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Affordable Connectivity Program Launch, Airlines Want 5G Delay, Americans Adopt More Home Health Devices

The FCC has launched the Affordable Connectivity Program, which extends the Emergency Broadband Benefit program.

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January 3, 2022 – After a consultation process in which it fielded a range of perspectives, the Federal Communications Commission officially launched its Affordable Connectivity Program on Friday.

The program, which subsidizes the cost of broadband service for low-income households, will pay up to $30 toward the cost of a household’s broadband payment.

The new program replaces the Emergency Broadband Benefit and funds over $14 billion to assist households in purchasing internet-connected devices. The program aims to allow lower-income households purchase laptops, desktop computers, and tablets.

“The response to the Emergency Broadband Benefit proved what many knew to be true: the cost of high-speed internet is out of reach for too many of us,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “Now with the long-term Affordable Connectivity Program, we have the opportunity to enroll even more households and help ensure they can afford the internet connections they need for work, school, health care and more for years.”

In order to be eligible for the program, a member of the household must meet one of a variety of criteria: They may be able to participate in the program if they participate in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, SSI, or Lifeline.

Participants could also be eligible if they received a federal Pell Grant during the award year or receive benefits under the free or reduced-priced lunch program.

Airline association asks for 5G delay

An airline industry association has filed a request Thursday with the FCC to delay the rollout of 5G near airports, citing flight disruption concerns.

Airlines for America, which represents American Airlines, Delta Airlines, and United Airlines and other major carriers, requested the delay near airports such as Newark Liberty in New Jersey because of concerns that 5G radiowaves could interfere with aircraft altimeters, which help guide planes to runways.

The organization accused the FCC of failing to provide “even minimal clarity as to how it has dismissed the record evidence of interference to radio altimeters and consequential impacts on aviation safety, which is itself arbitrary and capricious.”

In the petition, Airlines for America said wireless interference “will jeopardize the function of critical aircraft safety systems, which in turn threatens to divert or cancel thousands of flights” each day. The result would disrupt “millions” of passenger reservations, interfere with the global supply chain and flight crew schedules.

AT&T and Verizon have pushed back on the request to delay their planned introduction of 5G wireless services, which the companies were ready to deploy on January 5, 2022.

Wireless industry group Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association said 5G is safe and the spectrum is currently used in nearly 40 other countries.

Americans adopt more home health devices

A new whitepaper Monday finds that more Americans are adopting smart health devices for their homes.

Park Associates, the market research company specializing in technology, found that the use of connected health technology in the home grew in 2021.

“Over one half of US broadband households now report owning at least one connected health device, a dramatic increase from 2020, and 30% own three or more,” said the firm.  “Adoption of smart watches, smart thermometers, connected pulse oximeters and blood pressure cuffs grew substantially. In addition, intentions to purchase connected health devices about doubled for all connected health device categories year over year.”

The information comes as the telemedicine trend continues during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic has forever changed the trajectory of health and wellness. The industry is undergoing a shift as consumers, especially seniors, have become accustomed to using new technologies for healthcare services and communication,” said Jennifer Kent, VP of research at Parks Associates. “Out of necessity, the market for remote health technology products and services accelerated 5-10 years beyond where we expected it to be pre-pandemic.”

The firm said device pairing remains a critical barrier to maximizing the impact remote care programs. Device connectivity “is the first step in ensuring a patient can engage in an [remote care] program, and also a first line of potential failure.”

Reporter Justin Perkins is graduate of Howard University School of Law, with a focus on telecommunications and technology. He has in-house experience at the Federal Communications Commission, Comcast and NBC. He brings curiosity and insight to broadband news.

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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