April 26, 2023 — Leaders of the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Media and Broadband on Monday called for a review of federal, state and local broadband programs, questioning potential inefficiencies.
“A recent [Government Accountability Office] report uncovered that ‘federal broadband efforts are fragmented and overlapping, with more than 100 programs administered by 15 agencies,’” wrote Chairman Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., and Ranking Member John Thune, R-S.D., in a letter to the GAO.
Thune on Thursday led a group of Republican senators in sending a letter to Alan Davidson, assistant secretary of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, highlighting additional concerns about the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program.
Among other concerns, the senators claimed that the BEAD program’s fiber preference was contrary to IIJA’s intent of allowing “all technologies, including wireless service, to be eligible for funding as long as they meet the IIJA’s network requirements.”
“As numerous states and stakeholders have articulated, current BEAD rules divert resources away from bringing broadband service to rural America in a manner that is inconsistent with NTIA’s statutory authority in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act,” the senators wrote. “NTIA’s failure to resolve these concerns will prolong the digital divide and put billions of scarce taxpayer dollars at risk.”
The senators also voiced concerns about Buy America rules, acknowledging their importance while emphasizing the related supply chain challenges.
“If NTIA wants to ensure broadband projects are built in a timely manner, NTIA should work alongside stakeholders to develop a consistent waiver process for certain components of a broadband network,” they wrote.
Learn about Broadband Breakfast’s Made in America Summit on June 22, 2023.
Apple did not violate antitrust laws in Epic fight
An appeals court on Monday ruled that Apple did not violate antitrust law by banning competing app marketplaces, marking a loss for Epic Games as well as other developers who have long criticized the strict rules and high fees mandated by the tech giant’s proprietary app store.
Apple removed Epic’s popular Fortnite game from its app store in 2020, after the game incentivized players to make purchases through Epic’s website rather than through the iOS app — circumventing Apple’s fees of up to 30 percent of sales revenue.
Although the three-judge panel primarily sided with Apple, it also upheld a lower court’s decision forcing the company to allow developers to point to alternative payment methods. Apple said in a statement that the company is considering whether to seek further review, but called the overall decision a “resounding victory.”
In response to the decision, critics of Apple’s app store policies advocated for legislation similar to the Open App Markets Act, which won significant bipartisan support in 2022 but ultimately failed to pass.
“Epic has been fighting long and hard to empower users and software developers in a mobile app environment dominated by two gatekeepers, Apple and Google,” said John Bergmayer, legal director at Public Knowledge. “While its court cases are ongoing, this loss shows how current antitrust law, and how courts apply it, is not always fit for the challenges posed by dominant digital platforms.
Amended digital privacy bill advances in Florida
A controversial Florida bill aimed at protecting consumer privacy moved forward on Monday, after its scope was narrowed by a legislative committee in response to opposition from the state’s small business owners.
The amended measure no longer applies to nonprofit organizations or companies that make less than $1 billion annually. However, many critics urged lawmakers to oppose the bill altogether.
“There are more effective ways for lawmakers to reach the goal of more transparency about online ads without negatively impacting the method many smaller local businesses and nonprofit organizations rely on to reach key audiences,” said Khara Boender, state policy director for the Computer & Communications Industry Association, in a statement on Monday.
CCIA joined a coalition of several trade groups and an organization representing the state’s Hispanic-owned businesses in a letter to lawmakers emphasizing the importance of online advertising for small and local businesses.
The proposed measure “would unnecessarily and disproportionately strain small businesses, decreasing the effectiveness of their advertising and fundraising efforts in reaching key audiences,” the coalition wrote. “These same advertising practices currently benefit consumers… the legislation risks turning free services into paid subscriptions.”