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Probing the Roots of How to Bring Better Broadband to Rural Areas

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BROADBAND BREAKFAST INSIGHT: Our friend Craig Settles probes the question: How can rural areas get better broadband? Equally important, he provides some concrete examples of where and how it is happening.

Broadband and Rural Economices – Maybe Small is Better | Rural communities should set realistic goals for how broadband will affect the economy. Even small changes can make a big difference, says broadband consultant Craig Settles in Daily Yonder.

In the early 2000s, one of the benefits of community broadband that excited rural and small town America was the prospect of getting midsize and large companies to locate a facility in these towns and brings of hundreds of jobs. That dream persists, but it might unrealistic or counterproductive to some small communities.

“Many broadband policymakers live in large metropolitan areas and this shapes their perceptions that the main outcomes should produce hundreds of jobs,” says Don Sidlowsky, former town chairman of Three Lakes, Wisconsin. Though retired, he keeps a finger on the broadband pulse of his community.

For a town his size, a business bringing three or four new jobs into the community is a big deal economically. “Every dollar they spend might exchange hands in town eight or nine times,” Sidlowsky says.

While it is nice to have big dreams, some rural stakeholders find that it is better overall to temper economic expectations. But that doesn’t mean rural Americans want to skimp on speed.

[more…]

Source: Broadband and Rural Economies – Maybe Small Is Better – Daily Yonder

Broadband Breakfast is a decade-old news organization based in Washington that is building a community of interest around broadband policy and internet technology, with a particular focus on better broadband infrastructure, the politics of privacy and the regulation of social media. Learn more about Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Roundup

Tech Sues Texas over Social Media Law, $80 Billion Investment, Broadband and Growth

A coalition of groups argue the Texas law violates the Constitution, US Telecom on investment and Connected Nation on impact.

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Photo of Mike Saperstein from his Twitter account

WASHINGTON, September 22, 2021— NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association have jointly filed a lawsuit against Texas, arguing that a recent law designed to prevent censorship on social media is unconstitutional.

The CCIA is following through on a threat it made to sue the state should the bill be passed into law, following the bill’s passage in Texas’ Republican controlled House. Unsurprisingly, the bill faced little opposition in the state’s Republican Senate and was signed into law by Republican Gov. Greg Abbot in mid-September of 2021.

“ We will always defend the freedom of speech in Texas,” Abbot said in a statement, “Social media websites have become our modern-day public square. They are a place for healthy public debate where information should be able to flow freely — but there is a dangerous movement by social media companies to silence conservative viewpoints and ideas. That is wrong, and we will not allow it in Texas.”

The CCIA filed a similar suit in Florida earlier in 2021, and as of September 22, 2021, the law remains blocked following a preliminary injunction granted by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle.

“By tying digital services’ hands, this unconstitutional law will put Texans at greater risk of exposure to disinformation, propaganda, and extremism. There are few First Amendment fouls clearer than regulating based on viewpoint. The law aside, it’s neither good policy nor good politics for Texas to make the Internet a safe space for bad actors, whether that be Taliban sympathizers or people encouraging kids to eat detergent pods,” CCIA President Matt Schruers said in a statement.

Telecom companies have spent $80 billion on capital expenditures

US Telecom’s 2020 annual analysis indicates a significant spending boost for broadband infrastructure amongst ISPs despite the pandemic.

The analysis indicated that providers’ capital expenditures were $79.4 billion higher than the previous year. This brought total capital expenditures for the industry up to $1.9 trillion since the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was passed.

The study also indicated that in the first six months of 2020 alone, approximately five-million additional homes were connected to fiber broadband.

The study also notes that though this level of broadband spending is unprecedented, the approximately $42 billion earmarked for broadband spending by the bipartisan infrastructure framework is less than half of what American telcos invest in broadband annually.

“Putting 25 years of investment figures in context shows that America’s communications providers have a tremendous amount of ‘skin in the game’ when it comes to broadband network deployment, and it is important that additional regulations (beyond those ensuring taxpayer funding is spent as intended) not be structured so as to dissuade or slow private investment,” US Telecom Vice President of Strategic Initiations and Partnerships Mike Saperstein said in a release.

Study published linking broadband expansion to economic growth

Connected Nation published a study Wednesday with several key findings the demonstrate the relationship between improved broadband connectivity and positive economic growth in Michigan.

The study in question illustrated a correlation between expansions in broadband and improved unemployment rates, growth in the information sector, increased in-migration, greater median household income growth, and improved fixed broadband access, competition, and adoption.

Notably, according to the data, connected communities experienced a 9.3 percent change in household incomes between 2017 and 2019 while the statewide average improved by only 8.5 percent during that same period.

The study’s author and Director of Research and Development for Connected Nation Chris McGovern noted that these changes should not be expected in communities over a matter of weeks, and should be viewed as the benefits of long-term investments made for future growth.

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Broadband Roundup

Rosenworcel Talks Spectrum Strategy, Book on Broadband Policy Failure Released, Lifeline Awareness Week

FCC head talks spectrum and network strategy, broadband policy book released, and it’s Lifeline Awareness Week.

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Christopher Ali, author of Farm Fresh Broadband (photo from UVA Press)

September 21, 2021 — Federal Communications Commission Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel spoke Tuesday about the agency’s spectrum strategy, reiterating that it is freeing up more spectrum, diversifying equipment and building security in the networks.

Rosenworcel, who was speaking at the 2021 NTIA Spectrum Policy Symposium on Tuesday, pointed out that the agency is focusing on freeing up critical mid-ban spectrum for 5G, saying that will be a “game changer” for the next-generation networks by ushering more competition, wider coverage and better performance. She pointed to the 3.45-3.55 Gigahertz band auction next month.

She also noted that she appreciates Congress’ focus on fiber broadband as the backbone for other technologies, including wireless networks, and said the FCC is committed to expanding the reach of fiber; that the agency has been focused on diversifying network equipment, including holding a showcase for open radio access network technologies; and that it is focused on the security of the networks, including removing untrusted equipment with policies like “rip and replace.”

“As today’s gathering demonstrates, in each of these principles—whether it is freeing spectrum, expanding broadband, diversifying networks, securing communications, or leading internationally—we have embraced the idea that no single entity can meet this challenge alone,” Rosenworcel said.

“We need a whole-of-government approach to get this done and one that is open to commercial innovation and opportunity,” she added. “To do this, we need to draw on the strengths in our national DNA—our hard-wired belief in the creative possibilities of the future, the power of coordination, and the rule of law.  This is how we turn spectrum scarcity into spectrum abundance.”

Book about broadband policy failure released

A book about the failure of U.S. broadband policy to solve the rural and urban digital divide has been released on Tuesday.

Farm Fresh Broadband: The Politics of Rural Connectivity explores the “promise and failure of national rural broadband policy in the United States and proposes a new national broadband plan,” according to the MIT press, which published the book.

The author, Christopher Ali, “argues that rural broadband policy is both broken and incomplete: broken because it lacks coordinated federal leadership and incomplete because it fails to recognize the important roles of communities, cooperatives, and local providers in broadband access,” the webpage says.

This week is Lifeline Awareness Week

The Federal Communications Commission is partnering with organization in an outreach effort to raise awareness about a program designed to make communications more affordable for low-income consumers, the agency said Tuesday.

The FCC said it is partnering with the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates to acknowledge Lifeline Awareness Week, which runs from September 20 to September 24, 2021.

The Lifeline program provides up to a $9.25 monthly discount on communications services and up to $34.25 monthly for those on Tribal lands.

The awareness week is part of a larger outreach goal of the FCC to communicate that programs exist for low-income Americans to get connected.

During a discussion hosted by the Innovation Alliance on September 13, Rosenworcel said outreach is the “most valuable thing” for the Emergency Broadband Benefit program, which offers subsidies of $50 and $75 for low-income Americans, the latter for those living on Tribal lands. Those who qualify for the Lifeline program also qualify for the EBB program.

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Broadband Roundup

More RDOF Money Approved, Blue Ridge Replacing Coax with Fiber, YouTube Premium Growing Slowly

Thirteen additional bidders approved for RDOF, Blue Ridge going full fiber, YouTube Premium growing but trails other streaming apps.

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September 20, 2021—The Federal Communications Commission has announced approved funding to an additional 13 bidders from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

This latest round of winners represents only a narrow slice of the total $9.2 billion that were awarded over the course of the auction.

Funding for these companies is set to be dispensed over a ten-year period and cover hundreds of census blocks in North Dakota, Arkansas, Tennessee, Maryland, Minnesota, Kentucky, Texas, Virginia, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

Following the December auction results, the FCC has embarked on a clean-up operation after allegations that the winning bid territories would go to areas already served. This has resulted in the agency fielding a number of winning bidders saying their areas may already be served.

PA cable operator says it will replace coax with fiber

Blue Ridge Communications announced last week that it plans to replace all 8,000 miles of network in Pennsylvania with fiber-to-the-home within a five-year window.

“We will go as fast as our vendors allow us,” Blue Ridge vice president of operations Mark Masenheimer said in an interview with Fierce Telecom.

Blue Ridge Communications currently serves 250,000 residences in Pennsylvania with a combination of fiber and coaxial cable.

This push for fiber comes at a time of many national and state efforts—led primarily by Democrats and fiber advocates—to increase the speed definition of broadband. Though some, like acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel have voiced support for the movement, arguing that consumers need more bandwidth to leverage all the services offered to support telehealth, telework, and distance learning, others reject the premise.

Technology Policy Institute President Scott Wallsten told Broadband Breakfast in an interview that the emphasis on symmetrical speeds and higher standards is “nonsense” and is merely an effort to push fiber on customers by setting standards wireless providers simply cannot meet. He said that ultimately this will hurt connectivity efforts and delay those with no internet connect from receiving any internet connection.

YouTube Premium finding some success despite lagging behind other streaming apps

By the end of 2021, Alphabet’s YouTube Premium users are predicted to number around 23.6 million, a far cry from Netflix’s 209 million subscribers and just over half of Hulu’s nearly 40 million subscribers.

As streaming services continue to compete in an increasingly saturated market, YouTube has struggled to separate itself from the pack.

Despite this, HelpCenter data reflects an 18 percent year-over-year growth. By the end of 2024, YouTube Premium is expected to be just shy of 28 million subscribers. According to eMarketer data, the service saw the largest amount of growth in 2020, growing by 34.6 percent.

YouTube Premium is a highly Americentric service, with nearly 67 percent of subscribers operating in the U.S.; nearly half of all YouTube’s global net ad revenue comes from the U.S.

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