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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.

Broadband Roundup

House Passes Ban on Chinese Equipment, 3.45 GHz Auction Reaches Reserve Price, Against a ‘Wi-Fi Tax’

Bipartisan Senate bill clears the House, FCC auction prices climb higher, tech groups oppose newly proposed fee

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Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florids

October 22, 2021—The House of Representatives passed the Secure Equipment Act of 2021 on Wednesday, with a goal of mitigating perceived national security threats from equipment manufacturers, particularly Chinese companies.

The bill would require the Federal Communications Commission issue rules prohibiting new equipment licenses to potentially dangerous companies on the agency’s “Covered Equipment or Services List.”

Sens. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., initially introduced the act before its passage in the Senate. The House version of the bill was introduced by Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., and Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana.

Chinese state-backed firms Huawei and ZTE are among the companies included in the FCC’s list of technology companies that the agency has deemed a national security threat. The agency was required by the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019 to detail which companies it believes to pose a severe threat to U.S. safety.

The new measure would make it impossible for U.S. telecommunications carriers to continue using equipment from companies deemed threats by the FCC if that equipment was purchased with private or non-federal government dollars. That practice was previously allowed, even those using such equipment with federal funds had already been effectively banned.

FCC 3.45 GHz auction proceeds reach reserve price

The 3.45 GHz auction at the FCC hit the agency’s reserve price of $14.77 billion Wednesday.

Many doubts existed about whether the auction would not hit the reserve price and become the first to do so in the FCC’s history.

Should this auction follow the same progression as this year’s C Band auction, it is possible proceeds could reach $20 billion. Current proceeds total $16.43 billion.

Success of the auction would come as a large relief to AT&T, which is projected to be the auction’s largest spender ahead of T-Mobile and Dish.

Analysts at New Street Research stated that they believe it is likely that the auction will meet the reserve price and that the actions of the Department of Defense will serve as a strong indicator of the auction’s success because it uses the mid-band spectrum that is most sought after by carriers.

CCIA opposes a proposed ‘Wi-Fi tax’

The Computer & Communications Industry Association on Thursday in submitting comments to the FCC on Thursday in opposition to a proposal that would charge regulatory fees to users of unlicensed spectrum.

The CCIA was joined in its opposition by the Internet Association, Digital Media Association and Incompas.

The organizations said that the FCC’s proposed fees would “effectively result in something like a Wi-Fi tax.”

CCIA said that the proposal would be “unworkable to implement” and that it exceeds the legal authority and mission of the FCC. Further, they state it would also harm innovators who use unlicensed spectrum to create services for consumers.

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Broadband Roundup

‘Squid Game’ Exposes Traffic Problem, Virginia’s $2B Broadband Investment, West Virginia Mapping

Netflix hit’s traffic struggle, Virginia expects $2B from P3, op-ed says FCC expects states to get good maps before FCC.

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Netflix CEO Reed Hastings

October 20, 2021––A South Korean broadband company is suing Netflix to cover the cost of the surge in traffic from its hit television show “Squid Game.”

The show, which according to Netflix has more than 100 million streams, became a global hit last month.

The Financial Times reports that SK Broadband, owned by SK Telecom, South Korea’s largest mobile operator, argues that streaming platforms should pay for the congestion on its networks.

The company said that the traffic Netflix generated on its network increased to 1.2 trillion bits of data processing per second since September, an increase that’s equal to 24 times the company’s normal traffic over three years. The company said its network had to be upgraded twice to accommodate the traffic surge caused by customers streaming the show on Netflix.

Local law in South Korea requires the companies with more than 1 million users and using more than 1 percent of total network traffic to pay internet fees to distribute the maintenance costs incurred by broadband providers.

Netflix accounted for almost 5 percent of internet traffic in the fourth quarter and had more than 1.7 million paid subscribers. SK Broadband argues that Netflix must pay more in network usage fees.

Virginia announces $2 billion public-private broadband partnership

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said Tuesday that the state expects more than $2 billion in funding for high-speed broadband investments after announcing a public-private partnership with local governments and private internet service providers, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Northam announced that the state received requests to fund 57 projects to expand broadband across 84 localities across Virginia, totaling $943 million in grants. It would be matched by $1.15 billion in private and local government funds.

“Broadband is as critical today as electricity was in the last century,” said Northam. “Making sure more Virginians can get access to it has been a priority since I took office, and the pandemic has pushed us all to move even faster.

“Virginia is now on track to achieve universal broadband by [2024], which means more connections, more investments, more online learning and expanded telehealth options, especially in rural Virginia,” he said.

Northam and the Virginia general assembly appropriate $700 million of the $4.3 billion that Virginia received under the federal emergency aid package to accelerate Virginia’s universal broadband coverage goal. The expected completion has been moved up from 2028 to 2024.

The plan is expected to bring internet access to more than 250,000 homes and businesses.

The state is using federal emergency aid from the American Rescue Plan Act to close the digital divide in Virginia.

Op-Ed: West Virginia being asked to produce quality broadband maps before FCC

Advocates for more accurate maps say that the federal government is hypocritical in asking West Virginia for more accurate maps than the Federal Communications Commission can produce.

“The state is being asked to produce accurate maps, which the federal government knows full well its own agency did not produce” for the state the invest millions of dollars in federal American Rescue Plan funding for broadband expansion, writes a Wednesday op-ed in the Weirton Daily Times.

The FCC has been under fire for flaws in its broadband mapping data, which was relied upon to produce winners for the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, which forced the commission to clean-up the result of the reverse auction after finding that some of the money would go toward wasteful spending.

West Virginia’s effort to expand broadband is led by the state Department of Economic Development. State Economic Development Secretary Mitch Carmichael said that if self-reported maps show no service in an area “you can bet your life there’s no service there.”

“There’s a lot more at stake as the department works to get these maps right. It is no exaggeration to say that the future of education and employment in West Virginia is riding on it,” said the Times. “Good luck, then, to Carmichael and his department as they work to clean up yet another federal government mess that has left the Mountain State struggling for too long.”

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Broadband Roundup

New Senate Antitrust Bill Reaction, Charter Making Executive Changes, T-Mobile, Verizon Top Charts

Trade association doesn’t like new antitrust bill, Charter makes changes at the top, T-Mobile leads wireless, Verizon on wireline.

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Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

October 19, 2021 – A Senate antitrust bill introduced Monday that would empower the Federal Trade Commission to further regulate technology companies will harm start ups and small business, according to the Consumer Technology Association.

The trade association, which represents companies across the tech sector, said the American Innovation and Consumer Choice Act – introduced by Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa – will “cause irreparable harm to small businesses and startups and put U.S. companies at a competitive disadvantage against China and other nations eager to overtake our country as global tech leader.”

The bill would prohibit “dominant platforms” from favoring their own products and services to the detriment of competition, stop conduct that is harmful to small businesses including preventing interoperability with big platforms, requiring payment to receive preferential treatment on the big platform, bias search results, and misuse business data to compete against the small companies.

Amazon, for example, was accused of having taken the information of products of smaller companies on its platforms to create their own competing products.

According to the release, the bill received the support of at least 10 other Senators across party lines and companies including Spotify and Roku.

But the CCA said the bill, in empowering the FTC, would allow it to “ignore the consumer welfare standard, while imposing massive fines with minimal due process.

“Further, the bill will take away features and functions that millions of Americans love and use in their everyday lives,” the CCA statement said. “Say goodbye to Amazon Prime free shipping, Google maps in search results, preinstalled iPhone apps and many more.”

The House already has before it six antitrust bills that are awaiting votes.

Charter makes executive changes

Charter announced Tuesday that it is promoting chief financial officer Chris Winfrey to chief operating officer and Jessica Fischer will move from executive vice president to the COO position.

John Bickham will be vice chairman before he retired at the end of 2022, the company also announced in a press release, while chief product and technology officer Rich DiGeronimo will oversee the company’s network operations as an additional responsibility.

“I have worked with John for three decades and at every turn, his knowledge, leadership and steady hand have not only contributed greatly to the success of the companies we led, but made a profound impact on the growth of our industry,” said CEO Tom Rutledge. “I am grateful that John will continue to serve Charter in this new capacity as a strategic advisor to me and the executive team, and his guidance will help ensure a successful transition for Chris into the COO role.”

T-Mobile gets top billing for wireless, Verizon for wireline

According to an Ookla report Monday, T-Mobile ranked as the fastest mobile operator in the country in the third quarter with a median download speed of 62.35 Megabits per second, as Verizon took home the top rank for wireline download speeds at 178.38 Mbps.

For wireless, AT&T was second in speed at 47.42 Mbps, followed by Verizon at 39.91 Mbps. T-Mobile also ranked first in 5G performance with a median speed of 135.17 Mbps, followed by Verizon at 78.94 Mbps and then AT&T at 72.46 Mbps. T-Mobile was also top in 5G availability with 64.4 percent, with AT&T second at 44.8 percent and Verizon third at 34.3 percent.

T-Mobile completed its merger with Sprint last year. It proposed that the combined entity was the only way the companies could compete against the top players and offer a competitive 5G product.

On the wireline side, Cox was second to Verizon on download speed at 168.56 Mbps, followed by Comcast’s Xfinity at 161.87 percent, Spectrum fourth at 143.57 Mbps, AT&T Internet at 132.48 Mbps, and CenturyLink at 59.80 Mbps.

New Jersey had the fastest median download speed on wireline at 158.19 Mbps, followed by New York at 147.46 Mbps, California at 142.56 Mbps, Florida at 141.88 Mbps, and Texas at 140.15 Mbps.

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