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Joe Biden’s Federal Communications Transition Team, C-Spire Expands, Elliott Management and AT&T

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Photo of Edward “Smitty” Smith II from the Washington Post

Four Federal Communications Commission veterans, including former FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, have been appointed to President-elect Joe Biden’s FCC transition team, which was announced on Monday.

See “Mignon Clyburn, Coy on Future Federal Communications Commission Role, Says Agency Lacks Authority to Clarify Section 230,” Broadband Breakfast, August 6, 2020

The team will be led by John Williams who is senior counsel and parliamentarian at the U.S. House Judiciary Committee. He previously served as senior counselor and as a senior agency official for privacy at the FCC’s Office of the General Counsel.

Also on the team is Edward “Smitty” Smith II, a former aide to Chairman Tom Wheeler who currently is a managing partner of the Washington, D.C., law firm DLA Piper. Smith also previously worked for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and ran for the D.C. attorney general position in 2014.

Rounding out the team is Paul de Sa, a former FCC staff member who now works with Quadra Partners, a telecom consulting firm. While at the FCC, he served two terms, from 2009-2012 and 2016-2017, serving as chief of the Office of Strategic Planning, with a focus on merger reviews, spectrum policy and broadband.

The transition team for the FCC was noticeably absent from a list of agency review teams released by the Biden-Harris collective last week.

In a report for investors over the weekend, New Street Research Policy Advisor Blair Levin said the delay likely was not, as some believed, caused by an ideological split about who should be on the team, but caused by Williams appointment.

“The appointment of Williams appears to confirm our view that the hold up in naming the FCC team probably related to issues of detailing a current government employee to the transition when the General Services Administration had not certified the transition,” Levin said.

C-Spire expands MissiON research and education network

C-Spire, a privately-owned Mississippi-based technology company, is adding 15 community colleges to the Mississippi Optical Network, the research and education network supporting universities in the state.

The latest expansion of the network comes after C-Spire enhanced connections in 2018 for research arms at Ole Miss, the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Mississippi State, Jackson State, the University of Southern Mississippi, and other education institutions.

Leveraging its 10,000 route miles of high-capacity fiber optic infrastructure, C-Spire has designed the network to support more collaboration for the first time among the state’s research universities, regional universities and community colleges.

Community colleges in the state had been considering joining MissiON for some time and made the final decision to jump on the network as a result of complications brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The move will support distance learning for more than 200,000 students in the community college system, according to an AP press release.

“We’ve deployed a high performance, geographically diverse network and offer the community colleges speeds up to 100 Gigabits per second, with plans to expand to 400 Gbps and beyond in the future,” said C-Spire CEO Hu Meena.

“As Mississippi’s leading broadband communications provider, C-Spire is proud to provide innovative, leading-edge technology and the latest fiber optic infrastructure to help expand the size of the MissiON network and enable researchers to pursue comprehensive solutions to 21st century challenges,” Meena said.

After rattling AT&T, Elliott Management divests its stake

Yesterday, Elliott Management, an American investment management firm, filed a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission 13F form, signaling its exit of AT&T. The hedge fund sold 5 million AT&T shares in Q3, valued at $151.15 million as of the previous quarter’s end, reported Fierce Wireless.

Elliott shook up AT&T last year when it sent an open letter to the telecom company’s board of directors, criticizing numerous aspects of AT&T’s business, including its attempted, but failed, purchase of T-Mobile and its acquisition of DirecTV. In the letter, the management firm further penned an entire section entitled “Poor Execution in Wireless.”

Elliott also wanted AT&T to conduct stock buybacks. In this way, the total number of AT&T shares would decrease, raising the price so that investors like Elliott could make a big profit.

In response, AT&T said it would work with Elliott, and said it was already in the process of making many of Elliott’s suggestions.

In early March, AT&T said it would be repurchasing $4 billion worth of its shares during the second quarter of 2020. The company had plans for more buybacks throughout 2020; however, when the COVID-19 crisis hit AT&T put its accelerated share repurchase plans on hold, likely triggering Elliott’s departure.

Broadband Roundup

AT&T’s Opens Learning Center in Dallas, Parallel Wireless Expands, AT&T 5G Experiment for National Defense

AT&T’s opens first learning center with free broadband, open RAN company Parallel Wireless expands, AT&T testing 5G for maritime use.

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Jeff McElfresh, CEO of AT&T Communications

September 16, 2021—AT&T said Thursday it is opening its first learning center in Dallas, Texas, which it hopes will help bridge the digital divide by providing free access to the internet, computers and educational resources.

Dallas is the first in more than 20 AT&T Connected Learning Centers across the country that it plans to open in, which will include Los Angeles, Atlanta, Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, Miami, and San Francisco, the company said in a press release Thursday.

The telecom has committed to plowing $2 billion over three years to expand its AT&T Connected Learning program, which it announced in April and is an effort to bridge the digital device by promoting broadband affordability, accessibility and adoption.

“The stakes for closing the digital divide are incredibly high, and it is imperative that we remove barriers to opportunity for children and families,” said Jeff McElfresh, chief executive officer of AT&T Communications. “Education plays a vital role in the long-term success of our society, and we are committed to investing in the educational and connectivity needs of underserved communities, while also expanding access to low-cost broadband services.”

Open RAN company Parallel Wireless expands

Open radio access network company Parallel Wireless is expanding its research and development centers and company headquarters in the United States to develop its 4G and 5G software, said a press release Thursday.

“Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) across the globe are quickly adopting Open RAN networks to deliver cost-effective, easily scalable, wireless broadband connectivity,” the release said. “Parallel Wireless is at the forefront of the telecom revolution driving All G – 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G, Open RAN wireless networks into the future.”

The benefits of open RAN, which allows for a broader market of radio equipment versus relying on proprietary products, has been touted by the Federal Communications Commission Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel for its supposed low cost and security benefits. The FCC held an open RAN showcase in July.

Dish Network is testing technologies for its 5G broadband network, which will use open RAN equipment.

AT&T experimenting with 5G for national defense

In a press release on Thursday, AT&T said that it has come to an agreement with the Naval Postgraduate School to explore and develop 5G for maritime use for national defense, homeland security, and certain industries like shipping and oil and gas.

The three-year research agreement will feature AT&T’s 5G networking capabilities that is intended to hone the ubiquitous connectivity inherent in the next-generation network to create a network that would improve logistics and data analytics.

“The collaboration between the Naval Postgraduate School and AT&T will help us explore better, faster means of collecting, disseminating, and analyzing data at the tactical edge, which is vital to maintaining and exploiting battlespace awareness,” Mike Galbraith, the Navy Department’s chief digital and innovation officer, said in the press release. Experiments conducted under the NPS-AT&T CRADA are expected to complement other DON efforts to apply 5G and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to enterprise and tactical uses.”

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Broadband Roundup

Connectivity Bill Introduced, OneWeb Halfway to LEO Launches, USTelecom Announces New VP

Democrats intro device subsidy bill, OneWeb half way to launch goal, Trevor Jones is USTelecom VP of gov. affairs.

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Raphael Warnock, D-Georgia

WASHINGTON, September 15, 2021—In a move lauded by broadband equity advocates, Democrat congressmen introduced the “Device Access for Every American Act” to help low-income broadband consumers.

On Tuesday, congressmen Rep. Donald McEachin, D-Virginia, and Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Georgia, introduced the bill as part of similar efforts to improve consumer accessibility.

The legislation would allot $1 billion every year for five years to a program that would give Americans a $400 voucher to purchase a device to access the internet—whether that is a tablet, PC, laptop, etc.—and could get up to $800 over the course of every four-year period that the program is in place.

“Without a computer or tablet, low-income consumers across the country can’t connect despite Congress’ significant investments in deploying affordable broadband across the nation,” Public Knowledge senior policy analyst Jenna Leventoff said.

“However, the unfortunate reality is that most low-income consumers, including many senior citizens, can’t afford to spend hundreds of dollars for a computer or tablet. Across the country, more than 11 percent of households don’t have a computer,” she added.

Leventoff pointed to a survey conducted by Pew Research Center that found that 37 percent of schoolchildren in economically disadvantaged households do their coursework from a cellphone and a quarter of them have been unable to do coursework due to a lack of a computer at home.

“This bill will ensure that low-income consumers can connect not only now, but into the future. We applaud Sen. Warnock and Rep. McEachin for their tireless leadership in working to ensure that those most in need are able to get connected,” Leventoff added.

Leventoff noted that she is hopeful that the bill would be added as part of the reconciliation package.

OneWeb’s network of satellites is halfway to completion

On Tuesday, OneWeb launched an additional 34 low-earth orbit satellites, bringing their total to up to 322 out of their projected 648 estimate.

Launch service provider Arianespace was responsible for getting the satellites into orbit. In a press release, Arianespace CEO Stéphane Israël touted this as an achievement for the entire sector. “This launch illustrates the recent acceleration in space operation.”

During Satellite 2021’s opening keynote, executive chair of OneWeb Sunil Mittal committed to starting OneWeb’s commercial operations in the northern hemisphere over the next couple of months.

This all follows OneWeb’s 2020 bankruptcy filling and subsequent delays that resulted from the ensuing rescue of the company.

Trevor Jones named VP of Government Affairs for USTelecom

Trevor Jones, former legislative assistant to Senator Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, has been named vice-president of government affairs for USTelecom.

A graduate of Willamette University, Jones has worked with USTelecom since 2019. Jones is an expert in broadband, telecom, and internet policy.

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Broadband Roundup

Dish Using IBM AI for 5G Network, ConnectMaine’s New Grants, Intuit Buys Mailchimp, STL Hires Former Ericsson Exec

Dish is partnering with IBM for 5G, ConnectMaine’s community broadband grants, Intuit to buy Mailchimp, STL hires Paolo Colella.

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Former Ericsson executive Paolo Colella now on STL advisory board

September 14, 2021 – Dish Network has selected IBM’s artificial intelligence technology to automate its 5G network, it said in a Tuesday press release.

The smart network is said to implement the custom software from the makers of Watson that Dish said will help reduce its costs and create new revenue streams for the company.

Dish has been making several moves to expand its wireless offering, under its Boost Mobile moniker. Earlier this month, the company announced that it is buying prepaid and low-cost mobile carrier Gen Mobile. In the summer of last year, it purchased Ting Mobile.

On Wednesday, the Denver-based company asked the Federal Communications Commission for permission to use 600 MHz band licenses to test its 5G network in Las Vegas and Denver. Earlier this year, the company said it was accepting sign-ups for its 5G network.

ConnectMaine announced new community broadband grants

Maine has announced Monday new startup grants to build community broadband and has provided guidelines for eligibility on its website.

“Funded projects are intended to get communities ready to pursue future opportunities for broadband expansion, by committing to firm milestones to expand broadband in a way that reflects the community’s vision and goals,” the webpage reads.

The funded activities for broadband expansion should include the local broadband needs and goals, an inventory of existing infrastructure assets, gap analysis for why infrastructure is needed, cost estimates, and a strategy to promote digital inclusion, the webpage said.

Intuit to buy Mailchimp for $12 billion

The maker of tax software Intuit is set to buy email marketing company Mailchimp for $12 billion, the purchasing company said in a Monday press release.

The release said that Mailchimp will help bring Intuit technology scale and global customer reach.

Mailchimp has a global reach of 13 million users, 2.4 million monthly active users, and 800,000 paid customers, the release said.

STL appoints former Ericsson executive to advisory council

More leadership changes are being made at STL, as the company announced Tuesday that it is bringing former Ericsson executive Paolo Colella to its advisory board.

Colella has more than a 25 years of experience in telecommunications, technology and professional services and has held senior executive positions throughout that time. Sweden’s Ericsson is a leading supplier of 5G and mobile wireless equipment to global telecommunications companies.

The company, which focuses on integrating digital networks, earlier this month announced the appointment of Paul Atkinson, who will run the optical networking business.

STL is a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast.

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