April 7, 2021 – The German Marshall Fund is calling for broadband to be considered part of the civic infrastructure to draw more public and private partnerships and funding to connect more citizens.
Equity issues in communications policy have only worsened during the coronavirus pandemic, and redefining what helps citizens engage with their communities by including broadband to open-up opportunities for long-term success after the pandemic ends is critical, the GMF said in a late-March policy brief.
That includes forming a “digital new deal,” which would see the federal government play a stronger role in financing broadband for public purposes. Such a deal will also require that citizens have digital skills training, tech support, and information literacy to properly prepare for the future.
The government must also demonstrate strong commitment to oversight, enforcement, and assessment of progress toward goals for community connectivity. States also need to have the capacity for broadband planning and the resources to deliver these services via digital platforms, the policy brief states.
Coordinating with the private sector and all levels of government with communities to integrate broadband can create long-term solutions to close the digital divide.
“At a time when the nation faces a crisis of commitment to social and physical infrastructure, access to broadband carries the potential to create opportunities for individuals and communities,” the brief said.
California net neutrality law puts telehealth apps in focus
April 7, 2021 – Critics of California’s new net neutrality law are concerned that a telehealth app that doesn’t count against users’ monthly data allowance may be blocked because of zero-rating provisions in the act, according to Law360, but others say that won’t be the case.
The effective net neutrality law – a justice department legal challenge against which was revoked earlier this year — means internet service providers cannot influence on how traffic moves on their networks, including whether or not an app will be counted against data caps, also known as zero-rating.
In late March, news reports surfaced indicating that officials at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs were concerned that VA Video Connect, an app that provides free telehealth services to veterans that doesn’t count against subscribers’ mobile data caps, may be blocked or become no longer supported by ISPs. Republican FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr tweeted on March 24 that, “Cutting off free mental health services for veterans is the unconscionable outcome demanded by regressive ‘net neutrality’ laws. This is wrong.”
AT&T already said it will end sponsored data arrangements nationwide to adhere to the law, to which critics said this could harm veterans struggling to get health care during the pandemic.
Worre Studios Builds Arena To Host Virtual Audience
Worre Studios announced Monday that a 25,000-square-foot circular arena located in Las Vegas, Nevada, that will host thousands of virtual attendees is now open.
Similar to how the NBA has been hosting viewers who are seen in broadcasts, the new studio featured a 360-degree interactive screen that allows a presenter to stand in the middle as if they are performing in front of a large audience.
Virtually every industry has been affected by the Coronavirus in some form or another. The events and entertainment industry lost approximately $30 billion in 2020 due to the pandemic, reported Worre Studios. And no one knows for sure when things will return to “normal,” especially for events. Worre Studios is trying to change that and built a 25,000 square foot circular arena that is designed to host hybrid events. The arena is located in the Southwest part of Las Vegas, Nevada.
The circular screen stage can be used for anything from standard business meetings to live television broadcasts, new product launches, and even live concerts and awards shows. The host or performers can also live interact with digital audience members, which uses Canvas software and Zoom video to connect up to 250,000 live interactive participants, in addition to being spacious enough to fit a 250-person live audience, making it a true hybrid experience.
FCC Proposal for Robotexts, FCC Mapping Problems, TikTok’s Preliminary Deal
The FCC is looking to adapt its robocall methods for texts.
September 27, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission is requesting comments on a proposed new rule to apply caller ID authentication standards to text messaging, according to the release on Monday.
The FCC is proposing requiring mobile wireless providers to block texts, at the network level, that appear to be from invalid, unallocated, or unused numbers, and numbers on a Do-Not-Originate (DNO) list. It also seeks input on other actions the commission might take to address illegal texts, including enhanced consumer education, the release said.
“Recently, scam text messaging has become a growing threat to consumers’ wallets and privacy,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “More can be done to address this growing problem and today we are formally starting an effort to take a serious, comprehensive, and fresh look at our policies for fighting unwanted robo texts.”
In August, the FCC’s Robocall Response Team reported an increase of consumer complaints about unwanted text messages, which have risen steadily in recent years from approximately 5,700 in 2019 to 8,500 this year.
The FCC’s STIR/SHAKEN robocall regime – which requires providers to authenticate phone calls – went into force in late July.
Broadband data collectors flag early problems with FCC mapping data
Telecompetitor is reporting Monday that organizations are already flagging problems with the FCC’s broadband mapping fabric, including missing locations.
The database is designed to provide address and geolocation information for every broadband serviceable location in the country.
Telecompetitor is reporting that Mike Romano, executive vice president of rural broadband trade association National Telephone Cooperative Association, said 90 percent of its members saw missing locations on the FCC database maps.
According to the story, one complained that coordinates for a broadband serviceable location actually pointed to a swamp; another talked of a location that pointed to a boulder.
“NTIA realized the maps won’t be done until the challenge process is completed,” Romano said, referring to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which is handling $42.5 billion for broadband infrastructure contingent on those FCC maps.
The next FCC-issued broadband maps are set to be released in November, and the challenge process is ongoing for state agencies, community organizations, and consulting firms to correct potential inaccuracies.
TikTok reaches preliminary deal with White House on security concerns
The Biden administration and video-sharing app TikTok have drafted a preliminary agreement to make changes to its data security and governance without requiring its Chinese-based owner to sell the company, the New York Times reported on Monday.
The drafted terms, according to the Times, state that TikTok would store its American data solely on servers in the United States – rather than on its own servers. Cloud company Oracle is then expected to monitor TikTok’s algorithms that determine the content that the app recommends. TikTok is also expected to create an oversight board made up of security experts that will report to the government, according to anonymous sources cited by the Times.
Senator Marco Rubio, R-Florida, is not convinced of the measures. “Anything short of a complete separation” [of TikTok from ByteDance] “will likely leave significant national security issues regarding operations, data and algorithms unresolved,” he said, according to the story.
Former President Donald Trump, who wanted to ban TikTok, attempted to bridge a deal with ByteDance for a portion of TikTok to be sold to Oracle, which did not materialize.
Concerns have swirled around ByteDance, the Chinese owner of the popular app, and its alleged surveillance and privacy policies that require data from any Chinese applications to be shared with Chinese authorities. TikTok US has repeatedly denied breaching US data privacy regulations.
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, who has been an outspoken critic of the app, said on Twitter that the preliminary deal “is very concerning” in that the terms “fall short of securing our [national security].”
NTCA Smart Rural Communities, International Telecommunications Union Conference, Carr on TikTok
‘How do we make sure that you can keep that home grown talent?’
September 26, 2022 –Rural Broadband Association CEO Shirley Bloomfield on Monday announced a partnership with the National Rural Education Association to promote educational opportunities for rural children.
Speaking at the launch of the NTCA trade show in San Francisco on Monday, Bloomfield said that the program will help educate kids about the value of rural broadband services.
Bloomfield said it will help address a common lament in rural areas: “How do we make sure that you can keep that home grown talent?”
The pilot program with the rural education group will help promote the importance of broadband jobs in rural areas.
Telecom officials to be in Hungary for ITU election
Key telecom agency officials are expected this week to attend the International Telecommunications Union conference, where the election of the new head of the United Nation’s telecom regulator will be selected.
Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration Alan Davidson, and deputy secretary of the Commerce Don Graves are expected in Bucharest, Romania, where American Doreen Bogdan-Martin is in the running against Russian challenger Rashid Ismailov.
Last week, President Joe Biden said he strongly supports the candidacy of Bogdan-Martin.
The ITU develops international connectivity standards in communications networks and improving access to information and communication technologies for underserved communities worldwide.
The conference is being held from September 25 – 29.
The FCC expressed concerns over TikTok security and big tech contributions
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said in a statement Monday that he spoke with European Union officials in Brussels about the need for Big Tech to contribute to the development of broadband networks and about the alleged security risks of the Chinese video-sharing app TikTok.
Carr has previously said that big technology companies should contribute to the Universal Service Fund, a roughly $10-billion pot of money that goes to support basic telecommunications builds across the nation. Money for the fund comes from voice service providers, but critics have said that the fund’s base of contributors needs to be broadened for its sustainability.
Carr also reiterated his position that TikTok poses a security and privacy threat to Americans.
“TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data,” he said in the statement. “And recent reporting indicates that there is no check on this sensitive data being accessed from inside China.”
The security of TikTok has been an ongoing issue, with American Senators saying that TikTok may be collecting biometric data and storing it in an unknown database.
Kenosha Gets Fiber, Judiciary Committee Advances Journalism Bill, Rosenworcel Touts Women in Tech
SiFi Networks will construct an all-fiber network for 40,000 households in the city of Kenosha, Wisconsin.
September 23, 2022 – The city of Kenosha, Wisconsin, and SiFi Networks on Thursday announced the start of construction of an all-fiber network that is advertised to bring high-speed broadband to all 40,000 households, businesses, and other locations in the city.
The $100-million, privately funded project is scheduled to be completed in approximately three years and will provide speeds of up to 10 Gigabits per second (Gbps), SiFi Networks said. The project has been announced to be open access: Many service providers will simultaneously lease sections of the network. SiFi says this model will enhance competition and bring “the fastest speeds at the most competitive prices to the consumer.”
“Kenosha is a special city with wonderful residents who are ready for modern-day connectivity,” said Marcus Bowman, community relations manager at SiFi Networks. “SiFi Networks is delighted to make the long-term investment in Kenosha because we see how fiber networks transform communities into hubs of innovation, remote work, better healthcare, and smart city services.”
“Kenosha residents and businesses will see a great benefit from the Kenosha FiberCity project, ensuring that affordable, high-speed internet service is available throughout the entire city,” Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian said.
Cruz and Klobuchar find agreement on Journalism bill
A bipartisan bill that would alter existing antitrust law to create a safe harbor for news outlets engaged in collective bargaining with big-tech platforms was approved Thursday by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Supporters of the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act say it would give news outlets the influence necessary to obtain fair compensation for their work from large platforms such as Facebook and Google.
The bill was scheduled to advance out of the Judiciary Committee earlier this month. Its passage was delayed by sponsor Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., after the committee adopted an amendment from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX, that would limit platforms’ ability to moderate content.
Cruz’s amendment would have outright removed the antitrust exemption if outlet–platform negotiations included content-moderation policies, which Klobuchar called the amendment a “get out of jail free card” for platforms. Instead, the version of the bill advanced Thursday states that bargaining shall be conducted “solely to reach an agreement regarding the pricing, terms and conditions.”
“This is a major win for free speech and it strikes a blow against the virtual monopoly that Big Tech has to limit the information that Americans see online,” said Cruz’s official statement on Thursday. “The bottom line is Big Tech hated this bill from the start and now they hate it even more.”
Rosenworcel speaks to Grace Hopper Celebration
Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel touted the importance of women in technology at the Grace Hopper Celebration networking event on Thursday.
“The Grace Hopper Celebration is known for being the world’s premier networking event for women in technology,” Rosenworcel said. “It is great to see it and just be here. Because in my two decades of working on technology policy, I have not been in a lot of rooms like this. In fact, I have lost count of the times that I have been the only woman in the room.”
The FCC’s chairwoman called on colleagues to “pull up a chair” for other women in tech as well as struggling community members. Speaking of her time as a commissioner at the FCC, Rosenworcel said she was one of only a few officials working to close the “homework gap” before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
She also committed to advance “issues that affect women in technology,” promising to promote telehealth solutions for maternity care, extend basic phone services to victims of domestic abuse, and scrutinize the privacy standards of mobile providers to ensure the privacy of women’s medical history.
- Kate Forscey: Mobile Broadband Gap Needs to Be Remedied, Too
- FCC Proposal for Robotexts, FCC Mapping Problems, TikTok’s Preliminary Deal
- As Middle Mile Program Deadline Approaches, NTIA Proposes ‘Buy America’ Exemptions
- Reason 5 to Attend Broadband Mapping Masterclass: Understanding Public Challenges
- FCC Spectrum Authority Expires on September 30, Agency Seeks Renewal
- NTCA Smart Rural Communities, International Telecommunications Union Conference, Carr on TikTok
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