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Broadband Roundup

California Net Neutrality, Georgia Broadband Maps, New House Antitrust Bill

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Photo of California State Sen. Scott Wiener from Housing is a Human Right

February 24, 2021 – A California judge has rejected an attempt by internet service providers to prevent the state from enforcing its net neutrality rules, paving the way for its enforcement.

Judge John Mendez, in the Eastern District of California, issued the ruling Tuesday. The law provides Californians with the strongest net neutrality protections in the nation, which essentially prevents service providers from slowing or blocking certain websites and accelerating apps that pay them.

Democratic State Sen. Scott Wiener, the author of the law, said the judge’s ruling was a huge victory for open access to the internet, our democracy and our economy. Wiener advocated for allowing “ourselves to decide where we go on the internet and how we access information.”

Groups, including Public Knowledge and New America’s Open Technology Institute, who filed submissions in the case, celebrated the decision.

The ruling was seen as a blow to the telecom industry and its associations, who in a joint statement said they will review the judge’s decision “before deciding on next steps,” alluding to a possible appeal.

First signed by former Gov. Jerry Brown, California became the first state to pass a net neutrality law, hoping Congress and other states would do the same. The Trump administration sued to block it, which prevented it from taking effect while in court. But in early February 2021, the Justice Department under the Biden administration dropped the lawsuit.

In October, the Federal Communications Commission – before being headed by acting chairwoman and net neutrality advocate Jessica Rosenworcel voted again against Obama-era net neutrality rules.

Georgia Gets Ahead of FCC on Broadband Maps

Georgia state officials recognized three years ago it was grappling with bringing broadband to unserved areas in the state. The problem though, was no one knew where broadband gaps actually existed. Having no maps of its own, and not being able to rely on the precision of Federal Communications Commission maps, the officials took the issue into their own hands instead of waiting on the federal government.

Fast forward to today, and the state legislature has since formed the Georgia Broadband Deployment Initiative and passed a law that service providers agree with that would allow detailed information about mapping to be shared privately, without revealing key information to competitors.

“The states are the ones who are innovating on this,” says Peggy Schaffer, director of the Connect Maine Authority, the state’s effort to bridge its digital divide. “We know we can’t wait for the feds to fix it. We waited, we’re done, so we’re moving.”

In its first two years of the initiative, Georgia had built a map hailed as “one of the most granular in the nation.” And it wasn’t just Georgia who took it upon itself to act. Maine and Pennsylvania followed suit and built their own granular data that pinpointed gaps in broadband.

We took the approach of getting [data] more at an address- or a location-level approach to get a better understanding, said Deana Perry, executive director of the Georgia Broadband Deployment Initiative.

The federal government knows its broadband mapping efforts need serious repair. In July of 2020, the FCC approved measures aiming to improve the accuracy and speed of the agency’s data collection practices. These actions were part of the Broadband Data Act, which requires more granular data to be handed over about which areas have broadband coverage.

There must be more innovative tools for network builders to plan and operate their networks, which will speed up the pace of deployment and it will create an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability about what is being built with public dollars.

Cable companies want to sell broadband, but this segment of the industry has been reluctant to support improvements for the most granular-level broadband mapping because it infrequently offers service to low-density rural areas. Inaccurate federal government maps pose serious setbacks when determining how broadband funding should be allocated. The U.S. is allocating billions of dollars through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, which the FCC called the “largest investment ever to close [the] digital divide.”

House antitrust chair to introduce reform bill 

House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline, D-R.I., who serves as the chairman of the House antirust panel, said Monday he will introduce an antitrust reform bill “very soon.”

The bill will seek to control large technology platforms’ power in the digital economy, as  reported by Bloomberg Quint.

Cicilline has been investigating tech giants for 16 months and said Monday he is crafting legislation with colleagues that can pass Congress in response to their findings.

His antitrust legislation fuels growing support on Capitol Hill that would give antitrust enforcers more power to block mergers and stop anticompetitive conduct.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., also introduced antitrust legislation in February 2020 that would seek to increase enforcement resources and prevent anticompetitive mergers.

Cicilline said at a small business webinar he intends for Congress to seize the moment to make significant progress to address the monopoly challenge that faces our country as failure to do so is not an option.

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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