Congressional leaders made calls for modernizing broadband infrastructure nationwide during the second night of the Democratic National Convention, a four-day long virtual event showcasing Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for the presidential election.
“We need to rebuild our infrastructure and make sure every home, from inner city to rural America, will have broadband,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
Jonathan Nez, president of Navajo Nation, said that Biden “has a major plan to invest in clean energy, jobs and infrastructure.”
Other representatives detailed the effect constructing new broadband infrastructure stands to have on creating jobs and fueling American industry.
“In the House of Representatives, we’re closing loopholes to ensure local infrastructure projects use American made materials and local labor and support American manufacturing,” said Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Penn.
Democratic members of Congress are working to invest “in American made clean energy, building materials, high tech equipment, and research and development,” said Nevada State Sen. Yvanna Cancela, noting all of which will create more jobs.
Section 230 discussion with Professor Jeff Kosseff
Jeff Kosseff, U.S. Naval Academy assistant professor of cybersecurity law and author of The Twenty-Six Words That Created the Internet, joined Bartlett Cleland, research fellow at the Institute for Policy Innovation, in a virtual conversation on Tuesday.
The conversation centered on Kosseff’s recent book, which details the history of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
“Section 230 is the only part of the Decency Act that survived after many aspects of the act were struck down as unconstitutional restrictions of speech by the Supreme Court,” said Kosseff.
Kosseff thoroughly detailed the history of the act, arguing that the broader conversation around Section 230 is confused largely because the involved parties do not engage with the legislation itself.
When questioned on his opinion of proposed Section 230 reforms, Kosseff said that he thinks “amendments should always be discussed.”
Yet, Kosseff’s book maintains that Section 230 makes user-generated content possible, and weakening it would certainly make it harder, rather than easier, for conservatives to express themselves on social media platforms.
“Changes that come could be used in an anti-competitive manner or could further limit users,” maintained Kosseff.
Gen Z and the future of politics
On Tuesday, Axios, in partnership with the Democratic National Convention, hosted a conversation on the ways in which Gen Z stands to influence politics, featuring René Otero, a 2018 Texas Boys State participant.
Through experiencing the hands-on political process at Boys State, Otero said, upon reflection, he “learned that he still wants to engage in politics, but not as a politician.”
“Congress is set up in gridlock,” said Otero, arguing it dilutes the government’s power.
“It’s supposed to be a single politician that saves us, but people need to get involved,” said Otero, arguing “we can’t sit back.”
Gen Z, as a whole, is very activated and engaged, as their generation has inherited a world with existential threats, such as climate change and gun control.
Many of Otero’s comments reflect a widespread lack of trust in the resiliency of the country’s governance system, a feeling shared by many young individuals. Otero said he was shocked to learn there were many self-described libertarians at Texas Boys State.
When asked what he believes the prospect is for young voter turnout, Otero said he thinks it’s “up in the air.”
“I see many people arguing that not voting at all is their best course of action,” he reported.
“I don’t think we’re going to have the turnout we expect, if we don’t make the active effort of ensuring communities can vote,” Otero said.
NY’s $15 Internet Bill, Benton On Measures For Broadband Availability, T-Mobile Tops Availability In 45 Cities
Andrew Cuomo signs $15 internet bill, Benton calls for better broadband availability and adoption, and T-Mobile has best availability in 45 cities
April 19, 2021—Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York on Monday signed a bill into law that would require internet service providers to provide basic $15/month “high-speed” internet plans for the citizens of NY.
In correspondence with Cuomo’s office, The Verge reported that ISPs must be able to provide either 25 Megabits per second or their existing low-income speed tier—whichever is greater—for $15.
These speeds are not considered by many to be sufficient, however, amid calls for the FCC to redefine “high-speed.” Though organizations have adopted different standards, the FCC has defined it as 25 Mbps download and three Mbps upload.
In an open letter to the FCC, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Ohio, Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-West Virginia, called on the FCC to apply a more rigid standard, raising the high-speed internet definition to meet the increased demands of modern internet operation.
“Our goal for new deployment should be symmetrical speeds of 100 megabits per second (Mbps), allowing for limited variation when dictated by geography, topography, or unreasonable cost,” the letter says. The bipartisan letter pays special attention to rural communities.
As it stands now, according to NY Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, the average cost of internet for New Yorkers is $50 per month.
Benton Institute calls for measures for broadband availability, adoption
The Benton Institute is calling for measures, including performance standards, better mapping, and education efforts for broadband availability and adoption.
In an edition last week of the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society’s weekly digest, Kevin Taglang said broadband availability can be tackled with a series of performance standards to determine underserved regions that should receive additional investment; better mapping, the elimination of the Eligible Telecommunications Carrier requirements; and a new series of subsidy auctions.
Taglang said adoption comes from better affordability and knowledge. Consumers must be able to afford internet access and understand how to use the tools and services that they have. He suggested improvements to the LifelineMobile program to further subsidize mobile, affordable broadband services, as well as changes to LifelineHome, which would provide various broadband services and education to low-income and unemployed people.
T-Mobile wins availability, but AT&T faster
T-Mobile came out on top among its large rivals for 5G availability in 45 cities, according to a study of internet coverage for the first half of 2021. RootMetrics compared AT&T’s, T-Mobile’s, and Verizon’s capabilities.
RootMetrics largely attributed this to T-Mobile’s rapid advance in the first half of 2021, expanding its use of mid-band spectrum real estate and covering every city tested, compared to AT&T’s 44 cities, and Verizon’s 43. T-Mobile, in its proposal to merge with Sprint a couple of years ago, argued that the combined entity would better compete in deploying 5G.
Though beaten out by T-Mobile in terms of overall coverage, AT&T won out on delivering the fastest average internet speeds recorded. Out of all the cities tested, AT&T had the fastest speeds in 14 cities, compared to T-Mobile’s six and Verizon’s three.
As far as reliability was concerned, AT&T and Verizon were tied for the most reliable network.
Faster Rural Broadband Bill, Tools For Robocalls, Opposition To Instagram For Kids
Senators introduce rural broadband legislation, FCC tackles robocalling, advocates ask Facebook to stop developing Instagram for kids.
April 15, 2021 – Sens. Steve Daines, R-Montana and Mark Kelly, D-Arizona, introduced the “Accelerating Rural Broadband Deployment Act” Wednesday to increase access to existing infrastructure that will allow easier and faster installation of broadband services.
The legislation, S.1113, would make it easier for broadband companies to receive federal right-of-way licenses to install broadband alongside existing infrastructure like federal highways, ensure costs of federal right-of-way licenses are fair market prices and increase transparency into the federal right-of-way license awarding process, according to the news release.
“Broadband coverage is essential to rural states like Montana as we work to close the digital divide. It helps support jobs, connects folks in every corner of our state, and makes life easier for working families,” Daines said in a statement. “I’m glad to work across the aisle on this commonsense, bipartisan legislation that will help expedite broadband deployment across Montana by capitalizing on existing infrastructure.”
“Broadband access is not just about staying connected, it’s how small businesses, hospitals, and students thrive in today’s economy,” Kelly said. “I’ve spoken to so many Arizonans, especially in rural areas, who have faced challenges because of poor internet access, and that’s why I worked with Republicans and Democrats to introduce this legislation that will cut red tape and help broadband projects move faster in rural communities. Every Arizonan deserves reliable broadband access.”
Several broadband organizations expressed support for the legislation, including the Internet and Television Association, the Rural Broadband Association, USTelecom, Advocates for Rural Broadband, Montana Telecommunications Association and Blackfoot Communications.
FCC calls on carriers to ensure free tools for consumers to protect against robocalls
Federal Communications Commission Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced Tuesday the agency’s efforts to protect consumers from unwanted and scam robocalls and spoofed calls.
The FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau wrote to major phone companies and issued a public notice to ask about what free robocall blocking tools they make available to consumers. The bureau seeks to learn more about the tools available to consumers, their effectiveness, and any potential impact on 911 services and public safety.
“No one wants more unwanted robocalls in their life. I’m proud that we continue to find new ways to use all the tools at our disposal to make it clear to illegal robocallers that their days are numbered. We want them to know that we’re advocating on behalf of consumers everywhere to put an end to these calls,” Rosenworcel said.
Additionally, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau issued two more cease-and-desist letters to phone service providers suspected of facilitating robocalls that market auto warranties and credit card debt reduction service, or falsely claim to be from the Social Security Administration or other well-known companies.
The robocall cease-and-desist letters instruct the voice providers to investigate and, if necessary, cease transmitting the identified traffic immediately and take steps to prevent its network from continuing to be a source of apparently illegal robocalls.
Lastly, Rosenworcel announced the launch of a new effort to track the agency’s actions to implement the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act (TRACED Act). The new webpage outlines the agency’s progress in using its strengthened enforcement authority, progress on updated call blocking rules, and steps taken to implement new Caller ID authentication technology. It also details the agency’s work to address one-ring scams, protect hospitals from illegal robocalls, and establish a reassigned numbers database.
Advocates Ask Facebook to stop development of an Instagram for kids
A coalition of almost 100 experts and advocates globally wrote a letter Thursday to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to abandon the company’s plans to build an Instagram for kids under 13, reported USA Today.
Instagram, the popular social media app, currently does not allow users under the age of 13. Zuckerberg confirmed during a March congressional hearing that a new ‘Instagram for kids’ app was in the planning stage.
The advocates, led by several organizations including the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Center for Humane Technology, Common Sense Media and the Center for Digital Democracy, wrote their concerns to Zuckerberg, saying that the app “preys on their fear of missing out as their ravenous desire for approval by peers exploits their developmental growth,” reported the USA Today article.
“The platform’s relentless focus on appearance, self-presentation, and branding presents challenges to adolescents’ privacy and well-being,” the letter said. “Younger children are even less developmentally equipped to deal with these challenges, as they are learning to navigate social interactions, friendships, and their inner sense of strengths during this crucial window of development.”
During the March 25 congressional hearing when asked about the new app, Zuckerberg defended social media apps, saying they are a positive way for people to connect with each other. He also said the details of a kids’ version of Instagram was still being ironed out.
Members of Congress are also concerned about Facebook’s plans for a new children’s app. Sens. Ed Markey, D-Mass., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Reps. Kathy Castor, D-Florida, and Lori Trahan, D-Mass., wrote a letter to Zuckerberg on April 5 requesting details on the company’s plans.
Broadband Report Cards, Washington Muni Networks Bill, Supreme Court Fair Use Winners
AP releases infrastructure report cards, Washington passes bill removing muni networks limits, AEI says fair use case win for programmers.
April 14, 2021— The Associated Press has released documents compiling report cards outlining infrastructure weaknesses in each state, including the state of broadband.
Mississippi is trailing behind the rest of the country in broadband coverage, the documents show, with 23 percent of Mississippians lacking a broadband subscription, compared to 6 percent nationally. Mississippi received a “D+” overall on it “infrastructure report card.”
Mississippi’s broadband coverage was only narrowly beaten by New Mexico and Arkansas with 21 and 20 percent of their populations lacking coverage, respectively.
The only region that performed worse than Mississippi in broadband coverage was Puerto Rico, where 40 percent of the population does not have access to a broadband subscription.
On the other end, Washington is leading the way in broadband coverage, with just 8.8 percent of Washingtonians lacking access to broadband services. Despite its leadership in this regard, Washington still only earned a “C” on its report card.
Washington was closely followed by Colorado and Utah, which both have populations without broadband under ten percent, at 9 percent and 9.2 percent, respectively.
Improving these numbers is part of the Biden Administration’s effort to ensure that every American has access to high-speed broadband.
Municipal networks triumph as Washington legislature rolls back regulations
Washington’s legislature voted Sunday to undo what Democratic Rep. Drew Hansen called “decades of bad policy” by passing a bill that allows municipalities to build their own broadband networks.
HB 1336, which was passed the state’s senate mostly along party lines, had Republican Brad Hawkins side with the Democrats to pass the bill.
According to Hansen, Washington was one of only 18 states that had laws preventing the state from providing broadband to its citizens.
Momentum for municipal broadband has been picking up in the state during the pandemic, where it has become clear that telework, telehealth and distance learning could no longer be approached as luxuries and need to be viewed as services that are integral to modern society.
“The pandemic has made it unmistakably clear,” Hansen said, “that is long past time to lift those restrictions and allow government to offer broadband directly to the public.”
Supreme Court fair use decision victory for programmers
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s 6-2 decision for Google, Michael Rosen of the American Enterprise Institute predicts the ruling as a victory for programmers.
Google’s argument that it satisfied fair use law because its use of some 12,000 lines of code from Oracle, which it said was used to craft a “new and transformative program” was accepted by the highest court in the land earlier this month. Fair use rules allow limited use of copyright material without permission for purposes including research and scholarship.
In a piece published by AEI Tuesday, Rosen said the conclusion to this decade-long struggle would make it easier for software developers to copy code during the creation of new products—something that Google argued is already common practice in the industry.
Rosen also pointed to the Computer and Communications Industry Association’s comment on the matter, which seemed to echo Google’s; both the CCIA and Google stated that, chiefly, this was a victory for consumers and interoperability at large.
All this considered, Rosen still tempered expectations, stating that the ruling was “unlikely to mark a fundamental change in how we conceive of computer code copyright issues.”
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