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FCC Broadband Focus; Facebook Fiber In Indiana; Telco Fiber To 68M Homes; Right Of Repair Bill In Nevada



Photo of Jessica Rosenworcel from Flickr.

March 30, 2021 – The Federal Communications Commission is focusing on objectives of President Joe Biden’s $1.9-trillion American Rescue Plan, which includes $7 billion for the E-Rate internet subsidy program, Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said last week.

The E-Rate program – which provides internet subsidies to schools and libraries and has now been expanded to the home — has become a focal point for the agency during the pandemic, as more kids are now doing school at home.

The regulator said this is aligned with its focus on providing broadband access to all Americans because internet has quickly become a “need to have,” not a “nice to have,” Rosenworcel said at a conference hosted by the National Association of Counties on March 24.

The FCC is also currently evaluating applications from internet service providers that want to participate in the $3.2-billion Emergency Broadband Benefit program, announced in December.

Over 380 applications have already come in for the “historic” subsidy from Internet service providers seeking to provide discounted services, the agency said. The FCC will provide $100 to cover a one-time payment for eligible households and up to $50 per month for broadband connections.

The agency is also progressing in developing more accurate broadband coverage maps, Rosenworcel said. This effort has been ongoing since 2017. After taking office in January, she launched a broadband data task force, which began reviewing existing coverage maps which count every home in a census block as being served.

Facebook completes first phase of Indiana fiber

Facebook said Friday it has finished construction of phase one of its 80-mile fiber network running from the Indiana/Ohia border to downtown Indianapolis.

The fiber will be used to connect Facebook’s data centers, and excess capacity will be available to telcos and other providers interested on a wholesale basis, the company said, adding it doesn’t intend on selling internet directly to consumers.

The fiber connects Facebook’s I-70 data centers in the Midwest with its East Coast cluster in Ohio, Virginia, and North Carolina.

Partnering with communications infrastructure provider Zayo, the company said a second phase is underway that will stretch another 85 miles of fiber west from Indianapolis along highway 40 to the Indiana/Illinois border.

The second phase is slated to be completed by the end of this year, it said.

In the U.S., Facebook now has 13 data center locations, eight of which are operational. “The best option for us is to connect to existing fiber, but we prefer to work with our partners to access it,” Michele Kohler, Facebook’s strategic sourcing manager, said, adding the company has been discussing leasing fiber to third parties in Indiana.

Facebook says it has been building broadband networks in the U.S. for four years. It has previously made a 200-mile fiber connection from New Mexico to Texas.

Telco Fiber will reach 68M homes in the U.S. by 2025: analysts

According to a report from financial analysts at Cowen, telecom operators are committed to building fiber to over five million new homes in the U.S. by 2021, capturing 42 million new broadband customers. By 2025, 68 million retail fiber customers are expected, the study found.

At recent AT&T conference told analysts AT&T would expand its fiber reach to three million locations across 90 metro areas this year and add four million fiber-to-the-premises sites by 2022.

Despite being in bankruptcy, Frontier Communications plans to upgrade fiber to three million homes soon, which could double its fiber footprint, it said. It may grow to as much as nine million, depending on the economy, it added.

Cowen said Windstream has 462,000 fiber-connected homes by end of 2020. The company is also planning to upgrade two million homes by the end of 2025 to fiber, which would provide fiber to 70 percent of its service area.

‘Right to Repair’ bill reignites debate on Big Tech regulation

The Nevada state legislature is expected to hold a debate on Monday about a proposal that would require more prominent tech companies to give independent repair shops access to fix devices like computers, phones, tablets, and printers.

As part of its plan on Monday, the Nevada Assembly Committee on Commerce and Labor will consider a proposal requiring manufacturers of digital electronic equipment worth less than $5,000 to make parts, tools, and schematics available to non-authorized repair businesses.

Selena Torres, a Democratic member of the Nevada assembly woman and a Las Vegas English teacher who worked at a repair shop, said her bill would keep electronics repair jobs local rather than requiring people to ship it out of state.

She said consumers would also receive more economical repair options, which can be especially important because the pandemic is forcing students and remote workers to depend on technology.

Technical associations such as TechNet, that lobby for Apple, HP, and Honeywell, have mounted vigorous opposition to state repair bills.

According to David Edmonson, it would make proprietary information and intellectual property vulnerable to replication, potentially compromising user security and privacy.

“It would force manufacturers to treat any independent repair provider in the same way as authorized network providers, but without any of the contractual protections or competency requirements that are put in place to benefit consumers,” he said.

“It’s changed from being able to do anything you want to repair your computer or printer to ‘You can’t do anything now.’ Everything’s changed to being disposable or impossible to repair,” said Curtis Jones from the Technology Center in Sparks.

At least 25 states have introduced legislation known as “right to repair,” including New York, Oregon, and Illinois.

The debate is part of a larger conversation about government regulation of big technology companies.

Broadband Roundup

Supply Chain Improvements, Bill for Broadband in Public Parks, FCC Grants Alert System Compliance Extension

The Biden administration announced Wednesday a list of new measures to promote supply chain resiliency.



Photo of Congressman Raúl Grijalva, taken by Gage Skidmore 2018. 

November 30, 2023 – President Joe Biden announced at an inaugural meeting Wednesday new measures to improve national supply chain resilience, many of which are targeted at bettering semiconductor manufacturing. 

These new measures will see the development of a geospatial mapping protocol that will be used to account for and track trade disruptions of raw materials, with a special focus on ones that are involved in semiconductor manufacturing.

Additionally, the US plans to develop a resilience center to assess risks and supply chain vulnerabilities specifically inside national ports alongside looking at how to better implement CHIPS and Science funding.

In July of 2022, the Biden administration signed into law the CHIPS and Science Act, which was broadly supported by lawmakers, putting $52 billion into semiconductor research and development and a 25 percent investment tax credit to promote manufacturing. 

More recently, Biden has announced tech innovation hubs supported by CHIPS Act funds, four of which will focus directly on improving semiconductor production and manufacturing. 

Legislation put forth to expand broadband to public parks 

Congressman Bruce Westerman, R-Arkansas, and Congressman Raúl Grijalva, D-Arizona, introduced legislation Wednesday that would bring broadband connectivity to public parks and lakes. 

The Expanding Public Lands Outdoor Recreation Experiences Act would include increasing broadband connectivity in those visitor centers and surrounding areas as well as create digital passes for visitors to use when going to those parks. 

“The increasing popularity of outdoor recreation is a boon for local economies and job creation, but we must make sure our public land management agencies have the tools, resources, and staff they need to keep up,” said Grijalva. 

The broader legislation looks to improve access to public lands and waters, modernize visitor experiences and reduce overcrowding. 

FCC granted emergency alert development extensions to broadcasters

The Federal Communications Commission granted extensions to certain national broadcasters Wednesday, allowing them more time to acquire equipment needed to comply with national emergency alert system requirements. 

There are two ways that broadcasters can transmit emergency messages, either to devices connected to the internet using what is called the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System or over audio channels, which is referred to as the legacy emergency alert broadcast system. 

Historically, messages sent via IPAWS transmit more information to the recipient than ones that are formatted for being transmitted via the legacy system. Because of that, in 2022 the FCC required emergency broadcasters to alert constituents via the IPAWS unless they were unable to. 

Broadcasters were required to comply with this by December 12 of this year. However the National Association of Broadcasters and REC Networks, a broadcast advocacy group, filed a joint request for a 90-day compliance extension.

They explained that Sage Alerting Systems, a manufacturer of firmware needed to encode and decode emergency messages, is not able to meet supply demands for broadcasters to update equipment by the December 12 deadline. 

As a result, the FCC waived the deadline and granted a 90-day extension to emergency broadcast participants who are customers of Sage Alerting Systems. 

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Broadband Roundup

FCC Fines TracFone, Rip and Replace Extensions, Kansas State Internet Exchange Point

The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau has entered into a settlement with TracFone for subsidy program violations.



Photo of Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly taken by K-State Research and Extension, 2023.

November 29, 2023 – The Federal Communications Commission announced Wednesday that the Enforcement Bureau and TracFone Wireless, a Verizon Subsidiary, have reached a $23.5 million settlement for TracFone’s violation of broadband subsidy program rules

After TracFone was acquired by Verizon, the company self-reported instances in which it violated the FCC’s regulatory rules for the Lifeline and Emergency Broadband Benefit programs, according to the agency  

During an investigation into TracFone, the agency found that the company reported improperly claiming support for customers jointly-enrolled in subsidy programs and improperly using inbound text messages to make claims for customers who had not been using those services for at least 30 days, according to a press release.

According to the FCC, TracFone also conceded that some of their field enrollment representatives used false tax documents to enroll customers in the lifeline and EEB programs.

“Whether attributable to fraud or lax internal controls, or both, we will vigorously pursue allegations of misconduct that harms critical FCC programs designed to help those most in need of communications-related services,” said Enforcement Bureau Chief Loyaan A. Egal.

As part of the settlement, TracFone has entered into an improvement plan agreement with the Enforcement Bureau.

Wireline Bureau grants more rip and replace extensions 

The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau announced in an order Wednesday that it has granted rip and replace extensions to Montana providers Triangle Telephone Cooperative Association Inc. and Triangle Communication System Inc.

The rip and replace program requires service providers to remove and replace any equipment they use that was manufactured by Huawei Technologies Company or ZTE Corporation that were installed prior to June 30, 2020, because of security concerns. 

Triangle Telephone filed for an extension on October 18 and on November 10th, requesting an extension to replace the equipment by Map 29, 2024 as opposed to their original deadline of November 29 of this year.

Triangle Communications filed their request for extension on October 18 and November 16 of this year requesting for additional time up until July 13, 2024, as opposed to January 13, 2024. 

Both petitioners cited supply chain disruptions and delayed equipment delivery as factors preventing them from replacing existing equipment alongside poor weather conditions and a decreasing number of employees. 

Both providers were granted the extensions they had requested. 

Additional funding from Congress has been requested by president Joe Biden to finance the rip and replace program, as a report published by the Federal Communications Commission in July of 2022 noted that the program’s initial $1.9 billion would not be enough to support providers. 

In October of this year the FCC’s Wireline Bureau issued extensions to two other providers who cited that they were unable to completely replace the equipment due to lack of funding. 

Kansas awards $5 million to internet exchange point 

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly on Wednesday announced that the state had awarded $5 million to help fund the construction of the first carrier-neutral internet exchange point at Wichita State University.

The construction of this carrier-neutral internet exchange point will allow for the operation of cloud services and streaming content networks to operate more efficiently alongside local and regional internet networks, explained a press release. 

The endeavor will be undertaken by Connected Nation, a Kentucky non-profit, and Hunter Newby, founder of Newby Ventures investment firm, working with them to build and operate the internet exchange facility. 

Tom Ferree, CEO of Connected Nation, said that the exchange point will support Wichita State and the economy well “by improving the entire regional broadband landscape — preparing Wichita, and Kansas more broadly, for the future evolution of the Internet and all that it will enable.”

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Broadband Roundup

NTIA Awards $13 Million from Wireless Fund, New Ritter CTO, Middle Mile in Virginia and North Carolina

The NTIA has awarded $13 million to open network projects.



Photo of Victor Esposito from Ritter Communications.

November 28, 2023 – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced Tuesday that it is committing $13 million in grant funding from the $1.5 billion Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund. 

“The transition to open, interoperable wireless networks is now well on its way — bringing with it greater security, competition, and resiliency,” said NTIA Alan Davidson in a press release announcing the funding, adding the fund will accelerate the transition toward open and interoperable wireless by financially backing research and development. 

The seven projects that will be awarded funding are expected to improve the networks’ security, energy efficiency, and allow them to leverage AI to automate the network testing process. 

The fund is supported by the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, which aims to invest in domestic manufacturing to improve national supply chain resiliency. 

Ritter Communications new CTO

Telecom service provider Ritter Communications announced Monday that Victor Esposito will serve as the company’s chief technology officer, after having served as its vice president of engineering and network operations. 

In his new role, Esposito will lead all of Ritter’s technology-related teams, read a press release. 

“[Victor] has the leadership, skills and drive to keep us and our customers on the cutting edge of innovation as well as maintaining the company’s steep growth trajectory,” said Ritter Communications president Heath Simpson. 

Esposito joined Ritter Communications in April of this year and will succeed Greg Sunderwood, who served as CTO position for 11 years.

Middle mile to be built in Virginia and North Carolina 

Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative announced Tuesday that it is partnering with Ciena, a networking systems service provider, to help install middle mile infrastructure to serve more than 31,000 customers in Virginia and North Carolina.  

MEC currently services 4,511 square miles in those respective states with its electric distribution system and is partnering with Ciena to deliver low-latency connectivity and aggregate operation technology to better broadband, explained a press release. 

“During our network deployment, we will pass tens of thousands of homes, businesses, and organizations, and we found it unthinkable to miss the opportunity to extend this fiber resource to our communities,” said Dwayne Long, vice president of information technology at MEC. 

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