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Musk Pauses Twitter Deal, Telefonica and OneWeb Join Forces, Ting to Bring Fiber to Alexandria, Va.

Musk has taken a step back from the acquisition, but insists he still intends to purchase Twitter.

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Photo of Ting CEO Elliot Noss

May 16, 2022 – SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced in a tweet on Friday he is pausing his multibillion-dollar deal to acquire Twitter to verify stats about spam accounts on the platform.

“Twitter deal temporarily on hold pending details supporting calculation that spam/fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5 [percent] of users,” he Tweeted, before issuing a follow-up tweet, “Still committed to acquisition.”

In subsequent tweets, Musk emphasized the need for transparency in how Twitter recommends items on users’ feeds. “I’m not suggesting malice in the algorithm, but rather that it’s trying to guess what you might want to read and, in doing so, inadvertently manipulate/amplify your viewpoints,” he said. “Open source is the way to go to solve both trust and efficacy.”

Telefonica and OneWeb partner to serve rural communities

On Friday, Telefonica and OneWeb announced a partnership to serve rural and remote communities across both Latin America and Europe.

The goal is to utilize Telefonica’s terrestrial fixed and mobile infrastructure combined with OneWeb’s low earth orbit satellites to improve broadband penetration in communities that may otherwise go unserved.

“By partnering with OneWeb, we can augment our portfolio by offering solutions that require low latency,” Telefónica Global Solutions CEO Julio Beamonte said. “Our experience will be essential when adapting the OneWeb solution to provide corporate, [business-to-business] and cellular backhaul services and help fuel adoption of critical business applications in the hardest-to-connect areas.

Ting to bring fiber to Alexandria, Va.

On Monday, Ting Internet announced that it would become Alexandria, Virginia’s first city-wide fiber provider.

Ting was awarded the contract by the city to connect 90,000 addresses across Alexandria, and construction is slated to begin this summer.

“Fiber internet brings significant economic opportunity and technological resilience to communities, benefiting local residents and businesses for decades to come,” Ting Executive vice president Jill Szuchmacher said in a release.

In her statement, Szuchmach called the build “future-proof” – a term many fiber providers have adopted to reflect the ability for the network to scale to greater capacity and speeds.

Ting will also provide internet at no cost to the consumer for a subset of addresses as part of its digital equity and inclusion program.

Reporter Ben Kahn is a graduate of University of Baltimore and the National Journalism Center. His work has appeared in Washington Jewish Week and The Center Square, among other publications. He he covered almost every beat at Broadband Breakfast.

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Space Bills Get Markup, Cybersecurity Reserve Bills Introduced, Gigabit Center Opens in Crown Heights, NY

The Secure Space Act and the Satellite and Telecommunications Streamlining Act are scheduled for mark-up on Thursday.

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Photo of Cathy McMorris Rodgers in 2015 by Gage Skidmore

March 23, 2023 – The House Energy and Commerce Committee will host a mark-up meeting on Thursday to consider pieces of legislation that will “keep America at the forefront of next-generation communications technology,” according to a press release.

The Secure Space Act and the Satellite and Telecommunications Streamlining Act introduced by Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr., D-N.J., and Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash. in December last year will be among those going through the line-by-line process on Thursday.

The Secure Space Act prohibits the Federal Communications Commission from issuing satellite licenses or other related authorizations to untrusted actors, based on the framework adopted in the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act.

The Satellite and Telecommunications Streamlining Act clarifies FCC authority with the goal of promoting responsible use of space, incentivizing investment and innovation, and advancing U.S. leadership.

“America is leading the way in next-generation satellite technologies, which are contributing to a revolution in the communications marketplace,” the representatives said in a statement. “To make sure the U.S. – not China – continues to lead this global industry, we must streamline our regulatory processes to unleash innovation while also ensuring our laws fully protect the American public.”

Bills to ensure cybersecurity reserves in government introduced

Two bills introduced Tuesday by Sens. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., would establish pilot programs that would hire civilian cybersecurity personnel in reserve to “ensure the U.S. government has the talent needed to defeat, deter, or respond to malicious cyber activity, especially at times of greatest need.”

The bills, some versions of which were previously introduced but did not pass, would establish the Civilian Cybersecurity Reserve pilot programs within the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.

“Cybersecurity threats targeting the United States continue to grow in scale and scope, demonstrating the urgent need for robust civilian cyber reserves capable of addressing these threats and protecting our nation,”  Rosen said in a press release on Tuesday“Our bipartisan legislation will help ensure the U.S. government can leverage existing cybersecurity talent from the private sector to help our nation deter and swiftly respond to cyberattacks.”

The bills comes at a time when federal agencies are “experiencing a growing shortage of cybersecurity talent,” the release said.

“As the cyber domain continues to expand in size and complexity, so should our cyber workforce,” Blackburn said. “By creating a reserve corps similar to our National Guard or Army Reserve, we can ensure the U.S. has qualified, capable, and service-oriented American talent that is necessary to address cyber vulnerabilities and keep our nation secure.”

Gigabit Center to provide free internet to students in Crown Heights, NY

The Brooklyn Gigabit Center, which will provide free internet resources for students, opened in Crown Heights, New York on Wednesday.

The center will provide free high-speed Wi-Fi, technology, education and school supplies to Crown Height, New York, an area where 36 percent of households lack broadband, according to the press release.

The center opened with a press conference hosted by the administration of Mayor Eric Adams, LinkNYC, the New York City Office of Technology and Innovation, digital infrastructure company ZenFi Networks, and tech education non-profit Digital Girl, according to a ZenFi Networks press release.

ZenFi Networks has previously opened centers in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens to help the local communities to learn and adopt to modern technologies.

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DOJ Investigates TikTok, Google’s Generative AI Tool, Charter Counsel Retiring

An internal TikTok investigation found employees had allegedly spied on journalists, the Times reported.

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Photo of Sundar Pichai from 2021 by World Economic Forum used with permission

March 21 – Federal authorities are investigating Chinese-owned video sharing app TikTok over allegations its spying over journalists, reported The New York Times on Friday.

Three people familiar with the case told the Times that the Department of Justice has been investigating the company ByteDance after internal emails showed the company had conducted an internal investigation and “found employees gained access to data from two journalists and people associated with them,” the Times said.

According to the Times, a spokesperson said the company “strongly” condemns the actions of the four employees who obtained the data on the journalists and are no longer working for the company.

The investigation comes during a time Washington and state governments are on heightened alert of the app they say is a national security risk. A new memorandum by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget published in February outlines how agencies are to identify and ban problematic software, like TikTok, from government devices and networks.

Senators have also introduced the RESTRICT Act to further strength national cybersecurity by empowering the Department of Commerce to examine critical infrastructure products and ensure “comprehensive actions to address risks of untrusted foreign information communications and technology products.”

Google releases new Bard generative AI tool for trialing  

Google has released an artificial intelligence tool intended to assist users in daily tasks, the search engine giant’s attempt to enter the generative AI space shared by the popular ChatGPT application.

Called Bard, the tool allows users to use the generative AI software as a personal assistant to ask the machine to come up with ways to accomplish tasks. The tool presents a chat box that the user inputs questions into, with the “large language model” generating tips automatically.

Google said the machine is in “experiment” mode and is asking users to contribute to its refinement.

Bard comes a week after OpenAI, the company behind generative AI tool ChatGPT, announced the latest version of the tool that has been able to craft novels using basic prompts. In the latest version, the tool has been able to create websites and versions of 2D video games.

Its power has concerned lawmakers and has sparked calls by experts for its regulation.

Aleksander Mądry, professor of Cadence Design Systems at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in a recent subcommittee hearing that generative AI is a very fast moving technology, meaning the government needs to step in to confirm the objectives of the companies and whether the algorithms match the societal benefits and values.

In January, ChatGPT eclipsed 100 million monthly users.

Charter’s executive vice president is retiring

Richard Dykhouse, executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary of Charter Communications, is set to retire from his position, but will remain until the company picks a successor, the cable company announced Monday.

“Rick has played a significant role in Charter’s transformation and growth story – including its reorganization in 2009, the acquisitions of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, and the largest-ever integration of cable companies,” Chris Winfrey, Charter’s president and chief executive officer, in a press release. “I am grateful for Rick’s leadership, advice and sound judgment over the years and pleased that he will continue to assist us throughout the transition to his successor.”

Once the company finds the right person, Dykhouse will remain as executive counsel to support the transition, the release said.

Dykhouse joined Charter in 2006.

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Sohn Speaks After Withdrawal, MasterCard Back Indigenous Connectivity, Liberty-CityFibre in Buy Talks

The former FCC nominee spoke for the first time regarding future plans after withdraw.

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Photo of Gigi Sohn from 2012 by Joel Sage used with permission

March 20, 2023 – Former Federal Communications Commission nominee Gigi Sohn told The Washington Post in an interview published last week that she feels she “got a book to write” about her 16-month-long battle to get the Senate to vote her onto the commission.

Earlier this month, the two-time nominee of President Joe Biden withdrew her candidacy after what she called “dark money political groups” tainting her career. Sohn has been accused by Republicans of being impartial and donating to members of the Commerce committee that had previously pushed her nomination forward but which did not get to Senate votes.

“There’s been a bunch of stuff that’s happened over the past 16 months … that is going to make people’s eyes bug out,” Sohn told the Post.

During Sohn’s confirming process, she said she has been repeatedly subject to “unrelenting, dishonest and cruel attacks” from extremist groups and media.

“That was the first time I felt like ‘Oh my god, this could really rile up some crazies to come to my house … and threaten me and my family,’” the Post said she said. “I owed a duty to me and my family to move on, and this was very, very difficult on me emotionally.”

Sohn said she was “very proud” of the support she received from allies throughout the process, the Post said.

Sohn told the Post she had “several opportunities” lined up, which might be the intent to advocate internet access at the state level. But she also said she could do “something bigger and more,” according to the Post.

Mastercard Foundation partners with indigenous institute for internet access

The Mastercard Foundation announced Monday it is investing $3.7 million CAD, or $2.7 million USD, to help the Indigenous Connectivity Institute expand its current digital equity program.

The funding will “enable the ICI to expand current programs and develop new initiatives to reach 10,000 Indigenous young people over the next three years,” according to the release.

“This support from the Mastercard Foundation has the potential to advance Indigenous digital equity beyond our imaginations and make real the projects and collaboration we’ve been dreaming up for years. I am so excited to see this new partnership in action,” Darrah Blackwater, ICI Advisory Council member, said in a press release.

The indigenous-led organization is focused exclusively on digital equity in Canada and the United States by providing training programs to advance technical and advocacy skills, the release said.

“A fast, reliable internet connection is essential to ensuring that Indigenous young people can access high-quality education and meaningful employment opportunities,” says Jennifer Brennan, Director of Canada Programs at the Mastercard Foundation. “The shared vision for this partnership is a commitment to ensuring Indigenous young people and communities have the capacity, support, knowledge, and financial resources to lead digital equity to advance their aspirations and strengthen their communities.”

State broadband leaders will join Broadband Breakfast’s online event and talk about how their states are approaching the digital equity planning process and what they hope to accomplish with federal funding on Wednesday April 15 at 12 noon ET.

Liberty Global acquisition of Cityfibre and Liberty Global unlikely to be approved

Virgin Media O2 is seeking to acquire fiber competitor CityFibre for £3 billion, according to media reports.

The Telegraph reported Saturday that Virgin is in talks with the competitor, but questions remained about the likelihood of the deal moving past regulators.

Capacity reported Monday that equity analyst Jerry Dellis from Jefferies Equity Research does not believe it will get past the Competition and Markets Authority.

“A VMO2-CityFibre combination would appear to threaten the regulatory objective of network competition providing choice for ISPs, leading to better outcomes for consumers,” a Dellis research note said, according to Capacity.

“With a back-book comprising millions of customers that have been subject to multiple years of retail price increases, we question what incentive VMO2 has to compete down wholesale pricing.”

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