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Veterans’ Affairs Pilots 5G, Bill de Blasio and Verizon, Chattanooga Free Internet, New WISPA Board

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Photo of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio from NY1

The Department of Veterans Affairs is extending its 5G hospital innovation project, beyond the Palo Alto-based hospital where it began 9 months ago, reports NextGov.

In addition to the VA Palo Alto Health Care System, the department has already begun work expanding the project to a VA facility in Lake Nona, Florida and the Puget Sound VA Medical Center in Seattle.

The department unveiled the project, named Project Convergence, in February as part of a public-private partnership with Verizon, Microsoft and medical software developer Medvis.

Through the collaboration, Verizon provides a 5G network connection. The 5G backbone supports Microsoft’s HoloLens information delivery platform and headset, which is used with imaging software from Medivis that officials can tap to transform complex health information into interactive 3D holograms, models and overlays.

To put into context  what this means, when wearing the Microsoft HoloLens, “you can actually take a patient’s MRI or CT scan, and place it over the patient and actually see below the surface before you make any incision.”  said Ryan Vega, executive director of the Veterans Heath Administration’s Innovation Ecosystem.

5G holds the promise of high speed, low latency internet connections, which officials believe willl revolutionize how the VA provides care. Vega added that Medivis’ solution is a Food and Drug Administration-cleared surgical navigation system.

Mayor de Blasio holds Verizon accountable to connect NYC households to broadband

Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced a new initiative aimed at tackling the digital divide in New York City—a settlement ensuring that Verizon builds out its FiOS footprint to 500,000 additional households.

Under the settlement, Verizon is compelled to prioritize the least-connected districts and ensure connectivity for every NYC Housing Authority residential building. The city began proceedings against Verizon due to the telecom’s failure to meet the terms of its cable franchise agreement to build out its Fios network, inked under the Bloomberg administration.

Due to the corporation’s previous failure to connect many buildings, large portions of New York City neighborhoods are under an effective monopoly, with only one cable and broadband provider, which risks rendering consumers with lower speeds and higher costs. The settlement will make high-speed fiber broadband available to more New Yorkers.

“Internet access is an economic right in New York City, no matter your ZIP code,” said de Blasio. “Tech giants will not stand in our way to deliver high-quality broadband to New Yorkers. They must be a part of the solution.”

“COVID-19 has further exposed the inequalities in internet access while changing the way New Yorkers work, learn, and live. We will continue to hold any corporation that fails to deliver on its promise to New Yorkers accountable,” de Blasio maintained.

Free internet in Chattanooga, Tennessee will outlast the pandemic

Over the summer, the Hamilton County public school system, which encompasses the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee, announced it would be providing high-speed internet access to families with students on free or reduced lunch plans through a program called EdConnect. The service is funded through the next ten years, meaning the free high-speed internet service helping keep students connected should well outlast the pandemic.

EdConnect is the outcome of a collaboration between Chattanooga’s municipal electric utility, a broadband service provider to many Chattanooga residents, and the Hamilton County school board. The service is an initiative to accommodate online learning for low-income students in the district. Hamilton County estimated that close to 17,500 households within the district didn’t have high-speed internet access, prior to the pandemic.

The school board worked with EPB Fiber Optics to fundraise $8 million from foundations and community partners for the high-speed program. Additional funds were offered by the city of Chattanooga, as well as from the state and from federal CARES Act funds.

Jill Levine, chief of innovation and choice at Hamilton County Schools, says there had been conversations about providing high-speed internet access to students prior to the pandemic, but the need had never been so urgent. The fact that many students did not have high-speed internet, or any internet access at all, became clear to the district when online learning began.

WISPA announces Mark Radabaugh as the association’s new Chairman of the Board

The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association announced today that its Board of Directors chose Mark Radabaugh as WISPA’s new Chairman of the Board. Radabaugh will replace former Chairman Nathan Stooke for a one-year term.

In 1997, Radabaugh began providing Toledo residents with broadband connectivity through his company, Amplex Internet. Since then, his extensive experience in unlicensed wireless broadband delivery, network design and all facets of residential and business broadband service delivery has enabled Radabaugh and his partners to grow Amplex to reach 9,500 customers, covering a 2,000 square mile service territory.

Radabaugh has been on the WISPA Board of Directors since 2013, and from 2015 has chaired WISPA’s FCC Committee, overseeing the association’s regulatory policy formation and agency filings. From 2017 to 2018, Radabaugh also served on the FCC’s Broadband Development Advisory Committee subgroup on Removing State and Local Barriers to Broadband.

When accepting the post, Radabaugh said he was grateful that his colleagues bestowed this honor on him. “We’re a tremendous industry that’s offering real solutions which make people’s lives better. I’m proud I can do my part to help tell this awesome success story,” said Radabaugh.

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Broadband Roundup

Senate Bill Would Alter Google Advertising, DOJ Cybersecurity Policy Reversal, Comcast on Hybrid Fiber-Coax

Senate introduces bill breaking up Google’s digital advertising business

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Photo of Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, from March 2016 by Gage Skidmore used with permission

May 20, 2022 – On Thursday a bipartisan group of senators on the Judiciary Committee introduced a bill that would force Google to break up its industry-leading online advertising exchange.

The Competition and Transparency in Digital Advertising Act would prohibit large companies like Google from both operating an ad exchange and a supply- or demand-side platform, should they process more than $20 billion in ad transactions.

The bill would also require Facebook to divest some of its advertising business.

“Companies like Google and Facebook have been able to exploit their unprecedented troves of detailed user data to obtain vice grip-like control over digital advertising,” said bill sponsor Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.

In late 2020, a coalition of 10 state attorneys general brought a lawsuit against Google alleging that its market dominance lets it overcharge businesses seeking to place ads online.

Justice Department changes directions on cybersecurity prosecution policy

On Thursday the Department of Justice announced it would reverse its charging policy on a federal computer fraud law, saying it will not prosecute “good-faith security research” efforts.

The change by the department relates to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, defining good-faith research as “accessing a computer solely for purposes of good-faith testing, investigation, and/or correction of a security flaw or vulnerability” without any intention of harming the public.

Last year, Georgia police sergeant Nathan Van Buren was successful in appealing his conviction under the CFAA to the Supreme Court.

DOJ argued that he should not have taken a bribe to access a woman’s license plate information during a 2015 Federal Bureau of Investigation sting operation, while Van Buren claimed that he had legitimate access to the database.

Comcast plans to release hybrid fiber-coaxial multi-gig speeds in the coming months.

Comcast is preparing to roll out faster multi-gigabit speeds across its hybrid fiber-coaxial network, Fierce Telecom reported Thursday.

Multi-gig rollout is expected in the coming months.

At an investor conference Comcast CEO Dave Watson stated that his operator’s choice to roll out mid-split upgrades on the way to Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification 4.0 technology will allow it to take speeds to the next level.

“We have a very fast, very efficient path to multi-gig symmetrical at scale that we can do,” said Watson.

He feels comfortable that despite Comcast fiber deployments in select locations, the company feels comfortable that its HFC network will remain competitive.

He also reiterated previous comments that fixed wireless access service is not a threat and that it does not materially impact churn from fixed wireless competitors.

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Broadband Roundup

AT&T and DISH Agreement, FCC Adds More States in Robocall Fight, $50M from Emergency Connectivity Fund

Dish said its customers will now have access to AT&T’s gigabit fiber services.

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Photo of FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

May 19, 2022 – On Wednesday, AT&T and Dish Network announced an internet distribution agreement in which Dish customers will have access to AT&T internet services, including its gigabit fiber services.

“Adding AT&T Internet to our robust lineup of TV and home integration services enhances our ability to provide better overall service, technology and value to our customers,” Amir Ahmed, executive vice president of DISH TV, said in a press release.

“At AT&T, we’re constantly thinking of ways we can better serve and provide for our customers. Through this new arrangement with DISH, we’re able to do just that by seamlessly offering our super-fast broadband services to more customers across the nation,” said Jenifer Robertson, executive vice president and general manager of mass markets at AT&T Communications.

“This is another step towards our goal of becoming the best broadband provider in America,” said Robertson.

FCC adds more state partners to tackle illegal robocalls

The Federal Communications Commission announced Thursday new partnerships with nine additional state attorneys general to combat illegal robocalls.

The agency said Iowa, Florida, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina have all signed on to help with robocall investigations.

That raises the number of states that have signed a memoranda of understanding with the FCC to 36, after the agency last month signed on a handful more states for the initiative. The agency has already credited at least one state with helping it nail one suspected robocall violator.

As part of the agreement, the parties will “share evidence, coordinate investigations, pool enforcement resources, and work together to combat illegal robocall campaigns and protect American consumers from scams,” according to the FCC.

“We are better positioned to help protect consumers from scammers than ever before,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “Together we are stronger. Together we will continue our work to protect American consumers.”

The FCC already has robocall investigation agreements with Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

FCC commits additional $50 million from Emergency Connectivity Fund

The FCC announced on Wednesday that it has approved an additional $50 million from the Emergency Connectivity Fund program that is intended to help students with virtual learning.

The FCC said this funding will go to help 46 schools, seven libraries and two consortia across the country for students in American Samoa, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Ohio, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The FCC estimates that, so far, nearly $4.9 billion has been committed to connect over 12.6 million students across the country.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel added in a press release that “this program is providing funding for nearly 11 million connected devices and 5 million broadband connections throughout the country and moving us closer toward closing the Homework Gap.

“With help from the Emergency Connectivity Fund, millions of students across the country now have online tools to support their education,” added Rosenworcel.

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Broadband Roundup

FCC June Meeting, Ookla Speeds at Airports, FCC Cautioned About Overstepping on Digital Discrimination

The FCC laid out its agenda for the June open meeting.

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Screenshot of TechFreedom President Berin Szóka

May 18, 2022 – In a press release Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission announced the agenda for its June 2022 open meeting.

The FCC will explore ideas for wireless innovation at sea following increasing demand for spectrum to support offshore operations. The FCC will consider offshore spectrum policies to ensure efficient use of scarce spectrum resources.

In 2018, the FCC launched an inquiry to explain why some wireless 911 calls were misrouted to the wrong call center. The past four years showed a decrease in the frequency of this error but not its elimination. The FCC will seek comment on improvements that would reduce misrouted 911 calls and improve emergency response time.

During the June open meeting, the FCC will also consider preserving established local radio programming on FM6 radio service, if they meet certain conditions.

Ookla speedtest shows divide on speeds for Wi-Fi at airports

Analytics company Ooka analyzed airport Wi-Fi speeds at some of the busiest airports in the world and found that all surveyed airports met the recommended speed for streaming on mobile, but found a large divide between them.

The four fastest free airport Wi-Fis were all located in the United States: San Francisco International, Seattle-Tacoma International, Dallas/Fort Worth International, and Chicago O’Hare International. Following that came Dubai International, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, and Los Angeles International.

According to Speedtest Intelligence data, there is a wide gap between median speeds of the first 8 airports and the other airports on the list with the fasted being 176.25 Mbps. Airport lounges were found to have faster Wi-Fi on average than the airport itself.

Ookla, a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast, used its Speedtest Intelligence, which provides global insights into fixed broadband and mobile performance data using billions of consumer-initiated tests.

Tech lobbyists says FCC must not overstep authority to prevent digital discrimination

Tech lobbyist TechFreedom filed comments on Monday claiming that the Federal Communication Commission is overstepping its authority to regulate digital discrimination, following the FCC’s inquiry on how to prevent such a practice.

“If Congress had wanted the FCC to implement a new civil right law for broadband, it would have legislated a clear prohibition on discrimination – the essential element in all civil rights laws,” TechFreedom President Berin Szóka said in a release. “Instead, Congress wrote a law entirely about ‘facilitation.’”

The FCC’s inquiry follows an order under the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act to make rules to “facilitate” equal access to broadband and “prevent digital discrimination.”

“It is simply not plausible that Congress could have intended to change how broadband deployment is regulated in an obscure amendment tacked onto a spending bill on the Senate floor with no discussion or legislative history,” Szóka argued.

He concluded that there are other routes the FCC can take to prevent digital discrimination and facilitate equal access. Szóka called on the commission to “focus on directing funding towards remedying unequal access to broadband and preventing potential digital discrimination- not only under the infrastructure act but also the FCC’s various other broadband programs.”

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