Verizon Rejects Claims of Redlining, $759 Million from ReConnect, Utopia Fiber Survey

October 27, 2022 – Verizon is requesting the Federal Communications Commission deny claims of discrimination as a “de facto” reason for areas with no network deployment, according to a Wednesday letter from the telecom company.

“We…explained that the Commission should reject arguments to assume that any area where our network is not deployed is de facto caused by discrimination,” the letter said, alluding to the October 24 meeting where the issue was discussed.

“Instead, the actions of third parties, and technical and economic considerations explain areas in Verizon’s territory where its services are not available, notwithstanding demographics,” the letter added.

Last week, the Associated Press and The Markup co-published a story that revealed that Verizon was among a number of service providers that offered “fast base speeds at or above 200 [Megabits per second] Mbps in some neighborhoods for the same price as connections below 25 Mbps in others.” The story noted the neighborhoods that got the worst deals had lower median incomes in nine out of 10 cities in the data analysis.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s digital discrimination provisions require that the FCC create rules to coordinate equitable access to broadband and prevent digital discrimination based on race and class status, yet taking into account “issues of technical and economic feasibility,” according to the document.

In September of this year, Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal and Economic Public Policy Studies alleged no evidence of digital redlining, in the results of an empirical analysis questioning the IIJA’s provision racial and class-based bias in digital discrimination. 

“Discrimination is costly to the firm (i.e., forgone profits), so these results indicating a lack of digital discrimination are consistent with profit-maximizing behavior by providers” said George Ford, Phoenix center chief economist. 

Agriculture releases nearly $800M for fiber infrastructure builds

The Department of Agriculture announced Thursday it is committing $759 million from the ReConnect program to deploy fiber broadband infrastructure in rural, tribal and U.S island territories, according to a press release.

Awards include a $36-million loan will go to the Public Service Telephone Company in Georgia; a $34-million grant to Western New Mexico Telephone Company Inc.; a $34-million grant to Upper Peninsula Telephone Company in Michigan; a $30-million grant to Dena’ Nena’ Henash (Tanana Chiefs Conference); a $29-million grant to Teleguam Holdings LLC; a $25-million grant to Leaco Rural Telephone Cooperative Inc.; a $25-million grant to Pawnee Nation Of Oklahoma; a $25-million grant to Pioneer Telephone Cooperative in Oregon; a $25-million grant to WNM Communications Corporation in New Mexico; and a $24-million grant to Hayneville Telephone Company Inc. in Alabama, according to the USDA website.

“USDA partners with small towns, local utilities and cooperatives, and private companies to increase access to high-speed internet so people in rural America have the opportunity to build brighter futures. Under the leadership of President Biden and Vice President Harris, USDA is committed to making sure that people, no matter where they live, have access to high-speed internet. That’s how you grow the economy – not just in rural communities, but across the nation,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in the release.

The ReConnect loan and grant program distributes loans and grants to fund the costs of broadband deployment in areas that do not have access to service at speeds of 100 * 20 Megabits per second.

Last month, the USDA announced a $502 million commitment from the ReConnect program, dispersed in 20 states.

Utopia Fiber says nearly half survey respondents adopt gigabit speeds

Nearly half of the 2,500 participants surveyed by fiber service provider Utopia Fiber said they chose speeds of 1 Gigabit per second or higher, according to its 2022 customer survey results released Tuesday.

The survey by the Utah-based fiber company found that 43 percent of respondents chose the gigabit speeds or higher, with 95.8 percent saying internet speed was either “extremely important (64.94%) or “very important (27.7%),” according to the results.

Metrics company Ookla’s Speedtest results in September 2022 reported the national median speed for fixed broadband is 172.30 Megabits per second download and 22.40 Mbps upload. Utopia Fiber says the need for faster speeds is a result of the rise in remote work and use of online streaming services.

“The big takeaway here is that ‘Internet is life’, and either you have it, or you don’t,” Kimberly McKinley, chief marketing officer of Utopia Fiber, said in a press release. “Consumers also shared that their communities were better places to live now (76.02%) because municipalities made the wise decision to invest in fiber and allow every home and business the same equitable opportunities and services at a very reasonable and fair price.”

In Ookla’s third quarter market report, the average download speed of the top 10 cities combined for fixed broadband is 244.93 Mbps.



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