What does the MN Charter VoIP decision have in common with state net neutrality? A move to federal policies

Clayton Caller recently ran an article that outlines how “Ajit Pai helped Charter kill consumer-protection rules in Minnesota” and what impact that might have on state’s voice with Net Neutrality. It’s one of those times when I wish I were a teacher again and I could stand in front of the class and say – I think this one is going to be on the test. The details are wonky but understanding what’s going on is important.

Here’s the gist of the Charter case from the article…

The new court ruling found that Minnesota‘s state government cannot regulate VoIP phone services offered by Charter and other cable companies because VoIP is an “information service” under federal law. Pai argues that the case is consistent with the FCC‘s attempt to preempt state-level net neutrality rules, in which the commission reclassified broadband as a Title I information service instead of a Title II telecommunications service.

The ruling was by the US Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, following a lawsuit filed by Charter Communications against the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC). A three-judge panel ruled against Minnesota in a 2-1 vote—the FCC had  supporting Charter‘s position in the case.

“[F]ederal law for decades has recognized that states may not regulate information services,” in response to the ruling. “The 8th Circuit‘s decision is important for reaffirming that well-established principle: ‘[A]ny state regulation of an information service conflicts with the federal policy of non-regulation‘ and is therefore preempted.”

I’ve posted about the Charter case before but I think what’s important here is bumping authority from the state to federal level…

Pai said the ruling “is wholly consistent with the approach the FCC has taken under Democratic and Republican Administrations over the last two decades, including in last year‘s Restoring Internet Freedom order,” which repealed net neutrality rules and reclassified broadband. While and other states are imposing net neutrality rules, the FCC says the reclassification should preempt any such attempts at regulating broadband at the state level.

Despite Pai‘s contention, a lawyer involved in the net neutrality case against the FCC told Ars that the 8th Circuit ruling “has no bearing” on the net neutrality case.

Last week, Representative Stephenson introduced HF 136, a state version of a Net Neutrality bill. Proponents talked about the public’s support for the idea of Net Neutrality. Opponents talks about the Net Neutrality as a federal issue, not state issue. Couple that with the fact that at the federal level there is a push for a rural broadband office within the FCC. It seems like a wave is building to move broadband policy to a federal level. What will that mean for funding, for mapping, for broadband availability, affordability and use?

Rep Kresha introduced HF 1137 – $100 million for broadband funding

The Brainerd Dispatch reports…

Rep. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls, authored a bill, H.F. 1137, that would provide $100 million to improve high-speed internet access for unserved and underserved areas of the state.

Kresha has been a strong proponent of broadband expansion throughout his first six years in the House and has successfully authored previous legislation to fund Minnesota’s Border to Border Broadband Development Grant Program, according to a new release.

Here’s more info on the bill:

Proposal for a rural broadband office at the FCC


StateScoop reports…

Four U.S. senators introduced legislation this week that would create a dedicated office for rural-broadband expansion inside the Federal Communications Commission. The bill arrives as the FCC plans to revise its national map of high-speed internet coverage and as multiple states have created their own broadband offices.

The bill, text of which has not yet been released, is sponsored by Republicans Kevin Cramer of North Dakota and John Hoeven of South Dakota and Democrats Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Ron Wyden of Oregon.

Here are some of the details…

If enacted, the legislation would order the FCC to create an Office of Rural Broadband. That new agency would coordinate with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service and the Universal Service Administrative Company — an FCC-backed nonprofit that distributes broadband funds to underfunded areas — to maintain information on federal rural broadband programs.

At least 20 states have created their own dedicated broadband offices, as bringing high-speed internet access to rural areas remains one of the most popular objectives of elected leaders across the country. Wyden’s home state of Oregon added an office to run statewide broadband policy last December when Gov. Kate Brown proposed the creation of a four- or five-person office plus $5 million in rural broadband expansion projects. Neighboring Washington is also opening an office of its own, along with up to $25 million in bonds and grants to expand internet access in its underserved rural areas.

The broadband office bill was also introduced a bit more than two months after the FCC decommissioned its National Broadband Map, which relied on information the commission called “dated.” That map, first published in 2011, was based on a data set last published in 2014, the FCC said when it shut down both the map and its application program interface. The FCC now uses a Fixed Broadband Deployment map, which was first published in February 2018.

The Minnesota Office for Broadband Development has been instrumental in the success of broadband expansion in the state. It seems like there’s the same opportunity for a national office, especially if they are as good as the staff we have in Minnesota.


ACT highlights technology-based, learning disparities between rural/urban students

A recent paper from ACT reports…

High school students in rural parts of the U.S. face significant challenges accessing technology that may adversely affect their learning — access that students in more populated parts of the country and policymakers may take for granted, according to surveys of students who took the national ACT® test. However, ACT’s experts also suggest stakeholders can take important steps that can help every student succeed, no matter where he or she lives.

The report, “Rural Students: Technology, Coursework and Extracurricular Activities ,” found that rural students were less likely than non-rural students to claim that their home internet access was “great” (36 percent vs. 46 percent).

Similarly, rural students were almost twice as likely as non-rural students to state that their internet access was “unpredictable” (16 percent vs. 9 percent). At school, however, there were no substantive differences in reported internet quality between rural and non-rural students.

Rural and non-rural students also had differing access to devices both at school and at home. Notably, rural students reported somewhat less access to a laptop or desktop computer at home compared to non-rural students (82 percent vs. 87 percent).

Given that rural students lack access to rigorous coursework, this lack of technological access may impede their course-taking success and their ability to participate in online courses and other opportunities for personalized learning.

It outlines the inequity in rural/urban access to education resources brought on by broadband and technology disparities. Something worth consideration for policymakers, community leaders and educators.

The ACT also makes recommendations…

1. Improve access to technology both at school and home.

The Federal E-Rate program must continue to fund access to affordable broadband internet to rural areas and completely close the gap between schools with broadband access and those without

2. Increase opportunities for rigorous course taking.

Students must have access to and be encouraged to take a minimum core curriculum of four years of English, three years of mathematics, three years of science, and three years of social studies. The survey found that students in rural areas were less likely than non-rural students to complete (or plan to complete) the ACT-recommended core curriculum (76 percent vs. 81 percent).

3. Expand opportunities for personalized learning.

Students need the opportunity to receive personalized, student-centered learning. In the case of the rural students in the survey, personalized learning could help provide greater access to advanced coursework.

Sen Rarick says broadband is a priority

The Duluth News Tribune reports…

Minnesota Republican senators strengthened their grip on the chamber’s majority Wednesday, Feb. 13, when newly elected Jason Rarick, of Pine City, was sworn into office after winning a special election to a vacant seat last week.

Rarick, a third-term state representative, won the seat vacated by Democrat Tony Lourey, who stepped down in January after Gov. Tim Walz appointed him to his cabinet. …

Rarick said his priorities are to provide money to bring more broadband access to rural Minnesota and find a permanent new source of funding for roads and bridges.

AT&T to Make Mobile 5G a Reality in at Least 21 Major Cities this Year, including Minneapolis and Chicago

The latest from AT&T…

AT&T to Make Mobile 5G a Reality in at Least 21 Major Cities this Year, including Minneapolis and Chicago

FEB 13, 2019 – It’s been about 50 days since we’ve introduced our mobile 5G+ mmWave network and a 5G capable mobile hot spot to customers. As the 5G leader in the U.S., we are pushing the industry and driving network and device performance improvements with our suppliers quickly.

In fact, due to a number of incremental improvements on both the network and device side, some of our early customers using 5G delivered over millimeter wave spectrum, which we call 5G+, have experienced speeds in the range of 200-300 megabits per second – and even as high as 400 megabits per second.* And we’ve recently observed wireless speeds surpassing 1.5 gigabits per second in field testing on our 5G+ network using a test device. **

Given this encouraging start to our 5G launch, we are moving forward in bringing 5G+ to parts of more cities in the coming months. Today, we’re adding Minneapolis, MN and Chicago, IL to our 2019 deployment roadmap.

We expect 5G+ customer performance and speed to continue to improve in the coming months as we gather learnings from our real-world, commercial network, giving us a head start relative to others still looking to roll out 5G. In addition, we’re on track and expect to have a nationwide 5G network using sub-6 Ghz spectrum by early 2020.

“Getting to mobile 5G first meant pushing the industry and ourselves faster than ever before, but we did it right and blazed a trail for others to follow,” said Jeff McElfresh, President, AT&T Technology Operations. “Now that we’ve had a few weeks to let the network breathe and look at real world results, I’m very encouraged by what we’re seeing. We can’t wait to drive forward and bring 5G+ to even more consumers and businesses in the coming months.”

“It is exciting to see AT&T as one of the world’s leaders in these early innings of 5G”, says Mark Lowenstein, managing director, Mobile Ecosystem. “This promises to be an exciting year, as we learn about initial mmWave deployments, expand coverage to more cities and across additional bands of spectrum, and see more 5G devices.”

Insights from One of the First 5G Customers 

Many of our first mobile 5G customers have been small to medium sized businesses. We think 5G technology has great potential to disrupt and improve many industries and provide a direct benefit to American consumers as a result. To support this, we laid out our strategy for 5G in business last month.

We’re already working with businesses to implement 5G. The first business we connected is Deep South Studios, a full-service motion picture, television and digital media production facility in New Orleans.

“We jumped at the chance to work with AT&T as an early adopter of 5G” said Mick Flannigan, Executive Vice President, Deep South Studios. “We’re interested to see how the technology will handle transferring large amounts of HD video, including high-resolution graphics and video effects. A video production studio can really stand out because of its technology. And if you look at the capabilities of 5G, it feels limitless.”

More Cities to Get 5G this Year 

Given this encouraging start to our 5G launch, we are moving forward in bringing 5G+ to parts of more cities in the coming months. Today, we’re adding Minneapolis, MN and Chicago, IL to our 2019 deployment roadmap.

They will join our previously announced 2019 launch cities: Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nashville, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose.

Learn more about our path to 5G at att.com/5Gnews.

White House report: how the Federal Government can increase broadband access

The White House releases a report on broadband…

This report outlines a vision for how the Federal Government can increase broadband access and actions that Agencies are taking to increase private-sector investment in broadband. Previous attempts to expand broadband connectivity have made progress and provided valuable lessons that guide this Initiative. The report’s recommendations are grouped into three categories: streamlining Federal permitting processes to speed broadband deployment, leveraging Federal assets to lower the cost of broadband buildouts, and maximizing the impact of Federal funding.

Here are the actions they highlight in the report:

  1. Launch and Effectively Execute $600 million in New Federal Investment in Rural Broadband, Using Strategies to Spur Private-Sector Capital and Maximize the Value of Taxpayer Dollars.
  2. Leverage the Department of the Interior (DOI) Towers for Communications Use.
  3. Provide Tools for Expedited Access to Federal Assets in Priority Markets.
  4. Create One-Stop for Broadband Permitting Information.
  5. Revise Common Application Form and Quarterly Metrics for Permit Requests.