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Broadband DATA Act Clears Senate Committee and Dish Network Purchases $5 Billion Wireless Assets

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The Senate Commerce Committee unanimously passed the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability Act on Wednesday, Broadcasting and Cable reports. The bill was introduced in June by Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Gary Peters, D-Mich., John Thune, R-S.D. and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

The goal of the Broadband DATA act is to accurately determine where broadband is and where it isn’t. It requires the Federal Communications Commission to collect granular service availability data from broadband providers and asks the agency to consider whether to collect verified coverage data from state, local, and tribal governments, as well as from other entities.

“Nearly four months after launching our mapping pilot program, the Senate Commerce Committee passed a plan mandating the adoption of the new USTelecom methodology to locate broadband serviceable locations,” said USTelecom president Jonathan Spalter in a statement about the bill.

“Senators on both sides of the aisle know that fixing our maps goes hand in hand with ensuring federal resources reach communities in their states without access to broadband as quickly and efficiently as possible. This is a big win for the cause of rural broadband and for good public policy,” he said.

Dish Network agrees to purchase $5 billion in T-Mobile/Sprint Wireless Assets

Bloomberg reported that Dish Network Corp. has agreed to pay $5 billion for wireless assets in a deal with T-Mobile US Inc. and Sprint Corp., setting the stage for the Justice Department to approve the $26.5 billion merger of the mobile-phone carriers.

According to people close to the merger who asked not to be identified, Dish will pay about $1.5 billion for prepaid mobile businesses and roughly $3.5 billion for spectrum. Dish can’t sell the assets or hand over control of the agreement to a third party for three years.

As part of the agreement, the satellite-TV company gets a seven-year wholesale agreement allowing it to sell T-Mobile wireless service under the Dish brand. The package also includes a three-year service agreement from T-Mobile to provide operational support as prepaid customers shift to Dish.

The Justice Department is expected to sign off on the deal as soon as Thursday. T-Mobile and Sprint, as well as their overseas parent companies, have spent more than a year fighting to get their merger approved. Makan Delrahim, antitrust chief of the Justice Department, has pushed for an agreement that would be a win for consumers and compensate for the fact that T-Mobile’s merger with Sprint would reduce the number of major players in the wireless industry to three from four.

Dish’s role would satisfy the government’s longstanding demand that four national mobile-service companies remain in the market.

Stopping Bad Robocalls Act passes House 429-3

Multichannel reported that the House has voted to pass the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act, H.R. 3375, on a 429-3 vote on Wednesday. Given the bipartisan support for cracking down on nuisance calls, the bill will likely pass the Senate and receive President Trump’s signature.

Among many things, the bill boosts the Federal Communication Commission’s fine for illegal robocalls from $1,500 per violation to $10,000 per violation. It also allows for consumers to know which calls are being blocked and increases information sharing between phone companies and the FCC to better trace unwanted robocalls to their source.

The FCC has recently clarified that carriers can block robocalls by default and incentivizes them to add the feature at no extra charge.

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J., said the legislation is a “strong and comprehensive bill that puts consumers first” and “take[s] tough and meaningful steps to protect consumers from these annoying and illegal robocalls.”

“We applaud House passage of the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act and look forward to the continuing work of Congress, the FCC, and industry to provide consumers with needed relief from these annoying calls,” said NCTA-The Internet & Television Association in a statement following passage.

(Photo of Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker, R-Miss., from February 2019 used with permission.)

Broadband Data

Ookla Has Verizon as Fastest Q1 Fixed Provider, T-Mobile Takes Top Spot for Mobile

T-Mobile was also named the most consistent mobile operator and topped 5G download speeds.

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Image of Speedtest from May 2017 by Daniel Aleksandersen used with permission

WASHINGTON, April 18, 2022 – A market report released Friday by performance metrics web service Ookla named Verizon the fastest fixed broadband provider in the U.S. during the first quarter of 2022, and T-Mobile as the fastest mobile operator during the same period.

Verizon had a median download speed of 184.36 Mbps, edging out Comcast Xfinity’s speed of 179.12 Mbps. T-Mobile’s median mobile speed was 117.83 Mbps.

Verizon had the lowest latency of all providers, according to Ookla, well ahead of Xfinity’s fourth place ranking, yet sat at third for consistency behind both Xfinity and Spectrum.

T-Mobile was also the most consistent mobile operator during the first quarter, achieving an Ookla consistency score of 88.3 percent, which along with median download speed represented an increase from the fourth quarter of 2021.

The company also achieved the fastest median 5G download speed, coming in at 191.12 Mbps.

Verizon also notably increased its 5G download speed from its Q4 metric, attributed in part to the turning on of new C-band spectrum in January following deployment delays and protest from airlines. For mobile speeds, it stood in second behind T-Mobile, bumping AT&T to a standing of third. These rankings were the same for mobile measures of latency and consistency.

Yet on 5G availability, AT&T remains ahead of Verizon.

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra came in as the fastest popular device in the country, running at 116.33 Mbps.

Ookla is a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast.

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Broadband Data

FCC’s Rosenworcel: Broadband Nutrition Labels Will Create New Generation of Informed Buyers

The FCC hopes companies will make it easier for consumers to choose a broadband plan that fits their needs.

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Photo of Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel speaking at the Mobile World Conference 2022 in Barcelona

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission’s broadband nutrition labels will usher in a new era where buyers have simple information about what they’re buying, agency Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said Friday.

Consumers should know what they’re signing up for when they spend hundreds “or even thousands” of dollars per year for internet service. She was speaking at Friday’s commission hearing on its so-called broadband nutrition label initiative.

The hearing comes on top of a public comment period on the initiative. Many providers are pushing for more flexible regulations on compliance.

When consumers choose a broadband provider for their household, Rosenworcel said may people make decisions with “sometimes incomplete and inaccurate information.”

“The problem for broadband consumers isn’t a total lack of information, but there’s loads of fine print,” Rosenworcel said. “It can be difficult to know exactly what we are paying for and these disclosures are not consistent from carrier to carrier,” which makes comparing prices and services harder and more time-consuming for consumers.

The comments built on other recent speeches by Rosenworcel promoting the initiative, encouraging state attorneys general’s ability to enforce companies’ commitments through their states’ consumer protection statutes.

The FCC began a plan in 2015 for broadband labels that was voluntary. The new initiative directed by last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law makes this effort mandatory for broadband providers.

Matt Sayre, managing director of cross sector economic development firm Onward Eugene, said residents in rural Oregon would benefit from simple information when considering broadband providers. During a time where dial-up and satellite-based offerings were primarily available, Sayre said his neighbors “never used terms like latency or packet loss.”

“These are important aspects of good internet service, but not easily understood by most people,” Sayre said. “Citizens understood they needed better service but were uncertain about what tier of service they needed. This is where broadband labels can be very helpful.”

The hearing was the agency’s first on the initiative.

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Small ISP Organizations Push FCC for Flexibility on Broadband Label Compliance

Advocates say strict compliance requirements may economically harm small providers.

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Photo of outgoing WISPA CEO of Claude Aiken from April 2018 by New America used with permission

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2022 ­­– In comments submitted to the Federal Communications Commission Wednesday, organizations representing small internet providers are pushing for flexible regulations on compliance with a measure that requires clear reporting of broadband service aspects to consumers.

The measure was adopted at a late January meeting by the commission, mandating that providers list their pricing and speed information about services in the format of a “broadband nutrition label” that mimics a food nutrition label. Congress’ bipartisan infrastructure bill enacted in the fall required that the FCC adopt such policy.

The organizations that submitted comments Wednesday say that strict compliance requirements for the new measure may economically harm small providers.

Among those leading the charge are trade associations Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association and America’s Communications Association as well as provider Lumen Technologies.

In comments, limited resources of smaller providers were cited as factors which could disadvantage them in terms of complying with the measure to the FCC’s standards and several organizations asked for small providers to be given extra time to comply.

In separate comments, internet provider Lumen said that the FCC must make multiple changes to its approach if it is to “avoid imposing new obligations that arbitrarily impose excessive costs on providers and undermine other policy goals.”

Last month, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said that she looks forward to increased coordination between the FCC and state attorneys general for the enforcement of the measure.

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