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$5 Billion Facebook Fine, Tribal Broadband Suffering, and 5G Data Session

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On Friday afternoon, the Federal Trade Commission has issued a fine of $5 billion to Facebook for privacy violations. Adam Satariano of the New York Times reported that regulators and lawmakers in the U.S. and abroad have begun conducting investigations and proposing new sanctions against the Silicon Valley company.

President Trump called out Facebook and other tech behemoths on Friday, saying that the platforms are “dishonest” and “crooked” and that “something is going to be done.”

This Tuesday, the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust plans to hold a hearing with executives from Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Google about the power of the firms. The Senate Banking Committee is also scheduled to hear from David Marcus, a top Facebook executive, on the company’s proposed cryptocurrency project dubbed Libra.

The European Commission is in the early stages of an antitrust investigation Facebook, as the company faces sanctions for breaking the region’s strict privacy laws.

While the FTC moved to increase oversight of how Facebook handles user data, none of the conditions in the settlement would impose strict limits on the company’s ability to collect and share data with third parties.

In a statement on Saturday, Facebook stated that “by updating the rules for the internet, we can preserve what’s best about it.” The company also added that it wants to “work with governments and policymakers to design the sort of smart regulation that fosters competition, encourages innovation and protects consumers.”

Despite Facebook’s public openness towards more regulation, it has continued to push back against tougher privacy, antitrust and hate speech rules.

Tribal communities in rural areas suffering as broadband continues to fall behind

Cronkite News reported that lack of high-speed rural broadband is causing tribes to fall behind in education, health and emergency needs.

“Community members can better their lives and their education through future broadband expansion,” said Ophelia Watahomigie-Corliss of the Havasupai tribe in a testimony prepared for a House Agriculture subcommittee.

According to Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., the Havasupai are among 24 million Americans in rural communities that lack infrastructure for high-speed broadband that is “critical to survival.”

Watahomigie-Corliss said the tribe has recently secured a 30 megabits-per-second connection and set up an equipment checkout program that helped prompt its first successful online classes.

“These services that ordinary Americans have been using for the past 20 years are still not a reality for my entire community, but this is the first glimmer of hope we have seen for decades,” she said.

Witnesses in the subcommittee’s hearing on Tuesday pointed to increased funding for rural broadband and other changes included in the 2018 farm bill. However more changes are needed so that the Agriculture Department can “better target its limited resources to the rural communities most in need,” said Rep. Mike Conway, R-Texas.

Qualcomm and Ericsson tout 5G low-band data session on commercial modem

Telecompetitor reported that T-Mobile, Qualcomm Technologies and Ericsson have completed what they say is the first 5G low-band data session on a commercial 5G modem. The 600 MHz spectrum band is what T-Mobile will use for its nationwide 5G rollout.

Despite T-Mobile’s focus on 600 MHz implementations, its initial 5G deployments will use millimeter wave spectrum. The rollouts will feature the Galaxy S10 5G in Atlanta, Cleveland, Dallas, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and New York City.

T-Mobile is a proponent of lower frequency implementations because lower-frequency spectrum can support wider coverage areas in comparison with higher-frequency millimeter wave spectrum, which some other carriers are using.

“This is a key step toward achieving our vision of 5G for All,” said T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray in a press release.

(Photo of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg in July 2008 by Brian Solis used with permission.)

5G

CES 2022: 5G, Aviation Crisis a Problem of Federal Coordination, Observers Say

The hope is coordination problems will be relieved when the Senate confirms NTIA head.

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John Godfrey, senior vice president of public policy and acting head of U.S. public affairs at Samsung

LAS VEGAS, January 6, 2022 – The possible near collision of 5G signals and aircraft altimeters emerged out of a lack of coordination on the federal government’s part to bring all relevant information to the Federal Communications Commission before it auctioned off the spectrum that has now been put on hold for safety precautions, observers said Thursday.

This week, Verizon and AT&T agreed to delay the rollout of their 5G services using the C-band spectrum surrounding airports after the Federal Aviation Administration raised the alarm for months about possible interference of the wireless signals with aircraft, which use their own radios to safely land planes.

But the issue could’ve been resolved back in 2020, when the FCC proposed to repurpose a portion of the band to allow for wireless use, some said on a panel discussing 5G Thursday in Las Vegas.

“After the FCC had adopted the rules, auctioned off the spectrum, raised over $80 billion and deployment began and then additional information that apparently had not been brought to the FCC before comes over…that’s not good for the country,” said John Godfrey, senior vice president of public policy and acting head of U.S. public affairs at Samsung, a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast.

“The time to have that information be disclosed and discussed and analyzed is when the FCC is conducting the rulemaking,” Godfrey said, adding the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration should, as federal telecom rep, be spearheading coordination efforts between the FAA and the FCC on telecommunications matters.

“I think it’s their job as the leaders of telecom policy in the administration to facilitate bringing the full federal government to the table in a timely manner,” Godfrey added.

Asad Ramzanali, legislative director for Democratic California Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, said that the fallout of the aviation issue has shown that, “Looking backwards, I do think this is a failure. This is a failure in government to be able to coordinate at the right time…when there’s a process, those impacted should be participating — that is the role of the NTIA.”

NTIA head confirmation ‘should be a priority’

And the hope is that such coordination issues can be averted in the future with the confirmation of a permanent head of the NTIA, said Ramzanali. President Joe Biden nominated Alan Davidson in October to be the next permanent head of the agency, which has had temporary figures fill in the role since the resignation in May 2019 of the last full-time head, David Redl.

“That should be a priority,” Ramzanali said of pushing Davidson through. “The NTIA is doling out $42.5 billion of that $65 billion [from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act]. The NTIA is supposed to deal with those types of issues. They have brilliant people there, but this is the kind of leadership that they should be in the middle of.

“And this isn’t a recent NTIA thing,” Ramzanali added. “This has lasted many years, especially in the prior administration where the NTIA wasn’t doing this part of it — coordinating with other agencies.

“I’m hopeful with Alan Davidson presumably getting in soon that we won’t see that kind of issue.”

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CES 2022: Educating Consumers About 5G Will Encourage Wider Adoption

Currently, consumers are not being provided the information they need to make the leap, a consultant said.

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Sally Lange Witkowski, founder of business consulting firm Slang Consulting

LAS VEGAS, January 6, 2021 – Educating consumers about 5G is necessary to achieving wider adoption in its upcoming deployment in the United States.

At Wednesday’s CES “Path to A Better 5G World” session, industry leaders discussed how 5G will change the digital landscape by offering new experiences for businesses and consumers.

Sally Lange Witkowski, founder of business consulting firm Slang Consulting, said that companies should educate consumers about the benefits of 5G.

“Some consumers don’t even know 5G exists,” she said. “They believe faster is better,” but said that consumers don’t know about 5G’s wider applications. “Consumers should want to have [5G] because of how innovators and entrepreneurs will use the technology.”

Slang’s research shows that consumers are only willing to pay up to $5 more per month for 5G service. “It’s not about the hype, it’s about the usability,” Witkowski added. She noted that people are living longer and older Americans are growing old without the necessary digital skills to thrive in our new ecosystem.

“A child born today has a one in two chance of living till 100,” she said.  Educating consumers about 5G’s benefits can help the elderly prepare to participate in the revolution.

Witkowski also said closed hardware software ecosystems, sometimes referred to as “walled gardens,” prevent consumers from discovering new experiences.

“The really large organizations have a hard time innovating. Big corporations are built to scale. The ability to reach out to entrepreneurs to access creative thinking is important,” Witkowski added. “The pandemic changed a lot [for technology companies]. They are going to have to embrace something they don’t normally embrace,” like the fact that another company may be better positioned to create solutions.

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FCC Commissioner Carr Details Steps Needed for 5G, Says Talk of 6G ‘Almost Too Early’

The commissioner also said he thinks Biden will support Big Tech contributions to the Universal Service Fund.

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Commissioner Brendan Carr

WASHINGTON, December 9, 2021 – Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr says that proper planning on increased spectrum release and infrastructure reform is necessary for the FCC to ensure a smooth rollout of 5G technology.

Carr specifically critiqued the current infrastructure reform approaches of President Joe Biden’s administration, saying that the administration’s current plan seems to be to make large sums of funding available without planning extensively for infrastructure modernization.

At Thursday’s Media Institute event during which Carr spoke, the commissioner also said he thinks it is “almost too early” to start thinking about 6G rollout that newly re-confirmed Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has said is on the table sooner rather than later. Carr emphasized that focusing on 6G too early could distract from planning necessary for 5G’s success.

Regardless, Carr expressed that the U.S. is in a good shape to effectively harness 5G and compete with China’s use of the technology, owing to an American 5G platform that he called the strongest in the world as well as to American innovation in the area.

In terms of what else is unresolved with regard to 5G, Carr says it is not yet clear what the flagship new application development will be with 5G. He believes this may become much clearer as very low power Wi-Fi technology begins to allow for creative uses of 5G.

Big Tech contribution to Universal Service Fund?

Also during Thursday’s event, Carr said that he believes the Biden administration will support requiring big tech corporations to contribute to the Universal Service Fund, citing lead Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee Sen. Ben Ray Luján’s support for the proposal. Carr as well as key Republicans have also demonstrated support for this proposal in the past, which would provide monetary support for a fund that provides basic telecommunications services to remote and low-income communities.

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