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Broadband Roundup

Alabama Dispenses $17M In Broadband Funds, New Broadband Mapping Insight, Pipeline Attack

Ivey announces $17 million to deploy broadband, Microsoft data for broadband map, and “Robin Hood” group involved in pipeline attack.

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Photo of Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey

May 11, 2021—Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey awarded broadband providers nearly $17 million in funding to improve and deploy broadband infrastructure to un(der)served communities in the state.

The awards were announced in a press release on the governor’s website. Though the awards may have been prompted by the ongoing pandemic, Ivey stated that this is not a new issue.

“The COVID-19 pandemic reinforced what we already knew; that Alabama’s broadband coverage is an issue we must continue addressing.”

The funds in question were a part of the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Fund, which was established by the Alabama Legislature in 2018. The fund is administered by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, “Access to broadband can make all the difference in the world to a family or rural business,” ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell said, “ADECA is pleased to join Governor Ivey in this program that is making real differences in the lives of Alabamians.”

This is not the first time the fund has dispensed awards. In 2020, the fund dispensed $12.4 million to finance two separate expansion efforts featuring multiple ISPs across several counties. This most recent round of funding was directed toward 20 projects across Alabama. Qualified ISPs could apply for grants up to $1.5 million per project and could apply separately for multiple projects.

The Verge publishes interactive broadband map

On Monday, the Verge published an interactive broadband map that illustrated the extent to which the U.S. still lacks sufficient broadband.

The map highlighted counties where less than 15 percent of residents have access to speeds of 25 Mbps download and 5 Mbps upload. The map reflects the regional disparity in the Digital Divide; while some regions, like the North East, have few regions highlighted, the West, Midwest, South West, appear to fair far worse—some with more counties without broadband speeds than with.

The data used to construct the map was pulled from Microsoft’s cloud services network and published publicly online. As noted in the Verge’s coverage, there are significant discrepancies between Microsoft’s data and the FCC’s. The Verge pointed to Lincoln County, WA., where the FCC states that 100 percent of residents have broadband coverage, compared to Microsoft’s data which indicates only five percent of residents have broadband.

Insufficient mapping only compounds the challenge of closing the digital divide and realizing the Biden administration’s goal of universal broadband by 2030.

The inaccuracy of FCC broadband mapping has been noted by experts in the past. Critics have pointed out that it is difficult to roll out broadband deployment strategies without accurate maps, but the issue persists.

Hackers behind Colonial Pipeline breach identified

The Colonial Pipeline was subjected to a ransomware attack that exploited a security flaw in the pipeline’s system, which resulted in the pipeline being shut down by its operators out of an abundance of caution. When it was functioning, the pipeline provided gas and jet fuel for nearly half of the east coast.

The FBI has identified the hacker group DarkSide as the perpetrators of ransomware attack. Often compared to the folk tale of Robin Hood, the group uses ransomware attacks as a business model, extorting wealthy organizations and individuals and donating a portion of their ill-gotten gains to charity.

The group claims to never target “hospitals, hospices, schools, universities, non-profit organizations, or the government sector,” has stated that its goal is not to create havoc for society, and that they do not have any political motives or aspirations for power; the group insists that their only motivation is money.

As of Tuesday, the Colonial Pipeline shutdown has been going on for four days.

This is not the first attack on U.S. infrastructure, but it is one of the worst. In February of 2021, the FBI identified an attempted attack on Tampa’s municipal water treatment system, where a hacker added 100 times the necessary level of lye to the water supply in an apparent attempt to poison residents. Thanks to the quick actions of a plant operator, the levels were reset before anyone could be injured in the attack.

The U.S. is already grappling with the alleged Russian cyberattack on software company SolarWinds, one of the most significant in recent memory.

Reporter Ben Kahn is a graduate of University of Baltimore and the National Journalism Center. His work has appeared in Washington Jewish Week and The Center Square, among other publications. He he covered almost every beat at Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Roundup

Pole Replacement Benefits Owners, ViaSat-3 Completes Final Satellite Test, Wireless Broadband Alliance New Member

INCOMPAS pushed FCC on acknowledging that pole owners are beneficiaries of pole replacements.

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BAI Communications Chief Technology Officer Brendan O'Reilly, via Twitter

November 28, 2022 – Industry trade group INCOMPAS said Monday in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission that the agency should presume that pole owners benefit from a replacement of their poles.

“The Commission should first modify its rules to include a presumption that pole owners receive a direct benefit when a pole replacement is required to accommodate a new attachment,” INCOMPAS representatives told the agency on Nov 22, according to a post-meeting letter released Friday.

The organization added that current practices on pole access are unreasonable because it includes excessive delays and denials for pole access.

The FCC is currently conducting a proceeding in which it is looking at whether the cost to replace a pole should be shared by pole the owner and the third-party attacher, which requests to put its equipment on the pole to expand broadband infrastructure. Pole attachers argue that it isn’t fair that they have to foot the entire bill of a pole replacement when the owner derives a benefit from a new pole.

But pole owners, in submissions to the agency, have said that replacements are “insignificant” for utilities in comparison to the benefit to attachers.

ViaSat-3 satellite in final phase

Satellite communications company Viasat Inc. said Monday its ViaSat-3 Americas satellite passed its final flight phase for configuration, which is expected to deliver communications network in on the continent.

The satellite test showed the satellite performs as expected to withstand environmental stresses, the company announced.

“Completion of FIST is a significant milestone as we move towards spacecraft delivery and launch,” said Ryan Reid, president of Boeing, which is providing the launch vehicle.

ViaSat-3 will be a global satellite constellation with three high-capacity Ka-band satellites that will bring low-cost connectivity to the global network, the company said.

Wireless Broadband Alliance has new board member

BAI Communications said Monday that the company’s chief technology officer Brendan O’Reilly was elected to the board of directors of the Wireless Broadband Alliance for a two-year term set to start on January 1.

BAI designs and operates communications networks. WBA enables collaboration with service providers, technology companies, regulators and organizations to connect people to Wi-Fi services. BAI and WBA share a goal to connect people with accessible wireless connectivity, a press release said.

“I see a lot of opportunity to collaborate and exchange ideas with other respected WBA members to accelerate the delivery of advanced 5G technologies and the adoption of NextGen Wi-Fi,” O’Reilly said. “The diversity of this network is what helps taking wireless technologies forward.”

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Broadband Roundup

NTIA Pushes FTC on Privacy, Broadband in Tough, NY, California Get NTIA Grants

‘NTIA is calling for rules that stop the unnecessary and harmful collection and use of personal information.’

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Screenshot of Alan Davidson, assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information, via C-Span

November 23, 2022 – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration said Tuesday in a filing with the Federal Trade Commission that it wants privacy limits on the ways companies collect and use personal information.

The Commerce agency recommended companies minimize the data collected, restrict companies from using data for alternative purposes such as targeted advertising, take comprehensive approaches to new privacy protections, and consider stricter limits on biometric technologies.

The FTC is currently seeking comment on whether it should implement new rules on companies’ data collection and sales practices.

“NTIA is calling for rules that stop the unnecessary and harmful collection and use of personal information. Companies need guardrails about what they can build,” said NTIA head Alan Davidson.

In July this year, Davidson said privacy laws continue to be an issue in the US. He advocated for the first national federal privacy bill, which is currently before Congress.

Study finds telecoms in for rough patch with inflation

Analysys Mason, a management consultancy focused on telecommunication and technology, released a prediction Wednesday that said the telecommunication industry will face challenges, including inflation problems, in 2023.

Consumers may feel the pinch from higher retail prices due to inflation, the analysis finds, which could result in political pressure to moderate price increases, the study found.

“Combined with high investment costs and questions about potential returns, the market outlook is challenging as the telecoms industry tries to steer its path through price rises, rolling out network availability and launching new services,” said Larry Goldman, Analysys Mason chief analyst.

NTIA awards over $10 million in Rhode Island, California

The NTIA announced Tuesday that Rhode Island will receive $5.5 million to build high-speed internet infrastructure.

“The funding will advance a coordinated strategy to get all Rhode Islanders connected to high-speed, reliable, affordable broadband service and close the digital divide,” said Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed.

The money is coming from programs spawned by the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, which includes $65 billion for broadband infrastructure.

NTIA also said Tuesday that it awarded two grants of nearly $5.6 million to Merced Community College and California State University Sacramento from the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program.

Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said these investments will help offer more online learning programs and train digital navigators in its program to work directly with surrounding communities on digital inclusion.

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Broadband Roundup

FCC Bans First Voice Service Provider, ACP Outreach Program Funding, Ciena Buys Two Companies

Global UC is the first company to be removed by the FCC from receiving call traffic for robocall violations.

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Photo of FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks

November 22, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission announced Tuesday that telephone company Global UC will be cut off from other networks because it failed to meet the standards set out by the commission to prevent illegal robocalls and caller ID spoofing.

It is the first time the FCC has made such a decision, after it proposed in October to remove Global UC and other companies from receiving call traffic because of alleged violations of the robocall framework known as STIR/SHAKEN. Global UC will be removed from the Robocall Mitigation Database, which includes companies that share their call traffic with each other.

“We have reached the point where we are ready to remove companies if they fail to abide by the rules and heed our warnings,” Loyaan Egal, chief of the FCC’s enforcement bureau, said in a release.

“While this is a steep and impactful penalty, it underscores the importance we place on complying with our rules, which are designed to eliminate the ability of bad actors to use the U.S. communications networks to harm consumers,” Egal added.

New funding opportunities from ACP outreach programs

The Federal Communications Commission announced Monday a further two funding opportunities from two programs of its Affordable Connectivity Program.

On Thursday, the FCC announced four complementary grant programs to market the broadband subsidy program as well as the release of a notice of funding opportunity for both the National Competitive Outreach Program and the Tribal Competitive Outreach Program, worth up to $60 million and $10 million, respectively.

On Monday, the FCC announced the notice of funding opportunity for the remaining two programs, each offering up to $5 million in grants: the Your Home, Your Internet outreach grant and the ACP Navigator pilot program. Applications after due January 9, 2023.

The Your Home, Your Internet program provides funding to qualifying local, state and tribal housing agencies, non-profit organizations, community-based organizations, and tenant associations to encourage residents who receive federal housing assistance to apply for the ACP.

The ACP Navigator pilot program, in partnership with the Universal Service Administrative Company, grants local schools districts and government agencies temporary access to USAC’s National Verifier— a centralized application system to quantify potential qualifying residents.

“Through federal housing assistance, millions of Americans have access to a home. It’s time to help them take advantage of ACP to access affordable Internet as well,” said Commissioner Geoffrey Starks.

The agency announced this summer the Affordable Connectivity Outreach Grant Program to raise awareness for the $14.2-billion program, which subsidizes monthly internet bills – of up to $30 per month and $75 per month for residents on tribal lands – and provides a $100 discount on device purchases for low-income applicants. The commission has said that there are millions more Americans who are eligible but have not signed up — in part because they are not aware.

Ciena acquires two companies for network expansion

Software and network services company Ciena announced Tuesday it is buying California-based hardware supplier Tibit Communications for $210 million and Massachusetts-based software company Benu Networks for an undisclosed amount.

Tibit and Benu both deploy single-source fiber conduit to distribute broadband network access to multiple end users including residential, commercial and public, known as passive optical network technology.

Ciena said the acquisition will help expand PON connectivity to residential areas, businesses, and public transportation. The merger will be paid in cash and Ciena will agree to employee retention agreements, according to the release.

“The acquisitions of Tibit Communications and Benu Networks will extend our ability to support customers’ next-generation metro and edge strategies as service providers globally accelerate investments to modernize their networks and improve connectivity at the network edge,” Scott McFeely, senior vice president of Ciena global products and services, said in the release.

“Tibit’s high-speed PON technologies and Benu’s subscriber management products, combined with Ciena’s current access and edge portfolio, will enable us to offer broader, more complete, and fully integrated broadband access solutions that combine routing, subscriber management, and PON features and functionality.”

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