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Texas House Passes Social Media Bill, Adtran’s Big ADVA Buy, Nokia Suspends O-RAN Alliance Affiliation

Texas House passed partisan legislation on social media censorship, Adtran’s $931M ADVA buy, Nokia worries about U.S. sanctions via association.

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Texas Governor Greg Abbott

August 31, 2021 – The Texas House on Monday passed partisan, Governor-backed legislation that would protect users from being censored on social media.

Texas House Bill 20 will give Texans the ability to take legal recourse if they are removed or censored for certain viewpoints, and categorizes the largest social media platforms as common carriers, meaning they cannot influence what runs on those platforms.

The bill, which now heads to the Senate State Affairs Committee, passes despite a federal judge in July halting similar legislation in Florida, which provided for Floridians to sue those companies for censorship.

The Computer and Communications Industry Association said in a statement Monday that if enacted, “the bill could disincentivize or even penalize companies for removing dangerous content, such as material from foreign extremists or misinformation…[and] sets a dangerous precedent by prohibiting “censoring” based on “viewpoint” expressed on the service “or through any other medium.

“Compelling private companies to host foreign disinformation or pro-Taliban extremist content runs counter to the First Amendment,” the statement added.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an August 5 proclamation calling for the legislature to consider the bill, among others, at a later special sitting.

Adtran’s near billion-dollar deal to buy ADVA

Fiber network provider Adtran and networking company ADVA announced in a press release Monday that they agreed to merge in a deal worth nearly $1 billion.

The combined entity is said to allow the companies to increase the scalability of their fiber networking delivery, including to homes, businesses and 5G infrastructure that will include cloud-based and software-defined solutions.

“We are in the early stages of an unprecedented investment cycle in fiber connectivity, especially in the U.S. and Europe, fueled by the demand for last-mile fiber access and middle-mile transport to provide high-speed connectivity to homes, businesses and future 5G infrastructure,” said ADTRAN Chairman and CEO Thomas Stanton in the press release.

“By joining forces, our combined firm’s portfolio will better position us to capitalize on this highly compelling global opportunity. We expect the transaction will create significant long-term value for both companies’ stakeholders by increasing our scale and improving our ability to serve as a trusted supplier for customers worldwide,” he added.

Nokia suspends work with open RAN group over sanctions fears: report

Finnish telecom equipment provider Nokia is suspending its activities with the O-Ran Alliance over fears it may be penalized by Washington over the group’s work with Chinese technology companies, according to Politico.

The alliance, which was founded in 2018, advocates for a broader and open ecosystem of network equipment that would otherwise be reliant on proprietary technology from a handful of companies. It includes among its members AT&T, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, NTT DOCOMO, and Orange.

Politico reports, citing an email, that Nokia had notified the alliance that, “we have no choice but to suspend all of our technical work activities” in the group because of a “compliance-related matter…regarding the O-RAN contributors included in the U.S. entity list.”

It notes three such companies, with ties to the Chinese military, that are on the U.S. blacklist: Kindroid, Phytium and Inspur.

In recent months, the Biden administration and the Federal Communications Commission have taken measures to cut investments and freeze licenses to Chinese technology firms, including Huawei, alleging ties to the Communist government.

Managing 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.

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More Twitter Files, FTC Sues to Stop Microsoft Deal, Broadband Bills on Space

Many, particularly conservatives, have expressed outrage over Taibbi and Weiss’s revelations.

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Photo of journalist Matt Taibbi from February 2012 by Sebastian Wallroth used with permission

December 8, 2022 – Journalist Bari Weiss published the second installment of the “Twitter Files,” detailing content-moderation measures the platform allegedly used to limit the visibility right-wing accounts.

Weiss’s tweet thread, posted Thursday night, says Twitter, without notifying users, prevented certain accounts from appearing in user searches, hashtag searches, or the platform’s “trending” section. Affected accounts included talk-show host Dan Bongino; activist Charlie Kirk; and the once anonymous video-repost account, “Libs of TikTok.”

The “Twitter Files” are based on “thousands of internal documents obtained by sources at Twitter,” according to Matt Taibbi, publisher of the series’ first tweet thread. In it, Taibbi outlined internal discussions at Twitter surrounding the platform’s temporary ban on the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story. Both Taibbi and Weiss have teased further reporting on the files.

Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, has promised to increase the transparency of content-moderation policies. “Twitter is working on a software update that will show your true account status, so you know clearly if you’ve been shadowbanned, the reason why and how to appeal” he tweeted Thursday night.

Although many, particularly conservatives, have expressed outrage over Taibbi and Weiss’s revelations, others say the files contain no new substantive information.

“So we’ve now had two long threads, presented as if they were revealing some big conspiracy, that basically, just… confirmed a bunch of things the company had already said publicly, and showed pretty standard (boring) trust & safety work,” tweeted Mike Masnick, founder and editor of Techdirt.

The FTC pumps the breaks on the Microsoft–Activision deal

The Federal Trade Commission on Thursday filed an antitrust suit to prevent Microsoft from acquiring videogame developer Activision Blizzard, the creator of such hits as “Call of Duty.”

The federal watchdog says the deal would allow Microsoft to manipulate access to Activision’s products for users of consoles that compete with Microsoft’s Xbox line. Microsoft has a record of using purchased gaming content to suppress competition, the FTC alleges, although the company has insisted it will not deny its rivals access to Activision’s products and recently committed to decade-long licenses for “Call of Duty” with Nintendo and Sony.

“Microsoft has already shown that it can and will withhold content from its gaming rivals,” said Holly Vedova, director of the FTC Bureau of Competition. “Today we seek to stop Microsoft from gaining control over a leading independent game studio and using it to harm competition in multiple dynamic and fast-growing gaming markets.”

According to Microsoft, the deal will strengthen competition and innovation in the videogame market. “Microsoft wants to change [the gaming status quo] by offering consumers the option to subscribe to a cloud gaming service that lets them stream a variety of games on multiple devices for one reasonable fee,” wrote Vice Chair and President Brad Smith in an op-ed published Monday in the The Wall Street Journal.

Announced in January, the deal would make it the world’s third largest gaming company – after Tencent and Sony, the company has said. It would be the only American firm on the podium.

Representatives introduce bills to promote innovation in space

Top members of the House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce on Thursday introduced a pair of bills to promote innovation, security, and American leadership in the commercial satellite communications industry.

Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr., D-N.J., and Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., respectively introduced the Secure Space Act and the Satellite and Telecommunications Streamlining Act.

“America is leading the way in next-generation satellite technologies, which are contributing to a revolution in the communications marketplace,” the representatives said in a statement. “To make sure the U.S. – not China – continues to lead this global industry, we must streamline our regulatory processes to unleash innovation while also ensuring our laws fully protect the American public.”

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Many States Receive Broadband Planning Grants, Complaints About Charter, Blockchain for Healthcare

Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, D.C, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, N.D., Pennsylvania, S.C., Virginia, and W.V. received awards.

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Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo

December 8, 2022 — The National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced Thursday that Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, District of Columbia, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia will receive planning grants under the bipartisan infrastructure law.

The allocations are made under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Act, as well as the Digital Equity Act grant provisions.

Alaska will receive $5.5 million in funding, Arkansas will receive $5.8 million in funding, Colorado will receive $5.9 million, District of Columbia will receive $5.4 million, Kentucky will receive $5.8 million, Maine will receive $5.5 million, Missouri will receive $2.9 million, North Dakota will receive $5.5 million, Pennsylvania will receive $6.6 million, South Carolina will receive $5.9 million, Virginia will receive $6.2 million, and West Virginia will receive $5.7 million.

Other states and territories that have received planning grants include Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Puerto Rico.

Complaints about Charter in Los Angeles

Government affairs and association management firm Joint California Advocates urged the Federal Communications Commission to seek comment about recent report findings that shows Charter Communications, also known as Spectrum, offered low-income Los Angeles County residents more expensive rates for service, compared to wealthier communities that received better rates, in an ex-parte letter sent on Monday.

Los Angeles-based non-profit California Community Foundation released a report called The Slower and More Expensive, which documents the advertising disparity of price, terms, and conditions between different neighborhoods in Los Angeles in Charter Spectrum’s identified service areas.

The foundation “explained that the data for the report demonstrated that the Charter Spectrum website routinely offered potential new customers in households in higher poverty neighborhoods more expensive rates for Charter Spectrum service than households in wealthier neighborhoods. Moreover, [foundation] explained that it found that Charter Spectrum’s promotional rates are “locked in” for half as long in high-poverty neighborhoods than in lower-poverty neighborhoods,” the letter read.

Blockchain will help protect health data, World Bank specialist says

In reference to the European Health Data Space anticipated for launch in 2025, a World Bank digital development specialist on Wednesday suggested blockchain technology to secure data sharing and collection in healthcare, according to a virtual event by the Center for Data Innovation.

Health information managers or medical caregivers can encrypt their patients’ data in the blockchain. Data breaches can be prevented by tracking a permanent timestamp left on the blockchain when companies seek data access.

The safety of data sharing and user transparency is an ongoing challenge in healthcare. According to European Patients’ Forum director of policy, Kaisa Immonen, the main concern for patients is their data shared for commercial purposes or with employers.

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Maryland Bans TikTok on State Network, New Head of Open Technology Institute, UScellular Expands 5G

The ban will also apply to other Chinese and Russian technologies and applications.

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Photo of Lilian Coral, head of Open Technology Institute and Technology and Democracy Programs, via Esri User Conference

December 7, 2022 – Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said Tuesday that the state is banning the use of apps such as Chinese-owned TikTok in the executive branch of the government.

The emergency cybersecurity directive will impact Chinese and Russian-made communications and money applications, including Tencent Holdings’s QQ, QQ Wallet and WeChat; products from ecommerce giant Alibaba, such as AliPay; Russian cybersecurity software Kaspersky; and products from Huawei and ZTE.

The directive requires agencies to remove the products from state networks and implement measures so they cannot be installed, including blocking the apps entirely from the network.

“These entities present an unacceptable level of cybersecurity risk to the state, and may be involved in activities such as cyber-espionage, surveillance of government entities, and inappropriate collection of sensitive personal information,” a state press release said.

Last month, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations said TikTok posed a national security threat to the US, warning that the Chinese government – through its control of Chinese corporations – could siphon American data.

The Federal Communications Commission has also been working with Public Safety and Homeland Security to identify threats to national security by blacklisting certain Chinese entities from being used on U.S. networks. Late last month, the commission announced it is halting the authorization of equipment from these threats to the nation’s security.

New America names new head of Open Technology Institute

Think tank New America announced Wednesday that Lilian Coral is joining the organization’s technology program, the Open Technology Institute, as senior director and head of its technology and democracy program.

The OTI comes up with policy and regulatory reforms to support open source technology, which allows for interoperability of technologies, as opposed to just proprietary technologies held by a few players.

Coral previously worked at the John S. & James L. Knight Foundation as its director of national strategy and tech innovation, where she managed a portfolio of more than $55 million in investments that supported public spaces technology and data trust and accessibility.

“We need to ensure every American has access to an internet that is open, safe, and helps uplift communities,” Coral said in a press release. “But we all recognize that access alone is not sufficient. This means developing guardrails to make sure we all benefit from the opportunities the internet affords—and imagining a truly democratic digital public realm that is a key pillar in renewing the promise of America.”

UScellular expands 5G network to more Americans

UScellular announced Wednesday that a software update will allow it to expand its 5G network in multiple states, providing 1.4 million more Americans with access to its services.

A press release said the update allows for better coordination between cell sites and will use 4G and 5G features to extend existing 5G service to neighboring sites.

“These updates allow us to get more out of our investment and enhance our customers’ experience whether they are accessing our 5G network on their smartphone, tablet or for home internet,” Robert Jakubek, UScellular vice president of engineering and network operations, said in the release.

In May, the country’s fourth-largest wireless carrier partnered with 5G equipment provider Ericsson to provide 5G fixed-wireless services using the C-band spectrum.

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