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Biden Launches Transition Team Website, Twitter Flags 6 Trump Tweets, Judge Can’t Block TikTok Restrictions

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Joe Biden

Presidential candidate Joe Biden and Vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris launched a placeholder transition team website, BuildBackBetter.com, in a sign anticipating victory in the ongoing election.

“The American people will determine who will serve as the next President of the United States,” reads the homepage. “Votes are still being counted in several states around the country.

“The crises facing the country are severe — from a pandemic to an economic recession, climate change to racial injustice — and the transition team will continue preparing at full speed so that the Biden-Harris Administration can hit the ground running on Day One.”

The website takes inspiration from Biden’s campaign slogan “Build Back Better,” and seeks to reassure the country that a Biden administration will be ready to take charge of the country once one of the candidates – Biden or President Donald Trump – has amassed the 270 electoral votes necessary for victory

Twitter flags six of Trump’s election tweets

Twitter flagged, generally obscured the visibility of, six of Trump’s tweets on Wednesday because they claimed premature victory in key swing states or claimed election fraud.

Twitter also flagged Trump’s associates, including White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, the president’s son Eric Trump, and even Trump’s official campaign account.

They, like Trump, claimed victory in Pennsylvania before an official vote count had been made. Trump also claimed premature victory in Georgia and North Carolina. In spite of an early lead, a large number of ballots had yet to be counted.

Three of Trump’s tweets were hidden and one was partially hidden, and users were preventing from retweeting the posts that violated Twitter’s standards. These tweets were flagged shortly after former Vice President Joe Biden won Wisconsin and Michigan, states Trump won in the 2016 election.

Judge skeptical of his authority to lift TikTok restrictions

U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols was doubtful that he could block government restrictions that would bar TikTok in the United States, reports Law360.

The app was protected by a Pennsylvania district court’s nationwide injunction issued October 30 when three TikTok influencers said Trump’s TikTok ban violated a carveout of the law under which it was issued.

In September, Nichols blocked the administration from implementing an executive order that would have removed TikTok from app stores due to national security concerns. The government has filed a bid to overturn that decision.

TikTok attorney John Hall argued against a complete and harmful shutdown of the app. But Nichols felt that the October order issued by Judge Wendy Beetlestone was still operative and “forecloses most, if not all, of TikTok’s arguments about irreparable harm.”

Government attorney Daniel Schwei countered that because the remaining prohibitions were already enjoined by Beetlestone on a national basis, issuing a new injunction would be erroneous.

Reporter Liana Sowa grew up in Simsbury, Connecticut. She studied editing and publishing as a writing fellow at Brigham Young University, where she mentored upperclassmen on neuroscience research papers. She enjoys reading and journaling, and marathon-runnning and stilt-walking.

Broadband Roundup

Sohn Speaks After Withdrawal, MasterCard Back Indigenous Connectivity, Liberty-CityFibre in Buy Talks

The former FCC nominee spoke for the first time regarding future plans after withdraw.

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Photo of Gigi Sohn from 2012 by Joel Sage used with permission

March 20, 2023 – Former Federal Communications Commission nominee Gigi Sohn told The Washington Post in an interview published last week that she feels she “got a book to write” about her 16-month-long battle to get the Senate to vote her onto the commission.

Earlier this month, the two-time nominee of President Joe Biden withdrew her candidacy after what she called “dark money political groups” tainting her career. Sohn has been accused by Republicans of being impartial and donating to members of the Commerce committee that had previously pushed her nomination forward but which did not get to Senate votes.

“There’s been a bunch of stuff that’s happened over the past 16 months … that is going to make people’s eyes bug out,” Sohn told the Post.

During Sohn’s confirming process, she said she has been repeatedly subject to “unrelenting, dishonest and cruel attacks” from extremist groups and media.

“That was the first time I felt like ‘Oh my god, this could really rile up some crazies to come to my house … and threaten me and my family,’” the Post said she said. “I owed a duty to me and my family to move on, and this was very, very difficult on me emotionally.”

Sohn said she was “very proud” of the support she received from allies throughout the process, the Post said.

Sohn told the Post she had “several opportunities” lined up, which might be the intent to advocate internet access at the state level. But she also said she could do “something bigger and more,” according to the Post.

Mastercard Foundation partners with indigenous institute for internet access

The Mastercard Foundation announced Monday it is investing $3.7 million CAD, or $2.7 million USD, to help the Indigenous Connectivity Institute expand its current digital equity program.

The funding will “enable the ICI to expand current programs and develop new initiatives to reach 10,000 Indigenous young people over the next three years,” according to the release.

“This support from the Mastercard Foundation has the potential to advance Indigenous digital equity beyond our imaginations and make real the projects and collaboration we’ve been dreaming up for years. I am so excited to see this new partnership in action,” Darrah Blackwater, ICI Advisory Council member, said in a press release.

The indigenous-led organization is focused exclusively on digital equity in Canada and the United States by providing training programs to advance technical and advocacy skills, the release said.

“A fast, reliable internet connection is essential to ensuring that Indigenous young people can access high-quality education and meaningful employment opportunities,” says Jennifer Brennan, Director of Canada Programs at the Mastercard Foundation. “The shared vision for this partnership is a commitment to ensuring Indigenous young people and communities have the capacity, support, knowledge, and financial resources to lead digital equity to advance their aspirations and strengthen their communities.”

State broadband leaders will join Broadband Breakfast’s online event and talk about how their states are approaching the digital equity planning process and what they hope to accomplish with federal funding on Wednesday April 15 at 12 noon ET.

Liberty Global acquisition of Cityfibre and Liberty Global unlikely to be approved

Virgin Media O2 is seeking to acquire fiber competitor CityFibre for £3 billion, according to media reports.

The Telegraph reported Saturday that Virgin is in talks with the competitor, but questions remained about the likelihood of the deal moving past regulators.

Capacity reported Monday that equity analyst Jerry Dellis from Jefferies Equity Research does not believe it will get past the Competition and Markets Authority.

“A VMO2-CityFibre combination would appear to threaten the regulatory objective of network competition providing choice for ISPs, leading to better outcomes for consumers,” a Dellis research note said, according to Capacity.

“With a back-book comprising millions of customers that have been subject to multiple years of retail price increases, we question what incentive VMO2 has to compete down wholesale pricing.”

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Broadband Roundup

TikTok U.S. Must Sell or Get Banned, T-Mobile’s New Buy, 5 More States Receive ECF Money

The threats come ahead of the first congressional committee appearance by TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew.

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Photo of T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert from the company

March 16, 2023 – President Joe Biden and his administration said it wants the Bytedance, TikTok’s owner, to sell the U.S. version of the video sharing app or face a ban, according to the New York Times.

The demands were sent to ByteDance in recent weeks, said the Times, citing anonymous sources.

The threats come ahead of the first congressional committee appearance by TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew next Thursday.

TikTok’s efforts to win U.S. government approval come in the face of growing Congressional hostility toward the platform. Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., and John Thune, R-S.D., on Tuesday unveiled a bill aimed at giving the Commerce Department the ability to impose a complete ban of the app.

The Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology Act (RESTRICT Act) requires the Commerce Department to examine critical infrastructure products, including those that go toward telecommunications networks, and to ensure “comprehensive actions to address risks of untrusted foreign information communications and technology products by requiring the Secretary to take up consideration of concerning activity identified by other government entities,” a White House release said.

Last month, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget required agencies to identify a banned application, such as TikTok, remove it and disallow installation on devices, and prohibit internet traffic within 30 days, as part of the governments’ efforts to rid security threats on government devices.

T-Mobile to acquire Mint Mobile for $1.35B

T-Mobile just announced Wednesday that it has agreed to acquire Ka’ena Corporation and its subsidiaries and brands including Mint Mobile, Ultra Mobile and wholesaler Plum, according to a press release.

T-Mobile is acquiring the brands’ sales, marketing, digital, and service operations, and plans to use its supplier relationships and distribution scale to help the brands to grow and offer competitive pricing and greater device inventory to more U.S. consumers seeking value offerings, it said in the release.

T-Mobile will pay up to a maximum of $1.35 billion, 39 percent in cash and 61 in stock to acquire Ka’ena, with the actual price based on the performance of Ka’ena during certain time period before and after the closing, the release said.

“Mint has built an incredibly successful digital direct-to-consumer business that continues to deliver for customers on the Un-carrier’s leading 5G network and now we are excited to use our scale and owners’ economics to help supercharge it – and Ultra Mobile – into the future,” said Mike Sievert, CEO of T-Mobile, in the release.

“Over the long-term, we’ll also benefit from applying the marketing formula Mint has become famous for across more parts of T-Mobile. We think customers are really going to win with a more competitive and expansive Mint and Ultra,” Sievert added.

FCC commits $1.7M from Emergency Connectivity Fund

The Federal Communications Commission announced on Wednesday it is committing $1.7 million through the Emergency Connectivity Program to help over 5000 students gain better access to internet.

Wednesday’s announcement will support approximately 15 schools and 2 libraries in California, Florida, Minnesota, Missouri, and New York.

“Closing the Homework Gap means we need to connect all our students to digital tools for communicating with teachers and schools,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “Today’s funding round is another important step toward reaching that goal.”

Since the launch of the $7.171 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund in 2021, the FCC has allocated a total of $6.6 billion in funding commitments. The program is set to end this year, with the service delivery deadline for the first two rounds approaching on June 30.

Some organizations have called on Congress to allocate additional funding for its extension.

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Broadband Roundup

Stakeholders Urge Higher Speed Standard, NTIA’s Spectrum Strategy, ACP Outreach Funding, Yellowstone Awarded $65 Million

Industry groups urged Congress to codify 100 Mbps.

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Photo of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo in 2022 by Walter Duerst used with permission

March 15, 2023 — Multiple industry groups and other rural broadband stakeholders on Tuesday urged Congress to codify a minimum symmetrical speed standard of 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) in the upcoming reauthorization of the so-called Farm Bill, a multiyear package of legislation that governs a wide range of agricultural and food programs.

“Employing a lesser standard would represent an inefficient step backwards… failing the rural communities that need broadband capable of keeping pace with user demand for decades to come,” the stakeholders wrote in a letter to the Senate and House Agriculture Committees.

“Policies that encourage sustainable networks that meet the needs of consumers now and into the future will be most efficient in responding to consumer demand over the lives of those networks, particularly when compared to short-term solutions that are likely to be quickly outpaced by technological evolution and consumer demands and require substantial re-investment relatively soon thereafter.”

Among the groups signing the letter were the Fiber Broadband Association, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

The organizations noted that robust connectivity is “especially important for rural Americans who, because of the long distances needed to travel, often rely even more than their urban counterparts on online access.”

The letter also emphasized the high demand for funding through the ReConnect Program, which supports rural broadband deployment, “notwithstanding high program expectations for service performance and network capability.”

This demand proves “that there is a surplus of providers interested and able to deliver better broadband services to rural America,” FBA President Gary Bolton said in a statement. “Our hope in raising the minimum standard is to ensure that every American to benefit from the Farm Bill will have access to high-quality, high-speed fiber broadband.”

NTIA requests comment on national spectrum strategy

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration on Wednesday requested public comment on identifying spectrum bands for new and additional private sector and federal uses, as part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to develop a national spectrum strategy.

The initiative aims to “make the most efficient use of this critical resource, with the goal of identifying new spectrum bands for potential repurposing that will spur competition and innovation for years to come,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said.

The NTIA’s proposed national strategy involves three pillars: developing a spectrum pipeline, long-term spectrum planning and expanding spectrum capacity through technology.

“Our airwaves are a valuable resource and we need a whole-of-government plan for managing them and using them,” Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said. “That is why this kind of long-term spectrum planning is so important. Combining it with short-term action to restore auction authority and provide a steady pipeline of spectrum for new commercial opportunities is the best way to ensure continued United States leadership in the wireless economy.”

Congress on Thursday failed to renew the FCC’s spectrum auction authority, sparking broad criticism.

FCC announces $7.5 million in funding for ACP outreach programs

The FCC on Wednesday announced nearly $7.5 million in funding for two new year-long pilot outreach grant programs aimed at promoting the Affordable Connectivity Program, which subsidizes internet services and connected devices for low-income households.

The agency selected 23 applicants to receive almost $5 million in grant funding through the Your Home, Your Internet Program, in an attempt to encourage ACP awareness and participation for communities receiving federal housing assistance.

The agency awarded the remaining $2.5 million to nine applicants through the ACP Navigator Pilot Program, which aids entities such as school districts and Tribal governments in assisting consumers through the ACP application process.

“These outreach grants are a powerful tool to help us reach communities that could benefit from the Affordable Connectivity Program,” Rosenworcel said. “We want families that could use help with their internet bills to know about this largest-ever broadband affordability program, now supporting internet connections in nearly 17 million households.”

Yellowstone Fiber awarded $65 million for high-speed fiber network

Yellowstone Fiber was awarded a $65 million industrial bond deal to finance a high-speed fiber optic network in rural Montana, CEO Greg Metzger announced on Tuesday.

The project aims to bring connectivity to areas that are currently unserved or underserved by major internet service providers — without waiting for funding from the $42.5 million Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program.

“All signs point to the BEAD money leading to incremental builds, with most of the money lining the pockets of large ISPs whose future depends on not ‘overbuilding’ their existing outdated infrastructure,” Metzger claimed. “Montana has some of the worst connectivity in the nation and Yellowstone Fiber didn’t want to wait for the possibility of a handout; we wanted to create a solution.”

The planned network will utilize an open access model, hoping to foster competition by enabling multiple private-sector service providers to use the infrastructure.

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