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Ajit Pai’s Views on IIJA, Outreach Needed for Broadband Adoption, Meta Voted ‘Worst Company’

The former FCC chairman said mapping issues need to be resolved before money leaves the door.

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Former FCC Chairman Ajit Pai

WASHINGTON, December 21, 2021 – Ajit Pai, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, provided his perspective in a podcast on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, pitfalls he thinks it could encounter, and his hopes for how it will function.

“[The IIJA represents] a unique opportunity for the United States to close the digital divide,” said Pai in an interview with Infrastructure Investor published Tuesday.

Despite the opportunity that may exist, Pai identified mapping as a potential complicating factor, stating that states will not get money until the FCC completes better mapping efforts.

He said that this is a frustration that is a holdover from his time at the FCC, where he felt that the organization was never allocated the resources necessary to make sufficiently granular and accurate maps.

“This is one area I hope private capital can help solve the problem.” In order to improve the state of broadband mapping in the U.S., Pai advocated for enhanced relationships between private companies, the NTIA, and states.

Pai also offered some criticism and advice. He stated that he felt as though the IIJA had a disproportionate amount of emphasis on last mile infrastructure, and not enough on the middle, transport mile. “That part, I wish, had gotten a little more attention.”

He also advised grant makers to not set a single, “one size fits all” approach, regardless of the communities they serve. “Flexibility from the grant makers is critical,” Pai said. “Every jurisdiction is different.”

Pai advised against price regulation, noting that although affordable broadband is the goal the effort, “[affordability] needs to be addressed though market-based tools such as competition.”

Experts believe community trust and digital literacy are critical to improving broadband adoption

At an event on Thursday, experts said there needs to be more public awareness and digital literacy campaigns for broadband adoption among seniors.

Susan Corbett, founder and executive director of the National Digital Equity Center, said at Fierce Telecom’s Digital Divide Summit Thursday that to reach the most senior members of communities, concerted action would need to be taken.

She advocated for efforts that would improve communities’ awareness of the resources that are available to get them more connected.

“I think having public awareness campaigns to educate people, how to apply for affordable broadband, what are the resources for affordable devices and for digital literacy classes, where is public access available – we need strong public awareness campaigns as we start to roll out more digital inclusion efforts across the country,” she said.

She also advocated for increased collaborations with local anchor institutions to assist in adult education programs, “Partnerships [and] collaboration is really important,” she said. “It is really the boots on the ground, and it is the individualized attention of every individual that matters. There is no one size fits all, so you have to be flexible enough to meet anyone who needs [help].”

President and CEO of the Enterprise Center Deb Socia added that those offering assistance also need to be willing to listen to those they are trying to help.

“We need to reach people where they are and we need to figure out what their interests are,” she said. “We should not be providing training, assuming we know what people need. We should ask people what they need and provide that as support.”

Socia went on, emphasizing the role that people within communities need to play for these efforts to be successful.

“When we are doing outreach in the community. We are not necessarily the people who own the trust. We need to have a broker in the community that is trusted by the folks who live in that community, and we need to partner with them to create a collaboration that allows us to provide resources and support to the community members.”

Yahoo Finance survey dubs Meta/Facebook ‘worst company of 2021’

Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta, formerly known as Facebook, was voted worst company of the year, according to a write-in survey hosted by Yahoo Finance.

The survey had more than 1,500 respondents, with eight percent of respondents indicating that they believed Meta/Facebook was the worst company of 2021.

These results come amidst Meta’s attempts to run damage control and rebrand in the wake of significant controversy. On Oct. 5 2021, Frances Haugen testified before Congress, outing herself as a whistleblower and accusing Facebook of using “a system that amplifies division, extremism, and polarization — and undermining societies around the world.”

Less than a month later on Oct. 28, Facebook, Inc. changed its name to Meta Platforms, Inc..

Broadband Roundup

National Privacy Law, Digital Infrastructure Firm’s $8B Raise, Wicker Wants Spectrum Cooperation

Business groups are asking Congress to supersede state laws by passing privacy legislation that sets a national standard.

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Senator Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi

January 19, 2022 – As states begin to pass their own privacy laws, business groups are asking the federal government to pass legislation that would mitigate confusion by creating a national standard, reports MediaPost Communications.

The Association of National Advertisers, Interactive Advertising Bureau, and the U.S. Chamber of Congress are just a few of the business groups that are asking for a national privacy law.

“As the Federal Trade Commission considers a privacy rulemaking that would add a further layer of complexity to the state patchwork, it is critical that Congress pass one single national standard”, the groups stated in a letter that was signed by 15 national organizations and then by local business groups from across the country, the MediaPost report said.

California, Virginia, and Colorado are just a few of the states that have passed their own version of a privacy law, and while they all serve a similar purpose, they have various nuances that the business groups said they believe will be difficult to navigate for their businesses and for consumers across state lines, MediaPost reports.

In addition, there are members of Congress who are also asking for a national plan for consumer privacy.

Digital infrastructure firm DigitalBridge raises over $8 billion

DigitalBridge Investment Management, an investment firm in digital infrastructure, raised a higher-than-expected $8.3 billion, according to a Wednesday press release, illustrating interest in projects including fiber builds.

“The Fund has already invested in nine portfolio companies across towers, easements, hyperscale data centers, edge infrastructure, indoor DAS infrastructure and fiber, running reliable, mission-critical network infrastructure for many of the world’s leading hyperscale cloud providers and mobile network operators,” the release said.

The round comes as the federal government pushing billions of dollars into infrastructure, including broadband and as the pandemic has shown a need for remote capabilities driven by broadband.

Republican lawmaker calls for NTIA-FCC cooperation on spectrum

Senator Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, sent a letter earlier this month to the head of the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration asking them to consider a renewed agreement to work together on spectrum management.

The January 13 letter to FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and new NTIA head Alan Davidson said their “relationship can be strengthened” on matters related to the shared use of radiowaves between federal and non-federal users by refreshing the memorandum of understanding that was last updated in 2003.

“In light of recent disputes over spectrum allocations, it is more important than ever that the [FCC and NTIA] work together to promote spectrum policy that best serves the dual goals of furthering commercial innovation and enabling the mission-critical operations of federal agencies,” the letter said.

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Broadband Roundup

Airlines’ 5G Warning, 3.45 GHz Winners, Bongino YouTube Suspension

Airlines claim the need to cancel a many flights because of interference between altimeters and 5G transmitters.

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Dan Bongino
Conservative commentator Dan Bongino

January 18, 2022 — Major American airlines are saying that they will need to cancel a significant number of flights from possible interference between aircraft altimeters and 5G signals this week, according to multiple news reports.

Verizon and AT&T, which are deploying 5G services around airports using the C-band spectrum, had already agreed to a deployment delay earlier this month at the behest of the airlines, but are planning of turning on service this week.

The signals that come from the 5G service risk “interfering with safety equipment pilots rely on to take off and land inclement weather,” said the CEOs of major American airlines in a letter to United States officials, according to NBC News.

“The nation’s commerce will grind to a halt” and leave “tens of thousands of Americans” stranded overseas, the letter said, adding “immediate intervention is needed to avoid significant operational disruption to air passengers, shippers, supply chain and delivery of needed medical supplies.’”

Industry group Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association stated that “5G is safe and the spectrum is currently in use in nearly 40 other nations.”

FCC announces winning bidders in 3.45 GHz auction

The Federal Communications Commission announced Friday the winning bidders for the 3.45 GHz auction, frequencies important for 5G services.

The top five winners were AT&T with winning bids worth just over $9 billion; Weminuche  won bids worth just over $7 billion; T-Mobile took nearly $3 billion worth; Three Forty-Five Spectrum nabbed $1.4 billion worth; and United States Cellular Corp took licenses valued at nearly $600 million.

According to a press release from the FCC, 13 of the 23 companies that won bids are “small businesses or as entities serving rural communities.”

Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said that enabling “commercial use of this spectrum is important to America’s continuing economic recovery and 5G leadership.” The gross proceeds of this auction were over $22.5 billion.

Dan Bongino latest conservative voice ousted from tech platform

Alphabet’s YouTube temporarily suspended conservative commentator Dan Bongino‘s channel due to misinformation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, making him the latest voice from the right to be removed for that purpose.

The Hill reported that Bongino declared masks “useless” in the fight against COVID-19, which was in direct violation of YouTube’s COVID-19 policy, which “specifically prohibits content denying the effectiveness of wearing masks, which the vast majority of the scientific community agrees reduces the risk of infection.”

The suspension, which includes him being removed from a program that allows him to get paid for his uploads, lasts a week with a second offense leading to a two-week suspension, and a third to a permanent ban.

The ban follows social media company Twitter’s removal of Georgia Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, which was followed by Republican Kentucky Senator Rand Paul removing himself from YouTube earlier this month.

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Broadband Roundup

January 6 Committee Social Media Subpoenas, Iranian Hacks, Google Ad Auctions Lawsuit

Lawmakers chastised the companies for providing little information in response to past committee inquiries.

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Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.

January 14, 2021 – The House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol has issued subpoenas to social media giants Alphabet, Meta, Reddit and Twitter, saying the companies’ responses to prior requests for information were inadequate.

The committee had previously reached out to the companies to assess their knowledge of misinformation, efforts to overturn the 2020 election, domestic extremism and foreign influence in the 2020 election that may have taken place on their platforms.

Central to the inquiry is whether the companies took any steps to “prevent their platforms from being breeding grounds for radicalizing people to violence,” said committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.

Iranian intelligence agency engaged in international hacks

U.S. Cyber Command said Wednesday that hacking group MuddyWaters is part of an Iranian intelligence agency which is responsible for several global cyberattacks.

The group, identified as part of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security, has been labeled an “Iranian threat group” by authorities.

The information comes following a year of increased cyberattack activity from abroad in the U.S. including the prominent breach at Colonial Pipeline involving hackers with ties to Russia.

Allegedly, the group has targeted nations across the Middle East, Europe and North America in efforts to surveil opponents.

According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, between 2013 and 2017, Iranian hackers stole $3.4 billion in intellectual property from 170 universities and targeted U.S. officials and journalists as well as United Kingdom banks.

Google alleged to have misled publishers and advertisers

Newly unredacted allegations in a lawsuit by state attorneys general say that Google for years misled publishers and advertisers about pricing and processes in its ad auctions.

The lawsuit says Google created secret programs which deflated sales for some companies while increasing buyer prices, engaging in trust and monopoly-building activities.

The unredacted filing of the lawsuit occurred Friday in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York after a judge ruled and amended complaint from last year could be unsealed.

Google says the lawsuit is “full of inaccuracies and lacks legal merit,” and intends to file a motion for its dismissal next week, asserting that its advertising practices are competitive.

The suit is led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and joined by over a dozen other states, alleging that Google’s practices inflate advertising costs which in turn create higher-priced products for consumers.

A separate antitrust case exists against Google from the U.S. Justice Department and over three dozen state attorneys general focusing on the company’s search services.

Additionally, a proposed bipartisan bill in the Senate with the support of a dozen lawmakers would treat Google’s search engine like a railroad operator and ban it from advantaging its own products and services at the expense of other businesses that rely on the platforms – just part of an ongoing adversarial relationship between Congress and the tech company.

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