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Funding Affordable Connectivity Program, 5th Circuit Social Media Stay, OpenAI and FTC, Tribal Ready Hires NTIA Coordinator

Congress should discontinue High-Cost, Lifeline, and ReConnect.



Photo of Joe Kane from ITIF

July 17, 2023 – A report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation released Monday calls for Congress to find $5 to 6 billion from current redundant broadband subsidy programs to fund the Affordable Connectivity Program, which is set to run out of money in 2024. 

The ACP provides low-income households with a $30 or $75 subsidy per month for high-speed internet subscription.  

“Federal broadband programs are dangerously out of balance,” said the director of broadband and spectrum policy at ITIF and author of the report Joe Kane. “Congress has created effective subsidy programs that render older programs duplicative and wasteful. Yet the old programs persist, siphoning funding away from more effective ones and increasing phone bills.” 

According to the report, broadband deployment programs from the U.S. Department of Agriculture are duplicative, especially in the face of the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity Access and Deployment program which announced funding allocations to states in June. It pointed to the ReConnect program, the Lifeline program which discounts broadband services for low-income homes, and the High-Cost program as primary contributors to duplicative efforts.  

The report breaks down average annual expenditures for the programs and recommends Congress to discontinue them and all other federal programs targeting broadband deployment or individual broadband affordability, excepting tribal programs. It then suggests that the funding be appropriated into the ACP, which then is modified to make up for any shortfall stemming from cutting other programs. 

“Policymakers’ energy and time in this space would be better served fine-tuning and scaling digital inclusion efforts, rather than being obligated to lobby for BEAD and ACP, whose continuation should be a no-brainer,” said Kane.  

Fifth Circuit pauses order restricting Biden’s tech contacts 

The 5th Circuit Appellate Court announced Friday a temporary stay of a July 4 order that would put limitations on the Joe Biden administration’s communications with social media companies about content.  

A federal judge in Louisiana restricted the Biden administration from communicating with social media platforms about content online. Trump-appointed Judge Terry Doughty said that parts of the government could not talk to social media companies for “the purpose of urging, encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner the removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech.” 

The ruling allowed the government to notify the platforms about posts detailing crimes, national security threats, or attempts by foreign entities to influence elections. 

The stay puts on pause on these restrictions and comes after a request from the Justice Department which warned that the order could halt law enforcement efforts to maintain national security interests. Doughty had rejected a request to put his order on hold pending approval. The regulation is on hold “until further orders of the court.”  

In its request that the 5th Circuit issue a stay, the Biden administration said that “the district court identified no evidence suggesting that a threat accompanies any request for the removal of content.” The stay was issued without comment by a panel of three 5th Circuit judges. A different panel from the court will hear arguments on a longer stay.  

OpenAI to work with FTC as federal probe begins 

Sam Altman, CEO of popular artificial intelligence platform ChatGPT, pledged in a tweet on Thursday to work with the Federal Trade Commission as the agency begins probe into the company.  

The FTC’s request for documents was leaked on Thursday and seeks descriptions of complaints to the company and records related to a security incident disclosed in March. It asked OpenAI to provide detailed descriptions of complaints it received of products making “false, misleading, disparaging or harmful” statements about people.  

“It is very disappointing to see the FTC’s request start with a leak and does not help build trust,” he wrote. “That said, it’s super important to us that our technology is safe and pro-consumer, and we are confident we follow the law. Of course we will work with the FTC.” 

Altman touted the safety of the platform, said that ChatGPT was built on “year of safety research” to make it “safer and more aligned before releasing it.” 

“We’re transparent about the limitation of our technology, especially when we fall short. Our capped-profits structure means we aren’t incentivized to make unlimited returns,” he continued. 

The FTC’s request is the latest regulatory threat to OpenAI as the federal government races to regulate the new technology. An AI regulation framework was introduced in the Senate in June.

Tribal Ready hires former NTIA tribal coordinator 

Broadband consultancy Tribal Ready hired Adam Geisler, the division chief for tribal connectivity and nation coordination at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.  

Geisler helped deploy $2 billion to Indian Country through the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program and is now working as chief operating officer at Tribal Ready, bringing decades of tribal relations and broadband experience to the firm. Tribal Ready, which launched in February, helps tribes plan, build and operate communications networks in unserved communities. Tribal Ready works in close partnership with, providing access to data and other broadband tools.

“He’s going to add some tremendous assets to what we’re doing. We’re over the moon about it,” Tribal Ready CEO Joe Valandra told Tribal Business News. “We’re really excited about it.” 

States have an obligation to include tribes in the process of rolling out Broadband Equity Access and Deployment grants, set to be released sometime in the next year. It is critical for tribes to have access to these conversations, said Valandra.  

Separately, hired Dustin Loup, former program manager at the National Broadband Mapping Coalition for the Marconi Society, as director of community development., a project of, is a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Roundup

Supply Chain Improvements, Bill for Broadband in Public Parks, FCC Grants Alert System Compliance Extension

The Biden administration announced Wednesday a list of new measures to promote supply chain resiliency.



Photo of Congressman Raúl Grijalva, taken by Gage Skidmore 2018. 

November 30, 2023 – President Joe Biden announced at an inaugural meeting Wednesday new measures to improve national supply chain resilience, many of which are targeted at bettering semiconductor manufacturing. 

These new measures will see the development of a geospatial mapping protocol that will be used to account for and track trade disruptions of raw materials, with a special focus on ones that are involved in semiconductor manufacturing.

Additionally, the US plans to develop a resilience center to assess risks and supply chain vulnerabilities specifically inside national ports alongside looking at how to better implement CHIPS and Science funding.

In July of 2022, the Biden administration signed into law the CHIPS and Science Act, which was broadly supported by lawmakers, putting $52 billion into semiconductor research and development and a 25 percent investment tax credit to promote manufacturing. 

More recently, Biden has announced tech innovation hubs supported by CHIPS Act funds, four of which will focus directly on improving semiconductor production and manufacturing. 

Legislation put forth to expand broadband to public parks 

Congressman Bruce Westerman, R-Arkansas, and Congressman Raúl Grijalva, D-Arizona, introduced legislation Wednesday that would bring broadband connectivity to public parks and lakes. 

The Expanding Public Lands Outdoor Recreation Experiences Act would include increasing broadband connectivity in those visitor centers and surrounding areas as well as create digital passes for visitors to use when going to those parks. 

“The increasing popularity of outdoor recreation is a boon for local economies and job creation, but we must make sure our public land management agencies have the tools, resources, and staff they need to keep up,” said Grijalva. 

The broader legislation looks to improve access to public lands and waters, modernize visitor experiences and reduce overcrowding. 

FCC granted emergency alert development extensions to broadcasters

The Federal Communications Commission granted extensions to certain national broadcasters Wednesday, allowing them more time to acquire equipment needed to comply with national emergency alert system requirements. 

There are two ways that broadcasters can transmit emergency messages, either to devices connected to the internet using what is called the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System or over audio channels, which is referred to as the legacy emergency alert broadcast system. 

Historically, messages sent via IPAWS transmit more information to the recipient than ones that are formatted for being transmitted via the legacy system. Because of that, in 2022 the FCC required emergency broadcasters to alert constituents via the IPAWS unless they were unable to. 

Broadcasters were required to comply with this by December 12 of this year. However the National Association of Broadcasters and REC Networks, a broadcast advocacy group, filed a joint request for a 90-day compliance extension.

They explained that Sage Alerting Systems, a manufacturer of firmware needed to encode and decode emergency messages, is not able to meet supply demands for broadcasters to update equipment by the December 12 deadline. 

As a result, the FCC waived the deadline and granted a 90-day extension to emergency broadcast participants who are customers of Sage Alerting Systems. 

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Broadband Roundup

FCC Fines TracFone, Rip and Replace Extensions, Kansas State Internet Exchange Point

The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau has entered into a settlement with TracFone for subsidy program violations.



Photo of Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly taken by K-State Research and Extension, 2023.

November 29, 2023 – The Federal Communications Commission announced Wednesday that the Enforcement Bureau and TracFone Wireless, a Verizon Subsidiary, have reached a $23.5 million settlement for TracFone’s violation of broadband subsidy program rules

After TracFone was acquired by Verizon, the company self-reported instances in which it violated the FCC’s regulatory rules for the Lifeline and Emergency Broadband Benefit programs, according to the agency  

During an investigation into TracFone, the agency found that the company reported improperly claiming support for customers jointly-enrolled in subsidy programs and improperly using inbound text messages to make claims for customers who had not been using those services for at least 30 days, according to a press release.

According to the FCC, TracFone also conceded that some of their field enrollment representatives used false tax documents to enroll customers in the lifeline and EEB programs.

“Whether attributable to fraud or lax internal controls, or both, we will vigorously pursue allegations of misconduct that harms critical FCC programs designed to help those most in need of communications-related services,” said Enforcement Bureau Chief Loyaan A. Egal.

As part of the settlement, TracFone has entered into an improvement plan agreement with the Enforcement Bureau.

Wireline Bureau grants more rip and replace extensions 

The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau announced in an order Wednesday that it has granted rip and replace extensions to Montana providers Triangle Telephone Cooperative Association Inc. and Triangle Communication System Inc.

The rip and replace program requires service providers to remove and replace any equipment they use that was manufactured by Huawei Technologies Company or ZTE Corporation that were installed prior to June 30, 2020, because of security concerns. 

Triangle Telephone filed for an extension on October 18 and on November 10th, requesting an extension to replace the equipment by Map 29, 2024 as opposed to their original deadline of November 29 of this year.

Triangle Communications filed their request for extension on October 18 and November 16 of this year requesting for additional time up until July 13, 2024, as opposed to January 13, 2024. 

Both petitioners cited supply chain disruptions and delayed equipment delivery as factors preventing them from replacing existing equipment alongside poor weather conditions and a decreasing number of employees. 

Both providers were granted the extensions they had requested. 

Additional funding from Congress has been requested by president Joe Biden to finance the rip and replace program, as a report published by the Federal Communications Commission in July of 2022 noted that the program’s initial $1.9 billion would not be enough to support providers. 

In October of this year the FCC’s Wireline Bureau issued extensions to two other providers who cited that they were unable to completely replace the equipment due to lack of funding. 

Kansas awards $5 million to internet exchange point 

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly on Wednesday announced that the state had awarded $5 million to help fund the construction of the first carrier-neutral internet exchange point at Wichita State University.

The construction of this carrier-neutral internet exchange point will allow for the operation of cloud services and streaming content networks to operate more efficiently alongside local and regional internet networks, explained a press release. 

The endeavor will be undertaken by Connected Nation, a Kentucky non-profit, and Hunter Newby, founder of Newby Ventures investment firm, working with them to build and operate the internet exchange facility. 

Tom Ferree, CEO of Connected Nation, said that the exchange point will support Wichita State and the economy well “by improving the entire regional broadband landscape — preparing Wichita, and Kansas more broadly, for the future evolution of the Internet and all that it will enable.”

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Broadband Roundup

NTIA Awards $13 Million from Wireless Fund, New Ritter CTO, Middle Mile in Virginia and North Carolina

The NTIA has awarded $13 million to open network projects.



Photo of Victor Esposito from Ritter Communications.

November 28, 2023 – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced Tuesday that it is committing $13 million in grant funding from the $1.5 billion Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund. 

“The transition to open, interoperable wireless networks is now well on its way — bringing with it greater security, competition, and resiliency,” said NTIA Alan Davidson in a press release announcing the funding, adding the fund will accelerate the transition toward open and interoperable wireless by financially backing research and development. 

The seven projects that will be awarded funding are expected to improve the networks’ security, energy efficiency, and allow them to leverage AI to automate the network testing process. 

The fund is supported by the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, which aims to invest in domestic manufacturing to improve national supply chain resiliency. 

Ritter Communications new CTO

Telecom service provider Ritter Communications announced Monday that Victor Esposito will serve as the company’s chief technology officer, after having served as its vice president of engineering and network operations. 

In his new role, Esposito will lead all of Ritter’s technology-related teams, read a press release. 

“[Victor] has the leadership, skills and drive to keep us and our customers on the cutting edge of innovation as well as maintaining the company’s steep growth trajectory,” said Ritter Communications president Heath Simpson. 

Esposito joined Ritter Communications in April of this year and will succeed Greg Sunderwood, who served as CTO position for 11 years.

Middle mile to be built in Virginia and North Carolina 

Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative announced Tuesday that it is partnering with Ciena, a networking systems service provider, to help install middle mile infrastructure to serve more than 31,000 customers in Virginia and North Carolina.  

MEC currently services 4,511 square miles in those respective states with its electric distribution system and is partnering with Ciena to deliver low-latency connectivity and aggregate operation technology to better broadband, explained a press release. 

“During our network deployment, we will pass tens of thousands of homes, businesses, and organizations, and we found it unthinkable to miss the opportunity to extend this fiber resource to our communities,” said Dwayne Long, vice president of information technology at MEC. 

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