Daily Digest 9/15/2020 (Digital Divide in Indian Country)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents


4th Quarter USF Contribution Factor is 27.1 percent  |  Read below  |  Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission
Office of Management and Budget Approves Connect America Fund Phase II and Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Info Collection  |  Federal Communications Commission
Senate Democrats Call on FCC Chairman to Expeditiously Address the Digital Divide in Indian Country  |  Read below  |  Letter  |  Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
Congress needs to provide flexible funding to states to deploy broadband networks  |  Read below  |  Sen Michael Bennet (D-CO)  |  Op-Ed  |  Hill, The
Sens Bennet, King Build Support for BRIDGE Act to Deploy “Future-Proof” Broadband Nationwide  |  US Senate
FCC Commissioner Starks Announces 2020 Digital Equity Recognition Program Honorees  |  Read below  |  FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks  |  Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission
Mississippi subpoenas AT&T for records on $300M project  |  Read below  |  Associated Press
Lawmakers call on Gov. Greg Abbott to plan to expand broadband access as pandemic worsens disparities  |  Read below  |  Aria Jones  |  Texas Tribune
Tractor Supply Co. Funds Rural Internet Access  |  Read below  |  Thad Rueter  |  Retail Leader
An analysis of the impacts of telecommunications technology and innovation on economic growth  |  Read below  |  Paravee Maneejuk, Woraphon Yamaka  |  Research  |  Telecommunications Policy
Comments to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration on Changes to the Internet Use Survey  |  Information Technology & Innovation Foundation
Karl Bode: Over At Politico, The AT&T Monopoly Gives Tips On Fixing A Broadband Problem It Spent Thirty Years Creating  |  TechDirt
Google Fiber Announces 2 Gig, a $100 per month 2 Gig trial offer in Nashville and Huntsville  |  Google


Verizon to Buy TracFone in Deal Valued at Up to $7 Billion  |  Read below  |  Drew FitzGerald  |  Wall Street Journal
5G in rural areas bridges a gap that 4G doesn’t, especially low- and mid-band  |  Ars Technica


Scott Cleland: America’s Internet Reset Provides An Opportunity For A Responsible, Prosperous Internet  |  Daily Caller
How Militant Anarcho-Socialist Networks Use Social Media to Instigate Widespread Violence Against Political Opponents and Law En  |  Network Contagion Research Institute
Phil Gramm and Jerry Ellig op-ed: The Misguided Antitrust Attack on Big Tech  |  Wall Street Journal


Meet the students thriving in remote learning  |  Vox


Half of Americans Pay for Two or More of the ‘Big 4’ Streaming Services  |  Wrap, The


ViacomCBS to Sell CNET to Red Ventures for $500 Million  |  Wrap, The

Emergency Communications

FCC Activates Disaster Information Reporting for Hurricane Sally  |  Federal Communications Commission


Data Privacy Increasingly a Focus of National Security Reviews  |  Wall Street Journal
Private data gone public: Razer leaks 100,000+ gamers’ personal info  |  Ars Technica
Operation Legend is bringing surveillance tech to cities  |  Intercept, The
TikTok’s Proposed Deal Seeks to Mollify U.S. and China  |  New York Times
Sen Hawley Calls for Cmte on Foreign Investment in the US to Reject TikTok Partnership, Violates President’s Executive Order  |  US Senate

Elections & Media

Biden Is Outspending President Trump On TV, And Just 6 States Are The Focus Of The Campaign  |  National Public Radio
Facebook ignored blatant political manipulation around the world, claims former data scientist  |  Vox

FCC Reform

FCC Adopts Procedural Changes to Streamline Administrative Hearings  |  Federal Communications Commission

Government & Communications

Internet of Things: Information on Use by Federal Agencies  |  Government Accountability Office
Adobe's Matthew Schrader: Congress needs to prioritize government digital service delivery  |  Hill, The

Stories From Abroad

The effect of government 5G policies on telecommunication operators’ firm value: Evidence from China  |  Read below  |  Chunmi Jeona, Seung Hun Han, Hyeong Joon Kim, Sangsoo Kim  |  Research  |  Telecommunications Policy
European Union tests platform to link up coronavirus tracing apps  |  Reuters
SoftBank to Raise $10.4 Billion in Sale of Wireless Unit Stock  |  Bloomberg
Five of the world’s best homes for sale in broadband hotspots  |  Financial Times
TikTok Owner’s Big Reason to Strike a US Deal: China Is Slowing  |  New York Times
China has Been Doing ‘Mass Surveillance’ on Millions of Citizens in US, UK, Australia and India  |  Vice
Google Faces $3 Billion U.K. Suit Over Use of Children’s Data  |  Bloomberg
Today's Top Stories


4th Quarter USF Contribution Factor is 27.1 percent

Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission's Office of Managing Director (OMD) announces that the proposed universal service contribution factor for the fourth quarter of 2020 will be 0.271 or 27.1 percent. 

Senate Democrats Call on FCC Chairman to Expeditiously Address the Digital Divide in Indian Country

Sen Tom Udall (D-NM), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, led a group of 14 Senate Democrats in calling on the Federal Communications Commission to expedite broadband connectivity to Native communities to improve access to critical services during the pandemic including telemedicine, online education, and teleworking opportunities. Sen Udall was joined by Sens Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Tina Smith (D-MN), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Jon Tester (D-MT), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Jeffrey Merkley (D-OR) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) in the letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, calling on the FCC to use existing authorities to ensure universal service for all Americans including those living in Native communities.

“The federal trust responsibility imposes on the United States the highest moral and legal obligation toward American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities, as reflected in the Constitution of the United States, treaties, federal statues, Executive orders, and numerous court decisions.  It is one of the most important principles of federal Indian law, strengthening the United States’ government-to-government relationship with Indian tribes and promoting Tribal sovereignty and self-determination. The Commission has long recognized the unique government-to-government relationship between the federal government and Tribal governments, and that it requires the federal government to adhere to certain fiduciary standards in dealing with Indian Tribes. The failure to take action to provide essential broadband service in the midst of the COVID-19 calls into question the Commission’s adherence to the federal trust responsibility."

Congress needs to provide flexible funding to states to deploy broadband networks

Sen Michael Bennet (D-CO)  |  Op-Ed  |  Hill, The

Over the past few weeks, millions of kids couldn’t begin learning at all because they do not have access to affordable, high-speed internet. In Colorado, 65,000 students don’t have access to the internet at home. Nationwide, 17 million students don’t have access to high-speed broadband, including one in three Black, Latino, and Native households. Worse, even families with broadband often struggle with slow connections that can’t handle multiple users or modern applications like videoconferencing. As a country, we have failed to invest in modern infrastructure, especially in rural communities. Now, our children are paying the price. It is long past time for a new approach. That is why, this summer, I introduced the BRIDGE Act to put our communities — not Washington — in the driver’s seat about where and how to invest in high-speed internet. Our bill provides $30 billion to states and $1 billion to tribal governments to deploy affordable, high-speed broadband to connect areas with little or no service, including unserved neighborhoods, schools, libraries, and community centers. To ensure this taxpayer investment benefits everyone, our bill also requires new networks to include an affordable option for low-income families.

FCC Commissioner Starks Announces 2020 Digital Equity Recognition Program Honorees

FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks  |  Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission

Federal Communications Commissioner Geoffrey Starks announces the honorees of the inaugural Digital Opportunity Equity Recognition (DOER) Program, which was created to acknowledge the tireless efforts of Americans working to close the digital divide in communities without access to affordable, reliable broadband. The program honorees will be recognized at a virtual reception in October. Commissioner Starks issued the following statement about this year’s DOER honorees: " I put out an open call to hear about heroic DOERs who have stepped up in their communities to ensure that no one gets left behind because they lack broadband connectivity. The DOER Program received an overwhelming response to that call with more than 60 submitted applications, each one impressive and laudable, and demonstrating a true commitment to serving communities through acts of substance and consequence, big and small, generosity and selflessness both during the pandemic and prior to the recent events that have changed our nation."

To see a list of honorees, visit: https://www.fcc.gov/document/commissioner-starks-announces-2020-doer-honorees.

Mississippi subpoenas AT&T for records on $300M project

The state of Mississippi is asking AT&T to provide records of the work it promised to do to expand broadband access in the state after the Public Service Commission gave the company almost $300 million, officials said. Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley has signed an investigative subpoena for records from AT&T related to the company’s claim to have made internet service available to 133,000 locations in the state through the Connect America Fund, a federal program for expanded broadband in rural areas of the US. The subpoena demands production of documents showing the number of actual subscribers to AT&T’s fixed wireless service within the 133,000 locations where the company claims to have provided service. It also requests the number of complaints filed with the company by customers who have taken service and the number of residents who applied for fixed wireless service based on AT&T’s claim that it was available and were later determined not to be in an area covered.

Prior to issuing the investigative subpoena, Commissioner Presley informally asked AT&T for documentation related to the actual number of locations benefiting from the $280 million project, and AT&T refused, Presley said. Some items in the subpoena were part of data requests filed by the Public Utilities Staff that went ignored by AT&T.

Lawmakers call on Gov. Greg Abbott to plan to expand broadband access as pandemic worsens disparities

Aria Jones  |  Texas Tribune

As the COVID-19 pandemic has "exacerbated existing disparities" related to high-speed internet access in Texas, a bipartisan group of state lawmakers asked Gov. Greg Abbott to develop a plan to expand broadband access in the state. “Texas is well overdue for a state broadband plan, and we believe the state needs to begin the process of creating one immediately,” the 88 lawmakers wrote in a letter to Abbott’s office. They said the need can't wait until the 2021 session of the Texas Legislature. Access to broadband has become even more important during the coronavirus pandemic as social distancing has prompted remote learning at schools and remote working for many offices. More than 800,000 rural Texans don’t have adequate broadband infrastructure, however, according to data and maps produced by Connected Nation Texas and cited by the lawmakers. As broadband speeds increase, the number of rural communities that get left behind also increases, they said.

Tractor Supply Co. Funds Rural Internet Access

Thad Rueter  |  Retail Leader

Tractor Supply Co. is working to bring more high-speed internet access to rural areas — a move that promises to encourage more consumers to download its mobile app. The retailer said that it will join the American Connection Project Broadband Coalition (ACPBC) to leverage its resources to help bridge the rural digital divide. Through the Tractor Supply Co. Foundation, the retailer will donate $1 for every download of its mobile app before the end of the year — up to $1 million — to the efforts of the American Connection Project to close the digital divide. Tractor Supply launched its first mobile app in July.

An analysis of the impacts of telecommunications technology and innovation on economic growth

Paravee Maneejuk, Woraphon Yamaka  |  Research  |  Telecommunications Policy

Recently, the idea of ICTs being ‘mainstreamed’ in sustainable economic development has been adopted by many countries. For any country, sustainable economic growth is essential for a steadfast and well-balanced development of the entire country. One of the important factors supporting sustainable economic growth is the telecommunications technology and innovation, considering their role and functions as a modern-day indispensable infrastructure. It provides an opportunity for economic development compatible with the safeguard of the environment. Therefore, this study examines whether and to what extent telecommunications technology and innovation have helped improve the economic growth of developed and developing countries. We also aim to investigate the non-linear or kink effect in the relationship between the variables of telecommunications technology and innovation and economic growth. This study analyzes the impacts of telecommunications technology and innovation on economic growth at two different levels. First, we investigate the impact on individual countries which are distinct from one another regarding the level of economic development and the physical structure. Besides, the relationship between telecommunications development and the economic growth of a country may not be linear in the structure which necessitates our use of the kink regression model to capture and explain it. Second, this relationship is later investigated at the group level of countries. We divide the countries into two groups, developing and developed, based on the level of economic development and telecommunications technology. Empirically, we find that (Adak, 2015): there exists the kink effect on the relationship between telecommunications development and the economic growth in both developed and developing countries (Agnew & Romeo, 1981), the impacts of some related variables differ in magnitude depending on their levels and kink points, and (Alshubiri et al., 2019) the telecommunications technology and innovation give a relatively more massive impact on the economic growth of developing countries compared to developed countries.


Verizon to Buy TracFone in Deal Valued at Up to $7 Billion

Drew FitzGerald  |  Wall Street Journal

Verizon agreed to buy TracFone, a provider of wireless prepaid services, in a deal worth up to $7 billion in cash and stock, further consolidating the US cellular market. TracFone, a unit of Mexico’s América Móvil SAB, has about 21 million prepaid customers in the US under its namesake brand as well as StraightTalk and Net10. The company doesn’t run its own physical network in the US and instead rides on other cellphone carriers’ systems for a fee and then resells service under its own brands. The move plunges Verizon deep into the prepaid market, a sector it has largely avoided by catering to more lucrative customers who pay for wireless service after it is rendered. Customers on prepaid plans tend to switch providers more often, which operators consider a risk. Verizon is the biggest US provider with about 120 million connections, but it has been competing in a mature market that is now dominated by three providers. TracFone, backed by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helu, grew into the biggest US cellphone reseller by catering to frugal customers through Walmart stores and other independent dealers. Its StraightTalk service offers data plans for as little as $34 a month. TracFone offers service for as little as $15 a month with limits on internet data as well as the number of texts and phone calls.

The deal is subject to approval from antitrust and telecom regulators. Federal competition enforcers have traditionally viewed virtual-network operators like TracFone as resellers of wholesale network capacity owned by companies like Verizon that own the cell-tower equipment and lines that carry their traffic, so the deal is unlikely to attract as much scrutiny as T-Mobile’s Sprint takeover did when it was announced in 2018. Verizon said it expects its transaction to close in the second half of 2021.

Stories From Abroad

The effect of government 5G policies on telecommunication operators’ firm value: Evidence from China

Chunmi Jeona, Seung Hun Han, Hyeong Joon Kim, Sangsoo Kim  |  Research  |  Telecommunications Policy

To lead the world's fifth-generation mobile communication networks (5G) market, China introduced several policies to support 5G industry development that will impact telecommunication operators, the main implementers in this industry. Thus, this study examines the impact of the government's 5G policy announcements on telecommunication operators' firm value in China, where the state exerts a strong influence on industry development. We find that government policy announcement in general affects telecommunication operators' stock returns negatively, and when the government announces policies with a higher level of interference, the decline in firm value is more pronounced. To understand the comprehensive impact of 5G technology on telecommunication operators, we also examine the effect of institution-driven corporate technology R&D and investment activities on firm value. We find that the firms' 5G activities also decrease their firm value, and this effect is more significant than government policy announcements. These results imply that the market has a negative evaluation of the introduction of 5G technology due to its immaturity and uncertainty. This study provides a basis for understanding the market's views on 5G technology and development policies.

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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 Robbie McBeath (rmcbeath AT benton DOT org) — we welcome your comments.

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