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TikTok Ban Delayed as Wal-Mart Enters, FCC Says California Not Prepared for Auction, Wireless Facilities in Rights-of-Way

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President Donald Trump on Saturday approved a deal between TikTok and ByteDance, its software developer, and Oracle on Saturday. As a result, the administration pushed off the ban on TikTok downloads from U.S. app stores that it had announced on Friday.

As a result, the effective date of the ban was pushed until Sunday, September 27, 2020.

Wal-Mart will also be a part of this deal, Trump told reporters on Saturday.

Oracle, which had previously agreed to purchase U.S. operations of TikTok, will apparently own a 12.5 percent stake, and Wal-Mart will apparently own a 7.5 percent stake, with the two U.S. companies owning a 20 percent share of the company.

Trump had said Saturday that  TikTok would be “totally controlled” by the U.S. companies. CNN reports that Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon will serve on the new TikTok’s five-member board. Oracle will beome the entity’s cloud provider.

TikTok may have more hoops to jump through, as the deal still needs to be passed by the committee on foreign investments in the U.S.

It has also yet to be approved by the Chinese government, which apparently has some degree of control over the parent company.

“While we strongly disagree with the implications of TikTok as a national security threat, we nonetheless understand the concerns,” said Vanessa Pappas, interim head of TikTok. “We’re pleased that today we’ve confirmed a proposal that resolves the Administration’s security concerns and settles questions around TikTok’s future in the U.S.”

Meanwhile, late on Saturday, the U.S. District Court in San Francisco granted a preliminary injunction halting the Trump administration’s planned ban on the China-originated app WeChat, reports the Washington Post. The judge said that the plaintiffs, a group of WeChat users, had shown there are “serious questions” related to their First Amendment claim.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Responds to California representatives on RDOF

Wading into one of the controversies surrounding the Federal Communications Commission’s implementation of a rural funding auction, agency Chairman Ajit Pai on September 11 responded (PDF) to a letter (PDF) from California Representatives Anna G. Eshoo, Jerry McNerney, Doris Matsui, and Tony Cardenas from January.

Their letter asked the FCC to consider delaying the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund proposal, claiming that the agency had ignored the California Public Utilities Commission’s request for a federal-state partnership.

They wanted to “ensure that federal and state mechanisms for investing in broadband infrastructure are better align with the efforts of California, and the 30 other states that administer broadband access programs.”

Pai responded that the FCC did not ignore CPUC’s partnership requests. Rather, he said that the agency took them into consideration but ultimately disregarded them because delaying “would cause significant delay and confusion in the entire program, as the Commission created separate mechanisms and state specific rules for each state.”

He also said that the CPUC did not have a budget or methodology for determining where subsidies would be directed.

He said that the agency had worked in partnership with New York State on a similar program because “the New York program was already funded and had a concrete plan of action.”

INCOMPAS speaker advises providers on navigating municipal rights-of-way issues

At the INCOMPAS show last week, Katherine Mudge of Enoch Kever PLLC member highlighted how broadband providers can navigate some of the thorny issues involved in operating in municipal rights of way.

How much is appropriate for a provider to pay for access to the public right of way, she questioned?

While most municipalities have an annual per-node fee, but some try to add additional fees, she said. In the San Francisco Bay Area, application fees can run $20,000 per node – and that’s before an the municipality adds in consultants that the broadband provider is required to pay as a direct cost.

It has become common practice for providers to pay the costs upfront and then dispute the charges, as that’s the only successful way to lower the prices.

Some cities have design manuals for wireless facilities, and others prohibit any equipment above ground. Still others have ordinances stipulating that wireless nodes must be 200 feet apart.

Because 5G technology requires closer spacing, Mudge said, many cities are effectively using these ordinances to push back on the development of advanced wireless facilities.

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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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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 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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