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Coronavirus Roundup: Municipal Broadband, Zoombombing, Voter Registration Via Snapchat

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Photo of rural Nevada by Ken Lund used with permission

A report from BroadbandNow finds that people from states with municipal broadband restrictions pay more for their internet than those without them.

The report found that more than half of those from states without municipal broadband restrictions paid $60 or less for their connection.

Several states oppose municipal broadband because it could undercut business or because their population distribution does not require a government-owned network. For example, in Montana, there are less than seven people per square mile.

Other states, like Missouri and Nevada, completely bar municipalities from selling broadband to consumers.

The total number of states with municipal broadband restrictions this year is 22, down from last year’s 25.

Church sues Zoom over pornographic ‘Zoombombing’ incident

A San Francisco church has filed a class-action lawsuit alleging that Zoom “refused to take … action” after a hacker ‘zoombombed’ a Bible study and forced participants to watch pornography and sexual abuse imagery.

The mostly-senior-citizen attendees had their computers’ control buttons disabled, making it impossible to turn off the videos, many of which contained pedophilia, CBS reported.

In its suit, the church alleges that Zoom was negligent, breached an implied contract and violated the church’s privacy, among other accusations. They are asking for a jury trial.

Snapchat rallies youth vote

More than half of the 425,000 individuals who used Snapchat to register to vote during the 2018 midterms ended up voting, Axios reported.

Of those registered, about 57 percent were 18 – 24 years old, a demographic that has historically proven difficult to attract.

Virtual voter registration will likely prove increasingly useful amid the coronavirus pandemic, especially for first-time voters who normally would have had the help of their college or university in registering.

“Snapchat is the platform that can fill all the institutional gaps in reaching young people,” Democracy Works Program Director Mike Ward told Bloomberg. “They are uniquely positioned to be the most powerful youth voter registration force in the country.”

Candidates in the 2020 presidential election have also lined up to be a part of Snapchat’s original show “Good Luck America,” which is viewed millions of times by users across the country.

Of all the candidates, President Donald Trump has built the largest following on the platform.

Broadband Roundup

EU Passes Digital Regulations, Big Tech Shouldn’t Pay into USF, Christopher Ali Joins Penn State

The European Parliament passed two pieces of legislation that are intended to tackle anticompetitive behavior and content deemed illegal.

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Photo of Thierry Breton, the European Union’s internal market commissioner, via Wikipedia

July 6, 2022 – On Tuesday, the European Parliament passed two pieces of legislation that are intended to tackle anticompetitive behavior and content deemed illegal in the European Union.

The Digital Markets Act focuses on anticompetitive behavior and the Digital Services Act focuses on illegal content. Both are set to take effect in January 2024.

“The EU is the first jurisdiction in the world to set a comprehensive standard for regulating the digital space,” stated Thierry Breton, the EU’s internal market commissioner.

The new rules could set a global benchmark for tech regulation,” stated a press release.

“The most far-reaching Western efforts to rein in technology companies in at least a generation,” the release added. “They build on the EU’s effort to expand its role as a global tech regulator and offer what proponents say is a road map for digital legislation in the U.S. and elsewhere.”

Trade associations ask FCC to drop idea of Big Tech contributing to USF

Trade associations have again told the Federal Communications Commission not to pursue a possible a decision that may lead to big technology platforms contributing to the Universal Service Fund, according to a news report.

The USF goes to support basic telecommunications in low-income and rural areas of America. The fund requires contributions from voice service providers, which have seen dwindling revenues as the agency seeks comments on how to improve the sustainability of the fund.

According to the news report, trade associations INCOMPAS, the Computer & Communications Industry Association, and the Digital Media Association said that since their last comments on the matter last year, there has been more opposition and no justification for getting the tech platforms to contribute to the fund.

“INCOMPAS, CCIA, and DiMA believe it is time for the FCC to close this aspect of the proceeding so as to not waste any additional resources of the Commission or stakeholders,” the report said.

However, as the USF continues to struggle to get funding, a press release states that as a big tech critic, Commissioner Brendan Carr said big tech should pay the fees to support the USF.

Christopher Ali heading telecom department at Penn State

On June 24, rural broadband expert Christopher Ali was selected to join the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications as the Pioneers Chair in the Department of Telecommunications at Penn State.

According to a press release, Ali has expertise in communications policy and regulation, comparative media systems, rural broadband, critical political economy and geography.

Ali’s current research on broadband policy and deployment in the rural United States includes his latest book, “Farm Fresh Broadband: The Politics of Rural Connectivity.”

“He’ll be a wonderful colleague and collaborator, a perfect fit to fulfill Penn State’s land-grant mission. The challenges and issues we’re facing with broadband matter across the commonwealth, and we’re now even better positioned to serve constituencies throughout Pennsylvania,” said Marie Hardin, dean of the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications.

He is scheduled to start this fall, at the start of the 2022-2023 academic year.

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Broadband Roundup

FiberLight Buy, T-Mobile Shuts Down Older Networks, AT&T and Dish Lead US O-RAN Alliance

Digital investment firm Morrison & Co. said it agreed to acquire FiberLight.

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Photo of FiberLight CEO Christopher Rabii

July 5, 2022 – Morrison & Co, a digital investment firm, announced Thursday that it signed an agreement to acquire fiber infrastructure provider FiberLight, which will accelerate the providers’ network expansion, said a press release.

“With our existing backbone infrastructure and unmatched density across the markets we serve, FiberLight is well equipped to deploy a multitude of solutions to ensure our customers can meet their growing bandwidth needs,” said FiberLight CEO Christopher Rabii. “Morrison & Co is our ideal new partner to support our growth strategy due to its commitment of capital and resources and shared belief that fiber infrastructure is the key to bridging the digital divide and rapid expansion.”

FiberLight’s management team will continue to lead the business after the acquisition. The company comprises approximately 18,000 miles of fiber infrastructure in over 30 metropolitan areas in Texas and Northern Virginia.

The acquisition marks Morrison & Co’s first investment in the North American digital infrastructure market, read the press release.

T-Mobile shuts down 3G networks

T-Mobile shut down Sprint 4G networks and its own 3G networks Thursday and Friday to ensure that all its customers are moving to more advanced technologies and to free up resources and spectrum, said T-Mobile’s on its website.

T-Mobile officials estimated on an earnings call in April that around one million devices would be affected. AT&T suggest that its 3G shutdown affected 400,000 postpaid phones and cost operators $300 million. The company said affected customers with 3G devices have the option to upgrade to a new device at no cost.

This follows AT&T’s shutdown of its 3G network on February 22, and Verizon is scheduled to follow suit in December.

T-Mobile has yet to schedule a date to shut down its 2G network.

The company had been under pressure to delay the shut down of Sprint’s 3G network from Dish Network, which was the beneficiary of that company’s wireless assets in the deal that saw T-Mobile purchase Sprint.

AT&T and Dish lead US O-RAN Alliance

AT&T and Dish Network are leading the way in O-RAN Alliance activities in North America this year, said a new release from the organization Thursday.

The O-RAN Alliance is a world-wide community of operators, vendors and academic institutions operating in the Radio Access Network industry. Its mission is to direct the industry toward more intelligent, open, virtualized mobile networks through releasing RAN specifications and open software.

AT&T and Dish hosted O-RAN’s “PoCFest” testing efforts in four locations in the United States in coordination with several universities this year. “More than 20 unique O-RAN components were tested for conformance to O-RAN specifications,” said the release. (Open RAN specifications would open the market to many more telecom equipment vendors, rather than a small handful from proprietary providers.)

While Dish said it is building a 5G network using O-RAN specifications in the United States, AT&T said it has no plans to use the specifications in its US 5G network.

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Broadband Roundup

Broadband Prices Decline, AT&T’s Fiber Build in Texas, Conexon Partners for Build in Georgia

A USTelecom report finds that despite high inflation, broadband prices have been declining.

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Screenshot of Jonathan Spalter, president and CEO of USTelecom – The Broadband Association

WASHINGTON, June 30, 2022 – A USTelecom report released Wednesday found that broadband prices have been declining, despite high inflation.

The association’s 2022 Broadband Pricing Index Report found that broadband pricing decreased even with significant inflation of an estimated 8 percent in the past year, the most popular broadband prices dropped by 14.7 percent, and the highest speed broadband prices dropped by 11.6 percent from 2021-2022.

“Broadband prices at all speeds have decreased in the last five years,” it said.

The analysis also found that broadband prices are half of what they used to be in 2015. The most popular broadband services decreased by 44.6 percent, while the fastest broadband services decreased their prices by 52.7 percent from 2015-2022.

Lastly, the report found that the “consumer value of broadband services has never been higher.” As providers offer faster speeds at lower prices, the overall value to customers has dramatically improved, it said.

“This is great news for American broadband consumers,” said Jonathan Spalter, president and CEO of USTelecom – The Broadband Association.

AT&T strikes deal in Amarillo, Texas for fiber project

AT&T struck a deal Wednesday with the city of Amarillo, Texas to extend its fiber reach.

A press release said the $24 million project in Amarillo will cover approximately 22,000 locations.

“The city of Amarillo broadband access plan is one of the more significant technological infrastructure advancements in city history,” said Amarillo mayor Ginger Nelson in the release.

It’s the latest partnership for AT&T, which is planning on reaching upwards of 60,000 locations via public-private partnerships in counties in Indiana, Kentucky and now Amarillo, Texas.

Conexon partners with Georgia electric company for broadband build

Georgia’s Ocmulgee Electric Membership Corporation partnered with internet service provider Conexon Connect on Tuesday to bring reliable, affordable, high-speed fiber broadband to rural Georgia.

The partnership will see the deployment of a network that spans 2,100 miles of fiber to the home for service to up to 8,000 members in centra Georgia, a press release said.

“I commend Ocmulgee EMC and Conexon for this exciting public-private partnership and their commitment to creating value for their communities,” said Governor Brian Kemp in a press release.

The project is estimated to take 2-4 years to complete and is set to start this September. The first customers expected to be connected in early 2023.

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