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.
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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