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O’Rielly ‘Perplexed’ By Delay in Rosenworcel Decision, China Mobile Domesticating Contracts, AT&T Partners with Frontier

Former FCC commissioner confused by Biden, China Mobile only choosing Huawei and ZTE, and AT&T partners with Frontier.

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Former FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly

October 7, 2021 – Former Federal Communications Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said in a tweet that he is “completely perplexed” that President Joe Biden has not made permanent Jessica Rosenworcel as the agency’s head.

In the tweet, O’Rielly, who was speaking at the 6G World Symposium, said in an attached video that “there can be no greater progressive mindset in Liberal activist than Jessica Rosenworcel. She embodies those visions and principles and I respect her for those. I don’t agree with her on many of those, but you have somebody that actually knows the substance and actually can carry forward and make the agency work for those purposes.”

O’Rielly, who is a Republican and Rosenworcel a Democrat, said the current chairwoman is a friend of his and that he would “love for this [Biden] administration to pick some newbie that hasn’t been involved in these issues; I think that would just set them back a couple of years.

“I don’t understand the hesitancy on someone so committed and focused on the issues,” he said, adding “I don’t understand why someone who is so capable is – for the vision and for the activities – being set aside.”

Rosenworcel – who was selected by Biden following his presidential inauguration as the interim leader following the departure of Ajit Pai – has had lawmakers vouch for her permanency. In a letter last month, senators representing 17 states asked Biden to solidify Rosenworcel.

Biden has a number of other options to make as FCC chair, as some have also speculated that Gigi Sohn, a former agency staffer with a track record on telecom-related issues, could be a frontrunner.

China Mobile limits vendor contracts to Huawei and ZTE

China Mobile is limiting its vendor contracts to Chinese telecoms Huawei and ZTE, according to a report from Light Reading.

The contracts are for equipment and services from the large telecom equipment makers for its 4G and 5G core network, the report said, citing Chinese media.

Other major competitors in the telecommunications equipment space are Sweden’s Ericsson, Finland’s Nokia and South Korea’s Samsung.

The decision follows Canada’s Innovation Minister telling the company it must divest from the country on national security grounds, but the two events are not clearly related. China Mobile is challenging the decision in federal court.

China Mobile was established in Canada in 2015 and had a partnership agreement with large Canadian telecom Telus to sell plans on Telus’ network. It said it cannot have influence on Canada’s networks because it does not operate any networks in the country.

Canada has yet to decide whether it wants to ban Huawei from the country’s core 5G networks due to concerns about ties to the Communist government.

AT&T partners with Frontier on business fiber outside its footprint

AT&T has reached a multi-year deal with Frontier Communications to bring fiber to large businesses outside of its footprint and support AT&T’s 5G network.

The deal will see AT&T use Frontier’s fiber network – where AT&T doesn’t have that kind of infrastructure – to reach business customers in 25 states, according to a Wednesday press release. The deal will also see the two partner to “strengthen” nationwide deployment of its 5G network, including using Frontier’s ethernet network to improve connectivity between cell towers and its core network.

“With Frontier building out its own fiber network where we are not building, we’ll be able to work together to provide large business customers with the high-speed, low-latency data connectivity they need to grow and thrive,” Scott Mair, president of network engineering and operations at AT&T, said in the release “As demand for broadband connectivity grows, we will be able to plug and play into Frontier’s network to support businesses and help grow our 5G mobility network for consumers.”

AT&T said it is expanding the fiber infrastructure in its own footprint to reach 2.5 million customer locations by the end of the year and 30 million locations by the end of 2025.

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

Commerce Vote on Sohn Wednesday, Facebook Abandoning its Crypto Technology, Low EBB Awareness

The Senate Commerce Committee will vote on Sohn’s renomination after confirmation efforts stalled last year.

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Photo of Gigi Sohn from March 2011 by the Stanford Center for Internet and Society used with permission

January 28, 2022 – On Wednesday the Senate Commerce Committee will vote on President Joe Biden’s nomination of Gigi Sohn to the Federal Communications Commission.

Sohn, the co-founder of intellectual property nonprofit Public Knowledge, was renominated by Biden earlier this month after the Commerce committee failed to advance her nomination at the end of last year.

Much of the opposition to Sohn’s nomination has centered around Republican pushback on comments Sohn had made about conservative media.

Additionally on Wednesday, the committee will vote on Biden’s nominee to the Federal Trade Commission Alvaro Bedoya.

Like Sohn, Bedoya saw his nomination stalled late last year as Republicans opposed comments he had made on conservative media.

Both the FCC and FTC are split 2-2 in terms of the partisanship of their voting members, limiting the ability of their Democratic chairs to enact their policy agendas.

Facebook’s cryptocurrency project fizzles

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that Facebook is selling the technology behind the Diem Association, the company’s cryptocurrency project, amid concerns over its ability to provide security and privacy.

Silvergate Capital Corporation, a California bank that works with bitcoin and blockchain companies, will reportedly buy the technology for $200 million.

In an earlier effort to appease regulators the bank and Diem had agreed to issue some stablecoins, which are considered less volatile and are backed by hard dollars.

Diem, previously called Libra, was originally conceived as a simple way for users to spend money and partnered with PayPal, Visa and Stripe to demonstrate institutional financial backing to officials and distance the venture from Facebook as criticisms against the platform mounted.

In October 2019, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told U.S. House members that he would support delaying the cryptocurrency’s release until all regulators approved of it.

AT&T survey on Emergency Broadband Benefit’s reach

An AT&T-commissioned survey found that as of October 2021 a majority of individuals in the company’s 21-state footprint were not aware of the Emergency Broadband Benefit, Fierce Telecom reported Wednesday.

Only 12% of survey respondents were aware of the program started by the FCC during the coronavirus pandemic to help fund low-income people’s internet connectivity.

The survey also found disparities in program awareness between different age groups and ethnicities.

Since administration of the survey, the EBB has been converted into the permanent Affordable Connectivity Program with Congress’ passage of its bipartisan infrastructure bill in November 2021.

The EBB was able to gain the participation of most internet service providers and roll over their participation to the ACP once it became available at the start of this year.

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FCC Axes China Unicom, Tucows Has New Software Business, Texas County Broadband Initiative

The FCC on Thursday revoked the operating authorization of China Unicom, in latest effort to weed out national security threats.

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Tucows CEO Elliot Noss

January 27, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday revoked the operating authority of telecom China Unicom Americas due to national security concerns.

In the press release, which coincided with the commission’s January open meeting, the FCC said China Unicom Americas must discontinue domestic and international services in the U.S. within 60 days of the order.

The decision was made, the release said, after nearly a year of review of the company’s responses to inquiries, the public record and a public interest analysis following a March 2021 finding by the commission that the company “failed to dispel serious concerns” about its ties to the Communist government in China.

The decision, which comes after an FCC vote in October to revoke the operating license of China Telecom, is part of a larger effort by the agency and President Joe Biden’s administration to weed out national security risks.

Tucows new communication service software

Toronto-based telecom Tucows on Thursday launched Wavelo, a software business it says will help other telecommunications companies aspects of their business, including the network and subscription and billing management.

“In today’s competitive landscape, operators need optionality from their software,” Wavelo CEO Justin Riley said. “They deserve solutions that keep pace with their network innovation and that are flexible enough to integrate seamlessly within their existing operations. Wavelo was launched to do just that.”

Gray County, Texas developing plan for better broadband

The Gray County Broadband Committee is asking the broader community Thursday for input through a survey on how it should develop a “technology action plan that will provide both immediate and long-term solutions for improving internet access.”

The committee, which includes stakeholders in business, education, government and healthcare, said in a press release it hopes to “identify unique challenges and opportunities for expanding high-speed internet” in the county.

The county said it is partnering with Connected Nation Texas on the initiative, which is funded by the Texas Rural Funders

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Fear of Big Tech in Auto Industry, Montana Hires Lightbox, USTelecom Hires Media Affairs Director

Technology advocacy groups are concerned about big technology companies entering the auto industry.

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Montana Governor Greg Gianforte

January 26, 2022 – A letter signed by nearly 30 technology advocacy groups and sent to government and agency officials Tuesday is warning of the dangers of tech companies entering the automobile industry, The Hill reports.

“Make no mistake: The expansion of Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook into the auto sector spells trouble for workers and consumers…As automation expands, these [auto workers] jobs are at risk and Big Tech cannot be trusted to lead that transition,” the letter said, according to the report.

Recipients of the letter signed by the likes of the American Economic Liberties Project and Demand Progress include Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, and Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Lina Khan.

The Hill also reports that the groups are concerned about the treatment and usage of data and private information if these big technology companies do successfully expand their reach.

The letter comes as lawmakers and government agencies wrestle with what to do about the future of antitrust.

Montana is taking mapping matters into their own hands

Montana’s Department of Administration said Monday that is has hired location analytics company Lightbox to build a statewide broadband map, following in the footsteps of Georgia and Alabama in getting ahead of federal efforts to improving insight into what areas are underserved.

“The completed map will provide a detailed analysis of current broadband service levels throughout Montana while protecting proprietary data and will be used for allocating $266 million to unserved and underserved communities throughout Montana,” a press release said.

“Lightbox is a proven national leader in cost effective and efficient detailed mapping for state level broadband programs,” said Department of Administration Director Misty Ann Giles in the release. “This platform will serve as a key component to help ConnectMT reach its goal of deploying broadband throughout Montana to bridge the digital divide.”

Montana, which began searching for a data platform in October, is listed on data platform BroadbandNow as the worst state for broadband coverage and access, according to a November report.

USTelecom hires new senior director of media affairs and digital engagement

USTelecom, an association that represents telecom-related businesses, announced Wednesday the appointment of Emma Christman to senior director of media affairs and digital engagement.

Christman is joining the USTelecom communications team after working as the director of external affairs and engagement at Glen Echo Group. While there, USTelecom says she provided “a range of clients strategic counsel, content creation, media outreach and other services.”

Prior to her time at Glen Echo Group, Christman worked at Dewey Square Group as a senior associate and at Mobile Future as a community outreach director.

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