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Benton on Middle Mile Open Access Networks, CENIC Fiber Route in California, Investors Buying Bitcoin

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Photo of Joe Freddoso, former CEO of MCNA from Triangle Business Journal

Middle mile open access networks can serve as launching pads for local broadband expansion, furthering competition, according to Benton’s newest report, “If We Build It, Will They Come? Lessons from Open-Access, Middle-Mile Networks.”

Middle mile networks connect large national and regional backbone networks to a local connection site. By definition, they aren’t to residential customers. The report proposes a structure for federal open-access, middle-mile grant program, and incorporating the lessons learned about what boosts success for such networks.

The report addresses a concern common among policymakers asserting that if middle mile networks are built, broadband providers will come.

It provides background on various open-access middle-mile networks across the nation and explains how and why the federal government should support the construction of these networks, as well as how to structure that support.

Joe Freddoso, the former president and CEO of MCNC, and Joanne Hovis, the president of CTC Technology and Energy consultancy, cited Nevada and Massachusetts as examples where savings in time and money from middle mile providers allowed last-mile providers to make construction more affordable.

Nevada’s Route 50 is prime mining territory, resulting in little to no fiber networks that last mile providers can connect to. However, when new construction linked a school, the sheriff’s office, and a local mine, the cost for connectivity for the school went down by more than 90 percent.

Similarly, in Alford, Massachusetts, the MassBroadband 123 middle-mile network saved the town the cost of building fiber to the closest internet point-of-presence, which was 20 miles away.

CENIC builds New and Diverse Fiber Route from Sacramento to Northern California

The Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California recently built a new fiber path that includes inland California, stretching from Sacramento to Northern California.

Boasting 3.2 terabits per second (i.e., 3,200 Gigabits per second, or Gbps) of capacity, this path creates a 260-mile loop from Sacramento and back, passing through cities such as Colusa and Corning, with new nodes in Palo Cedro and Chico. The network will be fully operational by the end of this month, and has already begun passing traffic.

The diversity introduced into the network ensures that in the event of a disaster or technical failure, network traffic can be redirected through alternative paths, preventing system disruptions.

It also opens new potential aggregation sites for local networks and increases the backbone capacity at Corning to 100 Gbps. By repurposing equipment from recently completed upgrades on CENIC’s coastal route CENIC staff were able to defray some project costs.

Through their high capacity network, CalREN, CENIC reaches most K-20 students and educators, as well as researchers and vital public-serving institutions. The network serves over 20 million users, operating over 8,000 miles of fiber optic cable.

Bitcoin investors buying for the long-term

Monday, Bitcoin surpassed its peak rate from three years ago, $19,783. This climb is different than the company’s 2017 spike, which was mostly due to investors in Asia just discovering cryptocurrencies. Interest in bitcoin waned as people questioned its usefulness beyond drug/ransom payments or online speculation.

This time, the spike has been fueled by American investors who are treating bitcoin as an alternative asset, like gold, according to the data firm Chainalysis. The firm said that investors have been using bitcoin to place a portion of their investment portfolios outside of governments and traditional financial systems.

Bitcoin’s rise can be attributed to both mainstream companies trying to make cryptocurrencies safer and more accessible, and a broader excitement for cryptocurrencies and stock markets.

Over this past month, The Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq have hit record highs.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency in America said banks would be allowed to hold cryptocurrencies starting this summer. Paypal is following in the footsteps of its rival, Square, announcing this October that it would allow people to buy and hold bitcoin and several other cryptocurrencies.

According to Dan Schulman, CEO of Paypal, over a million people joined the waitlist to use cryptocurrencies before the launch of the feature.

Reporter Liana Sowa grew up in Simsbury, Connecticut. She studied editing and publishing as a writing fellow at Brigham Young University, where she mentored upperclassmen on neuroscience research papers. She enjoys reading and journaling, and marathon-runnning and stilt-walking.

Broadband Roundup

Commerce Vote on Sohn Wednesday, Facebook Abandoning its Crypto Technology, Low EBB Awareness

The Senate Commerce Committee will vote on Sohn’s renomination after confirmation efforts stalled last year.

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Photo of Gigi Sohn from March 2011 by the Stanford Center for Internet and Society used with permission

January 28, 2022 – On Wednesday the Senate Commerce Committee will vote on President Joe Biden’s nomination of Gigi Sohn to the Federal Communications Commission.

Sohn, the co-founder of intellectual property nonprofit Public Knowledge, was renominated by Biden earlier this month after the Commerce committee failed to advance her nomination at the end of last year.

Much of the opposition to Sohn’s nomination has centered around Republican pushback on comments Sohn had made about conservative media.

Additionally on Wednesday, the committee will vote on Biden’s nominee to the Federal Trade Commission Alvaro Bedoya.

Like Sohn, Bedoya saw his nomination stalled late last year as Republicans opposed comments he had made on conservative media.

Both the FCC and FTC are split 2-2 in terms of the partisanship of their voting members, limiting the ability of their Democratic chairs to enact their policy agendas.

Facebook’s cryptocurrency project fizzles

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that Facebook is selling the technology behind the Diem Association, the company’s cryptocurrency project, amid concerns over its ability to provide security and privacy.

Silvergate Capital Corporation, a California bank that works with bitcoin and blockchain companies, will reportedly buy the technology for $200 million.

In an earlier effort to appease regulators the bank and Diem had agreed to issue some stablecoins, which are considered less volatile and are backed by hard dollars.

Diem, previously called Libra, was originally conceived as a simple way for users to spend money and partnered with PayPal, Visa and Stripe to demonstrate institutional financial backing to officials and distance the venture from Facebook as criticisms against the platform mounted.

In October 2019, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told U.S. House members that he would support delaying the cryptocurrency’s release until all regulators approved of it.

AT&T survey on Emergency Broadband Benefit’s reach

An AT&T-commissioned survey found that as of October 2021 a majority of individuals in the company’s 21-state footprint were not aware of the Emergency Broadband Benefit, Fierce Telecom reported Wednesday.

Only 12% of survey respondents were aware of the program started by the FCC during the coronavirus pandemic to help fund low-income people’s internet connectivity.

The survey also found disparities in program awareness between different age groups and ethnicities.

Since administration of the survey, the EBB has been converted into the permanent Affordable Connectivity Program with Congress’ passage of its bipartisan infrastructure bill in November 2021.

The EBB was able to gain the participation of most internet service providers and roll over their participation to the ACP once it became available at the start of this year.

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Broadband Roundup

FCC Axes China Unicom, Tucows Has New Software Business, Texas County Broadband Initiative

The FCC on Thursday revoked the operating authorization of China Unicom, in latest effort to weed out national security threats.

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Tucows CEO Elliot Noss

January 27, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday revoked the operating authority of telecom China Unicom Americas due to national security concerns.

In the press release, which coincided with the commission’s January open meeting, the FCC said China Unicom Americas must discontinue domestic and international services in the U.S. within 60 days of the order.

The decision was made, the release said, after nearly a year of review of the company’s responses to inquiries, the public record and a public interest analysis following a March 2021 finding by the commission that the company “failed to dispel serious concerns” about its ties to the Communist government in China.

The decision, which comes after an FCC vote in October to revoke the operating license of China Telecom, is part of a larger effort by the agency and President Joe Biden’s administration to weed out national security risks.

Tucows new communication service software

Toronto-based telecom Tucows on Thursday launched Wavelo, a software business it says will help other telecommunications companies aspects of their business, including the network and subscription and billing management.

“In today’s competitive landscape, operators need optionality from their software,” Wavelo CEO Justin Riley said. “They deserve solutions that keep pace with their network innovation and that are flexible enough to integrate seamlessly within their existing operations. Wavelo was launched to do just that.”

Gray County, Texas developing plan for better broadband

The Gray County Broadband Committee is asking the broader community Thursday for input through a survey on how it should develop a “technology action plan that will provide both immediate and long-term solutions for improving internet access.”

The committee, which includes stakeholders in business, education, government and healthcare, said in a press release it hopes to “identify unique challenges and opportunities for expanding high-speed internet” in the county.

The county said it is partnering with Connected Nation Texas on the initiative, which is funded by the Texas Rural Funders

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Broadband Roundup

Fear of Big Tech in Auto Industry, Montana Hires Lightbox, USTelecom Hires Media Affairs Director

Technology advocacy groups are concerned about big technology companies entering the auto industry.

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Montana Governor Greg Gianforte

January 26, 2022 – A letter signed by nearly 30 technology advocacy groups and sent to government and agency officials Tuesday is warning of the dangers of tech companies entering the automobile industry, The Hill reports.

“Make no mistake: The expansion of Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook into the auto sector spells trouble for workers and consumers…As automation expands, these [auto workers] jobs are at risk and Big Tech cannot be trusted to lead that transition,” the letter said, according to the report.

Recipients of the letter signed by the likes of the American Economic Liberties Project and Demand Progress include Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, and Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Lina Khan.

The Hill also reports that the groups are concerned about the treatment and usage of data and private information if these big technology companies do successfully expand their reach.

The letter comes as lawmakers and government agencies wrestle with what to do about the future of antitrust.

Montana is taking mapping matters into their own hands

Montana’s Department of Administration said Monday that is has hired location analytics company Lightbox to build a statewide broadband map, following in the footsteps of Georgia and Alabama in getting ahead of federal efforts to improving insight into what areas are underserved.

“The completed map will provide a detailed analysis of current broadband service levels throughout Montana while protecting proprietary data and will be used for allocating $266 million to unserved and underserved communities throughout Montana,” a press release said.

“Lightbox is a proven national leader in cost effective and efficient detailed mapping for state level broadband programs,” said Department of Administration Director Misty Ann Giles in the release. “This platform will serve as a key component to help ConnectMT reach its goal of deploying broadband throughout Montana to bridge the digital divide.”

Montana, which began searching for a data platform in October, is listed on data platform BroadbandNow as the worst state for broadband coverage and access, according to a November report.

USTelecom hires new senior director of media affairs and digital engagement

USTelecom, an association that represents telecom-related businesses, announced Wednesday the appointment of Emma Christman to senior director of media affairs and digital engagement.

Christman is joining the USTelecom communications team after working as the director of external affairs and engagement at Glen Echo Group. While there, USTelecom says she provided “a range of clients strategic counsel, content creation, media outreach and other services.”

Prior to her time at Glen Echo Group, Christman worked at Dewey Square Group as a senior associate and at Mobile Future as a community outreach director.

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