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

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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.

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Broadband Roundup

Many States Receive Broadband Planning Grants, Complaints About Charter, Blockchain for Healthcare

Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, D.C, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, N.D., Pennsylvania, S.C., Virginia, and W.V. received awards.

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Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo

December 8, 2022 — The National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced Thursday that Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, District of Columbia, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia will receive planning grants under the bipartisan infrastructure law.

The allocations are made under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Act, as well as the Digital Equity Act grant provisions.

Alaska will receive $5.5 million in funding, Arkansas will receive $5.8 million in funding, Colorado will receive $5.9 million, District of Columbia will receive $5.4 million, Kentucky will receive $5.8 million, Maine will receive $5.5 million, Missouri will receive $2.9 million, North Dakota will receive $5.5 million, Pennsylvania will receive $6.6 million, South Carolina will receive $5.9 million, Virginia will receive $6.2 million, and West Virginia will receive $5.7 million.

Other states and territories that have received planning grants include Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Puerto Rico.

Complaints about Charter in Los Angeles

Government affairs and association management firm Joint California Advocates urged the Federal Communications Commission to seek comment about recent report findings that shows Charter Communications, also known as Spectrum, offered low-income Los Angeles County residents more expensive rates for service, compared to wealthier communities that received better rates, in an ex-parte letter sent on Monday.

Los Angeles-based non-profit California Community Foundation released a report called The Slower and More Expensive, which documents the advertising disparity of price, terms, and conditions between different neighborhoods in Los Angeles in Charter Spectrum’s identified service areas.

The foundation “explained that the data for the report demonstrated that the Charter Spectrum website routinely offered potential new customers in households in higher poverty neighborhoods more expensive rates for Charter Spectrum service than households in wealthier neighborhoods. Moreover, [foundation] explained that it found that Charter Spectrum’s promotional rates are “locked in” for half as long in high-poverty neighborhoods than in lower-poverty neighborhoods,” the letter read.

Blockchain will help protect health data, World Bank specialist says

In reference to the European Health Data Space anticipated for launch in 2025, a World Bank digital development specialist on Wednesday suggested blockchain technology to secure data sharing and collection in healthcare, according to a virtual event by the Center for Data Innovation.

Health information managers or medical caregivers can encrypt their patients’ data in the blockchain. Data breaches can be prevented by tracking a permanent timestamp left on the blockchain when companies seek data access.

The safety of data sharing and user transparency is an ongoing challenge in healthcare. According to European Patients’ Forum director of policy, Kaisa Immonen, the main concern for patients is their data shared for commercial purposes or with employers.

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Broadband Roundup

Maryland Bans TikTok on State Network, New Head of Open Technology Institute, UScellular Expands 5G

The ban will also apply to other Chinese and Russian technologies and applications.

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Photo of Lilian Coral, head of Open Technology Institute and Technology and Democracy Programs, via Esri User Conference

December 7, 2022 – Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said Tuesday that the state is banning the use of apps such as Chinese-owned TikTok in the executive branch of the government.

The emergency cybersecurity directive will impact Chinese and Russian-made communications and money applications, including Tencent Holdings’s QQ, QQ Wallet and WeChat; products from ecommerce giant Alibaba, such as AliPay; Russian cybersecurity software Kaspersky; and products from Huawei and ZTE.

The directive requires agencies to remove the products from state networks and implement measures so they cannot be installed, including blocking the apps entirely from the network.

“These entities present an unacceptable level of cybersecurity risk to the state, and may be involved in activities such as cyber-espionage, surveillance of government entities, and inappropriate collection of sensitive personal information,” a state press release said.

Last month, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations said TikTok posed a national security threat to the US, warning that the Chinese government – through its control of Chinese corporations – could siphon American data.

The Federal Communications Commission has also been working with Public Safety and Homeland Security to identify threats to national security by blacklisting certain Chinese entities from being used on U.S. networks. Late last month, the commission announced it is halting the authorization of equipment from these threats to the nation’s security.

New America names new head of Open Technology Institute

Think tank New America announced Wednesday that Lilian Coral is joining the organization’s technology program, the Open Technology Institute, as senior director and head of its technology and democracy program.

The OTI comes up with policy and regulatory reforms to support open source technology, which allows for interoperability of technologies, as opposed to just proprietary technologies held by a few players.

Coral previously worked at the John S. & James L. Knight Foundation as its director of national strategy and tech innovation, where she managed a portfolio of more than $55 million in investments that supported public spaces technology and data trust and accessibility.

“We need to ensure every American has access to an internet that is open, safe, and helps uplift communities,” Coral said in a press release. “But we all recognize that access alone is not sufficient. This means developing guardrails to make sure we all benefit from the opportunities the internet affords—and imagining a truly democratic digital public realm that is a key pillar in renewing the promise of America.”

UScellular expands 5G network to more Americans

UScellular announced Wednesday that a software update will allow it to expand its 5G network in multiple states, providing 1.4 million more Americans with access to its services.

A press release said the update allows for better coordination between cell sites and will use 4G and 5G features to extend existing 5G service to neighboring sites.

“These updates allow us to get more out of our investment and enhance our customers’ experience whether they are accessing our 5G network on their smartphone, tablet or for home internet,” Robert Jakubek, UScellular vice president of engineering and network operations, said in the release.

In May, the country’s fourth-largest wireless carrier partnered with 5G equipment provider Ericsson to provide 5G fixed-wireless services using the C-band spectrum.

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Broadband Roundup

Talent for Growth Taskforce, ‘Grave Mistakes’ in FCC Maps, Lumen Expanding Fiber

The U.S. and EU representatives announced a taskforce to share insights into growing the workforce in tech.

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Photo of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo

December 6, 2022 – The United States and European Union Trade and Technology Council announced Monday the creation of the Talent for Growth Task Force, which is intended to share information and recommendations on expanding talent development and training in technology industries on both sides of the Atlantic.

The task force will comprise workforce training organizations, business leaders, government officials and labor union leaders. Roles and responsibilities of the taskforce include promoting programs to small- and mid-sized companies, spreading knowledge of in-demand opportunities for young people in underserved communities, and showcasing training opportunities in the U.S. and other countries under the European Union.

Members of the Task Force will be announced in early 2023.

“Competition for technological leadership today demands a well-trained workforce,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, co-chair of the TTC, said in a release. “Training is key to creating broad participation in today’s economy. With the Talent for Growth Task Force, we will learn from each other’s successes and create new opportunities that recognize the talent of our people.”

Industry in the U.S. has identified workforce development as key to keeping up with massive federal funding initiatives intended to boost infrastructure. In October, the Fiber Broadband Association and the Wireless Infrastructure Association, for example, announced a partnership to promote the development of the broadband workforce, as the industry awaits billions of dollars in new money coming from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

West Virginia senator points out FCC map errors

Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V., told reporters in a virtual meeting last week that the Federal Communications Commission’s preliminary broadband map released last month has made “grave mistakes” on unserved areas in her state, according to reporting from The Inter-Mountain.

“The FCC has just published recently … broadband maps that actually show which parts of West Virginia have service, which homes have service and which don’t,” the West Virginia senator said, according to the story. “I feel that they have some pretty grave mistakes. What would that impact? It would impact our ability to get larger funding to extend to unserved and underserved areas.”

As an example of her claim, Capito, according to the story, mentions a particular mountainous region in West Virginia where 130,000 households are represented as covered by the satellite broadband service Starlink. But Capito says “… their service is non-existent, it’s spotty, and it’s very expensive. To me, that’s an underserved or unserved area. Those are the kinds of disputes we need to make because it will affect funding and we won’t get to that last home if we don’t have the accurate maps.”

In 2020, Capito worked with the West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council to create its own state-administered map to quantify the digital divide, according to the story. According to Broadband.Money, a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast, West Virginia has 896,585 broadband serviceable locations, 243,761 of which are unserved and 411,602 that are underserved.

Lumen expanding intercity network by six million fiber miles

Telecom Lumen Technologies said Tuesday it is planning to invest in another six million miles of fiber in its intercity network project.

The project, which will drive fiber through 50 major cities across the country, is expected to be installed by 2026, according to a press release on Tuesday.

“As demand for optical fiber increases and technology evolves, Lumen’s multi-conduit infrastructure means we can install the latest fiber type quickly and economically. It’s difficult to upgrade legacy intercity networks without multiple conduits,” said Lumen Chief Technology Officer Andrew Dugan.

“These networks end up being stuck with older fiber technology,” Dugan added. “Lumen is fixing that issue with our upgraded technology. We can extend signal reach to help reduce equipment costs and increase bandwidth capacity.”

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