Sens. Edward Markey, D-Mass., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, on Thursday joined 31 of their colleagues in a letter to House and Senate leadership requesting funding for all K-12 students to have adequate home internet connectivity if their schools close due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The senators expressed their disappointment with the lack of such funding in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that recently passed Congress, despite their repeated call for resources dedicated to distance learning.
The lawmakers urged leadership in both chambers of Congress to support $2 billion in E-Rate funding in the next coronavirus relief package for students to learn at home.
“Children without connectivity are at risk of not only being unable to complete their homework during this pandemic, but being unable to continue their overall education,” write the lawmakers in their letter to Senate and House leadership. “Congress must address this issue by providing financial support specifically dedicated to expanding home internet access in the next emergency relief package so that no child falls behind in their education.”
Sen. Markey was one of the authors of the original E-Rate program created as a part of the 1996 Telecommunications Act.
Report: Zoom privacy remains questionable
In a massive unforeseeable shift to online schooling, worship, meetings, and working, Zoom is the go-to platform during coronavirus, but its privacy is questionable, reports Kate Cox for Ars Technica.
However, this isn’t the only problem. Zoom also shared data with Facebook, a feature that the company has since removed. A Vice Motherboard report also “found that users who sign up from the same email domain are automatically being added to each others’ contact lists,” writes Cox.
New York Attorney General Letitia James expressed trepidation in a letter to Zoom. “Zoom’s existing security practices might not be sufficient to adapt to the recent and sudden surge in both the volume and sensitivity of data being passed through its network,” wrote James.
NTIA updates American Broadband Initiative
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration updated the American Broadband Initiative under the Trump Administration, said NTIA Associate Administrator Doug Kinkoph.
While eight states are currently included in the National Broadband Availability Map, five additional states – Nebraska, New Mexico, Michigan, Missouri, and Virginia – have come on board.
“We have seen increased participation in our State Broadband Leader’s Network, and our BroadbandUSA website now has the most comprehensive information on state resources available,” said Kinkoph.
Also, “NTIA supported Verizon’s application to the FCC for a Special Temporary Authority to access radio frequency spectrum due to increased commercial use,” announced Kinkoph.
The NTIA continues to coordinate and work across sectors to expand connectivity.
On April 15, 2020, at 2 p.m. ET, NTIA will hold a BroadbandUSA “Practical Broadband Conversations” webinar series.
Second window for Agriculture Department’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program
The Rural Utilities Service of the United States Department of Agriculture is opening a second window for funding is Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program.
Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the RUS was notified that several applicants missed the first window deadline of February 10, 2020. Rather than extend the deadline and prolong the allocation of funds, RUS will open a second application.
Under the first window, RUS used $71.7 million.
Affordable Connectivity Outreach Program, Amazon’s SpaceX Satellite Concerns, Axios Acquired
The establishment of the Affordable Connectivity Outreach Grant Program is intended to bring awareness to the program.
August 8, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission on Friday established an outreach program to get more American households registered to its broadband subsidy program.
The Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides a discount on broadband services of up to $30 per month and a one-time $100 toward a device, currently has over 13 million low-income American households signed up, but the FCC has said that there are millions more eligible who are not taking advantage of the program.
During an open meeting on Friday, the commission approved an order directing the agency’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau to develop, administer and manage the new Affordable Connectivity Outreach Grant Program, which is intended to raise awareness about the ACP.
The commission was infused with grants from Congress in the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act to put toward outreach for the program. As such, $100 million will go toward the effort.
“Since the inception of the ACP, Commission staff have engaged in extensive outreach, including numerous speaking engagements and enrollment events, and continue to seek out opportunities to coordinate with other federal agencies,” the agency said in a Friday press release.
“Throughout these efforts, the Commission has worked closely with trusted local entities that are familiar with the communities they serve. However, for many of these partners, budget constraints limit the extent of ACP outreach they can perform without additional financial support.”
The agency on Friday also established the “Your Home, Your Internet” one-year pilot program, which is intended to raise awareness and make it easier to apply to the ACP for households receiving federal housing assistance
Ahead of the announcement, telehealth advocate Craig Settles wrote an op-ed for Broadband Breakfast outlining ideas for how to improve outreach to the ACP.
Amazon warns FCC about volume of SpaceX satellites
In a meeting with FCC officials last week, Amazon representatives repeated concerns about the alleged negative effect of the number of broadband satellites SpaceX will launch into space.
According to a post-meeting letter released Thursday, Amazon urged the commission to ensure that SpaceX’s deployment of its Gen2 non-geostationary orbit fixed-satellite services “does not come at the expense of competition and innovation from other emerging NGSO FSS systems.”
Part of the concern for Amazon, which is preparing its Project Kuiper low-earth orbit constellation, is the size of the proposed deployment. At nearly 30,000 satellites, according to Amazon, it “raises questions about space safety, interference, and coexistence with other operators that will impact competition and deployment for decades.”
SpaceX’s Starlink already has a large LEO constellation for broadband service, with more than 2,700 and with approval to put many more thousands in LEO to come.
Cox acquires news website Axios
News company Axios announced Monday that it has agreed to be acquired by Cox Enterprises, a large media company with a telecommunications arm, for $525 million.
Cox made a previous investment last year in the news company, and it said in a Monday press release that this latest move is part of its effort to “grow and diversify the company.”
The deal will see the co-founders still lead the day-to-day operations of the company, according to a press release.
Axios, which was founded in 2017, is known for its brief lines on news items that cuts to the point.
Lumen’s Multi-Gig Service, Dish Continues Drop in Wireless Subs, Wu Not Leaving White House Yet
Lumen’s Quantum Fiber will deliver up to 8 Gig symmetrical speeds in certain markets.
August 4, 2022 – Telecommunications company Lumen Technologies announced Wednesday the launch of new faster internet download and upload speeds through its premier fiber internet service, Quantum Fiber.
Quantum Fiber will serve symmetrical speeds up to 8 gigabits per second, now available to select residents and businesses near Denver, Minneapolis, and Seattle. It will begin offering its internet plans to additional markets later this year, said a press release.
Lumen is using a passive optical network to provide the symmetric multi-gig capabilities. It will install a permanent network interface and router at the premise that is separate from the customer’s Wi-Fi, allowing for simple upgrades as technology evolves, read the release.
“Technology is evolving and so is Lumen as we tap into the power of our fiber network to give communities more bandwidth to excel at work, play and online life,” Andrew Dugan, Lumen’s chief technology officer, said in a statement. “Lumen is strengthening its portfolio and increasing gigabit speeds to fuel consumer and small business broadband connections – and it’s just the beginning. We’re investing in technology and internet speeds that will continue to push families and businesses into the future.”
Lumen operates approximately 500,000 route fiber miles and serves customers in more than 60 countries.
Dish sees another drop in wireless subscribers
Dish Wireless dropped another 210,000 wireless subscribers in the second quarter of 2022, bringing its total wireless subscribers to 7.67 million from the 8.9 it had in the same quarter last year.
Dish lost 343,000 subscribers in Q1 2022 and 245,000 in Q4 2021. The company is attempting to stop its losses by attracting customers with discounted plans. This summer, it announced its $25/month unlimited plan, which claims to be half of what customers pay for 5G elsewhere.
The company purchased Boost Mobile from T-Mobile in August of 2020, but has since lost 1.1 million customers. Dish acquired Boost so that it could offer a retail wireless product while it built its 5G standalone network — which regulators who approved the T-Mobile-Sprint merger hoped would act as the nation’s fourth major carrier.
Last year Dish launched its 5G service, called Project Genesis, in more than 120 markets which now covers about 20 percent of the United States population.
Tim Wu says reports of him leaving White House premature
White House advisor Tim Wu said in a tweet Wednesday that reports of him leaving the administration are premature, adding there is “still a lot of work to do.”
This comes in response to Bloomberg report published on Monday that Wu is set to leave his position at the White House in the coming months to return to Columbia University.
Wu was the key architect behind President Joe Biden’s executive order to bolster competition last year, which included over 70 initiatives by federal agencies to improve competition within the tech, health care and agriculture industries.
He is also credited for coining the term net neutrality and is widely regarded as an aggressive critic of Big Tech.
LS Networks Gets CEO from Meta, Verizon Upgrading Capacity, Consolidated Boasts More Customers
Randy Brogle was previously working on fiber investments for Facebook parent Meta.
August 3, 2022 – Fiber optics provider LS Networks announced Tuesday the appointment to CEO of Randy Brogle, the former fiber investments executive for Facebook parent company Meta.
Brogle will lead the company’s growth plans to invest in its fiber network to transform underserved areas in the Pacific Northwest, read the press release.
“Randy has dedicated his entire career to broadband expansion throughout the United States,” said Jack Bittan, executive chair of LS Networks, in the press release. “His experience aligns perfectly with the mission at LS Networks to deliver infrastructure that not only offers an essential service to rural communities, but also provides equal access to better jobs, education, and advanced lifestyles that support family, growth, and sustainable communities.”
Brogle most recently oversaw the acquisition and construction of fiber networks to support apps run by Meta. “LS Networks has a long history of helping communities prosper in the Pacific Northwest, and I am excited to join the focused efforts of the team to bridge the digital and social inequality divide,” he said in a statement.
Verizon upgrading fiber core capacity
Verizon announced Tuesday that it is upgrading its capacity on the core fiber network to support growing bandwidth demand, particularly on its 5G network.
The company said the upgrades will support speeds of 400 Gbps per port optical technology.
In June, the company announced that data traffic on its 5G network had increased by 249 percent between January 2021 and June 2022. It expects “exponentially” higher increases as more customers experience the performance capabilities of its 5G network, Verizon said in the press release Tuesday.
“Our fiber network is the largely invisible foundation that is a key driving force behind providing the scalability and reliability our customers need and expect,” said Verizon Chief Technology Officer Kyle Malady in a statement. “This new packet core will provide the reliability and capacity we need today, but more importantly will be able to scale to meet the forecasted future demands that will result from the incredible capabilities of our robust 5G network, the platform for 21st century innovation.”
The network update will use equipment that is half the size of existing equipment, reducing space requirements, and driving down power usage and operating costs, the company said. It will also enable advanced automation, enabling automated interfaces and improving reporting telemetry for real-time adjustments to address congestion, the company added.
Consolidated Communications boasts higher broadband customers
Fiber internet service provider Consolidated Communications reported Tuesday a net-positive broadband connections for the first time in seven years, adding 9,600 fiber broadband customers in the second quarter of 2022.
It reported building fiber to 142,300 additional locations, reaching 30 percent of the company’s service area of 832,000 locations. Of the new subscribers, 65 percent are taking gigabit service. This increase represents a three-fold increase over Q2 2021.
Consolidated said it is on track to build out to 400,000 locations by the end of the year. To support its expansion in fiber, the company also announced that it would sell its stake in five limited wireless partnerships with Verizon Wireless to Cellco for $490 million.
“The additional capital infusion puts us in a very strong position to support our fiber expansion plan,” said Steve Childers, chief financial officer at Consolidated Communications in the release. The transactions are expected to close by the end of 2022.
This comes as service provider Comcast reported no net gains in broadband subscriptions in the same quarter, marking the first time the company has failed to grow its internet business each quarter.
- States are Making Their Own Broadband Maps to Challenge the FCC’s Data
- Doug Lodder: How to Prevent the Economic Climate from Worsening the Digital Divide
- Affordable Connectivity Outreach Program, Amazon’s SpaceX Satellite Concerns, Axios Acquired
- National Broadband Plan Legislation Introduced in Senate
- FCC Should Not Increase Rural Program Obligations in Light of New Federal Funding: Meeting Notes
- Craig Settles: If You Can’t Give Away Free Internet, Consider Telehealth
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