October 28, 2021 – Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Wednesday that the department intends to create a new cyber bureau.
“We want to prevent cyber attacks that put our people, our networks, companies, and critical infrastructure at risk,” he said Wednesday.
“After an intense review led by Deputy Secretary [Wendy] Sherman and [Brian] McKeon that included consultations with partners in Congress and outside experts, I intend, with the support of Congress, to establish a new bureau for cyberspace and digital policy headed by an ambassador-at-large, and to name a new special envoy for critical and emerging technology,” Blinken said in prepared remarks.
“Both will report to Deputy Secretary Sherman for at least the first year.”
The new bureau will come at a critical time for the country, as over the past year it has come under a barrage of cyber attacks, including on software company SolarWinds and oil transport company Colonial Pipeline.
Simultaneously, the Joe Biden administration and the Federal Communications Commission has been working to weed out national security threats to the country, either via executive order or through revocations of licenses to operate.
Experts have pointed to cyber attacks as a preferred option for adversarial nations, like China and Russia, that don’t intend to try to match the military capabilities of the U.S.
Broadband key to mental health progress in Oklahoma
Oklahoma mental health officials say that limited broadband access is harmful to mental health in the state, reads a Thursday op-ed.
The widening digital divide in Oklahoma has turned into a “major crisis” after COVID-19 moved most of American life online, writes Joy Sloan, CEO of Green County Behavioral Health Services and founding board member of the Alliance of Mental Health Providers of Oklahoma.
Sloan says that broadband access is a social determinant of health. Social determinants of health are the physical, social, and economic conditions where people live. “In today’s world, internet access is tied to a great number of social determinates of health. It is largely through the internet that people access government services, communicate with others and have contact with the wider world.”
Oklahoma is one of the least connected states in the country, ranking 48 nationwide for homes connected to the internet. Oklahoma is highly rural, with rural residents living in high rates of poverty. According to a White House fact sheet, nearly 25 percent of Oklahoma residents live where there is no broadband infrastructure that meets the minimum acceptable speed.
Broadband increases access to jobs and economic opportunities, which directly impacts mental health, Sloan says. “Unemployment is associated with high rates of depression. Broadband also boots access to education and training,” she says. Increased investment in broadband will improve mental health outcomes for Oklahoma residents by allowing remote residents to earn online degrees, foster social support, and offering people access to mental health care through telehealth.
Sloan encourages those working to bring universal broadband to the state to “consider another far-reaching benefit of this work: the mental health of our citizens.”
NY’s Adirondack region behind in broadband access
Broadband advocates in New York state’s Adirondack region say millions of broadband deployment dollars have been wasted with no significant improvements for residents, according to a Friday report from the Adirondack Explorer.
The problem, internet providers and North Country broadband advocates say, is that the financial program intended for residents goes instead to taxes and fees that do little to promote broadband deployment, the Adirondack Explorer reported on Sunday.
“In my opinion we have wasted over $100 million of the $500 million that the governor placed into the program” says Jim Monty, Lewis Town Supervisor and a member of the North Country broadband coalition.
Since New York established the $500 million Broadband Program Office, installing fiber optic cables cost $4,000 per mile, Monty said. Today the same distance costs $16,000. Further, the state tax code “almost seems to have been written expressly to discourage rural broadband….even as the Cuomo administration was making bold pronouncements about universal broadband availability, its own taxes, fees, and laws were all but ensuring that the initiative would fall short” broadband providers say.
The regional planning board representing six counties in the North Country is trying to land a $20 million grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to connect 3,000 more homes. Costing $7,000 per home to bring broadband in the North Country, the price “is reflective of the rural nature of these households” and the added fee requirement that the New York Department of Transportation began levying two years ago on fiber laid on state property.
Beth Gilles, director of the Lake Champlain-Lake George Regional Planning board, says homes are being connected one by one after organizations like the regional planning boards have “stepped up to help organize all the various companies and grant applications” that the process involves.
“It’s a big lift. But it’s worth it,” she said.
Broadband Prices Decline, AT&T’s Fiber Build in Texas, Conexon Partners for Build in Georgia
A USTelecom report finds that despite high inflation, broadband prices have been declining.
WASHINGTON, June 30, 2022 – A USTelecom report released Wednesday found that broadband prices have been declining, despite high inflation.
The association’s 2022 Broadband Pricing Index Report found that broadband pricing decreased even with significant inflation of an estimated 8 percent in the past year, the most popular broadband prices dropped by 14.7 percent, and the highest speed broadband prices dropped by 11.6 percent from 2021-2022.
“Broadband prices at all speeds have decreased in the last five years,” it said.
The analysis also found that broadband prices are half of what they used to be in 2015. The most popular broadband services decreased by 44.6 percent, while the fastest broadband services decreased their prices by 52.7 percent from 2015-2022.
Lastly, the report found that the “consumer value of broadband services has never been higher.” As providers offer faster speeds at lower prices, the overall value to customers has dramatically improved, it said.
“This is great news for American broadband consumers,” said Jonathan Spalter, president and CEO of USTelecom – The Broadband Association.
AT&T strikes deal in Amarillo, Texas for fiber project
AT&T struck a deal Wednesday with the city of Amarillo, Texas to extend its fiber reach.
A press release said the $24 million project in Amarillo will cover approximately 22,000 locations.
“The city of Amarillo broadband access plan is one of the more significant technological infrastructure advancements in city history,” said Amarillo mayor Ginger Nelson in the release.
It’s the latest partnership for AT&T, which is planning on reaching upwards of 60,000 locations via public-private partnerships in counties in Indiana, Kentucky and now Amarillo, Texas.
Conexon partners with Georgia electric company for broadband build
Georgia’s Ocmulgee Electric Membership Corporation partnered with internet service provider Conexon Connect on Tuesday to bring reliable, affordable, high-speed fiber broadband to rural Georgia.
The partnership will see the deployment of a network that spans 2,100 miles of fiber to the home for service to up to 8,000 members in centra Georgia, a press release said.
“I commend Ocmulgee EMC and Conexon for this exciting public-private partnership and their commitment to creating value for their communities,” said Governor Brian Kemp in a press release.
The project is estimated to take 2-4 years to complete and is set to start this September. The first customers expected to be connected in early 2023.
TikTok Data Concerns, Broadband Data Collection System, Internet Access on COVID-19 Mortality
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr is requesting Apple and Google remove the TikTok app over data concerns.
June 29, 2022 – Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr called for Apple and Google to remove Beijing-based popular video-sharing application, TikTok, from their app stores.
The app is run by ByteDance, a company that is “beholden to the Communist Party of China and required by Chinese law to comply with the PRC’s surveillance demands,” read the June 24 letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sunder Pichai.
“It is clear that TikTok poses an unacceptable national security risk due to its extensive data harvesting being combined with Beijing’s apparently unchecked access to that sensitive data,” said Carr, calling it a wolf in sheep’s clothing. “At its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data” such as search histories, keystroke patterns and biometric identifies.”
Carr claims that TikTok’s pattern of conduct regarding persons in Beijing having access U.S. sensitive data violates policies that both companies require every app to adhere to as a condition of remaining available on the app stores. “I am requesting that you apply the plain text of your app store policies to TikTok and remove it from your app stores for failure to abide by those terms.”
TikTok has assured users that American’s data is being stored in the U.S. but, according to Carr, this statement “says nothing about where that data can be accessed from.”
FCC opens mapping data system for filers early
The Federal Communications Commission released a public notice on Thursday announcing that filers of broadband availability data in its new maps may obtain early access of the system for registering filer information.
The filing window for the Broadband Data Collection opens June 30, but early access will enable users to register their entities in the system and become familiar with the system before that date, the FCC said.
“We are making this functionality available in advance of the opening of the filing window to enable filers to log in, register, and be ready to enter their availability data as early in the filing window as possible,” read the public notice.
The BDC program is said to help improve broadband mapping data to help funnel federal dollars to where broadband infrastructure is needed. Most fixed and mobile broadband providers will be required to file information in the system, but third parties and government entities are also encouraged.
Impact of internet access on COVID-19 mortality
New analysis released last week by private research university Tufts found that increased broadband access in the United States reduced COVID-19 mortality rates.
“Even after controlling for a host of other socioeconomic factors, a 1 percent increase in broadband access across the U.S. reduced COVID mortality by approximately 19 deaths per 100,000, all things equal,” read the report.
The study also found that the impact was felt more strongly in metro areas, where a 1 percent increase in broadband access reduced the deaths by 36 per 100,000.
By conducting a correlation analysis, Tuft researchers found that broadband access is negatively correlated with COVID mortality, even after controlling for other major factors such as health status, income, race and education.
The study only considered pre-vaccine number to account for inconsistencies.
Rosenworcel Committed to Net Neutrality, Better Spectrum Coordination, Starlink Up in Internet Speeds
The FCC chairwoman reaffirmed her commitment to net neutrality at a conference on Friday.
WASHINGTON, June 28, 2022 – At a conference hosted by the American Library Association on Friday, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel reaffirmed her support for net neutrality rules.
According to a press release, Rosenworcel stated she wants to make a “return to common carrier regulation of internet service providers which aims to prevent ISPs from slowing down or blocking web traffic.”
Rosenworcel “fully backs” net neutrality rules passed under the Obama administration that were repealed during the Trump administration. “I opposed the last administration’s effort to roll it back, and I want it to once again become the law of the land,” she stated at the ALA.
A press release calls Rosenworcel ’s statement on net neutrality the “hallmark of her tenure” and says she faces opposition in her attempt to bring back net neutrality rules.
“It is just wrong for the internet to have slow lanes for people with less money,” Patty Wong, president of the ALA, said at the conference.
Better coordination needed for receiver performance
On Monday, non-partisan think tank TechPolicy urged more coordination by the Federal Communications Commission with other agencies to better utilize spectrum assets during its receiver performance study, filing comments in response to the commission’s public consultation about that matter.
“The Commission has a considerable expertise and prior work to review in assessing whether it has the statutory authority in this area, and how to best incentivize all parties to build more robust receivers to operate in more and more congested spectrum,” the think tank said.
It suggested engaging with other agencies, such as the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, as well as users of government receivers.
James Dunstan, general counsel of TechFreedom, stated, “the FCC cannot fine-tune spectrum management with only half the orchestra.” He added that if the FCC does not engage with government users, “there will be little progress made toward finding broad solutions to increased spectrum congestion.”
The FCC and the NTIA have already agreed earlier this year to coordinate on spectrum management.
Ookla finds Starlink increased speeds by 38 percent over the past year
Metrics company Ookla said Tuesday that, according to its review of Starlink satellite broadband service in the first quarter, the company saw an increase of 38 percent in internet performance in the United States over the past year, said a press release.
However, the company’s analysis also showed that Starlink’s upload speeds decreased nearly 33 percent in the U.S. from 16.29 Mbps in 2021 to 9.33 in 2022.
Ookla notes that even as consumers choose Starlink, competitors are not far behind. It mentioned as key developments FCC approval for Amazon’s Project Kuiper to test its satellite service this year, and Viasat getting closer to merging with Inmarsat for a constellation launch next year.
- FCC Opens Broadband Data Collection Program
- FCC Commissioner Supports Rural Telco Efforts to Implement ‘Rip and Replace’
- States Must Ease Zoning, Permit Regulations for Broadband Buildouts
- Broadband Prices Decline, AT&T’s Fiber Build in Texas, Conexon Partners for Build in Georgia
- Leo Matysine: The Impact of C-Band on Advancements in Mobile and Fixed Broadband
- Proposed Antitrust Legislation Not the Way to Regulate Big Tech, Panelists Say
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