November 24, 2021 – The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for President Joe Biden’s nominee for commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, Gigi Sohn, during a session next Wednesday.
Sohn, a former senior aide to President Barack Obama’s FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, will have her nomination considered along with Alan Davidson, Biden’s nominee to head the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. That same day, the Commerce Committee also plans to vote on the nomination of Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel to another term at the FCC.
Sohn’s nomination has already faced Republican criticism over her liberal policy positions.
Through nine months of the Biden presidency, the FCC has not been able to address key issues due to the vacancy on the commission resulting in a 2-2 split between Democrats and Republicans. Sohn’s confirmation would make for a full slate that prevents tied votes of the commission.
Going forward, net neutrality policy would be a key focus of the FCC, as Rosenworcel told senators during her confirmation hearing that she backed net neutrality rules yet did not offer many details on how she would rollback such rules by President Donald Trump’s administration.
Congress’ regulatory proposals would create even larger tech monopolies than already exist: Opinion
American Enterprise Institute published a blog post Wednesday by nonresident senior fellow Mark Jamison critiquing as unproductive recent government proposals to regulate competition among tech companies.
Jamison states that “dynamic” competition already exists between the companies often cited as the giants of the tech industry and smaller companies, and that proposed government policy could decrease industry competition from its current levels.
In his blog post, Jamison says that the Ending Platform Monopolies Act from Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington, would force Amazon to stop selling its own products, leading it to lose uniqueness and become almost identical to eBay in a digital market that cannot support two identical services. Jamison contends that should one site go under, small businesses would be left with less competitive options than before the introduction of the bill.
Further, Jamison holds that should Amazon comply with the bill and cease operations with small businesses, market statistics show that eBay would face even less competition as a platform for small businesses than Amazon does now.
Jamison said he believes that the Open App Markets Act – brought forth by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota – would make iPhones less secure by requiring that app stores other than Apple’s be permitted on phones. He says this would decrease users’ willingness to try new apps and diminish competition between Apple and Alphabet (Google) for app developers by removing developer options.
New ILSR community broadband outreach team lead
The Community Broadband Networks Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance announced Tuesday that DeAnne Cuellar will serve as Community Broadband Outreach team lead.
Cuellar, a communications strategist, served as San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s digital inclusion appointee to the city’s Innovation and Technology Committee. In her work for the city, she acted on several policy and funding priorities to close the digital divide.
Additionally, she has worked as a social impact entrepreneur, co-founding several cross-sector nonprofit initiatives to advocating for justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in historically underrepresented communities.
The Community Broadband Networks Initiative expects that they will see an increased workload as local, state and federal governments increase their efforts to find broadband solutions and an “unprecedented” amount of funding is made available by the government for broadband infrastructure projects over the next few years.
TPI New Broadband Map, Justice Dept. Stands for Section 230, Ericsson Looks to Acquire Vonage
TPI released their broadband map, which tracks speeds, availability, and adoption rates across the country.
November 23, 2021 – The Technology Policy Institute announced Monday the beta release of their “TPI Broadband Map,” which tracks bandwidth speeds, the availability of broadband, and adoption rates from across the country.
The map allows users to access published data from several sources, including FCC 477 forms, Emergency Broadband Benefit data, Ookla, Microsoft, and more.
The data can also be viewed on several different levels from the state and country level, all the way down to school districts, tribal tracts, and zip codes.
Three metrics can be viewed through the map: average maximum available download and upload speeds and the percent of households with broadband access. Users can also adjust the minimum upload and download speeds to suit their definition of broadband and are able to view the regional data going back to 2016.
During the TPI Aspen Forum in August, panelists agreed that mapping would play a crucial role in ensuring that marginalized, underserved, and unserved communities would get the coverage and resources they need from infrastructure legislation.
Though the website is still in its beta stage, those interested can request temporary access to view the data online.
Justice Department defends Section 230
In a departure from the previous administration’s agenda and President Joe Biden’s own past statements, Biden’s Justice Dept. made a point to defend Section 230 in a lawsuit brought against Facebook by Donald Trump.
In May, Biden had previously revoked one of Trump’s executive orders aimed at dismantling Section 230. Though his campaign and administration used it to a greater extent than many other politicians, Trump was a longtime critic of social media, often accusing it of censoring conservative voices in American politics.
These criticisms came to a head after Trump was banned from Twitter and several other social media outlets in January of 2021.
While on the campaign trail, Biden himself called for the revocation of Section 230.
Notwithstanding Biden’s and Trump’s dissatisfaction with Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the Justice Department intervened to defend the section during litigation surrounding Trump’s Facebook lawsuit – one of three class action lawsuits Trump filed in July against Facebook, Twitter, and Google, along with their CEOs.
Ericsson eyes Vonage
Ericsson, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of 5G technology and hardware, is poised to purchase Vonage, a cloud communications provider, in a deal valued at approximately $6.2 billion.
“Ericsson and Vonage have a shared ambition to accelerate our long-term growth strategy,” said Vonage CEO Rory Read, ““We believe joining Ericsson is in the best interests of our shareholders and is a testament to Vonage’s leadership position in business cloud communications, our innovative product portfolio, and outstanding team.”
Ericsson said it intends to leverage Vonage’s presence in the communication platform as a service, or CPaaS, market to “democratize network access by offering [Application Programming Interface] enabled communications services.” Additionally, Ericsson stated that it expects the CPaaS market to reach $22 billion by 2025, growing 30 percent annually.
Should the deal pass successfully, Vonage will “become a wholly owned subsidiary of Ericsson and will continue to operate under its existing name.”
Broadband in Build Back Better, ISPs Customers Exposed to Hackers, Rural ISP Funding in Louisiana
Another $1 billion in broadband expansion funds could be available in the Build Back Better Act, which passed the House on Friday.
November 22, 2021 — A total of about $1 billion could be made available for broadband under the Build Back Better Act.
Approved by the House on Friday, the $1.7 trillion legislation heads to the Senate for revision this week.
Out of the $1 billion allocated for broadband, the majority of the funds – $475 million – would be used to fund grants for devices like laptops and tablets administered through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, an agency of the Commerce Department. Another $300 million would provide additional funds to the Federal Communications Commission’s Emergency Connectivity Fund, which addresses distance learning needs at schools and libraries, while $100 million would fund the FCC’s outreach and education about its broadband affordability programs.
In its current form, the NTIA would also receive an additional $280 million in grants for public-private pilot projects to increase access to affordable broadband in urban communities.
Meanwhile, $12 million would be used to establish councils for further broadband expansion, including $7 million to create a Future of Telecommunications Council under the Commerce Department that would show how 6G wireless can serve low-income communities, and $5 million to create an Urban and Suburban Broadband Advisory Committee.
The final broadband provisions of the bill may be revised or removed once Senate negotiations begin. To pass the Senate, the bill needs the support of all 50 Democratic Senators and avoid partisan disruption.
Millions of broadband users exposed to hackers
Millions of Sky Broadband customers were vulnerable to hackers for over a year.
A software bug affected about six million of the U.K. company’s routers that allowed hackers to infiltrate home networks, Yahoo reported Friday.
The bug, which has since been fixed, took 18 months to address. A hacker would have been able to “reconfigure a home router” by directing the user to malicious website with a phishing email. According to Pen Test Partners, the security firm that found the bug, hackers could have “taken over someone’s online life” by stealing passwords for banking, investing, and social media.
“We take the safety and security of our customers very seriously,” Sky said.” After being alerted to the risk, we began work on finding a remedy for the problem and we can confirm that a fix has been delivered to all Sky-manufactured products.”
Pen Test Partners Ken Munro said he’s baffled by Sky’s delay in fixing the bug. “While the coronavirus pandemic put many internet service providers under pressure, as people moved to working from home, taking well over a year to fix an easily exploited security flaw simply isn’t acceptable,” he said. Munro recommends that anyone with a router should change the password from the default one.
Rural ISP owner aims to provide internet to rural Louisiana
The owner of a rural Louisiana internet service provider aims to bring broadband to St. Mary county.
Chris Fisher, owner of Cajun Broadband, detailed a grant submission he will submit to the Granting Underserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities program. The program, funded by the Louisiana Office of Broadband Development and Connectivity, oversees spending of $180 million in federal funds to supply broadband to 400,000 households in the state.
Fisher’s grant requests $800,000 to provide internet service to nearly 600 residents in St. Mary county. He says he has been the only ISP to address the county’s council on the opportunity since May.
“I didn’t realize the need for rural broadband until I started my company, which began initially because my kids couldn’t get internet,” Fisher said. Fisher estimates it will cost $10 to $15 million to connect the rural areas of the parish with internet.
A councilmember said that the plan is long overdue. “We’ve talked about this for years, and we all agree that we need to do something to increase access for all of the citizens of our parish, and not just the affluent ones. This is a do or die, once in lifetime opportunity.”
House Passes Reconciliation Bill, State AGs Investigate Instagram, Broadband’s Q3 Rebound
President Biden’s social safety net and climate package now faces hurdles in the Senate.
November 19, 2021 – The House of Representatives on Friday passed President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion social safety net and climate bill by a 220 to 213 margin that largely followed party lines.
The bill faced unanimous Republican opposition, and saw Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine, become the only member of his party to vote against its passage due to his concern over the bill’s increase of the federal deduction for state and local taxes paid.
The package’s passage – which has been dubbed the Build Back Better bill – comes after months of battle between Democrats over specifics of the bill’s provisions.
The bill still must pass the Senate by a simple majority, not subject to filibuster, as a budget reconciliation measure. Efforts to reach an agreement on bill content between House and Senate Democrats before either chamber voted were abandoned amid the party’s protracted infighting.
Changes to the bill in the Senate are expected given the high-profile and much-in-the-public-eye criticism from Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., or Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. Because the chamber is evenly divided between Republicans and senators caucusing with the Democrats, all Democratic votes are necessary – together with the tie-breaking vote by Vice President Kamala Harris, to pass the measure.
State attorneys general inquiry into Instagram
A bipartisan group of 11 state attorneys general has opened an investigation into Meta over body image issues Instagram is believed to cause in teenagers.
The investigation is based off revelations in the Facebook Papers which show survey data suggesting around a third of teenage girls who already feel bad about their bodies feel even worse after using Instagram.
AGs’ investigation is being conducted from the angle of whether Meta has “violated state consumer protection laws and put the public at risk.”
The Facebook Papers, which detail struggles at the company to deal with misinformation, addiction and user manipulation, were first reported on by The Wall Street Journal in October with the help of whistle-blower Frances Haugen.
The Federal Trade Commission has filed a lawsuit against Facebook, while members of Congress have proposed and introduced legislation that combatting the power of the big tech companies, including Google, Amazon and Apple.
Meta has contested reporting on its alleged issues, saying the Facebook Papers were poorly interpreted in public reporting and that the company proactively combats content issues on its platform.
Sense of normalcy for broadband addition numbers
Broadband additions decreased to pre-pandemic levels in Q3 of 2021, says Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, Inc.
The largest U.S. cable and wireline phone providers, representing around 96% of the market, acquired approximately 630,000 net additional broadband internet subscribers in Q3.
1.525 million net subscribers were gained in Q3 of 2020, 615,000 during the same period in 2019 and 600,000 during 2018’s same time period.
These 2021 numbers account for about 41% of their respective 2020 figures.
These top broadband providers now count approximately 107.9 million subscribers.
Leichtman Research Group is a New Hampshire-based specialist broadband, media and entertainment industry research and analysis firm.
- FCC Watchdog Finds Evidence of Fraud in Emergency Broadband Benefit
- Date Set for Sohn Hearing, Criticism of Tech Legislation, New ILSR Leadership
- TPI New Broadband Map, Justice Dept. Stands for Section 230, Ericsson Looks to Acquire Vonage
- Verizon, TracFone Deal Gets FCC and California Approval
- Broadband Breakfast on December 15, 2021 — Public-Private Partnerships and Broadband Deployment
- Broadband Breakfast on December 8, 2021 — Implementation of the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act
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