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Next Century Cities Discuss Dissatisfaction with Broadband Providers in Webinar With FCC Officials

David Jelke

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Screenshot of Lukas Pietrzak, policy associate at Next Century Cities

May 1, 2020— A spokesman for Federal Communication Commission Chairman Ajit Pai on Thursday highlighting the agency’s grant of hundreds of million of dollars for telemedicine projects on a Thursday webinar hosted by Next Century Cities.

“The commission has been insanely busy,” said the spokesman, Evan Swarztrauber. Also discussing the agency’s waiver of some E-rate rules, he called the FCC’s actions “proactive, and reactive, but mostly proactive.”

Kevin Pisacich, communications and security systems division manager for Oxnard, California, said that 80 percent of his residents called high speed broadband “critical to their operations” in a survey.

Pisachich also referenced a BroadbandNow study showing how broadband fared in different cities in mid-March. Oxnard was the city the third-highest number of degradations: It had a 42 percent overall degradation of service during the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak.

He said that residents complained that the broadband was “slow and at times useless.”

Significantly, he said, Oxnard does not fit the FCC definition of “unserved areas” nor does it meet the definition for “rural areas,” so it is actually ineligible for many of its recently-discussed broadband funds, including the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

Oxnard cannot be competitive socially or economically “unless we address these issues,” Pisacich said. Standard speeds of 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) up / 3 Mbps down “are not going to cut it for us.”

He made a point to announce that Oxnard is looking for a fiber municipal network builders to replace its current less-than-desirable broadband deployment.

Denise Riedl, chief technology officer of South Bend, Indiana, also shared her perspective about the lack of high-quality broadband in cities.

She said that parts of South Bend are “totally reliant on DSL” referring direct subscriber line, a dated technology and method of accessing the internet that relies on a landline telephone connection.

Riedl complained about how the city has used busses to bring hotspots to their kids.

“It’s just not enough,” she complained. Riedl stated that she is “haunted by what the future will hold,” based on South Bend’s previous broadband challenges.

“We’ve been suffering in a way that the data doesn’t show,” Riedl said. Riedl described seeing kids from South Bend doing homework outside on the sidewalk and said this is “not the America we want to see.”

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