EU Privacy Framework on US Data Flow, FCC Pauses Voice-Only Phase-Out, STL Partners with Windstream

The new framework resolves earlier issues about US intelligence services’ access to EU individuals’ private data.

EU Privacy Framework on US Data Flow, FCC Pauses Voice-Only Phase-Out, STL Partners with Windstream
Photo of EU president Ursula von der Leyen in 2019 by the European Parliament

July 11, 2023 – The European Union on Monday adopted a new privacy framework for data flows within the EU and the United States after two previous attempts were halted at the Court of Justice.

The new framework resolves earlier issues raised by the court about US intelligence services’ access to EU individuals’ private data, limiting such access to “what is necessary and proportionate to protect national security.” It will also set up a Data Protection Review Court with the power to erase data in case of violation and serve as a redress mechanism for EU residents.

The pact expands on President Joe Biden‘s executive order from October and ensures that the US maintains “an adequate level of protection” for data privacy in line with the EU regulations.

“Today we take an important step to provide trust to citizens that their data is safe, to deepen our economic ties between the EU and the US, and at the same time to reaffirm our shared values,” said EU President Ursula von der Leyen in a press release, “It shows that by working together, we can address the most complex issues.”

The decision comes amid a whirlwind of data privacy concerns and crackdowns on digital companies in both the EU and the US.

In May, European privacy regulators fined Meta $1.3 billion for violating EU data rules. The Federal Trade Commission also accused the company of illegally sharing user data with third parties in the same month.

FCC pauses Lifeline phase-out for voice-only services

The Federal Communications Commission hit pause Friday on the phase-out of Lifeline supports for voice-only services for another year and announced an increase in minimum service standards for mobile broadband data capacity.

The Lifeline program, which provides low-income households with monthly discounts of up to $9.25 and $34.25 on their wireline or wireless services, will continue to support voice-only services until December 1, 2023, read the notice.

This marks the second time the commission paused such phase-out due to concerns that voice-only services remain the primary method of communications for many low-income families, according to the Future of USF Report in 2022.

Additionally, the bureau cited the need to evaluate the impacts of the Affordable Connectivity Program on Lifeline.  Even though the ACP provides a larger monthly reimbursement for eligible households, noted the document, it does not support voice-only services. The agency is currently considering results from the ACP Transparency Data Collection, mandated by the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, to better understand how the ACP would affect revisions of the Lifeline program.

The commission also increased the minimum service standard for internet companies serving Lifeline customers from 4.5 GB to 20 GB beginning December 1, 2023, after two delays due to affordability concerns.

STL partners with Windstream for fiber buildouts

Fiber optic manufacturing company STL Tuesday announced a partnership with communications and software company Windstream to expand their fiber projects across the country.

According to a press release, STL will provide Windstream with high-fiber count products including ribbon and loose tube optical cables. These materials will ensure faster deployment and better network longevity and scalability to support Windstream’s metro and long-haul optical networks, read the document.

Windstream’s Kinetic business is currently investing $2 billion in expanding gigabit internet service across 18 states, along with ongoing fiber constructions projects in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida, New York city and Montreal.

“STL and Windstream are extremely well positioned to take advantage of future market opportunities such as the $42 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program,” said Jeff Small, president of Windstream’s Kinetic. “Kinetic is committed to bringing the fastest, most reliable internet service to residents in under-connected communities using the best construction materials manufactured here in America.”

In 2021, the BEAD program and other federal infrastructure projects adopted domestic manufacture requirements for fiber optic cable and other construction equipment under the Build America, Buy America provisions. Since then, several industry experts have voiced concerns that the criteria may cause a delay in the buildout timeline and an increase in final expenses and called for more specific rules to be established.

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