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Twenty U.S. internet providers have agreed to offer high-speed connections at essentially no cost to millions of low-income households, as part of a program funded by the infrastructure law (Public Law 117-58) passed last year.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will announce Monday that 20 companies, including AT&T, Comcast and Verizon, have agreed to offer high-speed plans that are essentially free to eligible recipients, U.S. administration officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of the announcement.
About 11.5 million households are already enrolled in the Affordable Connectivity Program, out of the 48 million that are eligible. Under the program, recipients get discounts of up to $30 a month. The 20 companies have agreed to provide plans for that figure—meaning households incur no cost after the rebate—at a speed of at least 100 megabits per second. Some are dropping the prices of existing plans, while others are raising the speed, the officials said.
The companies weren’t offered anything, and won’t receive additional government funding, to offer the plans, the officials said.
The U.S. government will launch a website, GetInternet.Gov, to allow people to find a qualifying plan, among other measures to increase the number of households that are participating. The 20 eligible providers cover about 80% of the U.S. population, the officials said. Read more from Josh Wingrove.
Biden Demands Chips Bill Passage
President Joe Biden demanded Congress pass legislation to make the U.S. more competitive with China during a speech in Ohio that wasn’t attended by the Democratic nominee for the state’s pivotal open Senate seat.
“Pass the damn bill and send it to me,” Biden said Friday after touring a manufacturing facility in suburban Cincinnati. “If we do, it’s going to help bring down prices, bring home jobs, and power America’s manufacturing comeback.”
The bill Biden wants lawmakers to pass, called the Bipartisan Innovation Act (H.R. 4521), is aimed at boosting U.S. manufacturing and supply chains—particularly of semiconductors—to reduce the country’s dependence on imports from China and other nations. Read more from Josh Wingrove and Jenny Leonard.
A bipartisan bill to incentivize domestic production of technology needed to make semiconductors functional is seen by industry as crucial for boosting U.S. competitiveness, an effort Congress will be laser focused on in the coming weeks. Reps. Anna Eshoo‘s (D-Calif.) and Blake Moore‘s (R-Utah) Supporting American Printed Circuit Boards Act would establish a financial assistance program and provide a tax credit for manufacturing, researching, and purchasing PCBs.
The green, copper, boards are the foundation tiny semiconductors rest on to electrify a wide range of technology from weapons systems key to national security to smartphones. Semiconductor investment is the center piece of House- and Senate-passed bills (H.R. 4521 and S. 1260) aimed at bolstering U.S. competitiveness against China that lawmakers are gearing up to negotiate.
The PCB financial assistance program is modeled after a semiconductor program in the competition bills, which would funnel more than $50 billion to chip production, research, and development. The U.S. heavily relies on Asia for the manufacturing of PCBs, which are needed for every single semiconductor, a spokesperson for the Printed Circuit Board Association of America said in an email.
U.S. global production of PCBs is approximately four percent, compared to China’s 52 percent, Eshoo said in a press release. “If we want to ensure technological superiority across the global stage and strengthen national security, we need to bring PCB production back to America, which is exactly what my bipartisan bill does,” Eshoo said.
Eshoo’s and Moore’s offices did not respond to a request for comment regarding whether they planned to push for the bill’s inclusion in the competition bill conference. Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), the leaders of the Finance Committee, will be pushing their chip tax incentive bill into the talks, which could pave the way for more lawmakers to tack on their related proposals.
Happening on the Hill
Tech Critics Press Congress for Antitrust Laws Ahead of Midterms: Congressional Democrats should press ahead and rein in tech giants as the companies seek to stall antitrust laws by arguing Americans care more about privacy than competition, advocacy groups said. With U.S. midterm elections looming over the political schedule, almost two dozen groups pressed lawmakers to address both corporate dominance and privacy issues in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
“The truth is that people want true accountability, which requires action across the digital economy,” according to the letter released by Public Citizen and obtained by Bloomberg News. Other backers include Open Markets Institute, Public Knowledge and Center for Digital Democracy. Read more from Alicia Diaz and Leah Nylen.
This Week’s Hearings:
- Raimondo Testifies: Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo will testify about the department’s FY 2023 budget request at a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce-Justice-Science hearing on Thursday.
- Commerce Markup: The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee on Wednesday plans to mark up legislation including S. 3692, to direct the FCC to consider the effect of the telecommunications network equipment supply chain on the deployment of universal service.
- Open-Source Cybersecurity: The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology will host a hearing on “Securing the Digital Commons: Open-Source Software Cybersecurity” on Wednesday.
- Click here for a list of the week’s hearings and markups.
Tech Policy & Regulation
Trump’s Censorship Attack on Twitter Fails to Get Ban Lifted: Donald Trump’s claim that Twitter violated his free-speech rights by bumping him off its platform failed to win over a federal judge. U.S. District Judge James Donato on Friday threw out the former president’s challenge to his permanent ban from Twitter for stoking the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Malathi Nayak has more on the ruling.
- Elon Musk on Friday refuted a New York Post report that Trump had “encouraged” his takeover of Twitter, saying in a tweet that he has had “no communication both directly or indirectly” with the former U.S. President, Caitlin Fichtel reports.
- In light of Musk’s bid to acquire Twitter, the Pew Research Center has compiled 10 facts about Americans and Twitter.
- One standout stat: The top 25% most frequent tweeters produce 97% of all tweets, while the bottom 75% of users produce just 3%.
Twitter, Facebook Users Alleging Censorship Have Suits Tossed: Two federal judges have bounced suits by Twitter and Facebook users seeking to hold the federal government and officials liable for censorship after the platforms disciplined them for allegedly spreading misinformation about Covid-19. The lawsuits stem from the social media platforms’ efforts, beginning in 2020, to stop the spread of disinformation about the virus. Read more from Mary Anne Pazanowski.
Amazon Anti-Union Confabs Deemed Illegal By Labor Officials: U.S. labor board prosecutors have determined that anti-union meetings held by Amazon in Staten Island, New York, violated federal law, according to an agency spokesperson. The National Labor Relations Board’s Brooklyn regional director will issue a complaint if the company doesn’t settle, the agency’s press secretary Kayla Blado said in an email. Read more from Josh Eidelson.
- Apple Store Workers in Maryland File for Union Election
- Nvidia Pays $5.5 Million Fine Over Crypto-Mining Disclosures
- Palantir Deepens Relationship With U.K. Ministry of Defence
- Videos of People Dragged Into Quarantine Censored in China
Abortion Opinion Leak Raises Tech Questions at Court: The leak of the bombshell draft abortion opinion has left the Supreme Court confronting whether to make radical changes to its tradition-laced work habits. Companies combat document leaks by taking steps including placing identifiable marks on paper, disabling laptop USB ports and checking employee thumb drives. But the uniquely small and secretive court has, until now, been able to keep drafts from real-time public scrutiny without a vast array of high-tech tools. “The court probably is behind the times on security measures,” one expert said. Read more from Sam Skolnik, Andrea Vittorio, and Madison Alder.
U.S. Brings Back Cyber Team to Combat Possible Election Meddling: The U.S. has reassembled an election security team to safeguard the 2022 midterm vote, with officials citing fears that Russia could seek to conduct new influence operations aiming to undermine democracy.
“The band is already back together, it’s formed,” Gen. Paul Nakasone, head of the U.S. National Security Agency and Cyber Command, told a Vanderbilt University summit. The team is comprised of military and civil personnel from both of Nakasone’s agencies. “We’re less than 200 days before our nation goes to vote for midterm elections, and I assure you that we are ready and we will be ready going forward,” he said. Read more from Katrina Manson.