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House Updates HEROES Act Sections on Broadband, New SiFi FiberCity, Smart Cities Council Applications Due

Liana Sowa



Screenshot from a Smart Cities council video on the application

House Democrats revealed an updated version of the HEROES Act in a bid to move the party’s version of COVID-19 relief forward. This version of coronavirus stimulus legislation is one of the few with a number of concrete funding measures for broadband.

The $2.2 trillion bill (PDF) would provide funding for Wi-Fi hotspots and connected devices for students and library patrons, emergency home connectivity, telemedicine grants, and broadband mapping.

There are several services directed at Native Americans for health care, telehealth services, purchasing medical supplies and personal protective equipment, and expanding broadband infrastructure and information technology for telehealth and electronic health records system.

The bill includes an Emergency Benefit for Broadband Service with three sections.

Sec. 301 would provide money for households with a member who has been laid off or furloughed to receive a 50$ benefit put toward monthly internet service during COVID-19. Internet service providers would be required to provide these benefits but can seek reimbursement from the FCC.

Sec. 302 requires Lifeline providers to make unlimited minutes and unlimited data available to those reliant on the Lifeline program to stay connected to phone or internet service. It provides additional support to offset the increase of services, with “a minimum subsidy increase to not less than $25 per month.”

Sec. 303 authorizes funding to help states participate in the National Lifeline Eligibility Verifier.

The bill prohibits broadband and telephone providers from terminating service or imposing late fees because of COVID-19.

It also prohibits broadband providers from employing data caps or charging customers from going over data caps and requires them to open Wi-Fi hotspots to the public at no cost during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Additionally, the bill controls the costs for voice and video calls between incarcerated people and their families.

SiFi Networks launches first east coast FiberCity

SiFi Networks will launch its first east coast FiberCity in Salem, Massachusetts. Salem is the second city to be funded by the Smart City Infrastructure Fund, after Fullerton, California.

The Salem FiberCity will be an open access network for Internet service providers, home security providers, cellular carriers or even educational providers, meaning, as Ben Bawtree-Jobson, CEO of SiFi, pointed out, “the streets only need to be dug once.”

The network will enable the opportunity to access Smart City applications and pass every home and business in the city. Construction should finish 2022, weather permitting, and will commence before the end of the year.

GigabitNow was selected as the first Internet Service Provider in Salem. The company is also an ISP on the Fullerton network.

“GigabitNow is excited to be partnering with SiFi Networks to deliver fast gigabit Internet services that surpass anything being offered today in the city of Salem,” said Stephen Milton, CEO of GigabitNow.

The network is projected to bring Salem many benefits, such as economic development. The city’s proximity to Boston should attract new businesses and enable residents to telecommute. Additionally, the city will be able to access the network to use Smart City applications such as e-education, e-health, waste management.

“We are delighted that SiFi Networks has chosen to deliver a fiber network in our city. A fiber network can really provide the infrastructure to improve economic development, increase quality of life for our residents and allows us to plan for the future with the opportunity to use the many Smart City applications which are readily available” said Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll.

Applications for Smart City Council challenge grant close on October 14

The North American Readiness Challenge of the Smart Cities Counsel in New Zealand closes in two weeks.

The application, which takes about an hour to complete, will close at 5 p.m. ET on Wednesday, October 14. It requires participants to explain a problem the city is having, propose a project that will solve it, and include a letter from a senior city leader about your commitment.

Smart Cities Activator publishes in over 150 languages, uses preconfigured templates, and operates on an “always on” platform, so language, time, and travel are not barriers.

Valuing the opportunity at $250,000, the counsel explained that being a readiness cohort leader has many benefits.

Participants and their assigned cohort cities will collaborate with other cities around the world to focus on solving shared problems. They will also have the benefit of global leadership recognition, leading a cohort of peers that have access to the power and expertise of the world’s longest running smart cities body.

Collaborative engagement opportunities will teach participants about leading solutions and implementation opportunities. Business case, risk analysis, and implementation plan advice and assistance will be provided.

Throughout this process, participants will be able to show their community’s progress on solving their city’s problems and will even be showcased monthly through the council’s digital global platform via editorial case study development and video interviews series.


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