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Broadband Roundup

Montana Democrats Push for Rural Broadband, Hints for Big Tech under Biden, Parler CEO Fired



Photo of John Matze in Washington in June 2019 by Samira Bouaou of the Epoch Times

February 8, 2021—Montana state Democrats have announced a legislative package that aims to fill the rural broadband gap.

State Rep. Katie Sullivan has introduced LC 2670, a bill that would see the creation of either a broadband manager or an advisory board under the state’s executive.  The goal of this body would be to create a roadmap for future legislation designed to improve broadband infrastructure in Montana.

In addition to outlining plans for the future, Democrats are also trying to determine how best to secure investment in developing broadband infrastructure.

Rep. Tyson Running Wolf has put forward LC 1548, a bill that would seek to establish new lines of credit that could be used to fund various endeavors aimed at enabling broadband expansion. These lines of credit would be overseen by the broadband manager or advisory board Representative Sullivan aims to create.

Additionally, Rep. Derek Harvey has proposed a “dig once” initiative known as LC2940. Like other “dig once” policies from around the country, LC 2940 would require the Montana Department of Transportation to communicate with telecom providers to coordinate road construction and fiber laying activities to minimize cost.

An additional bill in this package is Representative Kelly Kortum’s LC 1539. This legislation would incentivize the production of new tech jobs by allowing communities to purchase broadband infrastructure. In addition to incentivizing tech jobs, this effort would also promote remote work, the bill says.

Adam Kovacevich offers thoughts for a new era of tech

There is no denying that the beginning of the Biden Administration signals the dawn of a new era for the tech industry.

The past four years represented a departure from the Obama Administration’s rose-tinted approach to tech policy, and now it is President Joe Biden’s chance to set the tone for how his administration will approach the issues facing the sector.

In his piece for ProtocolAdam Kovacevich outlined his recommendations for big tech and the course itcan chart alongside the administration. Kovacevich’s first recommendation to big tech was to seek out opportunities to help the Biden Administration accomplish its biggest goals, namely “beating the coronavirus, aggressive action against climate change, [and] tackling racial and income inequality.”

Kovacevich pointed to Amazon’s offer to aid in the distribution of vaccines as a prime example of the actions that this sector can be taking to aid the administration.

Kovacevich also recommended that if tech companies want to accomplish their goals, they need to hitch their wagon to progressive causes. During this administration, tech companies will need to be able to demonstrate that their goals (whether they are producing autonomous vehicles, investing in telemedicine, or expanding broadband coverage) can accomplish Biden’s stated goals, such as reducing inequality and emissions, increasing wages, and improving American infrastructure. Kovacevich points to these policy areas as crucial examples of opportunities that tech companies need to capitalize on.

As the new administration begins to settle in, Kovacevich also advised tech companies to begin to “wave the U.S. flag” and recommit to promoting U.S. interests and leadership on the world stage. He also sought to remind the tech industry that “Democrats like policymaking,” and that they need to be active at the policy-making table if they want to have input on issues such as consumer privacy and addressing the future of Section 230.

Kovacevich’s final piece of advice to the tech industry was to seek out “voluntary wins,” or actions taken by the sector to police themselves so that the federal government does not have to step in and do it.

One such example of the tech industry already engaging in this behavior is Apple dropping Parler, a platform that housed conspiracy theorists, from the Appstore—a move that has been lauded by progressives as taking a stand against extremism.

Parler CEO and founder John Matze out

Parler’s CEO and founder John Matze was fired by the website’s board. This came as the latest twist in the controversial platform’s short history, as it was dropped by Amazon in January following the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, in addition to providing a safe space for extremism and hateful speech.

In an interview with National Public Radio’s Morning Edition, Matze stated that he “did not participate in this decision,” and that he believes that his firing came because of a disagreement he had with conservative donor and board member, Rebekah Mercer.

Matze claimed that his vision for Parler would require the website to crack down on domestic terror groups, those who call for or attempt to incite violence, and even those who disseminate QAnon conspiracies.

Matze stated that he felt as though the Capital riot was a clear indication that Parler had to take a more active role in moderating the content shared on the platform and that things would only get worse if the website failed to act.

Matze’s firing comes at a crucial time as various entities in the tech sector are attempting to navigate how they will work with or against President Biden’s goals during his administration.

Reporter Ben Kahn is a graduate of University of Baltimore and the National Journalism Center. His work has appeared in Washington Jewish Week and The Center Square, among other publications. He he covered almost every beat at Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Roundup

Generative AI Concerns, New York Gets $100M for Broadband, FCC Funding Students

There is widespread concern about the race to create more powerful AI tools without guardrails.




Photo of Elon Musk from 2015 used with permission.

March 30, 2023 – Billionaire CEO and artificial intelligence investor Elon Musk is among hundreds of industry experts who signed an open letter this week calling for a six-month pause on artificial intelligence experiments and called on a shared set of safety protocols for the rapidly advancing technology.

Powerful AI systems should be developed only once we are confident that their effects will be positive and their risks will be manageable,” said the letter, which calls for the implementation of a set of shared safety protocols for advanced AI design and development that are rigorously audited and overseen by independent outside experts.

“This does not mean a pause on AI development in general, merely a stepping back from the dangerous race to ever-larger unpredictable black-box models with emergent capabilities,” the letter added.

The letter comes a week after the release of Google’s own generative AI tool, called Bard, and weeks after the latest version of OpenAI’s tool, ChatGPT-4, which has marveled observers for its ability to create things like novels and games from basic user inputs.

The letter notes that it’s concerned about the race to create AI systems more powerful than GPT-4.

Lawmakers and regulators have been concerned about these AI tools because of the datasets used to train them. The models will reflect whatever biases, inaccuracies and otherwise harmful content was present in the training data, with users having been able to get the chatbot generate offensive material.

New York gets $100M from Capital Projects Fund

The Treasury Department is allocated $100 million from the Capital Projects Fund to connect roughly 100,000 households and businesses to high-speed internet in New York, according to press release.

The award will also fund the state’s Affordable Housing Connectivity Program, a program that helps low-income neighborhood gain high-speed internet.

The CPF provides $10 billion to states, territories, freely associated states, and Tribal governments to fund capital projects that enable work, education, and health monitoring in response to the public health emergency. Last month, the Treasury Department announced $350 million in broadband funding to the states of Arizona, Wyoming and Tennessee under America Rescue Plan’s CPF.

FCC commits more money from Emergency Connectivity Fund

The Federal Communications Commission announced Thursday that it is committing another $2.8 million from the Emergency Connectivity Fund, which provides students with connectivity away from school.

The latest round will benefit roughly 7,000 students in Arizona, California, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, and Missouri, according to a press release.

Earlier this month, the FCC announced a commitment of $1.7 million through the ECF to help over 5,000 students gain better access to internet and support approximately 15 schools and 2 libraries in California, Florida, Minnesota, Missouri, and New York.

Since the launch of the $7.171 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund in 2021, the FCC has allocated a total of $6.6 billion in funding commitments. The program is set to end this year, with the service delivery deadline for the first two rounds approaching on June 30.

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Broadband Roundup

License Authorization Proposal, White House Cybersecurity Initiatives, Georgia Adds Fiber Provider to Committee

The proposal follows a November order temporarily halting certain foreign licenses.




Photo of Brad Kilbey, CEO of Accelecom from Louisville Business Journal

March 29, 2023 – The head of the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday proposed new rules that would allow the commission to more regularly assess and revoke the license authorizations of foreign companies.

If rules would require foreign-owned companies to go through a periodical review and renewal process in consultation with national security experts in the executive branch, the FCC said in a press release.

“Across the board, the FCC is taking clear and decisive action to address national security risks in our communications networks,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “That is why it is so  important to have the agency regularly review foreign companies’ authorizations to provide telecommunications services in the United States. If a provider poses a threat that cannot be mitigated, we will take the steps necessary to remove their access to our networks.”

The proposal follows a November order from the commission that halted the issuance of licenses to companies that have equipment deemed a security threat.

The proposal is just the latest in a string of actions from the FCC and Washington to tackle what they say are threats from companies who are beholden to adversarial nations.

White House announces cybersecurity for space initiatives

The White House announced Tuesday a number of initiatives to address cybersecurity in the space industry, including the release of a report and the convening of workshops and a symposium.

The initiatives were announced during a Space Systems Cybersecurity Executive Forum hosted by the National Cyber Director and the National Space Council.

The Office of the National Cyber Director will hold workshops in regional hubs for the space industry to get policy perspectives on cybersecurity, according to a readout from the event.

Meanwhile, the National Institute of Standards and Technology will finalize a report before September, which will provide a “method for applying the NIST Cybersecurity Framework to commercial space activities and a set of cybersecurity outcomes, requirements, and suggested controls,” the readout said.

Finally, the readout noted that the Commerce Department will hold a Space Cybersecurity Symposium in Washington D.C., which is expected to include public and private space and cybersecurity stakeholders.

Accelecom will help provide better broadband access to rural area in Georgia

Wholesale and business fiber provider Accelecom announced on Wednesday that it will join the Georgia Broadband Advisory Committee to help bring reliable internet to rural communities in Georgia, according the press release on Wednesday.

“Accelecom is bringing secure, reliable and scalable high-speed internet services to underserved and unserved areas of the state,” said Brad Kilbey, CEO for Accelecom, in a press release. “We look forward to working with Georgia Technology Authority and partners to pave a modern broadband path to more connected healthcare, education, and ag-tech services that spur innovation and economic development.”

According to the press release, many rural communities in state of Georgia still lack access to high-speed internet.

Governor Brian Kemp announced in January more than $234 million in 29 preliminary grant awards for broadband internet expansion through the state’s Capital Projects Fund Grant Program.

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Broadband Roundup

Order on Spyware, WISPA Adds VP of Government Affairs, Michael Baker Hosts Webinars

An executive order bans the federal government from using spyware deployed for human rights abuses.



March 28, 2023 – President Joe Biden on Monday signed an executive order prohibiting the federal government from using commercial spyware that poses a risk to national security or has been used by foreign actors for human rights abuses.

The types of spyware – which is used to discretely access electronic devices remotely – captures by the order includes those that have been sued to monitor a U.S. person without consent or used for political repression or torture. The ban applies to all federal government departments and agencies.

The order also requires new reporting and information sharing within the executive branch to help agencies navigate the requirements.

“The proliferation of commercial spyware poses distinct and growing counterintelligence and security risks to the United States, including to the safety and security of U.S. Government personnel and their families,” the White House said in a statement.

“U.S. Government personnel overseas have been targeted by commercial spyware, and untrustworthy commercial vendors and tools can present significant risks to the security and integrity of U.S. Government information and information systems,” it added.

The order will be a key talking point during the Summit for Democracy, where Biden will host leaders from Costa Rica, the Netherlands, South Korea and Zambia, according to the statement.

WISPA adds vice president of government affairs

The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association said Tuesday it added Matt Mandel as vice president of government affairs.

Mandel will oversee the industry association’s congressional and executive branch advocacy and its state-based portfolio, its said in a press release.

“WISPs have always been at the forefront of closing the digital divide and are constituents of the communities in which they operate,” David Zumwalt, president and CEO of WISPA, said in a release. “Matt’s work will be integral to bringing their experiences and core values to policymakers at the Federal and State levels, and fostering the continued growth and viability of the industry and the hard-to-reach localities they serve.”

Mandel has years of experience in telecommunications policy, according to the release, spending over seven years at the Wireless Infrastructure Association as senior vice president of government and public affairs. Previous to that, he was vice president of government affairs at the Glover Park Group, a business management consultancy firm based in Washington D.C.

Michael Baker International launches monthly webinar series

Michael Baker International, an engineering, planning and consultancy firm, announced Tuesday the launch of its Connecting Communities Playbook monthly webinar series, which features various topics on federal grant programs and will take place on Tuesdays at 1 p.m. EST.

The series begins May 2 with a discussion about creating an initial proposal for grants from the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program, the $42.5 billion program administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administrative. Expected allocation of the funds to the states is June 30.

The next webinar is on June 6 about building sustainable ecosystems for digital equity, then a July 11 talk on tips for securing broadband funding, a discussion on the BEAD subgrantee on August 1, developing a digital navigator program on September 5, the do’s and don’ts of a BEAD audit on October 3, and broadband grants compliance and best practices on November 7.

“Each of the series’ six sessions is designed to assist broadband leaders at the local, state and federal level, as well as telecommunications organizations, with navigating the emerging digital equity landscape,” a press release said. “The series will provide an interactive approach to broadband education and resources, encouraging audience participation and providing answers to frequently asked questions in real time.”

Michael Baker International is a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast.

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