Today's Regulatory Mix: NTIA Releases Internet Use Survey; Reveals Shift in Technology Use, Persistent Digital Divide, FCC Approves USF Funding for Puerto Rico and USVI, US Congress Urges Funding for Broadband Mapping
NTIA Releases Internet Use Survey; Reveals Shift in Technology Use, Persistent Digital Divide
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has released the results of its latest NTIA Internet Use Survey, which show that nearly 4 out of 5 Americans were using the Internet by November 2019 and are increasingly using a larger and more varied range of devices. Despite several demographic groups showing encouraging increases in Internet use, the data show that a persistent digital divide still exists based on income levels, age groups, and race, among other factors.
Overall, the proportion of Americans ages 3 and older using the Internet from any location increased modestly from 78 percent in 2017 to 79 percent in 2019. The pace of growth in Internet use has been relatively stable over the past decade, increasing by 11 percentage points since 2009. However, some demographic groups remained less likely to go online than their peers; for example, African Americans and Hispanics were 7 percentage points less likely to use the Internet, and Asian Americans were 4 percentage points less likely to do so, compared with White non-Hispanics.
FCC Approves USF Funding for Puerto Rico and USVI
The FCC announced it approved $237.9 million in funding over three years to expand, improve, and harden mobile broadband networks in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Specifically, in Stage 2 of the Uniendo a Puerto Rico Fund and Connect USVI Fund, the FCC authorized $233.9 million to three carriers serving Puerto Rico and $4 million to one carrier serving the U.S. Virgin Islands. This includes approximately $59.5 million in funding specifically devoted to deploying 5G networks in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the first universal service funding the FCC has awarded anywhere in the country that is targeted for 5G deployment.
Specifically, the FCC approved approximately $97.8 million for AT&T, $76.6 million for Puerto Rico Telephone Company, and $59.6 million for T-Mobile in Puerto Rico, and $4.0 million for AT&T in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“Over two years ago, communications infrastructure in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands was devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “The Commission acted quickly to direct Universal Service Fund support to help restore communications networks damaged by the hurricanes. And through today’s action, we are taking a major step toward expanding, improving, and hardening mobile broadband networks on the islands. I’m especially pleased that we are providing the first universal service funding ever specifically targeted for the deployment of 5G networks so that consumers in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands will benefit from the next generation of wireless connectivity.”
US Congress Urges Funding for Broadband Mapping
Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR), Communications and Technology Subcommittee Republican Leader Bob Latta (R-OH), and fellow Communications and Technology Subcommittee Republican members urged House Appropriators to provide funding for improved broadband mapping, which is vital for deploying broadband and bridging the digital divide. In a letter addressed to the House Appropriations Committee Chair Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Republican Leader Kay Granger (R-TX), the lawmakers urged the Committee to fully fund the Broadband DATA Act, which was signed into law in March. Inteserra Briefing Service subscribers see Briefing dated 3/25/20. While the FCC is hard at work beginning this implementation, they cannot fully implement this law until needed funding is passed by Congress.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted, the availability of broadband service is a critical driver of the economy, distance learning, and telehealth services. Given the pivotal role that private communications networks serve in connecting Americans, we must ensure that the FCC has the tools it needs to facilitate efficiently the deployment of these networks. The FCC currently spends about $8 billion dollars per year to support universal service of advanced telecommunications services, much of which supports broadband deployment to unserved areas. Closing the digital divide and promoting broadband deployment have long been bipartisan priorities and funding the Broadband DATA Act will improve those efforts,” the members wrote.
Last week, Walden and Latta asked Committee Chair Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Subcommittee Chair Mike Doyle (R-PA) urging the Majority to hold a hearing on bridging the digital divide and homework gap.
The Regulatory Mix, Inteserra’s blog of telecom related regulatory activities, is a snapshot of PUC, FCC, legislative, and occasionally court issues that our regulatory monitoring team uncovers each day. Depending on their significance, some items may be the subject of an Inteserra Briefing.