For years, people have quietly endured exploitative and increasingly expensive internet services while relying on crumbling infrastructure. That all changed recently when a new local cooperative built internet infrastructure in Southwest Detroit. This new internet option, a point-to-point mesh network, is run by organizers from Grace in Action. Created in 2015, the program is called the Equitable Internet Initiative (EII) and is a partnership with the Detroit Community Technology Project.
As state and local governments and their partners plan to invest billions of dollars in federal funding to build broadband infrastructure, choosing the best technology will have significant long-term implications.
Low-income households are spending too much on connectivity. Prior to the pandemic, the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline program supported mainly wireless communication services for low-income households; its $9.25/month subsidy resulting in service plans that restricted voice and data usage. To address Americans’ online connectivity needs during the pandemic, Congress directed the FCC to launch the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program—a historic expansion of financial support for universal service.
Universal service is the principle that all Americans should have access to essential communications services, like phones and broadband. You may not have heard much about it, but a universal service crisis is right around the corner. Due to Federal Communications Commission inaction, nearly 800,000 people could lose phone service on December 1. On that day, changes in the FCC’s Lifeline program, which provides a modest monthly discount for communications services, mean that voice-only services like a home landline telephone and/or a cellphone will no longer be eligible for the discount.
With great drama, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 became law on December 27, 2021. The $2.3 trillion COVID relief and government spending bill extended unemployment benefits and ensured the government can keep running. The $900 billion COVID relief provision includes over $7 billion to help improve connectivity in the U.S.
In October 2019, the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society issued Broadband for America’s Future: A Vision for the 2020s. The agenda was comprehensive, constructed upon achievements in communities and insights from experts across the nation. The report outlined the key building blocks of broadband policy—deployment, competition, community anchor institutions, and digital equity (including affordability and adoption).
It's budget season. Federal departments and agencies are making their funding requests to Congress for fiscal year 2021 (starting October 1, 2020 and ending September 30, 2021). And part of the ask is reporting how well an agency did achieving its FY 2019 goals. One of the primary goals of the Federal Communications Commission is to close the digital divide in rural America.
On November 5, the Federal Communications Commission gave its final OK, approving—with conditions—the transfer of control applications filed by T-Mobile and Sprint. T-Mobile's acquisition of Sprint was first announced April 29, 2018, touting the capacity to rapidly create a nationwide 5G network while offering lower prices, better quality, unmatched value, and greater competition. Is that where we've ended up? Although T-Mobile's acquisition of Sprint has gotten approval from both the U.S. Department of Justice and the FCC, the deal isn't done yet.
Sacred Wind Communications was founded on the premise of “serving the unserved,” given the technological void that envelopes so many tribal communities in New Mexico. While the company continues to expand its broadband deployment initiatives among tribal communities in New Mexico, it still faces an uphill battle when trying to balance high infrastructure buildout costs with high consumer demand, particularly in remote Navajo communities.
Justice Department Settles with T-Mobile and Sprint in Their Proposed Merger by Requiring a Package of Divestitures to Dish
The Department of Justice announced that it and the Attorneys General for five states reached a settlement with T-Mobile and Sprint regarding their proposed merger. The settlement requires a substantial divestiture package in order to enable a viable facilities-based competitor to enter the market. Further, the settlement will facilitate the expeditious deployment of multiple high-quality 5G networks for the benefit of American consumers and entrepreneurs.