NYC Broadband Expansion, China Limits Kids’ Screentime, US Cellular Hits Milestone

New York City expands its broadband housing development program

NYC Broadband Expansion, China Limits Kids’ Screentime, US Cellular Hits Milestone
Photo of Eric Adams from Wikemedia Commons

August 8, 2023 – New York City Mayor Eric Adams on Tuesday announced plans to expand the city’s Big Apple Connect program, which offers free broadband and basic cable, to an additional 17 public housing developments in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx.

The Big Apple Connect program, which the city launched last September, had enrolled 100,000 households by last March, with a 75 percent adoption rate across eligible housing developments.

Now in its third phase, the program is projected to connect more than 330,000 people in 150,000 households at a total 220 public housing developments.

“With today’s expansion of our ‘Big Apple Connect’ program, we have rapidly connected almost every NYCHA resident across the city to broadband in less than a year, helping them unlock economic, educational, and social opportunities that will lead to more productive, connected lives,” Adams said in a press release. “We thank the tenant leaders and elected officials who worked with us on this expansion and look forward to building on this progress in the months ahead.”

As a municipal broadband program, the Big Apple Connect program complements the Federal Communication Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program, a city spokesperson wrote in a statement.

“Big Apple Connect ensures that people do not have to choose between internet or cell service – they can use BAC for internet/basic cable TV and the ACP benefit for cell service,” the spokesperson wrote.

The Affordable Connectivity Program provides a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet or cellular data service to eligible households.

China approves law that regulates screen time for minors

Chinese tech sector regulator, the Cyberspace Administration of China, said Wednesday that people under 18 will not be allowed to access the internet via a mobile device between 10pm and 6am each day.

In the statement, CAC said that it will introduce a system where young people have different amounts of internet access depending on their age. Those under eight years old will be limited to 40 minutes per day. Those between 16 and 18 will have a maximum of two hours of access per day.

Content consumed will also be age-appropriate, with the youngsters being reminded to take breaks every 30 minutes. The revisions for this proposal are open to public discussion and will come into force on Sept. 2.

The CAC said in a statement that the proposed changes are needed to: “better play the positive role of the internet, create a good network environment, prevent and intervene in the problem of minors’ internet addiction, and guide minors to form good habits,” in accordance with several pre-existing laws.

Control like this is possible in China because the country has real name registration systems for many online activities and requires a high degree of compliance on the part of its tech companies.

This continues a vein of crackdowns by the Chinese government on tech use by minors. In 2021, the government limited the online game time activity of minors. It also chose to also suspend approvals for new game licenses and permits that were deemed commercial exploitation of minors.

US Cellular passes 100,000 homes

US Cellular has passed 100,000 Home Internet customers and is planning for additional growth over the coming years.

The Chicago-based carrier is the fourth-largest full-service wireless carrier in the United States according to its website.

In 2022, fixed wireless services accounted for 90% of home broadband net additions, according to Leichtman Research Group. In fixed wireless, a home or business connects wirelessly to a nearby cell tower, providing a high-speed broadband connection via a wireless signal, as opposed to the wired connection provided by fiber or cable.

“Three or four years ago, few people predicted the popularity of fixed wireless for in-building internet, but we knew rural areas in particular would see great benefit from having this type of connectivity solution,” said Eric Jagher, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at US Cellular. “We continue to enhance our Home Internet experience for customers, and the growth and positive response we’ve received to this service has us excited for the future. As we celebrate this milestone, we look forward to further updating the service so we can soon surpass hundreds of thousands of Home Internet customers.”

Earlier this year, US Cellular launched its 5G mid-band network in parts of 10 states and expects to cover 1 million households by the end of the year and 3 million households by the end of 2024 according to a press release. This network can deliver speeds up to 10x faster than its 4G LTE network and low-band 5G.

The press release stated USCellulars intentions to expand its Home Internet service in rural areas, highlighting the importance of funding from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program. “Fixed wireless technology will likely be the best and most affordable option in many under- and un-served areas to help bridge the digital divide in the United States.”

This comes after the chief financial officer of AT&T said in February that the company doesn’t see fixed wireless as a great long-term solution as the company focuses on plowing fiber at a record pace.

“Fixed wireless in certain cases is kind of nice, it’s a nice catch product where we have a copper customer that we’re going to get to in the next 12 to 24 months,” said AT&T’s Pascal Desroches during Deutsche Bank’s annual media, internet and telecom conference.

“But long term, it’s not a solution we want to put a lot of resources behind. Why? It’s because it’s not a great product and the customer ultimately is going to reject it,” he said. “That is our belief. When you look at the amount of bandwidth that is consumed in the home, over time the customer’s experience is going to degrade and we don’t think it’s a product that we want to spend a lot of resources on.”

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