WASHINGTON, January 2, 2009 – Congress and the incoming administration of President Obama should include broadband-related investment in the pending legislation designed to promote economic stimulus, and the federal government needs to begin with better data about broadband availability, said a top Massachusetts government official.
In particular, Congress should fully fund the Broadband Data Improvement Act, S. 1492, which passed last October without any appropriated or authorized funding levels. Prior to passage, an earlier version of the bill had included language authorizing $40 million for the Commerce Department to allocate to state-led broadband mapping efforts.
“Full funding of the Broadband Data Improvement Act through the economic recovery package would be a wise investment that would quickly jump-start efforts to stimulate broadband availability,” wrote Massachusetts Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Daniel O’Connell, in a letter last week to the chairs of the Obama-Biden Transition Project.
O’Connell also urged flexibility in the way that states structure their individual broadband programs, extending stimulus funds to spur broadband demand among the poor, and recognizing that some forms of communication, like satellite service, are inferior methods of delivering broadband.
Massachusetts is one of the leading states in the drive to promote universal broadband deployment and availability. In August 2008, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, signed legislation authorizing up to $40 million in state funds to ensure that broadband is available to all the state’s citizens.
In addition to his capacity as state secretary of economic development and housing, O’Connell is the chair of the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI), a non-profit entity that will administer the state’s up to $40 million investment in broadband infrastructure. Last week, MBI posted the submissions it had received in its first request for proposals about the ways to expand broadband availability in western Massachusetts.
O’Connell’s letter, which included a five-page memo on the role of broadband investment in the economic recovery, laid out the approaches that various states are taking with regard to broadband infrastructure.
One set of states – including Massachusetts and Vermont – are investing their own funds in publicly-owned infrastructure, he said.
A second group of states, including California and Maine, have adapted their instate Universal Service Funds to support broadband deployment, generally through a surcharge of telephone service. Those funds are made available to companies, non-profits and public bringing broadband to unserved areas, said O’Connell.
Although Massachusetts chose “a public-private partnership approach in authorizing the use of state bond funds for investment in selected long-lived components of broadband infrastructure, such as conduit, fiber and wireless towers,” O’Connell said that the federal government should “build as much flexibility as possible into federal funding approaches.”
On the issue of broadband demand, O’Connell urged that stimulus funds go toward targeting services at “key demographic segments, such as older or less educated Americans.”
With regard to a Kentucky-based non-profit organization focused on broadband, he said that “Connected Nation has received quite a bit of attention for its user education activities intended to stimulate and aggregate broadband demand.” He also noted that “while the Connected Nation model is sometimes portrayed as a universal broadband strategy, the model does not actually involve any public investment in infrastructure deployment.”
Finally, O’Connell criticized the fact that broadband grant and loan program of the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utility Service “does not include any indication of broadband quality as part of their evaluation criteria. This policy is inconsistent with the Obama-Biden’s administration’s goal of restoring U.S. leadership in broadband.”
Separately, this week New York Gov. David Paterson, a Democrat, also wrote to President-elect Obama, urging him to include broadband in the stimulus package. In a December 29 letter, he wrote:
“In New York, we have 17 broadband projects, totaling $88.6 million, which will help New York reach its long-term goal of ensuring every New Yorker has access to affordable high-speed broadband. Of these projects, nine, totaling $8.5 million, can be completed in 180 days. These include projects to light up dark fiber across the State and county-level private/public partnership projects.”
BroadbandCensus.com has been surveying the state of broadband, and of broadband data, within each of the United States and its territories. The articles about the 17 states profiled so far can be found at http://broadbandcensus.com/blog/?p=713
Broadband Breakfast Club
January Meeting: What Will Broadband Do to the Universal Service Fund?
BroadbandCensus.com presents the January meeting of the Broadband Breakfast Club at Old Ebbitt Grill on Tuesday, January 13, 2009, at 8 a.m.
- Jay Driscoll, Director, Government Affairs, CTIA – The Wireless Association
- Gregory Rohde, Executive Director, E-Copernicus/E9-1-1 Institute
- Jennifer Schneider, Legislative Counsel, Office of Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., Incoming Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Telecommunications and the Internet Subcommittee
- Curt Stamp, President, Independent Telephone and Telecommunications Alliance
In Discussing ‘Broadband and the Biden Administration,’ Trump and Obama Transition Workers Praise Auctions
November 22, 2020 – In the event that the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden seeks substantial funding for broadband infrastructure, there is a strong likelihood that such monies would be channeled through a reverse-auction mechanism, said panelists at the Broadband Breakfast Live Online event on November 11.
See more from Broadband Breakfast Live Online, including “Broadband and the Biden Administration, Part II,” on December 2, 2020.
In a discussion with Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark, two broadband policy experts who served on the transition teams for Donald Trump and Barack Obama, respectively, championed the role of such a mechanism as efficient and fair.
Previous attempts to run funding through other selection processes provided funds only to the well connected, claimed to Mark Jamison, research and education director at the University of Florida, and who served on then President-elect Trump’s 2016 transition team.
Places with a Democratic governor or a congressman of either party that sat on a powerful committee were funded more often compared to other regions, Jamison said.
Whether or not funding mechanisms were in fact biased in that way, both Jamison and Technology Policy Institute President Scott Wallsten both praised the transparency and economic efficiency of the Federal Communications Commission’s reverse-auction funding mechanism.
Wallsten, an economist who was involved in the transition for then President-elect Obama, and who also served on the National Broadband Plan implemented in the first year of the Obama administration, criticized the Rural Utility Service and the old funding process of Universal Service Fund. Both said under these mechanism, a lot of money is spent without good information about how such funds are awarded or distributed.
Wallsten and Jamison agreed that more data would help make broadband funding more effective, they also said that the FCC was right to move forward with its Rural Digital Opportunity Fund auction on October 29 – part of the new auction-based approach to the Universal Service Fund – despite imperfect mapping.
In part, this was because any inadequacy of mapping data can be resolved in the challenge process, said Wallsten. Additionally, it is not clear that auctions like RDOF, or the Connect American Fund auction in 2018, would have yielded better results had the FCC waited to update their maps.
Jamison and Wallston also projected how the Biden administration might tackle net neutrality, Section 230 and antitrust regulation.
Jamison said that if the Biden administration reinstitutes net neutrality, it will quickly see that that won’t work very well.
Wallsten said that if it’s reinstituted the debate will be different than in the past. A large part of net neutrality is paid prioritization where third parties can pay ISP’s to put their content “at the front of the line.” He said that the pandemic has demonstrated why no paid prioritization may be a mistake, as many people need guarantees of stable connection for their schooling and telehealth applications.
Wallsten also noted that many made doom and gloom forecasts when the Trump administration FCC removed net neutrality protections in December 2017. None of those predictions came to pass, he said.
Both also agreed that the FCC should not be involved the regulation of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects tech platforms from liability for user-generated comments.
They also were wary of changes to the consumer welfare standard governing antitrust because, said Jamison, “If you’re not regulating for consumers, who are we regulating for?”
See “Broadband Breakfast Live Online on Wednesday, November 11: Broadband and the Biden Administration,” Broadband Breakfast
“Broadband and the Biden Administration” is sponsored by:
As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.
National Broadband Plan Has Held Up Well, With Notable Downsides, Say Authors
June 29, 2020 — The National Broadband Plan has been successful, despite notable downsides, said panelists in a Federal Communications Bar Association webinar on Friday.
The plan, first released ten years ago, aimed to increase competition, provide lower-cost service to more Americans and decrease regulatory barriers to broadband rollout.
“Ten years in this space in terms of technology is remarkable,” said Rebekah Goodheart of Jenner & Block. “At the time only 15 percent of people had access… of 25 megabits… The fact that this plan was able to stand up through time shows how visionary it really was.”
“All the stuff that we’re taking for granted now are things that came out of recommendations from the plan,” she added.
Participants noted that, despite broadband access deficiencies amid the coronavirus, “overall broadband adoption rates [are] going up reasonably well right now,” said John Horrigan, Senior Fellow at the Technology Policy Institute.
But there are still significant barriers to unfettered telework capabilities, he said.
“We’re also waking up to the fact that smartphones, as useful as they are, have significant limitations for completing homework,” he said.
Ruth Milkman of Quadra Partners agreed.
“There’s a lot of stuff you can’t do on a smartphone,” she said. “It’s hard to read papers… and there are data caps, and it can be quite expensive if you try to use it in the same way that you would use a fixed wireline network.”
Blair Levin, non-resident Fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Project of the Brookings Institution, said that sections of the National Broadband Plan held up remarkably well, even ten years later.
“In the healthcare section which says, ‘We really need to utilize telehealth because someday there’ll be a pandemic’… it does look very prophetic,” he said.
Despite the proactivity of the policy, Levin said, it has certain shortcomings that the FCC should address.
“We’ve become much more aware in this society of different ways in which our institutions do not include everyone and lead to inequalities,” he said. “I would argue that absolutely needs to be a new plan… now it’s more important than ever because we recognize the importance of closing that digital divide.”
Authors of the 2010 National Broadband Plan Say That a ‘Refresh’ Should Not Only Be Up to FCC
WASHINGTON, March 4, 2020 – Panelists at the INCOMPAS policy summit Tuesday looked back with fondness on the Federal Communication Commission’s National Broadband Plan that was released 10 years ago this month. They agreed that if the plan is refreshed, the FCC should not be the lone agency to lead in the changes.
The 10-year-old plan was designed to “ensure robust competition” and “maximize the benefits of broadband,” while fostering the spread of broadband across the country, said INCOMPAS General Counsel Angie Kronenberg.
New Street Research Policy Analyst Blair Levin, who led the plan’s development, called it a “three-act play.”
The first act was the hiring people. The second act was holding hearings and acquiring data. The third act was an extensive writing process, Levin said.
When asked how the United States is doing in regards to the plan, Levin said there have been great improvements and some complications.
Mattey Consulting Principal Carol Mattey who worked on the plan, said it was a “long and evolutionary process,” that often required “nitty gritty details” from complex concepts.
Technology Policy Institute Senior Fellow John Horrigan, who also worked on the plan, said that while the statistics do not show a large increase in Americans that have wireline broadband at home, smart phones and mobile devices have made a huge difference.
Even so, Horrigan admitted that for children who have to do homework at home, smart phones are not enough.
However, Horrigan said the way that policy makers understand and think about the digital divide has improved.
A decade ago, city mayors were not concerned about digital inclusion, and now that has changed, said Horrigan.
Levin disclosed his frustration with the “metrics” section of the plan. The availability of bandwidth should not hinder economic growth, said Levin. But, “fundamentally we’ve made progress,” Levin admitted.
“The regulatory process is too slow to catch up,” and legislators are hesitant to look so far in the future while also considering cost concerns, said Mattey.
Looking ahead to a possible refresh of the plan, Horrigan said the FCC should not be the sole organization reworking the document.
Levin agreed and added that broadband has changed over the past decade as well. He called broadband a “mixed bag.”
The whole federal government should be thinking about how to revive the plan and take into consideration cybersecurity and privacy, Levin advised.
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