Daily Digest 9/6/2022 (Back to work)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Broadband Data and Maps

FCC Announces the Start of the Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric Bulk Challenge Process  |  Read below  |  Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission
Another Step Toward Better Broadband Maps  |  Read below  |  FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel  |  Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission

Digital Inclusion

Communications Workers of America and Microsoft Launch “Get Connected” Initiative to Boost Affordable Connectivity Program Enrollment  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Communications Workers of America

State/Local Initiatives

Attorney General Rokita reaches $15 million settlement with Frontier Communications  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Indiana Office of the Attorney General
Going the last (and middle) mile: Time and money are required to get statewide broadband access  |  Read below  |  Mary Sell  |  Alabama Daily News
Spectrum Launches Broadband Network in Jefferson County, Texas Using Rural Digital Opportunity Funds  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Charter Communications
New York Digital Inclusion Fund to Award Five Innovation Grants  |  National Digital Inclusion Alliance
Surf Internet wants to make waves in Michigan, Illinois and Indiana with 200,000 new fiber passings  |  Fierce


Starlink flies under the radar at public schools nationwide  |  Read below  |  David Ingram, Kailani Koenig, Cal Perry  |  NBC


Caught in a Dangerous World: Problematic News Consumption and Its Relationship to Mental and Physical Ill-Being  |  Health Communication

$2 million grant to American Academy of Pediatrics to establish National Center of Excellence on Social Media and Mental Wellnes  |  Department of Health and Human Services

Amazon's telemedicine experiment is dead, but the tech giant’s healthcare ambitions live on  |  Washington Post


House Speaker Pelosi rejects bipartisan privacy bill  |  Axios
House Commerce Committee Minority Leader Rodgers: One National Privacy Standard is Essential to Protect Americans’ Data  |  House Commerce Committee
House Commerce Committee Leaders Request Briefing from Meta on Protecting Reproductive Health Care Privacy  |  House Commerce Committee
FTC Lawsuit Spotlights a Major Privacy Risk: From Call Records to Sensors, Your Phone Reveals More About You Than You Think  |  nextgov


What tech competition means to Capitol Hill  |  Read below  |  Ashley Gold  |  Analysis  |  Axios


Biden Administration Releases Implementation Strategy for $50 Billion CHIPS for America program  |  Department of Commerce

Platforms/Social Media

Washington state judge rules Facebook violated campaign finance rules  |  Washington Post


Find the cheapest way to watch TV  |  Washington Post
Say Goodbye to the Dream of Endless Streaming Content  |  Wrap, The


Senators Return to Work for Final Legislative Push Before Midterms  |  Wall Street Journal
OSTP seeks comment on the production and use of equitable data  |  White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Stories From Abroad

Irish regulator fines Instagram €405 million for failing to protect children’s data  |  Financial Times
Today's Top Stories

Data & Mapping

FCC Announces the Start of the Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric Bulk Challenge Process

Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission announced that as of September 12, 2022, state, local, and Tribal governments, service providers, and other entities can begin to file bulk challenges to data in the Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric, which serves as the foundation for the Broadband Data Collection (BDC) fixed availability maps. The FCC will also host a webinar on September 7, 2022, at 2 pm Eastern time to assist state, local, and Tribal governments, service providers, and other entities who intend to submit bulk challenges, or proposed corrections, to the location data in the Fabric. Starting on September 12, 2022, governmental entities, broadband service providers, and other entities that have obtained Fabric data using the process set forth in prior public notices may submit bulk challenges to the Fabric data in the BDC system. These stakeholders are uniquely positioned to provide early feedback on a large number of locations included in the Fabric data, which will help to refine the next version of the Fabric expected to be released in December 2022. Once the BDC broadband maps are published later in 2022, members of the public will be able to view the maps and submit online challenges to the Fabric data associated with an individual location using the map interface.

Another Step Toward Better Broadband Maps

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel  |  Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission

On June 30, the Federal Communications Commission opened the first ever window to collect information from broadband providers in every state and territory about precisely where they provide broadband services. September 2 marked the close of this first data collection window—the next important step forward in our efforts to build more accurate broadband maps, which are much-needed, long overdue, and mandated by Congress. I wanted to give everyone a quick update on what we’ve done, what we’re announcing today, and what people can expect in the months ahead. This is just some of what the FCC has done: We reached out and talked to broadband leaders in over 50 states and territories to offer to help walk them through this process. We reached out to every provider on the phone and over e-mail to encourage filings, explain the process, and offer technical assistance. And we partnered with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration on additional outreach to connect with providers and state broadband leaders.

Now, we have completed the first filing window for submitting data on where broadband service is and is not available. For the first time ever, we have collected extensive location-by-location data on precisely where broadband services are available, and now we are ready to get to work and start developing new and improved broadband maps. We are targeting November 2022 for the release of the first draft of the map. The Fabric challenge process will begin in ten days. Once the maps are released, we will open a process for the public and other stakeholders to make challenges directly through the map interface. When the first draft is released, it will provide a far more accurate picture of broadband availability in the United States than our old maps ever did. That’s worth celebrating. But our work will in no way be done. That’s because these maps are iterative. They are designed to be updated, refined, and improved over time.

Digital Inclusion

Communications Workers of America and Microsoft Launch “Get Connected” Initiative to Boost Affordable Connectivity Program Enrollment

Press Release  |  Communications Workers of America

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) and Microsoft launched “Get Connected,” an initiative to boost enrollment in the Federal Communication Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program, at a community Labor Day festival in Atlanta (GA). Additional events are planned throughout September and early October in Detroit (MI), Memphis (TN), New York City (NY), and rural North Carolina. In each city, CWA and Microsoft will work with local public housing authorities and other community partners to publicize the events and pre-qualify residents for the Affordable Connectivity Program. On the day of each event, volunteers from Microsoft and CWA will help residents complete their Affordable Connectivity Program enrollment. Service providers that offer no-cost high-speed broadband plans to Affordable Connectivity Program enrollees will be available on-site to sign residents up for service. This partnership builds on the groundbreaking labor neutrality agreement between CWA and Microsoft, announced in June 2022, which includes a commitment to collaborate on technology adoption and skill-building programs.


Attorney General Rokita reaches $15 million settlement with Frontier Communications

Indiana  Attorney General Todd Rokita announced a $15 million settlement with Frontier Communications to ensure that Hoosiers receive the services for which they have paid. The settlement especially benefits residents living in rural communities. In May 2021, Attorney General Rokita sued Frontier Communications alleging they violated the Indiana Deceptive Consumer Sales Act. The Federal Trade Commission and several other states also sued the company. Specifically, the lawsuit argued the company misrepresented internet speeds and reliability to consumers. Frontier Communications has entered into an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance agreement to pay $15 million over a period of four years to improve internet infrastructure in Indiana. The agreement also requires Frontier to review service speeds and provide options to consumers to reduce service plans (and costs) if their current plans promise higher speeds than those provided. Frontier also must change their advertising efforts to accurately represent to Indiana consumers both the availability and reliability of their internet service.  

Going the last (and middle) mile: Time and money are required to get statewide broadband access

Mary Sell  |  Alabama Daily News

Alabama Senate Majority Leader Clay Scofield (R-AL) says he gets asked by Alabamians about one topic more than most: High-speed internet and when they’ll have access to it. Alabama's goal is that new publicly funded projects have speeds of 100 megabits per second for downloads and 100 megabits per second for uploads. Getting that statewide will cost billions. In late August 2022, officials announced $26.6 million in Alabama Broadband Accessibility Fund grants to extend broadband internet access to about 15,000 homes, businesses and entities, including schools, in 10 counties. Since 2018, $64.1 million has been awarded through the fund. Another $25 million is expected in fiscal 2023. Early this year, lawmakers and Gov Kay Ivey (R-AL) agreed to spend $277 million of about $1 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds on broadband expansion. About $85 million of that will be spent on a statewide “middle mile” project. An entity for that contract could be announced soon. The other $191 million will be used for “last mile” projects. It could be next spring before those funds are distributed.

Spectrum Launches Broadband Network in Jefferson County, Texas Using Rural Digital Opportunity Funds

Press Release  |  Charter Communications

Spectrum announced the launch of Spectrum Internet, Mobile, TV and Voice services to more than 2,670 homes and small businesses in rural Jefferson County (TX). Spectrum’s newly constructed fiber-optic network buildout is part of the company’s approximately $5 billion investment in unserved rural communities, which includes $1.2 billion won in the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction. The company’s RDOF expansion will provide broadband access to approximately 1 million customer locations as estimated by the FCC across 24 states in the coming years. “[This] announcement is great news for residents in Jefferson County who lacked a broadband connection at home until now,” said Texas State Speaker of the House Dade Phelan (R-TX). “Spectrum’s high-speed broadband will bring economic opportunity to this community.” 


Starlink flies under the radar at public schools nationwide

David Ingram, Kailani Koenig, Cal Perry  |  NBC

Tech magnate Elon Musk’s satellite internet service Starlink has quietly made inroads with public schools nationwide over the past two years, winning over students, families and administrators who say it’s the kind of connectivity that has been sorely lacking in some of the most rural corners of the US. Public school districts in Arizona, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia have announced pilot projects or are already using Starlink to bring broadband internet service to students’ out-of-the-way homes via a network of satellites. But it’s not cheap. At $599 for upfront equipment including a satellite dish and $110 per month for the service itself, Starlink works thanks to a combination of federal, state and local tax dollars — including money from the CARES Act Covid-19 relief fund — as well as local corporate donations. That’s left schools to figure out if Starlink, which is part of SpaceX, can be a sustainable solution. Starlink’s entry into rural school districts nationwide has received scant attention. Bianca Reinhardt, a Starlink sales manager, said that school districts and counties have been a priority for the service since it launched early in the Covid-19 pandemic. 


What tech competition means to Capitol Hill

Ashley Gold  |  Analysis  |  Axios

The word "competition" has a different meaning in Washington (DC) and other centers of regulation around the globe than it does in Silicon Valley. Industry leaders view acquiring startups, keeping customers inside their existing ecosystems, and trying to dominate new platforms as part of the natural process of business competition. Yet this sounds alarm bells for regulators and legislators, who view the size of today's tech giants, and their outsized societal influence as a problem in itself. To solve these problems — including user surveillance, the spread of misinformation and gig-economy labor abuses — the industry's DC critics have turned in part to the US's numerous antitrust laws. However, conflict over the meaning of "competition" in this space has shifted from a focus on lowering consumer prices and preventing monopolies, to big-tech firms vying for privacy moderation policies that better accommodate their customers' privacy. To accomplish this shift, the Biden Administration is leveraging antitrust mechanisms to reshape the competitive landscape along this sentiment. Additionally, lawmakers in DC differ in their interpretations of big-tech firms acquiring smaller or mid-sized startups. One camp aims to bar mergers between big-tech firms and tech companies above a certain size, while the other believes such sentiments would "quash" innovation and diminish an otherwise thriving startup sector. DC's effort to rewrite the rules of tech competition faces two tests in the coming months. These include Sen Amy Klobuchar's (D-MN) sponsorship of a bill banning large tech companies from favoring their own services and a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) lawsuit against Meta, which continues to unfold. 

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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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