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Broadband Roundup: More on the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, 5G National Advocacy, and Policy Hackers

Adrienne Patton

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Photo of Mike Rogers in May 2015 by the Hudson Institute used with permission

In advance of a Federal Communications Commission vote on the proposed Rural Digital Opportunity Fund on January 30, the agency released an analysis of areas eligible for the new federal subsidies. The new fund, a crafted version of the Connect America Fund, is expected to disperse $20.4 billion in broadband deployment and will carry out in two phases.

See "FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Announces Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, Highlighting 25 Mbps Download Speed Requirement," in Broadband Breakfast.

During Phase I, the fund will target census blocks that are unserved by broadband delivered at download speeds of less than 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) / and upload speeds of less 3 Mbps. The agency said that $16 billion would be made available in this first phase.

In Phase II, the FCC would use a new granular broadband mapping approach, unveiled in August as the proposed Digital Opportunity Data Collection, to target unserved households in partially served census blocks. These census blocks are those in which some locations have access to fixed broadband at speeds of 25/3 Mbps, but others do not.

Phase II would also include funding for any areas not awarded during the Phase I reverse auction.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said, “Our staff’s initial estimate shows that in 25 states there would be more than 100,000 locations that would be eligible for Phase I of the Fund, and the benefits would be felt from the Pacific Coast to the Great Plains, and from Appalachia to the Gulf Coast.”

Broadband funding coming to Western Massachusetts

Broadband funding of $10.2 million is coming to western Massachusetts through a grant to Westfield Gas & Electric from Phase II of the Connect America Fund.

The funds will bridge the rural broadband divide in counties in western Massachusetts with $10.2 million in funding, according to the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

Gov. Charlie Baker praised the deployment of funds, which will enable more than 12,400 households to obtain access to high-speed internet, and helping rural areas.

Although the FCC minimum for Connect America Fund is 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up, the Massachusetts towns receiving fiber broadband will also receive 1 Gigabit-per-second (Gbps) speeds for both downloads and uploads.

Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said “Reliable high-speed internet is an essential service that everyone should have access to.” With additional government funding, rural communities are gaining the access they need to services possible through broadband.

Former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers moves to 5G advocacy group

Former Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, is spearheading an advocacy group, 5G Action Now, for 5G deployment. The group says that 5G has the capacity to boost the United State’s economy with 22 million jobs and trillions in revenue.

As the previous chairman for the House Intelligence Committee, Rogers framed his new efforts as winning a 5G race against China, with significant national security implications.

“Ensuring American leadership in 5G is not about that next killer app or faster download speeds. It is about securing and strengthening our country’s economic future,” said Rogers.

Because China is concerned with deploying 5G first, Beijing “poured massive subsidies into Huawei, worked to undercut international competition, and waged a campaign of unprecedented economic espionage to dominate 5G,” stated Rogers.

Rogers believes the race in 5G is “not a Republican or a Democratic issue, it’s an American issue.”

Lincoln Network announces 'policy hackers' fellowship

The free market Lincoln Network is offering a year-long "policy hackers" fellowship for professionals in the tech industry. Participants will collaborate and learn from experts and policymakers.

The non-resident program is designed to accommodate the busy schedules of industry leaders, and teach practical skills about how to navigate government and public policy.

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