Year in Review 2023 - Episode 582 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast

This week on the final podcast of the year, join us as the staff gets together to get a handle on what happened in the broadband landscape in 2023. Returning to join Christopher are Ry Marcattilio, Christine Parker, DeAnne Cuellar, Emma Gautier, and Sean Gonsalves along with new staff members Jordan Pittman and Angelina Paniagua.

Together, they discuss the BEAD rollout, data and mapping, new municipal fiber projects, the FCC's fifth commissioner, and 2023's broadband "scandals." Give this episode a listen to find out how last year's predictions help up!

This show is 47 minutes long and can be played on this page or via Apple Podcasts or the tool of your choice using this feed.

Transcript below.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

Listen to other episodes or view all episodes in our index. See other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.


Christopher Mitchell (00:07):
Welcome to another episode of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. This is a review of our predictions for 2023, and y'all can't see it because it's audio, but to me it looks like the Brady Bunch edition because we dang near got nine people in the room here. So I don't know if you're going to hear from 'em. All people are going to be chiming in. The team has grown a little [00:00:30] bit this year, and we're going to run through everyone quick and then you'll forget who they are and be curious in 20 minutes when Jordan pipes up for the first time and you're like, who's this guy? So let's go around and I'll just ask people to quickly shout out their title and name. So we'll start with Ry

Ry Marcattilio (00:47):
Ry Marcattilio, Associate Director for Research.

Christopher Mitchell (00:49):

Christine Parker (00:51):
Christine Parker, Senior GIS Analyst,

Christopher Mitchell (00:54):
Jordan Pittman.

Jordan Pittman (00:56):
Jordan Pittman, Digital Equity Coordinator.

Christopher Mitchell (00:59):
This is very [00:01:00] much like in the NFL when they're introducing the defensive line folks and everything else. So I guess we should say where you came before you joined the professional ILSR team. Angelina.

Angelina Paniagua (01:11):
Angelina Paniagua, Senior Project Manager, come from Consulting

Christopher Mitchell (01:17):
Deanne Cuellar,

DeAnne Cuellar (01:18):
Dianne Cuellar, Associate Director for Outreach.

Christopher Mitchell (01:22):
And Emma Gautier, which in reviewing the transcript for last year, I've now been able to pronounce your name for one year.

Emma Gautier (01:28):
Emma Gautier, [00:01:30] Researcher.

Christopher Mitchell (01:34):
Excellent. So we are going to revisit a number of the predictions we made and share a little bit about our thoughts as 2023 comes to a close and we will be doing more of a predictions based show in the beginning of 2024. And then also I was thinking I might ask Blair Lavin to come back on, that was pretty good and maybe we'll have him evaluate what he thought. We haven't seen the world ending due to sports betting, but I think that was a longer term bet. [00:02:00] If you're not familiar with how that ties into everything, it's a great show from January of last year, January of this year, or if you're listening to this several weeks ahead January of last year. Let's start with some of the predictions that we made. We're going to start with ones that Christine made and then we're going to roll through other folks. Christine, I feel like we're starting off with what was one of the rare optimistic predictions that was made you thought the FCC would make the broadband data [00:02:30] collection more accessible? Has that happened? I have no way of judging. You'll have to judge yourself on this one.

Christine Parker (02:36):
It has actually, and I stumbled across this looking for something a few weeks ago and found documentation for an API to the broadband data collection. So it'll allows programmers and other folks the ability to programmatically access the data and download it in formats that are desirable to them. [00:03:00] So if they don't want to download individual state by technology files, click after click, they can do it in a more reasonable kind of organized fashion.

Christopher Mitchell (03:13):
I'm already confused. I didn't see that coming. This is exciting. So I mean, a year ago I feel like we were deeply frustrated with the Federal Communications Commission for making it very difficult to access data that should be available to the public. Now you're saying that you can [00:03:30] download this data without being timed out and having to go to ridiculous lengths to be able to get at it. Is that right?

Christine Parker (03:36):
From what I understand, there are great details in it and the documentation about the timing and the timeout, the rate limiting and how to navigate all of that, which we have in the interim silver lining to all of this is that I've made some great friends with other folks in this space that are working with data and we've navigated around this issue and created tools [00:04:00] to help other people navigate it. So yeah, it's been great and I'm glad they finally released it to the public officially.

Christopher Mitchell (04:10):
So one of the other predictions you made was that there would be a scandal around the Cost Quest license, which is the company that the FCC has paid tens of millions of dollars. So they would create a fabric of all the locations in the United States, so we would have a map of every place that should have broadband, and that would be the basis of whether or not those places do have broadband. [00:04:30] We've been very frustrated with the terms of that. What has happened on that front

Christine Parker (04:37):
In terms of the licensing? I haven't heard of any scandals. They have kind of a positive light. They did create an additional license tier that allows folks doing research to access the license. You still can't use it for any kind of other commercial purposes, but for research and policy advocacy, you can use it, which [00:05:00] I think is going to be really helpful moving forward. Still not ideal. They have made, I believe, through the NTIA license, which is separate the ability to use it for planning purposes, like for bead, for example. So

Christopher Mitchell (05:20):
States have a broader ability to use it effectively now.

Christine Parker (05:23):
Yes. Yep. One small scandal I guess related to it, and this is just like, [00:05:30] I don't know if it's limited to this area or if it's maybe some other kind of broader problem, but in Maine, the state office discovered that there are large neighborhoods like disappearing from the fabric after all this time, like thousands of locations. And after challenging them, quest isn't accepting those revisions for whatever reason. So it's unclear what's happening. So a little mystery [00:06:00] intrigue.

Christopher Mitchell (06:01):
This is just a challenge of managing large data sets possibly.

Christine Parker (06:05):
Yeah. Yeah, it could be.

Christopher Mitchell (06:07):
So I would say that there was no license scandal. There may be have been, but this is not something that broke through. And still only a few of us are bitterly complaining about some of the terms of that deal. The deal has gotten better, but still pretty frustrated about it.

Christine Parker (06:22):
Yep, exactly.

Christopher Mitchell (06:24):
Now, there was no extension on the fccs challenge process. The last time we did [00:06:30] this, when we recorded the predictions show, we were still at least me, I was certainly in a big cloud about what exactly was happening with the challenges that were supposed to be done at the very beginning of this year. What they meant. The FCC, I would say, lied or significantly omitted the truth in talking about what was happening. And there also you predicted that there would not be an extension of ability to do those challenges. You were right, the data is messed up and we just decided to roll merrily along

Christine Parker (07:00):
[00:07:00] And they wouldn't consider extending the allocation date based on the challenges that got incorporated. That's what we were also potentially hoping could be a solution to all that, but that did not happen.

Christopher Mitchell (07:13):
I like to think there's someone at NTIA who every time they get a request for a delay, they have a giant stamp that says no. And then in smaller letters it says there is an election coming up and we need to get the money out.

Christine Parker (07:26):
They have a nope button. Nope,

Christopher Mitchell (07:28):
Exactly. There are going to be [00:07:30] no delays. And I'm just going to give a little, I was doing a little bit of thinking about my predictions because I'm going to be a guest on the Broadband Bunch podcast, which is a wonderful podcast from our friends at ETI software. And so I had to start thinking about predictions a little bit, and I have one about whether there will be any delays or anything moving forward. So the other things that you predicted or ones that where there was a big overlap among staff, and so [00:08:00] I'm going to ask if anyone else wants to weigh in, but you said 33 cities will commence a municipal fiber to the home project this year and that two states would weaken preemption laws. Does anyone else? I think Christine, you didn't get Definitely the two states didn't revise. We still have the same number of states that we did last year that discouraged municipal broadband by our count, which is 17. [00:08:30] But we've had a number of different predictions about how many cities would start a fiber, the home project, and only one person I think knows how many did according to the ILSR database of community broadband network projects. So R why don't you enlighten us?

Ry Marcattilio (08:46):
Yeah, and that's the way I'd like to keep it, Chris. It's called job security folks. I'm the only one that know is you can't get rid of me.

Christopher Mitchell (08:53):
Right? And for 1995, you two can find out how many cities started projects last year.

Ry Marcattilio (08:58):
Yeah. So you forced [00:09:00] us each last year to make a prediction about how many new municipal fiber to the home networks would be launched. We all came up with numbers, I think. So there will be a slight asterisk to this, but it looks like the closest on the list is going to be either Chris or Emma at 20 and 23 respectively. Chris,

Christopher Mitchell (09:23):
Chris definitely won.

Ry Marcattilio (09:27):
The answer is almost [00:09:30] two dozen cities enabled new infrastructure this year that included three new Cuds Communications Union districts in Vermont, of which each of those has many dozens of communities added to them.

Christopher Mitchell (09:43):
Oh, now we're into a great people really want to hear how do we count? Let's argue about how we count.

Ry Marcattilio (09:49):
About two thirds of my day at this point is arguing with Christine about do we want to count it this way and get the number we want? It matters or this other equally valid way. So [00:10:00] three CDs are building now and many of they're all building at breakneck pace. And so this number could be a little bit different by the time you listen to this episode. But here's what we can say. We've got 14 brand new cities doing their own retail fiber to the home service started in 2023. Wow. At least five others are doing public private partnerships in that number. Also are a couple of public utility districts in Washington state. [00:10:30] We've also got six new open access networks begun in 2023. The asterisk there that I was talking about is that the numbers there don't include what we're probably another handful or a dozen or more of existing municipal networks that added new communities to their footprint like Utopia and Cedar Hills for instance. And so as with everything else, I'm discovering the numbers are a little bit squishy, but we can either give it to Chris or [00:11:00] Emma for 2023. I think

Christopher Mitchell (11:01):
Let's just be clear here, Ry is bending over backwards. Not to say he won because Ry picked the largest number. He picked 40. And I think you could say that when you count, if you go by the rules of how Chris and Lisa used to count things, that there's 900 communities that have these sorts of networks. We count Chattanooga as being the nine or 10 communities that it serves. Not one because those are communities. And so if you count by that, [00:11:30] we're well over 40 with those community union districts. And so I would say that Emma and Chris, we will get the credit, but secretly we all know that Rye won.

Ry Marcattilio (11:40):
I appreciate that, Chris. The other thing I will say is that it looks like initially right now, 2023 was as good a year as we've ever had for newly established municipal fiber to the home

Christopher Mitchell (11:53):
Network. Wow, that's exciting. And I think let's hope that there's more of that energy [00:12:00] next year. I think we really need it. So Christine, any other reflections on your predictions after we get through everyone quick, we'll just maybe reflect on any surprise stories for the year, but anything else on anything you predicted, Christine? I don't think so. Okay. Sean is next on the list. Sean joined me in foolishly believing that Gigi Sohn would be confirmed as the fifth commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission. It still hurts.

Sean Gonsalves (12:29):
Yeah, [00:12:30] it does still hurt. I mean, good to see her at the American Association for Public Broadband and her advocacy work there is super important and she's doing a great job so far, but it would've been nice to have seen her as the fifth commissioner. So you and I, or I'll speak for myself, I was ridiculously wrong. And as I'm looking over the predictions that I made, I was wrong about every last prediction that I made. I'm pretty sure, except for one, which wasn't even a real prediction, which is that our new website would be out.

Christopher Mitchell (13:00):
[00:13:00] Let's pause there for a second. So before we come back to that, we do have a fifth commissioner on the FCC. Anna Gomez was then nominated after Gigi stepped down. And for those of you who aren't aware, Gigi stepped down before certain members of the Senate like Manchin started trying to step on her and take credit and the corruption of some of these people in the Senate is gross, and then they want to just brag [00:13:30] about it. So a number of these senators basically working for the cable and telephone companies and the broadcast industry more than for the public crush her and then tried to kick her on the way out, which was just terrible behavior,

Sean Gonsalves (13:45):
Which she described as being like a 16th month ology exam.

Christopher Mitchell (13:50):
Yeah, that was a polite way. That's how she's publicly described it. That's right. The Anna Gomez is on the commission though now, and the FCC [00:14:00] is moving forward with a few things that I don't think we're going to bother talking about because we don't think that very many of them are going to go very far, although some of them are reforms that have been needed for a while. But you had mentioned a new website released Sean. What website was that?

Sean Gonsalves (14:17):
It's this website called community and it's where we showcase all of the work that this team does. And so it was a pretty important milestone. Again, [00:14:30] hats off to R. You talk about job security, man, he rode that horse all the way to the end and it is operational. And I have to say it is I think much more user-friendly than our previous site, which I thought was pretty good. But yeah,

Christopher Mitchell (14:44):
Nory did a great job for people who are waiting for a tags page and a number of other things that's on. Mery has done a great job of managing this process and getting the key things up. We still want to get some of the features that we haven't had back on there so people will be able to see those. [00:15:00] So there is a list of some of those things I hope to do over Christmas break coming up here, but Ry did a great job. The only thing is, I'll say job security is usually something you want to achieve and a job that you want to keep. I think that part of RISE's job is not the part that he wants to keep.

Ry Marcattilio (15:20):
That's good, Chris.

Sean Gonsalves (15:22):
Well, I will say this. That was the one prediction that I made that that was right. So the takeaway from here is always bet on rye.

Christopher Mitchell (15:29):
No, you [00:15:30] were right. Masten on would continue to grow but would not overtake Twitter. That was correct. I mean, masten on is growing. I think it's not growing in the way that we hoped it would. I've really slacked off. I've kind of given up on some of that social media and I miss it, man. I freaking miss it every day. I just, Elon Musk, he's really done a number on the ability of people like us to be in contact with other people that work in niche fields. And it sucks, I think every day how much it sucks. And I'm annoyed every time people talk [00:16:00] about Twitter not being great because I really liked the way Twitter worked before the neo-Nazis were invited back. So pretty frustrating. Rye pulled numbers on fixed wireless expanding. And so Ry, you want to, Sean, you made a prediction that fixed wireless will continue to expand specifically Verizon and T-Mobile, I think. Did you say it would be at 9 million subs?

Sean Gonsalves (16:24):
No, I think that might be digging into,

Christopher Mitchell (16:29):
Oh, did I just step [00:16:30] on Rise statistic?

Sean Gonsalves (16:31):
I think you may have given, yeah, I think you may have stole his thunder, but I didn't. The best way to bet or to predict things is to be sufficiently vague so that you look right no matter what. And so that's kind of one of those things that falls into that category, I guess.

Christopher Mitchell (16:47):
So Christine, you pulled the number then. What is 9 million? I believe it

Sean Gonsalves (16:51):
Was locations.

Christopher Mitchell (16:53):
Okay, so I think the subscribers, right? The number of business and residential [00:17:00] subscribers. It looked to me like you had compiled that there are 7.4 million fixed wireless passings. What surprised me was that almost all of them were with two companies.

Ry Marcattilio (17:17):
And I should say the numbers that I pulled might be a little different than Christine's. Mine might be a few months older than hers, but I've got a T-Mobile at just over four, maybe slightly over four and a half million subscribers [00:17:30] for their fixed wireless product. And then Verizon closing in on 3 million there, slightly over 2.7. And then at t pulling up the rear at somewhere over half a million, but less than a million subscribers.

Christopher Mitchell (17:46):
And then all the other wisps, the local companies and whatnot. Once again, we just see that those companies, a lot of local folks doing hard work still doesn't add up to a whole heck of a lot. This is a service that is predominantly delivered by large monopolies.

Ry Marcattilio (18:00):
[00:18:00] Right? And it's a good reminder, I think of a couple of years ago when we were talking about the 5G craze that was propagated by the mobile companies and we can see now the fruition of what they were really hoping to get, which was eased local conditions and permitting processes and a smoother way for them to rapidly spin up a new part of their portfolio.

Sean Gonsalves (18:25):
I would say it's also not surprising Verizon and T-Mobile [00:18:30] did that. I mean, when you have massive marketing budgets, I'm sure that tips the scales in your favor to say nothing of the fact that I think the word wireless is inherently gives you a marketing advantage. Nobody likes wires, so wireless just sounds cooler.

Christopher Mitchell (18:44):
Mike Dano joined us on the episode 85 of the Connect This show, connect this, and we talked about some of this stuff. So if people are interested, connect this, episode 85. You said Sean, there would be six major scandals around [00:19:00] broadband. Would you say there are any?

Sean Gonsalves (19:03):
Were zero. Again, I was so wrong on all. And you know what it was is that when we recorded this, I must have had spiked eggnog and no,

Christopher Mitchell (19:13):
This was our general, we all agreed. I mean that's the thing is that I said two, none of us thought that. And for all the problems we could still complain about for bead, this is why I want to revisit these shows. We cannot deny that at that time we thought the states would do a worse job. And I think that [00:19:30] there are many states that are still not doing an admirable job, but I think the worst state is doing a better job than most people thought.

Sean Gonsalves (19:37):
Right. Well, I guess I'm just thinking about the bulk of my predictions. Were unusually optimistic. I'm usually the person that says nothing is going to get done and all this kind of stuff. I guess six major scandals is sort of a pessimistic view, but I forgot that to define what a scandal is, and I forgot that nobody really covers telecom anyway, so things that should have been scandals, they weren't covered.

Christopher Mitchell (20:00):
[00:20:00] Yeah, no, I mean this is so true. When we think about our big goals for media coverage in this field, I never even think about television. The idea that CNN or someone is going to cover broadband is laughable. I mean, not only first of all do most of the companies that own those not want to talk about it because that's where they make a ton of money, but it's just most people don't find it that interesting. But you all who are listening, you're the real heroes out here.

Ry Marcattilio (20:27):
I'll step in maybe help you out Sean A. Little bit or get you [00:20:30] maybe halfway there. But I think the fact that Gigi so was not confirmed, the FCC despite being particularly well qualified, I think that qualifies as a scandal. I think the fact that we went through the entirety of 2023 and did not get a new broadband definition from the FCC qualifies as if not a scandal, then

Sean Gonsalves (20:53):

Ry Marcattilio (20:54):
Then scandalous. Yeah, there you go. So there you go. I got you all the way to two, Sean.

Sean Gonsalves (20:58):
Nice. This is [00:21:00] why I love this working with you guys, man.

Christopher Mitchell (21:02):
Okay. Emma wants to come in though. I'm not sure if she's going to add or subtract from you, Sean. So let's see.

Emma Gautier (21:07):
No, I would just propose the idea that industry outcry to the digital discrimination ruling, would that be considered a scandal? It's dramatic, I would say.

Christopher Mitchell (21:21):
I think it'd be stretching the bounds a little bit. I mean, I think the fact that the Wall Street,

Sean Gonsalves (21:24):
No, it's definitely a scandal. Now we're up to three. Come on, we need three more. Let's go.

Christopher Mitchell (21:30):
[00:21:30] Yeah, people want to call in. You can make Sean's day. Let us know later if there are more scandals. Deanne, you got a scandal For us,

DeAnne Cuellar (21:38):
I think it's pretty scandalous how high the ACP enrollment rates are and how quickly the money got spent. I think it's a testament to, I think without being a researcher, if somebody would say, point me to the data that proves there's a problem, well the enrollment rates proves there's a problem. It's just clear that people are suffering and [00:22:00] it shows how much in the country needs to rely on that subsidy. And if 42% of the country qualifies, I think I saw something like 58% in some communities were enrolled. So it's pretty bad.

Christopher Mitchell (22:14):
Yeah, no, and these are all things that I think we could say are scandalous, but I am sticking with, and as someone who predicted two scandals, I still think we've discussed zero scandals in the mindset we are lowering the bar. [00:22:30] In January. We had talked about this and been like, oh, we're going to call it a scandal. If the way that Congress has treated the ACP continues, I don't think we would've considered that a scandal at the time.

Christine Parker (22:42):
The way we defined it at the predictions meeting was it would have to be in non broadband, non telecom media. So that's what would qualify it.

Sean Gonsalves (22:53):
I I'm saying that we're at four and then I just thought of two more. So I was right.

Christopher Mitchell (22:59):
Emma [00:23:00] in the chat, she's saying Wall Street Journal, that does not qualify as mainstream media if it's in the Wall Street Journal news section. Yes. The Wall Street Journal editorial page is totally LA Land has nothing to do with reality, is not intended to have anything to do with reality. And so I'm disqualifying that page of the Wall Street Journal. Go ahead Sean. What are your two others?

Sean Gonsalves (23:19):
You're wrong about that, but we'll talk about that some other time. Nothing sparks a scandal like an editorial and a major news outlet. But anyway, the other two were at four, according [00:23:30] to my account. Zero in your book, but four on my account thinks Ry, Emma and Deanne. It took so long for the letter of credit issue to be resolved. That's five. And number six is the piece that I authored that was in the American prospect of how the Internet for all initiative will be more like the Internet for somewhere at six. Yay. I finally got a prediction. Right.

Christopher Mitchell (23:52):
Alright, so we're going to call it six for the purposes of Sean needs a win. Let's go and jump [00:24:00] back before we run out of time to some of the other predictions. RY Rye, what was your first genius prediction?

Ry Marcattilio (24:07):
Oh man, I think I said that we will wrangle over the USF for most of 2023, but definitely it won't crumble if my memory serves me. Am I memory? Is that the opposite of why I said, okay. Alright, so I said USF would crumble and it is still with us. Although we are talking about it, we're talking about what's going to happen.

Christopher Mitchell (24:30):
[00:24:30] So the Universal Service Fund, and I realize some of this stuff, I'm sorry for folks who might be confused about some of the ways that we're throwing out topics fast and furious if you're not living in this space like we are. But the Universal Service Fund is a method that was developed after 1996 to try to resolve the fact that with a profit driven competitive system, we would see a lot of people not getting the investment that they needed. And so there's a high cost fund for rural areas. There's a experimental kind of, they wouldn't describe it as [00:25:00] experimental, but there's a small rural healthcare fund. There is the Lifeline program and there is E-Rate for the schools to make sure that schools are well connected. It's all funded by a small tax on interstate communications, which very few people use anymore, but as a small part of your mobile phone bill.

And that tax is sort of like it's under a legal threat. It's really odd in that taxes some things and doesn't [00:25:30] tax other things. Some people are super annoyed by it. I think we were all predicting that we would see, I don't know, perhaps a federal communications commission chair that cared about resolving this, trying to fix it and also wrap in a CP. So we would have a good solution. And this was a subject of another recent podcast with Angela Ser and Greg Geist join me for a community broadband bit show. So anyway, that's sort of the USF discussion in a nutshell. We [00:26:00] kind of thought that maybe one of the lawsuits would disrupt it. If you read the, and I think Blair Levin is a great writer on this stuff. There was a point in which he felt that if a lawsuit had taken USF out that Congress and the FCC would fix it. And I think now his thinking is that if a lawsuit takes it out, good luck because there is no sheriff on duty. There is no one that really cares about getting things right on telecom in this country anymore. My words [00:26:30] not Blairs, Sean, your hand is up this

Sean Gonsalves (26:32):
Show. We would not be doing it justice if we didn't acknowledge that. Now that I'm looking over the list of predictions from last year and got past how horrible mine were, it's looking to me like Emma made so many good predictions that I think I might now be hitting her up to do FanDuel and try to win some money because I think she was right on basically every one of her predictions.

Christopher Mitchell (26:52):
Alright, well we're going to come to that next, as soon as we wrap up with Ry Ry, you had a prediction about Starry, which [00:27:00] didn't happen.

Ry Marcattilio (27:01):
Yeah, I thought they would get picked up by somebody. I thought probably T-Mobile was the most likely candidate, but for most of 2023, they spent their time in chapter 11 proceedings and just emerged middle of the fall from chapter 11. And so they have now constricted their market to the east coast markets in Chicago, I think

Christopher Mitchell (27:24):
In LA.

Ry Marcattilio (27:25):
In la. Okay. So they're back in greatly reduced form and promising that they [00:27:30] will continue to provide their fixed wireless service.

Christopher Mitchell (27:33):
And I mean, I think people should be aware of how this works because Starry looked like a really great company in Columbus, for instance, they had big designs on Columbus and it's a very large Ohio market and the city of Columbus might've been thinking, oh, we probably don't have to do something. We got starry coming in, we got some other competition for, I'm going to guess Charter Spectrum is there and this is what happens. So it's a hard business and the big incumbents [00:28:00] usually win or they buy out someone who else looks like is going to win. So just kind of a reminder of how that cookie crumbles. Speaking of crumbling cookies, Ry, I think you had zero, correct? Unless we give you the number of cities that would start a municipal broadband project. So that might still put you up ahead of Sean's fake prediction and then trying to

Sean Gonsalves (28:24):
Welcome to the club Ry.

Christopher Mitchell (28:26):
Thanks Sean. Alright, so now we got Emma. Emma coming [00:28:30] in. Apparently we have high hopes for you, Emma. You had predicted that the A CP enrolled the enrollment would not reach 50%. How do you feel about that right now, Emma, you feel pretty bad about capitalizing off of that sad statistic?

Emma Gautier (28:45):
I do feel, yeah. However, I was conservative. I was risk averse. I just felt pretty solidly about that prediction and unfortunately is true. We're at the 43% right now [00:29:00] of eligible households enrolled.

Christopher Mitchell (29:02):
How would a person go about tracking that if they wanted to know how many were enrolled? Emma,

Emma Gautier (29:06):
Please check out the ACP dashboard. ACP

Christopher Mitchell (29:11):
Now, you also predicted that the outreach grants for ACP, which came along a few years after the ACP did for reasons that are not good and that they would not go as far as they should. How would you like to be evaluated on that?

Emma Gautier (29:25):
I think that's another key to getting predictions potentially right, is to just be super, super [00:29:30] qualitative and abstract to the point where you can't pin me down for anything. All I will say is anecdotally, I think this is true, I mean I was just to someone who is trying to go work in a community that has very, very low knowledge of the A CP, they don't really know a whole lot about the program and they certainly aren't getting signed up for it and substantial numbers. So I think there's a lot of communities where it's just like [00:30:00] they don't know the program exists and you can't benefit from it if you don't know it exists. So it's a big problem and I'm sure that people are working really hard to get the word out in a lot of communities and it's tough to see the enrollment not even reach half of eligible households,

Christopher Mitchell (30:19):
Although that's still pretty good by comparison of similar programs. And Deanne will come in a second, but I would say that the White House agrees with you in that if [00:30:30] you back out the White House's calculation for how much money is needed to get the A CP through the rest of next year, it would suggest that they would not anticipate any growth further beyond this. So dn, what did you want to chime in with? Well,

DeAnne Cuellar (30:46):
I was just going to say I agree with Emma about how there's so much work being done to get the word out. And yet since I geek out to this, every time I meet somebody new, whether it's a waiter or bartender or grocery store, I'm like, do [00:31:00] you know about a CP? I'm like, nine times out of 10 they do not. But I was going to say the plus side is that next time I see them they say, yes, I qualified. And then I went on to tell everybody I knew about it. And I think that that's pretty great.

Christopher Mitchell (31:18):

Ry Marcattilio (31:19):
I was just going to add in there, since we're talking about ACP now that we are, if you go to ACP, that's ACP, we're looking at just approaching 3.6 billion [00:31:30] left in that bank account, which means it's not going to get us through the end of next summer. We don't yet know whether it will be that bank account will get re-upped by Congress in some way or another

Christopher Mitchell (31:44):
Or if the White House could swap some funds around to help shore it up a little absent congressional action. That is possible. But please finish your thought.

Ry Marcattilio (31:51):
Yeah, so we've begun to see some work by different researcher groups around what happens if you start to, for instance, mess with some of [00:32:00] the ways through which you can qualify for a CP as people try to get a sense of will they try to reduce the number of eligible households as a way to extend the lifespan of a CP. And I think what we've universally seen, especially recently is that when you press on the different levers for moving a CP eligibility up and down, whether it's across one of the income thresholds or participation in SNAP or one of the other pathways, it does hit different [00:32:30] demographic groups in pretty stark ways. And so it's important for folks listening who are participating in policy discussions or education or outreach or whatever to know that what we do with a CP matters both in the long term but also in the short term to the groups that are taking advantage of it today.

Christopher Mitchell (32:47):

Sean Gonsalves (32:47):
This wasn't exactly Gigi's idea, but she did raise the spec of, she pointed to there's a lot of leftover money in RDO and while that is for infrastructure, it makes me wonder if anyone thinks it's a [00:33:00] good idea that at least a portion of that money be used to shore the A CP.

Christopher Mitchell (33:05):
Well, that is part of the Universal Service fund, and so that could be a part of a transition for an improved lifeline type service that would look more like the A CP. And for people who are interested, I would again recommend going back a few episodes to the conversation with Angela Ser with NDIA and Greg Geiss. [00:33:30] Emma, we have one last prediction from you and that is at the broadband label, which you have done a lot of writing on and research around will start to be used but not uniformly available or useful. How do you feel about that? It's

Emma Gautier (33:44):
Still pretty recent, so I think that prediction is technically correct, but it's not super fair of me to be assessed as correct for that. But we've seen a few providers start to publish [00:34:00] that ahead of the deadline. Most providers have 12 months and smaller providers of a hundred thousand or fewer subscriber lines have six months. For example. We've seen Google Fiber publish the label way ahead of its deadline, and I think it's a good opportunity for a lot of fiber providers to just be super transparent and upfront about their pricing structures and their speeds. We know that it's a little bit of [00:34:30] a different story for wireless just because reporting speed just looks different, but it's a good opportunity overall for providers who don't try to bait and switch customers or who don't try to do really complicated pricing structures just to get people signed up. It's a really good opportunity to demonstrate that they're transparent and straightforward and just able to actually deliver what they commit [00:35:00] to deliver.

Christopher Mitchell (35:00):
And I think that the big providers have to start displaying the label in the spring of next year, is that right?

Emma Gautier (35:09):
Most Internet service providers have until April 10th and smaller providers have until October 10th, 2024.

Christopher Mitchell (35:16):
Yeah, and I think it's going to be interesting to see what we can do with that when the data starts coming around. Maybe that'll be a prediction for next year. The predictions that I made, let's see how other people want to evaluate me. [00:35:30] If anyone wants to jump in here, massive tech layoffs. Boy, that word massive is going to be disputed. I think I would say that there were significant tech layoffs, but I think massive might be overstretching it.

Ry Marcattilio (35:42):
I think the word massive is doing a lot of work for you there, Chris. Although I think to be fair to you, I think it also, the failure of that prediction stems from the failure of your second one, which is that chat GPT would take over the world. I'm assuming you were leaking those two things together.

Christopher Mitchell (35:57):
Yes, I believe I was. [00:36:00] I will say that, so there's two things going on. If one tries to evaluate this, one is there is an incentive for a company that is laying off a significant number of workers to say, oh, chap PT made us do it. And so it is hard to get a sense of what is actually happening out there in terms of ais and whatnot being used. I feel like I am still bullish that this is going to significantly result in major job displacement over the next five years. But [00:36:30] I will concede that not that much has happened this year as I think it's still being adopted into workflows. But I do think, and I'm getting ahead of myself a little bit if I'm off, I think I'm going to be off by months, not years. I

Ry Marcattilio (36:41):
Think that's fair.

Christopher Mitchell (36:43):
I said that Sean would be ready to use chat GPT. Sean, have you done any of this?

Sean Gonsalves (36:48):
Why in the world would you make that prediction? I mean, why would you make that prediction? Am I ready? No, but I will say this, I did see it in action at the bootcamp. We were [00:37:00] at the Mohawk Casino Resort Spa showed it, and man, it was amazing. So it did inspire me to want to fool around with it. I just haven't gotten around to it yet, but I'm just really surprised that you made that. I don't know what you were thinking.

Christopher Mitchell (37:16):
I said that there would be at least two major disasters with states and broadband where the state broadband office just blows up or there's a major scandal. And I will say that I think there's zero, although Christine's trying to help [00:37:30] me out here in the same way that we were trying to help Sean out by manufacturing some, Christine, what is the closest that we would say we've come to a scandal?

Christine Parker (37:39):
I learned recently that the Washington state director, broadband office director quit or resigned

Christopher Mitchell (37:46):
Somewhat unexpectedly. I think they've gone through a string of them there. This is something that I think is worth commenting on. I think I've talked about it before, and I think I did a podcast with Russ Elliot who had been actually a past Washington State [00:38:00] broadband office director. I think broadband office directors right now, Suge be getting paid two or three times what they are. I think many of them are in salary ranges of 100 to $200,000 a year, which is a good salary in most of the country. But the work that they are being expected to do is so important and so valuable. I think it should be in that three to 500 range. It would still be lesser paid than the football coach that is almost certainly the highest paid public employee of their state. If you're not familiar with this [00:38:30] state football and basketball, men's sports coaches tend to be the highest paid public employees of states. And I think you could make a case that we should temporarily boost the spending of these offices to make sure that they have the talent that they need and that talent is being rewarded for not just going off into the private sector where they can make that money anyway. So

DeAnne Cuellar (38:51):
No, you can't do that though.

Christopher Mitchell (38:53):
You can do whatever you want, Deanne.

DeAnne Cuellar (38:55):
No, you can't because if you had fully funded broadband development offices and they [00:39:00] had the talent and the staff, they needed to make this world a better place, we wouldn't be in this situation we're in possibly. That's how much of a naysayer I've become about supporting people in the field. But no, I have no proof of that political statement.

Christopher Mitchell (39:16):
I mean, in Texas there you got this guy in the controller office doing a good job, but he's distributing billions upon billions of dollars. And I feel like this is something that is a really big deal to multi-year project. [00:39:30] And I don't know enough about civil service rules to know how one would go about doing this or what all of the pros and cons are, but to me it seems like we are a bit foolish in how we are compensating people for this work. But I do want to come back to, I think, and I'm curious how other people would react, think that, and I don't know which state it is, but whatever state is objectively doing the worst on broadband, I think they are doing better than everyone thought they would be doing. I

DeAnne Cuellar (39:58):
Agree. Yeah. And also just like [00:40:00] I'm always going to toot a horn about Texas as a Texan, but I think Greg Con in his office are doing a good job considering that they have a state that's three times the size of the country of Italy. It's a huge state with so many regions. And so

Christopher Mitchell (40:15):
Yeah, I think that that office is doing well. I think Greg is doing well. And I'll just note that we are working on a contract that is supporting the office. So just to be purely above board. We are working and have worked with some different states and are open [00:40:30] to helping with education efforts and things like that. But when Sean writes a story about Cape, the Open Cape project, we try to disclose that he's on the board there. And so we try to be open about any biases we might have. Ry, what were you going to say about that?

Ry Marcattilio (40:47):
I was just going to say that certainly we didn't see the number of scandals that we expected in 2023, but I think to some extent that comes from the slow burn of bead. This last year I think we thought [00:41:00] more was going to happen or it looked like more was going to happen early on. And so I think if you just recycle your prediction for Sean's six major scandals or Chris's 2 20 24 will definitely be your year.

Christopher Mitchell (41:14):
Alright, well we'll see. Are there any other things that we want to reflect on before we wrap up? Anything else that happened over the course of the year? This is a chance also for if Angelina or Jordan want to jump in with anything that they've observed, you'd be welcome to.

DeAnne Cuellar (41:28):
I predict that [00:41:30] now that states are starting to talk about the Digital Equity Act and cybersecurity and safety on the Internet, we will see a rise in those conversations. And I think not just from those of us that know that or are working on it, but because there's complicated global politics going on, there's an election, most of the pre covid people are back in the office including schools. And so I think we could see that [00:42:00] part of the sector get a rise in attention.

Christopher Mitchell (42:03):
I think you're right, and I don't know if anyone else read the story, I didn't remember the source now, but there was a story about the number of adolescents, mostly males who are being extorted where someone, let's just say for instance, from Russia or North Korea or something like that, pretends to be a young woman who wants to have a relationship with this young man just to be heteronormative. And they entice that person to [00:42:30] send them a nude photo and then they threaten to send that photo to the parents, to the friends of the school and everything else unless they pay $300 in Bitcoin. That has led to suicides. It has led to just horrible situations. And for me, it's a reminder that as we think about digital skills, this is something that is not just about older Americans, older adults, this is about everyone and about the total lack of security and safety.

And that gets into a discussion [00:43:00] I've had before, which is that we need universal high quality, low latency networks available everywhere. So we can buy cheaper dumb devices in our homes where most of the computing will be done in the cloud and guarded by security professionals and make us less vulnerable to that. We will all pay more per month, less per device and save the environment. And we can do it when we have high quality networks and a lot of people won't like paying more per month and I am with them. But that would solve [00:43:30] a lot of the risk that we currently face right now. Ry, you're nodding along, so you might be the only one I didn't lose with that weird stream of connections if you haven't heard it before from me.

DeAnne Cuellar (43:40):
No, you didn't lose me. I agree with you.

Christopher Mitchell (43:43):
I just think that the state of security in our devices is awful. Apple tends to be better than Microsoft, but we're all vulnerable and just hoping that they pick on someone else when they're coming to attack. And so we do the best we can, but it's a hard world out there and I think it's going to get worse before [00:44:00] it gets better for those devices.

Ry Marcattilio (44:03):
Yeah, it's a fundamental flaw of the market in that there's this tension between we want as many often cheap devices as we can get from water sensors in our basement to let us know if our water heater tank is burst to the $1,200 phones we have in our pocket. There's very little incentive to secure appropriately the devices on the small end, and we are not at this point of that arc where we're seeing increased security among the low cost devices

Christopher Mitchell (44:30):
[00:44:30] Yet. On that note, we'll be doing a predictions show next year, so looking forward to that. It's been an interesting year, and I guess I should just wrap up by saying that for people who are curious, we have grown our staff a bit. We miss folks that left, although I think 2023, we've kept everyone that started 2023 to the end of 2023. We've added a few who are wonderful additions to [00:45:00] our team, and we've been doing some more contract work in addition to our philanthropic work. But individual donors have been very helpful for making sure that we can continue doing this work and would love it if people wanted to visit or if you go to, there's a donation button and if you can support us, that would be wonderful. You could even say on there that it is for the community broadband networks work, but cannot go to Chris's salary.

So [00:45:30] you could be nuanced if you would like to make sure that the other fine people here are well supported. And I encourage you to test me on that with five and six figure donations. So with that, I hope you all enjoyed it, and if you didn't catch the end of the podcast that came out now two weeks ago, sorry that we missed last week, but r sowed in a hilarious, hilarious skit that Lisa and I had acted out with some of our other staff [00:46:00] helping from back nine years ago. And unfortunately a lot of it is still pretty accurate. I have lumen fiber now in my home or CenturyLink or someone, but they call it quantum fiber. Again, just totally lose me in the marketing, but I canceled my Comcast service after 20 years. I could not do it online. I did not want to do it over the phone, so I went in person and I was able to cancel it, but the customer service has not improved [00:46:30] in a lot of these areas.

Ry Marcattilio (46:32):
How hard a process was that for you, Chris? In person,

Christopher Mitchell (46:34):
Showing up in person was very easy. I feel like in person, they want to get rid of you and move on to a person that will give them money. So I had my ID and whatnot, it probably took four minutes.

Ry Marcattilio (46:44):
Oh, really? Oh, the reason I asked is because I went into a Charter spectrum office a couple of months ago to return an old modem and they looked up my account and then asked me where the other three modems were that I had in my house, and I had to go back to my basement and I found one other [00:47:00] one that had been 3, 4, 5 years old. But then I had to tell them, these other two probably haven't been in service since the early two thousands, so can you please take them off my account?

Christopher Mitchell (47:08):
Yeah, no, I only had one device. I had gone to the mid split upgrade, so I had to go with a Comcast piece of equipment and I brought that in and the woman told me be very careful with the receipt because she was basically expecting that I would start to get harassed for equipment that I had already turned in. So with that, I hope that y'all have good experiences, have [00:47:30] great Internet connections over the break. I think we will try to do another show before Christmas, but who knows? And we're going to have a nice vacation. So hope you had a chance to celebrate some holidays, and if you don't hear from us again, we'll be back in January. But I'm also trying to be back before then, so take care everyone. Thank you all for joining.

Ry Marcattilio (47:51):
We have transcripts for this and other podcasts slash broadbandbits. Email [00:48:00] with your ideas for the show. Follow Chris on Twitter. His handle is at Community nets. Follow stories on Twitter that handles at muni networks. Subscribe to this and other podcasts from ILSR, including Building Local Power Local Energy Rules, and the Composting for Community Podcast. You can access them anywhere. You could your podcasts. You can catch the latest important research from all of our initiatives if you subscribe to our monthly [00:48:30] While you're there, please take a moment to donate your support in any amount. Keeps us going. Thank you to Arnie Sby for the song Warm Duck Shuffle, licensed through Creative Commons.