November 18, 2021 – Rural broadband advocates say federal broadband programs need to beef up their accountability of new funding.
Calling for a closer watch on the quality of service ISPs deliver to rural communities, Craig Settles said Thursday that people working for greater broadband access are worried that the accountability “won’t get any better” with the $65 billion in broadband spending enacted on Monday.
Speaking with Settles on the government’s past funding accountability mistakes, Christopher Ali, author of a recent book about rural broadband policy missteps, said that despite the $47 billion spent on rural broadband deployment between 2009 and 2017, the pandemic “painfully and dramatically exposed the gaps in broadband connectivity.”
Part of the problem, Ali says, is that the FCC inefficiently spent funding over the past six years. In 2015, the FCC launched the Connect America Fund, Phase 2. “They had a billion dollars a year to spend for six years, 2015 to 2021,” he said. “CAF morphed to the $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund in 2021. Rather than do a reverse auction, or ask communities or states for guidance, the FCC simply gave this money to the 10 largest telecommunications providers.”
Settles argues that to execute these funding programs and enforce accountability, grant winners should be held to their promises. Further, staff at every federal and state agency responsible for broadband infrastructure grants need to “grow a collective steel spine and enforce a mandate.” Hire compliance enforcers from the communities receiving funding, people who have had their phone or cable cut off,” he said.
Newsom announces broadband projects in California
California Governor Gavin Newsom announced new broadband projects to advance connectivity in the state.
The governor announced Wednesday that the state will begin 18 projects as part of California’s historic $6-billion broadband investment under its California Comeback Plan.
The projects will establish an open-access middle-mile network that will fill missing infrastructure paths, with the goal of connecting the global internet to last-mile infrastructure, the final leg providing internet service to a customer.
The projects are based on known unserved and underserved areas across the state, defined by the state as areas that do not reliably have speeds of 25 Megabits per second download and 3 Mbps upload. The state selected project areas using consideration of public comments, prioritization of unserved or underserved areas of the state, and inclusion of tribal communities, cities and counties.
“These projects are the first step to delivering on our historic investment that will ensure all Californians have access to high-quality broadband internet, while also creating new jobs to support our nation-leading economic recovery” said Governor Newsom.
Projects are starting in the following areas: Alpine County; Amador County; Calaveras County; Central Coast; Coachella Valley; Colusa Area; Inyo County; Kern County; Kern/San Luis Obispo Area; Lake County Area; Los Angeles and South Los Angeles; Oakland; Orange County; Plumas Area; Riverside/San Diego Area; San Bernardino County; Siskiyou Area; and West Fresno.
Kamala Harris touts broadband progress in Wisconsin
Vice President Kamala Harris said broadband internet is coming to Wisconsin.
Harris said Tuesday that addressing internet connectivity issues are key challenges for communities in the state. The situation will change as the Joe Biden administration distributes funds from the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package signed into law on Monday.
“We are really focused on what we need to do around issues like internet and accessible and affordable high-speed internet. This is a big issue, I know, for the people in Milwaukee and again around the country,” Harris said in an interview with the Journal Sentinel. “We want to meet the need in each of those geographical locations, rural and urban,” Harris said.
The infrastructure bill will provide at least $100 million to connect at least 318,000 Wisconsin homes. Additionally, around 1.2 million Wisconsinites may be eligible for a “$30 a month voucher” Harris said, as part of the Affordability Connectivity Benefit coming to the state.
“Those who have access often deal with the challenge of affordability,” Harris added. “And so we intentionally designed the infrastructure act in a way that recognizes that this is a basic issue of infrastructure.”
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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