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South Florida Fiber-Optic Network, Rural Broadband in New York, Copyright Office’s Sesquicentennial, Internet Honorees

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Photo of University of Virginia Professor Christopher Ali courtesy of UVA Department of Media Studies

As part of an effort in Longboat Key, Florida to move electrical infrastructure underground, the town is also building a city-wide fiber-optic network, which holds the potential to foster 100 percent internet connectivity within the town, GovTech reported.

The project was born out of an ongoing concern about spotty cell service on the island.

The process of “undergrounding” aims to provide more reliability, especially during storm events.

By incorporating a fiber optic backbone into the project, the town aims to increase desirability for prospective residents.

Soon, utility poles around the town will be no more, as taller “smart poles” take the place of existing street lights. These smart poles will offer the town new capabilities, such as connecting cameras or sensors atop which could enhance public safety.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to tie all of our facilities in with our own fiber network,” said Town Manager Tom Harmer.

Longboat Key voters approved two referendums to fund the $49.1 million project, which aims to be completed by 2022.

Best practices for New York’s state broadband program

University of Virginia Professor Christopher Ali, an associate professor in the Media Studies department, recently spoke with the Reimagine New York Commission about the conditions of rural broadband and the best practices for the state to follow as it embarks on a state-led broadband initiative.

A lack of a coherent national plan for rural broadband deployment, which Ali argues stems from, among other places, a lack of coordination between the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has led many states take it upon themselves to connect the unconnected.

New York, a state which is largely ineligible for FCC funding, due to incumbent activity, has adopted the most ambitious state broadband plan yet, committing $500 million in public funds.

As the state prepares to dish out funding for broadband initiatives, Ali argued it is crucial to encourage greater local and municipal participation in broadband deployment, recommending a “local-first” approach.

While New York leads in financial commitments, Ali believes there is room for improvement in the state’s plan for digital inclusion and literacy.

Ali argued that New York state should lead with a data driven approach, calling for the government to consider a state-wide data collection process to supplement FCC data.

Ali has been researching and writing about rural broadband policy in preparation for his next book, Farm Fresh Spectrum: Rural Broadband and the Future of Connectivity, set to be released in 2021, which will focus primarily on the policies governing broadband deployment and infrastructure in rural America.

U.S. Copyright Office celebrates 150 years

The U.S. Copyright Office, within the Library of Congress, celebrated its sesquicentennial on Wednesday.

The Copyright Office is responsible for administering a complex and dynamic set of laws, which include registration, the recordation of titles and licenses, a number of licensing provisions, and much more.

As a result, the office has a rich history. During a commemorative Wednesday webinar, members reflected on how the Copyright Office is the physical embodiment of American creativity and innovation.

From technical innovations to important judicial rulings to diplomatic treaties, the Register of Copyrights is the principal advisor to Congress on national and international copyright matters, providing ongoing leadership and impartial expertise on copyright law and policy.

Public Knowledge announces honorees for its 2020 IP3 Awards

Public Knowledge announced the recipients of the 2020 IP3 Awards, which were created to honor those who have made significant contributions in the intellectual property field over the past year, in a Wednesday press release.

The 2020 Intellectual Property Award will be presented to Lila Bailey, policy counsel for Internet Archive.

The 2020 Internet Protocol Award will be presented jointly to Matthew Rantanen, director of technology for the Southern California Tribal Chairmen, and Geoffrey C. Blackwell, chief strategy officer and general counsel for AMERIND.

Finally, the 2020 Information Policy Award will be presented to Stop Hate for Profit, a campaign that organized a mass boycott of Facebook advertising.

“We are pleased to recognize Lila Bailey, Matthew Rantanen, Geoffrey Blackwell, and the Stop Hate for Profit campaign for their impressive work advocating for policies that benefit consumers in the technology space and a healthier digital public square, especially during a tumultuous year,” said Chris Lewis, President and CEO of Public Knowledge.

Broadband Roundup

Commerce Vote on Sohn Wednesday, Facebook Abandoning its Crypto Technology, Low EBB Awareness

The Senate Commerce Committee will vote on Sohn’s renomination after confirmation efforts stalled last year.

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Photo of Gigi Sohn from March 2011 by the Stanford Center for Internet and Society used with permission

January 28, 2022 – On Wednesday the Senate Commerce Committee will vote on President Joe Biden’s nomination of Gigi Sohn to the Federal Communications Commission.

Sohn, the co-founder of intellectual property nonprofit Public Knowledge, was renominated by Biden earlier this month after the Commerce committee failed to advance her nomination at the end of last year.

Much of the opposition to Sohn’s nomination has centered around Republican pushback on comments Sohn had made about conservative media.

Additionally on Wednesday, the committee will vote on Biden’s nominee to the Federal Trade Commission Alvaro Bedoya.

Like Sohn, Bedoya saw his nomination stalled late last year as Republicans opposed comments he had made on conservative media.

Both the FCC and FTC are split 2-2 in terms of the partisanship of their voting members, limiting the ability of their Democratic chairs to enact their policy agendas.

Facebook’s cryptocurrency project fizzles

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that Facebook is selling the technology behind the Diem Association, the company’s cryptocurrency project, amid concerns over its ability to provide security and privacy.

Silvergate Capital Corporation, a California bank that works with bitcoin and blockchain companies, will reportedly buy the technology for $200 million.

In an earlier effort to appease regulators the bank and Diem had agreed to issue some stablecoins, which are considered less volatile and are backed by hard dollars.

Diem, previously called Libra, was originally conceived as a simple way for users to spend money and partnered with PayPal, Visa and Stripe to demonstrate institutional financial backing to officials and distance the venture from Facebook as criticisms against the platform mounted.

In October 2019, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told U.S. House members that he would support delaying the cryptocurrency’s release until all regulators approved of it.

AT&T survey on Emergency Broadband Benefit’s reach

An AT&T-commissioned survey found that as of October 2021 a majority of individuals in the company’s 21-state footprint were not aware of the Emergency Broadband Benefit, Fierce Telecom reported Wednesday.

Only 12% of survey respondents were aware of the program started by the FCC during the coronavirus pandemic to help fund low-income people’s internet connectivity.

The survey also found disparities in program awareness between different age groups and ethnicities.

Since administration of the survey, the EBB has been converted into the permanent Affordable Connectivity Program with Congress’ passage of its bipartisan infrastructure bill in November 2021.

The EBB was able to gain the participation of most internet service providers and roll over their participation to the ACP once it became available at the start of this year.

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Broadband Roundup

FCC Axes China Unicom, Tucows Has New Software Business, Texas County Broadband Initiative

The FCC on Thursday revoked the operating authorization of China Unicom, in latest effort to weed out national security threats.

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Tucows CEO Elliot Noss

January 27, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday revoked the operating authority of telecom China Unicom Americas due to national security concerns.

In the press release, which coincided with the commission’s January open meeting, the FCC said China Unicom Americas must discontinue domestic and international services in the U.S. within 60 days of the order.

The decision was made, the release said, after nearly a year of review of the company’s responses to inquiries, the public record and a public interest analysis following a March 2021 finding by the commission that the company “failed to dispel serious concerns” about its ties to the Communist government in China.

The decision, which comes after an FCC vote in October to revoke the operating license of China Telecom, is part of a larger effort by the agency and President Joe Biden’s administration to weed out national security risks.

Tucows new communication service software

Toronto-based telecom Tucows on Thursday launched Wavelo, a software business it says will help other telecommunications companies aspects of their business, including the network and subscription and billing management.

“In today’s competitive landscape, operators need optionality from their software,” Wavelo CEO Justin Riley said. “They deserve solutions that keep pace with their network innovation and that are flexible enough to integrate seamlessly within their existing operations. Wavelo was launched to do just that.”

Gray County, Texas developing plan for better broadband

The Gray County Broadband Committee is asking the broader community Thursday for input through a survey on how it should develop a “technology action plan that will provide both immediate and long-term solutions for improving internet access.”

The committee, which includes stakeholders in business, education, government and healthcare, said in a press release it hopes to “identify unique challenges and opportunities for expanding high-speed internet” in the county.

The county said it is partnering with Connected Nation Texas on the initiative, which is funded by the Texas Rural Funders

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Broadband Roundup

Fear of Big Tech in Auto Industry, Montana Hires Lightbox, USTelecom Hires Media Affairs Director

Technology advocacy groups are concerned about big technology companies entering the auto industry.

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Montana Governor Greg Gianforte

January 26, 2022 – A letter signed by nearly 30 technology advocacy groups and sent to government and agency officials Tuesday is warning of the dangers of tech companies entering the automobile industry, The Hill reports.

“Make no mistake: The expansion of Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook into the auto sector spells trouble for workers and consumers…As automation expands, these [auto workers] jobs are at risk and Big Tech cannot be trusted to lead that transition,” the letter said, according to the report.

Recipients of the letter signed by the likes of the American Economic Liberties Project and Demand Progress include Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, and Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Lina Khan.

The Hill also reports that the groups are concerned about the treatment and usage of data and private information if these big technology companies do successfully expand their reach.

The letter comes as lawmakers and government agencies wrestle with what to do about the future of antitrust.

Montana is taking mapping matters into their own hands

Montana’s Department of Administration said Monday that is has hired location analytics company Lightbox to build a statewide broadband map, following in the footsteps of Georgia and Alabama in getting ahead of federal efforts to improving insight into what areas are underserved.

“The completed map will provide a detailed analysis of current broadband service levels throughout Montana while protecting proprietary data and will be used for allocating $266 million to unserved and underserved communities throughout Montana,” a press release said.

“Lightbox is a proven national leader in cost effective and efficient detailed mapping for state level broadband programs,” said Department of Administration Director Misty Ann Giles in the release. “This platform will serve as a key component to help ConnectMT reach its goal of deploying broadband throughout Montana to bridge the digital divide.”

Montana, which began searching for a data platform in October, is listed on data platform BroadbandNow as the worst state for broadband coverage and access, according to a November report.

USTelecom hires new senior director of media affairs and digital engagement

USTelecom, an association that represents telecom-related businesses, announced Wednesday the appointment of Emma Christman to senior director of media affairs and digital engagement.

Christman is joining the USTelecom communications team after working as the director of external affairs and engagement at Glen Echo Group. While there, USTelecom says she provided “a range of clients strategic counsel, content creation, media outreach and other services.”

Prior to her time at Glen Echo Group, Christman worked at Dewey Square Group as a senior associate and at Mobile Future as a community outreach director.

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