March 1, 2021—The House of Representatives on Saturday morning passed a bill that would fund $7.6 billion, out of the $1.9 trillion care package, to prop-up the E-Rate program and extend it to homes.
The bill would expand the internet subsidy program for libraries and schools by shuttling the money to the Emergency Connectivity Fund to help teachers and students access broadband from secondary locations not on school or library property.
That means libraries and schools will be able to reimburse households for internet service they purchase to continue learning at home. It comes after leaders in the industry have called for an expansion of the years-old program to households in light of the pandemic.
The bill, which passed the House on February 2 without Republican support and only two opposing Democrats, will have face a Senate vote.
The Emergency Connectivity Fund, previously signed into law in December 2020, secured $3.2 billion to expand broadband coverage to underserved communities and households in need. Households that qualified for the program could receive $50 a month to subsidize the cost of broadband coverage, and households on tribal lands could receive up to $75 per month.
Pandemic muddying laws associated with consumer privacy
Some laws passed before or at the outset of the pandemic have aged poorly. In a piece for The Media Institute, Stuart Brotman pointed to Virginia’s pending Consumer Data Protection Act as legislation that would still not account for what he refers to as the “new normal.”
The bill, which received bipartisan support, is designed to require those who peddle consumer data to allow consumers to opt out of having their data sold or correct errors in the data being collected, among other things, which is in-line with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation.
According to Brotman, legislation like Virginia’s CDPA does not sufficiently address the blurred lines between work and home that were created by the pandemic. The bill is designed specifically to protect those operating in a “household context” but not those in a “commercial or employment context.” This language does not account for the fact that for many Virginians, these contexts are one and the same.
“The larger lesson both for this legislation and for the other states with comparable bills in process is simple,” Brotman said in his piece. “Digital privacy protection needs to be envisioned for pandemic times.”
Facebook allows Australian news back on platform after rift
Facebook began allowing Australian news back onto its platform last week, following a rift over regulations of the social media giant that saw Facebook block Australian news on its platform.
Australia’s answer to the problem of declining revenues and social media’s monopoly on advertising dollars was to force platforms like Facebook to negotiate directly with publishers and broadcasters to allow their content to be distributed on their platform.
The legislation that raised these concerns is known as “Treasury Laws Amendment (News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code) Bill 2021,” and it entered its third round of reading on February 17.
The America Enterprise Institute said in a post last week that the legislation is problematic because it does not “account for the very different ways in which Facebook and Google access and use content.”
Though both parties have since come to an agreement, debate about the implications of such a move lingers. Questions still remain about why Facebook took this course of action while organizations like Google did not.
FiberLight Buy, T-Mobile Shuts Down Older Networks, AT&T and Dish Lead US O-RAN Alliance
Digital investment firm Morrison & Co. said it agreed to acquire FiberLight.
July 5, 2022 – Morrison & Co, a digital investment firm, announced Thursday that it signed an agreement to acquire fiber infrastructure provider FiberLight, which will accelerate the providers’ network expansion, said a press release.
“With our existing backbone infrastructure and unmatched density across the markets we serve, FiberLight is well equipped to deploy a multitude of solutions to ensure our customers can meet their growing bandwidth needs,” said FiberLight CEO Christopher Rabii. “Morrison & Co is our ideal new partner to support our growth strategy due to its commitment of capital and resources and shared belief that fiber infrastructure is the key to bridging the digital divide and rapid expansion.”
FiberLight’s management team will continue to lead the business after the acquisition. The company comprises approximately 18,000 miles of fiber infrastructure in over 30 metropolitan areas in Texas and Northern Virginia.
The acquisition marks Morrison & Co’s first investment in the North American digital infrastructure market, read the press release.
T-Mobile shuts down 3G networks
T-Mobile shut down Sprint 4G networks and its own 3G networks Thursday and Friday to ensure that all its customers are moving to more advanced technologies and to free up resources and spectrum, said T-Mobile’s on its website.
T-Mobile officials estimated on an earnings call in April that around one million devices would be affected. AT&T suggest that its 3G shutdown affected 400,000 postpaid phones and cost operators $300 million. The company said affected customers with 3G devices have the option to upgrade to a new device at no cost.
T-Mobile has yet to schedule a date to shut down its 2G network.
The company had been under pressure to delay the shut down of Sprint’s 3G network from Dish Network, which was the beneficiary of that company’s wireless assets in the deal that saw T-Mobile purchase Sprint.
AT&T and Dish lead US O-RAN Alliance
AT&T and Dish Network are leading the way in O-RAN Alliance activities in North America this year, said a new release from the organization Thursday.
The O-RAN Alliance is a world-wide community of operators, vendors and academic institutions operating in the Radio Access Network industry. Its mission is to direct the industry toward more intelligent, open, virtualized mobile networks through releasing RAN specifications and open software.
AT&T and Dish hosted O-RAN’s “PoCFest” testing efforts in four locations in the United States in coordination with several universities this year. “More than 20 unique O-RAN components were tested for conformance to O-RAN specifications,” said the release. (Open RAN specifications would open the market to many more telecom equipment vendors, rather than a small handful from proprietary providers.)
While Dish said it is building a 5G network using O-RAN specifications in the United States, AT&T said it has no plans to use the specifications in its US 5G network.
Broadband Prices Decline, AT&T’s Fiber Build in Texas, Conexon Partners for Build in Georgia
A USTelecom report finds that despite high inflation, broadband prices have been declining.
WASHINGTON, June 30, 2022 – A USTelecom report released Wednesday found that broadband prices have been declining, despite high inflation.
The association’s 2022 Broadband Pricing Index Report found that broadband pricing decreased even with significant inflation of an estimated 8 percent in the past year, the most popular broadband prices dropped by 14.7 percent, and the highest speed broadband prices dropped by 11.6 percent from 2021-2022.
“Broadband prices at all speeds have decreased in the last five years,” it said.
The analysis also found that broadband prices are half of what they used to be in 2015. The most popular broadband services decreased by 44.6 percent, while the fastest broadband services decreased their prices by 52.7 percent from 2015-2022.
Lastly, the report found that the “consumer value of broadband services has never been higher.” As providers offer faster speeds at lower prices, the overall value to customers has dramatically improved, it said.
“This is great news for American broadband consumers,” said Jonathan Spalter, president and CEO of USTelecom – The Broadband Association.
AT&T strikes deal in Amarillo, Texas for fiber project
AT&T struck a deal Wednesday with the city of Amarillo, Texas to extend its fiber reach.
A press release said the $24 million project in Amarillo will cover approximately 22,000 locations.
“The city of Amarillo broadband access plan is one of the more significant technological infrastructure advancements in city history,” said Amarillo mayor Ginger Nelson in the release.
It’s the latest partnership for AT&T, which is planning on reaching upwards of 60,000 locations via public-private partnerships in counties in Indiana, Kentucky and now Amarillo, Texas.
Conexon partners with Georgia electric company for broadband build
Georgia’s Ocmulgee Electric Membership Corporation partnered with internet service provider Conexon Connect on Tuesday to bring reliable, affordable, high-speed fiber broadband to rural Georgia.
The partnership will see the deployment of a network that spans 2,100 miles of fiber to the home for service to up to 8,000 members in centra Georgia, a press release said.
“I commend Ocmulgee EMC and Conexon for this exciting public-private partnership and their commitment to creating value for their communities,” said Governor Brian Kemp in a press release.
The project is estimated to take 2-4 years to complete and is set to start this September. The first customers expected to be connected in early 2023.
TikTok Data Concerns, Broadband Data Collection System, Internet Access on COVID-19 Mortality
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr is requesting Apple and Google remove the TikTok app over data concerns.
June 29, 2022 – Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr called for Apple and Google to remove Beijing-based popular video-sharing application, TikTok, from their app stores.
The app is run by ByteDance, a company that is “beholden to the Communist Party of China and required by Chinese law to comply with the PRC’s surveillance demands,” read the June 24 letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sunder Pichai.
“It is clear that TikTok poses an unacceptable national security risk due to its extensive data harvesting being combined with Beijing’s apparently unchecked access to that sensitive data,” said Carr, calling it a wolf in sheep’s clothing. “At its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data” such as search histories, keystroke patterns and biometric identifies.”
Carr claims that TikTok’s pattern of conduct regarding persons in Beijing having access U.S. sensitive data violates policies that both companies require every app to adhere to as a condition of remaining available on the app stores. “I am requesting that you apply the plain text of your app store policies to TikTok and remove it from your app stores for failure to abide by those terms.”
TikTok has assured users that American’s data is being stored in the U.S. but, according to Carr, this statement “says nothing about where that data can be accessed from.”
FCC opens mapping data system for filers early
The Federal Communications Commission released a public notice on Thursday announcing that filers of broadband availability data in its new maps may obtain early access of the system for registering filer information.
The filing window for the Broadband Data Collection opens June 30, but early access will enable users to register their entities in the system and become familiar with the system before that date, the FCC said.
“We are making this functionality available in advance of the opening of the filing window to enable filers to log in, register, and be ready to enter their availability data as early in the filing window as possible,” read the public notice.
The BDC program is said to help improve broadband mapping data to help funnel federal dollars to where broadband infrastructure is needed. Most fixed and mobile broadband providers will be required to file information in the system, but third parties and government entities are also encouraged.
Impact of internet access on COVID-19 mortality
New analysis released last week by private research university Tufts found that increased broadband access in the United States reduced COVID-19 mortality rates.
“Even after controlling for a host of other socioeconomic factors, a 1 percent increase in broadband access across the U.S. reduced COVID mortality by approximately 19 deaths per 100,000, all things equal,” read the report.
The study also found that the impact was felt more strongly in metro areas, where a 1 percent increase in broadband access reduced the deaths by 36 per 100,000.
By conducting a correlation analysis, Tuft researchers found that broadband access is negatively correlated with COVID mortality, even after controlling for other major factors such as health status, income, race and education.
The study only considered pre-vaccine number to account for inconsistencies.
- Baltimore Needs Grassroots Help to Bridge Digital Divide, Experts Say
- FiberLight Buy, T-Mobile Shuts Down Older Networks, AT&T and Dish Lead US O-RAN Alliance
- FCC Opens Broadband Data Collection Program
- FCC Commissioner Supports Rural Telco Efforts to Implement ‘Rip and Replace’
- States Must Ease Zoning, Permit Regulations for Broadband Buildouts
- Broadband Prices Decline, AT&T’s Fiber Build in Texas, Conexon Partners for Build in Georgia
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