On behalf of the entire CBAN family and team, we want to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!
As we approach the end of 2023, we indeed have much to be thankful for at CBAN!
We are very grateful to all of you who read Broadband Bytes each week, who tune into Broadband Action, and who've become CBAN members. If you enjoy this blog and email newsletter, why not become a CBAN member? It's free for community-focused broadband members, communities, and advocates. Are you a company that offers products and services in the broadband world? Join as an Associate Member.
CLICK HERE to access our membership page and join!
These are busy times at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). FCC action was limited for an extended period of time because a missing commissioner meant 2-2 ties on many issues by the Democratic and Republican appointees. Now that the commission is at full strength with Democrats in control, the Commission has been actively pushing forward with a number of rules.
The latest propsoal advanced by Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel this week are rules to eliminate "video service junk fees" on cable bills. Rosenworcel's proposal, which will be voted on by the FCC at their December 13th meeting, would prevent cable and satellite video providers from several actions that Rosenworcel says are anti-competitive and anti-consumer.
“No one wants to pay junk fees for something they don’t want or can’t use. When companies charge customers early termination fees, it limits their freedom to choose the service they want,” said Chairwoman Rosenworcel. “In an increasingly competitive media market, we should make it easier for Americans to use their purchasing power to promote innovation and expand competition within the industry.” -- FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel
Proposed legislation in Congress would, for the first time ever, force large broadband providers and "edge providers" of content to contribute to the Universal Service Fund (USF).
The Universal Service Fund, administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) operates several programs designed to benefit schools, libraries, and hospitals get connected to broadband, as well as subsidies to providers in high-cost areas. A key component to the USF, the Lifeline program, benefits lower-income Americans with a monthly subsidy toward their telephone or internet service. Currently, the USF is supported by a surcharge on certain long distance telephone revenues. As long distance calling revenues for providers have steadily declined, the surcharge has risen steadily and now amounts to 34.5%. This contribution factor is almost always passed on to the consumer by the provider.
The new legislation, "Lowering Broadband Costs for Consumers Act of 2023", would force broadband providers that account for more than 3% of annual internet traffic and earn more than $5 Billion to pay into the fund. In addition to impacting some of the nation's biggest ISP's, it would require large edge providers of content like Alphabet, Meta, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Netflex to make a contribution.
In an article at Fierce Telecom, one of the co-sponsors, Senator Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), said the legislation is needed.
“Fair contributions to the USF from edge providers are long overdue. Video streaming services account for 75% of all traffic on rural broadband networks. However, unrecovered costs from streaming companies are often shifted and borne by small rural broadband providers.” - Sen. Markwayne Mullen (R-OK)
The proposed legislation has received support from indsutry associations that support small ISP's such as the NTCA - The Rural Broadband Association. Big cable/broadband advocates are opposed.
Rural residents of Madison County, New York will get access to better broadband thanks to action being taken by the county government.
The Madison County Rural Broadband Network will bring 100/100 Mbps broadband to nearly 1,100 underserved households and businesses in the central New York county southeast of Syracuse. Another 6,504 homes will also have access to the network. The first fiber hut was placed on November 3rd.
The project is funded by a USDA ReConnect grant of $12.8 million that was announced in 2021. The Madison County will own the network and partner with Empire Access to provide services.
For more information, CLICK HERE to read an article in the Oneida Daily Dispatch.
The Fiber Broadband Association and the NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association have released a new Broadband Infrastructure Playbook 3.0 to help guide state broadband offices in making decisions on BEAD funding.
“The Playbook 3.0 modules are fundamental to every state’s funding implementation plans, so we want to ensure each state broadband office is able to address these policy elements confidently and correctly,” said Gary Bolton, President and CEO of the Fiber Broadband Association. “Together with NTCA, we developed the series of Broadband Infrastructure Playbooks to provide recommendations to help realize the promise of this unprecedented investment opportunity. Our goal is to ensure that states can implement BEAD in ways that will have meaningful and lasting impacts.”
The Playbook features four modules: Permitting, Extremely High Cost Threshold, Challenge Process, and Cyber Security and Supply Chain Risk Managment. CLICK HERE to access each of the modules.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to allow schools and libraries to receive funding under the E-Rate program to provide WiFi hotspots and internet access to patrons.
The E-Rate program, part of the Universal Service Fund, has traditionally been used by schools and libraries to offset costs for on-premise internet service and technology. The proposal would allow schools and libraries to purchase WiFi hotspots to be used by patrons in their homes.
As a response to COVID, the FCC's Emergency Connectivity Fund provided similar funding for WiFi hotspots and devices. That fund, however, is set to expire in 2024.
Superior, Wisconsin is the latest American city to take control of their broadband future after the City Council voted 7-3 to establish a municipal broadband utility.
Like many medium sized cities, Superior is stuck with inferior service from large providers. Under the plan adopted by the City Council, the city will build a fiber-to-the-premise network and invite ISP's to lease capacity on the network to provide service. It's similar to the open access model that has been deployed in several other US communities. The city has hired CBAN associate member Magellan Advisors/Entrust to do a detailed design of the first phase of the project.
CLICK HERE for more details on the project at GovTech.com.
Voters in Texas strongly backed a proposal to create a $1.5 billion state fund for broadband infrastructure. The ballot measure, Proposition 8, was approved by 69% of ballot casters on November 7th.
An estimated 7 million Texans lack broadband access. The state funds will be used to help match BEAD funds from the federal government. $3.3 billion in BEAD funds (the largest allotment of any state) will flow to the Lone Star State to fund broadband deployment, mapping, and adoption when released next year.
Safe Holiday Online Shopping
The busy holiday shopping season is upon us, and many Americans will be doing much of their shopping online. In the latest episode of Broadband Action, CBAN Digital Navigator Brianna Dillavou has some tips to stay safe while shopping the online sales!
Check out Broadband Action at this link:
Or search Broadband Action on your favorite podcast app.
You can also view Broadband Action on the CBAN YouTube Page!
Concerns have been growing among digital equity advocates that the Affordable Connectivity Fund (ACP), which has successfully gotten millions of Americans online, may run out of funds before Congress acts to interject more funds or create a permanent funding stream. So a recent FCC announcement that service providers could start applying to be eligible for a larger subsidy in "high-cost" areas raised concerns that the enhanced subsidy could drain the ACP bank even further.
However the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society, a top community broadband advocate, says the enhanced subsidy in high-cost areas ($75 instead of $30 per month) will likely have little impact for several reasons, including the limited eligible areas, limited eligible consumers, limited provider participation, and the (potentially) limited duration of the enhanced subsidy.
CLICK HERE to read the full article at the Benton Institute website.
Broadband Bytes News
Presented by the Community Broadband Action Network and curated by Curtis Dean.