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Former FCC Chief Tom Wheeler Proposes Spectrum Sharing, Communications and Disabilities, 5G in South Korea

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Photo of Tom Wheeler from February 2018 by Ralph Alswang via the Brookings Institution used with permission

In a Brookings Institute post, Former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, recommends spectrum sharing to minimize the spectrum shortage caused by increased demand for wireless radio frequencies.

As of yet, spectrum is a rivalrous asset. If one party owns it, another party cannot utilize it. Yet, digital technology has changed that equation by allowing for multiple users to share the same piece of spectrum without causing signal interference.

One of the components that is much-discussed with 5G technology and in other forms of wireless communications is dynamic spectrum sharing. That vehicle might help accomplish some of Wheeler’s vision.

According to Wheeler, the way in which spectrum sharing works is exemplified by the Wi-Fi in our homes. We use the same piece of unlicensed spectrum as our neighbors without interfering with each other. The neighbors are non-rivalrous users because each can use the same piece of spectrum without limiting anyone else.

Before it sends out a packet of data, Wi-Fi devices “listen” to see if another device is transmitting. If other data is transmitting, your Wi-Fi device will wait until there is an open “millisecond-sized slot” before pushing some of your data into that unused space.

“Such sharing could possibly put a dent into, or even eliminate, the spectrum shortage,” said Wheeler.

FCC to discuss Communications and Video Accessibility Action milestones

On Wednesday, the FCC released its 2020 biennial report (PDF) to Congress, as required by the Communications and Video Accessibility Act. Thursday is the tenth anniversary (PDF) of the CVAA and the FCC is set to hold a public program in celebration.

CVAA was authored by Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass. (then a representative), in 2010. It attempted to address the gap in access created by the proliferation of services like online video, text messaging, and email.

Until the CVAA became law, rapidly emerging technologies and services were not governed by federal accessibility protections. CVAA has helped to build a more accessible telecommunications world for people with disabilities.

In its Wednesday report, the FCC found that over the last two years, additional improvements in promoting the accessibility of tech have flourished. The report cited continued efforts to innovate and incorporate features that enable improved access to smartphones, such as speech-to-text and text-to-speech technology, voice assistants, and screen readers.

Nonetheless, accessibility gaps continue to exist for mobile phones with low-end features, functions, and prices for people who are blind. Further, certain apps that provide telecommunications services are not readable by screen readers.

Sudden embrace of 5G coincides with drop of Samsung Note 20

South Korean operators reported the addition of 800,000 new 5G customers in August, a 64 percent increase from the previous month. New Street analysts noted that this is the second-highest level of 5G customer growth since the technology was first launched.

The Samsung Note 20 was released during the month, and is likely responsible for the increased demand.

“We expect continued strength in net customer adds in the coming months, particularly with the Apple launch expected sometime within the next month,” New Street analysts wrote in a report to investors this week, LightReading reported.

On Tuesday, Apple announced it would host an event October 13 where it is widely expected to announce its 5G iPhones. The company’s invitation to the event sported the phrase “Hi, Speed.”

The release promises to lead to another wave of 5G customers, especially in the United States, where over half of the market relies on Apple phones.

The New Street analysts wrote that the South Korea’s sales of 5G represent a positive for the global industry, saying “The August data confirms that 5G demand remains intact and 5G tariffs are to date remaining stable providing a 20 percent uplift to average revenue per user. As a result, we continue with our positive view on the industry.”

Former Assistant Editor Jericho Casper graduated from the University of Virginia studying media policy. She grew up in Newport News in an area heavily impacted by the digital divide. She has a passion for universal access and a vendetta against anyone who stands in the way of her getting better broadband. She is now Associate Broadband Researcher at the Institute for Local Self Reliance's Community Broadband Network Initiative.

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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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