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This Week's Wireless News Headlines
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This doesn't mean that nothing is ever published here that mentions a US political party—it just means that the editorial policy of this newsletter is to remain neutral on all political issues. We don't take sides.
A new issue of the Wireless Messaging Newsletter is posted on the web each week. A notification goes out by e-mail to subscribers on most Fridays around noon central US time. The notification message has a link to the actual newsletter on the web. That way it doesn’t fill up your incoming e-mail account.
There is no charge for subscription and there are no membership restrictions. Readers are a very select group of wireless industry professionals, and include the senior managers of many of the world’s major Paging and Wireless Messaging companies. There is an even mix of operations managers, marketing people, and engineers — so I try to include items of interest to all three groups. It’s all about staying up-to-date with business trends and technology.
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BIG SPENDERS —
ISPs spent $235 million on lobbying and donations, “more than $320,000 a day”
Common Cause report says industry lobbying of Congress worsens the digital divide.
JON BRODKIN — 7/20/2021, 1:50 PM
The biggest Internet service providers and their trade groups spent $234.7 million on lobbying and political donations during the most recent two-year congressional cycle, according to a report released yesterday. The ISPs and their trade groups lobbied against strict net neutrality rules and on various other telecom and broadband regulatory legislation, said the report written by advocacy group Common Cause.
Of the $234.7 million spent in 2019 and 2020, political contributions and expenditures accounted for $45.6 million. The rest of it went to lobbying expenditures.
Comcast led the way with $43 million in lobbying and political contributions and expenditures combined during the 2019-2020 cycle, the report said. The highest-spending ISPs after Comcast were AT&T with $36.4 million, Verizon with $24.8 million, Charter with $24.4 million, and T-Mobile with $21.5 million.
"The dollar amounts are shocking," the report said. "In total, these corporations spent more than $234 million on lobbying and federal elections during the 116th Congress—an average of more than $320,000 a day, seven days a week!"
Cable and wireless lobbies spent big
The cable and wireless industry's top lobbying organizations were third and fourth in spending overall as cable group NCTA spent $31.5 million and wireless group CTIA spent $25.3 million. USTelecom, which represents telcos including AT&T and Verizon, spent $4.8 million.
The rest of the $234.7 million came from CenturyLink with $7.2 million, SpaceX/Starlink with $5.9 million, Sprint with $5.1 million prior to its merger with T-Mobile, ViaSat with $1.9 million, the Wireless Infrastructure Association with $1.6 million, Frontier with $784,000, and HughesNet with $496,000.
The Common Cause report cites campaign-finance data from OpenSecrets.org and includes this table:
Common Cause got help writing the report from the Communications Workers of America union that represents employees of AT&T, Verizon, and other telcos.
Common Cause itself spent $210,000 on lobbying in the two-year cycle and made $35,149 in political contributions, according to OpenSecrets. The Communications Workers of America made $10 million in contributions and spent $2.2 million on lobbying.
Net neutrality lobbying
Net neutrality was one of the top regulatory issues for broadband lobbyists as they fought the Democrats' "Save the Internet Act." In its original version, the bill would have reversed the Federal Communications Commission's repeal of net neutrality rules and reinstated the Title II common-carrier regulatory system implemented during the Obama era. The Democratic-majority House of Representatives passed the bill, but then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared it "dead on arrival" in the Senate.
"When the House voted to pass the Save the Internet Act, ISPs condemned lawmakers for advancing 'a highly controversial, partisan proposal that puts the Internet under heavy-handed government control,'" the Common Cause report said. "Given this historic opposition to net neutrality and Title II authority, it is no surprise why the Save the Internet Act did not even receive a vote in the Senate, despite bipartisan passage in the House and polling that showed 77 percent of Republicans and 87 percent of Democrats support net neutrality principles."
Eight of the 15 ISPs and lobby groups analyzed by Common Cause revealed in required disclosures that they lobbied on this bill, the report said. Those include AT&T, Comcast, NCTA, and USTelecom. But while "federal law requires lobbying disclosure reports to include a list of specific bill numbers 'to the maximum extent practicable,'" some of the ISPs did not report lobbying on specific bills.
Common Cause explained:
ISPs' fight against net neutrality also involved funding a campaign in 2017 that generated "8.5 million fake comments" to the Federal Communications Commission in order to "manufacture support for repeal," according to a recent report issued by New York State Attorney General Letitia James.
Fiber-deployment bill failed amid lobbying
ISPs also focused heavily on the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act, which would have spent $80 billion to deploy future-proof broadband infrastructure nationwide, directed the FCC to collect and publicize data on broadband prices, and eliminated state laws that prevent the growth of municipal broadband, among other things. The bill prioritized fiber by requiring federally funded ISPs to provide low latency and speeds of at least 100Mbps for both downloads and uploads and by defining "unserved" areas as those lacking access to 25Mbps speeds on both the download and upload side.
Six of the 15 ISPs and trade groups reported lobbying on the bill, including AT&T, Charter, NCTA, T-Mobile, USTelecom, and Verizon, Common Cause wrote, adding:
Other bills that failed amid broadband-industry lobbying included the RESILIENT Networks Act, which would change the Communications Act "to require coordination from providers of communications services during times of emergency" and require the FCC to "improve how networks share outage information with first responders," Common Cause wrote. Another was the CONNECT at Home Act that would have prohibited ISPs "from terminating service to a customer during the COVID-19 pandemic and up to 180 days after the pandemic is declared to be over."
ISPs have “profoundly shaped” US policy
Congress approved the Broadband DATA Act, which required the FCC to create more accurate broadband-availability maps. AT&T and other ISPs fought against stricter mapping requirements for years but dropped some of their objections when it became clear that Congress was going to require more accurate maps anyway.
Common Cause wrote:
The Common Cause report urged Congress to require more specific lobbying disclosures and to pass broadband bills such as the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act. Common Cause also lobbied for net neutrality rules and stricter regulation in general, saying that the Trump-era deregulatory approach contributed to rising broadband prices, "a lack of transparent billing practices, and reports of mobile carriers selling their customers' real-time location data."
"Political spending by AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and other major ISPs has profoundly shaped the contours of the digital divide," Common Cause wrote. "But the fight is not over. There are a number of steps our elected officials can take to give power back to the people and begin to close the digital divide."
Disclosure: The Advance/Newhouse Partnership, which owns 13 percent of Charter, is part of Advance Publications. Advance Publications owns Condé Nast, which owns Ars Technica.
Microsoft rolls out Windows 11 update with Teams chat built in
PUBLISHED TUE, JUL 20 2021 2:05 PM EDT
Microsoft on Tuesday said it’s rolling out a Windows 11 update that includes its Chat feature for talking with friends and family members over Microsoft Teams. People who are already testing Windows 11 through the Windows Insider program will be able to try the Chat software before Windows 11 becomes generally available for everyone later this year.
The addition of the component into Windows could bring greater adoption of Teams, which became more popular during the coronavirus pandemic. If more people use Teams, the software could become a more valuable asset in the Office suite, which is currently the largest part of Microsoft’s business.
People can access the Chat feature by entering the keyboard shortcut Win-C (formerly the shortcut for accessing the Cortana virtual assistant) from any screen in Windows 11, Brandon LeBlanc, a Microsoft senior program manager, wrote in a blog post. An icon is also available in the task bar. Once the Chat window is open, it’s possible to open the full-fledged Microsoft Teams app, which has been redesigned for Windows 11.
Initially, users will only be available to participate in individual and group chats. Support for voice and video calls and other features will come later, LeBlanc wrote, and so far Chat has only been localized for devices using the English language and configured to the U.S. It’s only being rolled out to a limited set of Insiders so far.
Not everyone has to be on Teams in order to exchange messages with people using Chat in Windows 11. If a person using Chat sends a message to a person who’s not on Teams, the recipient will get the message in an email or an SMS message, and Microsoft will provide an option to join Teams, LeBlanc wrote. And it’s possible to sync Skype and Outlook contacts.
Microsoft did add pre-installed Skype apps into Windows 10 in 2015, and last year, after the pandemic arrived, the company tried to make it easy for people to start Skype calls from Windows with a Meet Now feature. With Windows 11, the focus is instead on Teams, which had 145 million daily active users as of April.
If more people do start using Teams as a result of its inclusion in Windows 11 in the form of Chat, that could pose fresh challenges to competitors, including Slack and Zoom.
“Today, Microsoft announced that it is going to bundle Teams with Windows as well as Office,” Slack said on the day Microsoft announced Windows 11. “Our reaction is simple: choice is better than lock-in, open is better than closed, and fair competition is best of all. Unfortunately, Microsoft has never seen it that way.”
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China’s 5G connections hit 365 million
By Rachael Sharpe
The country has completed the construction of the world's largest 5G standalone network and has 70% of all 5G base stations.
As China pushes forward 5G network construction, the number of 5G terminal connections in the country has reached 365 million, accounting for 80 percent of the world's total, according to data from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).
Tian Yulong, chief engineer at the MIIT, said that China has completed the construction of the world's largest 5G standalone network and cited figures that so far some 961,000 5G base stations have been built across the country, according to source, Xinhua. The numbers have increased from 310 million terminals and 819,000 base stations recorded in May. This means that China’s 5G base stations account for 70 percent of the world's total.
128 million 5G phones shipped in first half of 2021
Shipments of 5G phones in China surged to 100.9 percent year on year to 128 million units in the first half of 2021, according to data from the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT), a research institute under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
This volume accounted for 73.4 percent of China’s total mobile phone shipments during the period, said the CAICT. In the first six months of this year, the overall mobile phone shipments in China maintained significant growth, rising 13.7 percent year on year to 174 million units.
5G users to exceed 560 million by 2023
Since its commercialisation two years ago, 5G technology has played an important role in China with fields including industrial production, energy and medical services. According to Xinhua, Tian said that 5G had driven forward the digital transformation in China's economy and society and development of the digital economy. China expects to grow 5G phones subscriptions to in excess of 560 million by 2023, and grow the penetration rate of 5G among big industrial enterprises to 35 percent by then, revealed a three-year plan published by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and nine other government bodies.
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Scientists want to build a new, very different Arecibo Telescope to replace fallen icon
By Meghan Bartels — July 22, 2021
Arecibo Observatory's massive radio dish was many things to many people: pulsar finder, broadcaster to aliens, asteroid mapper, Bond villain's hidden satellite dish, Puerto Rican icon, birthplace of future scientists. Until seven months ago, that is, when gravity got the best of an engineering marvel that had endured everything thrown its way for decades and the entire platform crashed down.
Since that fateful day, plenty of eyes have turned to analyzing what went wrong, while many hands have gotten to work sorting through and cleaning up the wreckage. And the brains have been doing what brains do best: dreaming of what science might come next for the site. For one group of scientists with deep ties to Arecibo, that meant dreaming up an entirely new type of telescope: one that would fill the gap left by the iconic instrument, then go much further.
"I personally think that this was the first cut; this was done in the wake of the collapse just to show that there are viable options of continuing the legacy of fantastic science at the telescope," Tracy Becker, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio and co-author on a white paper describing the design, told Space.com.
"I don't think that this version has to necessarily be what a new, built version will look like," she added. "It could end up looking more like the original telescope, or it could look completely different from anything that we've imagined so far. The primary goal was to show that we could use that space and continue that legacy of really powerful science."
The design, dubbed the Next Generation Arecibo Telescope, is perhaps better approached as a statement than a blueprint. Right now, scientists aren't even sure this particular design can be built. But the project was meant to paint a picture of what the next 60 years of science at Arecibo could perhaps look like — if institutions are willing to show up for the facility, and to do so with ambition.
"We had to think bold and we had to think big, because you don't inspire the next generations and you don't serve the next generations if you just want to do what you were doing," Noemí Pinilla-Alonso, deputy principal scientist at Arecibo Observatory, told Space.com. "That was a result of someone thinking bold and big 60 years ago." Pinilla-Alonso, who is also a planetary scientist at the University of Central Florida, which manages the observatory, is one of dozens of co-authors on the design concept.
The design came together within just two months of the collapse. In part, that's because the process was a salve for scientists with close ties to and strong feelings for the observatory. "It was not so long that it took me to pass from the feeling of sadness, of frustration, to the feeling of, 'We're doing something good. We're working, we're making progress,'" Pinilla-Alonso said.
Now, the scientists behind the new concept are trying to keep the momentum going in order to try to accelerate the rebuilding process, Arecibo Observatory Director Francisco Cordova, another white paper co-author, told Space.com.
"Arecibo left a really big hole," he said. "We have hundreds of scientists right now that are scrambling to find another telescope that will be able to give them the data they need to continue their projects."
But there's only so much more that scientists can do on their own, before any institutions step up to fund work on the project.
Meanwhile, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), which owns the site, held a virtual workshop throughout June to explore options for Arecibo Observatory writ large. Officials have emphasized that Arecibo will continue to exist, but the agency has not committed to rebuilding the telescope as it stood, or to supporting a new project at similar scale. The workshop didn't allocate any funding and wasn't meant to result in selected projects.
"There is no current plan to build a new radio telescope, although this is certainly an idea worthy of discussion," workshop leaders wrote in a document describing the process. "For this workshop, however, our main goal is to explore a broad range of options, for the short-, medium- and long-term, which should engage all segments of the community and may be complementary."
(Right now, the NSF has plenty on its hands just to ensure safety at the site and clean up the debris, a process the agency in March estimated would require about $50 million.)
During the workshop, then, the agency focused on broader consideration of the site's future. "NSF is committed to participating in this future development but is not restricting the ideas to the construction of a new telescope," the document noted. "That is certainly one long-term possibility, there are many others, and also near-term projects that could bridge the gap while a potential large project is being designed."
The grand design isn't the only option the NSF will contemplate when it decides what to do with the telescope's legacy.
The observatory overall can resume some science activities fairly quickly. There's a host of other equipment at the site that is still working, unaffected by the collapse, and observatory leadership wants to repair at least some of the antennas of one experiment that sat at the center of the dish to use elsewhere.
Although the crash destroyed all the equipment on the science platform, which had been suspended above the vast 1,000-foot (305 meters) dish on a web of 39 cables from a trio of towers, parts of the radio telescope may have more life in them. NSF officials have said that at least half of the dish survived the collapse, and the panels aren't particularly difficult or expensive to replace. And the bottom portion of all three towers that held the suspended cables remain sturdy, the NSF has said.
That combination could be the basis for rebuilding the lost telescope essentially as it was, but using newer technology and more advanced materials.
"There are many directions to go in," Joanna Rankin, a radio astronomer at the University of Vermont who is not a co-author on the white paper but did formally endorse it, told Space.com. "Of course it's exciting to choose the most ambitious and technologically exciting one, but it's not the only choice."
A new telescope at Arecibo
The daring Next Generation Arecibo Telescope design traces its roots to Zoom meetings that Rankin, who first arrived at the facility five decades ago and has used it ever since, organized in November, when the old telescope's precarity became clear. Quickly dubbed "vigils," the gatherings started with a dozen attendees but ballooned to encompass a couple hundred scientists.
Then, on Dec. 1, the telescope fell. "After the collapse, there was a meeting or two that was kind of a ghoulish, 'Oh my goodness, what happened?'" Rankin said, dissecting how the telescope collapsed and the resulting damage.
But that mood quickly dissipated, she said, as scientists turned their focus to the future. "Immediately, the thing which came to our mind is we should have a plan to rebuild it," Anish Roshi, a radio astronomer at Arecibo Observatory and the lead author of the white paper, told Space.com. "That's when all the discussions and meetings with the community — everything became very active, discussing what to replace this telescope with and how to rebuild this telescope."
The result of that work is a 70-page paper outlining the case for an innovative new Arecibo Telescope to build on the scientific legacy of the fallen instrument.
Unusually for a major facility, bringing together the community who used Arecibo meant reaching across three very different fields of science.
Although ionospheric researchers originally lobbied for the massive radio telescope to conduct atmospheric experiments, scientists specializing in radio astronomy and planetary radar research soon realized that the massive telescope and its powerful radar system could also offer them valuable information.
"Those three scientific specialties evolved a kind of symbiosis at Arecibo, which was completely unique to Arecibo," Rankin said.
Scientists calling for rebuilding say that union of three separate fields ought to be honored into the facility's future. "We wanted to keep being a multidisciplinary facility," Pinilla-Alonso said. "We didn't want to prioritize one against the other, so we had to think of something that could serve the three communities."
In addition to keeping the union of disparate disciplines, the process was based on the premise that a replacement facility should retain the lost telescope's site, tucked away in Puerto Rico's verdant interior. Originally, the site was dictated by the military looking to put the instrument somewhere on U.S. territory near the equator, which remains a relevant criterion.
Astronomers also cited the value of retaining a host of infrastructure that remains despite the collapse, like the sinkhole the telescope nestled inside and the staff and community that support the observatory. "No instrument is really entirely the hardware. The hardware is only the beginning of the story," Rankin said. "Without that skilled staff, it's pretty useless."
Plus, there's a precious resource for which radio astronomers will trek deep into deserts — shelter from the constant chatter of technology operating in the same radio wavelengths that scientists want to observe, and astronomers can't simply pack up that quiet and carry it with them. Regulations around Arecibo protect the facility from radio interference.
"To waste that would be, as my old mother used to say, a crying shame," Rankin said. "It would be incredibly horrid not to use the site in some creative manner, given that we have it."
The first step in designing a new telescope was identifying what a next-generation facility in each field would be able to do. "We didn't start it like, 'Let's design something different,'" Pinilla-Alonso said. "We started discussing the science and what was the role which Arecibo wanted to have for the future."
That's not how scientists are used to coming up with observing programs, Pinilla-Alonso said. "The first challenge is the mindset, because you are used to making the best of one thing that is already there," she said. "You keep asking to do different things, but from the engineering point of view, they tell you, 'No, you cannot do that with this.'"
But not so for pulling together the heart of the Next Generation Arecibo Telescope white paper: new science goals for the site, which form a wishlist of sorts for what experts in each field want next.
Some of the scientific priorities the team identified overlap across the three communities. For example, everyone wants to see more of the sky and in more detail. "More sky to explore, more discoveries to come," Abel Mendez, a Puerto Rican planetary astrobiologist who regularly used Arecibo to observe and who was involved in the science conversations about a new telescope, told Space.com.
Both atmospheric experimentalists and planetary radar experts prioritize a more powerful radar system, although what counts as more powerful from them isn't quite the same. In addition, the planetary radar community doesn't necessarily want to increase power if it means sacrificing range, since one of Arecibo's strengths was that it could spot even asteroids that scientists hadn't quite pinned down yet.
"Arecibo was sort of the big, blunt instrument, and so if things weren't perfect it still worked," Mike Nolan, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona, told Space.com. "As you get fancier and fancier, that's less true." But the white paper scientists say the design they sketched out would be able to observe six times as many asteroids.
Meanwhile, for radio astronomers, a clear priority was to be able to point the instrument to the center of our galaxy, which requires the flexibility to point a full 48 degrees away from the sky's zenith. (Your clenched fist held at arm's length covers about 10 degrees of sky.)
Overall, the specifications that the team worked toward meant that a few new types of science may be possible at the sort of facility they outline, in addition to the work that the facility has done for decades.
One of those additional fields is understanding space weather, a host of assorted influences the sun has on the solar system that can endanger astronauts and disrupt satellites in orbit and power systems on the ground. And it turns out that the proposed capabilities of the new design would allow scientists to better monitor space weather, including studying the solar wind and coronal mass ejections, two particularly relevant phenomena.
In addition, the design concept's radar system would be so much more powerful than the lost system that it could observe defunct satellites and other space debris in addition to its work on space rocks. For space junk in geosynchronous orbit, the new design could see pieces about 3 feet (1 meter) across; the radar would also be able to monitor large debris out as far as the moon.
"A dish of dishes"
From the list of desired capabilities, scientists set about designing one possible telescope to fulfill the Arecibo community's goals. The result is nothing like the lost instrument.
Instead of one big dish, the new design would fill the old telescope's massive bowl-shaped sinkhole with a closely packed hive of smaller dishes perched on perhaps seven massive tilting plates, a "dish of dishes," as Pinilla-Alonso described it. The precise statistics of those dishes is a matter of tradeoffs: more smaller dishes or fewer larger dishes.
"I remember when I got the first draft of the paper with all the engineering ideas all formalized, and I was just surprised," Mendez said. "Wow, that's a big change." But it's a big change that would address many longstanding issues with the previous telescope, scientists noted, including the heavy platform that was ultimately the telescope's downfall.
The scientists behind the new design concept considered both a massive dish in a fixed position, like the lost telescope, and a scattering of many individual dishes across a landscape, like the Very Large Array in New Mexico, a two hour drive southwest of Albuquerque. But in the end, they determined that what matched the science needs best was a sort of blend of those two models: many small dishes crammed together and able to move in tandem.
There's just one little problem: The scientists aren't sure yet whether such a structure can actually be built.
But the outlined idea gives engineers something to work with, a place to start digging into the tradeoffs involved in building an ambitious new telescope. The scientists behind the concept hope that process can begin later this year. "It's a conceptual design," Rankin emphasized. "No one has passed it by all the droves of engineers that need to check it and think about it to decide whether it can actually be built or would work if it was built."
Politics at play
Engineering questions aren't the only hurdles to tackle to make a new Arecibo a reality. The trickiest piece, of course, is finding the money to build anything at the scale of the original telescope. The authors of the white paper suggest that a budget on the scale of $454 million could cover construction.
But even before the collapse, Arecibo's budget has been a sore subject, as the NSF has decreased its funding for the observatory over the past two decades to address larger agency budget crunches, Rankin said.
"Things started to go sour when, in the first years of the 2000s, the NSF budget was supposed to double and didn't," Rankin said. "There'd been no Nobel Prize, no immediate huge splash from the second upgrading, and so Arecibo became kind of an easy target."
It's not like other big budget increases have come through since then. And although Arecibo's situation echoes the abrupt collapse in 1988 of the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia that was rebuilt by 2000, Rankin doesn't expect Arecibo to be as lucky. Strong advocacy in Congress from West Virginia's two senators was crucial in getting that telescope rebuilt, but Arecibo has no such support: As a territory, Puerto Rico doesn't have any representation in Congress.
"Arecibo was always a cheap target because Puerto Rico has no senators," Rankin said. "If that had happened to any of the other NSF facilities, the senators would have been there with boots on, but there was none of that kind of protection for Puerto Rico."
Instead, at the federal level, Puerto Rico has no senators and only a resident commissioner, a member of the House of Representatives who can't join full floor votes.
"The collapse was met with great sadness to say the least," Jenniffer González-Colón, the current resident commissioner, told Space.com in a statement. "Since then, I have been in contact with the different stakeholders to discuss possible ways to move forward, including potential reconstruction of the telescope, so that we can once more fully partake of all of the great features hosted by AO [Arecibo Observatory] and their team of experts, and maintain Puerto Rico’s legacy and contributions to STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] fields.”
Although the telescope was the scientific pride of the island, the territory's government surely can't fund a replacement. Nevertheless, local leaders do support a new telescope, said Mendez, who has been involved in discussions with the government. "They're eager to provide funding for designing, so that would be something new," he said, since the original telescope was built exclusively with money from the mainland. "They're eager to be involved more now."
Serendipitous timing issues could also shape Arecibo's fate. The telescope collapsed midway between President Donald Trump losing his re-election bid and President Joe Biden taking office. The latter is surely more open to both science and Puerto Rico than his predecessor, Rankin noted. "If this had happened two years ago, I wouldn't have given it a chance, just because of the national political situation."
Meanwhile, scientists have their own politics and schedules. Both NASA and the NSF rely on massive documents dubbed decadal surveys to guide their funding decisions. In these roadmaps, large teams of scientists under the auspices of the prestigious National Academies of Sciences prioritize space-science projects on a 10-year time frame.
But the decadal survey that would best match a large, ground-based radio facility is the astrophysics version, which is currently undergoing peer review before publication. Scientists doubt that document can support a rebuilding effort at Arecibo because the telescope collapsed after the committee's deadline for community input.
"Nobody expected that big money might be needed for a rebuilding," Rankin said. "So Arecibo isn't in line to ask for big money for rebuilding." If the observatory cuts the line, so to speak, it risks upsetting other scientists contending for the same money.
A separate decadal survey for planetary science is earlier in the process and still receiving public comments, and the planetary radar swath of Arecibo's work would be relevant to it, although that document traditionally focuses on NASA facilities in space, rather than NSF facilities on the ground.
Cordova said he's confident that funding for design work and a new instrument will come through eventually, although it may not be as soon as scientists would like. "I'm optimistic — I think when you have the right capabilities in an instrument and the right science and operational mission objectives, it's a lot easier to find funding for something," he said.
"We have a concept that is amazing, but that will evolve through the design process, through the feasibility studies process, the engineering studies; all of this will evolve," he said, just as the original telescope did. "It's gonna take some time."
But he has plenty of company in hoping that one day, Arecibo will rise again with a steady eye on our atmosphere, solar system, and beyond.
"It's a situation that's pregnant with possibility, and humanity doesn't take advantage of all wonderful situations," Rankin said. "Anything can happen. There are no guarantees."
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Remote AB Switches
ABX-1 switches are often used at remote transmitter sites to convert from old, outdated and unsupported controllers to the new modern Prism-IPX ipBSC base station controllers. Remotely switch to new controllers with GUI commands.
ABX-3 switches are widely used for enabling or disabling remote equipment and switching I/O connections between redundant messaging systems.
Prism-IPX Systems LLC.
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|Inside Towers Newsletter|
Verizon Picks Up Its Network Build Pace
By John Celentano, Inside Towers Business Editor
Declaring that its operations are “quickly resuming pre-pandemic norms” compared to a year ago, Verizon (NYSE: VZ) Chairman and CEO Hans Vestburg comments in the company’s 2Q21 earnings call, “We are executing on our multipurpose network strategy and producing positive results in each of our five growth vectors, recording strong second quarter results. We are also expanding our 5G Ultra Wideband and 5G Home markets.”
In that call, the company reported 2Q21 consolidated service revenues of $28.2 billion, up nearly 6 percent over the $26.7 billion in 2Q20. Adjusted EBITDA increased by the same rate to $12.2 billion. For 1H21, free cash flow amounted to $11.7 billion, down nearly 15 percent on a year-over-year basis.
The company ended the quarter with 117.3 million retail postpaid connections and close to 4.1 million retail prepaid connections. The total 121.3 million total retail connections were up over 1 percent YoY. VZ leads all U.S.-based mobile network operators in retail connections; its Consumer markets account for 78 percent of that total.
Combined Consumer and Business wireless service revenues reached $16.9 billion, an increase of over 6 percent from a year ago. The company attributed the increase to promotional programs and customer movement to higher-priced unlimited plans.
However, there is a discontinuity between its operating performance and how aggressively VZ is building out its wireless network.
The company’s overall 2021 capital expenditure guidance is $17.5-18.5 billion. Aggregate capex through the first six months of the year was $8.7 billion, down over 11 percent from nearly $9.9 billion in the same period in 2020.
For the wireless capex portion, we estimate VZ’s capital intensity (the ratio of capex to wireless service revenues) dropped from over 16 percent through 1H20 down to 13-14 percent for 1H21. Any figure above 15 percent indicates network expansion, while capital intensity below 15 percent suggests a slowdown.
VZ management points out that the company is progressing with continued investments in its 4G networks and steady 5G coverage expansion with its 5G Ultra Wideband mobility services and 5G Home fixed wireless access service that utilizes millimeter wave frequencies.
The company says it is on track to deploy 14,000 5G mmW small cells to reach 30,000 in service by year-end 2021. Moreover, it expects to cover 1-2 million homes with mmW that will be “open for sale” by the end of the year, mainly in dense urban areas.
C-band is the big action area. (See, Rockin’ the C-Band) Building out the 140-200 MHz of 3.7 GHz C-band spectrum that VZ acquired in FCC Auction 107 is a focus of its network team.
Recall that the company spent $45.45 billion to win 3,511 20 MHz blocks in 406 Partial Economic Areas nationwide. Since all those spectrum blocks are in portions of the C-band currently occupied by satellite feeds for radio, TV broadcasters and cable, that portion of the spectrum must be cleared before any MNOs can use those channels.
VZ will spend almost $7.5 billion for clearing costs and incentives for satellite operators to move out of that spectrum on schedule. The first batch of A block licenses in the Top 46 markets must be cleared by December 5, 2021. All remaining A, B and C blocks will be cleared by December 5, 2023. VZ says the spectrum clearing activity is on track.
Furthermore, VZ will spend an incremental $10 billion over the next three years to deploy those C-band licenses, at a pace of $2-3 billion a year. Its 2021 plan calls for building 7,000-8,000 C-band cell sites. As the spectrum is cleared in those first Top 46 markets by the end of this year, the company will make 5G available from those sites to roughly 100 million people sometime during 1Q22.
Through 1H21, VZ spent $160 million in C-band capex. The company points out, though, that it already has in its warehouses all the equipment it needs for those 7,000-8,000 sites.
VZ reiterated its 2021 guidance for overall capex in the $17.5-18.5 billion range and C-band investment in the $2-3 billion range.
Expect C-band capex to take off through the end of the year.
|Source:||Inside Towers newsletter||Courtesy of the editor of Inside Towers, Jim Fryer.
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Auction 110 Prohibited Communications Rule Takes Effect Today On July 21, the short-form application filing window for Auction 110 closed at 6:00 p.m., ET. Per the FCC’s rules, all applicants are prohibited from cooperating or collaborating with respect to, communicating with or disclosing, to each other or any nationwide provider of communications services the substance of their own, or any other applicants’ bids or bidding strategies (including post-auction market structure), or discussing or negotiating settlement agreements, until after the down payment deadline. Bottom line: The Cone of Silence is now down. If you have any questions about whether a communication with another entity during the auction may be prohibited, we recommend you contact the firm before engaging in such communication.
BloostonLaw Contact: Sal Taillefer.
FCC Announces Tentative Agenda for August Open Meeting
On July 17, the FCC announced that the items below are tentatively on the agenda for the March Open Commission Meeting scheduled for August 5:
Each summary above contains a link to the draft text of each item expected to be considered at this Open Commission Meeting. However, it is possible that changes will be made before the Meeting. One-page cover sheets prepared by the FCC are included in the public drafts to help provide an additional summary.
BloostonLaw Contacts: Ben Dickens, Gerry Duffy, and John Prendergast.
Comment Sought on Technical Requirements for Next Steps in Broadband DATA Act
On July 16, the FCC issued a Public Notice seeking comment on proposed technical requirements to implement the mobile challenge, verification, and crowd-sourcing processes required by the Broadband DATA Act. Comment and reply comment deadlines have not yet been established.
To implement the Broadband DATA Act’s requirements and obtain better mobile broadband availability data, the FCC is developing: (1) technical requirements for a challenge process that will enable consumers and other third parties to dispute service providers’ coverage data; (2) a process to verify service providers’ coverage data; and (3) a process to accept crowdsourced information from third parties.
The proposed requirements include the metrics to be collected for on-the-ground test data and a methodology for determining the threshold for what constitutes a cognizable challenge requiring a provider response. The Public Notice also provides tentative views and seeks comment on the types of data that likely will be probative in different circumstances for validating broadband availability data submitted by mobile service providers. The Public Notice proposes detailed processes and metrics for challengers to use to contest providers’ broadband coverage availability, for providers to follow when responding to an FCC verification request, and for state, local, and Tribal governmental entities and other third parties to follow when submitting verified broadband coverage data. The Public Notice seeks comment on the technical requirements for these complex issues to assure that the broadband availability data collected in the challenge and other data verification and crowd-source processes serves the important broadband data verification purposes envisioned in the Broadband DATA Act.
BloostonLaw Contacts: Ben Dickens, John Prendergast, Gerry Duffy, and Sal Taillefer.
FCC Reminds EAS Participants that Alerts Must Be Accessible to Persons with Disabilities
On July 21, the FCC issued an Enforcement Advisory reminding Emergency Alert System (EAS) Participants of the requirements to ensure that EAS alerts are visually and aurally accessible. As we reported in a previous edition of the BloostonLaw Telecom Update, the next nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alerts is Wednesday, August 11 at 2:20 p.m. ET.
The FCC’s accessibility requirements for EAS messages are as follows: the visual message portion of an EAS alert, whether video crawl or block text, must be displayed at the top of the television screen or where it will not interfere with other visual messages; in a manner (i.e., font size, color, contrast, location, and speed) that is readily readable and understandable; that does not contain overlapping lines of EAS text or extend beyond the viewable display (except for video crawls that intentionally scroll on and off the screen); and is displayed in full at least once during any EAS message. The audio portion of an EAS message must play in full at least once during any EAS message to ensure it is accessible to viewers who are blind or have low vision.
Failure to comply with the EAS accessibility rules may subject a violator to sanctions including, but not limited to, substantial monetary forfeitures. The Enforcement Bureau may, at its discretion, treat each failure to transmit accessible EAS messages as a separate violation for purposes of calculating the proposed forfeiture amount. The Bureau will continue to monitor and enforce compliance with the EAS accessibility rules due to their importance in promoting and protecting public safety.
BloostonLaw Contacts: Gerry Duffy, John Prendergast, and Cary Mitchell.
Law and Regulation
FCC Releases OET, Media Bureau Filing Fee Guides
On July 15, the FCC released the filing guides for the new application fees and payment type codes for the Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) and the Media Bureau.
The fee filing guide for the Media Bureau, which can be found here, covers application fees for authority to construct a new broadcast station; to make changes in authorized facilities; to initially obtain, renew or assign a broadcast station license; or to transfer control of a broadcast station license. It also covers applications to initially obtain, renew, or assign a CARS station license; or to transfer control of a CARS station license. Multichannel Video Programming Distributors (MVPDs) and cable systems must file a Cable Community Registration prior to commencing operation in a community unit. MVPDs and cable systems must file an Aeronautical Frequency Notification prior to using the aeronautical frequencies on their system. Petitions for Special Relief or Requests for Special Temporary Authority (STA) may also be filed.
The fee filing guide for OET, which can be found here, covers radio frequency device equipment authorization services and experimental radio services. For the radio frequency device equipment authorization services, fees are associated with the assignment of an Applicant / Grantee Code. For the experimental radio services, fees are associated with the following application types: New Station Authorization; Modification of Authorization; Renewal of Station Authorization; Assignment of License or Transfer of Control; and Special Temporary Authority. In addition, requests for withholding from public inspection that are associated with any of these applications require an additional, separate fee.
BloostonLaw Contacts: John Prendergast and Cary Mitchell.
Comments on IP CTS Freeze Due July 30
On July 16, the FCC issued a Public Notice establishing the comment and reply comment deadlines for its Public Notice seeking comment on a request by six of the seven currently certified providers of Internet Protocol (IP) Captioned Telephone Service (IP CTS) to defer the reduction in the level of Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) Fund support for IP CTS previously ordered by the FCC. Pursuant to the 2020 IP CTS Compensation Order, TRS Fund compensation for the provision of IP CTS is to be reduced from the current level of $1.42 per minute to $1.30 per minute, effective July 1, 2021. Comments are due July 30, and reply comments are due August 9.
As we reported in a previous edition of the BloostonLaw Telecom Update, the IP CTS providers contend that deferring the scheduled compensation reduction would better enable the FCC to consider the impact on compensation rates before adopting changes in applicable service-quality standards. They also assert that “significant uncertainty as to future costs and demand” has resulted from the “protracted impact of the [COVID-19] pandemic” and the consequent adjustments made by IP CTS providers “to ensure high quality access for users.” As a result, the IP CTS providers argue, “a prudent approach is to halt further rate reductions, determine the appropriate standards that will be adopted for IP CTS, determine the impact of those standards on normalized costs (i.e., not impacted by a worldwide pandemic), and determine a long-term rate methodology that ensures continued functional equivalence, innovation, and consumer choice for IP CTS users.”
BloostonLaw Contacts: Ben Dickens and Sal Taillefer.
FCC Issues Citations for Form 477 Violations
On July 16, the FCC issued a separate Citation and Order to Taney net Broadband, Inc. d/b/a Wayvz Tech (Taneynet Broadband) and New Visions Communications, Inc. (New Visions) notifying the companies of their failures to file Form 477, warning them that subsequent violations may result in civil penalties and monetary forfeitures, and ordering them to take steps to comply with the Form 477 filing rules.
Specifically, Taneynet Broadband failed to file FCC Forms 477 two times and filed late one time. New Visions failed to file FCC Forms 477 twenty-five times and filed late four times. As non-regulated entities, the FCC is unable to impose monetary forfeitures against Taneynet Broadband and New Visions unless and until (a) the FCC issues a citation to the violator; (b) the FCC provides the violator a reasonable opportunity to respond; and (c) the violator subsequently engages in conduct described in the citation.
BloostonLaw Contacts: Ben Dickens and Sal Taillefer.
Rosenworcel Announces Partnership to Assess WEA Test Performance
On July 20, Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced that, for the first time ever, the FCC is entering into partnerships with 11 federal, state, and local agencies to assess the delivery of Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) in areas across the country during a planned nationwide test on August 11. Specifically, the FCC is entering into a first-of-its-kind partnership with federal, state, and local agencies from around the country to collect and analyze information about the performance of the Wireless Emergency Alert system during the nationwide test. Emergency managers and other stakeholders from FEMA, the National Weather Service, the Alabama Emergency Management Agency, Harris County (Texas) Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management, City of Los Angeles (Calif.) Emergency Management Department, New York City (NY) Emergency Management, Mendocino County (Calif.) Office of Emergency Services, Ohio Emergency Management Agency, Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, City of Philadelphia (Pa.) Office of Emergency Management, and the Utah Department of Public Safety will participate in the FCC survey to confirm that the test message was delivered in a timely manner and help identify any issues. Participants will be located in urban, suburban, and rural settings.
As we reported in a previous edition of the BloostonLaw Telecom Update, FEMA, in coordination with the FCC, will conduct a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alerts beginning at 2:20 p.m. ET on Wednesday, August 11. For the Wireless Emergency Alert portion, a test message will be directed only to consumer cell phones where the subscriber has opted in to receive test messages.
“Wireless Emergency Alerts are a powerful tool for public safety managers to inform and protect the public during disasters,” said Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel. “While the FCC has long required Emergency Alert System participants to report how nationwide EAS tests fared on their television and radio systems, this is the first time we will gather meaningful data about the performance of a nationwide Wireless Emergency Alert test. We are grateful for the participation of our many government partners in this unprecedented survey, which will help the FCC gain additional insights into how we can work together to continue strengthening this life-saving system.”
JULY 31: FCC FORM 507, LINE COUNT DATA (A-CAM AND ALASKA PLAN RECPIENTS). Sections 54.313(f)(5) and 54.903(a)(1) of the FCC’s rules requires all rate-of-return telecommunications carriers to provide line count information on FCC Form 507 to USAC, the universal service Administrator. Carriers receiving Connect America Fund Broadband Loop Support (CAF BLS) must submit this information annually on March 31st of each year, and may update the data on a quarterly basis. Carriers that receive Alternative Connect America Model (A-CAM) I, A-CAM II, or Alaska Plan support are required to file by July 1st of each year. For 2020, the FCC has extended the A-CAM filing deadline until July 31.
BloostonLaw Contacts: Gerry Duffy and Sal Taillefer.
JULY 31: CARRIER IDENTIFICATION CODE (CIC) REPORTS. Carrier Identification Code (CIC) Reports must be filed by the last business day of July (this year, July 31). These reports are required of all carriers who have been assigned a CIC code by NANPA. Failure to file could result in an effort by NANPA to reclaim it, although according to the Guidelines this process is initiated with a letter from NANPA regarding the apparent non-use of the CIC code. The assignee can then respond with an explanation. (Guidelines Section 6.2). The CIC Reporting Requirement is included in the CIC Assignment Guidelines, produced by ATIS. According to section 1.4 of that document: At the direction of the NANPA, the access providers and the entities who are assigned CICs will be requested to provide access and usage information to the NANPA, on a semi-annual basis to ensure effective management of the CIC resource. (Holders of codes may respond to the request at their own election). Access provider and entity reports shall be submitted to NANPA no later than January 31 for the period ending December 31, and no later than July 31 for the period ending June 30. It is also referenced in the NANPA Technical Requirements Document, which states at 7.18.6: CIC holders shall provide a usage report to the NANPA per the industry CIC guidelines … The NAS shall be capable of accepting CIC usage reports per guideline requirements on January 31 for the period ending December 31 and no later than July 31 for the period ending June 30. These reports may also be mailed and accepted by the NANPA in paper form. Finally, according to the NANPA website, if no local exchange carrier reports access or usage for a given CIC, NANPA is obliged to reclaim it. The semi-annual utilization and access reporting mechanism is described at length in the guidelines.
BloostonLaw Contacts: Ben Dickens and Gerry Duffy.
AUGUST 1: FCC FORM 499-Q, TELECOMMUNICATIONS REPORTING WORKSHEET. All telecommunications common carriers that expect to contribute more than $10,000 to federal Universal Service Fund (USF) support mechanisms must file this quarterly form. The FCC has modified this form in light of its recent decision to establish interim measures for USF contribution assessments. The form contains revenue information from the prior quarter plus projections for the next quarter. Form 499-Q relates only to USF contributions. It does not relate to the cost recovery mechanisms for the Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) Fund, the North American Numbering Plan Administration (NANPA), and the shared costs of local number portability (LNP), which are covered in the annual form (Form 499-A) that was due April 1.
BloostonLaw Contacts: Ben Dickens and Gerry Duffy.
AUGUST 1: FCC FORM 502, NUMBER UTILIZATION AND FORECAST REPORT: Any wireless or wireline carrier (including paging companies) that have received number blocks—including 100, 1,000, or 10,000 number blocks—from the North American Numbering Plan Administrator (NANPA), a Pooling Administrator, or from another carrier, must file Form 502 by August 1. Carriers porting numbers for the purpose of transferring an established customer’s service to another service provider must also report, but the carrier receiving numbers through porting does not. Resold services should also be treated like ported numbers, meaning the carrier transferring the resold service to another carrier is required to report those numbers but the carrier receiving such numbers should not report them. Reporting carriers file utilization and forecast reports semiannually on or before February 1 for the preceding six-month reporting period ending December 31, and on or before August 1 for the preceding six-month reporting period ending June 30.
BloostonLaw Contacts: Ben Dickens and Gerry Duffy.
AUGUST 1: LIVE 911 CALL DATA REPORTS – Non-Nationwide Providers that do not provide coverage in any of the Test Cities must collect and report aggregate data based on the largest county within its footprint to APCO, NENA, and NASNA on the location technologies used for live 911 calls in those areas. Clients should obtain spreadsheets with their company’s compliance data from their E911 service provider (e.g., Intrado / West).
BloostonLaw Contact: Cary Mitchell.
AUGUST 29: COPYRIGHT STATEMENT OF ACCOUNTS. The Copyright Statement of Accounts form plus royalty payment for the first half of year is due to be filed August 29 at the Library of Congress’ Copyright Office by cable TV service providers.
BloostonLaw Contact: Gerry Duffy.
SEPTEMBER 1: FCC FORM 477, LOCAL COMPETITION AND BROADBAND REPORTING FORM. Three types of entities must file this form. (1) Facilities-based Providers of Broadband Connections to End User Locations: Entities that are facilities-based providers of broadband connections – which are wired “lines” or wireless “channels” that enable the end user to receive information from and/or send information to the Internet at information transfer rates exceeding 200 kbps in at least one direction – must complete and file the applicable portions of this form for each state in which the entity provides one or more such connections to end user locations. For the purposes of Form 477, an entity is a “facilities-based” provider of broadband connections to end user locations if it owns the portion of the physical facility that terminates at the end user location, if it obtains unbundled network elements (UNEs), special access lines, or other leased facilities that terminate at the end user location and provisions/equips them as broadband, or if it provisions/equips a broadband wireless channel to the end user location over licensed or unlicensed spectrum. Such entities include incumbent and competitive local exchange carriers (LECs), cable system operators, fixed wireless service providers (including “wireless ISPs”), terrestrial and satellite mobile wireless service providers, MMDS providers, electric utilities, municipalities, and other entities. (Such entities do not include equipment suppliers unless the equipment supplier uses the equipment to provision a broadband connection that it offers to the public for sale. Such entities also do not include providers of fixed wireless services (e.g., “Wi-Fi” and other wireless ethernet, or wireless local area network, applications) that only enable local distribution and sharing of a premises broadband facility.) (2) Providers of Wired or Fixed Wireless Local Telephone Services: Incumbent and competitive LECs must complete and file the applicable portions of the form for each state in which they provide local exchange service to one or more end user customers (which may include “dial-up” ISPs). (3) Providers of Interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) Service: Interconnected VoIP service is a service that enables real-time, two-way voice communications; requires a broadband connection from the user’s location; requires Internet-protocol compatible customer premises equipment; and permits users generally to receive calls that originate on the public switched telephone network and to terminate calls to the public switched telephone network. Interconnected VoIP providers must complete and file the applicable portions of the form for each state in which they provide interconnected VoIP service to one or more subscribers, with the state determined for reporting purposes by the location of the subscriber’s broadband connection or the subscriber’s “Registered Location” as of the data-collection date. “Registered Location” is the most recent information obtained by an interconnected VoIP service provider that identifies the physical location of an end user. (4) Providers of Mobile Telephony Services: Facilities-based providers of mobile telephony services must complete and file the applicable portions of this form for each state in which they serve one or more mobile telephony subscribers. A mobile telephony service is a real-time, two-way switched voice service that is interconnected with the public switched network using an in-network switching facility that enables the provider to reuse frequencies and accomplish seamless handoff of subscriber calls. A mobile telephony service provider is considered “facilities-based” if it serves a subscriber using spectrum for which the entity holds a license that it manages, or for which it has obtained the right to use via lease or other arrangement with a Band Manager.
BloostonLaw Contacts: Ben Dickens and Gerry Duffy.
SEPTEMBER 30: FCC FORM 396-C, MVPD EEO PROGRAM REPORTING FORM. Each year on September 30, multi-channel video program distributors (“MVPDs”) must file with the FCC an FCC Form 396-C, Multi-Channel Video Programming Distributor EEO Program Annual Report, for employment units with six or more full-time employees. Users must access the FCC’s electronic filing system via the Internet in order to submit the form; it will not be accepted if filed on paper unless accompanied by an appropriate request for waiver of the electronic filing requirement. Certain MVPDs also will be required to complete portions of the Supplemental Investigation Sheet (“SIS”) located at the end of the Form. These MVPDs are specifically identified in a Public Notice each year by the FCC.
BloostonLaw Contacts: Gerry Duffy and Sal Taillefer.
|THIS WEEK'S MUSIC VIDEO|
“Going Back Home”
Tuba Skinny Band:
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