Lifeline Awareness Week has been broadened to include National Digital Connectivity
September 12, 2023 – Federal regulators are this week observing this year’s National Digital Connectivity and Lifeline Awareness Week.
The Federal Communications Commission, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates, and state public utility commissions across the U.S. are observing the tradition that starts annually on the week after Labor Day highlighting the benefits of the Lifeline and the Affordable Connectivity programs.
It will run until Friday.
The Lifeline program caters to low-income consumers and provides opportunities to connect with broadband networks, employment opportunities, and healthcare access among others.
At a policy summit this past July, the NARUC Board of Directors passed two resolutions in support to find a permanent source of funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program and the inclusion of broadband services during Lifeline week.
Nebraska Commissioner and NARUC Telecommunications Chairman Tim Schram stated that “digital connectivity is vital to an advancing society.” He added that by having Digital Connectivity and Lifeline Awareness Week it “reminds both participants and service providers about eligibility and recertification requirements in both the Lifeline and ACP programs.”
The Affordable Connectivity Program offers qualifying households benefits that include a monthly discount up to $30 for broadband services and up to $75 for households located on tribal lands and in high-cost areas.
The Lifeline program assists eligible low-income consumers meet specific income criteria or participate in specified public assistance programs. Participants may receive discounts up to $9.25 a month for qualifying broadband services, up to $5.25 a month for qualifying voice services, and up to $34.25 a month for residents on tribal Lands. Low-income subscribers living on tribal Lands are also eligible for an additional $25 discount.
Local counties in Kentucky will receive a $386 million toward high-speed internet expansion.
Governor Andy Beshear issued more than $196 million from the Kentucky Deployment Fund in grants. Of the recipients, internet service providers who benefitted from the grant funding will match those funds, totaling more than $190 million.
The counties receiving funding are Boyd, Carter, Greenup, Lewis, and Pike.
The service providers participating are Cellular Services, LLC, Inter Mountain Cable, Inc., Foothills Connect, Spectrum, and Spectrum Mid-America, LLC.
Over 25,000 locations have been deemed to have no service, with over 17,000 being deemed underserved. The funds will allow service providers to install fiber in Boyd, Greenup, Carter and Lewis counties.
“High-speed internet is not a luxury anymore,” Gov. Andy Beshear said. “It’s a necessity for work, school, health care and more, and every Kentuckian deserves access.”
The FBA has announced that vice president Deborah Kish will be joining the N.C. Broadband Workforce Plan Advisory Committee to provide assistance with workforce development.
Kish’s involvement with the FBA is to ensure that the fiber broadband industry has a plethora of skilled technicians to “safely and efficiently” construct networks for high quality broadband.
Lots of states are currently working to advance five-year plans and proposals for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s $42.45 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program fund.
North Carolina is going to receive $1.5 billion in BEAD allocations, which is one of the largest amounts given to a state through the program.
Over the next five years, North Carolina will be investing the resources to further expand their broadband access.
State leaders acknowledge that, to attain this, they must have a skilled workforce that is able to deploy and maintain broadband technologies and networks.
The committee will be developing a state broadband workforce plan. Members will be collaborating on “broadband labor market analyses, education and landscape scans, and implementation strategies.”
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The Federal Communications Commission announced over $5 million in additional Emergency Connectivity Funding.
WASHINGTON November 2, 2023 – The Federal Communications Commission announced Wednesday that they are going to commit $5.2 million in funding through the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program to provide digital tools to schools.
The ECF is a $7.1 billion program aimed at providing assistance to schools and school districts to help students acquire the digital skills they need to succeed academically. Money from the program can go to funding things like off-campus learning or summer programs.
The funding announced this week will help support 23 schools and school districts and benefit 14,000 students across the country in states like California, New Jersey, and Wisconsin, explained a press release.
“In this digital era, broadband connections and digital tools are vital to students’ everyday lives and learning. These connections and tools will only grow in importance as they continue to provide access to new and dynamic ways of learning,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.
Glo Fiber in Lancaster, PA
Glo Fiber, an internet service provider, which is powered by Shentel Telecom company, announced Wednesday that they are partnering with municipal officials in Lancaster Pennsylvania to deploy fiber-to-the-home broadband services.
Construction is planned to start mid-2024 and last for approximately 18 months. Glo Fiber plans to expand on the city’s existing fiber network to help build out smart city technology.
“The City of Lancaster is enthusiastic to embark on the next phase of implementing city-wide broadband with Glo Fiber to ensure all residents can access best-in-class broadband services,” said Danene Sorace, Mayor of Lancaster.
Glo Fiber plans to provide high speed internet connection with low latency to more than 30,000 homes and businesses, explained a press release.
“Over the past couple of years, we have been building our fiber network throughout Lancaster County providing citizens with a competitive, all-fiber choice for their internet, TV, and phone,” said Chris Kyle, president of industry affairs and regulatory at Sentel.
Comcast expanding Xfinity 10G network to Milford
Communications giant Comcast on Wednesday announced an expansion its Xfinity 10G Network to Milford in Connecticut to deliver services to more than 24,000 businesses and residents by the end of 2025.
“We are committed to investing in and expanding our network to ensure that more residents and businesses in Connecticut have the connectivity they need to succeed,” said Comcast’s Western New England Region senior vice president Carolyne Hannan.
Construction has already begun in the region and residents are able to see whether or not service is available to them by visiting the Xfinity store at 49 Pershing Drive in Derby or the Xfinity website.
“Having been an Xfinity customer before moving one town over to Milford, I was excited to learn that Comcast was expanding its network to my neighborhood. I missed my Xfinity services that I loved so much,” said Milford resident Narissa Leone.
This expansion is part of Comcast’s investment into a grouping of Connecticut communities which include East Lyme, Jewett City, Killingly and New London alongside others.
FCC approves $18 billion for rural broadband expansion under the Enhanced Alternative Connect America Cost Model.
October 31, 2023 – The Federal Communications Commission announced Monday that it has authorized $18 billion in funding to support broadband service providers who have accepted the speed targets set out by the Enhanced Alternative Connect America Cost Model program.
The Enhanced-ACAM program requires carriers to provide broadband speeds of 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload or faster in certain rural areas.
In an authorization report released by the Wireline Competition Bureau Monday, 368 companies were authorized to receive Enhanced-ACAM support for a period of 15 years starting January 1st, 2024.
Those companies outlined will now offer high-speed internet service to 700,000 previously unserved locations across the United States, while working to “maintain or improve” service in two million locations who are already being served with speeds of 100 * 20 Mbps.
The Federal Trade Commission announced Monday that it will be refunding Vonage customers who were subject to “junk fees” and difficulty canceling their services.
The telecom service provider agreed to settle for $100 million with the competition watchdog, which said it will be sending payments to 389,106 users who were subject to the unsavory practices.
The FTC alleges Vonage charged customers unexpected early termination fees and weren’t consistent with the phone line hours for cancellation requests.
In November 2022, the FTC filed a complaint against Vonage alleging that it made canceling subscriptions overly difficult by requiring users to speak directly to representatives, and oftentimes failing to follow through on cancellation requests.
Iowa announced Monday a list of rural broadband projects to which it intends to award nearly $150 million in federal funds. Recipients include providers like Alpine Communications, Cedar Communications and Coon Valley Cooperative Telephone Association Inc..
The money from the Empower Rural Iowa Broadband Grant Program will go toward 39 broadband projects. The program is supported by the $1.9-trillion American Rescue Plan Act as well as Treasury’s $10-billion Capital Projects Fund.
Those who received funding will now have to choose whether to accept or reject the offer, and should they accept will receive funds contingent upon their execution of the grant agreement.
The FCC grants two providers rip and replace extensions.
October 30, 2023 – Service providers Point Broadband and SI Wireless have been granted extensions Friday by the Federal Communications Commission to replace any Huawei and ZTE equipment they have left in their networks.
The providers, who were to respectively comply with the requirement by October 29th and November 24th of this year, will now have until April 29th and May 24, 2024.
Both service providers cited a lack of funding as the reason backing their requests for an extension to remove, replace and dispose of the equipment.
The FCC and industry have raised alarm that there is a $3-billion gap in funding for the Rip and Replace Program, which was initially infused with $1.9 billion and is intended to reimburse providers for having to replace the Chinese equipment deemed a national security threat.
The White House last week asked Congress to fill that gap in funding.
President Joe Biden signed an executive order Monday intended to establish standards and regulatory guidelines to which artificial intelligence developers would adhere, with a focus on safety, security, innovation and competition.
The order will require developers generating high-risk AI software to alert the government about their AI testing procedures and provide any safety test results to a governing body.
It also requires agencies like the Department of Commerce and the National Institute of Standards and Technology to work in tandem to generate safety testing standards as well as AI identifying requirements, such as watermarking.
In an effort to spur AI innovation, the order outlines more robust AI research grants, AI research resources which will be available to students and researchers alike, as well as providing smaller businesses with assistance in using AI to help improve commercialization.
The executive order comes at a time when AI guidelines have been called upon as necessary by industry experts, as well as members of the Senate.
Satellite operator Telesat asked for more time from the FCC to launch a group of satellites which belong to a constellation of satellites Telesat had originally requested permission to launch.
The FCC had granted the company permission to launch 50 percent of those satellites by November 3, 2023, and the remaining satellites by November 3, 2026, after it announced in 2017 its intention to launch a group of 117 low-earth orbit satellites as part of its Lightspeed constellation.
Telesat is now asking for an extension to launch the first 50 percent of satellites by March 19, 2028, and to launch the remainder by June 10, 2028.
Telesat outlined supply chain delays which limited access to necessary electrical components required to complete construction and deployment. In its request, it outlined that factors like these were out of their control in meeting its original deadline on time.
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