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Police Oppose Gigi Sohn, Instagram’s White Supremacist Content, FCC Interagency Group Staff

Fraternal Order of Police said they oppose Gigi Sohn’s nomination for FCC commissioner for her support of end-to-end encryption.

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Patrick Yoes, Fraternal Order of Police President. JONATHAN ERNST/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Fraternal Order of Police National President Patrick Yoes

December 13, 2021­­ – The National Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) voiced its opposition to Gigi Sohn’s nomination to serve as commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission.

Citing “serious public safety considerations,” the law enforcement organization wrote Monday to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Chairman Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, and Senator Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, urging the committee to deny Sohn’s confirmation.

The FOP is concerned about Sohn’s advocacy for technology, such as end-to-end encryption –which is used by communications apps like Facebook’s WhatsApp – that law enforcement advocates say places barriers to investigating crimes.

“Specifically speaking, the FOP and many others in the law enforcement community at large are deeply troubled by the active and enthusiastic leadership role of Ms. Sohn as a board member for Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in their forceful advocacy of end-to-end encryption and “user-only-access”—often referred to in the law enforcement world as “going dark,” the FOP said in a press statement.

“These new encryption methods for communications are causing Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies to rapidly lose the capability to obtain information necessary to protect the public from crime and violence,” the FOP said in a press statement.

Referencing FBI Director Christopher Wray’s September U.S. House testimony, the FOP used an example of the FBI failing to access any information on the terrorist’s phone because of the service providers’ user only-access features.

“End-to-end encryption and “user-only access” that precludes lawful access to the content of communications in any situation creates a grave and potentially life-threatening risk,” the organization said.

Technology policy lawyer Berin Szoka, however, said on Twitter that the FCC “doesn’t have anything to do with encryption of Internet services,” and that end-to-end encryption is not only used to protect the privacy of Americans, but for their security and that of the nation.

FCC seeking nominations for interagency group

The Federal Communications Commission released a notice Friday seeking nominations for membership in its Telecommunications Interagency Working Group.

As mandated by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the working group is being formed by the FCC chairwoman in partnership with the Secretary of Labor “to develop recommendations to address the workforce needs of the telecommunications industry.”

The chairwoman will choose four members of the working group from “outside organizations in various categories, including an industry association, a tribal organization, a rural telecommunications carrier, and a contractor firm.”

The working group will also include membership by public interest advocates for tower climber safety, a representative of a higher educational institution, an NTIA representative, and other agency appointees.

The group will, among other activities, “identify potential policies and programs that could encourage and improve coordination among federal agencies, between Federal agencies and States, and among States, on telecommunications workforce needs; identify ways in which existing Federal programs, including programs that help facilitate the employment of veterans and military personnel transitioning into civilian life, could be leveraged to help address the workforce needs of the telecommunications industry; and identify ways to improve recruitment in workforce development programs in the telecommunications industry,” the notice said.

The FCC seeks nominations by December 20, 2021 for membership on the working group.

Instagram hosting white supremacist content, ADL says

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) issued a new report Thursday finding that extremist content remains easily accessible on Instagram.

ADL’s Center on Extremism (COE) researchers found accounts sharing white supremacist content simply by searching Instagram for terms related to the white supremacist and neo-Nazi movements despite measures by Instagram to reduce visibility of extremist content.

In August 2021, Instagram issued an update to add features for minimizing abuse. The company also reiterated a zero-tolerance policy for hate speech and abuse content, yet COE researchers could search hateful terms with hashtags, which has the potential to expose users to extremist posts from multiple accounts, it said.

COE researchers entered one extremist term and found five white supremacist accounts. They were quickly able to locate another 50 accounts sharing white supremacist content. By the third tier of followers, COE researchers located more than 200 public Instagram accounts that “branched out to other white supremacist themes, including traditionalism and white nationalism,” said ADL.

“The Instagram accounts found by COE researchers effectively serve as a springboard into accelerationist ideology, providing easy access and pathways to increasingly extremist content. Furthermore, after viewing these accounts and their networks, the COE account was targeted exclusively by ‘suggestions’ to follow white supremacist accounts, not limited to accelerationist content,” it said.

Broadband Roundup

USDA Hires Lumen, Ligado Marketing Services, IRS Facial ID, New Public Knowledge Hire

The Department of Agriculture awarded Lumen a $1.2-billion, 11-year contract for data services.

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Lumen President and CEO Jeff Storey

January 20, 2022 – On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a $1.2-billion network services contract with telecom Lumen Technologies.

The 11-year contract will provide the department with data transport service with remote access and cloud connectivity, leveraging Lumen’s fiber network to connect 9,500 USDA locations across the country and abroad to better manage agriculture in the country, the press release said.

“Lumen is bringing modern technology solutions that will make it easier for the USDA to accomplish its mission of promoting the production of nutritious food that nourishes our people, providing economic opportunity to rural Americans, and preserving our nation’s natural resources through smart forest and watershed conservation,” said Zain Ahmed, Lumen’s public sector senior vice president.

The contract was granted under the General Services Administration’s $50-billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions program.

Ligado Networks and Select Spectrum to strengthen critical networks

Mobile communications company Ligado Networks and spectrum brokerage and advisory firm Select Spectrum announced an agreement on Tuesday that will market and sell Ligado’s mid-band spectrum services for critical infrastructure.

“We know the critical infrastructure sector has an urgent need for dedicated access to licensed spectrum, and our mid-band spectrum, with both satellite and terrestrial connectivity, is uniquely positioned to meet this need and empower companies to operate private networks on a long-term basis,” said Ligado Networks’ CEO Doug Smith in a press release.

According to the agreement, Select Spectrum will search for those seeking to use Ligado’s licensed spectrum in the 1.6 GHz band in order to provide 5G capabilities to projects like power grid modernization and advanced transportation initiatives.

IRS to require facial recognition for taxes access

According to a Wednesday Gizmodo article, starting this summer online tax filers will have to submit a selfie to a third-party verification company called ID.me in order to make payments or file taxes online. Along with facial identification, users will also have to submit government identification documents and copies of bills to confirm their identity.

ID.me will use the selfie and compare it to the government identification document to verify the user. If the system fails to match the two documents, the user can join a recorded video to provide verification to the user.

Gizmodo’s article claimed that both the IRS and ID.me could not provide a method to access user accounts without providing a face scan. This could be problematic for tax filers that don’t have access to certain technologies.

Public Knowledge hires new senior policy analyst

Non-profit public interest group  Public Knowledge announced Tuesday that it has brought on Lisa Macpherson as senior policy analyst.

According to a press release, Macpherson’s “experience driving digital marketing transformation on behalf of brands led to concerns over the broader impacts of digital technology on individual well-being, civil society, journalism, and democracy.”

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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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