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Pause on Twitter Verification, ISP Acquired, Public Safety Network New Board Member

The New York Times reported that Twitter is pausing its pay-for-verification system until after midterm elections.

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Photo of Renee Gordon, via Commerce

November 8, 2022 – The New York Times reported Sunday that Twitter is delaying the release of the $8 verification badge until after the 2022 midterm elections due to user and employee concerns that the new service could cause election interference.

“Many Twitter users and employees raised concerns that the new pay-for-play badges could cause confusion ahead of Tuesday’s elections because users could easily create verified accounts – say, posing as President Biden or as lawmakers or news outlets and publishing false information about voting results — which could potentially sow discord,” the Times reported.

“In an internal Slack channel on Saturday, one Twitter employee asked why the social network was ‘making such a risky change before elections, which has the potential of causing election interference,’” the Times report continued, after which a manager responded Sunday saying the verification service would be pushed back after the election.

Before SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk purchased the company in late October, Twitter’s verification badge – which serves as confirmation that the account holder is the real person – was an unpaid service.

Open Broadband to acquire Pyranah Communications 

North Carolina-based service provider Open Broadband LLC announced the acquisition of Pyranah Communications LLC in a press release on Tuesday, which the company said will facilitate broader connectivity access to the NC counties of Jackson, Macon, and Transylvania.

“We have always wanted to expand our internet service offerings in western North Carolina. This acquisition affords us the ability to build upon the legacy of customer service that Pyranah has built over the last 18 years,” said Open Broadband CEO Alan Fitzpatrick in the release.

Open Broadband currently provides internet services to underserved communities in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Florida. Pyranah Communications LLC is an internet service provider based in western North Carolina. Through this acquisition, Open Broadband services will extend to that region of the state.

“When I decided to sell Pyranah I wanted to make sure that my customers would be in good hands. Open Broadband is focused on providing affordable high speed internet in communities just like ours. I knew they were the right company to continue the work we started in 2004,” said Al Beyer, founder of Pyranah.

Pyranah Communications staff will be retained in the acquisition, which is the third for Open Broadband since 2018, according to the release.

Public safety broadband network has new board member

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has appointed a former city emergency communications director as a new board member to serve on the 12-member public safety broadband network, according to a press release on November 4.

Renee Gordon will replace three-year committee member and public safety professional Karima Holmes.

“I am proud to announce the selection of Director Renee Gordon to serve on the FirstNet Authority Board,” Raimondo said. “She brings years of public safety emergency communications experience, which will be a vital asset to an already diverse and dedicated Board.”

Formerly serving as the director of the Department of Emergency Communications in the City of Alexandria, VA, since 2015, Gordon established the nation’s first remote 911 call-taking program using FirstNet technology in her role. Gordon has also worked for emergency responder entities at the Washington Airport Authority and the City of Baltimore.

The First Responder Network is a high-speed broadband emergency response platform, which is delivered by AT&T and managed by the FirstNet Authority, which is made up of 12 non-permanent officials as well as three permanent seats occupied by the attorney general, the secretary of Homeland Security, and the director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Reporter Zoey Howell-Brown studied at Coppin State University and Node Center for Curatorial Practices. Her work has appeared in The Real News Network, The Odyssey, Terse Magazine and Broadband.Money. When she’s not reporting on telecom news, you can find her at the latest exhibition opening, film festival, or on LinkedIn.

Broadband Roundup

E-Rate Bidding Portal Dilemma, Sustainable Funding for Indigenous Broadband, NYC Kills Internet Plan

Iowa’s education department said it faces breaking either FCC or state rules if E-Rate portal approved.

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Photo of New York City Mayor Eric Adams by Marc A. Hermann of the MTA used with permission

December 5, 2022 – The Iowa Department of Education sent a letter Monday to the Federal Communication Commission raising concern that the commission’s proposal for an E-Rate bidding portal would cause conflicts with state laws.

The E-Rate program provides broadband subsidies to schools and libraries and is part of the Universal Service Fund. Late last year, the commission proposed to have a central document repository, called a bidding portal, through which internet service providers would submit bids to the program administrator, the Universal Service Company, instead of directly to applicants at a state and local level. Currently, libraries and schools announce they are seeking services and service providers apply directly to those institutions.

The rationale for the proposal is to streamline the program and reduce fraud, waste and abuse, the FCC said, following a government watchdog report that said the E-Rate program is susceptible fraud risks.

But on Monday, the Iowa Department of Education said if the proposal is adopted, the institution faces either breaking FCC rules or state rules. That’s because Iowa is required to notify targeted small businesses 48 hours ahead of a public bid, but this would conflict with the FCC’s requirement that says bidders can’t have advance knowledge of project information, the institution said.

Iowa noted that similar complaints have been made by institutions in California, Kentucky, South Dakota, Illinois, and Utah. The Consortium for School Networking, the National School Boards Association, and the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors had also brought forward concerns about conflict with state laws in their submissions to the commission.

Another concern raised by the Iowa Department of Education is that the bidding portal might discourage competitive bidding from applicants and providers because it will make the process more burdensome. That has been a complaint of the program for others as well, with submitters to the FCC complaining about additional complexity with the process.

Connect Humanity calls for sustainable funding, indigenous spectrum renewal

Non-profit Connect Humanity announced Monday calls to the governments of Canada and the United States for action as part of its 2022 Indigenous Connectivity Summit Calls to Action, including ensuring government funds are going to the ongoing operation of networks and not just upfront costs for builds.

“Recognizing the high costs of operating networks in rural and remote areas, we call on governments, the private sector, and philanthropic organizations to provide sustainable funding for the ongoing operation of networks, not just upfront capital costs,” said a Connect Humanity webpage.

The federal government has been delivering billions of dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act and will soon be plowing billions more from the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act to the states to support broadband infrastructure. But some have said the money – $42.5 billion in the case of the latter – is not enough for rural and remote communities to see long-term sustainability.

The Connect Humanity call to action also touched on indigenous rights to spectrum, including asking the governments to stop selling spectrum licensing and renew permits on indigenous territories.

“Furthermore, those departments should promptly and unconditionally release unused spectrum licenses on and over Indigenous traditional territories for the use by and benefit of Indigenous Peoples,” the calls to action said, adding if indigenous leadership chooses not to manage spectrum in their territories, then the federal government should do so on their behalf and turn over revenues to the community.

The calls also ask that governments put in place a “dedicated workforce development initiative,” which would be “conducive to well-paid employment opportunities for Indigenous community members, including youth.” That would include governments, the private sector and philanthropic communities coming together to fund long-term funding for those training initiatives.

The calls to action build upon past recommendations that are made on an annual basis.

New York City discontinues internet master plan

New York City has cancelled its 2020 “Internet Master Plan” without public notice, according to reporting from the Gothamist on Monday, which would’ve provided $157 million in funds for the build out of municipal broadband infrastructure in poor communities.

The project would have connected 1.2 million residents to free or low-cost, high-speed internet. After Mayor Eric Adams assumed office, the project went on hold before it was canceled without public notice, the publication reports. It previously selected about a dozen businesses to lead this effort, many being led by women and people of color.

The plan, signed under previous Mayor Bill de Blasio, said it would extend broadband internet service to all New York residents regardless of income or zip code. In the plan, Blasio said, “We will work with the private sector to make sure it is available across the five boroughs, close the digital divide, and make sure all New Yorkers have equal access to the economic, social, and civic power of the internet.”

The plan aimed to close the digital divide in New York City and provide internet access to those that don’t have access or are underserved at an affordable rate.

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Ye Suspended From Twitter, FCC Issues Licenses, Streamlining ReConnect

The musician recently announced a 2024 bid for the presidency.

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Screenshot of a masked Ye during an interview Thursday with Alex Jones

December 2, 2022 – Twitter suspended the account of Ye, formerly Kanye West, after the musician on Thursday tweeted a graphic of a swastika inlaid in a Jewish star.

In recent months, Ye has repeatedly alleged that a Jewish cabal controls the media and other powerful institutions. Ye has claimed that Jews have attempted to silence, imprison, and financially ruin him. These statements have drawn widespread backlash from a wide range of political commentators and public figures.

The musician recently announced a 2024 bid for the presidency and sparked controversy by partnering with antisemitic internet personality Nick Fuentes and alt-right defender Milo Yiannopoulos.

In an appearance on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ show on Thursday, Ye stated, “I like Hitler.” He later added, “I love Jewish people, but I also love Nazis.” Ye elected to wear a mask throughout the appearance.

“I tried my best,” Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk tweeted in response to a Twitter user. “Despite that, [Ye] again violated our rule against incitement to violence. Account will be suspended.”

Musk bought Twitter promising to institute more-permissive content moderation policies. However, despite the worries of Musk’s detractors and some of Musk’s own public statements, Ye’s suspension suggests Twitter will maintain at least basic guardrails against egregious content.

In October, before Musk’s takeover, Twitter restricted Ye’s account following a tweet in which he stated he would “go death con [sic] 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE.” He told Jones he sent the tweet under the influence of alcohol.

That same month, right-wing social-media platform Parler announced Ye planned to purchase the company. On Thursday, Parler announced that Ye and the company had “mutually agreed” to cancel the deal.

FCC grants spectrum licenses in 2.5 GHz band

The Federal Communications Commission granted 51 long-form applications and issued 650 spectrum licenses in the 2.5 GigaHertz (GHz), the agency announced Thursday.

“This is important spectrum, especially for rural America. I am grateful to our team for moving forward quickly but carefully in processing these applications,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “We continue to focus on ensuring that mid-band spectrum is available for 5G and other next-generation wireless services.”

The FCC announced the winners of 2.5 GHz auction in September. The auction raised almost $420 million in net bids, the commission said.

Spectrum allocation has been of late a major issue for the FCC. In October, the agency approved a measuring seeking comment on the 12.7–13.25 GHz band, and Commissioner Brendan Carr the next month urged his colleagues to increase the rate of authorizations.

Over the summer, the commission released an updated memorandum of understanding with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the overseer of federally used spectrum. Many experts have called on federal agencies to relinquish unused spectrum for use in the private sector, which, they say, would drive the expansion of next-generation technologies such as 5G.

Senators introduce bill to “streamline” USDA’s broadband programs

On behalf of a bipartisan coalition, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., on Tuesday introduced a bill that would merge the Agriculture Department’s ReConnect program with the agency’s other broadband funding initiatives.

The coalition, including Sens. Ben Ray Lujan D-N.M., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Deb Fischer, R-Neb., argue the Rural Internet Improvement Act would facilitate the efficient dispatch of funding to rural areas. The bill would also limit the disbursal of ReConnect funds to areas in which at least 90 percent of households lack broadband service.

“High-speed, reliable broadband is critical for New Mexico families and businesses, but the digital divide leaves far too many rural and Tribal communities behind,” Lujan said. “I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation to make USDA programs more efficient and ensure that unserved communities receive the investments they need.” 

Multiple trade groups voice support for the bill.

“Sen. Thune has long been a leader in promoting and sustaining better access to broadband in rural areas, and NTCA appreciates his continued interest and leadership in examining ways to improve the workings of USDA’s ReConnect loan and grant program,” said Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association.

“These are solid improvements to the current program that should be adopted as part of next year’s farm bill,” said NCTA – The Internet and Television Association, in a statement. “Deploying robust, affordable high-speed broadband to all Americans is a key priority for cable providers, so we look forward to working with members on passage of this legislation.”

Addition: The first story above has been updated with news about the cancellation of the Parler purchase by Ye.

Correction: A previous version of the third story above incorrectly stated that Shirley Bloomfield was CEO of NCTA. She is, in fact, the CEO of NTCA.  

 

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FCC December Agenda, Biden to Visit TSMC plant, Weak Economy Presents Cyber Problem

The December meeting includes digital discrimination prevention, phone service accessibility, and satellite application processes.

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Photo of Taiwan Economy Minister Wang Mei-Hua, via Wikimedia Commons

December 1, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission announced the agenda for the agency’s open meeting on December 21.

The agenda will include digital discrimination prevention, phone service accessibility, and satellite application processes.

The FCC will consider, by vote, whether to have a public comment period on making changes in the satellite and earth station application process, possible requirement of wireless carriers to implement location-based routing on their networks to improve 9-1-1 calls and emergency response times, and next steps to close the digital divide in alignment with the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act.

Biden to visit TSMC plant in Arizona next week

The White House announced President Joe Biden will visit on December 6 Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company’s $12 billion semiconductor plant in Phoenix, Arizona, according to Reuters.

TSMC began construction of the plant in mid-2021 and is expecting it to be operational in 2023, according to AZCentral. TSMC is the world’s largest independent manufacturer of microprocessors valued at over $400 billion.

The purpose of Biden’s visit is to promote the domestic manufacturing of semiconductors, a key component in many technologies and a major component of the Chips and Science Act passed this summer. That law provides an incentive of $52 billion to get domestic manufacturing of the chips in the U.S.

Taiwan Economy Minister Wang Mei-Hua told reporters in Taipei that she thinks “…we [TSMC] will form a good supply relationship with the United States,” according to Reuters.

TSMC’s Chair Mark Liu had previously told CNN in August that there is a concern with the rising conflict between China’s recent “reunification” efforts with the sovereign island nation.

“Nobody can control TSMC by force,” Liu said. “If you take a military force or invasion, you will render [the] TSMC factory not operable. Because this is such a sophisticated manufacturing facility, it depends on real-time connection with the outside world, with Europe, with Japan, with U.S., from materials to chemicals to spare parts to engineering software and diagnosis.”

Norton sees economy having impact on cyber vulnerability

The weakening economy will make people more vulnerable to cyber crime in 2023, according to a new report from Norton, a brand of cybersecurity company Gen Digital.

“This year, inflation and other unfavorable macroeconomic factors are likely to make people particularly eager to find good deals and they may therefore be at greater risk than in previous years,” Kevin Roundy, Norton’s researcher and technical director, said in a release.

False government assistance programs, false e-stores and users who create deepfakes – manipulated media to appear like a person is saying or doing something – for romance scams pose a risk for users to disclose personal and financial information, Norton said.

“Taking a few proactive steps today could help you to be safer all year long,” Roundy said.

Norton recommends in a press release that users keep a balanced level of skepticism, avoid using the same password for multiple sites, and implement unphishable factors to two-step authentication, such as device-level security checks – verifying your identity on a different device.

Elsewhere, according to Norton’s cybersecurity analysis for 2023, companies that use weak two-factor authentication systems and/or are short-staffed on information technology support are more vulnerable for data breaches.

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