Today's Newsletter

Daily Digest 4/17/2024 (Daniel Robert Graham | Dorrel Norman Elvert Herzog (aka The White Rat)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Digital Equity

With a federal subsidy ending, nearly 370,000 Massachusetts households at risk of losing internet access  |  Boston Globe
Verizon provides accessible, affordable and reliable connectivity options for those who need it most  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Verizon
Lifeline Assistance Program to continue providing services regardless of ACP’s future  |  Read below  |  Brad Randall  |  Broadband Communities

Competition

People tell FCC that bulk billing 'forces' them to buy cable TV  |  Read below  |  Linda Hardesty  |  Fierce

Broadband Funding

BEAD Grant Contracts  |  Read below  |  Doug Dawson  |  CCG Consulting

State Initiatives

Peter Voderberg: Ohio Has “Very Competitive” and “Aggressive” ISPs  |  Read below  |  Doug Adams  |  telecompetitor
Mississippi Addresses Allegations of Inequitable Outreach in BEAD  |  Read below  |  Jericho Casper  |  BroadbandBreakfast
Puerto Rico receives $334 million for telecommunications resilience  |  Read below  |  Carlos Aponte Inostroza  |  Weekly Journal

Wireless

Wireless Infrastructure By The Numbers: 2023 Key Industry Statistics  |  Read below  |  Research  |  Wireless Infrastructure Association
5G and the CHIPS Act: What's happening?  |  Read below  |  Dan Jones  |  Fierce

Privacy

Ad Industry, Cable Lobby And Consumer Advocates Criticize Cantwell/McMorris Rodgers Privacy Bill  |  MediaPost

Kids & Media

A digital book ban? High schoolers describe dangers, frustrations of censored web access  |  Read below  |  Tara Garcia Mathewson, Maria Puertas  |  USA Today

Platforms

So much for free speech on X; Musk confirms new users must soon pay to post  |  Ars Technica
News publishers’ alliance calls on feds to investigate Google for limiting California links  |  Los Angeles Times
Deepfakes, distrust and disinformation: Welcome to the AI election  |  Politico
How ‘open’ is generative AI really? Not very  |  Financial Times
Booming AI demand threatens global electricity supply  |  Financial Times

Devices

CHIPS for America Announces over $50 million Funding Opportunity to Encourage Small Business Research and Development  |  National Institute for Science and Technology

Labor

TIA And Fierce Network Launch Broadband Nation To Address The Labor Shortage Gap And Help Bring High Speed Internet To Every Hom  |  Telecommunications Industry Association

TV

The lines between streaming and cable continue to blur  |  Ars Technica
YouTube Accounted for Nearly 10% of All TV Viewing in March, Nielsen Says  |  Wrap, The

Stories From Abroad

Musk’s Starlink Cracks Down on Growing Black Market  |  Wall Street Journal
The Paris Olympics’ One Sure Thing: Cyberattacks  |  New York Times

Company News

Shentel Rebrands Horizon Telcom as Glo Fiber and Glo Fiber Business  |  telecompetitor
GoNetspeed Expands Service Availability, Equipping North Lockport (NY) with 100% Fiber Internet  |  GoNetspeed
Today's Top Stories

Verizon provides accessible, affordable and reliable connectivity options for those who need it most

Press Release  |  Verizon

Funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program, which has helped nearly 23 million households across the nation connect to the internet, is expected to end soon. However, Verizon’s commitment to keeping families connected will continue.  In 2020, the company launched Verizon Forward to help customers access affordable and reliable broadband, and the company will continue to offer the program to customers who qualify. Verizon Forward offers Verizon Home Internet (Fios, 5G Home and LTE Home) for as low as $20 per month, and is available to new and existing Verizon customers. To further help bridge the gap to cover the cost of home internet, Verizon recently launched a limited-time offer: An additional discount for new Verizon Forward subscribers that brings the cost of home internet down to $0 per month for six months. ACP transfer-in customers may be eligible for Verizon Forward if they activate Verizon Home Internet service on an eligible plan, as well as households meeting additional eligibility income criteria. Verizon Forward can be combined with other discounts, like Lifeline and the Military & Veterans Discount.

Lifeline Assistance Program to continue providing services regardless of ACP’s future

Brad Randall  |  Broadband Communities

Life Wireless, the Lifeline Assistance Program’s provider for Telrite Holdings, has vowed to continue accepting applications for their Lifeline Assistance Program after the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) runs out of funding in May. Life Wireless offers free service, data usage, and smartphones to low-income Americans. Subscribers are eligible for Lifeline Assistance Program help if they receive government assistance or if their income level is at or exceeds 135 percent below the federal poverty level. The program, created in 1985, has a mission of trying “to help ensure universal phone access to all Americans.” Upon approval to the program, eligible users can get “free unlimited talk and text with high-speed data” with a limit of one subscriber per household, according to a summary provided by Life Wireless. Despite efforts to renew funding for the ACP, including a push to approve The Affordable Connectivity Program Extension Act of 2024, the Republican led House of Representatives has still failed to approve the measure.

People tell FCC that bulk billing 'forces' them to buy cable TV

Linda Hardesty  |  Fierce

Individuals are filing comments with the Federal Communications Commission about their experiences with bulk billing. They’re complaining that they’re forced to pay for cable TV when they don’t want it and they’re forced to get broadband from cable providers even if they currently have fiber broadband, which they love. The comments are the result of FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel's plans to initiate a proceeding to ban bulk billing arrangements in multi-tenant environments, such as apartment buildings. And even though the FCC hasn’t formally issued a notice of inquiry, ex parte comments are coming into the agency, both in favor and against. So far, comments from trade associations and service providers (and all their lawyers) are generally opposed to a ban on bulk billing. But the more interesting comments have been filed by individuals who are not fans of bulk billing.

BEAD Grant Contracts

Doug Dawson  |  CCG Consulting

To receive Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program funding, broadband providers will have to sign a contract with a state broadband office. The grant contract is the most important document in the grant process because it specifically defines what a grant winner must do to fulfill the grant and how they will be reimbursed. The grant contract is going to define a lot of important things:

  • This is the document that will define the line of credit that must be provided.
  • The contract is going to define the specific environmental studies that are required, along with the timing of the environmental work. 
  • The contract is going to define how the broadband office envisions implementing the many issues that were in the grant application. 
  • Perhaps the most important part of the contract is that it is going to define how the ISP will get reimbursed for completed work. 
  • The contract is likely to have an expected contract completion date. The contract might require an ISP to finish the construction in the time that the ISP proposed in the grant application – while also imposing delays with things like environmental studies, compliance, and reimbursement rules that might make it hard for the ISP to meet that schedule.

Peter Voderberg: Ohio Has “Very Competitive” and “Aggressive” ISPs

Doug Adams  |  telecompetitor

Ohio has “very competitive” and “aggressive” broadband providers, which bodes well for the state’s goal of making broadband available statewide, said Peter Voderberg, chief for BroadbandOhio. He points to the fact that the state received applications requesting a total of $780 million when it made $77 million available for rural broadband deployments using funding from the federal Capital Projects Fund.  Voderberg has an extensive history working within Ohio’s state government and was serving as a policy advisor to Governor Mike DeWine (R-OH) before establishing BroadbandOhio, ironically a few short weeks before the start of pandemic lockdowns in 2020. Previously, Ohio had not dedicated any funding resources for broadband infrastructure. But the DeWine administration allocated funds for what would become Ohio’s Residential Broadband Expansion Grant Program or, in a world that requires acronyms, ORBEG. The first round of $232 million was awarded in 2022 and focused on unserved and underserved addresses. Subsequently, Ohio received $268.6 million in Treasury Capital Projects Fund (CPF), which has been mostly earmarked. 

Mississippi Addresses Allegations of Inequitable Outreach in BEAD

Jericho Casper  |  BroadbandBreakfast

The Mississippi broadband office is responding to allegations raised by a legal organization that claims the state is failing to conduct equitable local coordination and outreach with underrepresented communities in preparation of allocating $1.2 billion to expand broadband infrastructure. The Mississippi Center for Justice is alleging that the state office did not include “strategies to address the state’s racial disparities in broadband access” in the state’s initial Volume 1 proposal prepared for the Broadband, Equity Access and Deployment program. The group further contends that the office has not engaged with “diverse stakeholder groups, specifically the incarcerated community,” which represents 1 percent of Mississippi’s population. Sally Doty, the director of Mississippi’s Broadband Expansion and Accessibility ‘BEAM’ office, acknowledges and shares many of the concerns raised by MCJ in its recent filing to the Federal Communications Commission. Doty pointed to the fact that several of the counties mentioned by MCJ have received significant grant awards under the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, rendering certain parts of these regions ineligible for BEAD funding. She emphasized the state is actively engaging with RDOF winners to navigate how to best collaborate and work around the other federal programs.

Puerto Rico receives $334 million for telecommunications resilience

Carlos Aponte Inostroza  |  Weekly Journal

After Puerto Rico obtained a $127 million disbursement from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to bring fixed connectivity to 100% of Puerto Rico's households, $334 million was added from the Broadband Equity, Access, and Development (BEAD) program, which will be used mainly for telecommunications resiliency. The president of the Puerto Rican Telecommunications Alliance said that by 2028, 100 percent of the locations in the country will be connected to high-speed Internet. For its part, the $334 million from the BEAD program is destined to build an underground conduit, which will give open access to telecommunications companies so they can underground their infrastructure and thus have a more resilient network. 

Wireless Infrastructure By The Numbers: 2023 Key Industry Statistics

This report quantifies the size of the nation’s wireless infrastructure sector, including purpose-built cellular towers, indoor and outdoor small cells, macrocell sectors, annual infrastructure spending, and the American jobs that sustain this resource. Key statistics include:

  • 153,400 purpose-built cellular towers in operation
  • 244,800 macrocell sites, excluding small cells
  • 805,400 macrocell sectors, excluding small cells
  • 202,100 outdoor small cells in operation
  • 775,800 indoor small cell nodes in use, encompassing DAS, small cells, private CBRS networks, and licensed frequency bands
  • Employment of 387,300 individuals or full-time equivalents dedicated to building, maintaining, and operating cellular networks nationwide, supporting 4G/LTE, 5G, indoor and outdoor networks, and private networks.

5G and the CHIPS Act: What's happening?

Dan Jones  |  Fierce

The CHIPS and Science Act, signed into law by President Joe Biden in August 2022, is supposed to promote investment in chip manufacturing plants, help ease supply chain woes and bring skilled manufacturing jobs back to the United States. 5G wireless chips will be part of that wider picture. Doug Kirkpatrick, former chief scientist at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), said, “There has been a general concern that the United States is falling behind in terms of chip production and technology. What you’re seeing in the CHIPS act today is really a manifestation of a very classic DARPA approach to how you would solve that kind of problem.” Kirkpatrick said that people often ask: “We have this huge investment in the CHIPS act, why aren’t we already reclaiming everything from China?” “It’s going to take some time,” he said. There’s been a poor job of setting expectations, and there needs to be a recognition that this is something that's going to push on for the next decade.

A digital book ban? High schoolers describe dangers, frustrations of censored web access

Tara Garcia Mathewson, Maria Puertas  |  USA Today

There’s a common complaint among high school students across the country, and it has nothing to do with curfews or allowances: Internet filters are preventing them from doing online research at school. School districts must block obscene or harmful images to qualify for federally-subsidized internet access under the Children’s Internet Protection Act, passed by Congress nearly 25 years ago. But the records, from 16 districts across 11 states, show they go much further. Some of the censorship inhibits students’ ability to do basic research on sites like Wikipedia and Quora. Students have also been blocked from visiting websites that web-filtering software categorizes as “education,” “news,” or “informational.” But even more concerning for some students are blocks against sex education, abortion information, and resources for LGBTQ+ teens—including suicide prevention. Students said their schools block so many websites they have trouble doing their homework. Beyond that, some of them described problems accessing resources related to pregnancy and sexual and gender identity.

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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 Zoe Walker (zwalker AT benton DOT org) — we welcome your comments.


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