BBWN Bites: RIP to FCC pledge to Keep Americans Connected
Also in this roundup: Virgin Media launches gigabit services in Edinburgh and Liverpool; rural Mississippi gets the "equivalent of the initial delivery of electricity" with broadband legislation; and the Georgia Broadband Availability Map reveals huge disparities.
- Virgin Media made progress on its plan to bring "gigabit-capable" speeds to more than 15 million UK homes by the end of 2021, with Liverpool and Edinburgh becoming the latest cities to benefit. Accomplished largely through DOCSIS 3.1 upgrades to the operator's hybrid fiber coax (HFC) network in those cities, the expansion covers an additional 600,000+ households. Other cities currently covered include Southampton, Manchester, Reading, Birmingham and Coventry. In a press release, Virgin Media said it will announce the next round of cities "later in the year."
- Broadband, or a lack of it, continues to get renewed attention in the rural US as COVID-19 works its magic at exposing every flaw in our society. With the digital divide still high on that list, various localities are seeking solutions. This week Mississippi's state legislature passed an appropriation of the state's $1.25 billion from the Coronavirus Relief Fund, allocating nearly $300,000 for rural broadband and K-12 distance learning services.
In a press release, Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann said, "This is the equivalent of the initial delivery of electricity to rural Mississippi," noting that the funding will "impact thousands of Mississippians who currently do not have access to broadband." (BroadbandNow estimates 368,000 households in Mississippi lack access to a connection capable of 25Mbit/s download speeds.)
Meanwhile in Georgia, a new broadband availability map published by the state Department of Community Affairs has revealed that of 507,000 homes and businesses lacking access to reliable broadband services, nearly 70% are in rural parts of Georgia. While a page about the new map states that "the map can be used by local communities and providers to assist with broadband planning efforts," its launch did not come with any meaningful news about solving the access problem.
- Despite time having lost all meaning, it is apparently July. With the new month comes the official expiration of the FCC's Keep America Connected pledge. While some ISPs are extending some of the support they provided consumers throughout the early days of the crisis, piecemeal efforts won't be enough to ensure the majority of people have reliable broadband across the country.
This week, the House of Representatives approved $100 billion worth of broadband funding as part of a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill. The plan would provide the FCC $80 billion in fiscal year 2021 to fund high-speed broadband projects in unserved and underserved areas. It would also provide monthly discounts for low-income broadband users and households in Tribal lands of $50 and $75 respectively, among other things.
Whether the infrastructure bill or at least the broadband bits will now succeed in the Senate remains to be seen. The vote on the broadband amendment fell on party lines, with 231 "yes" votes from Democrats and just three from Republicans. (177 Republicans voted "no.") But the strains placed upon US families as a result of the Keep Americans Connected pledge expiring will also coincide with evictions (as rent-and-mortgage relief expires), a reduction in unemployment insurance, an [inexplicable] end of federal funding for COVID-19 testing and a Senate majority that just isn't sure people need more relief – all while the pandemic promises to be with us for much longer than those running the country will ever admit.
Anyway, Happy Independence Day!
— Nicole Ferraro, contributing editor, Light Reading
Here's where you can find episode links for 'The Divide,' Light Reading's podcast series featuring conversations with broadband providers and policymakers working to close the digital divide.
As we have for the past two years, Light Reading will present our Cable Next-Gen Europe conference as a free digital symposium on June 21.
Charter has sparked RDOF work in all 24 states where it won bids. The cable op booked about $19 million in RDOF revenues in Q1, and expects to have about $9 million per month come in over the next ten years.
As we have for the past two years, Light Reading will stage the Cable Next-Gen Technologies & Strategies conference as a free digital event over two half-days in mid-March.
Launch of 2-Gig and 5-Gig FTTP tiers in 70-plus markets puts more pressure on cable ops to enhance their existing DOCSIS 3.1 network or accelerate their upgrade activity centered on the new DOCSIS 4.0 specs.