Cost Model Funds Announced, FCC to Tighten Robocall Rules, X to Collect Biometric Data

E-ACAM offers more funds and extended deployment deadlines for higher speeds.

Cost Model Funds Announced, FCC to Tighten Robocall Rules, X to Collect Biometric Data
Photo of Elon Musk in 2018 from a SpaceX press conference used with permission

September 1, 2023 – The Federal Communications Commission released on Wednesday additional funding offers under the enhanced Alternative Connect America Cost Model.

Known as E-ACAM, the program offers more money and mandates higher speeds than its predecessor, the Alternative Connect America Cost Model. That model was established in 2016 and requires deploying service of 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream.

The new model requires at least 100 Mbps download and 25 Mbps upload speeds and offers more support to reflect the higher cost of deployment, making $13.5 billion in support available through 2038. It also extends deployment deadlines.

The offers were made to small broadband providers serving rural and hard-to-reach areas through the Universal Service Fund, many of whom are receiving that funding under the ACAM model.

E-ACAM recipients will be required to participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides monthly internet subsidies for low-income households. The fund’s money is set to dry up in 2024.

Providers have until September 29 to inform the FCC if they intend to take the additional funds and meet the new speed requirements, which they can elect to do on a state-by-state basis.

Areas receiving the ACAM-required 25/3 speeds are now considered ‘underserved’ under the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program, which could lead to overbuilds by BEAD-funded projects.

FCC to consider stronger robocall measures

The Federal Communications Commission announced on Thursday that it will consider an item at its September open meeting that would tighten its rules on entities providing voice services over the internet.

The measure would place more reporting requirements on VoIP providers seeking direct access to phone numbering resources. These include making robocall-related certifications, disclosing information about current ownership to the FCC, and more stringent certifications of compliance with other state and FCC rules.

The proposed rule would also seek public comments on a number of measures, including preventing direct access-holders from working with bad actors and requiring direct access applicants to disclose a list of states in which they intend to operate.

The proposed requirements are part of an ongoing effort by the commission to combat robocalls. The STIR/SHAKEN robocall regime, which requires VoIP providers to verify caller I.D. numbers, was broadened in August. It now applies to intermediary providers along the call chain, not just those originating and terminating the call.

The FCC has taken measures to enforce compliance with the regime, proposing a $300 million fine on a large, alleged scam call enterprise and ordering telecom companies to cut traffic from known offenders.

X/Twitter to collect biometric data, employment history

X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, is planning to collect users’ biometric data starting next month, according to the site’s privacy policy.

“Based on your consent, we may collect and use your biometric information for safety, security, and identification purposes,” the privacy policy reads. The policy does not specify what that biometric data might be.

The platform’s updated policy, slated to go into effect September 29, says it will also collect users’ employment and education histories “to recommend potential jobs for you, to share with potential employers when you apply for a job, to enable employers to find potential candidates, and to show you more relevant advertising.”

Elon Musk, billionaire owner of the platform, has generated controversy since his purchase of X last year by laying off staff and loosening content moderation policies.

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