LightBox’s Broadband Map, Epic Suffers Setback in Apple Case, 2021 Community Broadband Winners

Lightbox publishing new broadband map, Epic Games suffers loss in Apple antitrust case, 2021 Community Broadband Awards announced.

LightBox’s Broadband Map, Epic Suffers Setback in Apple Case, 2021 Community Broadband Winners
Lightbox CEO Eric Frank

September 13, 2021—While the Federal Communications Commission continues to push to keep mapping data up to date ahead of new rounds of funding, LightBox hopes to fill in the gaps.

LightBox, an intelligence and analytics broker, recently published its own interactive map, distinct from the FCC’s data. Unlike the FCC’s data, which indicates that under 15 million Americans lack broadband as of the end of 2019, LightBox asserts that 60 million are unconnected. The data was collected from two billion Wi-Fi access points and covers 97 percent of the U.S. LightBox was previously commissioned to create data maps by Georgia.

In the wake of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund’s reverse auction results, a growing number of companies are attempting to default on their obligations after discovering that the data they based their strategies are lacking. While some critics were quick to criticize the reverse auction process, arguing that it incentivized unrealistic bidding strategies, others, including Technology Policy Institute President Scott Wallsten, describe the problem as a mapping and data issue rather than an auction issue.

As the federal government plans dole out $65 billion through the states (rather than a reverse auction) as part of the bipartisan infrastructure framework, questions remain as to whether this new strategy will yield similar results as RDOF. Though Acting Chairwoman of the FCC Jessica Rosenworcel established the Broadband Data Task Force in February of 2021 with the goal of creating and implementing tools to retrieve more up-to-date data and maps, these maps are not expected to be published until some time in 2022.

Claims rejected by judge in Epic/Apple antitrust case

On Friday, Epic Games suffered a significant loss when U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers handed down a decision that was favorable to Apple.

The case was argued back in May of 2021 following changes made to one of Epic’s biggest video games, Fortnite. These changes allowed users to make in-game purchases directly through the game and circumvent Apple’s App Store. In response, Apple blocked the game from being downloaded from its marketplace.

Throughout the trial, Epic stated that Apple’s practice of requiring microtransactions be made through its proprietary marketplace is anticompetitive, and Apple maintained that Epic intentionally breached its contract to provoke Apple into a lawsuit.

Among other things, Judge Rogers disagreed with Epic, stating that Apple does not have a cellphone monopoly and that she would not compel Apple to reinstate “Fortnight” on the App Store. Despite this, she did state that Apple is engaged in anticompetitive behavior, and most allow third parties to steer customers to payment methods that are not based on the App Store—something Apple did not previously allow.

Community Broadband and Digital Equity award winners announced

The National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors announced winners on Friday for the 2021 Community Broadband and Digital Equity awards. Anacortes, Washington won “Community Broadband Project of the Year” with their “Pipe-in-Pipe” fiber broadband efforts.

The effort used a unique technique—feeding fiber through water pipes—to connect more than 1,000 building within the next year.

Boston, Massachusetts took “Digital Equity Project of the Year” for its digital equity and inclusion programs aimed not only at improving household and business connectivity, but also free Wi-Fi throughout Boston’s 20 Mainstreet Districts and efforts to expand fiber to every Boston public school. Additionally, Boston was recognized for its ongoing community efforts to improve digital literacy with programs teaching basic computer/internet use, coding, and media production among other skills.

The “COVID-19 Response Digital Equity Project of the Year” went to Community Tech Network’s Home Connect and Train-the-Trainer program that provided seniors with tablets and up to “17 hours of remote digital literacy training.” Furthermore, offered programs could be accessed in English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Tagalog, Russian, Korean, and Vietnamese.

The Thompson School District from Loveland, Colorado won the “COVID-19 Response Digital Equity Project of the Year” for its efforts to connect unserved students through a $731,000 grant from the Connecting Colorado Students Grant Program.

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