November 5, 2021 – House Democrats are attempting to secure enough members to pass key facets of President Joe Biden’s economic agenda in votes Friday.
Moderate and swing-district Democrats in the House caucus have presented final challenges to the passage of Biden’s $1.85 trillion social safety net bill out of fear over its effects on their electoral futures following a rough election night for the Democratic Party.
Voting on this reconciliation bill was postponed from its intended Thursday night timeline with Democratic leadership now planning to pass the bill in a vote alongside Congress’ $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill Friday.
Centrist Democrats have asked Speaker Nancy Pelosi for additional time to review the latest version of the reconciliation legislation after weeks of party infighting and changes to the bill, expressing hesitancy over provisions such as some federal benefits for undocumented immigrants.
“We’re going to pass both bills,” said Pelosi at her weekly news conference on Thursday. “But in order to do so, we have to have votes for both bills.”
House progressives have repeatedly contended that without approval of the reconciliation bill, they would torpedo any vote on the bipartisan infrastructure framework passed by the Senate in August. This week, progressives signaled a readiness to support both the current version of reconciliation and the infrastructure bill.
Hurdles for 5G release
AT&T and Verizon agreed to halt their rollouts of 5G until January due to fears over interference with aircraft technology, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The Federal Aviation Administration plans to research whether the telecom companies’ new network technology will disrupt cockpit safety systems.
Because of potential interference where 5G towers have already been installed, the FAA already plans to implement mandates that limit use of automated cockpit systems which assist landings in poor weather.
AT&T and Verizon’s announcement came at the request of the Department of Transportation to allow the FAA time to carry out its intended studies.
The two companies have spent billions of dollars to purchase licenses for airwaves that support 5G in efforts to improve upon the speed of their existing 4G networks.
The Journal states that despite telecom companies’ seeming compliance with DoT requests, they are skeptical that 5G networks would ultimately interfere with flight equipment.
Cybersecurity Mandate Pushback
Key players in the transportation industry expressed opposition Thursday to cybersecurity reporting mandates proposed by the Transportation Security Administration.
The mandates aim to counter increasing numbers of ransomware attacks, including a focus on solidifying timelines for required reporting of attacks in the rail and aviation sectors.
Leaders of transportation entities have expressed dissatisfaction over the breadth of content that mandates will require be reported.
“There is not a problem with reporting and mandates for reporting, the problem becomes what are we reporting,” said Michael Stephens, general counsel and executive vice president of Tampa International Airport, before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Organizations such as the Association of American Railroads worry that with so much information being reported, true security threats will be drowned out and become difficult to recognize. The association contends that there is no present security threat serious enough to require extremely extensive and expedited incident reports.
These latest TSA actions have received much Republican criticism despite generally bipartisan, bicameral efforts at implementing reporting requirements after a large spike in cyber attacks of schools, government agencies and hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic.
Universal Service Fund Bill, Private-Public Era, USTelecom Expands Team, Giving Tuesday
A bill introduced this month requires the FCC to investigate the need to expand base of Universal Service Fund.
WASHINGTON, November 30, 2021 – Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, has introduced a bill this month to study whether the Universal Service Fund should broaden its contribution base to ensure the contribution requirement is imposed more equitably.
The “Reforming Broadband Connectivity Act of 2021” – co-introduced with Sens. John Thune, R-South Dakota, John Hickenlooper, D-Colorado, and Jerry Moran, R-Kansas – requires that the Federal Communications Commission conduct a study on assessing the need to expand the contribution base of the USF, a program that funds basic telecommunications services to rural, remote and low-income communities, and to submit a report to Congress on the results.
The legislation asks to “ensure that the contribution requirement” under the Communications Act of 1934 is “imposed fairly and equitably.”
The bill has been read twice and was referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. If the bill is passed in the committee, it will move on to a vote in the Senate. Should it pass with no amendments, the bill will then move onto the House where it will be voted on again.
The bill was introduced to the Senate on Nov. 18, 2021, and as of Tuesday, no further action has been taken on the bill.
On Monday, 254 organizations representing a swath of public interest groups, anchor institutions and telecommunications companies signed a letter to Washington policymakers to sustain the program by broadening the USF’s contribution base – which relies on declining voice service revenues – to include broadband revenues.
New ‘era’ for broadband
In a Tuesday op-ed for the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society, Joanne Hovis, Ryland Sherman, and Marc Schulhof coined the past two years as “The Era of Broadband Public-Private Partnership,” following the “wave” of collaboration between public and private entities as Americans search more desperately than ever for means to bridge the digital divide.
The authors of the op-ed attributed the dawn of this era to four primary components: an influx of capital, a desire to invest in broadband infrastructure at the state and federal level, a sense of urgency to invest in broadband, a newfound willingness to operate with different types of internet service providers.
Though all these conditions existed prior to the pandemic, the authors argue that the pandemic was largely responsible for driving much of the urgency and demonstrated “to American policymakers the absolute need for plentiful connectivity and the crises faced by those who don’t have it — and simultaneously demonstrated to private investors the economic potential of best-in-class, future-proof broadband.”
In the view of the authors, public-private efforts represent win-win situations, whereby consumers are able to finally get the broadband coverage they need, and private entities are able to receive a greater return on their investment that may not otherwise be possible in certain regions and communities.
“The potential for public-private collaboration changes that binary and attracts private investment to areas where return is low or nonexistent but can be improved through collaboration with the local community,” the op-ed states. “And the potential for collaboration unlocks local public investment in already-served communities where policymakers want better broadband but prefer to do so in partnership with the private sector.”
The authors also recently published a new report covering these trends.
US Telecom expands their government affairs team
The Broadband Association announced the promotion of Hawley Stanton to senior director of Government Affairs. Additionally, Diana Eisner was made vice president of Policy and Advocacy, and Nicole Henry was made senior director of Government Affairs.
“I am thrilled to welcome new team members Diana Eisner and Nicole Henry and to announce a well-deserved promotion for Hawley Stanton. They are talented, experienced and ready to help advance our shared broadband priorities in 2022 and beyond,” said USTelecom President and CEO Jonathan Spalter.
Giving Tuesday appeals
Organizations from across the telecom industry have rolled out their Giving Tuesday appeals, asking from members of their communities to donate what they can in the wake of the Thanksgiving holiday.
The trend started back in 2012 as a way for communities to show their appreciation, thanks, and charity on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving. In 2020 alone, nearly $2.5 billion was given to various institutions in the U.S.
Though telecom advocacy only makes up a percentage of that total, groups have pointed out how important their work is as the Covid-19 pandemic continues into its third year.
Date Set for Sohn Hearing, Criticism of Tech Legislation, New ILSR Leadership
Sohn and Biden NTIA nominee Alan Davidson will undergo confirmation hearings next Wednesday.
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.”
- Colorado and Virginia Lead In Consumer Privacy Legislation, Still Need Federal Law, Conference Hears
- New York City Broadband Housing Initiative Gets First Completed Project
- Federal Trade Commission Should Make Privacy Rules Against ISP Data Collection, Experts Say
- Universal Service Fund Bill, Private-Public Era, USTelecom Expands Team, Giving Tuesday
- FCC Eliminates Emergency Broadband Benefit Enrollment Freeze
- Advocates Call for Universal Service Fund to Include Broadband Revenues
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