Predictions for 2024 - Episode 585 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast

The fading sound of holiday bells and soft stillness that comes with plunging temps can only mean one thing; it's January again, which means it's time to break out the crystal ball and have a conversation about the year to come. Joining Christopher in the recording booth are a slew of CBN staffers new and veteran to join in the collective task of putting words to feelings both foreboding and optimistic about the year to come.

Will we see the first BEAD-connected home this year? Will the Affordabel Connectivity Program get re-funded? How will the maps look in 11 more months, with slews of challenge data? How many new municipal ftth networks will we see founded in 2024? State preemption laws rolled back, or re-introduced? Tune in for answers to all these and more.

This show is 48 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 (00:08):
Welcome to another episode of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. This is Christopher Mitchell in St. Paul, Minnesota coming to you one week later than expected to do the predictions show, but hope you enjoyed the discussion last week with Blair Levin and talking some about what he's seeing now. We got my team together and boy, we don't have Ry. It feels like a big loss. Hope Ry is doing well, but I'll just say that this year's starting off a little bit rough. I've had some family disruptions now Ry's, not able to make it today. Emma was on vacation last week, so at least we got Emma today. Now we're trading in. We didn't make it when we wanted to. There's some pros and cons. So here we are. I'm going to go around first and introduce who we have here that is bold enough to make a prediction for 2024.

As we all know that if you are the one that makes the worst predictions, you have to shave one eyebrow at the end of the year. That's the new rule. We've all agreed to that we are not going to do that. So let's go through with who's here. We got me. We have Ry on paper. We also have in presence. Sean Gonsalves. Welcome Sean. Hey. Hey, Sean is one of our senior folks and associate director of communications or something like that. We've got Christine Parker here. Welcome. Hey. Hey, Christine. Rapidly becoming a veteran among the group, our GIS data analyst and all around thinking outside the box thinker of when it comes to data policy and things like that. I'm just throwing words together now. This is 2024. It's not going to be better than 2023 tell you that I'm not going to be professional. We got Jess, Auer welcome to the show. Jess.

Jess Auer (02:02):

Christopher Mitchell (02:04):
Jess has been working with us for, seems like forever now. Started in September focused on tribal broadband, but doing a lot of work with the research team. And then we have Emma go, did I get that right this year? I think last year I still could not pronounce your name. That's something I learned in 2023.

Emma Gautier (02:21):
We're only on year three. Yeah,

Christopher Mitchell (02:24):
Welcome Emma. Emma is also on the research team. Long been doing a lot of stuff, holds down our representation on a variety of issues, especially regulatory issues in DC coming to us from the future somewhere on the European continent we're told. So here we go. We're going to start with Sean. What we're going to do here is we are going to go around with a few different predictions that we have that might be a little bit jumbled up. We'll react a little bit and toward the middle of the show, we're going to spend a fair amount of time on ACP, the Affordable connectivity program because that is a pretty significant dislocation and it's going to be worth predicting how we think things are going to shake out on that. We are recording this after the FCC has officially said no new signups after some date in February, and the ISPs have some kind of guidance, but it doesn't look pretty. So that's when we're recording this. After we finish with that, we're going to talk a little bit about digital discrimination and then we'll round up with a few more predictions that are a little bit more miscellaneous. Sean, let's kick it off. What is one of your predictions?

Sean Gonsalves (03:33):
Well, my first prediction is that I'll probably be wrong on most of these coming off a few weeks ago when we did our look back at the year, and I was just stunned at how wrong I was.

Christopher Mitchell (03:44):
Judge says you cannot get a bonus point for predicting your own errors.

Sean Gonsalves (03:47):
Okay? Okay. All right. Well, if folks are playing along on FanDuel, do not take any of my parlays or whatever, but let's see. Let me kick off a couple of predictions. One that I kind of worry about actually, but I think will likely happen is there's a lot of venture capital that's super interested in broadband and so I think that we are likely to see some mergers ahead, including maybe even a big one,

Christopher Mitchell (04:13):
Mergers and possibly a big one. We're not stepping too far out on that branch yet.

Sean Gonsalves (04:19):
Okay. No, no, no. Okay, alright. There'll be several smaller mergers,

Christopher Mitchell (04:23):
Right, but it's going to be a big one,

Sean Gonsalves (04:25):
But there's going to be a big one, I think.

Christopher Mitchell (04:26):
Alright, yeah, no, I'm curious. We hinted at that with our discussion with Blair Levin. So I would say that I'm with you and I would be right there with you in that there will be a big one in my mind, a big one. I'm talking about one of the T-Mobile, AT&T, or Verizon Wireless, one of the top three cable companies that possibly top two. I think maybe even just say Comcast or Charter Spectrum in terms of big or at t, Verizon, lumen or telephone. In my mind that's big. That's the world right there.

Sean Gonsalves (05:00):
That's what I'm thinking as well. When I say big, I mean one of those guys.

Christopher Mitchell (05:03):
Okay. Alright. Alright. Christine, what do you got for an opening prediction?

Christine Parker (05:08):
So mine's related to BEAD and I'm predicting that states that are choosing a more analytical approach to defining their project areas are going to be more successful in bidding out all the eligible locations that need to be built

Christopher Mitchell (05:22):
To once more in English. So if we just back up for a second, for people that are a little less specialized, what does that mean?

Christine Parker (05:32):
So states that are not just using a simple geography to define where ISPs can bid to for their grant applications for BEADs. So some states are using counties or census tracks or things like that, school districts, and these are kind of arbitrary geographies as far as broadband infrastructure goes, but some are taking into account where fiber lines are in relation to where the eligible locations are and other kinds of things like what are the distances to the most unserved locations and how densely dense they are, are they in these areas? And so they're taking a lot of different things into account to put together these project areas.

Christopher Mitchell (06:21):
I like that prediction a lot. I think that you're going to be right. The question I have is by the end of the year, will we have data to be somewhat convincing about that?

Christine Parker (06:30):
I think so. I think I'm going to say half the states or half the states who will have data.

Christopher Mitchell (06:37):
And as an example, I think Virginia's been doing this for a while and the Virginia broadband office, Vati VATI believe has long done this where they're like, we've got money. And someone comes in and they're like, we want to serve this area. And they're like, okay, well let's talk about how to define this area. And they try to do it. I think they often use the county and that has proven successful thus far and seems to me like it would continue to prove successful. So I like that. Alright, Jess.

Jess Auer (07:04):
Well I'll just say really quickly on that, that Virginia is suggesting zip code tabulation areas as their base geography for BEADprojects. So I don't know, Christine, is that an analytic approach?

Christine Parker (07:16):
They're not in my favorite roundup.

Christopher Mitchell (07:19):
All some shade for Virginia then because of they have zip code tabulations in it made sense when you said it, Jess. So they're going by zip code is what you're saying?

Jess Auer (07:35):
I guess that's what that means.

Christopher Mitchell (07:36):
Right? Alright. So we will have a sense by the end of the year whether or not that was smart or if they should have picked one of the states that Christine puts her favor upon. So Jess, what's your prediction?

Jess Auer (07:47):
I will also do something BEAD related. I think challenge processes should be complete by this year and I think we're going to find that it ended up being so complicated and so rushed at the end that a vast, vast majority of folks submitting challenges or ISPs, it's just going to be mostly ISPs challenging these locations. Something like 95%, which is going to be a little bit disappointing that communities are not getting in there.

Christopher Mitchell (08:15):
So most of the challenges will be done by ISPs. Communities just will be more or less not participating.

Jess Auer (08:22):

Christopher Mitchell (08:24):
Yeah, no, and I think what that leads to then would be a secondary prediction, which I would feel confident making, I don't know if you would, which is that at the end of 2024 we will still be saying the maps are not good and not an accurate reflection of reality. Not in the sense that maps are ever going to be perfect, but that these are still quite poor. I see some nodding that's not coming through. Everyone's saying Chris is really, really sharp and intimidated by my genius. Let's talk about BEAD quick. Sean, any BEAD predictions?

Sean Gonsalves (08:51):
I do have one BEAD prediction by the way. I agree with Jess on her prediction. I think that's a good one. Really good one. Wish I thought of it. I'm going to predict that the first subscribers will get service from a BEAD project in this year and it will be in the state of Louisiana.

Christopher Mitchell (09:09):
Alright, I'm going to take the negative on that. One of my predictions is that that will not be correct. The money will be distributed, work will be done, but they will not have a subscriber signed up by the end of the year. I have no idea how likely that is. I haven't dug deep enough to know, but it just seems to me unlikely. That's

Sean Gonsalves (09:25):
My far out prediction. I got to have one bold prediction and that's my boldest. That's a good

Christopher Mitchell (09:30):
Positive one. Alright, so I have one for BEAD, but first we'll do Ry's. Ry says we'll see three states end up way ahead in the BEAD program design and it won't be any that we would think. So I hope that he wrote those down.

Sean Gonsalves (09:45):
Me too.

Christopher Mitchell (09:46):
And I think also I want Christine to write down all the ones she wouldn't think, okay, I want a list of 47 states from you or something like that.

Sean Gonsalves (09:56):
Wait, can we say that again? Because I wanted to see if I can poke a hole in that a little bit. He

Christopher Mitchell (10:00):
Thinks three states are going to be doing really well in the program design. This is similar to Christine's, Christine has. Christine has explained how she thinks some states will be ahead. Ry is just saying that three states that are unexpected. So three states that we don't think highly of right now will have really great designs for how to distribute the BEAD funds. That is what Ry's prediction is. Oh,

Jess Auer (10:23):
I thought he meant speed, but quality of the design is okay.

Christopher Mitchell (10:28):

Sean Gonsalves (10:28):
Okay. That's interesting. And what counts for quality?

Christopher Mitchell (10:34):
Yeah, we'll see at the end of the year, I think mean this is the fun is that people don't really care about our predictions. I think they're more interested in the general discussion around it where the meat is the predictions of the fat. I don't know. I made a mistake the other night. What can I say? So another prediction from Ry is the devil will be in the details of BEAD, not in the broad stuff everyone's talking about is too early to tell what though. And so he thinks by the end of the year the things that we are talking about in terms of where BEAD is struggling and not working well are things we are not thinking about today. And so we'll be evaluating that at the end of the year. I like that. Hopefully. Who knows? Maybe that comment will finally get us, or I should say the final thing is my prediction on BEAD is that stolen from Doug Dawson. The conversations we've had is that I think we will see by the end of the year, some states just starting to blatantly disregard BEAD rules and being like, come punish us. I don't know which rules those will be necessarily, but I do think there will be some states that are just like, no, we're not going to do that. You're going to take our money away. Go ahead try it and we're going to have a little bit of a showdown. Maybe Doug's convinced me that that's going to happen.

Jess Auer (11:50):
I think that's a very good prediction, particularly low cost plans and affordability programs. And those things are just preemption.

Sean Gonsalves (12:01):

Jess Auer (12:02):
Well, I mean they've already done that, right?

Christopher Mitchell (12:05):
Although I would say we have covered preemption before. I mean that's one where we're all expecting B to roll or NTIA to roll over and not significantly enforce that states were supposed to allow communities to get fair shot at the money. Oh,

Sean Gonsalves (12:18):
Well, I mean Alan Davison all but said that at Mountain Connect about a year or

Christopher Mitchell (12:22):
So. It's whole news. So yeah, so that's not what I'm talking about here, but we will put that there as a bonus. If NTIA holds a hard line against the states that are North Carolina like Nebraska, that will be somewhat shocking. Okay, so that's BEAD more or less. Emma had some ones that are related to BEAD, we think so

Emma Gautier (12:43):
Yeah, just in the context of BEAD funding, I think we're going to see more creative connectivity solutions involving MDUs. There's a lot of awareness around affordability right now, obviously with the Affordable connectivity program and it ending. And I just think that's kind of on the top of people's minds as a obstacle that people getting connected. There's existing examples of cool stuff related to MDUs

Christopher Mitchell (13:13):
Apartment buildings just to make sure everyone's cool with that. Multi-dwelling units, apartment buildings, multi-tenant environments, all those things. That's what Emma is talking about.

Emma Gautier (13:20):
Oakland has an Internet choice ordinance, which is not new, but it prevents ISPs from monopolizing an MDU. So they're just existing examples of things that I think could serve as inspiration. But then something that New York State is doing right now that's really interesting is under their connect all initiative, they have an affordable housing connectivity program, which pairs property owners who are interested in connecting their building to ISPs that are interested in working on those kinds of projects at no cost to, I think it's the property owners. So just those kind of creative solutions coming up as we're thinking about the importance of affordability of broadband, I think is not out of the question at all.

Christopher Mitchell (14:13):
And I would just build on that to say that's going to be the silver lining. Jordan and I were just spent two days in Gary working with some great folks there in a RP talk about broadband basics and talking about the city of Gary's looking at doing, and we talked about Memphis while we were there as well. Some of these cities that have really been left behind have deep poverty. They're the areas that don't even have good cable networks. And I often admit that the cable networks are quite good in many places right now, unaffordable but often high quality service, not in places like Gary or Memphis. So anyway, I say all that to say, it's always hard to tell people, yes, the federal government is putting a ton of money into broadband. No, not a dollar of it is coming to your community. But in some states like New York, perhaps a few others, as Emma is saying, we're going to see some of that money getting to the high poverty apartment buildings using that authority. That's going to be wonderful. And that's probably going to be one of the highlights of the year, I think quite possibly.

Jess Auer (15:11):
I just want to jump in real quickly. That's a hopeful note, but I want to say, I want to sort of bring us down a little bit with a prediction I had about the BEAD challenges as well. We have not seen NTIA approve a single, my understanding pre challenge modification that did not originate with them. So they said you could call DSL underserved, you could do a speed test, pre challenge modification. Colorado wanted to do something very interesting with MDU that would get a lot of them designated for funding in high poverty areas. And that came out of their proposal before it got approved because from what I've read, because NTIA said it wouldn't be approved, so that's a downside.

Christopher Mitchell (16:02):
NTIA originally I think was basically, here are some ideas, but we're really interested in your ideas, give us your ideas. And then people came forward with ideas and they're like, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. That's been disappointing. And I think part of it is a mandate to move quickly, I would suspect. I don't know, that's just probably someone listening who's just like, Chris, you don't understand anything. Sorry. But it has been disappointing and that is something that it sure seems like we're not going to see many changes to that. Anyone else have anything? We're going to go toward a CP here pretty soon. Oh, you know what? I had to do my own. I dove in on other topics that were brought up, but the election Internet access will not be an issue in the election. A little bit of a softball, I think everyone's nodding like this is going to be a pretty crazy year.

I've told multiple people that if tomorrow I fall into a 365 day coma, I will not come out of it complaining. I'll tell you that right now. So Internet access will not be an issue in the election, but there will be a big campaign at local levels and in some states against municipal networks. We've seen that a little bit in Utah with the great work that is happening in multiple parts of California in New York, a number of other places. I think we are going to see some big money spent to try to delegitimize community solutions for

Christine Parker (17:28):
Sure. Kind of a related prediction that was that this year we're going to see more fiber development from smaller and public providers than major ISPs. So kind of not what you were saying, Chris.

Christopher Mitchell (17:42):
All right. Related to that, Christine, I said I think 2024 will be a bad year from a Wall Street point of view. I think the big cable companies will continue to lose small numbers of subscribers. I don't think fixed wireless is going to keep picking up big numbers of subscribers. This sort of starts to get into the A CP, but I think in general the number of broadband subscribers will be flatlining or declining and it's going to be quite disappointing. I think

Sean Gonsalves (18:10):
I had a fixed wireless prediction.

Christopher Mitchell (18:12):
Let's do that real quick.

Sean Gonsalves (18:13):
I do think fixed wireless will continue to grow, came across some interesting numbers that New Street Fierce Telecom had a story based on some new street research that said that close to 20% of fixed wireless access new subscribers were new to broadband. So that I thought was interesting. I know there's been this sort of this question, I think I've heard Doug ask it on the connect this show of where are these subscribers coming from? So anyhow, I think that'll continue to grow. And then

Christopher Mitchell (18:45):
I say that I would suspect a fair number of those might be younger folks coming out of college or moving out of their parents' homes and going with something that is kind of convenient and easy. Also, I think some of that is the A CP where some of the fixed wireless folks have been. Again, that a CP, I think that mobile growth, mobile fixed wireless growth specifically will pick up in the first two quarters and then drop off basically as a CP levels off. More people will switch to fixed wireless, but by the end of the year, I don't think we'll see more fixed wireless growth. That's my estimate. What did you have next, Sean? Public?

Sean Gonsalves (19:21):
Public-private partnerships will explode. There's no way to really quantify that because I don't think in

Christopher Mitchell (19:25):
A good way there's going to be more of them. They're not going to blow up

Sean Gonsalves (19:28):
A heart. Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. I should have chosen my language a little more carefully, but yes, I mean flourish I should say. I think that there will be a staggering number of public-private partnership RFPs and proposals and announcements to go along with

Christopher Mitchell (19:44):
What's the staggering number all? Are we talking about big cities, midsize cities? Let's narrow it down just a little bit so we can quantify it a little bit more.

Sean Gonsalves (19:51):
Big cities to midsize cities.

Christopher Mitchell (19:54):
Okay, so we talking 20, 30, 50?

Sean Gonsalves (19:58):
Yeah, no, 50.

Christopher Mitchell (20:01):
All right. 50 50.

Sean Gonsalves (20:02):
50. And to go along with that, I'll say that 10 new municipal networks will come online this year as

Christopher Mitchell (20:08):
Well. Alright, we're going to hold that until the end, but Sean's putting up 10 to start.

Sean Gonsalves (20:14):

Christopher Mitchell (20:14):
We moving into acp?

Sean Gonsalves (20:15):

Christopher Mitchell (20:16):
Alright. So we know that the a ACP is going to run out of funds sometime likely in April. Seems to be the strong likelihood. Christine, do you want to go first? Right? No, we should maybe just all go around and say, oh,

Christine Parker (20:32):
On the count of three, we all say what we think is going to happen. 1, 2, 3

Christopher Mitchell (20:39):

Christine Parker (20:42):
I want there to be more support for people to be online, but I don't think it's going to continue.

Christopher Mitchell (20:49):
So there's a lot of predictions that we can make around what's going to happen related to a CP, but I think Christine, you're starting off with whether or not there will be any new money in 2024 in a CP or something like it's very similar to a CP, not counting lifeline. And so I'm with you on that. No new money for a CP. It just runs out. 20 million households are harmed, struggling several million of them deeply, and there's no new money that is put in no action from the FCC to really try to fix that.

Sean Gonsalves (21:24):
I'm in that camp as well.

Christopher Mitchell (21:26):
Okay, what's the over under on how many speeches Jessica Rosenworcel gives on how much she really cares and really wishes she could do something about it?

Sean Gonsalves (21:33):
Oh man. Between now and April, that's ample time. I'm going to say at least five

Christine Parker (21:41):
Two for each announcement that has to come out.

Christopher Mitchell (21:44):
Oh, it's frustrating. And I'll just note, Sean's got a story that we're going to be publishing before the show goes live. I'm guessing John Chambers has, I think probably put up a blog post today about it. We are with him in terms of a lot of this was more or less affordable if Jessica Rosenworcel actually took her job seriously at the FCC and let's just say also had two Republican commissioners that were serious about anything except for trying to get on Fox News talking about China, then we could have resolved a lot of this. We didn't have to do this. John Chambers will point out that most of this money went to wireless companies that did not do a good job of getting people connected. I'm not saying that all wireless should have been ruled out, but the FCC program design is pretty weak and not reformed and oh, there goes $14 billion or so.

So anyway, let's talk about predictions and not get too into that. We will have a discussion about this, I have no doubt, but I think we're across the board that no new funds, no reform this year. That was the other thing. I dunno if anyone has any changes on that. All right. We do have, so Deanne is here and shared a prediction, which is one that I shared, but I wanted to note that a loss of public trust damage to the reputation of groups that sign people up for a CP. I don't know that we can predict this at the end of the year, but if we get a new program like this, I think it will be harder to get people signed up because they will feel burned and frustrated about this process. I think the groups that have gone around signing people up will have a loss to their reputation and that is just deeply frustrating and I would say comes mostly from Republican party that is not interested in doing this.

Most of the Democrats wanted to refund the program. Most of the Republicans wanted to know how it would be paid for and had a bunch of other questions. And then also you have leaders of the Republican party like Senator Thune claiming that a CP was about getting new households on. Well, that's not how it was written. That's not how it was designed. It was about support for families that could not afford service. So there's a lot of just frustration that I have as someone who is deeply frustrated with both parties. I don't want this to call into the both sides ism kind of thing. So anyway, deeply frustrated, Emma. Yeah,

Emma Gautier (24:12):
I think it's definitely going to happen that there will be people who are paying for service they can no longer afford, which is really disturbing also. And that comes along with things like damage to credit and unexpected bills and just repercussions that are a really big deal. And I also think that damage to community organizations who are trying to do outreach is a huge deal because those organizations and communities have such an important role and it's all based around trust and they can't do work without trust. Not saying that trust is going to be totally lost, but when it's damaged, it's just like a big deal.

Sean Gonsalves (24:53):
Yeah, that's a great point. There's all these cascading effects that have a real negative impact on people's lives. One thing I'd like to say while we're talking about a CP, especially since this is a prediction show, we should say, and I don't know if we were the first, but we were one of the early ones because of our A-C-A-C-P dashboard to predict April, 2024. And now that's like everybody acts like that's common knowledge. I'd like to say, Christine,

Christopher Mitchell (25:24):
How do you react when Sean says we made that prediction? I know,

Sean Gonsalves (25:27):

Christine Parker (25:29):
We're a team, right?

Christopher Mitchell (25:33):
I'll just say I reported on Christine's prediction. I had no idea.

Sean Gonsalves (25:39):

Christopher Mitchell (25:39):
One of the other things that is related to that, especially what Emma was saying, is just there's going to be a real loss of local economic activity. We're talking about in even rural areas like rural population centers, not super rural, a million dollars a year, multiple millions of dollars a year. That's not in people's pockets anymore. And that adds up in some of these areas. That's if you have an extra $30 in your pocket each month, you're generally using that on local stuff. You're buying stuff, you're shopping at stores, you're engaging in services, and a lot of that's just economic activities going to decline and that's going to be hard on local businesses and things like that. This was going to ripple through, I have to say tribal ISPs are going to be hit really hard by this. A fair number of them really depended on the $75 a month that they were eligible for.

And it's going to be very difficult and it's going to ripple through there as well where you have someone running the ISP who has to go to tribal council or to tribal leadership and say, we can't pay our bills. We need some more support than we were expecting. And tribal leadership's going to say, well, why didn't you know that this was going to happen? Or what can you do about this? And there's going to be that friction and frustration where we really don't need it. And so it's really disappointing and this is definitely a situation where we're not putting Humpty Dumpty back together again. There's going to be real lasting damage and hopefully this isn't the end of a program that meets the needs of people who desperately need it. But those are the things that I come at immediately. I have a few others, but I want to go around a little bit. Anyone else? Emma?

Emma Gautier (27:25):
Just a slightly more optimistic one. I think that we'll see, hopefully we'll see some action on the part of states or localities to address affordability through a CP like programs. California is already thinking about implementing its own similar voucher, credit, whatever you want to call it based program. And I think California and LA and Oakland and places like that are definite leaders when it comes to addressing some of this stuff. And I'm hoping that that can succeed in California and if it does hopefully be a model for places around the country.

Christopher Mitchell (28:10):
Yeah, I'll just say I'm predicting, and this is a hard one, I think people in California will want to do it. I will make one of my predictions that I'm the least sure about. I don't think California will do it this year. They have a major budget deficit that's predicted and I don't think they're going to have the funds to do it. I think we might see some other states finding some support, but when I was just talking to someone the other day who was on a state broadband office, they were talking about the amount of money and it's a lot of money to try to pick this up. That's the reason the federal government was doing it. So Emma, I think that's a good prediction and I'm curious to see where it comes out. I'm a little bit more pessimistic in terms of what will actually get done. Jess,

Jess Auer (28:54):
I had a power outage. I missed a little bit of the discussion here, but I'm reading the room a little bit that this is mostly all negative.

Christopher Mitchell (29:02):
If you want to come in and say that if you think the ACP is going to be refilled, you're going to really

Jess Auer (29:06):
How you do it. I'm going to say that these letters are going to go out in February and people are going to be pissed. And there's a lot of folks who use that in red districts and they're going to let people know, and I think it's going to get a little funny, a little bit of money. I think they're going to probably extract something unpleasant in exchange maybe, but we're not going to see any sort of fundamental reform, but I'm going to say they're going to refill the bucket a little bit.

Christopher Mitchell (29:39):
All right. That's bold. You are come out the champion if that's what happens. I do not think that is going to happen. And I had said the Internet access will not be an issue. I think that even if a lot of these people get those letters, they are going to say, who are you going to vote for? Yeah, your A CP is gone. Who are you going to vote for? You're going to vote for a Democrat? I don't think so in Eastern Kentucky. No, you're going to vote for me. That's what you're going to do. And I think that's the calculus. I think that is the nature of our system right now, unfortunately. And so I am deeply pessimistic about those letters having an effect, but I will, and I'm saying this right now, I'm not going to pull a Lindsey Graham and then come back and lie about it later. I'm going to say that I will come out and say, you are absolutely right. But right now I'm feeling pessimistic about that, turning the tide if anything turns the tide. I think it's that though.

Sean Gonsalves (30:30):
So just to be clear, Jess, are you predicting that the A CP extension Act will pass or just in some form or fashion that

Jess Auer (30:39):
I don't know that they'll get all six or 7 million or billion that they're asking for, but yeah, I think, yeah, that's my prediction. Those representatives are up for election every two years planning a primaries to be had. I think that they might be a little bit more responsive to a bunch of people calling saying they can't afford Internet anymore.

Christopher Mitchell (31:00):
They're approaching the likelihood that, or we're approaching a situation where they're more likely to die of being hit by lightning than being replaced absent of retirement, unfortunately. Christine, go ahead. That

Christine Parker (31:12):
Kind of tangential related question, I guess prediction. So the broadband consumer labels are due out April 10th, I think, and with these letters coming out in February, March-ish, I'm wondering if we'll see any action from major providers in this new, presumably this will be a point of sale for consumers that are on a CP because their bill will be changing. And so I'm wondering if we'll see any action from providers in showing their labels during this time.

Emma Gautier (31:52):
This was something we just talked about the other day. It's that the broadband consumer labels are only posted at the point of sale, but if there's an added fee introduced or in the case of the A CP, if the price changes, is that a point of sale or not? Is your price changing a point of sale? I don't think that that will spur Internet service providers to send the broadband consumer label to subscribers. I don't think they're going to count that as a point of sale. I think it should be, but I don't think it will be.

Sean Gonsalves (32:28):
Yeah, it it's a great point. And I was this morning looking over the fccs order for requirements and guidelines and winding down a CPI didn't see any mention of the, I mean, you make a good point, and I'm also not convinced that when the letter start going out, say in February, that the bulk of everyone on a CP is going to realize. I mean, I think that there's be a fair number of people that won't realize it until they actually get a bill saying, do you want to opt in? And your bill, by the way, is going to go up $30 a month.

Christopher Mitchell (33:03):
My other two predictions, and we'll see if anyone else has any left, but relating to a CP, I think that no one who's responsible will pay any political price. Voters have no idea as to what led to this, but most of the people who are cut off will be angry at Biden and they'll be mad at Democrats, I think.

Sean Gonsalves (33:22):
Oh yeah, that's a good thing.

Christopher Mitchell (33:23):
Whether they are in a rural Republican area or in a more urban democratic area, everyone's just going to blame the president, I think.

Sean Gonsalves (33:29):
I agree. And to your point, excuse me, to Emma's point earlier, there'll also be some collateral blame, and I think a lot of hardworking, well-meaning digital navigators will also to a degree be blamed, but I also wonder, they're big media companies, so they can probably shield themselves, but I also wonder how much icp, excuse me, ISPs will take any flack for this.

Christopher Mitchell (33:58):
Yeah, I don't know. We'll see. People are used to ISPs raising their prices and we keep saying ISPs, the labels are due out for the biggest companies. We're talking mostly about the biggest companies they serve. The vast majority of the people, local companies tend to actually be able to get messages out to their subscribers because their subscribers don't hate them and run away from their correspondence in the same way. We will change. We have to move on though. Any other a CP related predictions? Alright, digital discrimination, Emma?

Emma Gautier (34:32):
Yeah. These are coming out of conversations with people at the local level like Bill Callahan and Natalie Gonzalez in LA and Patrick Messick in Oakland. But I think that cities will be timid to wage direct attacks on big incumbent providers. And I think that a lot of involvement will be on the part of community organizations to document digital discrimination and we'll see interesting coalition work come out of that, including from anchor institutions just because people know how important it is by this point to do work in partnership to spread around resources and capacity. And I think that the FCC naming or using the disparate impact approach at the federal level will create some rallying energy for community groups to just gather momentum among community members for better broadband, better quality broadband and affordable broadband. And also to enter into conversations with local government officials about them enforcing existing rules or in an ideal situation, conversations about public investment in broadband.

Christopher Mitchell (35:56):
I think we will see those local groups doing that organizing. I think we will see zero things from the federal communications on this Federal Communications Commission in 2024. Even if they do investigate anything or take action sort of anything. I don't think we'll see the results of any of it coming out.

Emma Gautier (36:18):
Yeah, I mean that was kind of part B of my production.

Christopher Mitchell (36:22):
Oh, I just jumped in and big footed you. Sorry.

Emma Gautier (36:24):
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I don't think digital discrimination will be enforced at the federal level. I don't think that penalties against ISPs will result in any infrastructure investment at scale, basically. I don't think that the federal ruling will have concrete impacts on the customer experience or the subscriber experience. I think the enforcement's going to be a big issue and it's not really going to come through

Christopher Mitchell (36:57):
Any other predictions on digital discrimination from anyone else in the team before we come back to Emma?

Sean Gonsalves (37:01):
Yeah, I predict that what the Supreme Court decides on federal agencies enforcement powers will rule in such a way that it'll make all of this moot.

Christopher Mitchell (37:14):
Anyone else? DNS predicts more local ordinances along the lines of what has already happened in Los Angeles and perhaps some other big cities. We'll be covering that as they happen. Emma, anything else related to digital discrimination?

Emma Gautier (37:28):
So I feel like the federal ruling has limitations in that it won't directly impact subscribers. I think that it's going to spur cities to do work around data collection and to kind of develop their own stories about digital discrimination that's happening in their communities and get just a better sense of the ways in which incumbents are falling short. And I think it's from there that conversations are going to be had and that organizing is going to be done. So I think it's definitely going to move things, but not in a direct way at the federal level.

Christopher Mitchell (38:09):
Yeah, I think it's interesting that a city that is organizing using those tools with expectation, a realistic expectation, that it is going to have to be more involved and perhaps put some public investment into a solution may look for the first six months. A lot like a city that does some of this investigation that also is just doing it for show and doesn't plan to do anything except for claim that the incumbent is responsible and needs to fix it. And so I'm going to be deeply frustrated at I think these cities where we see just more of this action we see in Minneapolis and St. Paul for instance, where if an elected official is asked about it, they're like, oh, it's terrible. We wish that that people had better service in a way that if people didn't have water service, the city would solve it.

They didn't have electricity service. The city would do something about it. When it comes to Internet access, leaders feel like they can just be like, ah, sure, wish we could snap our fingers and fix it, but there's nothing we can do with the power of the city in a billion dollar budget. There's no way we could find a few thousand dollars to try to fix this. And so when I look around and I feel this way often after I work with a community that's been so left behind like Gary, just the reality of that and just looking at even cities that have many more economic opportunities and how most local leaders continue to just be like, I wish there was something I could do, but all I can do is wish that someone would do something. And so I really hope that I'll end this year, but I think at the end of this year, most major metros will still just be hoping that someone else is going to come fix their problem and it ain't happening. So I just really killed the mood. So any last predictions before we do the muni networks in Preemptions? All right.

Emma Gautier (40:01):
I have a question Title two in that neutrality.

Christopher Mitchell (40:05):
Yeah, boy, it's interesting. So many people are all interested in this. I'll say what I think, and you can all disagree if you want. I just don't think it matters a lot in the sense that we really don't want to lose it. It is important to regain title two so that a future FCC that has a chair that actually cares about doing things could do something in theory that would be important, and there's other ramifications of it. But I hate these battles where we have to fight to get something where when we win, we have not moved forward. We've just stopped ourselves from moving backwards. And that to me feels like the issue. If we don't regain net neutrality, then we'll continue to fight for the states in other ways. If we get net neutrality in Title ii, then we'll just continue to try to defend it.

But nothing about this gets anyone better connected. This is all just about trying to stop the big companies from screwing us further, and I just resent it. I think it's important that people defend net neutrality, that we don't have the Internet go the way of commercial radio where no one listens to the radio. It's all just commercials in lame, but we have such big issues. 20 million households are not going to be able to afford Internet access. I mean, that's overstating it. They're going to be struggling to afford it. We don't have structural reform coming to try to make sure we have investments going to places. There's all these places in major cities where neighborhoods are going to get their second and third fiber before other neighborhoods get anything better than DSL and overpriced cable. It is hard for me to worry too much about net neutrality, but it's also because our allies in DC are going to fight the fight really well. So if we didn't have that, I don't know. I might feel differently, but it's complicated. That's my reaction. It's probably overly long. Sorry about that. So anyway, that's net neutrality. Christine has one more.

Christine Parker (41:58):
Yes, it's not an exciting one, but the FCC will finally change the broadband definition to over 20 this year.

Christopher Mitchell (42:08):
I'm not getting my hopes up. I've been bit too many times by this. I don't know. I think the FCC might just say who caress? Why even have a broadband definition anymore?

Sean Gonsalves (42:21):
I'm surprised actually, that hadn't come up earlier. That's a good one. I'm going to go ahead and be, continue my pessimistic streak along with Chris it seems and say that no, they'll dither around, but it won't happen in 2024.

Christine Parker (42:36):
They're also taking comments and setting a higher goal of a gig over 500.

Christopher Mitchell (42:42):
Right, like a challenge goal or a stretch goal or something like that. I think that's good. It makes sense. I've often said that we should have multiple definitions in the sense that what one is building with new federal money should be different than what is the bare minimum that a family can get by with without being too disadvantaged. So it makes sense to me to have a little more nuance around that. Alright, we got to do how many new municipal fiber networks are there going to be? Sean has 10, Ry has 25, also does more of the data than anyone else. So I'm loathed to go against him, but I'm going to come in the middle,

Sean Gonsalves (43:20):
Knew his number first. I would've,

Christopher Mitchell (43:21):
I'm go over 17 right in the middle.

Christine Parker (43:23):

Christopher Mitchell (43:24):
33 from Christine.

Jess Auer (43:26):
I'll say 19.

Christopher Mitchell (43:27):
Jess is just going to price his right. Me. Emma, what did Ry

Emma Gautier (43:31):

Christopher Mitchell (43:32):
Ry said 25. Yeah, yeah. All right. You're going to agree with him rather than just picking 26.

Sean Gonsalves (43:41):
Can I change mine to 26?

Christopher Mitchell (43:45):
How many states are going to, well, how is preemption going to change any new preemption or removing any old preemption? I think we're going to fight about it. I'll go first. I think we're going to fight about it, but we're going to come out with 17. I'm not saying that means there's going to be no changes, but I'm going to say we're going to come out with 17.

Sean Gonsalves (44:03):
That was going to be my prediction. I think the momentum to roll back, the preemption has come and gone and we will have set, as a matter of fact, I almost was going to say it's going to go up to 18 because I wouldn't be surprised. I mean, just the story about Frankfort, Kentucky in this bill that's been filed to try to force them to sell their municipal broadband system there, made me think that, but I'm just going to say 17. We're going to have no movement on the state preemption.

Christopher Mitchell (44:32):
I can't let that by without saying that Gigi, so, and others would like to make this a bigger fight. And I do think that if we see that big campaign against municipal networks, we could get some pushback and organizing to make this an issue in some states and roll it back. So I wouldn't agree that the moment has come and gone. I think that moment might be coming back, Sean, so I'm just going to throw that out there.

Sean Gonsalves (44:55):
I hope so. I just felt like with BEAD and everything coming, I thought that was the thing that was going to kind of jar that loose to some degree. But since they've got past this hurdle where NTIA says, Hey, if you want to keep your state preemption, we're still going to give you all your BEAD money. I think that's what I mean by the moment is come and gone.

Christopher Mitchell (45:13):
Yeah. Christine,

Christine Parker (45:16):
I'm going with my three theme. Three states are going to eliminate preemption laws. I'm going to go with the positive.

Christopher Mitchell (45:23):
All right. Three states are going to eliminate Jess.

Jess Auer (45:26):
I'm with Sean. If they were going to do it, they would've done it. I think there's very little consequence moving forward. So none. No, none of 'em are going to get rid of it.

Christopher Mitchell (45:37):
Alright, Emma,

Emma Gautier (45:39):
I agree with that too. Well, between zero and one,

Sean Gonsalves (45:45):
There'll be a partial rollback, kind of like

Christopher Mitchell (45:47):
A, this is a binary. Yeah.

Sean Gonsalves (45:51):
Although Arkansas kind of partially rolled theirs back.

Christopher Mitchell (45:54):
You could come out Emma and Emma, you could call that. I mean, you can call a big victory if you can justify that at the end of the year. So

Emma Gautier (46:02):
To interpretation, it's the way to being correct.

Christopher Mitchell (46:06):
Alright, well, those are our predictions for the year. Thank you for getting through them with us. Sorry if you don't listen for my occasional rants and frustrations with various things, but that's what we're looking at this year, how we react to some of the a CP stuff right now, and we look forward to evaluating it in 11 months or so. So hope you all have a great year better than we're forecasting. Thank you all for joining us.

Sean Gonsalves (46:35):
Always fun to be here.

Ry Marcattilio (46:37):
We have transcripts for this and other podcasts slash broadbandbits. Email with your ideas for the show. Follow Chris on Twitter. His handle is at communitynets. Follow community Stories on Twitter, the handles at muni networks. Subscribe to this and other podcasts from IR, including Building Local Power, local Energy Rules, and the Composting for Community Podcast. You can access them anywhere you get your podcasts. You can catch the latest important research from all of our initiatives if you subscribe to our monthly While you're there, please take a moment to donate your support in any amount. Keeps us going. Thank you to Arnie Hughey for the song Warm Duck Shuffle, licensed through creative comments.