January 27, 2021—Senator Edward Markey, D-Massachusetts, a member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, sent a letter Tuesday to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
The letter pressed Zuckerberg to explain why Facebook continues to allow controversial political groups to be recommended to users. “Users organize and coordinate violent and anti-democratic efforts on these pages, but Facebook does not just allow these dangerous places to exist on its platform, it recommends them to users,” writes Senator Markey in his letter to Zuckerberg.
Zuckerberg had previously responded to Senator Markey over the same issue at a hearing before the Committee on October 28, 2020, saying Facebook no longer recommended political groups. Since the hearing, media reports have said Facebook continues to recommend political groups that promote violence, including targeting elected officials.
“Unfortunately, it appears that Facebook has failed to keep commitments on this topic that you made to me, other members of Congress, and your users,” Markey said in the conclusion of the letter. Senator Markey requested a thorough explanation of Facebook’s commitments and practices, as well as clear steps the company will take to prevent political groups from being recommended to users. Markey requested these answers in writing by February 9.
On January 6, 2021, the U.S. Capitol was overrun with violence leading to an unprecedented insurrection. New reports have indicated some Facebook users created group pages to organize the violent, anti-democratic efforts, related to the insurrection. Even Facebook itself revealed in its own research that the platform’s recommendation tools are responsible for 64 percent of all extremist group joins.
What Europe’s broadband industry learned from COVID-19
The broadband industry was given a test like never before taken in 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted virtually all aspects of life. As entire countries shut down, forcing school and work to go digital, network operators, carriers and suppliers were flooded with a demand that looked unlike anything they had ever seen.
Telia Carrier, a provider of telecommunication services based in Solna, Sweden, reported overall traffic volume rising by around 50 percent during March because of pandemic-driven shifts in network usage. Peak traffic levels increased about 35 percent in certain countries and regions. Over a matter of days, traffic for videoconferencing suppliers grew over 400 percent.
In previous years, Telia reported that traffic generally followed a weekly seasonal pattern where the highest load on the network per continent was Sunday evenings. In March 2020, every day looked like Sunday – with more traffic and a wider peak.
“Normal” office hours caused the largest traffic increases. European evening peak traffic, eventually blending with U.S. afternoon traffic increases, had global effects on each other as international audiences engaged online. Everyone was online working, streaming or staying in touch through some form of social media. The pandemic proved that networks need to be automated, scalable, and diverse, all while keeping up with capacity.
Telia said its priorities to fulfill ongoing and future business needs requires massive diversity and redundancy. As 5G mobile technology is deployed, there will be an exploding number of services relying on its connectivity, such as the internet of things, virtual reality, artificial reality, gaming, and other cloud offerings. Billions more devices will require increased automation and intelligence.
On the supply side, COVID-19 reminded suppliers to ensure they had both diverse networks and diverse supply chains. During times of uncertainty, it is dangerous to rely solely on a single vendor. Service providers need a better understanding of vendors’ supply chains. Having diversity down to a component level ensures the ability to meet unpredictable demands on capacity in the future.
Google Maps will soon display COVID-19 vaccination sites
Soon, netizens will be able to use Google Maps to find locations that administer COVID-19 vaccinations. Google announced Monday it is planning on rolling out the new feature to its Google Maps service in four states: Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas.
Searches for “vaccines near me” have increased fivefold since the beginning of the year, and Google is trying to “provide locally relevant answers.” The search results will be shown in designated information panels. They will include details about whether an appointment is required, if the vaccine is only available to certain groups, and if there is a drive-thru. Google said it’s working with “authoritative sources” for the information, including local governments and retail pharmacies.
Information about vaccine sites will roll out to other states and countries later. Adding these features will help reduce rampant confusion about the vaccine. In a survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 60 percent of Americans don’t know where or if they can even get it.
Vaccine availability problems in the United States have also been exacerbated by President Joe Biden, who has urged patience in the rollout process. President Biden has set a goal to deliver 100 million doses of the vaccine in his first 100 days in office. Adding the ability to better inform its users about the pandemic, in September last year, Google Maps began displaying seven-day averages of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people.
Date Set for Sohn Hearing, Criticism of Tech Legislation, New ILSR Leadership
Sohn and Biden NTIA nominee Alan Davidson will undergo confirmation hearings next Wednesday.
November 24, 2021 – The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for President Joe Biden’s nominee for commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, Gigi Sohn, during a session next Wednesday.
Sohn, a former senior aide to President Barack Obama’s FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, will have her nomination considered along with Alan Davidson, Biden’s nominee to head the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. That same day, the Commerce Committee also plans to vote on the nomination of Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel to another term at the FCC.
Sohn’s nomination has already faced Republican criticism over her liberal policy positions.
Through nine months of the Biden presidency, the FCC has not been able to address key issues due to the vacancy on the commission resulting in a 2-2 split between Democrats and Republicans. Sohn’s confirmation would make for a full slate that prevents tied votes of the commission.
Going forward, net neutrality policy would be a key focus of the FCC, as Rosenworcel told senators during her confirmation hearing that she backed net neutrality rules yet did not offer many details on how she would rollback such rules by President Donald Trump’s administration.
Congress’ regulatory proposals would create even larger tech monopolies than already exist: Opinion
American Enterprise Institute published a blog post Wednesday by nonresident senior fellow Mark Jamison critiquing as unproductive recent government proposals to regulate competition among tech companies.
Jamison states that “dynamic” competition already exists between the companies often cited as the giants of the tech industry and smaller companies, and that proposed government policy could decrease industry competition from its current levels.
In his blog post, Jamison says that the Ending Platform Monopolies Act from Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington, would force Amazon to stop selling its own products, leading it to lose uniqueness and become almost identical to eBay in a digital market that cannot support two identical services. Jamison contends that should one site go under, small businesses would be left with less competitive options than before the introduction of the bill.
Further, Jamison holds that should Amazon comply with the bill and cease operations with small businesses, market statistics show that eBay would face even less competition as a platform for small businesses than Amazon does now.
Jamison said he believes that the Open App Markets Act – brought forth by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota – would make iPhones less secure by requiring that app stores other than Apple’s be permitted on phones. He says this would decrease users’ willingness to try new apps and diminish competition between Apple and Alphabet (Google) for app developers by removing developer options.
New ILSR community broadband outreach team lead
The Community Broadband Networks Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance announced Tuesday that DeAnne Cuellar will serve as Community Broadband Outreach team lead.
Cuellar, a communications strategist, served as San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s digital inclusion appointee to the city’s Innovation and Technology Committee. In her work for the city, she acted on several policy and funding priorities to close the digital divide.
Additionally, she has worked as a social impact entrepreneur, co-founding several cross-sector nonprofit initiatives to advocating for justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in historically underrepresented communities.
The Community Broadband Networks Initiative expects that they will see an increased workload as local, state and federal governments increase their efforts to find broadband solutions and an “unprecedented” amount of funding is made available by the government for broadband infrastructure projects over the next few years.
TPI New Broadband Map, Justice Dept. Stands for Section 230, Ericsson Looks to Acquire Vonage
TPI released their broadband map, which tracks speeds, availability, and adoption rates across the country.
November 23, 2021 – The Technology Policy Institute announced Monday the beta release of their “TPI Broadband Map,” which tracks bandwidth speeds, the availability of broadband, and adoption rates from across the country.
The map allows users to access published data from several sources, including FCC 477 forms, Emergency Broadband Benefit data, Ookla, Microsoft, and more.
The data can also be viewed on several different levels from the state and country level, all the way down to school districts, tribal tracts, and zip codes.
Three metrics can be viewed through the map: average maximum available download and upload speeds and the percent of households with broadband access. Users can also adjust the minimum upload and download speeds to suit their definition of broadband and are able to view the regional data going back to 2016.
During the TPI Aspen Forum in August, panelists agreed that mapping would play a crucial role in ensuring that marginalized, underserved, and unserved communities would get the coverage and resources they need from infrastructure legislation.
Though the website is still in its beta stage, those interested can request temporary access to view the data online.
Justice Department defends Section 230
In a departure from the previous administration’s agenda and President Joe Biden’s own past statements, Biden’s Justice Dept. made a point to defend Section 230 in a lawsuit brought against Facebook by Donald Trump.
In May, Biden had previously revoked one of Trump’s executive orders aimed at dismantling Section 230. Though his campaign and administration used it to a greater extent than many other politicians, Trump was a longtime critic of social media, often accusing it of censoring conservative voices in American politics.
These criticisms came to a head after Trump was banned from Twitter and several other social media outlets in January of 2021.
While on the campaign trail, Biden himself called for the revocation of Section 230.
Notwithstanding Biden’s and Trump’s dissatisfaction with Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the Justice Department intervened to defend the section during litigation surrounding Trump’s Facebook lawsuit – one of three class action lawsuits Trump filed in July against Facebook, Twitter, and Google, along with their CEOs.
Ericsson eyes Vonage
Ericsson, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of 5G technology and hardware, is poised to purchase Vonage, a cloud communications provider, in a deal valued at approximately $6.2 billion.
“Ericsson and Vonage have a shared ambition to accelerate our long-term growth strategy,” said Vonage CEO Rory Read, ““We believe joining Ericsson is in the best interests of our shareholders and is a testament to Vonage’s leadership position in business cloud communications, our innovative product portfolio, and outstanding team.”
Ericsson said it intends to leverage Vonage’s presence in the communication platform as a service, or CPaaS, market to “democratize network access by offering [Application Programming Interface] enabled communications services.” Additionally, Ericsson stated that it expects the CPaaS market to reach $22 billion by 2025, growing 30 percent annually.
Should the deal pass successfully, Vonage will “become a wholly owned subsidiary of Ericsson and will continue to operate under its existing name.”
Broadband in Build Back Better, ISPs Customers Exposed to Hackers, Rural ISP Funding in Louisiana
Another $1 billion in broadband expansion funds could be available in the Build Back Better Act, which passed the House on Friday.
November 22, 2021 — A total of about $1 billion could be made available for broadband under the Build Back Better Act.
Approved by the House on Friday, the $1.7 trillion legislation heads to the Senate for revision this week.
Out of the $1 billion allocated for broadband, the majority of the funds – $475 million – would be used to fund grants for devices like laptops and tablets administered through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, an agency of the Commerce Department. Another $300 million would provide additional funds to the Federal Communications Commission’s Emergency Connectivity Fund, which addresses distance learning needs at schools and libraries, while $100 million would fund the FCC’s outreach and education about its broadband affordability programs.
In its current form, the NTIA would also receive an additional $280 million in grants for public-private pilot projects to increase access to affordable broadband in urban communities.
Meanwhile, $12 million would be used to establish councils for further broadband expansion, including $7 million to create a Future of Telecommunications Council under the Commerce Department that would show how 6G wireless can serve low-income communities, and $5 million to create an Urban and Suburban Broadband Advisory Committee.
The final broadband provisions of the bill may be revised or removed once Senate negotiations begin. To pass the Senate, the bill needs the support of all 50 Democratic Senators and avoid partisan disruption.
Millions of broadband users exposed to hackers
Millions of Sky Broadband customers were vulnerable to hackers for over a year.
A software bug affected about six million of the U.K. company’s routers that allowed hackers to infiltrate home networks, Yahoo reported Friday.
The bug, which has since been fixed, took 18 months to address. A hacker would have been able to “reconfigure a home router” by directing the user to malicious website with a phishing email. According to Pen Test Partners, the security firm that found the bug, hackers could have “taken over someone’s online life” by stealing passwords for banking, investing, and social media.
“We take the safety and security of our customers very seriously,” Sky said.” After being alerted to the risk, we began work on finding a remedy for the problem and we can confirm that a fix has been delivered to all Sky-manufactured products.”
Pen Test Partners Ken Munro said he’s baffled by Sky’s delay in fixing the bug. “While the coronavirus pandemic put many internet service providers under pressure, as people moved to working from home, taking well over a year to fix an easily exploited security flaw simply isn’t acceptable,” he said. Munro recommends that anyone with a router should change the password from the default one.
Rural ISP owner aims to provide internet to rural Louisiana
The owner of a rural Louisiana internet service provider aims to bring broadband to St. Mary county.
Chris Fisher, owner of Cajun Broadband, detailed a grant submission he will submit to the Granting Underserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities program. The program, funded by the Louisiana Office of Broadband Development and Connectivity, oversees spending of $180 million in federal funds to supply broadband to 400,000 households in the state.
Fisher’s grant requests $800,000 to provide internet service to nearly 600 residents in St. Mary county. He says he has been the only ISP to address the county’s council on the opportunity since May.
“I didn’t realize the need for rural broadband until I started my company, which began initially because my kids couldn’t get internet,” Fisher said. Fisher estimates it will cost $10 to $15 million to connect the rural areas of the parish with internet.
A councilmember said that the plan is long overdue. “We’ve talked about this for years, and we all agree that we need to do something to increase access for all of the citizens of our parish, and not just the affluent ones. This is a do or die, once in lifetime opportunity.”
- Advocates Call for Universal Service Fund to Include Broadband Revenues
- Craig Settles Talks Telehealth, FCC Mapping Issues on States, Broadband’s Impact on Critical Infrastructure
- UTOPIA Fiber Completes Payson City Project and Publishes Results of Customer Feedback Survey
- FCC Watchdog Finds Evidence of Fraud in Emergency Broadband Benefit
- Date Set for Sohn Hearing, Criticism of Tech Legislation, New ILSR Leadership
- TPI New Broadband Map, Justice Dept. Stands for Section 230, Ericsson Looks to Acquire Vonage
Signup for Broadband Breakfast
Section 2304 months ago
Facebook, Google, Twitter Register to Lobby Congress on Section 230
Broadband Roundup4 months ago
Senators Intro App Bill, Groups Drop TracFone Buy Complaint, States Want Shorter Robocall Deadline
Antitrust4 months ago
Daniel Hanley: Federal Communications Commission Must Block Verizon’s Acquisition of TracFone
Broadband Roundup3 months ago
Mapping Comment Deadline Extended, AT&T Gets Federal Contract, 5G and LTE Drive Microwave Demand
#broadbandlive3 months ago
Broadband Breakfast on September 1, 2021 — What’s Next for Broadband Infrastructure Legislation?
Broadband Roundup3 months ago
FCC and FTC Announce Open Meeting Agendas and AT&T Signs Deal with OneWeb
Broadband Roundup2 months ago
Cox’s Wireless Deal with Verizon Dies, Apple Appeals Epic Games Case, AT&T’s Fiber Investment
Expert Opinion4 months ago
David Stokes: Optimizing Network Performance Through Segment Routing and Traffic Engineering