U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Bette Brand announced Monday that the USDA was opening a second application window for $72 million worth of funding under the Distance Learning and Telemedicine grant program.
“Due to the COVID-19 National Emergency, USDA is providing an additional window for those who cannot complete applications prior to the first application deadline,” Brand said.
“This action will provide more time for applicants to complete their funding requests. Access to distance learning and telemedicine makes it easier for thousands of rural residents to take advantage of health care and educational opportunities without having to travel long distances or be among large groups of people.”
Electronic applications for window two may be submitted through grants.gov beginning Tuesday, April 14, 2020 and are due on July 13, 2020. The USDA said that it will not accept paper applications under the second window. Additional information on how to apply is available on grants.gov.
New Study says that governors who acted more quickly on social distancing saved lives
A report published by the Technology Policy Institute on Monday suggested that state governors who acted quickly to institute coronavirus social-distancing policies saved more-and lost fewer-lives than those who did not.
“State governors have largely been at the forefront of social distancing efforts to mitigate the coronavirus,” TPI President Scott Wallsten wrote in a blog post. “Some governors acted quickly, others did not. This analysis suggests that social distancing rules mattered and governors who acted quickly saved lives.”
His new econometric analysis suggests that, on average:
- Each day a state waited to close non-essential businesses relative to the first coronavirus death was associated with 0.36 additional deaths per million people.
- Each day a state waited to close schools relative to the first death was associated with 0.28 additional deaths per million people.
- Each day a state waited to issue a stay-at-home order relative to the first death was associated with 0.09 additional deaths per million people.
The report made use of data from two sources: The New York Times Github repository and the Institute for Health and Metrics Evaluation. It focuses on deaths per million people as well as the dates each state closed schools, closed non-essential businesses, and implementation of stay-at-home orders.
Wallsten said his analysis shows that social distance rules are working, but warned that people “should interpret these results carefully.” Among his caveats: the study aggregates up to the state level, potentially obscuring local differences; social distancing rules are endogenous to the number of deaths; and the coefficients may not always capture the effects of that specific rule, particularly with the stay-at-home order.
EntryPoint Networks CEO discusses using stimulus funds for smaller broadband providers with open access fiber
Congress should divert stimulus funds away from big telecom and into low-interest loans for smaller broadband providers to build out a reliable national network, according to a blog post on Medium by the CEO of EntryPoints Networks Jeff Christensen.
Christensen wrote that he worries that Congress is likely to spend stimulus money on big cable and big telecom “under the premise that we need better networks and they are the logical choice for solving that problem.”
Christensen called this “doubling down on a system that should be overhauled,” and expressed his desire to see that money go instead to “municipalities, electric co-ops, and entrepreneurs.” The smaller entities could then create “non-profit, open access, fiber optic networks where the subscribers to the network own the infrastructure.”
That way, Christensen said, “we won’t have to worry if our networks will have the capacity and flexibility to meet the demands we place on them” the next time the need to live remotely strikes.
Date Set for Sohn Hearing, Criticism of Tech Legislation, New ILSR Leadership
Sohn and Biden NTIA nominee Alan Davidson will undergo confirmation hearings next Wednesday.
November 24, 2021 – The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for President Joe Biden’s nominee for commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, Gigi Sohn, during a session next Wednesday.
Sohn, a former senior aide to President Barack Obama’s FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, will have her nomination considered along with Alan Davidson, Biden’s nominee to head the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. That same day, the Commerce Committee also plans to vote on the nomination of Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel to another term at the FCC.
Sohn’s nomination has already faced Republican criticism over her liberal policy positions.
Through nine months of the Biden presidency, the FCC has not been able to address key issues due to the vacancy on the commission resulting in a 2-2 split between Democrats and Republicans. Sohn’s confirmation would make for a full slate that prevents tied votes of the commission.
Going forward, net neutrality policy would be a key focus of the FCC, as Rosenworcel told senators during her confirmation hearing that she backed net neutrality rules yet did not offer many details on how she would rollback such rules by President Donald Trump’s administration.
Congress’ regulatory proposals would create even larger tech monopolies than already exist: Opinion
American Enterprise Institute published a blog post Wednesday by nonresident senior fellow Mark Jamison critiquing as unproductive recent government proposals to regulate competition among tech companies.
Jamison states that “dynamic” competition already exists between the companies often cited as the giants of the tech industry and smaller companies, and that proposed government policy could decrease industry competition from its current levels.
In his blog post, Jamison says that the Ending Platform Monopolies Act from Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington, would force Amazon to stop selling its own products, leading it to lose uniqueness and become almost identical to eBay in a digital market that cannot support two identical services. Jamison contends that should one site go under, small businesses would be left with less competitive options than before the introduction of the bill.
Further, Jamison holds that should Amazon comply with the bill and cease operations with small businesses, market statistics show that eBay would face even less competition as a platform for small businesses than Amazon does now.
Jamison said he believes that the Open App Markets Act – brought forth by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota – would make iPhones less secure by requiring that app stores other than Apple’s be permitted on phones. He says this would decrease users’ willingness to try new apps and diminish competition between Apple and Alphabet (Google) for app developers by removing developer options.
New ILSR community broadband outreach team lead
The Community Broadband Networks Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance announced Tuesday that DeAnne Cuellar will serve as Community Broadband Outreach team lead.
Cuellar, a communications strategist, served as San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s digital inclusion appointee to the city’s Innovation and Technology Committee. In her work for the city, she acted on several policy and funding priorities to close the digital divide.
Additionally, she has worked as a social impact entrepreneur, co-founding several cross-sector nonprofit initiatives to advocating for justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in historically underrepresented communities.
The Community Broadband Networks Initiative expects that they will see an increased workload as local, state and federal governments increase their efforts to find broadband solutions and an “unprecedented” amount of funding is made available by the government for broadband infrastructure projects over the next few years.
TPI New Broadband Map, Justice Dept. Stands for Section 230, Ericsson Looks to Acquire Vonage
TPI released their broadband map, which tracks speeds, availability, and adoption rates across the country.
November 23, 2021 – The Technology Policy Institute announced Monday the beta release of their “TPI Broadband Map,” which tracks bandwidth speeds, the availability of broadband, and adoption rates from across the country.
The map allows users to access published data from several sources, including FCC 477 forms, Emergency Broadband Benefit data, Ookla, Microsoft, and more.
The data can also be viewed on several different levels from the state and country level, all the way down to school districts, tribal tracts, and zip codes.
Three metrics can be viewed through the map: average maximum available download and upload speeds and the percent of households with broadband access. Users can also adjust the minimum upload and download speeds to suit their definition of broadband and are able to view the regional data going back to 2016.
During the TPI Aspen Forum in August, panelists agreed that mapping would play a crucial role in ensuring that marginalized, underserved, and unserved communities would get the coverage and resources they need from infrastructure legislation.
Though the website is still in its beta stage, those interested can request temporary access to view the data online.
Justice Department defends Section 230
In a departure from the previous administration’s agenda and President Joe Biden’s own past statements, Biden’s Justice Dept. made a point to defend Section 230 in a lawsuit brought against Facebook by Donald Trump.
In May, Biden had previously revoked one of Trump’s executive orders aimed at dismantling Section 230. Though his campaign and administration used it to a greater extent than many other politicians, Trump was a longtime critic of social media, often accusing it of censoring conservative voices in American politics.
These criticisms came to a head after Trump was banned from Twitter and several other social media outlets in January of 2021.
While on the campaign trail, Biden himself called for the revocation of Section 230.
Notwithstanding Biden’s and Trump’s dissatisfaction with Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the Justice Department intervened to defend the section during litigation surrounding Trump’s Facebook lawsuit – one of three class action lawsuits Trump filed in July against Facebook, Twitter, and Google, along with their CEOs.
Ericsson eyes Vonage
Ericsson, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of 5G technology and hardware, is poised to purchase Vonage, a cloud communications provider, in a deal valued at approximately $6.2 billion.
“Ericsson and Vonage have a shared ambition to accelerate our long-term growth strategy,” said Vonage CEO Rory Read, ““We believe joining Ericsson is in the best interests of our shareholders and is a testament to Vonage’s leadership position in business cloud communications, our innovative product portfolio, and outstanding team.”
Ericsson said it intends to leverage Vonage’s presence in the communication platform as a service, or CPaaS, market to “democratize network access by offering [Application Programming Interface] enabled communications services.” Additionally, Ericsson stated that it expects the CPaaS market to reach $22 billion by 2025, growing 30 percent annually.
Should the deal pass successfully, Vonage will “become a wholly owned subsidiary of Ericsson and will continue to operate under its existing name.”
Broadband in Build Back Better, ISPs Customers Exposed to Hackers, Rural ISP Funding in Louisiana
Another $1 billion in broadband expansion funds could be available in the Build Back Better Act, which passed the House on Friday.
November 22, 2021 — A total of about $1 billion could be made available for broadband under the Build Back Better Act.
Approved by the House on Friday, the $1.7 trillion legislation heads to the Senate for revision this week.
Out of the $1 billion allocated for broadband, the majority of the funds – $475 million – would be used to fund grants for devices like laptops and tablets administered through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, an agency of the Commerce Department. Another $300 million would provide additional funds to the Federal Communications Commission’s Emergency Connectivity Fund, which addresses distance learning needs at schools and libraries, while $100 million would fund the FCC’s outreach and education about its broadband affordability programs.
In its current form, the NTIA would also receive an additional $280 million in grants for public-private pilot projects to increase access to affordable broadband in urban communities.
Meanwhile, $12 million would be used to establish councils for further broadband expansion, including $7 million to create a Future of Telecommunications Council under the Commerce Department that would show how 6G wireless can serve low-income communities, and $5 million to create an Urban and Suburban Broadband Advisory Committee.
The final broadband provisions of the bill may be revised or removed once Senate negotiations begin. To pass the Senate, the bill needs the support of all 50 Democratic Senators and avoid partisan disruption.
Millions of broadband users exposed to hackers
Millions of Sky Broadband customers were vulnerable to hackers for over a year.
A software bug affected about six million of the U.K. company’s routers that allowed hackers to infiltrate home networks, Yahoo reported Friday.
The bug, which has since been fixed, took 18 months to address. A hacker would have been able to “reconfigure a home router” by directing the user to malicious website with a phishing email. According to Pen Test Partners, the security firm that found the bug, hackers could have “taken over someone’s online life” by stealing passwords for banking, investing, and social media.
“We take the safety and security of our customers very seriously,” Sky said.” After being alerted to the risk, we began work on finding a remedy for the problem and we can confirm that a fix has been delivered to all Sky-manufactured products.”
Pen Test Partners Ken Munro said he’s baffled by Sky’s delay in fixing the bug. “While the coronavirus pandemic put many internet service providers under pressure, as people moved to working from home, taking well over a year to fix an easily exploited security flaw simply isn’t acceptable,” he said. Munro recommends that anyone with a router should change the password from the default one.
Rural ISP owner aims to provide internet to rural Louisiana
The owner of a rural Louisiana internet service provider aims to bring broadband to St. Mary county.
Chris Fisher, owner of Cajun Broadband, detailed a grant submission he will submit to the Granting Underserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities program. The program, funded by the Louisiana Office of Broadband Development and Connectivity, oversees spending of $180 million in federal funds to supply broadband to 400,000 households in the state.
Fisher’s grant requests $800,000 to provide internet service to nearly 600 residents in St. Mary county. He says he has been the only ISP to address the county’s council on the opportunity since May.
“I didn’t realize the need for rural broadband until I started my company, which began initially because my kids couldn’t get internet,” Fisher said. Fisher estimates it will cost $10 to $15 million to connect the rural areas of the parish with internet.
A councilmember said that the plan is long overdue. “We’ve talked about this for years, and we all agree that we need to do something to increase access for all of the citizens of our parish, and not just the affluent ones. This is a do or die, once in lifetime opportunity.”
- Advocates Call for Universal Service Fund to Include Broadband Revenues
- Craig Settles Talks Telehealth, FCC Mapping Issues on States, Broadband’s Impact on Critical Infrastructure
- UTOPIA Fiber Completes Payson City Project and Publishes Results of Customer Feedback Survey
- FCC Watchdog Finds Evidence of Fraud in Emergency Broadband Benefit
- Date Set for Sohn Hearing, Criticism of Tech Legislation, New ILSR Leadership
- TPI New Broadband Map, Justice Dept. Stands for Section 230, Ericsson Looks to Acquire Vonage
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