June 27, 2022 – A bipartisan group of senators, including Marco Rubio, R-FL., and Ron Wyden, D-OR., introduced a bill Thursday that would limit the selling or transferring of Americans’ sensitive data to high-risk foreign countries.
The Protecting Americans Data from Foreign Surveillance Act directs the Secretary of Commerce, in collaboration with other key agencies, to identify categories of personal data that could harm national security if exported. It directs the Secretary of Commerce to “compile a list of low-risk countries for which exports will be unrestricted and to require licenses for bulk exports of the identified, sensitive categories of personal data to other countries.”
In a press release, Rubio said, “It is common sense to prevent our adversaries from obtaining the highly sensitive personal information of millions of Americans. We cannot trust private companies to protect Americans’ private data, especially given how many of them do business in China. Our bill would address this massive national security threat and protect Americans’ privacy.”
Experts have warned the data from Chinese-company-owned apps like TikTok, one of the world’s most popular video sharing websites, could be used by the Communist government for nefarious purposes.
“Our bipartisan legislation sets common-sense guardrails to block bulk exports of private, sensitive information from going to high-risk foreign nations and protect the safety of Americans against foreign criminals and spies,” added Wyden. “It will empower the United States to build a coalition of trusted allies where information can be shared without fear of misuse by authoritarian actors.”
Exports to high-risk countries will be presumptively denied and risk status of countries will be determined on the adequacy of the country’s privacy and export control laws, the circumstances under which the foreign government can coerce a person in that country to disclose personal data, and whether that government has been hostile against the United States.
Chamber of Commerce takes issue with aspects of BEAD program
The United States Chamber of Commerce highlighted in a press release last week what it said are faults in the $42.5-billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program that will be distributed to states and territories for broadband deployment projects.
The Chamber of Commerce commended the National Telecommunications and Information Administration for focusing the BEAD program on serving unserved areas first, having strong subgrantee qualifications, enabling effective stakeholder engagement, and addressing the costs of broadband permitting.
“Despite the many positive aspects, the notice of funding opportunity contains numerous problematic provisions and mandates, which will hinder the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s objective to connect all Americans while running contrary to the law’s bipartisan approach,” said the release.
The first concern is that the NOFO promotes government-owned networks, despite the IIJA’s neutrality to the type of provider. NTIA imposes “burdensome requirements on eligible entities as well as pressuring states to waive laws that place restrictions on public sector broadband providers.”
The NOFO, said the release, “picks technology winners and losers” by strongly prioritizing fiber at the expense of other technologies like satellite and fixed wireless.
Furthermore, it incentivizes states to adopt net neutrality rules, in direct contrast to IIJA requirements, by ensuring that subgrantees do not “impose unjust or unreasonable network management practices.”
The Chamber of Commerce further added that the NOFO requires eligible entities to create a middle-class affordability program that is “ill-defined” and “opens the door to additional state-level intervention in the broadband marketplace.”
The NOFO also favors union-friendly policies that “have nothing to do with connecting all Americans and everything to do with advancing unrelated union priorities.”
Wisconsin awards $125M in rural internet service grants
The Wisconsin Public Service Commission on Thursday awarded $125 million in broadband expansion grants toward 71 projects that will reach over 87,000 underserved and unserved locations over 45 counties.
According to the press release, the grant awards will leverage $185 million of matching funds from the grantees. The PSC received 194 applications in March 2022 requesting a total of $495 million.
Since 2019, Wisconsin has committed to disbursing over $289 million toward expanding broadband, including $105 million in federal funding.
“Over the last three years, we’ve worked hard to invest state and federal funding in projects that will provide more than 387,000 homes and businesses with reliable, high-quality internet. These grants will go to ensure students, workers, business owners, families, and communities can access the internet in every part of our state,” said Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers in the release.
“We’ve made tremendous progress in the past three years towards getting people access to high-quality, affordable internet service,” said PSC Chairperson Rebecca Cameron Valcq. “We will continue to make the investments needed to ensure all in our state have access to affordable broadband.”
Affordable Connectivity Outreach Program, Amazon’s SpaceX Satellite Concerns, Axios Acquired
The establishment of the Affordable Connectivity Outreach Grant Program is intended to bring awareness to the program.
August 8, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission on Friday established an outreach program to get more American households registered to its broadband subsidy program.
The Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides a discount on broadband services of up to $30 per month and a one-time $100 toward a device, currently has over 13 million low-income American households signed up, but the FCC has said that there are millions more eligible who are not taking advantage of the program.
During an open meeting on Friday, the commission approved an order directing the agency’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau to develop, administer and manage the new Affordable Connectivity Outreach Grant Program, which is intended to raise awareness about the ACP.
The commission was infused with grants from Congress in the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act to put toward outreach for the program. As such, $100 million will go toward the effort.
“Since the inception of the ACP, Commission staff have engaged in extensive outreach, including numerous speaking engagements and enrollment events, and continue to seek out opportunities to coordinate with other federal agencies,” the agency said in a Friday press release.
“Throughout these efforts, the Commission has worked closely with trusted local entities that are familiar with the communities they serve. However, for many of these partners, budget constraints limit the extent of ACP outreach they can perform without additional financial support.”
The agency on Friday also established the “Your Home, Your Internet” one-year pilot program, which is intended to raise awareness and make it easier to apply to the ACP for households receiving federal housing assistance
Ahead of the announcement, telehealth advocate Craig Settles wrote an op-ed for Broadband Breakfast outlining ideas for how to improve outreach to the ACP.
Amazon warns FCC about volume of SpaceX satellites
In a meeting with FCC officials last week, Amazon representatives repeated concerns about the alleged negative effect of the number of broadband satellites SpaceX will launch into space.
According to a post-meeting letter released Thursday, Amazon urged the commission to ensure that SpaceX’s deployment of its Gen2 non-geostationary orbit fixed-satellite services “does not come at the expense of competition and innovation from other emerging NGSO FSS systems.”
Part of the concern for Amazon, which is preparing its Project Kuiper low-earth orbit constellation, is the size of the proposed deployment. At nearly 30,000 satellites, according to Amazon, it “raises questions about space safety, interference, and coexistence with other operators that will impact competition and deployment for decades.”
SpaceX’s Starlink already has a large LEO constellation for broadband service, with more than 2,700 and with approval to put many more thousands in LEO to come.
Cox acquires news website Axios
News company Axios announced Monday that it has agreed to be acquired by Cox Enterprises, a large media company with a telecommunications arm, for $525 million.
Cox made a previous investment last year in the news company, and it said in a Monday press release that this latest move is part of its effort to “grow and diversify the company.”
The deal will see the co-founders still lead the day-to-day operations of the company, according to a press release.
Axios, which was founded in 2017, is known for its brief lines on news items that cuts to the point.
Lumen’s Multi-Gig Service, Dish Continues Drop in Wireless Subs, Wu Not Leaving White House Yet
Lumen’s Quantum Fiber will deliver up to 8 Gig symmetrical speeds in certain markets.
August 4, 2022 – Telecommunications company Lumen Technologies announced Wednesday the launch of new faster internet download and upload speeds through its premier fiber internet service, Quantum Fiber.
Quantum Fiber will serve symmetrical speeds up to 8 gigabits per second, now available to select residents and businesses near Denver, Minneapolis, and Seattle. It will begin offering its internet plans to additional markets later this year, said a press release.
Lumen is using a passive optical network to provide the symmetric multi-gig capabilities. It will install a permanent network interface and router at the premise that is separate from the customer’s Wi-Fi, allowing for simple upgrades as technology evolves, read the release.
“Technology is evolving and so is Lumen as we tap into the power of our fiber network to give communities more bandwidth to excel at work, play and online life,” Andrew Dugan, Lumen’s chief technology officer, said in a statement. “Lumen is strengthening its portfolio and increasing gigabit speeds to fuel consumer and small business broadband connections – and it’s just the beginning. We’re investing in technology and internet speeds that will continue to push families and businesses into the future.”
Lumen operates approximately 500,000 route fiber miles and serves customers in more than 60 countries.
Dish sees another drop in wireless subscribers
Dish Wireless dropped another 210,000 wireless subscribers in the second quarter of 2022, bringing its total wireless subscribers to 7.67 million from the 8.9 it had in the same quarter last year.
Dish lost 343,000 subscribers in Q1 2022 and 245,000 in Q4 2021. The company is attempting to stop its losses by attracting customers with discounted plans. This summer, it announced its $25/month unlimited plan, which claims to be half of what customers pay for 5G elsewhere.
The company purchased Boost Mobile from T-Mobile in August of 2020, but has since lost 1.1 million customers. Dish acquired Boost so that it could offer a retail wireless product while it built its 5G standalone network — which regulators who approved the T-Mobile-Sprint merger hoped would act as the nation’s fourth major carrier.
Last year Dish launched its 5G service, called Project Genesis, in more than 120 markets which now covers about 20 percent of the United States population.
Tim Wu says reports of him leaving White House premature
White House advisor Tim Wu said in a tweet Wednesday that reports of him leaving the administration are premature, adding there is “still a lot of work to do.”
This comes in response to Bloomberg report published on Monday that Wu is set to leave his position at the White House in the coming months to return to Columbia University.
Wu was the key architect behind President Joe Biden’s executive order to bolster competition last year, which included over 70 initiatives by federal agencies to improve competition within the tech, health care and agriculture industries.
He is also credited for coining the term net neutrality and is widely regarded as an aggressive critic of Big Tech.
LS Networks Gets CEO from Meta, Verizon Upgrading Capacity, Consolidated Boasts More Customers
Randy Brogle was previously working on fiber investments for Facebook parent Meta.
August 3, 2022 – Fiber optics provider LS Networks announced Tuesday the appointment to CEO of Randy Brogle, the former fiber investments executive for Facebook parent company Meta.
Brogle will lead the company’s growth plans to invest in its fiber network to transform underserved areas in the Pacific Northwest, read the press release.
“Randy has dedicated his entire career to broadband expansion throughout the United States,” said Jack Bittan, executive chair of LS Networks, in the press release. “His experience aligns perfectly with the mission at LS Networks to deliver infrastructure that not only offers an essential service to rural communities, but also provides equal access to better jobs, education, and advanced lifestyles that support family, growth, and sustainable communities.”
Brogle most recently oversaw the acquisition and construction of fiber networks to support apps run by Meta. “LS Networks has a long history of helping communities prosper in the Pacific Northwest, and I am excited to join the focused efforts of the team to bridge the digital and social inequality divide,” he said in a statement.
Verizon upgrading fiber core capacity
Verizon announced Tuesday that it is upgrading its capacity on the core fiber network to support growing bandwidth demand, particularly on its 5G network.
The company said the upgrades will support speeds of 400 Gbps per port optical technology.
In June, the company announced that data traffic on its 5G network had increased by 249 percent between January 2021 and June 2022. It expects “exponentially” higher increases as more customers experience the performance capabilities of its 5G network, Verizon said in the press release Tuesday.
“Our fiber network is the largely invisible foundation that is a key driving force behind providing the scalability and reliability our customers need and expect,” said Verizon Chief Technology Officer Kyle Malady in a statement. “This new packet core will provide the reliability and capacity we need today, but more importantly will be able to scale to meet the forecasted future demands that will result from the incredible capabilities of our robust 5G network, the platform for 21st century innovation.”
The network update will use equipment that is half the size of existing equipment, reducing space requirements, and driving down power usage and operating costs, the company said. It will also enable advanced automation, enabling automated interfaces and improving reporting telemetry for real-time adjustments to address congestion, the company added.
Consolidated Communications boasts higher broadband customers
Fiber internet service provider Consolidated Communications reported Tuesday a net-positive broadband connections for the first time in seven years, adding 9,600 fiber broadband customers in the second quarter of 2022.
It reported building fiber to 142,300 additional locations, reaching 30 percent of the company’s service area of 832,000 locations. Of the new subscribers, 65 percent are taking gigabit service. This increase represents a three-fold increase over Q2 2021.
Consolidated said it is on track to build out to 400,000 locations by the end of the year. To support its expansion in fiber, the company also announced that it would sell its stake in five limited wireless partnerships with Verizon Wireless to Cellco for $490 million.
“The additional capital infusion puts us in a very strong position to support our fiber expansion plan,” said Steve Childers, chief financial officer at Consolidated Communications in the release. The transactions are expected to close by the end of 2022.
This comes as service provider Comcast reported no net gains in broadband subscriptions in the same quarter, marking the first time the company has failed to grow its internet business each quarter.
- States are Making Their Own Broadband Maps to Challenge the FCC’s Data
- Doug Lodder: How to Prevent the Economic Climate from Worsening the Digital Divide
- Affordable Connectivity Outreach Program, Amazon’s SpaceX Satellite Concerns, Axios Acquired
- National Broadband Plan Legislation Introduced in Senate
- FCC Should Not Increase Rural Program Obligations in Light of New Federal Funding: Meeting Notes
- Craig Settles: If You Can’t Give Away Free Internet, Consider Telehealth
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