadband access in the state. The State of Ohio is contributing $50,000 to launch the pilot program at Buckeye Hills Career Center. This includes funding for the curriculum, equipment, supplies, and tuition assistance needed to launch the pilot, with Buckeye Hills Career Center sustaining the program after the pilot phase ends. Following the initial pilot program, a reassessment will be facilitated, and necessary updates made, before distributing the program to other educational institutions and training providers so they can take advantage of the program and launch it within their local communities.
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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