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Twitter Bans Trump, Parler Sues Amazon, Congressional Democrats Question Big ISPs

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January 11, 2021 — On Friday, Twitter permanently banned President Donald Trump from the platform, citing the “risk of further incitement of violence” should he be allowed to continue to use the service.

“After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence,” Twitter said in a statement on Friday.

The ban comes after the president incited a mob that broke into the US Capitol building, disrupting Congress’ certification of Joe Biden as the President Elect. Twitter initially put a 12-hour ban on Trump’s account for “repeated and severe violations of our Civic Integrity policy” after he posted messages repeating lies that the election was stolen.

“Due to the ongoing tensions in the United States, and an uptick in the global conversation in regards to the people who violently stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, these two Tweets must be read in the context of broader events in the country and the ways in which the President’s statements can be mobilized by different audiences, including to incite violence, as well as in the context of the pattern of behavior from this account in recent weeks,” Twitter said in its Friday blog.

Advocacy groups have been calling for action to be taken for months  

Many tech advocacy groups have spoken out in support of Twitter’s actions.

“Twitter’s decision to permanently suspend Donald Trump is a victory for racial-justice advocates who have long condemned his continued abuse of the platform,” said Free Press co-CEO and Change the Terms co-founder Jessica González. “Today’s news, while a day late and a dollar short, is welcome. I urge other social-media companies to follow suit immediately.”

“From the launch of his presidential campaign when he defamed Mexicans as rapists, criminals and drug dealers, to the desperate last gasps of his presidency as he has egged on white supremacists to commit violence and insurrection, Trump had used his Twitter account to incite violence, lie about the election outcome, encourage racists and spread conspiracy theories. He did not deserve a platform on Twitter, or on any other social or traditional media,” she added.

“Private companies taking action against bad actors that misuse their services to incite violence have a First Amendment right to do so – even when the bad actor engaged in misconduct is the President of the United States,” said Computer & Communication Industry Association President Matt Schruers.

“Congress wisely encouraged these actions to safeguard the trust and safety of users and the public at large through Section 230 in the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which enables digital services to address dangerous or problematic content and behavior without risk that they will be sued for doing so,” said Schruers.

Parler sues Amazon after tech giant kicks site off its servers

The social media platform Parler has sued Amazon after the tech giant abruptly ended web-hosting services to the company, effectively halting its operations.

Parler describes itself as a free speech platform, and its founders have proclaimed that the service engages in minimal moderation and will not fact-check posts. They have also said they will allow posts that have been removed or flagged as misinformation on other social media networks such as Twitter.

The conservative social network founded in 2018 exploded in popularity among supporters of President Trump after the November U.S. election.

In a complaint filed Monday in Seattle federal court, Parler alleged that Amazon Web Services kicked the company off its cloud servers for political and anti-competitive reasons.

“AWS’s decision to effectively terminate Parler’s account is apparently motivated by political animus. It is also apparently designed to reduce competition in the microblogging services market to the benefit of Twitter,” reads Parler’s complaint.

Amazon said Saturday that it would cut off Parler because it wasn’t confident in its ability to sufficiently police content on its platform that incites violence. The company said while it would no longer provide web services to Parler after Sunday at 11:59 p.m. Pacific time, it would preserve the platform’s data and help it migrate to different servers.

The situation with Parler shows the growing breadth of efforts by big technology companies to restrict content they label as dangerous after last week’s mob attack on the U.S. Capitol. Amazon had said in a letter to Parler over the weekend that it had seen a steady increase in violent content on the site and said Parler’s efforts to remove it were inadequate.

Energy and Commerce Committee questions ISPs commitment to consumers

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr., Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle, and Representative Jerry McNerney sent letters today to nine internet service providers questioning their commitment to consumers, as many ISPs continue to raise prices and impose data caps, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Over the last ten months, internet service became even more essential as many Americans were forced to transition to remote work and online school. Broadband networks seem to have largely withstood these massive shifts in usage,” wrote Pallone, Doyle and McNerney. “Unfortunately, what cannot be overlooked or underestimated is the extent to which families without home internet service, particularly those with school-aged children at home, have been left out and left behind.”

The lawmakers explained that after Energy and Commerce Committee members wrote to these same companies in March to express how crucial it was that families have reliable, affordable broadband during this historic time. Since then some of those companies have raised prices and imposed or expanded data caps on consumers.

“This is an egregious action at a time when households and small businesses across the country need high-speed, reliable broadband more than ever but are struggling to make ends meet,” they wrote.

Broadband Roundup

Affordable Connectivity Outreach Program, Amazon’s SpaceX Satellite Concerns, Axios Acquired

The establishment of the Affordable Connectivity Outreach Grant Program is intended to bring awareness to the program.

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Photo of Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, via Wikicommons

August 8, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission on Friday established an outreach program to get more American households registered to its broadband subsidy program.

The Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides a discount on broadband services of up to $30 per month and a one-time $100 toward a device, currently has over 13 million low-income American households signed up, but the FCC has said that there are millions more eligible who are not taking advantage of the program.

During an open meeting on Friday, the commission approved an order directing the agency’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau to develop, administer and manage the new Affordable Connectivity Outreach Grant Program, which is intended to raise awareness about the ACP.

The commission was infused with grants from Congress in the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act to put toward outreach for the program. As such, $100 million will go toward the effort.

“Since the inception of the ACP, Commission staff have engaged in extensive outreach, including numerous speaking engagements and enrollment events, and continue to seek out opportunities to coordinate with other federal agencies,” the agency said in a Friday press release.

“Throughout these efforts, the Commission has worked closely with trusted local entities that are familiar with the communities they serve.  However, for many of these partners, budget constraints limit the extent of ACP outreach they can perform without additional financial support.”

The agency on Friday also established the “Your Home, Your Internet” one-year pilot program, which is intended to raise awareness and make it easier to apply to the ACP for households receiving federal housing assistance

Ahead of the announcement, telehealth advocate Craig Settles wrote an op-ed for Broadband Breakfast outlining ideas for how to improve outreach to the ACP.

Amazon warns FCC about volume of SpaceX satellites

In a meeting with FCC officials last week, Amazon representatives repeated concerns about the alleged negative effect of the number of broadband satellites SpaceX will launch into space.

According to a post-meeting letter released Thursday, Amazon urged the commission to ensure that SpaceX’s deployment of its Gen2 non-geostationary orbit fixed-satellite services “does not come at the expense of competition and innovation from other emerging NGSO FSS systems.”

Part of the concern for Amazon, which is preparing its Project Kuiper low-earth orbit constellation, is the size of the proposed deployment. At nearly 30,000 satellites, according to Amazon, it “raises questions about space safety, interference, and coexistence with other operators that will impact competition and deployment for decades.”

SpaceX’s Starlink already has a large LEO constellation for broadband service, with more than 2,700 and with approval to put many more thousands in LEO to come.

Cox acquires news website Axios

News company Axios announced Monday that it has agreed to be acquired by Cox Enterprises, a large media company with a telecommunications arm, for $525 million.

Cox made a previous investment last year in the news company, and it said in a Monday press release that this latest move is part of its effort to “grow and diversify the company.”

The deal will see the co-founders still lead the day-to-day operations of the company, according to a press release.

Axios, which was founded in 2017, is known for its brief lines on news items that cuts to the point.

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Broadband Roundup

Lumen’s Multi-Gig Service, Dish Continues Drop in Wireless Subs, Wu Not Leaving White House Yet

Lumen’s Quantum Fiber will deliver up to 8 Gig symmetrical speeds in certain markets.

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Photo of Tim Wu, White House advisor

August 4, 2022 – Telecommunications company Lumen Technologies announced Wednesday the launch of new faster internet download and upload speeds through its premier fiber internet service, Quantum Fiber.

Quantum Fiber will serve symmetrical speeds up to 8 gigabits per second, now available to select residents and businesses near Denver, Minneapolis, and Seattle. It will begin offering its internet plans to additional markets later this year, said a press release.

Lumen is using a passive optical network to provide the symmetric multi-gig capabilities. It will install a permanent network interface and router at the premise that is separate from the customer’s Wi-Fi, allowing for simple upgrades as technology evolves, read the release.

“Technology is evolving and so is Lumen as we tap into the power of our fiber network to give communities more bandwidth to excel at work, play and online life,” Andrew Dugan, Lumen’s chief technology officer, said in a statement. “Lumen is strengthening its portfolio and increasing gigabit speeds to fuel consumer and small business broadband connections – and it’s just the beginning. We’re investing in technology and internet speeds that will continue to push families and businesses into the future.”

Lumen operates approximately 500,000 route fiber miles and serves customers in more than 60 countries.

Dish sees another drop in wireless subscribers

Dish Wireless dropped another 210,000 wireless subscribers in the second quarter of 2022, bringing its total wireless subscribers to 7.67 million from the 8.9 it had in the same quarter last year.

Dish lost 343,000 subscribers in Q1 2022 and 245,000 in Q4 2021. The company is attempting to stop its losses by attracting customers with discounted plans. This summer, it announced its $25/month unlimited plan, which claims to be half of what customers pay for 5G elsewhere.

The company purchased Boost Mobile from T-Mobile in August of 2020, but has since lost 1.1 million customers. Dish acquired Boost so that it could offer a retail wireless product while it built its 5G standalone network — which regulators who approved the T-Mobile-Sprint merger hoped would act as the nation’s fourth major carrier.

Last year Dish launched its 5G service, called Project Genesis, in more than 120 markets which now covers about 20 percent of the United States population.

Tim Wu says reports of him leaving White House premature

White House advisor Tim Wu said in a tweet Wednesday that reports of him leaving the administration are premature, adding there is “still a lot of work to do.”

This comes in response to Bloomberg report published on Monday that Wu is set to leave his position at the White House in the coming months to return to Columbia University.

Wu was the key architect behind President Joe Biden’s executive order to bolster competition last year, which included over 70 initiatives by federal agencies to improve competition within the tech, health care and agriculture industries.

He is also credited for coining the term net neutrality and is widely regarded as an aggressive critic of Big Tech.

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Broadband Roundup

LS Networks Gets CEO from Meta, Verizon Upgrading Capacity, Consolidated Boasts More Customers

Randy Brogle was previously working on fiber investments for Facebook parent Meta.

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Photo of Randy Brogle, former Meta executive

August 3, 2022 – Fiber optics provider LS Networks announced Tuesday the appointment to CEO of Randy Brogle, the former fiber investments executive for Facebook parent company Meta.

Brogle will lead the company’s growth plans to invest in its fiber network to transform underserved areas in the Pacific Northwest, read the press release.

“Randy has dedicated his entire career to broadband expansion throughout the United States,” said Jack Bittan, executive chair of LS Networks, in the press release. “His experience aligns perfectly with the mission at LS Networks to deliver infrastructure that not only offers an essential service to rural communities, but also provides equal access to better jobs, education, and advanced lifestyles that support family, growth, and sustainable communities.”

Brogle most recently oversaw the acquisition and construction of fiber networks to support apps run by Meta. “LS Networks has a long history of helping communities prosper in the Pacific Northwest, and I am excited to join the focused efforts of the team to bridge the digital and social inequality divide,” he said in a statement.

Verizon upgrading fiber core capacity

Verizon announced Tuesday that it is upgrading its capacity on the core fiber network to support growing bandwidth demand, particularly on its 5G network.

The company said the upgrades will support speeds of 400 Gbps per port optical technology.

In June, the company announced that data traffic on its 5G network had increased by 249 percent between January 2021 and June 2022. It expects “exponentially” higher increases as more customers experience the performance capabilities of its 5G network, Verizon said in the press release Tuesday.

“Our fiber network is the largely invisible foundation that is a key driving force behind providing the scalability and reliability our customers need and expect,” said Verizon Chief Technology Officer Kyle Malady in a statement. “This new packet core will provide the reliability and capacity we need today, but more importantly will be able to scale to meet the forecasted future demands that will result from the incredible capabilities of our robust 5G network, the platform for 21st century innovation.”

The network update will use equipment that is half the size of existing equipment, reducing space requirements, and driving down power usage and operating costs, the company said. It will also enable advanced automation, enabling automated interfaces and improving reporting telemetry for real-time adjustments to address congestion, the company added.

This announcement follows other companies that have deployed 400 Gbps equipment in their core networks, including AT&T and Zayo.

Consolidated Communications boasts higher broadband customers

Fiber internet service provider Consolidated Communications reported Tuesday a net-positive broadband connections for the first time in seven years, adding 9,600 fiber broadband customers in the second quarter of 2022.

It reported building fiber to 142,300 additional locations, reaching 30 percent of the company’s service area of 832,000 locations. Of the new subscribers, 65 percent are taking gigabit service. This increase represents a three-fold increase over Q2 2021.

Consolidated said it is on track to build out to 400,000 locations by the end of the year. To support its expansion in fiber, the company also announced that it would sell its stake in five limited wireless partnerships with Verizon Wireless to Cellco for $490 million.

“The additional capital infusion puts us in a very strong position to support our fiber expansion plan,” said Steve Childers, chief financial officer at Consolidated Communications in the release. The transactions are expected to close by the end of 2022.

This comes as service provider Comcast reported no net gains in broadband subscriptions in the same quarter, marking the first time the company has failed to grow its internet business each quarter.

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