[Commentary] The Federal Communications Commission took its first major step toward overhauling the controversial Lifeline program in a move that will punish not just low-income citizens but perhaps small, innovative service providers as well. Yes, Lifeline was once teeming with fraud, waste and abuse. Yes, the program still has significant flaws. And yes, companies that fail to provide adequate services should be forever barred from Lifeline for preying on some of our most vulnerable citizens.
Verizon’s Chief Operating Officer for the Consumer Group Krista Bourne confirmed that the carrier is trialing a new “concierge” service that will cost customers $30 or $35 to receive assistance when setting up their new phones or other devices. Verizon customers have different levels of comfort with setting up their devices. Some are happy to do everything themselves, others need a minimal amount of assistance, and still others require a lot of help.
NTT is building a private wireless network for the City of Las Vegas, Nevada. The new 5G network will be the most extensive private wireless network in the US. The City of Las Vegas intends for the network to serve as an open platform available to local businesses, government, and educational institutions. Shahid Ahmed, Group EVP of New Ventures and Innovation at NTT, said the network is currently in the testing stages and will be launched “in the next few weeks.” He specified that it’s not a direct-to-consumer service.
A recent round of government grants revealed the startling costs associated with covering residents in the most remote parts of the US. But while $200,000 per passing might seem like an eye-popping figure, Fiber Broadband Association CEO Gary Bolton noted that the cost applies to only the most extreme deployments. And in any event, he added, the long-term economic and systemic benefits of bringing fiber to such locations outweigh the upfront costs. According to Bolton, the average cost for a Tier-1 operator to deploy fiber is between $600 to $1,500 per passing.
A US Department of Agriculture (USDA) release of the latest grant winners for the ReConnect broadband deployment program was the cost of deploying fiber in rural America. Looking at rural Alaska as an example, the Alaska Telephone Company, which won a $33 million grant, is planning to run fiber to 211 homes and five businesses at a staggering cost of nearly $204,000 per passing. In addition to the grant, the operator said it plans to invest $11 million of its own money in the project.
Orange Group CEO Christel Heydemann and Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr, called on technology giants to contribute a “fair” share to broadband infrastructure costs, arguing such companies are driving a need for continued upgrades and have disproportionately benefitted from telecommunications investments to date. Regulators in the US, EU, and South Korea are weighing rule changes that would force the likes of Alphabet, Amazon, Meta, and Netflix to pay telecom companies for the large amounts of traffic they generate.