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Trump Pulls O’Rielly Nomination, Algorithm Governance Framework, San Jose Hotspots, New Broadband Association Members

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Photo of San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo with students by Umoja1963 used with permission

The White House announced Monday, in a notice sent to the Senate, that it was withdrawing the nomination of Mike O’Rielly to Federal Communications Commission for a third term. The notice did not provide reasoning for the action, WKZO reported.

The incidence was widely unexpected, coming after O’Rielly’s nomination was approved by a Senate panel and personally backed by Chairman Roger Wicker, R-Miss., of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation in July.

The nomination withdrawal came after President Donald Trump demanded the Commerce Department ask the FCC to impose new regulations on social media moderation practices.

Some have speculated that the withdrawal of O’Rielly’s nomination could be a result of him speaking out against the president’s order to the agency to regulate social media.

O’Rielly expressed some skepticism about whether the FCC has authority to issue new regulations in a C-SPAN program in June.

O’Rielly’s nomination has previously been fought due to his stance on Ligado, Multichannel reported.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe, R-Okla., placed a hold on O’Rielly’s nomination on July 28.

Inhofe said he would block the nomination until O’Rielly “publicly commits to vote to overturn the current Ligado order.”

New government framework for algorithms announced in Aotearoa, New Zealand

The New Zealand government published a guide for agencies, entitled the “Algorithm Charter for Aotearoa, New Zealand,” detailing the approach its agencies should take toward the use of algorithms, Microsoft reported.

The charter emphasized that more algorithms could be used to support human decision-making, ultimately aiding the government in better understanding New Zealand and New Zealanders.

Government agencies that sign onto the charter commit to following its principles when using algorithms to help serve the people of New Zealand, considering key elements such as transparency, privacy and ethics.

Agencies that commit to the charter express an understanding that decisions made using algorithms impact the people of New Zealand and commit to assessing the impact of decisions informed by their algorithms.

The New Zealand Government is setting a strong foundation for guiding its agencies on how to implement algorithms in a human-centric manner, which warrants trust, Microsoft said.

San Jose makes 11,000 Wi-Fi hotspots available for students

On Monday, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo announced that the city cut a deal with AT&T to make 11,000 4G Wi-Fi hotspots available to the public, in order to keep students and families connected when schools begin virtually this fall, Axios reported.

As coronavirus cases surge in California, the San Jose city council unanimously moved to pass the COVID-19 Digital Inclusion Expenditure Plan, an $8.2 million initiative aimed at diminishing the city’s digital divide.

The city, which identified over 11,000 students with no broadband access at home, will make approximately 8,000 Wi-Fi hotspots available to public school students to keep for the school year, while an additional 3,000 hotspots will be available to the public to check out at local libraries.

San Jose is contributing $3.4 million to the plan, while AT&T is contributing $6 million.

AT&T’s Rhonda Johnson said on a press call that the company is interested in replicating the public-private arrangement with other cities.

US Telecom hires Josh Bercu and Kayla Gardner to further Broadband Association initiatives

The Broadband Association announced Monday that two new members will be joining the national organization in working to expand advocacy for broadband initiatives.

Attorney Josh Bercu will join US Telecom as vice president of policy and advocacy, effective August 10, while Kayla Gardner will join as director of policy and partnerships, effective August 24.

“We are thrilled to welcome both Josh and Kayla to US Telecom,” said US Telecom president and CEO Jonathan Spalter. “These are two sharp and accomplished communications lawyers and advocates who will be great assets to our membership of global and local broadband innovators.”

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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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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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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