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Infrastructure Bill Hangs in Balance, 2.5 GHz Licenses to Alaska Tribes, TechFreedom Hires Bilal Sayyed

Democrats divided on when to move infrastructure bill, FCC awards 2.5 GHz licenses, antitrust lawyer Sayyed to TechFreedom.

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California

August 24, 2021 – House Democratic lawmakers were deadlocked Monday over whether to advance for a vote the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill before the end of a special two-day summer session, with nine Democrats refusing to align with the speaker of the House’s wishes to pass other measures simultaneously and thus setting the stage for the second and final day to move on key party initiatives.

Backed by a contingent of Democrats, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, has said that she would like to move with the infrastructure bill a $3.5 trillion budget plan, also known as “reconciliation,” that would plow money in social initiatives like climate change, Medicare and child care.

But the nine moderate Democrats have said that such an ask – to “hold hostage” the infrastructure bill before other measures are also put forward — would derail hard-fought progress on an infrastructure bill that was months in the making and that finally passed the Senate earlier this month.

In an op-ed in the Washington Post, those moderate Democrats — Carolyn Bourdeaux of Georgia, Ed Case of Hawaii, Jim Costa of California, Henry Cuellar of Texas, Jared Golden of Maine, Vicente Gonzalez of Texas, Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Kurt Schrader of Oregon, and Filemon Vela of Texas – said they were “firmly opposed to holding the president’s infrastructure legislation hostage to reconciliation, risking its passage and the bipartisan support behind it.”

“We can pass the infrastructure measure now, and then quickly consider reconciliation and the policies from climate to health care to universal pre-K that we believe are critical,” they added.

In a Washington Post Live discussion on Wednesday, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman and Pelosi supporter Peter DeFazio said the infrastructure bill’s implementation is October 1, alluding to the fact that so long as the bill is passed before then, there is no need to rush the bill now.

If the infrastructure bill, which includes $65 billion for broadband and regulations on cryptocurrency, fails to move Tuesday, then it will need to be picked up well after Labor Day, when lawmakers are back from summer break on September 20 for floor votes.

FCC grants 2.5 GHz licenses for native Alaskan communities

The Federal Communications Commission said Monday it has granted six spectrum licenses from the 2.5 GHz band as part of the agency’s Rural Tribal Priority Window, allowing these communities to deploy 5G and other wireless services.

“Today’s action takes another step in helping to bring [connectivity] to more Alaska Native communities, connecting them to the health, education, business, entertainment, and other resources available in the digital age,” said FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in a release.

“I’m proud that the FCC could grant these licenses to help provide advanced wireless services to rural Alaskans, and of the ongoing work by the agency to process Tribal applications that are still pending.  I thank Native community leaders for their work as part of this effort,” she added.

The FCC has now granted 270 licenses of the mid-band spectrum to Tribal entities.

TechFreedom brings on antitrust expert

Bilal Sayyed, an experienced antitrust lawyer who previously served at an internal think tank inside the Federal Trade Commission, is joining non-profit technology company TechFreedom as a senior competition counsel, the company announced Friday.

“He will be a leading voice in TechFreedom’s analysis of the application of the antitrust laws to the conduct of online platforms and tech companies,” TechFreedom said in a press release. “Bilal will pay particular attention to mergers and their effects on innovation and potential competition.”

The hire comes at a potential inflection point in American antitrust regulation: The Joe Biden Administration has made a string of hires that have put big tech critics in key regulatory perches, none larger than the hiring of Federal Trade Commission chairwoman Lina Khan.

Sayyed said in the release that “sensible antitrust polic[ies]…are now under siege by those who have forgotten or are unaware of past errors in enforcement and policy.

“I can think of no better place than TechFreedom to defend and advance sensible antitrust enforcement and policy based on sound economics and recognition of the harms of excessive regulation on innovation, entry, and entrepreneurship,” he added.

Assistant Editor Ahmad Hathout has spent the last half-decade reporting on the Canadian telecommunications and media industries for leading publications. He started the scoop-driven news site downup.io to make Canadian telecom news more accessible and digestible. Follow him on Twitter @ackmet

Broadband Roundup

Biden’s Involvement in 5G, Residential 5 Gbps in Northwest, New Technology Advisory Council

The president urged wireless carriers to comply with the aviation industry’s requests for further delays on new network launches.

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January 21, 2022 – President Joe Biden says he pushed wireless carriers to accommodate aviation companies’ concerns about the networks’ launch of 5G that occurred Wednesday.

Biden encouraged carriers to give airlines even more time to examine their aviation equipment for possible interference with 5G before the new network updates were launched.

Verizon and AT&T announced Tuesday that they would limit 5G service around some airports, giving in to some of the aviation industry’s concerns.

Both companies had initially planned to launch their network changes on January 5 but further delayed launch at the request of airlines. January 5 was already a delayed launch date, with the companies having earlier planned rollout for 2021.

“What I’ve done is pushed as hard as I can to have the 5G folks hold up and abide by what was being requested by the airlines until they could more modernize over the years, so 5G would not interfere with the potential of a landing” said Biden following the events of Wednesday’s launch.

He says he spoke with Verizon and AT&T on the same day the launch took place.

The president did not mention any government fixes to the conflict, saying it was an argument between “two private enterprises,” despite speculation that following the messy fight the administration may develop a national spectrum strategy or the Federal Communications Commission and National Telecommunications and Information Administration may release updated memoranda on the issues.

Ziply Fiber offers 5 Gigabit per second residential service

Internet service provider Ziply Fiber announced it has begun offering ultra-high-speed 5 Gigabit per second (Gbps) and 2 Gbps residential fiber internet service to customers in several cities across the Northwest.

The expansion in Washington state, Oregon and Idaho makes Ziply Fiber the first company to introduce a 5 Gbps speed for residential services, the company said.

In its announcement Thursday, the company says the expansion will bring service to nearly 170,000 residential customer addresses across 60 cities and towns.

Ziply Fiber began building out fiber in Northwest markets in 2020 and has announced construction of 57 fiber projects since then.

The company plans to introduce its 5 Gbps and 2 Gbps service in Montana later in Q1 of 2022.

FCC sets stage for new TAC membership

The FCC has appointed a new group of members to serve on its Technology Advisory Council and set a February 28 date for its first meeting with the new class.

“The advisory council provides technical expertise to the Commission to identify important areas of innovation and develop informed technology policies,” according to the FCC.

Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced the new membership Wednesday with the commission’s press release calling them “a diverse group of leading technology experts.”

Dean Brenner, a former Qualcomm executive, will serve as chairman of the council, Michael Ha, chief of the policy and rules division in the Office of Engineering and Technology, will continue to serve as the designated federal officer and Martin Doczkat, chief of the electromagnetic compatibility division in the OET, is the alternate designated federal officer.

Rosenworcel highlighted that the council will work on advancing 6G research as well as numerous other issues such as examining both supply chain vulnerabilities and global standards development.

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Broadband Roundup

USDA Hires Lumen, Ligado Marketing Services, IRS Facial ID, New Public Knowledge Hire

The Department of Agriculture awarded Lumen a $1.2-billion, 11-year contract for data services.

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Lumen President and CEO Jeff Storey

January 20, 2022 – On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a $1.2-billion network services contract with telecom Lumen Technologies.

The 11-year contract will provide the department with data transport service with remote access and cloud connectivity, leveraging Lumen’s fiber network to connect 9,500 USDA locations across the country and abroad to better manage agriculture in the country, the press release said.

“Lumen is bringing modern technology solutions that will make it easier for the USDA to accomplish its mission of promoting the production of nutritious food that nourishes our people, providing economic opportunity to rural Americans, and preserving our nation’s natural resources through smart forest and watershed conservation,” said Zain Ahmed, Lumen’s public sector senior vice president.

The contract was granted under the General Services Administration’s $50-billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions program.

Ligado Networks and Select Spectrum to strengthen critical networks

Mobile communications company Ligado Networks and spectrum brokerage and advisory firm Select Spectrum announced an agreement on Tuesday that will market and sell Ligado’s mid-band spectrum services for critical infrastructure.

“We know the critical infrastructure sector has an urgent need for dedicated access to licensed spectrum, and our mid-band spectrum, with both satellite and terrestrial connectivity, is uniquely positioned to meet this need and empower companies to operate private networks on a long-term basis,” said Ligado Networks’ CEO Doug Smith in a press release.

According to the agreement, Select Spectrum will search for those seeking to use Ligado’s licensed spectrum in the 1.6 GHz band in order to provide 5G capabilities to projects like power grid modernization and advanced transportation initiatives.

IRS to require facial recognition for taxes access

According to a Wednesday Gizmodo article, starting this summer online tax filers will have to submit a selfie to a third-party verification company called ID.me in order to make payments or file taxes online. Along with facial identification, users will also have to submit government identification documents and copies of bills to confirm their identity.

ID.me will use the selfie and compare it to the government identification document to verify the user. If the system fails to match the two documents, the user can join a recorded video to provide verification to the user.

Gizmodo’s article claimed that both the IRS and ID.me could not provide a method to access user accounts without providing a face scan. This could be problematic for tax filers that don’t have access to certain technologies.

Public Knowledge hires new senior policy analyst

Non-profit public interest group  Public Knowledge announced Tuesday that it has brought on Lisa Macpherson as senior policy analyst.

According to a press release, Macpherson’s “experience driving digital marketing transformation on behalf of brands led to concerns over the broader impacts of digital technology on individual well-being, civil society, journalism, and democracy.”

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Broadband Roundup

National Privacy Law, Digital Infrastructure Firm’s $8B Raise, Wicker Wants Spectrum Cooperation

Business groups are asking Congress to supersede state laws by passing privacy legislation that sets a national standard.

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Senator Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi

January 19, 2022 – As states begin to pass their own privacy laws, business groups are asking the federal government to pass legislation that would mitigate confusion by creating a national standard, reports MediaPost Communications.

The Association of National Advertisers, Interactive Advertising Bureau, and the U.S. Chamber of Congress are just a few of the business groups that are asking for a national privacy law.

“As the Federal Trade Commission considers a privacy rulemaking that would add a further layer of complexity to the state patchwork, it is critical that Congress pass one single national standard”, the groups stated in a letter that was signed by 15 national organizations and then by local business groups from across the country, the MediaPost report said.

California, Virginia, and Colorado are just a few of the states that have passed their own version of a privacy law, and while they all serve a similar purpose, they have various nuances that the business groups said they believe will be difficult to navigate for their businesses and for consumers across state lines, MediaPost reports.

In addition, there are members of Congress who are also asking for a national plan for consumer privacy.

Digital infrastructure firm DigitalBridge raises over $8 billion

DigitalBridge Investment Management, an investment firm in digital infrastructure, raised a higher-than-expected $8.3 billion, according to a Wednesday press release, illustrating interest in projects including fiber builds.

“The Fund has already invested in nine portfolio companies across towers, easements, hyperscale data centers, edge infrastructure, indoor DAS infrastructure and fiber, running reliable, mission-critical network infrastructure for many of the world’s leading hyperscale cloud providers and mobile network operators,” the release said.

The round comes as the federal government pushing billions of dollars into infrastructure, including broadband and as the pandemic has shown a need for remote capabilities driven by broadband.

Republican lawmaker calls for NTIA-FCC cooperation on spectrum

Senator Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, sent a letter earlier this month to the head of the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration asking them to consider a renewed agreement to work together on spectrum management.

The January 13 letter to FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and new NTIA head Alan Davidson said their “relationship can be strengthened” on matters related to the shared use of radiowaves between federal and non-federal users by refreshing the memorandum of understanding that was last updated in 2003.

“In light of recent disputes over spectrum allocations, it is more important than ever that the [FCC and NTIA] work together to promote spectrum policy that best serves the dual goals of furthering commercial innovation and enabling the mission-critical operations of federal agencies,” the letter said.

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