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Broadband Roundup

Biden May Revisit Rural Broadband, Utah School District’s Network, Pole Attachment Rules



Photo of Joe Biden by Eric Haynes

January 20, 2021—$20 billion in federal funding has been promised by the incoming Biden Administration to build up broadband infrastructure in rural America. With President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration set for Wednesday at Noon, it should only be a matter of time until this funding is allocated and rural American’s begins to see the effects of better broadband.

Rural communities still represent a significant percentage of those who lack broadband access, and even when communities have access to infrastructure, their broadband is rarely adequate.

Rural and small-town Americans ought to have the necessary means to utilize the Internet for creating economic opportunities previously unavailable, said Gary Marx, managing partner of Marx and Lieberman. He and a group of others presented a plan to the Obama Administration in 2009 proposing a tool to provide information on economic development to rural and small-town America, called the Rural Development Network.

The proposal was rejected at the time as unnecessary, given the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s then-current operations; however,  due to the economic stagnation of rural America exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, Marx hopes that the Biden Administration will revisit the proposal and consider creating the RDN.

Under the proposal, the RDN would be operated by the USDA or by a private non-profit organization funded in part through federal grants. The proposal would provide means to broadcast information to and from rural America using the Internet, television, radio, mobile devices, and press.

The “broadcast” tool would be similar to traditional television means, like C-Span or the former Pentagon Channel, but would focus on rural economic development. Content would be adapted to television apps, such as Roku, and would be available for free.

The online aspect of the RDN would feature platforms to exchange rural development ideas like “ask the expert” programming with advice from the USDA and Economic Development Administration, in a “Wikipedia” or “Craigslist-like” structure. The RDN would also publish daily news content from the USDA, Department of Commerce, and other related institutions, including educational institutions.

Murray School District builds network to connect all students

The Murray School District in Salt Lake County, Utah, recently unveiled a new LTE network available for free to all students. “Once the COVID-19 pandemic began, the importance of getting kids connected was higher than ever,” said Jason Eyre, technology supervisor for Murray Schools.

The school district covers a virtually perfect 3-mile by 3-mile square area. It includes some of Utah’s most impoverished neighborhoods and has experienced a problem nearly every school district in the nation has—ensuring every student has access to the Internet.

Murray city used federal funding to build 44 towers across its 12 school buildings, allowing internet signals to be sent between 900 feet and one mile to the houses and apartments of its 6,000 students in the district. Students also will be receiving hotspots and other receivers to place in the windows of their homes. When students open a Chromebook from the district, it will automatically connect online.

Even the internet receivers being delivered to students’ homes were made with Murray students in mind. Most students in the Murray School District live in multifamily complexes and can’t afford many utilities beyond rent. With 424 of these unique internet receivers going out, they are stronger than a regular hotspot, utilizing 3.5 to 3.7 Gigahertz spectrum.

Many students had a school-issued device throughout the pandemic before the new LTE network was complete, but it proved useless as many had no broadband at home to get online to submit assignments. With libraries and other shared public spaces closed, students would be seen congregating in their cars at the parking lots of schools, trying to catch a Wi-Fi signal.

“The principal could see how far the Wi-Fi reached by where the line ended,” said Sarah Young, director of strategic initiatives for the Utah Board of Education.

FCC issues ruling alleviating burdens on pole attaching parties

The Federal Communications Commission issued a ruling on pole replacement practices that should help speed broadband deployment, according to America’s Communications Association.

In a recent press release, the ACA praised the FCC for taking actions that address unreasonable pole replacement fees from investor-owned utilities. The ruling clarifies investor-owned utilities’ obligations and subjects them to allocate pole replacement costs in a just and reasonable manner.

The FCC ruling said investor-owned utilities might not charge new attachers for pole replacements if they are not the sole cause for the pole replacement. This is a significant issue in rural communities as many poles are worn beyond use and need replacement.

The previous practice of charging attaching parties to bear the full costs of replacing poles impedes broadband deployment since prices are neither fair nor justifiably distributed.

“The record is clear that pole owners routinely require attaching parties to bear the full costs of replacing their poles, even when a new attacher is not the sole cause of that action,” said ACA CEO Matthew Polka.

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Broadband Roundup

Broadband Prices Decline, AT&T’s Fiber Build in Texas, Conexon Partners for Build in Georgia

A USTelecom report finds that despite high inflation, broadband prices have been declining.



Screenshot of Jonathan Spalter, president and CEO of USTelecom – The Broadband Association

WASHINGTON, June 30, 2022 – A USTelecom report released Wednesday found that broadband prices have been declining, despite high inflation.

The association’s 2022 Broadband Pricing Index Report found that broadband pricing decreased even with significant inflation of an estimated 8 percent in the past year, the most popular broadband prices dropped by 14.7 percent, and the highest speed broadband prices dropped by 11.6 percent from 2021-2022.

“Broadband prices at all speeds have decreased in the last five years,” it said.

The analysis also found that broadband prices are half of what they used to be in 2015. The most popular broadband services decreased by 44.6 percent, while the fastest broadband services decreased their prices by 52.7 percent from 2015-2022.

Lastly, the report found that the “consumer value of broadband services has never been higher.” As providers offer faster speeds at lower prices, the overall value to customers has dramatically improved, it said.

“This is great news for American broadband consumers,” said Jonathan Spalter, president and CEO of USTelecom – The Broadband Association.

AT&T strikes deal in Amarillo, Texas for fiber project

AT&T struck a deal Wednesday with the city of Amarillo, Texas to extend its fiber reach.

A press release said the $24 million project in Amarillo will cover approximately 22,000 locations.

“The city of Amarillo broadband access plan is one of the more significant technological infrastructure advancements in city history,” said Amarillo mayor Ginger Nelson in the release.

It’s the latest partnership for AT&T, which is planning on reaching upwards of 60,000 locations via public-private partnerships in counties in Indiana, Kentucky and now Amarillo, Texas.

Conexon partners with Georgia electric company for broadband build

Georgia’s Ocmulgee Electric Membership Corporation partnered with internet service provider Conexon Connect on Tuesday to bring reliable, affordable, high-speed fiber broadband to rural Georgia.

The partnership will see the deployment of a network that spans 2,100 miles of fiber to the home for service to up to 8,000 members in centra Georgia, a press release said.

“I commend Ocmulgee EMC and Conexon for this exciting public-private partnership and their commitment to creating value for their communities,” said Governor Brian Kemp in a press release.

The project is estimated to take 2-4 years to complete and is set to start this September. The first customers expected to be connected in early 2023.

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Broadband Roundup

TikTok Data Concerns, Broadband Data Collection System, Internet Access on COVID-19 Mortality

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr is requesting Apple and Google remove the TikTok app over data concerns.



Photo of Brendan Carr

June 29, 2022 – Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr called for Apple and Google to remove Beijing-based popular video-sharing application, TikTok, from their app stores.

The app is run by ByteDance, a company that is “beholden to the Communist Party of China and required by Chinese law to comply with the PRC’s surveillance demands,” read the June 24 letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sunder Pichai.

“It is clear that TikTok poses an unacceptable national security risk due to its extensive data harvesting being combined with Beijing’s apparently unchecked access to that sensitive data,” said Carr, calling it a wolf in sheep’s clothing. “At its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data” such as search histories, keystroke patterns and biometric identifies.”

Carr claims that TikTok’s pattern of conduct regarding persons in Beijing having access U.S. sensitive data violates policies that both companies require every app to adhere to as a condition of remaining available on the app stores. “I am requesting that you apply the plain text of your app store policies to TikTok and remove it from your app stores for failure to abide by those terms.”

TikTok has assured users that American’s data is being stored in the U.S. but, according to Carr, this statement “says nothing about where that data can be accessed from.”

FCC opens mapping data system for filers early 

The Federal Communications Commission released a public notice on Thursday announcing that filers of broadband availability data in its new maps may obtain early access of the system for registering filer information.

The filing window for the Broadband Data Collection opens June 30, but early access will enable users to register their entities in the system and become familiar with the system before that date, the FCC said.

“We are making this functionality available in advance of the opening of the filing window to enable filers to log in, register, and be ready to enter their availability data as early in the filing window as possible,” read the public notice.

The BDC program is said to help improve broadband mapping data to help funnel federal dollars to where broadband infrastructure is needed. Most fixed and mobile broadband providers will be required to file information in the system, but third parties and government entities are also encouraged.

Impact of internet access on COVID-19 mortality

New analysis released last week by private research university Tufts found that increased broadband access in the United States reduced COVID-19 mortality rates.

“Even after controlling for a host of other socioeconomic factors, a 1 percent increase in broadband access across the U.S. reduced COVID mortality by approximately 19 deaths per 100,000, all things equal,” read the report.

The study also found that the impact was felt more strongly in metro areas, where a 1 percent increase in broadband access reduced the deaths by 36 per 100,000.

By conducting a correlation analysis, Tuft researchers found that broadband access is negatively correlated with COVID mortality, even after controlling for other major factors such as health status, income, race and education.

The study only considered pre-vaccine number to account for inconsistencies.

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Broadband Roundup

Rosenworcel Committed to Net Neutrality, Better Spectrum Coordination, Starlink Up in Internet Speeds

The FCC chairwoman reaffirmed her commitment to net neutrality at a conference on Friday.



FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

WASHINGTON, June 28, 2022 – At a conference hosted by the American Library Association on Friday, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel reaffirmed her support for net neutrality rules.

According to a press release, Rosenworcel stated she wants to make a “return to common carrier regulation of internet service providers which aims to prevent ISPs from slowing down or blocking web traffic.”

Rosenworcel “fully backs” net neutrality rules passed under the Obama administration that were repealed during the Trump administration. “I opposed the last administration’s effort to roll it back, and I want it to once again become the law of the land,” she stated at the ALA.

A press release calls Rosenworcel ’s statement on net neutrality the “hallmark of her tenure” and says she faces opposition in her attempt to bring back net neutrality rules.

“It is just wrong for the internet to have slow lanes for people with less money,” Patty Wong, president of the ALA, said at the conference.

Better coordination needed for receiver performance 

On Monday, non-partisan think tank TechPolicy urged more coordination by the Federal Communications Commission with other agencies to better utilize spectrum assets during its receiver performance study, filing comments in response to the commission’s public consultation about that matter.

“The Commission has a considerable expertise and prior work to review in assessing whether it has the statutory authority in this area, and how to best incentivize all parties to build more robust receivers to operate in more and more congested spectrum,” the think tank said.

It suggested engaging with other agencies, such as the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, as well as users of government receivers.

James Dunstan, general counsel of TechFreedom, stated, “the FCC cannot fine-tune spectrum management with only half the orchestra.” He added that if the FCC does not engage with government users, “there will be little progress made toward finding broad solutions to increased spectrum congestion.”

The FCC and the NTIA have already agreed earlier this year to coordinate on spectrum management.

Ookla finds Starlink increased speeds by 38 percent over the past year

Metrics company Ookla said Tuesday that, according to its review of Starlink satellite broadband service in the first quarter, the company saw an increase of 38 percent in internet performance in the United States over the past year, said a press release.

However, the company’s analysis also showed that Starlink’s upload speeds decreased nearly 33 percent in the U.S. from 16.29 Mbps in 2021 to 9.33 in 2022.

Ookla notes that even as consumers choose Starlink, competitors are not far behind. It mentioned as key developments FCC approval for Amazon’s Project Kuiper to test its satellite service this year, and Viasat getting closer to merging with Inmarsat for a constellation launch next year.

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