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FCC Creates Broadband Data Task Force, Public Knowledge Wants E-Rate Expansion, Report on Internet Latency

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Photo of Jean Kiddoo from Twitter

February 17, 2021 – FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel on Wednesday announced the creation of a task force focused on enacting improvements to the agency’s broadband data and mapping tools. In addition to naming senior staff of the new task force, Rosenworcel named Jean Kiddoo as chair of the new broadband data task force.

The task force will lead a cross-agency effort to collect detailed data and develop more precise maps about broadband availability, she said. Rosenworcel thanked Kiddoo and her team for their willingness to take on the serious project.

Kiddoo will still continue serving as chair of the incentive auction force at the agency.

Other leaders of the data task force include Chelsea Fallon as senior implementation officer and C. Sean Spivey as senior counsel. Fallon currently serves as chief of the Data Division in the FCC’s Office of Economics and Analytics and has led the agency’s implementation of the Broadband DATA Act. Mr. Spivey currently serves as an assistant bureau chief in the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau.

The purpose of the new task force is to coordinate the agency’s broadband mapping and data collection efforts across the various expert agency teams, including the Office of Economics and Analytics, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, Wireline Competition Bureau, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, International Bureau, Office of Engineering and Technology, and Office of the Managing Director.

The task force follows the FCC’s adoption of new data reporting rules last month that determines which companies must report broadband availability and coverage.

It also comes after a Congress pressed the FCC to fix maps built on unreliable carrier data that over-reported the number of rural households that are served with high-speed internet.

Public Knowledge wants expanded E-Rate program

Public Knowledge filed comments this week to the Federal Communications Commission’s public notice urging the regulator to expand the E-Rate internet subsidy to homes.

Public Knowledge filed the submission in partnership with New America’s Open Technology Institute, sayingit “supports ‘off-campus’ use of E-Rate funds to help students studying at home access the broadband they need to stay connected to classes, student services, and their families during the pandemic.” Currently, the E-Rate program legislation only applies to libraries and schools. However, the pandemic has forced kids to learn at home which shows why the legislation should include expanded funding to households, said Larry Irving, CEO of the Irving Information Group, at a web conference this month.

Greg Guice, director of government affairs at Public Knowledge said in a statement:

“As the nation enters its 12th month of the COVID-19 pandemic, most schools remain closed or opened on a limited basis, making distance learning the primary means of educational instruction for many students. The needs of students and teachers to have broadband, therefore, remains as vital today as it did a year ago. This is why we’re asking the FCC to make a common-sense decision to allow the E-Rate program Congress established to ensure schoolchildren and teachers have access to broadband to be used for remote learning.”

Guice said the statute creating the E-Rate program authorizes Congress to give schools and libraries flexibility in directing funding that would enable remote learning. This includes services and equipment needed for students and the public.

The goal, he said, is to reach students wherever they are. Consistent with past Commission decisions, the Commission should immediately remove funding barriers to remote learning, he added.

Latency more crucial for videoconferencing than bandwidth

Forecast market research group on Monday said low latency is more critical than bandwidth when it comes to using video conferencing services.

Latency is the measure of how quickly a computer sends and receives information. The study aimed to find the minimum requirements needed to enjoy jitterless video calls

The study, which was based on video conferencing data collected over more than 152 hours by a range of users from various locations, was led by Alan Jones, Peter Sevcik, and Rebecca Wetzel. It found internet connectivity and performance requirements are in more demand from the most popular video conference applications. The researchers studied and compared Zoom, Slack, Google Meet, Cisco’s WebEx, and Microsoft’s Teams.

“Bandwidth is not the only factor contributing to a satisfactory video conferencing experience. Increased latency and/or loss also influence the experience of a video conferencing participant,” the researchers said.

“Long distances—such as a video conference call involving participants on both U.S. coasts—increase the risk of poor audio quality. If multiple participants are spread over long distances, a call can easily degrade into meaningless noise when multiple speakers try to speak simultaneously.”

In other words, the greater the distance between machines communicating with each other the worse the lag impact. This is why streaming services like Netflix make copies of their content on content delivery networks that are located closer to subscribers.

Broadband Roundup

Court Strikes Social Media Law, Industry Likes Cyber Initiative, Meta Data Transparency Project

Key provisions in the social media law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis was found unconstitutional by an appeals court.

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Photo of Kelly Rozumalski, senior vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton, from Careers Info Security

May 24, 2022 – The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a unanimous 3-0 decision Monday that key provisions in Florida’s social media censorship law is unconstitutional, following a preliminary injunction granted by a Florida judge last year.

The social media law, signed by Governor Ron DeSantis, would have prohibited companies from banning politicians on their platforms and limit their content moderation and editorial decisions, claiming that social media platforms are suppliers of a platform who should have no hand in the flow of information. The law was adopted following a number of high-profile Republican figures were banned from social media platforms, including former President Donald Trump from Twitter.

But the court found that provisions that allowed for the law to prevent tech platforms from removing political figures and posts by political candidates – key provisions in the law – were unconstitutional, affirming the court’s decision when it temporarily stopped the law from taking effect until it made a final determination. The court, however, found some provisions regarding data and disclosure requirements to remain in force.

The ruling came in response to a lawsuit issued by NetChoice and Computer and Communications Industry Association.

The decision comes nearly two weeks after a federal appeals court temporarily lifted restrictions on a similar law in Texas until the courts can make a final determination.

The court said in its decision that, “not in their wildest dreams could anyone in the Founding generation have imagined Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or TikTok. But whatever the challenges of applying the Constitution to ever-advancing technology, the basic principles of freedom of speech and the press, like the First Amendment’s command, do not vary when a new and different medium for communication appears.”

Industry commends Biden administration for progress on federal cybersecurity

Experts are applauding the White House’s progress in the year since President Joe Biden signed an executive order to focus on cybersecurity, according to The Hill, specifically highlighting the improvements in sharing threat information from government to private sector.

“I think the public-private partnership portion of the executive order has really been key,” said Kelly Rozumalski, senior vice president at IT consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, explaining that the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Alliance has now partnered with numerous companies in the private sector to push for cybersecurity.

“I’ve seen much more directive, actionable steps coming out now and I think the executive order is a big reason for that,” added Chris Wysopal, chief technology officer of Veracode. “[The order] sort of changed the status quo from best practices to practicality.”

The executive order in May of 2021 introduced several initiatives to secure federal networks and critical infrastructure against cyberattacks, which included sharing threat information, modernizing federal cybersecurity standards, and improving software supply chain security.

The order was enacted amid major cyberattacks, including oil transport company Colonial Pipeline and software company SolarWinds. As a result of the order, said The Hill, many companies are taking software security more seriously and require that suppliers sell them upgraded and secure software.

In March, Congress passed the Cyber Incident Reporting for Critical Infrastructure Act, which requires private sector companies to report incidents of cyberattacks to the federal government.

Meta announces data transparency project

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, announced on Monday the Facebook Open Research and Transparency project, which will grant access to researchers to data on how political advertising can be targeted on their platforms.

Meta, according to New York times, has given outsiders access into how political ads were used in the past, but only with certain restrictions. Meta claims that “by making advertiser targeting criteria available for analysis and reporting on ads run about social issues, elections, and politics, we hope to help people better understand the practices used to reach potential voters.”

The project will be initiated by the end of the month. The data will allow researchers to see what interest categories advertisers chose for each post. Meta will also include summaries of targeting information the Ad Library which is currently publicly available.

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Broadband Roundup

D.C. Attorney General Sues Zuckerberg, Carr Criticizes Infrastructure Bill Details, Vermont to Expand Fiber Builds

The lawsuit comes years after Facebook was found to have been used to harvest personal data for political purposes.

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Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Brenden Carr

May 23, 2022 – On Monday, Washington D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine sued Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg for alleged consumer privacy violations revealed during the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal that broke in 2018.

In his office’s filings with the D.C. Superior Court, Racine argued that “Facebook is far from a disinterested platform” and that it “[derives] enormous wealth from acquiring and monetizing the data of [billions of people] leading their lives in Facebook’s digital ecosystem.

“But even that is not enough,” the filing read. “Facebook is in a relentless pursuit to expand its reach on humanity and bring an ever-increasing number of people under its influence.”

To that end, the filings stated that “Cambridge Analytica used the Facebook Platform—in a way that Facebook and Zuckerberg encouraged—to influence and manipulate the outcome of a United States presidential election.”

As co-founder, CEO, chairman, and majority voting shareholder (Zuckerberg holds 60 percent of Meta’s voting shares according to the filings), Racine stated that Zuckerberg “maintains an unparalleled level of control over the operations of Facebook,” and thus bears the responsibility for its actions.

FCC Commissioner Carr says NTIA broadband infrastructure details picks “winners and losers”

Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr released a statement expressing concern that the application details for broadband funding under the infrastructure bill released this month prioritizes one technology over others.

“[The notices of funding opportunity] will prevent states from funding projects that could quickly bridge the digital divide using those high-speed technologies in nearly all cases—putting too much of a thumb on the scale for fiber builds that provide robust service but can take years to build out in certain cases,” Carr said in a statement Thursday, but added, “I have no doubt that fiber projects would demonstrate their value in the lion’s share of cases.”

The week prior, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s released those funding details, which included an answer to a question about its technology preference for the builds. “With respect to the deployment of last-mile broadband infrastructure, the Program prioritizes projects designed to provide fiber connectivity directly to the end user,” the Commerce agency said in the 98-page NOFO.

Carr stated that this will “undoubtedly waste taxpayer dollars and leave families waiting on the wrong side of the digital divide.”

The Republican commissioner also condemned what he perceived as rate regulation and overbuilding.

“In the end, the Administration’s decision to pursue those political goals—rather than focusing on connecting the largest number of people as quickly as possible—will exacerbate the supply chain challenges and workforce shortages that already pose a hurdle to getting the job done.”

Vermont governor announces fiber grants

On Monday, Vermont Republican Gov. Phil Scott announced broadband grants totaling more than $16 million.

The grants will be focused on deploying more than 9,000 miles of fiber across Bolton and several other towns in the northeast corner of Vermont.

Scott was set to be joined by Vermont’s at-large congressional representative Democratic Rep. Peter Welch at 12 noon ET in Jericho, Vt., to formally unveil the project in question.

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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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