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Facebook and Google Diverge on Publishing, Digital Trust & Safety Partnership, Chattanooga is Best City

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Photo of Will Easton from the Warehouse Group

February 18, 2021 – Facebook and Google took opposing stances Wednesday on publishing news to their sites.

Facebook announced it will begin restricting news content in Australia in response to a proposed law that would require online media to pay news publications for their content.

“The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content,” said William Easton, Facebook’s managing director for Australia and New Zealand. He said journalism is important to a democratic society — which is why Facebook has provided tools for free publication of news on its site — but news makes up less than 4 percent of content, he said.

“We have made clear to the Australian government for many months, the value exchange between Facebook and publishers runs in favor of the publishers — which is the reverse of what the legislation would require the arbitrator to assume,” Easton said.

As recently as January, Google has made similar threats, but instead announced a three-year deal with News Corporation, which will see the tech giant pay for News Corp publications, including the Wall Street Journal, MarketWatch, and the New York Post.

“The landmark three-year agreement also includes the development of a subscription platform, the sharing of ad revenue via Google’s ad technology services, the cultivation of audio journalism and meaningful investments in innovative video journalism by YouTube,” said the press release.

Digital trust and safety partnership launches

Leading technology companies formally launched the Digital Trust & Safety Partnership, an initiative aimed at promoting a safer and more trustworthy internet.

The partnership is committed to developing industry best practices, reviewed through internal and independent third-party assessments, to ensure consumer safety and trust when using digital services. The group includes Discord, Facebook, Inc, Google, Microsoft, Pinterest, Reddit, Shopify, Twitter, and Vimeo.

“Trust and safety is a critical function at many of the world’s leading digital services companies. These are the people who spend their days working to keep consumers safe from abuse. The Digital Trust & Safety Partnership was formed to advance the best practices and assessments needed to support this emerging field,” said Alex Feerst, an advisor to the partnership.

Feerst was a panelist in the first of Broadband Breakfast Live Online’s three-part series on Social Media from July 2020: “Content Moderation Experts Discuss Future of Section 230 in Broadband Breakfast Live Online Event.”

The partnership announced five key commitments agreed upon by the participating companies to ensure consumer safety and trust when using digital services:

  • Identify, evaluate, and adjust for content- and conduct-related risks in product development.
  • Adopt explainable processes for product governance, including which team is responsible for creating rules, and how rules are evolved.
  • Conduct enforcement operations to implement product governance.
  • Assess and improve processes associated with content- and conduct-related risks.
  • Ensure that relevant trust & safety policies are published to the public, and report periodically to the public and other stakeholders regarding actions taken.

Each company will review its trust and safety practices before the partnership shares a state of the industry report this year, which will evaluate companies’ implementation of the practices. This effort is not directed toward individual company policies or decisions, but focuses on how to perform and assess trust and safety as an evolving field. The partnership will engage with various industry-wide experts in the public and private sectors to help further develop these practices.

Chattanooga named best city for working from home

Chattanooga, Tennessee has been named PC Magazine’s top city in the U.S. and Canada to live for working from home.

The “Gig City” has been a leading example of what happens when a municipality builds its own fiber facilities.

“In 2020, it was evident that Chattanooga has been able to attract talent from major cities and companies. I’ve run into folks who work for Spotify, Stripe, Netflix, et al. The quality of life was a major reason many of these folks moved from places like NYC, SF, LA, and more,” Santosh Sankar of Dynamo Management Co. in Chattanooga told PC Magazine.

PC Magazine aggregated data from a variety of sources that included factors such as a gigabit internet connection, home affordability and size, attractiveness, restaurants, healthcare andeducation.

The list mostly comprises smaller cities, but larger cities like Philadelphia and Phoenix made the cut.

According to a study by University of Tennessee’s Bento Lobo, the Chattanooga fiber project launched in 2010 by Chattanooga’s Electric Power Board has resulted in $2.7 billion in economic benefit for the city over the last ten years. This included over 9,500 jobs, business investments and startups, considerable reduction in power outages thanks to the smart grid that helps reroute power from problem areas and reduced response time by utility workers.

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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