Daily Digest 9/22/2022 (Urban Broadband Access)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Digital Divide

The Other Side of the Divide: Urban Broadband Access  |  Read below  |  Julia Edinger  |  Government Technology

Broadband Data

Benchmarks or Equity? A New Approach to Measuring Internet Performance  |  Read below  |  Ranya Sharma, Tarun Mangla, James Saxon, Marc Richardson, Nick Feamster, Nicole Marwell  |  Research  |  SSRN
Best Practices for Collecting Speed Test Data  |  Read below  |  Kyle MacMillan, Tarun Mangla, Marc Richardson, Nick Feamster  |  Research  |  SSRN


FCC Announces $55 Million in Emergency Connectivity Funding  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission
What One Library Is Doing With Federal Broadband Funding  |  Read below  |  Katya Maruri  |  Government Technology
SpaceX Is Working to Bring Starlink to School Buses  |  Read below  |  Michael Kan  |  PC Magazine
Nudge Texting: How Smartphones Can Improve Student Success  |  Michelson 20MM


Health apps share your concerns with advertisers. HIPAA can’t stop it.  |  Washington Post


Broadband funding for Native communities could finally connect some of America’s most isolated places  |  Read below  |  Robert Chaney  |  MIT Technology Review
Financing mechanisms for locally-owned internet infrastructure  |  Read below  |  Jim Forster, Ben Matranga, Anoop Nagendra  |  Research  |  Connect Humanity
Internet Inequity in Chicago: Adoption, Affordability, and Availability  |  Read below  |  Tarun Mangla, Udit Paul, Arpit Gupta, Nicole Marwell, Nick Feamster  |  Research  |  SSRN
What’s Next for New York City’s Internet Master Plan?  |  Government Technology


Starlink Slowed in Q2, Competitors Mounting Challenges  |  Read below  |  Josh Fomon  |  Analysis  |  Ookla

Emergency Communications

Chairwoman Rosenworcel Highlights Support for Puerto Rico post-Hurricane Fiona  |  Federal Communications Commission

Platforms/Social Media

Florida brings battle over social media regulation to the Supreme Court  |  Washington Post
TikTok plans to ban all political fundraising on its platform  |  Vox
Gaming platform Twitch's design enables people to find and exploit kids in real-time  |  Bloomberg
Inside the civil rights campaign to get Big Tech to fight the ‘big lie’  |  Washington Post
How the truth was murdered  |  MIT Technology Review
Meta: We’re not-so-big tech now  |  Axios


Senators ask for review of Apple’s plan to use Chinese chips  |  Washington Post

Company/Industry News

Charter Communications Names Chris Winfrey President and CEO Effective December 1; Tom Rutledge to Serve as Executive Chairman  |  Charter Communications
Cable players have a few more DOCSIS 3.1 tricks up their sleeve  |  Fierce
Verizon's New Total Prepaid Brand Aims for AT&T's Cricket, T-Mobile's Metro  |  CNET
Comcast’s Evolving Wireless Strategy  |  Comcast
Today's Top Stories

Digital Divide

The Other Side of the Divide: Urban Broadband Access

Julia Edinger  |  Government Technology

Urban communities face unique challenges in effectively gaining broadband access, which primarily involve affordability and literacy. As government agencies plan for federal broadband distribution opportunities, there are steps to take to ensure digital inclusion efforts reach urban communities, those working in the space contend. The main factors impeding adoption are both affordability and digital literacy. On the affordability side, device ownership, and specifically having the ability to own both a cellphone and a computer, are crucial to being connected in this digital age. By partnering with trusted community-based organizations, urban communities can get the information that they need through an organization that has a history of serving a particular community or population. To ensure urban communities are connected, government agencies and other organizations looking to get started in digital empowerment work start by advocating for Internet service providers to bring high quality Internet to urban communities. Second, advocating for the type of subsidy programs that support these communities by providing access to discounted services or programs that enable access to devices.


Benchmarks or Equity? A New Approach to Measuring Internet Performance

Ranya Sharma, Tarun Mangla, James Saxon, Marc Richardson, Nick Feamster, Nicole Marwell  |  Research  |  SSRN

A longstanding approach to measuring Internet performance is to directly compare throughput against pre-defined benchmarks (e.g., 25 Mbps downstream, 3 Mbps upstream). In this paper, we advocate, develop, and demonstrate a different approach: rather than focusing on whether speeds meet a particular threshold, we develop techniques to determine whether a variety of Internet performance metrics (including throughput, latency, and loss rate) are comparable across geographies. We define these metrics and apply them across a longitudinal dataset of Internet performance measurements comprising approximately 30 neighborhoods across the City of Chicago (IL). The idea of ”digital redlining” raises questions about whether Internet infrastructure provides equity to users in different geographic locations, or if the stratified patterns long observed in housing, public education, transportation, environmental toxins, and more might also be observed in Internet performance. Results show that there are important differences between Internet measurements taken from households in these three groups. The South Shore neighborhood, on the city’s historically Black South Side, shows consistently worse performance than the Logan Square neighborhood, on the city’s North Side.

Best Practices for Collecting Speed Test Data

Kyle MacMillan, Tarun Mangla, Marc Richardson, Nick Feamster  |  Research  |  SSRN

In an effort to expand Internet access, local and federal policymakers have sought to use speed test data to determine where to allocate funding. However, drawing accurate and meaningful conclusions about broadband providers' network performance from speed test data requires careful consideration of the test conditions under which the data was collected. This research provides a set of recommendations for gathering and analyzing a single speed test measurement. Our recommendations are based on our own analysis of speed test data collected from in-lab, controlled experiments, as well as from a six-month-long deployment across 77 households in Chicago (IL). Based on the results of our analysis, we suggest that the client-server latency, the client device, and the access medium (wireless versus wired) be logged for each test and utilized to make informed decisions relating to broadband funding allocation. These three metadata can be used later to assess the accuracy or utility of the speed test. We also propose that running “paired tests” (running two different speed tests in succession) can help mitigate the effects of test conditions for which we can’t measure, such as server load or upstream congestion. Such paired tests are most beneficial for households subscribed to download speeds greater than 500 Mbps.


FCC Announces $55 Million in Emergency Connectivity Funding

Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission is committing nearly $55 million in new funding rounds through the Emergency Connectivity Program, which provides digital services for students in communities across the country. The funding commitments support applications from all three application windows, benefiting approximately 125,000 students across the country, including students in California, Indiana, Michigan, Puerto Rico, and Texas. The funding can be used to support off-campus learning, such as nightly homework, to ensure students across the country have the necessary support to keep up with their education. To date, the program has provided support to approximately 10,000 schools, 900 libraries, and 100 consortia though nearly 12 million connected devices and over 7 million broadband connections.

What One Library Is Doing With Federal Broadband Funding

Katya Maruri  |  Government Technology

To provide schools and libraries with the digital services they need to expand remote learning, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has created the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF). To date, the ECF has doled out $7.171 billion. What libraries and schools are doing with the money will inherently vary depending on their individual needs. One library in Chicago Ridge, IL, however, recently detailed what it has done with its ECF money. The library is using our ECF funds to get both Chromebooks and laptops into the hands of the library's patrons, along with Wi-Fi hot spots. The idea is that patrons could use these hot spots and laptops to access the Internet outside of the library, as the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need. 

SpaceX Is Working to Bring Starlink to School Buses

Michael Kan  |  PC Magazine

SpaceX is aiming to expand its satellite internet service Starlink to school buses in the US. The company mentioned the effort in a September 20 filing with the Federal Communications Commission. “Now, in collaboration with school districts, SpaceX is piloting projects in rural areas of the country to support students traveling on long bus routes with the goal of turning ‘ride time to connected time," the filing says. SpaceX is currently working to bring Starlink to school bus routes that “are more than 60 minutes each way and are predominantly inaccessible to other mobile broadband services.” The pilot projects come after the FCC in June 2022 cleared the company to begin bringing Starlink to moving vehicles, including cars, planes, and boats. It’s since been deploying a high-performance dish that can deliver high-speed broadband on cruise ships and commercial jets. SpaceX sent the filing to the FCC to urge the agency to approve federal funding to support outfitting school buses with Wi-Fi access points. Back in May 2022, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced a proposal to do just that by taking money from the FCC's E-Rate program, which is focused on bringing affordable broadband to schools and libraries. SpaceX also says it's the company best-suited to bring broadband access to moving buses, citing Starlink’s ability to supply high-speed internet in the most remote regions of the world.


Broadband funding for Native communities could finally connect some of America’s most isolated places

Robert Chaney  |  MIT Technology Review

Rural and Native communities in the US have long had lower rates of cellular and broadband connectivity than urban areas, where four out of every five Americans live. Outside the cities and suburbs, which occupy barely 3% of US land, reliable internet service can still be hard to come by. For decades, people who live in places like the Blackfeet Indian Reservation have made do with low bandwidth delivered through obsolete copper wires, or simply gone without. The covid-19 pandemic underscored the problem as Native communities locked down and moved school and other essential daily activities online. But it also kicked off an unprecedented surge of relief funding to solve it. Now many Blackfeet and other Native communities face a different kind of problem: figuring out how to spend the billions of dollars in US federal funds they’ve received to catch up or even leap ahead. That’s not as easy as it sounds. Antiquated networks need to be upgraded. Vast distances mean technologies like 5G aren’t always good options. And costs are soaring. Still, it means some parts of the country that have long been cut off from the internet are finally coming online. 

Financing mechanisms for locally-owned internet infrastructure

Jim Forster, Ben Matranga, Anoop Nagendra  |  Research  |  Connect Humanity

Across the world, a growing number of community networks, municipal networks, and social enterprises are successfully connecting those who have historically been unserved or underserved by traditional internet service providers. This report analyzes the operating models and financing mechanisms that can support the success of these community connectivity providers (CCPs). It is designed to help those who build and fund broadband infrastructure to identify and support sustainable solutions that can expand connectivity and accelerate digital equity. The report explores:

  • The state of global internet access and how community connectivity providers (CCPs) can expand broadband access
  • The economics and the unique challenges of operating CCPs
  • Options for ownership and operating models, with case studies of successful networks
  • Finance mechanisms to sustainably fund community connectivity providers
  • Recommendations for policymakers, funders, and network builders to support the ecosystem

Internet Inequity in Chicago: Adoption, Affordability, and Availability

Tarun Mangla, Udit Paul, Arpit Gupta, Nicole Marwell, Nick Feamster  |  Research  |  SSRN

This research characterizes the state of Internet equity in Chicago (IL), focusing on different dimensions of Internet equity, including availability, affordability, and adoption. To this end, we combine multiple existing datasets to understand the digital divide in Chicago and the contributing factors. Our findings show a disparity in broadband adoption rates across neighborhoods in Chicago: Broadband adoption varies between 58--93% across community areas, with low access areas mostly concentrated in South and West Chicago. Furthermore, adoption rates are positively correlated with income and education level and negatively correlated with age. The former highlights the need to provide affordable Internet access, while the latter suggests introducing technology training programs, especially for the elderly. We also find disparity in broadband availability---with the number of broadband provider options in a census block significantly varying across the city, indicating infrastructure equity issues.


Starlink Slowed in Q2, Competitors Mounting Challenges

Josh Fomon  |  Analysis  |  Ookla

There is fresh data on satellite performance during Q2 2022 in Europe, Oceania, North America, and South America. This analysis includes results from eight additional countries, two new providers, and expanded data for Starlink, HughesNet, and Viasat. Key findings in an analysis from Speedtest Intelligence data include:

  • Starlink speeds decreased in every country surveyed over the past year as more users sign up for service.
  • Starlink in Puerto Rico, Brazil, and New Zealand was the fastest satellite provider in North America, South America, and Oceania, respectively
  • Starlink outperformed fixed broadband average in 16 European countries

However, the biggest questions lie ahead, but competition will be good for consumers. With satellite connectivity coming to mobile through Starlink’s new partnership with T-Mobile, this will cause ripples across North America, which is a net positive for consumers who live in areas with low mobile and fixed broadband connectivity. Connecting with the world won’t be a question of how anymore; it will be a question of how good your experience is. That’s hopefully a win-win for consumers, especially as more providers vie for the fastest and best satellite experience — a truly global space race.

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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.

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Benton Institute
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