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Broadband Roundup: Mayor Pete Makes Trillion-Dollar Infrastructure Bid, USDA ReConnect Grants Announced, US Telecom and Robocalls

Adrienne Patton

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Photo of Pete Buttigieg in June 2019 by Gage Skidmore used with permission

Presidential hopeful and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg released a $1 trillion dollar infrastructure plan that he says will create millions of jobs, reports The Hill.

Buttigieg’s infrastructure plan focuses on changes at the community level, including “expanding and repairing road and public transportation, and bringing broadband coverage and clean drinking water to rural communities,” writes reporter Alexandra Kelley.

Buttigieg estimates 6 million jobs will be created through the infrastructure development. Buttigieg also plans to allocate funds to miners and fossil fuel workers to promote switching to clean energy jobs.

According a statement on Buttigieg’s website, he intends to “build the sustainable infrastructure of the 21st century.”

Buttigieg believes his plan creates “opportunity, equity, and empowerment” through job creation, equal access to infrastructure like safe roads and clean water, and infrastructure changes on a local level.

USDA announces grants from the first round of the ReConnect broadband program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Tuesday announced that the USDA has invested $60.9 million in high-speed broadband infrastructure intended to create or improve e-Connectivity for more than 11,000 rural households, 81 farms, 73 businesses, 16 educational facilities, 12 critical community facilities and two health care facilities in rural Missouri.

The statement, by Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Donald “DJ” LaVoy, is from the first round of USDA’s ReConnect Pilot Program investments.

The projects underway in Missouri include:

  • Mid-States Services LLC will use a $3 million loan to provide unserved and underserved members in and around Trenton, Mo., with Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) broadband services. This investment is expected to reach 566 households, a highway patrol office and an elementary school.
  • Total Highspeed LLC will use a $20.1 million loan and a $20.1 million grant to build a Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network to improve broadband services to families and businesses in rural Greene County. This investment is expected to reach 8,683 households, 20 pre-subscribed farms, 15 pre-subscribed businesses, eight critical community facilities, 12 educational facilities and a health care center.
  • Gascosage Electric Cooperative, serving Camden, Maries, Miller, Phelps and Pulaski counties, will use a $7 million loan and a $7 million grant to develop a Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband network for its most rural areas. The investment is expected to reach 20 pre-subscribed farms, 20 pre-subscribed businesses, 1,177 households and two fire protection districts.
  • Green Hills Telephone Corporation will use a $2.6 million grant to expand its Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network to rural areas in Caldwell and Livingston counties. This investment is expected to reach 20 pre-subscribed farms, 20 pre-subscribed businesses, 546 households, a fire protection district and two educational facilities.
  • Marshall Municipal Utilities will use a $575,000 loan and a $575,000 grant to provide high-quality internet access to rural areas of Saline County. By expanding its current service area, an additional 21 pre-subscribed farms, 18 pre-subscribed businesses, 763 households, a private school and a nursing home will have access to broadband.

More companies join US Telecom anti-robocall group

The industry group US Telecom announced in a statement on its website Tuesday that it has recruited more members for the Industry Traceback Group, a group of companies that investigate illegal robocalls.

The Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act was signed by President Donald Trump on December 30, 2019. This bill requires the Federal Communications Commission to trace and penalize robocallers.

US Telecom highlighted its 2019 progress on robocalls:

  • Conducted 1000+ tracebacks; implicating more than 10 million robocalls;
  • 100+ companies have participated in ITG traceback investigations;
  • Substantial increase in number of ITG government referrals resulting in more than 20 subpoenas and/or civil investigative demands from federal and state enforcement agencies;
  • Ability to identify within hours the provider responsible for initiating suspicious traffic and how that robocall entered the U.S. communications network;
  • More providers are explicitly requiring traceback cooperation as a condition of their contracts with other carriers.

The latest members of ITG include Twilio, U.S. Cellular, XCast Labs, and Voxology.

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