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Biden Wants $4 Billion for Broadband, House Commerce Wants ‘Rip and Replace’, Maine Launches Speedtest



Photo of Joe Biden from August 2019 by Gage Skidmore used with permission

According to numerous reports, the incoming Biden administration is aiming to address broadband disparities in the United States with billions in new funding. The Biden broadband plan aims to address discrepancies in both access and affordability.

According to a Washington Post report, Biden has endorsed a $4 billion package that would be used to help low-income Americans pay for internet service, and ensure that they are not disconnected from vital broadband services, during the pandemic.

Beyond pandemic relief, Biden specifically called out a commitment to universal broadband last week as he outlined his broader economic recovery agenda.

The Biden administration has signaled interest in broader infrastructure funding that would include billions in broadband funding. There is currently no shortage of bills in Congress focused on this issue, including a $100 billion broadband infrastructure bill, the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act, introduced by House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C.

Biden will still have to negotiate with Congress for any broadband funding plan, whether stand-alone or as a part of a broader pandemic relief package, which will be no small feat in itself.

Pallone and Walden urge FCC to assist companies replacing foreign network equipment

On Monday, Chairman Frank Pallone Jr., D-New Jersey, and Ranking Member Greg Walden, R-Oregon, of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, wrote a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai urging him to provide funding for ‘Rip and Replace’ initiatives, in an attempt to progress the replacement of foreign-made gear in U.S. telecommunications networks.

Earlier this year, the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act was signed into law. The Act provides the FCC with several new authorities to secure communications supply chains, including the establishment and administration of the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement Program.

Through this program, small communications providers may seek reimbursement for the cost of removing and replacing suspicious network equipment. This funding is critical because some small and rural communications providers will not be able to afford these mandated upgrades otherwise.

While the initiative has yet to be funded by Congress, according to Pallone, there are steps the FCC could be taking in the meantime to help companies that are eligible for reimbursement plan prepare, and begin acting to remove non-domestic equipment.

“First, the FCC should develop and release the list of eligible replacement equipment, software, and services as soon as possible,” urge Pallone and Walden, in the letter.

“Second, the agency should reassure companies that they will not jeopardize their eligibility for reimbursement under the program just because replacement equipment purchases were made before the program is funded, assuming other eligibility criteria are met.”

Maine launches statewide internet speed test initiative

The Maine Broadband Coalition launched a new broadband speed testing initiative on Monday.

Through the “Get Up to Speed” testing initiative, Maine internet users are being encouraged to log onto the coalition’s website to determine and report their internet upload and download speeds.

In addition to finding out their own broadband speeds, participants will help the coalition identify slow spots around the state, where broadband speeds fall below the FCC’s current definition of 25 Megabites per second (Mbps) upload, 3 Mbps download.

The Maine testing effort, if utilized by enough state residents, will provide a more accurate picture of the broadband speeds available across the state.

The FCC currently assesses regional internet speeds, but the commissions judgements are based on the results of Form 477 data, which chronically overreports broadband availability, by contenting a census block is served with broadband if as little as one location within the block receives 25/3 Mbps.

“This is an issue that’s really important to people,” said Andrew Butcher, director of the Maine Broadband Coalition and director of innovation and resilience for the Greater Portland Council of Governments. Butcher noted that in July Maine constituents voted overwhelmingly to authorize a $15 million bond to help pay for high-speed internet service in parts of the state without service or with inadequate service.

Broadband Roundup

Biden’s Involvement in 5G, Residential 5 Gbps in Northwest, New Technology Advisory Council

The president urged wireless carriers to comply with the aviation industry’s requests for further delays on new network launches.



January 21, 2022 – President Joe Biden says he pushed wireless carriers to accommodate aviation companies’ concerns about the networks’ launch of 5G that occurred Wednesday.

Biden encouraged carriers to give airlines even more time to examine their aviation equipment for possible interference with 5G before the new network updates were launched.

Verizon and AT&T announced Tuesday that they would limit 5G service around some airports, giving in to some of the aviation industry’s concerns.

Both companies had initially planned to launch their network changes on January 5 but further delayed launch at the request of airlines. January 5 was already a delayed launch date, with the companies having earlier planned rollout for 2021.

“What I’ve done is pushed as hard as I can to have the 5G folks hold up and abide by what was being requested by the airlines until they could more modernize over the years, so 5G would not interfere with the potential of a landing” said Biden following the events of Wednesday’s launch.

He says he spoke with Verizon and AT&T on the same day the launch took place.

The president did not mention any government fixes to the conflict, saying it was an argument between “two private enterprises,” despite speculation that following the messy fight the administration may develop a national spectrum strategy or the Federal Communications Commission and National Telecommunications and Information Administration may release updated memoranda on the issues.

Ziply Fiber offers 5 Gigabit per second residential service

Internet service provider Ziply Fiber announced it has begun offering ultra-high-speed 5 Gigabit per second (Gbps) and 2 Gbps residential fiber internet service to customers in several cities across the Northwest.

The expansion in Washington state, Oregon and Idaho makes Ziply Fiber the first company to introduce a 5 Gbps speed for residential services, the company said.

In its announcement Thursday, the company says the expansion will bring service to nearly 170,000 residential customer addresses across 60 cities and towns.

Ziply Fiber began building out fiber in Northwest markets in 2020 and has announced construction of 57 fiber projects since then.

The company plans to introduce its 5 Gbps and 2 Gbps service in Montana later in Q1 of 2022.

FCC sets stage for new TAC membership

The FCC has appointed a new group of members to serve on its Technology Advisory Council and set a February 28 date for its first meeting with the new class.

“The advisory council provides technical expertise to the Commission to identify important areas of innovation and develop informed technology policies,” according to the FCC.

Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced the new membership Wednesday with the commission’s press release calling them “a diverse group of leading technology experts.”

Dean Brenner, a former Qualcomm executive, will serve as chairman of the council, Michael Ha, chief of the policy and rules division in the Office of Engineering and Technology, will continue to serve as the designated federal officer and Martin Doczkat, chief of the electromagnetic compatibility division in the OET, is the alternate designated federal officer.

Rosenworcel highlighted that the council will work on advancing 6G research as well as numerous other issues such as examining both supply chain vulnerabilities and global standards development.

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Broadband Roundup

USDA Hires Lumen, Ligado Marketing Services, IRS Facial ID, New Public Knowledge Hire

The Department of Agriculture awarded Lumen a $1.2-billion, 11-year contract for data services.



Lumen President and CEO Jeff Storey

January 20, 2022 – On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a $1.2-billion network services contract with telecom Lumen Technologies.

The 11-year contract will provide the department with data transport service with remote access and cloud connectivity, leveraging Lumen’s fiber network to connect 9,500 USDA locations across the country and abroad to better manage agriculture in the country, the press release said.

“Lumen is bringing modern technology solutions that will make it easier for the USDA to accomplish its mission of promoting the production of nutritious food that nourishes our people, providing economic opportunity to rural Americans, and preserving our nation’s natural resources through smart forest and watershed conservation,” said Zain Ahmed, Lumen’s public sector senior vice president.

The contract was granted under the General Services Administration’s $50-billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions program.

Ligado Networks and Select Spectrum to strengthen critical networks

Mobile communications company Ligado Networks and spectrum brokerage and advisory firm Select Spectrum announced an agreement on Tuesday that will market and sell Ligado’s mid-band spectrum services for critical infrastructure.

“We know the critical infrastructure sector has an urgent need for dedicated access to licensed spectrum, and our mid-band spectrum, with both satellite and terrestrial connectivity, is uniquely positioned to meet this need and empower companies to operate private networks on a long-term basis,” said Ligado Networks’ CEO Doug Smith in a press release.

According to the agreement, Select Spectrum will search for those seeking to use Ligado’s licensed spectrum in the 1.6 GHz band in order to provide 5G capabilities to projects like power grid modernization and advanced transportation initiatives.

IRS to require facial recognition for taxes access

According to a Wednesday Gizmodo article, starting this summer online tax filers will have to submit a selfie to a third-party verification company called in order to make payments or file taxes online. Along with facial identification, users will also have to submit government identification documents and copies of bills to confirm their identity. will use the selfie and compare it to the government identification document to verify the user. If the system fails to match the two documents, the user can join a recorded video to provide verification to the user.

Gizmodo’s article claimed that both the IRS and could not provide a method to access user accounts without providing a face scan. This could be problematic for tax filers that don’t have access to certain technologies.

Public Knowledge hires new senior policy analyst

Non-profit public interest group  Public Knowledge announced Tuesday that it has brought on Lisa Macpherson as senior policy analyst.

According to a press release, Macpherson’s “experience driving digital marketing transformation on behalf of brands led to concerns over the broader impacts of digital technology on individual well-being, civil society, journalism, and democracy.”

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Broadband Roundup

National Privacy Law, Digital Infrastructure Firm’s $8B Raise, Wicker Wants Spectrum Cooperation

Business groups are asking Congress to supersede state laws by passing privacy legislation that sets a national standard.



Senator Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi

January 19, 2022 – As states begin to pass their own privacy laws, business groups are asking the federal government to pass legislation that would mitigate confusion by creating a national standard, reports MediaPost Communications.

The Association of National Advertisers, Interactive Advertising Bureau, and the U.S. Chamber of Congress are just a few of the business groups that are asking for a national privacy law.

“As the Federal Trade Commission considers a privacy rulemaking that would add a further layer of complexity to the state patchwork, it is critical that Congress pass one single national standard”, the groups stated in a letter that was signed by 15 national organizations and then by local business groups from across the country, the MediaPost report said.

California, Virginia, and Colorado are just a few of the states that have passed their own version of a privacy law, and while they all serve a similar purpose, they have various nuances that the business groups said they believe will be difficult to navigate for their businesses and for consumers across state lines, MediaPost reports.

In addition, there are members of Congress who are also asking for a national plan for consumer privacy.

Digital infrastructure firm DigitalBridge raises over $8 billion

DigitalBridge Investment Management, an investment firm in digital infrastructure, raised a higher-than-expected $8.3 billion, according to a Wednesday press release, illustrating interest in projects including fiber builds.

“The Fund has already invested in nine portfolio companies across towers, easements, hyperscale data centers, edge infrastructure, indoor DAS infrastructure and fiber, running reliable, mission-critical network infrastructure for many of the world’s leading hyperscale cloud providers and mobile network operators,” the release said.

The round comes as the federal government pushing billions of dollars into infrastructure, including broadband and as the pandemic has shown a need for remote capabilities driven by broadband.

Republican lawmaker calls for NTIA-FCC cooperation on spectrum

Senator Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, sent a letter earlier this month to the head of the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration asking them to consider a renewed agreement to work together on spectrum management.

The January 13 letter to FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and new NTIA head Alan Davidson said their “relationship can be strengthened” on matters related to the shared use of radiowaves between federal and non-federal users by refreshing the memorandum of understanding that was last updated in 2003.

“In light of recent disputes over spectrum allocations, it is more important than ever that the [FCC and NTIA] work together to promote spectrum policy that best serves the dual goals of furthering commercial innovation and enabling the mission-critical operations of federal agencies,” the letter said.

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