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Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to Highlight Obama Broadband Stimulus Meeting

WASHINGTON, March 2, 2009 – One week from Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission, the Commerce Department and the Rural Utilities Service will hold a public meeting on broadband stimulus measures. But who will speak for the administration of President Obama on broadband? None other than Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, the keynote speaker at the event.



WASHINGTON, March 2, 2009 – One week from Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission, the Commerce Department and the Rural Utilities Service will hold a public meeting on broadband stimulus measures. But who will speak for the administration of President Obama on broadband?

None other than Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, the keynote speaker at the event.

With an unconfirmed Secretary of Commerce (former Washington Gov. Gary Locke was named on Wednesday), a Federal Communications Commission Chairman-designee whose name hasn’t even been officially announced, let alone gone through the Senate, it falls to Vilsack, the former governor of Iowa, to speak about the administration’s approach to broadband.

There is a lot that needs to be said – by Vilsack and by the others – once they are named or confirmed.

  • How will the administration divvy up the $7.2 billion in broadband stimulus funds that Congress passed on Friday, February 13?
  • What role will the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Agency play vis-à-vis the FCC, which is responsible for charting a national broadband strategy as part of the broadband stimulus measure?
  • How significant will the Agriculture Department’s role be, and will it depart from the much-criticized aspects of the Rural Utilities Service loan program under the Bush administration? Under the broadband provisions of fiscal stimulus law, Agriculture has $2.5 billion for rural broadband, versus $4.7 billion set to go to NTIA.
  • Finally, which agency, states or private entities will be responsible for mapping out broadband? The notion that the nation needs a comprehensive inventory of the precise locations within the county that are either served, unserved, or underserved by broadband was barely a blip on the telecommunications radar two years ago. Now, broadband data collection has risen to the point that it was even highlighted by President Obama in his budget message to Congress last week.

The March 10 public meeting on the “Broadband Initiatives of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009” – the official name of the fiscal stimulus bill – will essentially be the kick-off point for the discussion, an NTIA official said Monday.

NTIA spokesman Bart Forbes on Monday released the agenda for the meeting, which includes a 10 a.m. welcome by Anna Gomez, acting administrator of NTIA, Vilsack’s speech, remarks by Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps, and then remarks from Mark Seifert, a senior advisor to the NTIA.

The meeting is scheduled to be held in the auditorium of the Department of Commerce, and to run until 11:30 a.m.

The remainder of the time is broken up into a discussion of “statutory requirement and timelines.”

That discussion will be led by Bernadette McGuire-Rivera, associate administrator at NTIA; David Villano, assistant administrator for telecommunications programs, USDA Rural Development; and Scott M. Deutchman, acting senior legal advisor to Acting Chairman Copps, at the FCC.

Speaking on Monday, Forbes said: “Today marks the day we are starting to schedule ex parte meetings of interested parties to provide recommendations on the development of the broadband program.”

He said that no meetings with private parties had taken place on Monday, and that none were scheduled to take place during this week.

“We really want to work with the states to get their concerns first, and [those of] all other constituents, in developing the particulars of the program,” said Forbes.

In a Federal Register notice last week, on Tuesday, February 24, the NTIA said that it would “Begin holding meetings with interested parties on Monday, March 2, 2009, in connection with the broadband grant programs described in the Broadband Data Services Improvement Act and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (collectively, ‘‘Broadband Grant Programs’’). All interested parties are invited to schedule a meeting.”

The Federal Register notice went on to say that the contents of the meeting would be made public, through “an ex parte presentation, and the substance of the meeting will be placed on the public record. No later than two (2) days after a meeting, an interested party must submit a memorandum to NTIA which summarizes the substance of the meeting. Any written presentations provided at the meeting will also be placed on the public record.”

The notice continued: “NTIA reserves the right to hold individual or group meetings, depending on the number of meeting requests received. Group meetings may be transcribed and/or streamed to the Web and placed on the public record.”

On Friday, February 27, the Federal Register contained a notice about the March 10, 2009, public meeting.

Editor’s Note:

See the guest op-ed, “U.S. Broadband Infrastructure Investments Need Transparency,” by Editor and Executive Director Drew Clark, which references Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s reference to the importance of statistical analysis to policy-making. (Ars Technica, February 9, 2009)

Broadband Breakfast Club

March Meeting: Broadband Competition: Do We Have It, and How Do We Get More of It? presents the March meeting of the Broadband Breakfast Club at Old Ebbitt Grill on Tuesday, March 10, 2009, at 8 a.m. Because of the Commerce Department/Agriculture Department/FCC Public Meeting on broadband stimulus from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., the Broadband Breakfast Club will adjourn at 9:30 a.m.

  • NEW! – James Baller, President of Baller Herbst Law Group, will provide a brief summary of the progress of the U.S. Broadband Coalition
  • Art Brodsky, Communication Director, Public Knowledge
  • Kathleen Ham, Vice President, Federal Regulatory, T-Mobile USA
  • Brent Olson, Assistant Vice President, Public Policy, AT&T
  • Emmett O’Keefe, Director, Federal Public Policy,
  • Scott Wallsten, Vice President for Research and Senior Fellow, Technology Policy Institute

Webcasts of the Broadband Breakfast Club Produced in Partnership with:

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State Broadband Offices Need to Increase Their Capacity, Improve Data, and Communicate Well

NTIA’s Evan Feinman spoke about what states need to keep in mind as they prepare for BEAD funds.



Photo of Evan Feinman from AEI

WASHINGTON, May 18, 2022 – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration webinar event on Tuesday focused on the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Notice of Funding Opportunity. The webinar highlighted three important items to keep in mind as states begin to receive money for broadband planning.

The first, according to Evan Feinman, deputy associate administrator for BEAD, was for states to consider your office’s capacity. Each state will receive a minimum of $100 million. Very few states have the human resources required to adequately run a program of this magnitude, he said.

The second is to build up research and data collections of broadband coverage at a state level. The Federal Communications Commission will soon release a new mapping system. It will be necessary, said Feinman, to “engage meaningfully” with these maps using state’s own research and data. Furthermore, states should have the necessary data to engage with internet service providers and the NTIA as they determine who is served and unserved.

Third, states should develop a clear-cut plan for outreach and communication support with stakeholders. Stakeholders include telecom providers, tribal governments, local governments, and community organizations.

The planning step is a great point for stakeholders to become involved in the process, said Feinman. “There is an expectation that lives throughout this program that folks are going to engage really thoroughly and in an outgoing way with their stakeholders.”

See other articles on the NTIA webinars issues in the wake of the Notices of Funding Opportunity on the Broadband.Money community:

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Treasury Department Joins FCC, USDA and NTIA in Collaborating on Broadband Funding

Agency leaders sign pact to formalize information-sharing on broadband deployment projects.



Photo of Janet Yellen from January 2018 by the European Central Bank

WASHINGTON, May 13, 2022—Just in advance of the deadline for the release of the funding requirements under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs act, the four principal federal agencies responsible for broadband funding released an interagency agreement to share information about and collaborate regarding the collection and reporting of certain data and metrics relating to broadband deployment.

The agencies are the Federal Communications Commission, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration of the Commerce Department, and the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

The Memorandum of Understanding is the latest development in federal efforts to coordinate high-speed internet spending, and the Treasury Department is the new addition to agreement.

The other three agencies signed a prior memorandum in June 2021 to coordinate the distribution of federal high-speed internet funds. That June 2021 Memorandum of Understanding remains in effect.

The respective Cabinet and Agency leaders announced that their agencies will consult with one another and share information on data collected from programs administered by the FCC, the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service, programs administered or coordinated by NTIA, and Treasury’s Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund and State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund.

“No matter who you are or where you live in this country, you need access to high-speed internet to have a fair shot at 21st century success. The FCC, NTIA, USDA and Treasury are working together like never before to meet this shared goal,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “Our new interagency agreement will allow us to collaborate more efficiently and deepen our current data sharing relationships[and] get everyone, everywhere connected to the high-speed internet they need.”

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, “When we invest in rural infrastructure, we invest in the livelihoods and health of people in rural America. High-speed internet is the new electricity.  It is necessary for Americans to do their jobs, to participate equally in school learning, to have access to health care and to stay connected.”

“USDA remains committed to being a strong partner with rural communities and our state, Tribal and federal partners in building ‘future-proof’ broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas so that we finally reach 100 percent high-speed broadband coverage across the country.”

“Our whole-of-government effort to expand broadband adoption must be coordinated and efficient if we are going to achieve our mission,” said Alan Davidson, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and head of the NTIA, the agency responsible for administering the vast bulk of the broadband funding.

“This MOU will allow us to build the tools we need for even better data-sharing and transparency in the future,” he said.

“Treasury is proud to work with our federal agency partners to achieve President Biden’s goal of closing the nation’s digital divide,” said U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen.  “Access to affordable, high-speed internet is critical to the continued strength of our economy and a necessity for every American household, school, and business.”

As part of the signed agreement, each federal agency partner will share information about projects that have received or will receive funding from the previously mentioned federal funding sources.  More information on what the interagency Memorandum of Understanding entails can be found on the FCC’s website.  The agreement is effective at the date of its signing, May 11, 2022.

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FCC and NTIA Chiefs Name Jessica Quinley, Douglas Brake and Timothy May to Advisory Committees

NTIA representatives to join FCC technology and security committees, FCC rep on spectrum committee



Photo of Doug Brake from Information Technology and Innovation Foundation

WASHINGTON, March 18, 2022—Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and Assistant Secretary of Commerce Alan Davidson on Friday named staff representatives to participate on each other’s advisory committees. The effort is a component of the Spectrum Coordination Initiative of the FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration of the Commerce Department.

As part of the initiative, the agencies are working with each other and the private sector.

“To succeed as spectrum partners, the FCC and NTIA must hear from and listen to each other in both formal and informal ways,” said Rosenworcel.

“A common understanding of spectrum engineering and market conditions is essential for the success of our efforts at the FCC and NTIA to manage the country’s spectrum resources,” said Davidson.

Rosenworcel named Jessica Quinley of the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau to participate as an observer in NTIA’s Commerce Spectrum Management Advisory Committee. Quinley currently serves as an Acting Legal Advisor in the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau. She was an attorney at NTIA for more than four years.

Davidson named Douglas Brake, a Spectrum Policy Specialist, and Timothy May, a Senior Advisor, to participate in the FCC’s Technological Advisory Council and its Communications Security, Reliability, and Interoperability Council, respectively.

Brake, a Spectrum Policy Specialist with NTIA, previously directed the broadband and spectrum policy work at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.  May currently serves as a Senior Advisor in the Office of the Assistant Secretary where he has worked for four years.  Before joining NTIA, he was a Policy Analyst in the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau.

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