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Pelosi Narrowly Reelected, NYSE Boots Chinese Companies, Google Workers Unionize, Broadband Emergency Measures

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Photo of Nancy Pelosi from Wikipedia

January 4, 2021 – Nancy Pelosi was narrowly reelected Sunday as House speaker. Her victory means that after two years acting as President Donald Trump’s most outspoken antagonist, Pelosi will now be responsible for trying to shepherd through Congress as much of President-elect Joe Biden’s policy agenda as possible.

“We accept a responsibility as daunting and demanding as any that previous generations of leadership have faced,” the California Democrat told the chamber as she accepted a two-year term in her post, likely to be her last. “Now is certainly a time for our nation to heal. Our most urgent priority will continue to be defeating the coronavirus. And defeat it, we will.”

The task at hand — producing legislation to tackle the pandemic, revive the economy and address other party priorities — will likely prove to be anything but easy.

Pelosi, who has led her party in the House since 2003 as the only woman speaker in history, secured her seat by the slimmest majority in nearly two decades, receiving 216 votes against the 209 votes secured by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who will be the chamber’s minority leader once again.

With the Democratic party in control of just 222 of the 435 seats, Pelosi can afford to lose only a handful of Democrats on any given vote. Even further, emboldened Republicans are gunning to retake the House majority in next year’s midterm elections and seem to be in no mood to extend an olive branch.

Representative Kevin McCarthy, R-California, used his own remarks before presenting Pelosi the gavel to torch Democrats’ record in the majority and effectively declare the beginning of the campaign to wrest power from them.

McCarthy accused Pelosi of over the past two years leading “the least productive Congress in nearly 50 years” and said there was a clear message in last November’s elections, when Republicans gained seats by defeating a dozen Democratic incumbents.

Wall Street to kick out three big Chinese telecom companies

In a move emblematic of the global, geopolitical U.S.-China power struggle, the New York Stock Exchange announced that it will end trading in the shares of three of China’s largest state-owned telecom companies this month, CNN reported.

The NYSE says the move is needed to comply with an order President Trump signed late last year that bans Americans from investing in firms that the U.S. government suspects are either owned or controlled by the Chinese military.

China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom, the three state-run businesses which dominate China’s telecommunications industry, will all be suspended from the NYSE by January 11, when the order goes into effect.

All three of the telecom companies have traded in New York for many years. China Mobile, the country’s largest telecom company, has been listed on the New York Stock Exchange since 1997. China Telecom and China Unicom have been trading there since the early 2000s.

China’s Ministry of Commerce said in a statement on Saturday that Beijing would take “necessary measures” to safeguard the interests and legal rights of Chinese companies.

On Monday, Reuters reported that China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying said the country firmly opposes the U.S. government’s behavior of politicizing trade issues, and further opposes the inclusion of such firms on what she called Washington’s list of “Communist Chinese military companies.”

Google workers announce plans to unionize

A group of Google workers have announced plans to unionize with the Communications Workers of America. The Alphabet Workers Union will be open to all employees and contractors at Google’s parent company and aims to tackle ongoing issues like pay disparity, retaliation, and controversial government contracts.

Now that the union effort is public, organizers will likely launch a series of campaigns to rally votes from Google workers. Prior to the announcement, about 230 Google employees and contractors had signed cards in support of the union.

“This union builds upon years of courageous organizing by Google workers,” said Nicki Anselmo, a Google program manager. “From fighting the ‘real names’ policy, to opposing Project Maven, to protesting the egregious, multi-million dollar payouts that have been given to executives who’ve committed sexual harassment, we’ve seen first-hand that Alphabet responds when we act collectively.”

Google’s work on Project Maven, an effort to use AI to improve targeted drone strikes, sparked protests among employees who saw the work as unethical. In 2018, the company decided not to renew its contract with the Pentagon. The company also ended its forced arbitration policy after 20,000 workers staged a walkout to protest former executive Andy Rubin getting a $90 million exit package after he was credibly accused of sexual harassment.

Understanding the government’s new Emergency Broadband Benefit

U.S. lawmakers new round of economic stimulus measures amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic includes provisions which invest $7 billion in broadband initiatives. The largest chunk of this federal relief is $3.2 billion set aside for the Emergency Broadband Benefit, a program that aims to keep qualifying low-income Americans online during this critical period.

In a recent BroadbandNow publication, editor-in-chief Tyler Cooper debunks the new broadband program and answers some of the most common questions the public may have about accessing the new benefits.

Cooper alerts readers that the EBB program does not have an official start date yet and that the Federal Communications Commission has stated that it could take several months for the program to go into effect.

He further reassures readers that even if they have outstanding broadband bills, they are still likely eligible to qualify for the benefits program, if their household meets the FCC’s guidelines for the agency’s Lifeline program, is approved for any school breakfast or lunch program, is a Pell Grant recipient, and more.

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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