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National Data Privacy Plan, $4 Million for Tribal Broadband, Twitter Rebrands

$2 million will go toward broadband builds.



Photo of Andrew Long of FSF

July 24, 2023 — The National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced Thursday that it has awarded almost $4 million to eight tribes as part of the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program. 

Of the $4 million, $2 million will go toward broadband infrastructure deployment. The remaining funds will go toward planning, engineering and feasibility studies. Each tribe received a grant of $500,000 during this round of funding.  

The grants bring the total program investments to more than $1.78 billion to 191 tribes across the United States. The money will be used to help tribes reduce monthly internet service costs, plan for future internet infrastructure investments, upgrade network equipment and purchase devices.  

The Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program is a nearly $3-billion grant program as part of the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act and the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. The NTIA will release a second notice of funding for an additional funding round in the next few weeks.  

Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said of the award that “the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to bringing high-quality, affordable internet access to every Tribal Community. These investments will improve internet access across six states and give Tribes the connectivity they need to work, learn, and access health care.” 

Twitter has rebranded as “X”  

In a tweet on Sunday Elon Musk, owner of popular social media platform Twitter, announced that the company will be rebranded as “X.”  

“Soon we shall bid adieu to the twitter brand and, gradually, all the birds,” wrote Musk, referring to the iconic blue bird that represents the brand. 

The company’s new CEO Linda Yaccarino added her support in a tweet, “X is here! Let’s do this.” The company recently announced that it would limit the number of direct messages for non-paying users and limit the tweets a user can read to 600 tweets per day on a tier system that limits tweets based on verification status and length of subscription.  

The company announced in April that it is now called X Corp. Musk said he aspires to build what he calls “the everything app” that will support messaging, payments, delivery and ride sharing. The name comes from Musk’s financial services startup, which was acquired by PayPal in 2000.  

Meta’s new competing social media platform released in early July saw a high number of initial users, some touting it as the “potential end of Twitter.” The platform, called Threads, has seen a nearly 70 percent decline in daily active users since its peak on July 7. The company announced it had hit 100 million sign ups within a week after it launched.  

Think tank urges national privacy framework preempting state laws

Think tank Free State Foundation urged Congress to establish a uniform national data privacy framework that preempts state laws in a Monday report.  

Senior fellow Andrew Long of the FSF argued the “’patchwork’ of laws has become so complicated that interested observers can no longer agree even on the precise number of comprehensive data privacy statutes that have been passed.”  

“Unless Congress acts, there is an increasing risk that the ‘patchwork’ of state laws, containing often conflicting varying requirements, may well result in so much consumer confusion that there will be less online engagement. This decreased consumer engagement will result in overall consumer welfare losses,” Long continued.  

As states continue to adopt comprehensive data privacy statues, the “patchwork” evolves in terms of topics addressed and in scope, continued the report. According to Long, this increases burdens on businesses, particularly small business, by imposing new compliance obligations that vary from state to state and incurs costly analyses that legal counsel must engage in at the outset.  

“Consumers deserve a single, consistent set of privacy rights that are easy to understand and apply nationwide, and the only way to realize that goal is through the passage of a federal comprehensive data privacy law,” Long concluded.  

The American Data Privacy and Protection Act, which formulates a national data privacy framework with a set of consumer data privacy rights and appropriate enforcement mechanism, cleared the House Commerce Committee in July 2022. It has not progressed further.  

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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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Broadband Roundup

Broadcom Finalizes VMware, $191M for Wilkes Rural Broadband, Kinetic Fiber in Georgia

Broadcom announces the closing of their $69 billion acquisition of VMware.



Photo of Broadcom Headquarters, taken 2007.

November 27, 2023 – Broadcom, a semiconductor and infrastructure solution company, announced Wednesday that it has finalized its $69-billion acquisition of VMware, a cloud computing company.

Broadcom will offer modernized VMware cloud services to enterprise customers, which will assist in helping applications deploy more efficiently and improve advanced security services, explained a press release.

“We are excited to welcome VMware to Broadcom and bring together our engineering-first, innovation-centric teams as we take another important step forward in building the world’s leading infrastructure technology company,” said Broadcom CEO Hock Tan.

Broadcom initially announced its intention to acquire VMware in May 2022, and underwent the process of receiving regulatory approvals from countries including  Australia, Brazil and Canada.

Wilkes gets $191M to complete rural broadband rollout

Internet service provider Wilkes Communications and its subsidiary RiverStreet Networks announced November 20 that they have secured a $191.1-million private loan to complete its rural broadband expansion in North Carolina and Virginia.

The financing comes from CoBank, which has a specific stream for rural broadband projects.

The fiber expansion project is expected to reach and service 100,000 locations by the time it is completed with a goal being to replace the remaining Wilkes infrastructure that relies on copper with fiber, read a press release.

“With this substantial financial backing, we are ready to break down barriers and bring the digital future within reach for even the most remote regions of North Carolina and Virginia,” said Wilkes Communications CEO Eric Cramer.

Wilkes has already received $270 million in funding from federal, state and local grants, which will go toward supplementing the loan from CoBank.

Kinetic lays out plan for Georgia buildout

Internet service provider Kinetic announced Tuesday its plan to rollout fiber to more than 70 percent of Colquitt County, Georgia in 2024.

The buildout will include nearly 440 miles of fiber – of which 180 has already been installed – meaning nearly 17,000 homes and 7,400 more customers will get fiber, the company said.

Kinetic said it is working with Colquitt Electric Membership Corp. to complete the $32.5-million fiber network, which includes $21.4 million in state money from the Local Fiscal Recovery Funds Program, which was backed by American Rescue Plan funds, and the remaining $11.1 million will come from Kinetic itself.

“We believe this transformation will open up new opportunities, including enhancing people’s qualities of life and driving economic growth,” said Michael Foor, president of Kinetic Georgia Operations, in the press release.

The company said currently 40 percent of the county is currently eligible to receive their fiber services.

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