Go to Appearance > Menu to set "Primary Menu"

Bringing you the latest in Gigabit Networks, broadband usage, wireless and more

Tag archive

Recovery Act

Our Broadband Election – and the Next Chapter of High-speed Internet in America

in FCC/National Broadband Plan/NTIA/Rural Utilities Service by

November 5, 2012 – In the lead-up to the 2008 presidential election four years ago, then-candidate Barack Obama repeatedly raised the importance of “expanding broadband lines across America” as part of the economic stimulus plan that become the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

During the first year of his administration, many parties honed in on an effort to help stimulate a greater capacity for “middle mile” investments in broadband infrastructure, along with efforts to spur internet adoption and usage, and to systematically map and coordinate broadband assets.

All told, approximately $7 billion – or about 1 percent – of the Recovery Act funding went to stimulate broadband activities.

Even more important than the funding, however, was to have an Executive branch focus on broadband as a policy lever – something that had been lacking in the Bush administration.

President Obama’s election in 2008 coincided with an initiative, undertaken by many individuals that were both Republican and Democratic, to focus on the power of high-speed internet through a “call to action for a national broadband strategy.” This effort, the U.S. Broadband Coalition, contributed to the National Broadband Plan that was subsequently developed by the Federal Communications Commission.

Released in March 2010, the National Broadband Plan is an extraordinary document. It was comprehensive in its inventory of broadband resources. It had the most current public broadband data current available at the time of its publication. It offered ambitious, yet reachable, goals. It did so without being fiscally imprudent. And yet it set into motion comprehensive new opportunities for ensuring that the nation has broadband widely available and well-used.

In addition to the National Broadband Plan, the broadband data now available through the National Broadband Map represents a sea-change versus our understanding of high-speed internet communication, circa 2008. The September Broadband Breakfast Club, “Measuring Broadband Performance: What Have We Learned in Four Years?” highlighted this history.

Now that the federal government and states around the country have begun collecting broadband data in richer detail than ever before, the real power should come in what happens next: leveraging data and maps to promote broadband access and to maximize its use.

One small illustration of this benefit: the FCC has already begun using these tools as part of the reforms of the Universal Service Fund. This $8.1 billion annual fund offer subsidies for a range of telecommunications services designed to ensure universal access to communications.

Nearly one year ago, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and the rest of the five-member commission announced major changes to the USF. The FCC created a Connect America Fund and the Mobility Fund. The FCC has already begun Phase I of each of these initiatives, and these were discussed at the October 2012 Broadband Breakfast Club.

We’ve long known that America needs better broadband. Step one in achieving that capability has always been to collect a world-class inventory of the availability of high-speed internet. The Obama Administration has achieved that goal.

Whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney wins the presidential election contest tomorrow, no one expects a repeat of the funding made available by the Recovery Act. But at the same time, no one expects that the Universal Service Fund will be diminished.

The past four years have already brought substantial changes in America’s broadband capabilities. These data-driven tools are now available to everyone. And that’s why the next administration – whether a second term for Obama or for a Romney administration – will continue to unfold the next chapter of high-speed internet in America.

Drew Clark is the Chairman of the Broadband Breakfast Club, the premier Washington forum advancing the conversation around broadband technology and internet policy. You can find him on Google+ and Twitter. He founded BroadbandCensus.com, and he brings experts and practitioners together to advance Better Broadband, Better Lives. He’s doing that now as Executive Director for Broadband Illinois, based in Abraham Lincoln’s Springfield.

NTIA Gives $6.1 Million in Grants to North Carolina, Washington

in Broadband's Impact/Education/States/Tribal Broadband by

WASHINGTON, September 16, 2010 – The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration on Thursday announced two American Recovery and Reinvestment Act investments, totaling $6.1 million in grants, to North Carolina and Washington.

“These Recovery Act investments illustrate how broadband technology can not only expand economic and educational opportunities, but it can also make the justice system more accessible to the public,”  NTIA Administrator Larry Strickling said.

North Carolina Central University’s School of Law will receive about $2 million to upgrade broadband service while expanding access to its legal education programs. The project will use videoconferencing to bring low-income residents greater access to legal services and extend classes to four partner historically black colleges and universities and 22 legal assistance sites.

The project also plans to hold legal writing seminars for undergraduates to prepare them for law school and increase minority representation in the legal profession, as well as to provide legal classes geared toward middle and high school students.

The Puget Sound Center Foundation for Teaching, Learning, and Technology will receive a $4.1 million grant to expand or upgrade 39 public computer centers in Washington state. This includes partnering with the Northwest Justice Project, Washington’s publicly funded legal aid program, to establish public computer centers in five rural courts, including the Kalispel tribal court, where the public can access online legal resources and other services. The project also plans enhanced training offerings for economically vulnerable populations, including courses addressing GED test preparation, digital literacy, job searches and financial education.

NTIA will make all Broadband Technology Opportunities Program awards by Sept. 30.

GAO: Broadband Oversight Agencies Face Risks Due to Lack of Resources

in Broadband Mapping/Broadband Stimulus/NTIA/Rural Utilities Service/States by

WASHINGTON, August 9, 2010 – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Rural Utilities Service are doing a pretty good job awarding broadband stimulus funding, although both agencies face risks as the Sept. 30 deadline nears for doling out the money.

The Government Accountability Office says in a new report (pdf) that even though the NTIA and RUS lack detailed data on broadband availability throughout the country and must award twice the amount of money in a second round of funding in a shorter amount of time, the agencies are working hard to meet their obligations.

To meet the Recovery Act’s Sept. 30 deadline, NTIA and RUS must award about $4.8 billion, and as the deadline looms, “the agencies may face increased pressure to approve awards,” according to the GAO. Additionally, it is difficult for the agencies “to determine whether a proposed service area is unserved or underserved” because of the lack of granular data.

To address the challenges, the GAO says the agencies have streamlined their application review processes by eliminating joint reviews and reducing the number of steps in the due diligence process. Additionally, NTIA began using U.S. Census tract data to verify the presence of service.

It’s also no small chore for the agencies to ensure that the grant recipients construct the infrastructure projects in the entire project area, “not simply the area where it may be the most profitable for the company to provide service,” says the GAO in “Recovery Act: Further Opportunities Exist to Strengthen Oversight of Broadband Stimulus Programs.”

The agencies also face the risk of having insufficient resources to actively monitor Recovery Act funded broadband projects.

The GAO suggests that the agencies should plan for a lack of resources for program oversight after Sept. 30 and recommends that the secretaries of the Agriculture and Commerce departments address these issues.

New NTIA Data Show Broadband Growth but Disparities Remain

in Broadband Data/Broadband Stimulus/Broadband Updates/Broadband's Impact/National Broadband Plan/NTIA by

WASHINGTON, February 16, 2010 – New government data show demographic groups across the nation have experienced rising broadband internet access adoption at home but disparities persist among some groups.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration found that broadband internet access at home continues to grow with 64 percent of households having broadband access compared to 51 percent in October 2007.

However, NTIA chief Larry Strickling expressed concern that certain groups are still not getting the connections they need.

“While it is encouraging that Americans across virtually all demographic groups and geographic areas are using broadband at higher rates than ever before, a significant portion of the population is still not online,” he said, adding that funding from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act is designed to help ameliorate those problems.

Notable disparities between demographic groups show that people with low incomes, seniors, minorities, less-educated, non-family households, and the unemployed lag behind other groups in home broadband use.

Derek Rose of the Free Press said the data indicate that many people think broadband is too expensive or they don’t see any value in the service.

“It is clear that promoting more effective competition and ensuring access to diverse online content will be essential to reaching the goal of universal broadband adoption,” he said.

While the digital divide between urban and rural areas has lessened since 2007, according to the NTIA, it remains significant.

In 2009, 66 percent of urban households and only 54 percent of rural households accessed broadband Internet service, compared to 54 percent of urban households and 39 percent of rural households in 2007.

Interestingly, 30 percent of all consumers do not use the Internet in any location, according to the NTIA.

Go to Top