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Jeff Bezos to Step Down at Amazon, North Carolina Broadband Dashboard, Crown Castle Sites Grow

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Photo of AWS CEO Andy Jassy from October 2016 by Steve Jurvetson used with permission

February 4, 2021 – Serving as CEO of the company he founded as an online book store in his garage in 1995, Jeff Bezos on Tuesday said he step down from that role as Amazon. Bezos is expected to be replaced by Andy Jassy, who has been with the company since 1997 and currently serves as CEO of the company’s cloud business, Amazon Web Services, currently biggest profit driver.

“This journey began some 27 years ago. Amazon was only an idea, and it had no name. The question I was asked most frequently at that time was, ‘What’s the internet?’ Today, we employ 1.3 million talented, dedicated people, serve hundreds of millions of customers and businesses, and are widely recognized as one of the most successful companies in the world,” Bezos wrote in a letter to employees Tuesday. He plans to become the company’s executive chairman.

News of Bezos stepping down came during Amazon’s fourth-quarter earnings report. Amazon beat Wall Street analysts’ projections for both sales and profit, capping a banner year as the pandemic boosted its retail and cloud businesses.

Its net sales were $125.6 billion, up 44 percent from the same period in the prior year and well ahead of the $119.7 billion Wall Street analysts had projected. Net income in the quarter hit $7.2 billion — nearly double the $3.7 billion Wall Street predicted and more than double the $3.3 billion in income the company earned in the year-ago quarter.

The company said it delivered more than a billion products to customers worldwide during its “record-breaking holiday season.”

Revenue from AWS grew 28 percent the prior-year quarter to more than $12.7 billion.

“AWS is well on its way to creating an annualized $50 billion revenue company,” said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy, in an emailed statement. “This makes AWS larger than Salesforce.com and SAP combined. Equally impressive is that AWS delivered over half of the company’s operating profit,” he added.

North Carolina’s new broadband dashboards strive for data accuracy

North Carolina’s technology agency published a pair of new dashboards that display broadband data in the state and found roughly 5 percent of households surveyed in 2020 lack access to the internet.

The dashboards were created last July in a partnership with the Friday Institute at North Carolina State University and show detailed information about broadband adoption, and coverage and quality on a county-by-county and address-by-address basis.

Residents were asked about internet connections from their homes, farms, and businesses and included an optional speed-testing tool they could use to test whether their internet speeds were as fast as advertised by their internet providers. 40,945 households participated throughout the state, providing helpful data that can be used to correct potentially flawed data from the Federal Communications Commission, said state officials.

“Ultimately, we need more granular data, household level data and a real understanding of the speeds people are experiencing on the ground and if they don’t have access, why they don’t have it,” said Amy Huffman, the digital inclusion and policy manager at the state’s Department of Information Technology.

“We are urging each household in North Carolina — in areas with and without adequate service — to take the survey. Broadband availability is a major issue, and this data will help us provide much-needed context to the stories we hear every day from residents struggling to work, learn and interact online,” said Jeff Sural, the director of the states Broadband Infrastructure Office.

Crown Castle ends 2020 with 50,000 active small cells

February 3, 2021 – During a conference call to investors the Crown Castle communications infrastructure company  announced it ended 2020 with 50,000 small cells. Its backlog of small cells committed or under construction increased to 30,000.

The call highlighted a cell deal with U.S. carrier Verizon.

“We are excited that we have expanded our strategic relationship with Verizon by signing a long-term small cell agreement to support Verizon’s 5G ultra-wide band and 5G nationwide deployment,” said company CEO Jay Brown, according to RCR Wireless.

“Under this agreement, Verizon has committed to lease 15,000 new small cells, representing the largest small cell award in our history and demonstrating the value of sharing small cell and fiber infrastructure assets with multiple customers. The Verizon agreement is a real affirmation of our small cell strategy, and they believe there’s real value in a third party providing the infrastructure to them.

The company also had a small cell agreement with T-Mobile that was recently cancelled. “Late last year, T-Mobile notified us that they were canceling approximately 5,700 small cells that we initially contracted with Sprint. The majority of the small cells were yet to be constructed and would have been located at the same locations as other T-Mobile small cells once completed.”

Crown Castle’s portfolio includes 40,000 towers and 80,000 route miles of high-capacity fiber concentrated in the top U.S. markets.

Broadband Roundup

National Privacy Law, Digital Infrastructure Firm’s $8B Raise, Wicker Wants Spectrum Cooperation

Business groups are asking Congress to supersede state laws by passing privacy legislation that sets a national standard.

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Senator Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi

January 19, 2022 – As states begin to pass their own privacy laws, business groups are asking the federal government to pass legislation that would mitigate confusion by creating a national standard, reports MediaPost Communications.

The Association of National Advertisers, Interactive Advertising Bureau, and the U.S. Chamber of Congress are just a few of the business groups that are asking for a national privacy law.

“As the Federal Trade Commission considers a privacy rulemaking that would add a further layer of complexity to the state patchwork, it is critical that Congress pass one single national standard” in a letter that was signed by 15 national organizations and then by local business groups from across the country,” the MediaPost report said.

California, Virginia, and Colorado are just a few of the states that have passed their own version of a privacy law, and while they all serve a similar purpose, they have various nuances that the business groups said they believe will be difficult to navigate for their businesses and for consumers across state lines, MediaPost reports.

In addition, there are members of Congress who are also asking for a national plan for consumer privacy.

Digital infrastructure firm DigitalBridge raises over $8 billion

DigitalBridge Investment Management, an investment firm in digital infrastructure, raised a higher-than-expected $8.3 billion, according to a Wednesday press release, illustrating interest in projects including fiber builds.

“The Fund has already invested in nine portfolio companies across towers, easements, hyperscale data centers, edge infrastructure, indoor DAS infrastructure and fiber, running reliable, mission-critical network infrastructure for many of the world’s leading hyperscale cloud providers and mobile network operators,” the release said.

The round comes as the federal government pushing billions of dollars into infrastructure, including broadband and as the pandemic has shown a need for remote capabilities driven by broadband.

Republican lawmaker calls for NTIA-FCC cooperation on spectrum

Senator Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, sent a letter earlier this month to the head of the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration asking them to consider a renewed agreement to work together on spectrum management.

The January 13 letter to FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and new NTIA head Alan Davidson said their “relationship can be strengthened” on matters related to the shared use of radiowaves between federal and non-federal users by refreshing the memorandum of understanding that was last updated in 2003.

“In light of recent disputes over spectrum allocations, it is more important than ever that the [FCC and NTIA] work together to promote spectrum policy that best serves the dual goals of furthering commercial innovation and enabling the mission-critical operations of federal agencies,” the letter said.

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Broadband Roundup

Airlines’ 5G Warning, 3.45 GHz Winners, Bongino YouTube Suspension

Airlines claim the need to cancel a many flights because of interference between altimeters and 5G transmitters.

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Dan Bongino
Conservative commentator Dan Bongino

January 18, 2022 — Major American airlines are saying that they will need to cancel a significant number of flights from possible interference between aircraft altimeters and 5G signals this week, according to multiple news reports.

Verizon and AT&T, which are deploying 5G services around airports using the C-band spectrum, had already agreed to a deployment delay earlier this month at the behest of the airlines, but are planning of turning on service this week.

The signals that come from the 5G service risk “interfering with safety equipment pilots rely on to take off and land inclement weather,” said the CEOs of major American airlines in a letter to United States officials, according to NBC News.

“The nation’s commerce will grind to a halt” and leave “tens of thousands of Americans” stranded overseas, the letter said, adding “immediate intervention is needed to avoid significant operational disruption to air passengers, shippers, supply chain and delivery of needed medical supplies.’”

Industry group Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association stated that “5G is safe and the spectrum is currently in use in nearly 40 other nations.”

FCC announces winning bidders in 3.45 GHz auction

The Federal Communications Commission announced Friday the winning bidders for the 3.45 GHz auction, frequencies important for 5G services.

The top five winners were AT&T with winning bids worth just over $9 billion; Weminuche  won bids worth just over $7 billion; T-Mobile took nearly $3 billion worth; Three Forty-Five Spectrum nabbed $1.4 billion worth; and United States Cellular Corp took licenses valued at nearly $600 million.

According to a press release from the FCC, 13 of the 23 companies that won bids are “small businesses or as entities serving rural communities.”

Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said that enabling “commercial use of this spectrum is important to America’s continuing economic recovery and 5G leadership.” The gross proceeds of this auction were over $22.5 billion.

Dan Bongino latest conservative voice ousted from tech platform

Alphabet’s YouTube temporarily suspended conservative commentator Dan Bongino‘s channel due to misinformation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, making him the latest voice from the right to be removed for that purpose.

The Hill reported that Bongino declared masks “useless” in the fight against COVID-19, which was in direct violation of YouTube’s COVID-19 policy, which “specifically prohibits content denying the effectiveness of wearing masks, which the vast majority of the scientific community agrees reduces the risk of infection.”

The suspension, which includes him being removed from a program that allows him to get paid for his uploads, lasts a week with a second offense leading to a two-week suspension, and a third to a permanent ban.

The ban follows social media company Twitter’s removal of Georgia Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, which was followed by Republican Kentucky Senator Rand Paul removing himself from YouTube earlier this month.

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Broadband Roundup

January 6 Committee Social Media Subpoenas, Iranian Hacks, Google Ad Auctions Lawsuit

Lawmakers chastised the companies for providing little information in response to past committee inquiries.

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Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.

January 14, 2021 – The House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol has issued subpoenas to social media giants Alphabet, Meta, Reddit and Twitter, saying the companies’ responses to prior requests for information were inadequate.

The committee had previously reached out to the companies to assess their knowledge of misinformation, efforts to overturn the 2020 election, domestic extremism and foreign influence in the 2020 election that may have taken place on their platforms.

Central to the inquiry is whether the companies took any steps to “prevent their platforms from being breeding grounds for radicalizing people to violence,” said committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.

Iranian intelligence agency engaged in international hacks

U.S. Cyber Command said Wednesday that hacking group MuddyWaters is part of an Iranian intelligence agency which is responsible for several global cyberattacks.

The group, identified as part of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security, has been labeled an “Iranian threat group” by authorities.

The information comes following a year of increased cyberattack activity from abroad in the U.S. including the prominent breach at Colonial Pipeline involving hackers with ties to Russia.

Allegedly, the group has targeted nations across the Middle East, Europe and North America in efforts to surveil opponents.

According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, between 2013 and 2017, Iranian hackers stole $3.4 billion in intellectual property from 170 universities and targeted U.S. officials and journalists as well as United Kingdom banks.

Google alleged to have misled publishers and advertisers

Newly unredacted allegations in a lawsuit by state attorneys general say that Google for years misled publishers and advertisers about pricing and processes in its ad auctions.

The lawsuit says Google created secret programs which deflated sales for some companies while increasing buyer prices, engaging in trust and monopoly-building activities.

The unredacted filing of the lawsuit occurred Friday in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York after a judge ruled and amended complaint from last year could be unsealed.

Google says the lawsuit is “full of inaccuracies and lacks legal merit,” and intends to file a motion for its dismissal next week, asserting that its advertising practices are competitive.

The suit is led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and joined by over a dozen other states, alleging that Google’s practices inflate advertising costs which in turn create higher-priced products for consumers.

A separate antitrust case exists against Google from the U.S. Justice Department and over three dozen state attorneys general focusing on the company’s search services.

Additionally, a proposed bipartisan bill in the Senate with the support of a dozen lawmakers would treat Google’s search engine like a railroad operator and ban it from advantaging its own products and services at the expense of other businesses that rely on the platforms – just part of an ongoing adversarial relationship between Congress and the tech company.

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