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Americans Skeptical About Tech, Funding For Broadband Maps, Court Classifies Uber and Lyft Drivers as Employees

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Photo of Uber app by Quote Catalogue used with permission

Americans are skeptical that technological growth is an issue that will positively impact national policy, James Pethokoukis wrote in an American Enterprise Institute blog post on Tuesday.

He argued that neither right-leaning nor left-leaning politicians and constituents are willing to embrace the role of future-oriented tech policy.

“On the right, there’s an unhelpful economic nostalgia for the pre-Information Age economy of the 1950s and 1960s,” he wrote. “On the left, too much of its environmentalism embraces scarcity rather than abundance.”

Neither side seems to believe that the benefits of such future-looking policy outweigh its perceived downsides, Pethokoukis continued, and politicians from each respective party should embrace the strategy.

“Neither left nor right are explicitly championing the idea that faster technological progress, innovation-driven productivity and economic growth need to be a national priority which deeply informs policy,” Pethokoukis wrote. “…At the same time, leaders should provide explanation and vision as to why such a goal will enrich American society.”

Additional congressional funding of FCC broadband mapping efforts necessary, says Free State Foundation

Congress should provide additional funding to the Federal Communications Commission, argued the Free State Foundation on Tuesday.

The FSF suggested pulling the funds from the Rural Broadband Acceleration Act, which they argued would contribute to hastened broadband rollout efforts.

“Congress should promptly fund modernized broadband coverage mapping efforts by the FCC to identify unserved areas and target them for broadband service subsidies,” they said.

FSF also suggested that the FCC should implement the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund and a proposed 5G Fund, as well as ensuring that such funds do not contribute to overfunding in areas already sufficiently covered.

“Prompt action is needed to help prevent the pandemic-related harm to infrastructure investment and network buildout efforts,” they said. “Congress and the Commission should follow through on several pending proposals to remove regulatory barriers to investment and to help ensure reasonable and timely deployment of broadband Internet services to all Americans.”

California judge rules that Uber and Lyft drivers are employees

A California judge has ruled that Uber and Lyft must reclassify their drivers as employees, affording them benefits not given to contract workers, Axios reported.

The companies are resisting the move. An Uber spokesperson criticized the decision, saying that “the vast majority of drivers want to work independently, and we’ve already made significant changes to our app to ensure that remains the case under California law.”

“When over 3 million Californians are without a job, our elected leaders should be focused on creating work, not trying to shut down an entire industry during an economic depression,” he continued.

However, earlier this week, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi called for a universal fund to which all gig economy companies would be compelled to contribute. The proposed fund would then provide benefits for their workers.

“I’m proposing that gig economy companies be required to establish benefits funds which give workers cash that they can use for the benefits they want, like health insurance or paid time off,” he said. “…All gig companies would be required to participate, so that workers can build up benefits even if they switch between apps.”

Broadband Roundup

Fixed-Wireless Behind Fiber, U.S. Broadband Competition, Oregon Broadband Map

Fixed-wireless is hampered by technical issues that make it incomparable to fiber, a report claims.

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Screenshot of ACA Connects President and CEO Grant Spellmeyer

June 23, 2022 – In a report this month, engineering and consulting company CTC Technology and Energy found that while fixed-wireless technology will continue to improve and expand, it will not come close to fiber.

The report claims that there are some technical challenges associated with fixed-wireless technology – which used wireless signals to provide home internet. That includes, the report says, capacity limits; line-of-sight obstructions because wireless signals must pass through obstacles; and scalability, which includes limitations on increasing bandwidth and speeds.

“Ultimately, the report finds that fiber networks are more suitable for rural broadband deployment when it comes to bandwidth, costs, overall quality and long-term sustainability,” said a post on the Benton website accompanying the report.

“The IIJA creates the opportunity to bring broadband to unserved Americans that is the same or better than what served Americans have—and to ensure that what is built has a long, useful life,” said Andrew Afflerbach, CTC CEO and chief technology officer, in the post.

“The report demonstrates that in most environments, fiber and wireless have similar long-term total costs of operation. Moreover, fiber optics can continue operating and be upgraded at a much lower cost than a wireless network,” added Afflerbach.

Majority of U.S. households benefit from fixed broadband competition, study finds

Industry group ACA Connects released a study Thursday that found widespread competition in the U.S. broadband market as the majority of U.S. households have access to multiple providers.

“After decades of investment by multiple fixed broadband providers in every local market – amounting to well over $1 trillion during that time – the vast majority of American consumers now have a choice of broadband providers offering robust, reliable, fixed broadband service. And the reach and intensity of competition will only increase as broadband providers continue to invest many tens of billions of dollars annually,” said ACA Connects President and CEO Grant Spellmeyer.

The study states that “more than 90% of households have access to at least one broadband provider offering 100/20+ service and at least one additional provider offering 25/3+ service,” and predicts that based on past data, “by 2025, 74% of all households will have access to at least two broadband providers both offering 100/20+ service.”

According to a press release, the study’s findings show that “policymakers made the right call in allowing market forces to advance deployment to the maximum extent possible and then, in economically challenging areas, providing government funding to ensure service is available service.”

Oregon testing broadband with new initiative 

On Tuesday, a grassroots partnership called Faster Internet Oregon was launched to assess broadband connectivity in urban, rural, and tribal communities in the state.

This is “a statewide test campaign and broadband mapping effort that invites Oregonians to test and report their home internet speeds or to indicate that they lack an internet connection at home,” said a press release.

Partners include Oregon Economic Development Districts, Onward Eugene, SpeedUpAmerica and Link Oregon.

“[We] are excited to support this effort so that we have the data we need to bring federal and state funding to our regions that can fill those gaps in broadband availability,” said Jessica Metta, president of OEDD.

The effort employs a “crowdsourced approach” to hear from locals themselves to improve broadband equity across various communities in Oregon, said a press release.

Steve Corbató, executive director of Link Oregon, said, “this mapping effort is a critical early step towards implementing the broadband technologies and supporting adoption programs ensuring the reliable, affordable internet connectivity for all Oregonians.”

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Broadband Roundup

5G Drone Test, Viaset Step Closer to Inmarsat Buy, Charter Awarded Nearly $50 Million in Kentucky

UScellular and Ericsson tested 5G connected drones for future applications.

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Photo of Viasat CEO Richard Balridge

June 22, 2022 – Mobile network operator Uscellular and Swedish telecom equipment provider Ericsson teamed up to test 5G performance at altitude using drones, according to a press release Wednesday.

The first tests were conducted in Beloit, Wisconsin where a drone connected to a 5G smartphone and measurement equipment to record performance metrics was flown between two UScellular’s 5G towers. The drone captured the signal strength, upload and download speeds, and latency at various altitudes.

The goal of the test was to determine what is required for future use of 5G connected drones. Future drone use will include inspecting towers and other infrastructure with real-time data collection and video footage.

This follows tests run by AT&T earlier this month for its Flying COW (Cell on Wings). The company said that the drone can transmit “strong 5G coverage for approximately 10 square miles.” It said it hopes that the drone will help first responders in search and rescue missions where connection may not be available.

“Drone technology offers a wide scope of new opportunities in today’s market. Our testing with UScellular is a huge step for advanced connected drones use cases that will benefit society and businesses,” said Jossie Prochilo, vice president, UScellular Account for Ericsson North America.

Viaset receives stockholder approval for acquisition of Inmarsat

Satellite services company Viasat announced Tuesday in a press release that stockholders granted the necessary approval for the proposed acquisition of Inmarsat, another telecommunications company.

The acquisition is expected to close by the end of 2022, said the press release, pending regulatory approvals. With the acquisition, Viasat said it hopes to “increase the pace of innovation to help drive new and better services for customers, broaden opportunities for employees, and provide a foundation for significant positive free cash flow.”

The partnership will “provide an incredible foundation to advance broadband communications and drive greater performance, reliability, and value for our customers,” said Viasat CEO Richard Balridge in a statement.

Balridge was encouraged by the “overwhelming” stockholder support, saying that it “confirms that this transformative combination is in the best interest of our company, shareholders, and allows for significant future growth in revenue.”

Charter awarded nearly $50 million in Kentucky broadband program

Internet service provider Charter Communications was awarded $49.9 million from Kentucky’s broadband program to expand high-speed internet to over 18,000 households and businesses in 13 Kentucky counties.

The Better Kentucky Plan will invest $89.1 million in 46 grant awards to 12 internet service providers with the purpose of expanding reliable and affordable high-speed internet to Kentucky homes. The awards were granted through a competitive process, with six months to evaluate and score the nearly 100 proposals received.

Charter will put $118.8 million toward the project.

“These grants will lower the cost of construction so that our most rural areas will have access to this necessity of high-speed internet,” State Budget Director John Hicks said in a press release. “These funds are dedicated to unserved areas in Kentucky. We’re also setting up Kentucky’s first Office of Broadband Development to help administer and create a master plan for the commonwealth to provide universal service to every Kentuckian.

“We applaud this bold, bipartisan broadband expansion effort and look forward to the opportunity to extend our ongoing partnership with Kentucky leaders,” said Jerry Avery, Charter’s area vice president. “From investing to deploy internet access to reach unserved Kentuckians, to continually upgrading our network to provide fast and reliable broadband products at great value, to addressing affordability and adoption barriers, Charter has long been committed to increasing connectivity across the Commonwealth.”

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Broadband Roundup

NA Projected to Lead 5G Subs, Internet Society Board Members, Shentel Expands and Hires

‘North America is forecast to lead the world in 5G subscription penetration in the next five years.’

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Photo of Borje Ekholm, Ericsson CEO

WASHINGTON, June 21, 2022 – Telecommunications equipment provider Ericsson released its latest edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report, saying 5G is the “fastest growing mobile technology generation ever.”

The report from the company, which provides 5G equipment to telecom companies, projects that there will be over one billion global subscribers in 2022 and 4.4 billion in 2027, and that global mobile network data traffic has doubled in the past two years.

Ericsson explains that “this traffic growth was driven by increased smartphone and mobile broadband usage, as well as the digitalization of society and industries,” and says it draws several hundred million people to become new mobile broadband subscribers every year.

A press release also states that fixed wireless access will account for 20 percent of all mobile data network traffic in 2022, and also that 60 percent of global mobile network data traffic is expected to be over 5G networks by 2027.”

“North America is forecast to lead the world in 5G subscription penetration in the next five years with nine-of-every-ten subscriptions in the region expected to be 5G in 2027,” the report said.

Internet Society announces new board of trustees members

On June 20, the Internet Society, an internet access non-profit, announced four new members to its board of trustees.

Charles Mok, visiting scholar at the Global Digital Policy Incubator of the Cyber Policy Center at Stanford University; Sagarika Wickramasekera, an assistant network manager at Sriplaee Campus, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka; Barry Leiba, the director of internet standards at Futurewei Technologies; and Victor Kuarsingh, senior director of network engineering and delivery at Oracle Cloud Infrastructure were elected this year to the board.

“All four new trustees will serve three-year terms which commenced with the Internet Society board’s 2022 Annual General Meeting held 18-19, June” a press release stated.

A press release also added that, the board reappointed Muhammad Shabbir to a one-year term to fill the seat left by the resignation of board member Mamounia Diop.

Shentel expands Glo Fiber to Delaware and appoints new senior vice president of sales and marketing

Telecom Shentel announced plans for Glo Fiber to expand its fiber network in the mid-Atlantic region to Sussex County, Delaware, bringing internet speeds of up to 2 Gigabits per second.

According to a June 16 press release, this expansion is Glo Fiber’s first project in Delaware, delivering “an all-fiber choice for high speed, reliable service to over 21,000 homes in the county.” Construction is planned for the start of 2023.

The release states that by “using Shentel’s 7,600-mile regional fiber network, Glo Fiber can ensure high speeds, low latency, and fair pricing.”

“This expansion will continue to grow the Glo brand in new markets where residents and businesses alike will reap the benefits of having access to our state-of-the-art fiber product,” said Chris Kyle, vice president of industry affairs and regulatory.

Shentel also announced Monday that Dara Leslie will be the new senior vice president of sales and marketing to guide revenue strategy for the company.

A press release stated that Dara brings with her more than 20 years of experience in the broadband industry, with 10 years at cable company Comcast and various leadership roles at Atlantic Broadband for the Maryland and Delaware region.

“Dara’s extensive marketing, sales, and operational experience will be a force multiplier for Shentel as we continue to expand our footprint,” said Ed McKay, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Shentel.

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