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Broadband Roundup

Investment for Lit Communities’ Fiber Networks, Clubhouse Hack, Senate Broadband Letter, WISPA

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Photo of CEO Brian Snider from Lit Communities

March 2, 2021 – Lit Communities on Monday announced the finalization of an investment with Stephens Capital Partners LLC and The Pritzker Organization that it said will help expand its fiber network across the country.

“We spent a long time trying to find investment partners who believe in what we were doing, trust our process, and see the future of how we could help bridge the digital divide that currently exists across America. We found those partners with Stephens and TPO,” Brian Snider, founder and CEO of Lit, said in a press release.

The project will leverage the company’s subsidiary Medina Fiber in Medina County, Ohio, giving municipalities the ability to implement next-generation connectivity for their residents, the company said.

With the new investments, “we will accelerate the rollout of Medina Fiber and look to future markets where our unique business model can thrive,” Lit Communities said in the release.

“Stephens and TPO have been true partners, and our teams have felt like a cohesive unit from the start. We look forward to working closely together to expand Lit connectivity nationwide.”

Clubhouse hack exposes inner risks with app

A security breach of the popular audio chat app Clubhouse is forcing the company to relook at who manages its traffic.

The app’s cybersecurity came into question last week after a hacker livestreamed several rooms, which are supposed to be private and between only those invited in the conversation. Following the breach, the app provided no update on how the hacker could gain access but promised better security.

Those security enhancements include adding cryptography and additional blocks to avoid having servers located in China, whose Agora Inc. manages the app’s data traffic and audio production and hiring a third-party security company to review the new app updates. Clubhouse officials said that the app only stores audio or users’ data when necessary for billing purposes and wire monitoring.

Clubhouse relies on the Shanghai-based startup to handle much of its back-end operations and infrastructure, according to Alex Stamos, director of the Stanford Internet Observatory and Facebook’s former security chief. Some are concerned that could lead to Chinese authorities cracking down on dissidents. The SIO has said that the Communist government could easily intercept this data.

That’s because Agora has the legal duty to help Chinese authorities to find the source of audios. Agora told Bloomberg News reporters Jamie Tarabay and Kartikay Mehrotra that it does not “store or share personally identifiable information” for any of its clients, of which Clubhouse is just one.

COVID-19 broadband programs to close digital divide

Sens. Angus King, Maggie Hassan and Mark Warner sent a letter on February 25 to the Federal Communications Commission with a view to guiding the process of administering the $3.2-billion Emergency Broadband Benefit Program and beyond.

The letter sets out a number of recommendations, including ensuring that the funding outlives the pandemic and informs future spending policy on bridging the digital divide; expanding the eligibility criteria for funding to ensure the broadest base gets support, include new providers and customers; ensuring that EBBP funding is accessible and streamlined while also including cost-sharing with local service providers; and collaborating with state and local and institutions for outreach and educational opportunities.

On February 22, Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel released proposed rules on how to administer the program, including opening up the benefit to multiple different broadband providers and using other subsidy benefits Americans received to determine who needs help the most.

New lobbyist at the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association

Former Senate legislative director Eric Slee was named the new director of government affairs for the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association on Monday.

With 15 years of experience in the public sector, building connections, and serving as a primary advisor to the Senator on policy matters, Slee will help manage WISPA’s growing state and local, grassroots, and WISPA political action committee portfolios.

“I have a keen understanding of the communications industry and know what it takes to communicate in clear, concise, and effective ways so that legislators know what a given issue fundamentally means to their constituents,” Slee said.  “WISPs offer the promise of prosperity to Americans – rural and urban – and I am truly excited to be part of the growing and vibrant team here at WISPA.”

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Broadband Roundup

Senate Bill Would Alter Google Advertising, DOJ Cybersecurity Policy Reversal, Comcast on Hybrid Fiber-Coax

Senate introduces bill breaking up Google’s digital advertising business

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Photo of Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, from March 2016 by Gage Skidmore used with permission

May 20, 2022 – On Thursday a bipartisan group of senators on the Judiciary Committee introduced a bill that would force Google to break up its industry-leading online advertising exchange.

The Competition and Transparency in Digital Advertising Act would prohibit large companies like Google from both operating an ad exchange and a supply- or demand-side platform, should they process more than $20 billion in ad transactions.

The bill would also require Facebook to divest some of its advertising business.

“Companies like Google and Facebook have been able to exploit their unprecedented troves of detailed user data to obtain vice grip-like control over digital advertising,” said bill sponsor Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.

In late 2020, a coalition of 10 state attorneys general brought a lawsuit against Google alleging that its market dominance lets it overcharge businesses seeking to place ads online.

Justice Department changes directions on cybersecurity prosecution policy

On Thursday the Department of Justice announced it would reverse its charging policy on a federal computer fraud law, saying it will not prosecute “good-faith security research” efforts.

The change by the department relates to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, defining good-faith research as “accessing a computer solely for purposes of good-faith testing, investigation, and/or correction of a security flaw or vulnerability” without any intention of harming the public.

Last year, Georgia police sergeant Nathan Van Buren was successful in appealing his conviction under the CFAA to the Supreme Court.

DOJ argued that he should not have taken a bribe to access a woman’s license plate information during a 2015 Federal Bureau of Investigation sting operation, while Van Buren claimed that he had legitimate access to the database.

Comcast plans to release hybrid fiber-coaxial multi-gig speeds in the coming months.

Comcast is preparing to roll out faster multi-gigabit speeds across its hybrid fiber-coaxial network, Fierce Telecom reported Thursday.

Multi-gig rollout is expected in the coming months.

At an investor conference Comcast CEO Dave Watson stated that his operator’s choice to roll out mid-split upgrades on the way to Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification 4.0 technology will allow it to take speeds to the next level.

“We have a very fast, very efficient path to multi-gig symmetrical at scale that we can do,” said Watson.

He feels comfortable that despite Comcast fiber deployments in select locations, the company feels comfortable that its HFC network will remain competitive.

He also reiterated previous comments that fixed wireless access service is not a threat and that it does not materially impact churn from fixed wireless competitors.

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Broadband Roundup

AT&T and DISH Agreement, FCC Adds More States in Robocall Fight, $50M from Emergency Connectivity Fund

Dish said its customers will now have access to AT&T’s gigabit fiber services.

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Photo of FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

May 19, 2022 – On Wednesday, AT&T and Dish Network announced an internet distribution agreement in which Dish customers will have access to AT&T internet services, including its gigabit fiber services.

“Adding AT&T Internet to our robust lineup of TV and home integration services enhances our ability to provide better overall service, technology and value to our customers,” Amir Ahmed, executive vice president of DISH TV, said in a press release.

“At AT&T, we’re constantly thinking of ways we can better serve and provide for our customers. Through this new arrangement with DISH, we’re able to do just that by seamlessly offering our super-fast broadband services to more customers across the nation,” said Jenifer Robertson, executive vice president and general manager of mass markets at AT&T Communications.

“This is another step towards our goal of becoming the best broadband provider in America,” said Robertson.

FCC adds more state partners to tackle illegal robocalls

The Federal Communications Commission announced Thursday new partnerships with nine additional state attorneys general to combat illegal robocalls.

The agency said Iowa, Florida, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina have all signed on to help with robocall investigations.

That raises the number of states that have signed a memoranda of understanding with the FCC to 36, after the agency last month signed on a handful more states for the initiative. The agency has already credited at least one state with helping it nail one suspected robocall violator.

As part of the agreement, the parties will “share evidence, coordinate investigations, pool enforcement resources, and work together to combat illegal robocall campaigns and protect American consumers from scams,” according to the FCC.

“We are better positioned to help protect consumers from scammers than ever before,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “Together we are stronger. Together we will continue our work to protect American consumers.”

The FCC already has robocall investigation agreements with Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

FCC commits additional $50 million from Emergency Connectivity Fund

The FCC announced on Wednesday that it has approved an additional $50 million from the Emergency Connectivity Fund program that is intended to help students with virtual learning.

The FCC said this funding will go to help 46 schools, seven libraries and two consortia across the country for students in American Samoa, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Ohio, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The FCC estimates that, so far, nearly $4.9 billion has been committed to connect over 12.6 million students across the country.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel added in a press release that “this program is providing funding for nearly 11 million connected devices and 5 million broadband connections throughout the country and moving us closer toward closing the Homework Gap.

“With help from the Emergency Connectivity Fund, millions of students across the country now have online tools to support their education,” added Rosenworcel.

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Broadband Roundup

FCC June Meeting, Ookla Speeds at Airports, FCC Cautioned About Overstepping on Digital Discrimination

The FCC laid out its agenda for the June open meeting.

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Screenshot of TechFreedom President Berin Szóka

May 18, 2022 – In a press release Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission announced the agenda for its June 2022 open meeting.

The FCC will explore ideas for wireless innovation at sea following increasing demand for spectrum to support offshore operations. The FCC will consider offshore spectrum policies to ensure efficient use of scarce spectrum resources.

In 2018, the FCC launched an inquiry to explain why some wireless 911 calls were misrouted to the wrong call center. The past four years showed a decrease in the frequency of this error but not its elimination. The FCC will seek comment on improvements that would reduce misrouted 911 calls and improve emergency response time.

During the June open meeting, the FCC will also consider preserving established local radio programming on FM6 radio service, if they meet certain conditions.

Ookla speedtest shows divide on speeds for Wi-Fi at airports

Analytics company Ooka analyzed airport Wi-Fi speeds at some of the busiest airports in the world and found that all surveyed airports met the recommended speed for streaming on mobile, but found a large divide between them.

The four fastest free airport Wi-Fis were all located in the United States: San Francisco International, Seattle-Tacoma International, Dallas/Fort Worth International, and Chicago O’Hare International. Following that came Dubai International, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, and Los Angeles International.

According to Speedtest Intelligence data, there is a wide gap between median speeds of the first 8 airports and the other airports on the list with the fasted being 176.25 Mbps. Airport lounges were found to have faster Wi-Fi on average than the airport itself.

Ookla, a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast, used its Speedtest Intelligence, which provides global insights into fixed broadband and mobile performance data using billions of consumer-initiated tests.

Tech lobbyists says FCC must not overstep authority to prevent digital discrimination

Tech lobbyist TechFreedom filed comments on Monday claiming that the Federal Communication Commission is overstepping its authority to regulate digital discrimination, following the FCC’s inquiry on how to prevent such a practice.

“If Congress had wanted the FCC to implement a new civil right law for broadband, it would have legislated a clear prohibition on discrimination – the essential element in all civil rights laws,” TechFreedom President Berin Szóka said in a release. “Instead, Congress wrote a law entirely about ‘facilitation.’”

The FCC’s inquiry follows an order under the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act to make rules to “facilitate” equal access to broadband and “prevent digital discrimination.”

“It is simply not plausible that Congress could have intended to change how broadband deployment is regulated in an obscure amendment tacked onto a spending bill on the Senate floor with no discussion or legislative history,” Szóka argued.

He concluded that there are other routes the FCC can take to prevent digital discrimination and facilitate equal access. Szóka called on the commission to “focus on directing funding towards remedying unequal access to broadband and preventing potential digital discrimination- not only under the infrastructure act but also the FCC’s various other broadband programs.”

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