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New Anti-Robocall Tools, House Passes 3 Tech Bills, Senate Commerce Clears Others, Is Open RAN Facilitating Protectionism?



Photo of Bronwyn Howell courtesy Victorian University of Wellington

The Secure Telephone Identity Governance Authority announced new policies to advance the STIR/SHAKEN protocol in the fight against illegal robocalls.

Through STIR/SHAKEN cryptographic system, service providers can mark calls with digital certificates and verify the accuracy of caller ID. The STI-GA gives service providers a way to collaborate as they ensure that only approved service providers are enrolled in the SHAKEN ecosystem.

The STI-GA recently updated their service provider code token access policy so that all service providers are required to certify with the Federal Communications Commission that they have either implemented STIR/SHAKEN or have a robocall mitigation program certification on file with the FCC.

This also includes an Operating Company Number and the FCC’s 499A report, the form used by the FCC and its Universal Service Administrative Company to track revenues of telecommunications service providers.

Until the FCC makes the portal available for service providers to file certifications, this new policy will not go into effect. The portal is projected to be open around March 31, 2021, and until then the current SPC token access policy will remain.

Pallone and Doyle praise the passage of bills that will strengthen the communications network

Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr., D-N.J., and Communications Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle, D-Penn., issued the following statement yesterday about three bills passed in the House of Representatives: “From keeping Americans better informed during emergencies to promoting 5G coordination, competitiveness and security, these three bills will create a better, safer communications network for us all. ”

The first bill, H.R. 6096, the “Reliable Emergency Alert Distribution Improvement (READI) Act of 2020,” amends the Warning, Alert, and Response Network Act, classifying emergency alerts from the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a type of alert that commercial mobile service providers cannot allow subscribers to block from their devices. The bill has several requirements for the FCC; the agency must not only coordinate with the State Emergency Communications Committees to develop and modernize the State Emergency Alert System plans, but also expand alert distribution to internet and streaming services by examining the feasibility to the Emergency Alert System.

The second bill, H.R. 6624, the “Utilizing Strategic Allied (USA) Telecommunications Act of 2020,” creates a new grant program through the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications Information Administration which will promote technology that “enhances supply chain security and market competitiveness in wireless communications networks.”

H.R. 7310, the “Spectrum IT Modernization Act of 2020,” requires NTIA to consult with the Policy and Plans Steering Group in the submission of a congressional report on its plans to modernize agency information technology systems relating to managing the use of federal spectrum.

Senate Commerce Committee clears several technology measures

The Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday cleared about 13 bills, including several pertaining to technology and telecommunications, included S. 3969, Aircraft Safety and Certification Reform Act of 2020, which is designed to help the Federal Aviation Administration address safety assessments and oversight, including of the MCAST system.

Other bills passed included S. 1166, Internet Exchange Act of 2019, sponsored by Sens. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo.; S. 4803, Beat China by Harnessing Important, National Airwaves (CHINA) for 5G Act of 2020, sponsored by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker, R-Miss. and John Thune, R-S.D.; and S. 4472, Ensuring Network Security Act, sponsored by Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Blunt.

Open RAN may facilitate protectionism in the name of competition

While support for the framework of open Radio Access Networks has grown in popularity since the U.S. banned Huawei and ZTE equipment, this industry concept may not create the open and diverse market operators are looking for, according to a blog post written by AEI Adjunct Scholar Bronwyn Howell on Wednesday.

In the past, key network equipment, both core network and in the RAN, were sold together. This allowed providers like Nokia, Ericsson, Samsung and Huawei to build sophisticated, efficient, high-performing systems with end-to-end accountability combining both hardware and software to manage mobile data transmissions, explained Howell.

She projected that the removal of Huawei and ZTE from the market in many Western democracies might cause the remaining operators to either increase prices or slow the rate of innovation components.

That’s why many are favoring the open RAN model right now, she said. It disaggregates hardware and software components operators are able to combine components from different vendors, resulting in competition in element supply, potential price reductions, greater innovation, and faster delivery of new features to consumers.

It is in places where governments have banned Huawei and ZTE that are favoring open RAN even more.

Indeed, some have suggested to the FCC that taxpayer dollars to be put toward the start of an open RAN network. Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said that the FCC does not have authority to impose network design requirements on the private sector.

Broadband Roundup

January 6 Committee Social Media Subpoenas, Iranian Hacks, Google Ad Auctions Lawsuit

Lawmakers chastised the companies for providing little information in response to past committee inquiries.



Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.

January 14, 2021 – The House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol has issued subpoenas to social media giants Alphabet, Meta, Reddit and Twitter, saying the companies’ responses to prior requests for information were inadequate.

The committee had previously reached out to the companies to assess their knowledge of misinformation, efforts to overturn the 2020 election, domestic extremism and foreign influence in the 2020 election that may have taken place on their platforms.

Central to the inquiry is whether the companies took any steps to “prevent their platforms from being breeding grounds for radicalizing people to violence,” said committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.

Iranian intelligence agency engaged in international hacks

U.S. Cyber Command said Wednesday that hacking group MuddyWaters is part of an Iranian intelligence agency which is responsible for several global cyberattacks.

The group, identified as part of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security, has been labeled an “Iranian threat group” by authorities.

The information comes following a year of increased cyberattack activity from abroad in the U.S. including the prominent breach at Colonial Pipeline involving hackers with ties to Russia.

Allegedly, the group has targeted nations across the Middle East, Europe and North America in efforts to surveil opponents.

According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, between 2013 and 2017, Iranian hackers stole $3.4 billion in intellectual property from 170 universities and targeted U.S. officials and journalists as well as United Kingdom banks.

Google alleged to have misled publishers and advertisers

Newly unredacted allegations in a lawsuit by state attorneys general say that Google for years misled publishers and advertisers about pricing and processes in its ad auctions.

The lawsuit says Google created secret programs which deflated sales for some companies while increasing buyer prices, engaging in trust and monopoly-building activities.

The unredacted filing of the lawsuit occurred Friday in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York after a judge ruled and amended complaint from last year could be unsealed.

Google says the lawsuit is “full of inaccuracies and lacks legal merit,” and intends to file a motion for its dismissal next week, asserting that its advertising practices are competitive.

The suit is led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and joined by over a dozen other states, alleging that Google’s practices inflate advertising costs which in turn create higher-priced products for consumers.

A separate antitrust case exists against Google from the U.S. Justice Department and over three dozen state attorneys general focusing on the company’s search services.

Additionally, a proposed bipartisan bill in the Senate with the support of a dozen lawmakers would treat Google’s search engine like a railroad operator and ban it from advantaging its own products and services at the expense of other businesses that rely on the platforms – just part of an ongoing adversarial relationship between Congress and the tech company.

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Broadband Roundup

Digital Literacy Legislation, Scott Woods Interview, Kim Kardashian Crypto Scam

Brenda Lawrence, a democratic representative from Michigan, introduced new legislation that will help measure the nation’s digital literacy.



Scott Woods, director of the Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives in the National Telecommunications and Information Administration

January 13, 2022 — Representative Brenda Lawrence, D-Michigan, introduced legislation Wednesday that would bring government agencies together to address digital literacy.

The Digital Literacy and Equity Commission Act hopes to streamline the federal government’s approach to digital literacy by bringing together agency heads and experts to assess digital literacy in the United States, recommend how to measure digital literacy, and promote interagency cooperation. Right now there is no commonly used metric to measure digital literacy.

“As a result of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we’re investing billions to expand access to broadband,” Lawrence said of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed into law in November. “Laying down the fiber is a strong first step to connect Americans around the country, but this effort won’t be as effective if people can’t use the online tools they’ve been given.”

The Digital Literacy and Equity Commission would be chaired by the Secretary of Education and the chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission, Jessica Rosenworcel.

The legislation would require the commission to submit a report to Congress that contains recommendations on how to improve and maintain the digital and information literacy of individuals in the United States.

The commission will need to address low-income and disadvantaged areas and submit a final report with strategies to improve digital literacy through early education and community outreach.

Interview with Scott Woods at Broadband.Money

Scott Woods, director of the Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives in the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, will meet on Friday with Broadband Breakfast reporter, Justin Perkins for an “Ask Me Anything!” style interview for Broadband.Money.

“Scott is a broadband funding, implementation and stakeholder engagement expert and a key member of the OIGC leadership team responsible for implementing the historic $65 billion broadband funding program authorized by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 (IIJA),” Broadband.Money said.

The Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives was established in 2021 to continue the work of the 2018 Minority Broadband Initiative. The intent of both the office and the original initiative was to close the digital divide in underserved communities by partnering with Historically Black Universities.

Woods’ office is the operator of a multitude of broadband and digital equity grant programs, which is why Friday’s conversation will center on providing opportunities for public and private partners wanting to strengthen broadband within their communities.

Kim Kardashian sued for crypto scam

Both celebrity Kim Kardashian and former boxer Floyd Mayweather are being sued by investors for allegedly falsely promoting a cryptocurrency called EthereumMax on their social media accounts.

CNN reports that a “class action lawsuit filed last Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California accuses EthereumMax and its celebrity promoters of working together to artificially inflate the price of the token by making “false or misleading statements” in social media posts.”

The lawsuit alleges that investors who purchased EthereumMax in the early summer of 2021 lost money as a result of the celebrities’ false advertising.

CNN reported that a spokesperson for EthereumMax disputed the lawsuit stating that it was “riddled with misinformation.” Furthermore, CNN said that “representatives for Kardashian and Mayweather were not immediately available when contacted.”

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Broadband Roundup

Facebook Objection Dismissed, Glo Fiber Expanding, Utopia’s Timmerman Advocates Gigi Sohn

A judge dismissed Facebook’s objection to the FTC’s investigation into the company’s alleged anticompetitive practices.



FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan

January 12, 2022 – Facebook’s attempts to convince the court to dismiss the Federal Trade Commission’s anticompetition case against it have been rejected by D.C. District Court Judge James Boasberg, which advocacy group Public Knowledge said in a Tuesday press release is “great news.”

Facebook, now called Meta, filed a complaint in October asking the court to dismiss the case that alleges the company is a monopoly power that controls over 60 percent of the “person social networking services” market. But the court effectively ruled that there is evidence that can move the case forward against the company.

“This is great news for the fight to hold Big Tech accountable and to offer users a real alternative to Facebook… thanks to the FTC’s persistence on this important issue, even the previously skeptical Judge Boasberg now agrees these concerns deserve further scrutiny.”

Boasberg also dismissed that argument also dismissed the argument that Khan should be recused from her position because of past comments she’s made about big technology companies.

Glo Fiber expanding network to Blacksburg, VA

Glo Fiber will be expanding its fiber optic network to include Blacksburg, Virginia this year to increase internet speeds for over 7,000 households and businesses, according to a Tuesday press release.

Shenandoah Telecommunications Company, the parent of Glo Fiber, will offer three tiers of symmetrical internet services, as well as streaming TV and phone service.

The news comes after the city council of Stephens City in Northern Virginia entered into a franchise agreement with Shenandoah and Glo to provide internet service to towns in the area.

Utopia Fiber wants Gigi Sohn at FCC

Roger Timmerman, the executive director at Utopia Fiber, wrote an opinion piece for the Salt Lake Tribune Tuesday urging the Senate to push forth Gigi Sohn as the fifth Federal Communications Commission Commissioner because she would keep certain companies accountable in the market.

In the piece, he said that Sohn is best suited for this job because of her stance on big cable companies, her efforts to keep cable companies accountable, and her efforts to be a bipartisan voice in the world of telecommunications.

“If Gigi Sohn lands at the FCC, cable will need to be more accountable to consumers, businesses and taxpayers (who’ve subsidized their efforts for years with little in return)” Timmerman wrote. “Sohn wants to see policy that spurs innovation and investment, as well as economic development and jobs”.

Sohn has yet to be up for a Senate vote. If she’s approved, she will round-out the commission and provide the Democrats with the majority voice.

Utopia Fiber is a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast.

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