Daily Digest 9/14/2023 (Nelia de los Reyes Sancho)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Digital Equity

Benton Foundation
Challenges to Achieving Digital Equity for Incarcerated Individuals  |  Read below  |  Analysis  |  Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
What Progress Has Been Made in Closing the K-12 Digital Divide?  |  Read below  |  Brandon Paykamian  |  Government Technology
Will AI in Schools Widen the Digital Divide?  |  Read below  |  Aaron Gifford  |  Government Technology
I’m a Law Student, and I’m a Recipient of the Affordable Connectivity Program  |  Read below  |  Brandee McGee  |  Op-Ed  |  Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights


SHLB Submits BEAD Recommendations to State Broadband Leaders  |  Read below  |  John Windhausen Jr, Kristen Corra  |  Analysis  |  Schools Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition
Oklahoma Broadband Office Launching ARPA Grant Competition  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Oklahoma Broadband Office
Washington State Broadband Office awards $14.5 million to provide one-on-one technical support, devices, and subscriptions to facilitate internet use and adoption  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Washington State Department of Commerce
Building the nation’s largest municipal broadband program  |  Read below  |  Phenix Kim  |  City & State New York
Northwestern Vermont towns make a deal for broadband  |  Read below  |  Fred Thys  |  VTDigger
GoNetspeed Announces Completion of 100% Fiber Internet Construction, Serving Clinton and Westbrook, Connecticut  |  GoNetspeed

Platforms/AI/Social Media

Senator Bennet Urges Leader Schumer to Consider AI Labels, Disclosures, Risk Assessments, and Audits  |  Read below  |  Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO)  |  Letter  |  US Senate
Chairwoman Cantwell Reacts to Senate Artificial Intelligence Forum, Calls for Cross-Industry Collaboration  |  Senate Commerce Committee
Sen. Cruz Seeks Answers on FTC’s Lawless Attempt at Regulating AI  |  Senate Commerce Committee
California Bill Proposes Regulating AI at State Level  |  Read below  |  Billy Perrigo  |  Time
California lawmakers pass measure to combat child abuse material on social media  |  Los Angeles Times
Sen Warren built agency to protect consumers from Big Banking. Now she wants to create a new one to protect us from Big Tech  |  Vox
Bizarre AI-generated products are in stores. Here’s how to avoid them.  |  Washington Post


US telecommunications players balk at foreign ownership reporting proposal  |  Read below  |  Mike Dano  |  LightReading


In Antitrust Trial, Former Google Employee Details History of Search Deals  |  New York Times
Apple lodges confidentiality protest on Day 2 of Google antitrust trial  |  Washington Post

Government & Communications

Google has a new tool to outsmart authoritarian internet censorship  |  Read below  |  Tate Ryan-Mosley  |  MIT Technology Review


MGM Resorts Cybersecurity Issue Continues to Snarl Vegas Operations  |  Wall Street Journal
Opinion | US security should not depend on a privately owned satellite service  |  Washington Post


America Gave Up on the Best Home Technology There Is  |  Atlantic, The


Cable companies have started to figure out a way to stay in the TV game: Reselling streaming services.  |  New York Times
For Frustrated Fans, Streaming Makes Watching Sports a Sport Unto Itself  |  Wall Street Journal
The ratings fight at the heart of the strikes: Will Netflix and others share more data?  |  Los Angeles Times


Sen Mitt Romney announces he won’t run for Senate again in 2024  |  Read below  |  Bryan Schott  |  Salt Lake tribune

We would all do well to remember Newton Minow’s prescience about the dangers of new technology—and his optimism, too.  |  Atlantic, The

Company News

Charter CFO says there’s ‘tremendous opportunity’ for rural broadband  |  Read below  |  Masha Abarinova  |  Fierce
Starlink Surges But Still Isn’t Meeting SpaceX’s Goals, Documents Show  |  Read below  |  Micah Maidenberg, Rolfe Winkler  |  Wall Street Journal
Frontier relocates HQ to Dallas  |  Fierce
Tarana's gigabit fixed wireless access ambitions backed by $50M funding round  |  Fierce
Cable One targets fixed wireless access competition with 100-meg broadband promo  |  Light Reading
Today's Top Stories

Digital Equity

Challenges to Achieving Digital Equity for Incarcerated Individuals

Through a series of acquisitions and mergers over three decades, prison technology companies like JPay and Global Tel Link (GTL) have dominated the prison telecommunications space, effectively becoming virtual monopolies. Anticompetitive practices have allowed corporations to gouge families with high prices and ancillary fees for prison phone calls, a practice that reportedly left one in three inmate families in debt. Surrounded by a “digital moat,” incarcerated people are disadvantaged by a lack of access to training opportunities in digital skills otherwise available to the general public. The result is a returning prison population ill prepared for the challenges of reentering free society. Although internet access is expanding in some corrections facilities, it is often still limited or prohibited by law. And even when internet access is available, the costs of internet use can be prohibitive. Researchers Paolo Arguelles and Isabelle Ortiz-Luis find that inmates have little opportunity to engage with technology while behind bars.

What Progress Has Been Made in Closing the K-12 Digital Divide?

Brandon Paykamian  |  Government Technology

According to a report in February from the policy research firm Public Policy Associates, 2.1 million more children had broadband access in 2021 than 2019, following efforts at the local, state and federal levels to narrow the digital divide for online education during COVID-19 school closures. While there’s still progress to be made to connect underserved communities across the US, policy experts say it’s important to build upon the success of public-private partnerships and programs that have worked to expand K-12 Internet access. “For students [without reliable Internet], they’re back to what school was like before the pandemic for them, that they are back in school and learning in school but maybe don’t have the tools to be able to do assignments like other kids do at home that demand a computer and demand you’re connected to the Internet to access resources either from the school or the greater World Wide Web,” said Kevin Taglang, executive editor at the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society. “We have to make sure broadband networks reach everybody where they live. That’s certainly a huge problem for sure in many rural areas, but it can be a problem in urban areas as well. The service that’s provided needs to be affordable.” Taglang said it’s encouraging to know that policymakers on the federal level have started to see the need to get involved in efforts to close the digital divide, noting that the Emergency Connectivity Fund helped push much-needed resources to school districts still grappling with the need to connect more families for online learning. He also made note of work in Chattanooga, where initiatives like HCS EdConnect and Tech Goes Home have helped to provide free Internet access, Chromebooks, tablets and training on digital skills to low-income families and community members, as a model for a comprehensive community approach to closing the digital divide. He added that nonprofits like the Pew Charitable Trusts have also worked successfully with states to help expand broadband access. Taglang said a defining feature of programs that have had success is encouraging community planning geared toward connecting underserved families from low-income rural and urban communities most in need of Internet access. “I think that, if it’s not 100 percent of homes and businesses that get access to broadband, we’re going to come pretty close,” he said. “If we get to the point where we can start assuming everybody has access to Internet at home, it’s amazing to think about what the possibilities are for more personalized learning, never having a snow day for kids again, everybody being able to do telehealth visits … A lot of these things are why the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society likes to think about what the possibilities are, and it really is an exciting time if we keep our focus and [take advantage of] legislation from Congress.”

Will AI in Schools Widen the Digital Divide?

Aaron Gifford  |  Government Technology

Educators and education-technology professionals worry that artificial intelligence (AI) in the classroom could further widen digital inequities. The US Department of Education Office of Educational Technology's May 2023 "Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Teaching and Learning" report warned that “algorithmic bias could diminish equity at scale with unintended discrimination." Further, it stated, "Bias is intrinsic to how AI algorithms are developed...and the department holds that biases in AI algorithms must be addressed when they introduce or sustain unjust discriminatory practices in education.” However, Julianne Robar, the Director of Meta Data and Product Interoperability for Ed-Tech company Renaissance, says there's competition to develop AI tools that can help close the gap. Renaissance developed an AI-powered speech recognition software, Lalilo, to teach reading to younger students. Tools like this can free up teachers to spend more time with students who need extra help.

I’m a Law Student, and I’m a Recipient of the Affordable Connectivity Program

Brandee McGee  |  Op-Ed  |  Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

As a full-time law student, I spend much of my day online doing schoolwork and sometimes taking classes. Many of my finals are take-home exams that require an internet connection. If not for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), I would have to take these classes and exams at the library or a coffee shop, where the environment could be very disruptive. In some cases, such as when prospective students take the LSAT or GRE, the proctors don’t allow you to take the exam in a public place because of the risk of cheating. Additionally, affordable internet access has facilitated all three of my remote legal internships I’ve completed while in law school. Beyond school and work, affordable internet access at home is vital for ensuring privacy during telehealth appointments—especially ones that involve highly sensitive information. The ACP benefit is crucial for me, my studies, and my valuable contributions to society as a future public interest lawyer. Congress must extend the program to promote equity and opportunity for all students and families.

[Brandee McGee was a summer 2023 legal intern at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.]


SHLB Submits BEAD Recommendations to State Broadband Leaders

John Windhausen Jr, Kristen Corra  |  Analysis  |  Schools Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition

The Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition issued a set of crucial recommendations to State and U.S. Territory Broadband Leaders as they shape their BEAD (Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment) Five-Year Action Plans and Initial and Final Proposals. “Community anchor institutions play a crucial role in ensuring open, affordable, high-performance broadband for everyone in the US,” said Adrianne Furniss, Executive Director of the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society. “These SHLB Coalition recommendations offer a roadmap to speeding network deployment, ensuring service affordability, accelerating broadband adoption, and modeling applications that improve lives through education, healthcare, and civic engagement.”

  1. Develop a consistent but flexible definition of “community anchor institution” that includes traditional and non-traditional anchors based on your state’s individual needs.
  2. Map and assess the needs of your community anchor institutions.
  3. Include anchor institutions in the planning process when developing strategic deployment and adoption projects.
  4. Connect anchor institutions that lack broadband to gigabit (or faster) service.
  5. Consider funding anchor-enabled networks to provide connectivity to a community.
  6. Incentivize open-access networks where possible.
  7. Provide project opportunities for non-traditional broadband providers.
  8. Assess unit-level connectivity for multi-tenant dwelling units (MDUs).
  9. Streamline access to existing infrastructure like poles and resolve disputes expeditiously.
  10. Support alternatives to the letter of credit.
  11. Use anchor institutions to promote digital opportunity and adoption efforts.
  12. Ensure planning (and broadband plan) transparency.

Oklahoma Broadband Office Launching ARPA Grant Competition

Press Release  |  Oklahoma Broadband Office

The Oklahoma Broadband Office (OBO) is launching an open process for internet service providers (ISPs) to compete for $374 million in America Rescue Plan Act (APRA) State and Local Fiscal Recovery (SLFR) Funds to expand access to reliable and affordable high-speed internet service in Oklahoma. The OBO released a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the program. Starting September 18, competitive proposals can be submitted by ISPs through a portal on the office’s website. The portal will close on October 9. After the proposal submission window closes, an Overbuild Prevention Contest Process will be launched to allow ISPs to review the proposals and help ensure no funding is awarded to provide service to homes and businesses that already have high-speed internet access.

Washington State Broadband Office awards $14.5 million to provide one-on-one technical support, devices, and subscriptions to facilitate internet use and adoption

Press Release  |  Washington State Department of Commerce

The Washington State Department of Commerce committed $14.5 million in grants to continue expanding access to the internet through digital navigator services. These grants were awarded to three organizations:

  • Equity in Education Coalition – $10,223,042 million. Will provide community-embedded digital literacy skills and offer skills training and a multilingual call-in center to provide technology support services. Funding will also support the creation of a Digital Navigation Resource app available to all Washington residents, and support the distribution of internet-capable devices, smartphones, headsets, and supporting equipment.
  • Community Health Network of Washington – $3,846,000 million. Will partner with community and neighborhood health clinics and centers to provide digital navigation support.
  • Nisqually Indian Tribe – $430,958. Will collaborate with the Thurston County Chamber of Commerce, Timberland Regional Library, the Thurston Economic Development Council, and Thurston Thrives to ensure all individuals have access to digital navigation services for individuals and business, a variety of digital skills classes, devices, Wi-Fi connectivity, and discounted or free internet services.

Building the nation’s largest municipal broadband program

Phenix Kim  |  City & State New York

A Q&A with the New York City (NYC) Office of Technology & Innovation’s Brett Sikoff centered on increasing broadband accessibility via the city's Big Apple Connect program. The program has delivered free high-speed internet to 220 public housing developments across the city: that’s over 300,000 New Yorkers who now have access to the internet for free. Additionally, Big Apple Connect simplified the way people get connected: there’s no application, no approval or lengthy review required, and if you’re a resident in one of the more than 150,000 households eligible (in the NYCHA system), you automatically qualify. However, challenges include ensuring that residents outside of the public housing system have access and getting residents comfortable with an alternative provider. An overarching concern is the program's long-term funding; though funding is guaranteed for the initial three years with options for renewal for two more years, it's NYC's goal to ultimately have the Big Apple Connect program in place for as long as possible to ensure that people have the connectivity they need.

Northwestern Vermont towns make a deal for broadband

Fred Thys  |  VTDigger

Northwest Fiberworx, the communications union district (CUD) for 22 northwestern Vermont communities serving 30,000 customers, has signed a deal for fiber-optic broadband with South Royalton-based Great Works Internet (GWI) Vermont. The Vermont Community Broadband Board (VCBB) will provide funding from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program. Northwest Fiberworx is the last of the original CUDs to sign a deal with an internet service provider. Sean Kio, Executive Director of Northwest Fiberworx, says the company already has several hundred miles of fiber-optic cable ready for construction to begin early in 2024. 

AI/Platforms/Social Media

Senator Bennet Urges Leader Schumer to Consider AI Labels, Disclosures, Risk Assessments, and Audits

Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO)  |  Letter  |  US Senate

On August 30, Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) wrote Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) about Leader Schumer's SAFE Innovation Framework for Artificial Intelligence (AI). Sen. Bennet suggested that several critical elements be considered when developing the framework:

  • A Values-Based Framework: A robust AI regulatory framework will require AI developers to construct their systems so that they preserve Americans’ privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties; protect against bias and discrimination; ensure safe environments for our children; and secure the integrity of our civic processes.
  • Public Risk Assessments, Mitigation, and Audits: AI systems should undergo regular public risk assessments to examine their safety, reliability, security, explainability, and efficacy. We should couple these assessments with transparency and disclosure obligations to enable effective compliance audits.
  • Content Indicators: AI-generated content should retain a distinct, easily recognizable signifier, such as a watermark, hard-coded indicator, or visual overlay, so users can readily identify AI content as AI content.
  • AI Disclosure: AI platforms should disclose their AI nature at the beginning of a user’s interaction and periodically throughout in order to ensure that users understand what sort of system they are encountering.
  • Data Transparency: Users must understand how AI systems intend to use, store, and transfer their personal data. Users should have a right to know how their data will contribute to any AI system’s training or optimization. Users should be informed about how their data, generated by interactions with AI systems, are used. Users should have the right through “opt- in” procedures to determine whether AI systems can collect and use their data.

California Bill Proposes Regulating AI at State Level

Billy Perrigo  |  Time

State Senator Scott Wiener (D-CA) will introduce a new artificial intelligence (AI) bill to the California legislature that targets “frontier” AI systems at the threshold of capability. The bill proposes:

  • Systems that require a certain quantity of computing power to train are subject to transparency requirements;
  • Establishing legal liability for “those who fail to take appropriate precautions” to prevent unintended consequences and malicious uses of advanced AI systems;
  • Mandating security measures to prevent cutting-edge AIs from falling into the hands of foreign states; and
  • Calls for California to set up “CalCompute,” a proposed state research cloud that would provide the computing infrastructure necessary for groups outside of big industry, like academia and startups, to do advanced AI work.

However, the so-called "intent bill" is light on details, containing less than three pages, and only gives broad brush-strokes of what a piece of California AI legislation would look like.


US telecommunications players balk at foreign ownership reporting proposal

Mike Dano  |  LightReading

A wide range of telecommunication companies and trade associations in the US oppose a new Federal Communications Commission proposal that would require regular reassessments of a foreign carrier's authorization to provide service in the US. Among the opposition, Verizon states that the FCC is proposing, "sweeping, one-size-fits-all reporting and disclosure mandates by which the [FCC] would regularly demand proprietary and confidential details...from all authorization holders, regardless of whether they pose any articulable risk." The FCC estimates that there are around 1,500 active international Section 214 authorization holders in the US today. The Competitive Carriers Association (CCA)—a trade association that primarily represents small wireless network operators—states, "This would suggest approximately 1,125 carriers raising little or no policy concern would be subjected to an ongoing renewal requirement. These carriers would be burdened by new regulatory requirements." Further, the CTIA—the main trade association for big US wireless network operators—warned that aggressive rules in the area could stifle investment. 

Government & Communications

Google has a new tool to outsmart authoritarian internet censorship

Tate Ryan-Mosley  |  MIT Technology Review

Google is launching new anti-censorship technology, Outline VPN, to increase access for internet users living under authoritarian regimes. During 2022's pro-democracy protests across Iran, the regime used sophisticated tactics, not only intermittently blocking all internet access but targeting virtual private networks (VPN) like Outline. Jigsaw, a unit of Google that operates sort of like an internet freedom think tank, offers a suite of anti-censorship tools including Outline to provide free, open, and encrypted access to the internet through a VPN. Outline uses a protocol that makes it hard to detect, so users can surf the web largely out of sight from authorities who might want to block internet access. Jigsaw is releasing Outline’s code in the form of a software developer kit (SDK) so that other applications can build censorship resistance directly into their products.

Company News

Charter CFO says there’s ‘tremendous opportunity’ for rural broadband

Masha Abarinova  |  Fierce

Charter Communications has frequently talked up the pace of its rural deployments, reaching 68,000 subsidized rural passings in the second quarter (Q2) of 2023. CFO Jessica Fischer said the Charter has a “tremendous opportunity” to expand its footprint to rural areas. Charter was one of the largest winners in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction, and Fischer noted progress in those builds “has been going quite well” in terms of pace and penetration. The company just scored around $116 million in grants to expand broadband in Kentucky, and it’s won funding in states like Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin.

Starlink Surges But Still Isn’t Meeting SpaceX’s Goals, Documents Show

Micah Maidenberg, Rolfe Winkler  |  Wall Street Journal

SpaceX’s satellite-internet division has outpaced rivals and generated surging revenue, but it hasn't lived up to Elon Musk’s ambitions. Starlink reported $1.4 billion in revenue for 2022—up from $222 million in 2021. However, the company had predicted the business would be bigger by now: a 2015 presentation SpaceX used to raise money from investors projected that Starlink would generate almost $12 billion in revenue and $7 billion in operating profit in 2022. Starlink is key for Musk's plans to send humans to Mars. Global spending on high-speed internet is orders of magnitude bigger than outlays on rocket launches, and he needs a cash cow to help pay for technology that could make interplanetary missions possible. Starlink hasn’t signed up customers as quickly as SpaceX had hoped.


Sen Mitt Romney announces he won’t run for Senate again in 2024

Bryan Schott  |  Salt Lake tribune

Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) will not seek another term in the Senate in 2024. In a video posted to Twitter, Sen. Romney said he was stepping aside for new leadership and noted that those new leaders will face enormous challenges in the coming years, something the current leadership for the Republican and Democratic parties are not equipped to handle. Sen. Romney still has more than a year left in his term, and he hopes to focus on three primary issues before he leaves office in January 2025—immigration, the ballooning national debt, and climate change. 

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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.

© Benton Institute for Broadband & Society 2023. 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

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Benton Institute
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