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Bill Targeting Sale of Location Data, Senate Democrats Antitrust Revision, Antitrust Lawsuit Location Bill

A bill introduced by Elizabeth Warren would ban data brokers from selling or transferring location data and health data.

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Photo of Amy Klobuchar

June 16, 2022 – Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., introduced legislation on Wednesday that would prohibit the sale of location data by third-party data brokers.

Warren said in a statement that “data brokers gather intensely personal data such as location data from seemingly innocuous sources including weather apps and prayer apps – oftentimes without the consumer’s consent or knowledge.”

Under the legislation, called the Health and Location Data Protection Act, the Federal Trade Commission would be given $1 billion to enforce rules on data brokers over the following 10 years.

The bill would ban data brokers from selling or transferring location data and health data. The FTC would be responsible for enforcing the rules within 180 days, with exceptions for HIPAA-compliant activities, protected First Amendment speech, and validly authorized disclosures.

The bill would also empower the FTC, state attorneys general and individuals to sue data brokers and enforce the provisions of the law.

Senate Democrats ask for revisions to antitrust bill

Four Democratic Senators sought revisions to an antitrust bill, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, that would strengthen prohibitions on anticompetitive conduct and mergers by banning dominant tech platforms from preferencing their own products and services over competitors.

The bill was introduced by Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., but underwent criticism during the committee markup that it would target American companies and have a negative impact on privacy and cybersecurity. In response to concerns, Klobuchar released revisions in May.

In a letter Wednesday, four democrat Senators said that although they support the goal of the bill to limit the power of tech giants, they have concerns that it would limit companies’ ability to moderate harmful content.

“Our understanding is that you do not intend for the bill to limit content moderation in this way,” they wrote, “and we want to work with you to fix this issue.”

The letter suggested revisions to the text specifying that nothing in the legislation “may be construed to impose liability” on a platform for moderating content.

Klobuchar denied the claims in a press conference that the bill would have unintended consequences on content moderation, saying “this bill is about competition, it’s not focused on content.”

Senate passes bill allowing attorneys general to pick location of where antitrust suits are heard

The Senate unanimously passed bipartisan legislation Tuesday that allows state attorneys general to choose the location of where their federal antitrust suits are heard, a right that the federal government has.

The bill’s sponsors, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Mike Lee, R-Utah., said the legislation, called State Antitrust Enforcement Venue Act, would prevent state antitrust cases from being moved to courts preferred by defendants and is a key step to curb the monopoly power of internet giants.

“America works best when competition prevails, and consumers across the country benefit from the efforts of state attorneys general to enforce our nation’s antitrust laws,” said Klobuchar in a statement. “This bipartisan legislation will allow for more efficient and effective antitrust enforcement by state attorneys general, which is good for competition and consumers.”

The bill now moves to a House floor vote.

Broadband Roundup

Fixed-Wireless Behind Fiber, U.S. Broadband Competition, Oregon Broadband Map

Fixed-wireless is hampered by technical issues that make it incomparable to fiber, a report claims.

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Screenshot of ACA Connects President and CEO Grant Spellmeyer

June 23, 2022 – In a report this month, engineering and consulting company CTC Technology and Energy found that while fixed-wireless technology will continue to improve and expand, it will not come close to fiber.

The report claims that there are some technical challenges associated with fixed-wireless technology – which used wireless signals to provide home internet. That includes, the report says, capacity limits; line-of-sight obstructions because wireless signals must pass through obstacles; and scalability, which includes limitations on increasing bandwidth and speeds.

“Ultimately, the report finds that fiber networks are more suitable for rural broadband deployment when it comes to bandwidth, costs, overall quality and long-term sustainability,” said a post on the Benton website accompanying the report.

“The IIJA creates the opportunity to bring broadband to unserved Americans that is the same or better than what served Americans have—and to ensure that what is built has a long, useful life,” said Andrew Afflerbach, CTC CEO and chief technology officer, in the post.

“The report demonstrates that in most environments, fiber and wireless have similar long-term total costs of operation. Moreover, fiber optics can continue operating and be upgraded at a much lower cost than a wireless network,” added Afflerbach.

Majority of U.S. households benefit from fixed broadband competition, study finds

Industry group ACA Connects released a study Thursday that found widespread competition in the U.S. broadband market as the majority of U.S. households have access to multiple providers.

“After decades of investment by multiple fixed broadband providers in every local market – amounting to well over $1 trillion during that time – the vast majority of American consumers now have a choice of broadband providers offering robust, reliable, fixed broadband service. And the reach and intensity of competition will only increase as broadband providers continue to invest many tens of billions of dollars annually,” said ACA Connects President and CEO Grant Spellmeyer.

The study states that “more than 90% of households have access to at least one broadband provider offering 100/20+ service and at least one additional provider offering 25/3+ service,” and predicts that based on past data, “by 2025, 74% of all households will have access to at least two broadband providers both offering 100/20+ service.”

According to a press release, the study’s findings show that “policymakers made the right call in allowing market forces to advance deployment to the maximum extent possible and then, in economically challenging areas, providing government funding to ensure service is available service.”

Oregon testing broadband with new initiative 

On Tuesday, a grassroots partnership called Faster Internet Oregon was launched to assess broadband connectivity in urban, rural, and tribal communities in the state.

This is “a statewide test campaign and broadband mapping effort that invites Oregonians to test and report their home internet speeds or to indicate that they lack an internet connection at home,” said a press release.

Partners include Oregon Economic Development Districts, Onward Eugene, SpeedUpAmerica and Link Oregon.

“[We] are excited to support this effort so that we have the data we need to bring federal and state funding to our regions that can fill those gaps in broadband availability,” said Jessica Metta, president of OEDD.

The effort employs a “crowdsourced approach” to hear from locals themselves to improve broadband equity across various communities in Oregon, said a press release.

Steve Corbató, executive director of Link Oregon, said, “this mapping effort is a critical early step towards implementing the broadband technologies and supporting adoption programs ensuring the reliable, affordable internet connectivity for all Oregonians.”

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Broadband Roundup

5G Drone Test, Viaset Step Closer to Inmarsat Buy, Charter Awarded Nearly $50 Million in Kentucky

UScellular and Ericsson tested 5G connected drones for future applications.

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Photo of Viasat CEO Richard Balridge

June 22, 2022 – Mobile network operator Uscellular and Swedish telecom equipment provider Ericsson teamed up to test 5G performance at altitude using drones, according to a press release Wednesday.

The first tests were conducted in Beloit, Wisconsin where a drone connected to a 5G smartphone and measurement equipment to record performance metrics was flown between two UScellular’s 5G towers. The drone captured the signal strength, upload and download speeds, and latency at various altitudes.

The goal of the test was to determine what is required for future use of 5G connected drones. Future drone use will include inspecting towers and other infrastructure with real-time data collection and video footage.

This follows tests run by AT&T earlier this month for its Flying COW (Cell on Wings). The company said that the drone can transmit “strong 5G coverage for approximately 10 square miles.” It said it hopes that the drone will help first responders in search and rescue missions where connection may not be available.

“Drone technology offers a wide scope of new opportunities in today’s market. Our testing with UScellular is a huge step for advanced connected drones use cases that will benefit society and businesses,” said Jossie Prochilo, vice president, UScellular Account for Ericsson North America.

Viaset receives stockholder approval for acquisition of Inmarsat

Satellite services company Viasat announced Tuesday in a press release that stockholders granted the necessary approval for the proposed acquisition of Inmarsat, another telecommunications company.

The acquisition is expected to close by the end of 2022, said the press release, pending regulatory approvals. With the acquisition, Viasat said it hopes to “increase the pace of innovation to help drive new and better services for customers, broaden opportunities for employees, and provide a foundation for significant positive free cash flow.”

The partnership will “provide an incredible foundation to advance broadband communications and drive greater performance, reliability, and value for our customers,” said Viasat CEO Richard Balridge in a statement.

Balridge was encouraged by the “overwhelming” stockholder support, saying that it “confirms that this transformative combination is in the best interest of our company, shareholders, and allows for significant future growth in revenue.”

Charter awarded nearly $50 million in Kentucky broadband program

Internet service provider Charter Communications was awarded $49.9 million from Kentucky’s broadband program to expand high-speed internet to over 18,000 households and businesses in 13 Kentucky counties.

The Better Kentucky Plan will invest $89.1 million in 46 grant awards to 12 internet service providers with the purpose of expanding reliable and affordable high-speed internet to Kentucky homes. The awards were granted through a competitive process, with six months to evaluate and score the nearly 100 proposals received.

Charter will put $118.8 million toward the project.

“These grants will lower the cost of construction so that our most rural areas will have access to this necessity of high-speed internet,” State Budget Director John Hicks said in a press release. “These funds are dedicated to unserved areas in Kentucky. We’re also setting up Kentucky’s first Office of Broadband Development to help administer and create a master plan for the commonwealth to provide universal service to every Kentuckian.

“We applaud this bold, bipartisan broadband expansion effort and look forward to the opportunity to extend our ongoing partnership with Kentucky leaders,” said Jerry Avery, Charter’s area vice president. “From investing to deploy internet access to reach unserved Kentuckians, to continually upgrading our network to provide fast and reliable broadband products at great value, to addressing affordability and adoption barriers, Charter has long been committed to increasing connectivity across the Commonwealth.”

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Broadband Roundup

NA Projected to Lead 5G Subs, Internet Society Board Members, Shentel Expands and Hires

‘North America is forecast to lead the world in 5G subscription penetration in the next five years.’

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Photo of Borje Ekholm, Ericsson CEO

WASHINGTON, June 21, 2022 – Telecommunications equipment provider Ericsson released its latest edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report, saying 5G is the “fastest growing mobile technology generation ever.”

The report from the company, which provides 5G equipment to telecom companies, projects that there will be over one billion global subscribers in 2022 and 4.4 billion in 2027, and that global mobile network data traffic has doubled in the past two years.

Ericsson explains that “this traffic growth was driven by increased smartphone and mobile broadband usage, as well as the digitalization of society and industries,” and says it draws several hundred million people to become new mobile broadband subscribers every year.

A press release also states that fixed wireless access will account for 20 percent of all mobile data network traffic in 2022, and also that 60 percent of global mobile network data traffic is expected to be over 5G networks by 2027.”

“North America is forecast to lead the world in 5G subscription penetration in the next five years with nine-of-every-ten subscriptions in the region expected to be 5G in 2027,” the report said.

Internet Society announces new board of trustees members

On June 20, the Internet Society, an internet access non-profit, announced four new members to its board of trustees.

Charles Mok, visiting scholar at the Global Digital Policy Incubator of the Cyber Policy Center at Stanford University; Sagarika Wickramasekera, an assistant network manager at Sriplaee Campus, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka; Barry Leiba, the director of internet standards at Futurewei Technologies; and Victor Kuarsingh, senior director of network engineering and delivery at Oracle Cloud Infrastructure were elected this year to the board.

“All four new trustees will serve three-year terms which commenced with the Internet Society board’s 2022 Annual General Meeting held 18-19, June” a press release stated.

A press release also added that, the board reappointed Muhammad Shabbir to a one-year term to fill the seat left by the resignation of board member Mamounia Diop.

Shentel expands Glo Fiber to Delaware and appoints new senior vice president of sales and marketing

Telecom Shentel announced plans for Glo Fiber to expand its fiber network in the mid-Atlantic region to Sussex County, Delaware, bringing internet speeds of up to 2 Gigabits per second.

According to a June 16 press release, this expansion is Glo Fiber’s first project in Delaware, delivering “an all-fiber choice for high speed, reliable service to over 21,000 homes in the county.” Construction is planned for the start of 2023.

The release states that by “using Shentel’s 7,600-mile regional fiber network, Glo Fiber can ensure high speeds, low latency, and fair pricing.”

“This expansion will continue to grow the Glo brand in new markets where residents and businesses alike will reap the benefits of having access to our state-of-the-art fiber product,” said Chris Kyle, vice president of industry affairs and regulatory.

Shentel also announced Monday that Dara Leslie will be the new senior vice president of sales and marketing to guide revenue strategy for the company.

A press release stated that Dara brings with her more than 20 years of experience in the broadband industry, with 10 years at cable company Comcast and various leadership roles at Atlantic Broadband for the Maryland and Delaware region.

“Dara’s extensive marketing, sales, and operational experience will be a force multiplier for Shentel as we continue to expand our footprint,” said Ed McKay, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Shentel.

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