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NY Sued Over Low-Cost Internet, Apple Antitrust Allegations, CETF Concludes Surveys, 5G Device Growth

New York sued over $15 internet, Apple faces EU antitrust allegations, California surveys conclude, and 5G device adoption grows.

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New York faces backlash from telcos over new bill that establishes low-tier service.

May 4, 2021—Trade groups representing telecom companies including AT&T and Verizon are suing New York for creating a low-cost broadband tier they alleged it doesn’t have the right to arbitrarily set.

The bill, which was signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo last month, was designed to create an affordable tier of broadband service that does not exceed $15 per month. The average price for broadband in New York is $50 per month.

Ten separate organizations are listed as the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, including the New York State Telecommunications Association, Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA), and the NTCA.

The suit alleges the state should not have the right to legislate what prices they can set for consumers, particularly considering that many of the telecom companies represented by the plaintiffs already provide affordable tiers to underserved and economically disadvantaged communities.

The state estimated that as many as seven million people across nearly three million households would qualify for this tier of broadband.

“This is nothing more than a transparent attempt by billion-dollar corporations putting profit ahead of creating a more fair and just society,Cuomo said in response to the lawsuit, “Let me be abundantly clear — providing internet in the Empire State is not a god given right. If these companies want to pick this fight, impede the ability of millions of New Yorkers to access this essential service and prevent them from participating in our economic recovery, I say bring it on.”

Apple faces antitrust violations in EU

Competition Commissioner of the European Commission Margrethe Vestager announced last month that Apple was allegedly engaging in anticompetitive activities by requiring music-streaming apps on iPhones to process their in-app purchases through Apple’s payment system, allowing the tech giant to skim money off the top.

“An app store can become a gatekeeper,” Vestager said during her announcement of the charges, “in particular if there is only one app store available in a mobile ecosystem.” Notably, Apple does not offer an alternative method to download software.

Apple takes a 30 percent fee on every transaction that is processed through its system.

On Monday, Apple had its first day in court against Epic Games, whose popular game Fortnite was the subject of a related controversy when its makers allowed players to circumvent Apple’s fees by creating an in-game system for in-game purchases. Apple responded by banning the game app from its store and accused Epic of violating its terms of service.

CETF-USC concludes Statewide Broadband Adoption survey

The California Emerging Technology Fund conducted a series of surveys in conjunction with the University of Southern California regarding broadband use during the pandemic.

There were notable disparities along income levels, as lower-income families reported lower levels of technology adoption, despite improvement over the course of the pandemic. Additionally, the Fund also noted that children in immigrant communities are taking longer to return to school, with only 42 percent of parents in LA Unified School District (featuring a sizeable immigrant population) stating that they have plans to send their children back to school, compared to 82 percent of parents in West LA (with a smaller immigrant population).

According to the study, access to connected devices is growing, but racial minorities are still disproportionately impacted by the digital divide. This issue is compounded low awareness of programs designed to help consumers secure affordable internet. Data collected reflected that only a third of surveyed parents were aware of such programs.

The study also said 84 percent of surveyed adults were sufficiently connected, 5.6 percent were under-connected with only a smartphone to access the internet, and 9.6 were not connected to the internet.

More than half of all smartphones sold since Q4 2020 are 5G capable

According to data published by Counterpoint, more than 53 million smart devices equipped with 5G were sold between the launch of 5G in 2019 and the end of the first quarter of 2021, by which point it amounted to 57 percent of all smart devices sold.

This milestone is in no small part thanks to the release of Apple’s iPhone 12.

Jeff Fieldhack, who is strategies director for the US Mobile Devices and Carrier, said he anticipates that as 5G continues to become more widespread, new technologies improve, and sales continue to increase, the price of the technology will drop.

“We believe 5G prices will drop below $250 in H2 2021. Qualcomm’s 400 series Snapdragon processor and MediaTek’s 700 and 800 Dimensity series chips will help achieve these price drops.”

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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