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FCC Petitioned Over Rural Cost Model, Instagram Posts Are Fair Use, Universal Broadband in Puerto Rico

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Photo of federal judge Allyne Ross of the Eastern District of New York courtesy Federal Defenders of New York Blog

The ACAM Broadband Coalition – which takes its name from the Federal Communications Commission’s Alternative Connect America Cost Model – on Monday filed a petition with the FCC seeking a rulemaking aimed at accelerating the deployment of higher-speed broadband services to unserved and underserved Americans living in rural areas throughout the country.

The petition calls for the FCC to extend the current opportunity provided to companies participating in the ACAM program, to receive six additional years of support, in return for providing significantly faster broadband speeds to consumers more quickly than the current plan envisions.

The proposed enhancements to the ACAM program could result in over 600,000 rural consumers being afforded access to broadband at 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) upload, 25 Mbps download speeds, or higher.

The filing is aimed at helping those living in unserved rural areas across the country and responds to the eagerness of Americans for access to more broadband at higher speeds.

“We have heard loud and clear that American consumers, particularly those living and working in rural areas, want and need greater access to broadband services,” said Great Plains Communications’ CEO Todd Foje. “Enhancing the ACAM program in the manner proposed in the petition would respond by bringing higher speed broadband services more quickly to many hundreds of thousands of Americans.”

Embedded Instagram posts are ruled fair use

A New York federal judge ruled that a news publisher embedding an Instagram post containing a copyrighted photo taken by another constitutes fair use under copyright law.

In Boesen v. United Sports Publications, U.S. District Judge Allyne Ross dismissed the complaint of plaintiff photographer Michael Barrett Boesen for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.

Boesen filed a lawsuit against USP for copyright infringement on March 25, after USP ran an article on professional tennis player Caroline Wozniacki’s retirement. The article embedded one of Wozniacki’s original Instagram posts, featuring a cropped version of a photograph Boesen had taken.

USP did not license the photograph from Boesen, nor did it have permission to publish the work on its website. USP registered a copyright on the photograph that became effective December 27, 2019.

Judge Ross’s analysis separately addressed each of the fair use factors, finding that all four factors weighed in favor of a fair use ruling in the case.

FCC announces all of Puerto Rico will have access to high-speed broadband service

The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau announced Monday (PDF) that funding through Stage 2 of the Uniendo a Puerto Rico Fund will result in all regions of Puerto Rico having access to fixed broadband service with speeds of at least 100 Megabytes per second.  According to the announcement, nearly one-third of specified locations will have access to service with upload and download speeds of at least 1 Gigabit per second.

Two winning applicants in the Uniendo a Puerto Rico Stage 2 competitive process submitted bids for $127.1 million in funding. Liberty Communications has committed to offer service to over 914,000 locations, and Puerto Rico Telephone Company has committed to serving over 308,000 locations.

Liberty Communications won approximately $71.54 million to provide broadband access to all locations in 43 of Puerto Rico’s 78 municipios, which are roughly equivalent to counties on the American mainland.

Puerto Rico Telephone Company won approximately $55.56 million in support to provide high-speed broadband access to all locations in the other 35 municipios.

“I’m very pleased with the outcome of the Uniendo a Puerto Rico Fund’s Stage 2 Competitive Process,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.  “As most people know, the island has suffered so much devastation to communications infrastructure from hurricanes in recent years, and even before that, connectivity was a challenge for many.  Our decisive action to enable the deployment of resilient, next-generation broadband networks throughout Puerto Rico reflects our determination to close the digital divide.”

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.

Broadband Roundup

Apple Blacklists Fortnite, T-Mobile Expands Home Internet, Ajit Pai Reflects on Virginia’s Broadband Leadership

Apple will not reinstate Fortnite after court fight, T-Mobile expands in 4 states, Ajit Pai on Virginia’s broadband success.

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Ajit Pai, foreground, right

September 23, 2021 – Apple has blacklisted popular video game Fortnite from its app store until there are no appeals left in its court case, according to the head of the game maker.

On Wednesday, Tim Sweeney, the head of Fortnite maker Epic Games, posted a letter on Twitter from the lawyers for Apple stating that the company would not reinstate Fortnite on its app store until all court appeals have been exhausted, which Sweeney said could be as long as five years.

Last week, the U.S. District Judge ruled that Apple was not being anticompetitive when it banned Fornite from the app. The legal battle emerged when Fornite allowed its players to make in-game purchases directly through the game, which effectively bypassed Apple’s store and the commission it gets for transactions.

Sweeney said on Twitter on Wednesday that Epic agreed to “play by the same rules as everyone else” if reinstated on Apple’s app store.

“Apple spent a year telling the world, the court, and the press they’d ‘welcome Epic’s return to the App Store if they agree to play by the same rules as everyone else,” Sweeney said in a tweet. “Epic agreed, and now Apple has reneged in another abuse of its monopoly power over a billion users.”

In August, Senators Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, introduced the Open App Markets Act to ban app store operators from requiring app providers to use their in-app payment systems.

T-Mobile expands home internet in four states

T-Mobile is expanding its home internet service to 51 cities and towns across Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, it said in a Tuesday press release.

The company said it is able to expand its service because of “massive investments” it has made in its 5G network, which was a pitch to regulators when the company purchase Sprint.

“The traditional landline [internet service providers] have failed the south,” the release said. “Across these four states, nearly 1 million people do not have access to a single wired internet provider. That bears repeating — nearly 1 million people across just four states do not have access at all. This is unacceptable. And unfortunately, that’s not all. Landline ISPs have left nearly 1.7 million people without any access to speeds above 25Mbps and nearly 3.3 million people with access to only one provider.

“This lack of access and choice has led to high prices, poor service, and the unhappiest customers in America —ISPs rank dead last in recent customer satisfaction scores from ACSI. Dead. Last.

Fixed wireless technologies, as T-Mobile uses here, can fill gaps where fiber builds in rural and remote areas are prohibitively expensive.

Former FCC Chairman Ajit Pai writes op-ed about Virginia’s leadership in narrowing digital divide

Former Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Ajit Pai wrote in an op-end in the Washington Post on Wednesday outlining how Virginia became a leader in ending the digital divide.

The Virginia resident, who is now a partner at Searchlight Capital Partners, noted that the state’s Virginia Telecommunications Initiative ensured public funds weren’t a limiting factor to build the last mile connections to homes and businesses, as it plowed money in areas traditionally not ventured by private telecoms because of a lack of return. The initiative also involved public utilities to lease fiber capacity to the telecoms.

“Having led the Federal Communications Commission, I’ve been able to take a bird’s-eye view of the country and assess the effectiveness of various state programs,” Pai said.

“I can say without reservation that Virginia is leading the pack in establishing a framework for what I like to call “digital opportunity” for all its citizens. Its success in broadband can be attributed to several factors: the governor’s consistent prioritization of broadband, bipartisan support and funding from the General Assembly, an efficient and successful VATI program and enabling electric utilities to deploy middle-mile infrastructure.

“This framework will deliver universal broadband throughout the commonwealth. And it is a model for many other states in our nation, large and small, and from coast to coast.”

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Broadband Roundup

Tech Sues Texas over Social Media Law, $80 Billion Investment, Broadband and Growth

A coalition of groups argue the Texas law violates the Constitution, US Telecom on investment and Connected Nation on impact.

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Photo of Mike Saperstein from his Twitter account

WASHINGTON, September 22, 2021— NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association have jointly filed a lawsuit against Texas, arguing that a recent law designed to prevent censorship on social media is unconstitutional.

The CCIA is following through on a threat it made to sue the state should the bill be passed into law, following the bill’s passage in Texas’ Republican controlled House. Unsurprisingly, the bill faced little opposition in the state’s Republican Senate and was signed into law by Republican Gov. Greg Abbot in mid-September of 2021.

“ We will always defend the freedom of speech in Texas,” Abbot said in a statement, “Social media websites have become our modern-day public square. They are a place for healthy public debate where information should be able to flow freely — but there is a dangerous movement by social media companies to silence conservative viewpoints and ideas. That is wrong, and we will not allow it in Texas.”

The CCIA filed a similar suit in Florida earlier in 2021, and as of September 22, 2021, the law remains blocked following a preliminary injunction granted by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle.

“By tying digital services’ hands, this unconstitutional law will put Texans at greater risk of exposure to disinformation, propaganda, and extremism. There are few First Amendment fouls clearer than regulating based on viewpoint. The law aside, it’s neither good policy nor good politics for Texas to make the Internet a safe space for bad actors, whether that be Taliban sympathizers or people encouraging kids to eat detergent pods,” CCIA President Matt Schruers said in a statement.

Telecom companies have spent $80 billion on capital expenditures

US Telecom’s 2020 annual analysis indicates a significant spending boost for broadband infrastructure amongst ISPs despite the pandemic.

The analysis indicated that providers’ capital expenditures were $79.4 billion higher than the previous year. This brought total capital expenditures for the industry up to $1.9 trillion since the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was passed.

The study also indicated that in the first six months of 2020 alone, approximately five-million additional homes were connected to fiber broadband.

The study also notes that though this level of broadband spending is unprecedented, the approximately $42 billion earmarked for broadband spending by the bipartisan infrastructure framework is less than half of what American telcos invest in broadband annually.

“Putting 25 years of investment figures in context shows that America’s communications providers have a tremendous amount of ‘skin in the game’ when it comes to broadband network deployment, and it is important that additional regulations (beyond those ensuring taxpayer funding is spent as intended) not be structured so as to dissuade or slow private investment,” US Telecom Vice President of Strategic Initiations and Partnerships Mike Saperstein said in a release.

Study published linking broadband expansion to economic growth

Connected Nation published a study Wednesday with several key findings the demonstrate the relationship between improved broadband connectivity and positive economic growth in Michigan.

The study in question illustrated a correlation between expansions in broadband and improved unemployment rates, growth in the information sector, increased in-migration, greater median household income growth, and improved fixed broadband access, competition, and adoption.

Notably, according to the data, connected communities experienced a 9.3 percent change in household incomes between 2017 and 2019 while the statewide average improved by only 8.5 percent during that same period.

The study’s author and Director of Research and Development for Connected Nation Chris McGovern noted that these changes should not be expected in communities over a matter of weeks, and should be viewed as the benefits of long-term investments made for future growth.

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Broadband Roundup

Rosenworcel Talks Spectrum Strategy, Book on Broadband Policy Failure Released, Lifeline Awareness Week

FCC head talks spectrum and network strategy, broadband policy book released, and it’s Lifeline Awareness Week.

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Christopher Ali, author of Farm Fresh Broadband (photo from UVA Press)

September 21, 2021 — Federal Communications Commission Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel spoke Tuesday about the agency’s spectrum strategy, reiterating that it is freeing up more spectrum, diversifying equipment and building security in the networks.

Rosenworcel, who was speaking at the 2021 NTIA Spectrum Policy Symposium on Tuesday, pointed out that the agency is focusing on freeing up critical mid-ban spectrum for 5G, saying that will be a “game changer” for the next-generation networks by ushering more competition, wider coverage and better performance. She pointed to the 3.45-3.55 Gigahertz band auction next month.

She also noted that she appreciates Congress’ focus on fiber broadband as the backbone for other technologies, including wireless networks, and said the FCC is committed to expanding the reach of fiber; that the agency has been focused on diversifying network equipment, including holding a showcase for open radio access network technologies; and that it is focused on the security of the networks, including removing untrusted equipment with policies like “rip and replace.”

“As today’s gathering demonstrates, in each of these principles—whether it is freeing spectrum, expanding broadband, diversifying networks, securing communications, or leading internationally—we have embraced the idea that no single entity can meet this challenge alone,” Rosenworcel said.

“We need a whole-of-government approach to get this done and one that is open to commercial innovation and opportunity,” she added. “To do this, we need to draw on the strengths in our national DNA—our hard-wired belief in the creative possibilities of the future, the power of coordination, and the rule of law.  This is how we turn spectrum scarcity into spectrum abundance.”

Book about broadband policy failure released

A book about the failure of U.S. broadband policy to solve the rural and urban digital divide has been released on Tuesday.

Farm Fresh Broadband: The Politics of Rural Connectivity explores the “promise and failure of national rural broadband policy in the United States and proposes a new national broadband plan,” according to the MIT press, which published the book.

The author, Christopher Ali, “argues that rural broadband policy is both broken and incomplete: broken because it lacks coordinated federal leadership and incomplete because it fails to recognize the important roles of communities, cooperatives, and local providers in broadband access,” the webpage says.

This week is Lifeline Awareness Week

The Federal Communications Commission is partnering with organization in an outreach effort to raise awareness about a program designed to make communications more affordable for low-income consumers, the agency said Tuesday.

The FCC said it is partnering with the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates to acknowledge Lifeline Awareness Week, which runs from September 20 to September 24, 2021.

The Lifeline program provides up to a $9.25 monthly discount on communications services and up to $34.25 monthly for those on Tribal lands.

The awareness week is part of a larger outreach goal of the FCC to communicate that programs exist for low-income Americans to get connected.

During a discussion hosted by the Innovation Alliance on September 13, Rosenworcel said outreach is the “most valuable thing” for the Emergency Broadband Benefit program, which offers subsidies of $50 and $75 for low-income Americans, the latter for those living on Tribal lands. Those who qualify for the Lifeline program also qualify for the EBB program.

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