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

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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

Pole Replacement Benefits Owners, ViaSat-3 Completes Final Satellite Test, Wireless Broadband Alliance New Member

INCOMPAS pushed FCC on acknowledging that pole owners are beneficiaries of pole replacements.

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BAI Communications Chief Technology Officer Brendan O'Reilly, via Twitter

November 28, 2022 – Industry trade group INCOMPAS said Monday in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission that the agency should presume that pole owners benefit from a replacement of their poles.

“The Commission should first modify its rules to include a presumption that pole owners receive a direct benefit when a pole replacement is required to accommodate a new attachment,” INCOMPAS representatives told the agency on Nov 22, according to a post-meeting letter released Friday.

The organization added that current practices on pole access are unreasonable because it includes excessive delays and denials for pole access.

The FCC is currently conducting a proceeding in which it is looking at whether the cost to replace a pole should be shared by pole the owner and the third-party attacher, which requests to put its equipment on the pole to expand broadband infrastructure. Pole attachers argue that it isn’t fair that they have to foot the entire bill of a pole replacement when the owner derives a benefit from a new pole.

But pole owners, in submissions to the agency, have said that replacements are “insignificant” for utilities in comparison to the benefit to attachers.

ViaSat-3 satellite in final phase

Satellite communications company Viasat Inc. said Monday its ViaSat-3 Americas satellite passed its final flight phase for configuration, which is expected to deliver communications network in on the continent.

The satellite test showed the satellite performs as expected to withstand environmental stresses, the company announced.

“Completion of FIST is a significant milestone as we move towards spacecraft delivery and launch,” said Ryan Reid, president of Boeing, which is providing the launch vehicle.

ViaSat-3 will be a global satellite constellation with three high-capacity Ka-band satellites that will bring low-cost connectivity to the global network, the company said.

Wireless Broadband Alliance has new board member

BAI Communications said Monday that the company’s chief technology officer Brendan O’Reilly was elected to the board of directors of the Wireless Broadband Alliance for a two-year term set to start on January 1.

BAI designs and operates communications networks. WBA enables collaboration with service providers, technology companies, regulators and organizations to connect people to Wi-Fi services. BAI and WBA share a goal to connect people with accessible wireless connectivity, a press release said.

“I see a lot of opportunity to collaborate and exchange ideas with other respected WBA members to accelerate the delivery of advanced 5G technologies and the adoption of NextGen Wi-Fi,” O’Reilly said. “The diversity of this network is what helps taking wireless technologies forward.”

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Broadband Roundup

NTIA Pushes FTC on Privacy, Broadband in Tough, NY, California Get NTIA Grants

‘NTIA is calling for rules that stop the unnecessary and harmful collection and use of personal information.’

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Screenshot of Alan Davidson, assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information, via C-Span

November 23, 2022 – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration said Tuesday in a filing with the Federal Trade Commission that it wants privacy limits on the ways companies collect and use personal information.

The Commerce agency recommended companies minimize the data collected, restrict companies from using data for alternative purposes such as targeted advertising, take comprehensive approaches to new privacy protections, and consider stricter limits on biometric technologies.

The FTC is currently seeking comment on whether it should implement new rules on companies’ data collection and sales practices.

“NTIA is calling for rules that stop the unnecessary and harmful collection and use of personal information. Companies need guardrails about what they can build,” said NTIA head Alan Davidson.

In July this year, Davidson said privacy laws continue to be an issue in the US. He advocated for the first national federal privacy bill, which is currently before Congress.

Study finds telecoms in for rough patch with inflation

Analysys Mason, a management consultancy focused on telecommunication and technology, released a prediction Wednesday that said the telecommunication industry will face challenges, including inflation problems, in 2023.

Consumers may feel the pinch from higher retail prices due to inflation, the analysis finds, which could result in political pressure to moderate price increases, the study found.

“Combined with high investment costs and questions about potential returns, the market outlook is challenging as the telecoms industry tries to steer its path through price rises, rolling out network availability and launching new services,” said Larry Goldman, Analysys Mason chief analyst.

NTIA awards over $10 million in Rhode Island, California

The NTIA announced Tuesday that Rhode Island will receive $5.5 million to build high-speed internet infrastructure.

“The funding will advance a coordinated strategy to get all Rhode Islanders connected to high-speed, reliable, affordable broadband service and close the digital divide,” said Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed.

The money is coming from programs spawned by the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, which includes $65 billion for broadband infrastructure.

NTIA also said Tuesday that it awarded two grants of nearly $5.6 million to Merced Community College and California State University Sacramento from the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program.

Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said these investments will help offer more online learning programs and train digital navigators in its program to work directly with surrounding communities on digital inclusion.

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Broadband Roundup

FCC Bans First Voice Service Provider, ACP Outreach Program Funding, Ciena Buys Two Companies

Global UC is the first company to be removed by the FCC from receiving call traffic for robocall violations.

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Photo of FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks

November 22, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission announced Tuesday that telephone company Global UC will be cut off from other networks because it failed to meet the standards set out by the commission to prevent illegal robocalls and caller ID spoofing.

It is the first time the FCC has made such a decision, after it proposed in October to remove Global UC and other companies from receiving call traffic because of alleged violations of the robocall framework known as STIR/SHAKEN. Global UC will be removed from the Robocall Mitigation Database, which includes companies that share their call traffic with each other.

“We have reached the point where we are ready to remove companies if they fail to abide by the rules and heed our warnings,” Loyaan Egal, chief of the FCC’s enforcement bureau, said in a release.

“While this is a steep and impactful penalty, it underscores the importance we place on complying with our rules, which are designed to eliminate the ability of bad actors to use the U.S. communications networks to harm consumers,” Egal added.

New funding opportunities from ACP outreach programs

The Federal Communications Commission announced Monday a further two funding opportunities from two programs of its Affordable Connectivity Program.

On Thursday, the FCC announced four complementary grant programs to market the broadband subsidy program as well as the release of a notice of funding opportunity for both the National Competitive Outreach Program and the Tribal Competitive Outreach Program, worth up to $60 million and $10 million, respectively.

On Monday, the FCC announced the notice of funding opportunity for the remaining two programs, each offering up to $5 million in grants: the Your Home, Your Internet outreach grant and the ACP Navigator pilot program. Applications after due January 9, 2023.

The Your Home, Your Internet program provides funding to qualifying local, state and tribal housing agencies, non-profit organizations, community-based organizations, and tenant associations to encourage residents who receive federal housing assistance to apply for the ACP.

The ACP Navigator pilot program, in partnership with the Universal Service Administrative Company, grants local schools districts and government agencies temporary access to USAC’s National Verifier— a centralized application system to quantify potential qualifying residents.

“Through federal housing assistance, millions of Americans have access to a home. It’s time to help them take advantage of ACP to access affordable Internet as well,” said Commissioner Geoffrey Starks.

The agency announced this summer the Affordable Connectivity Outreach Grant Program to raise awareness for the $14.2-billion program, which subsidizes monthly internet bills – of up to $30 per month and $75 per month for residents on tribal lands – and provides a $100 discount on device purchases for low-income applicants. The commission has said that there are millions more Americans who are eligible but have not signed up — in part because they are not aware.

Ciena acquires two companies for network expansion

Software and network services company Ciena announced Tuesday it is buying California-based hardware supplier Tibit Communications for $210 million and Massachusetts-based software company Benu Networks for an undisclosed amount.

Tibit and Benu both deploy single-source fiber conduit to distribute broadband network access to multiple end users including residential, commercial and public, known as passive optical network technology.

Ciena said the acquisition will help expand PON connectivity to residential areas, businesses, and public transportation. The merger will be paid in cash and Ciena will agree to employee retention agreements, according to the release.

“The acquisitions of Tibit Communications and Benu Networks will extend our ability to support customers’ next-generation metro and edge strategies as service providers globally accelerate investments to modernize their networks and improve connectivity at the network edge,” Scott McFeely, senior vice president of Ciena global products and services, said in the release.

“Tibit’s high-speed PON technologies and Benu’s subscriber management products, combined with Ciena’s current access and edge portfolio, will enable us to offer broader, more complete, and fully integrated broadband access solutions that combine routing, subscriber management, and PON features and functionality.”

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