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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.

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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 BroadbandCensus.com 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?

BroadbandCensus.com 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, Amazon.com
  • Scott Wallsten, Vice President for Research and Senior Fellow, Technology Policy Institute

Webcasts of the Broadband Breakfast Club Produced in Partnership with:

TV Mainstream

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney at The CommLaw Group. He has closely tracked the trends in and mechanics of digital infrastructure for 20 years, and has helped fiber-based and fixed wireless providers navigate coverage, identify markets, broker infrastructure, and operate in the public right of way. The articles and posts on Broadband Breakfast and affiliated social media, including the BroadbandCensus Twitter feed, are not legal advice or legal services, do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client privilege, and represent the views of their respective authors.

Funding

National Telecommunications and Information Administration on Minority Community Grant Applications

The more detail, the better, NTIA officials said of program.

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Scott Woods, senior broadband program specialist and team lead for NTIA's Connecting Minority Communities, speaking at Broadband Communities in Houston

WASHINGTON, October 24, 2021–Lack of eligibility or proper planning or documentation errors are frequent grounds for disqualification of applicants for the United States’ Commerce Department’s Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program, agency officials said Wednesday and Thursday.

Speaking at webinars for individuals considering applying for the grants – which are being made by the National Telecommunications and Information Association of the Commerce Department – officials shared the most commons mistakes made by applicants when applying for the grants.

Among the officials speaking during the two presentations were Scott Woods, senior broadband program specialist and team lead for the Connecting Minority Communities program, Management and Program Analyst Pandora Beasley-Timpson, Broadband Program Specialist Janice Wilkins, Telecommunications Policy Analyst Francine Alkisswani, and Broadband Program Specialists Cameron Lewis and Kevin Hughes.

Among the biggest mistakes is eligibility. “Only historically black colleges and universities, tribal colleges and universities, or minority serving institutions can apply,” said NTIA’s Michelle Morton.

Making a Successful Application

Morton and other leaders of the program also shared traits of a successful grant application.

“Good applicants provide a business and execution plan,” they said. “[Applicants] should demonstrate there is a core staff that is dedicated to the proposed project and knowledgeable about the process, as well as an editor, preferably one not connected to the project, to encourage non-biased review of the grant to see how it reads.”

Project Implementation and Evaluation

When describing their project implementation and planning process, applicants should have a clear project narrative that “identifies specific tasks, measurable milestones, and performance outcomes resulting from the proposed project activity,” the officials said.

Importantly, the NTIA stressed that all applicants must comply with Commerce Department regulations for the protection of human subjects during all research conducted or supported with grant funds.

This is important because the NTIA is required to determine whether or not a project’s evaluation plan “meets the definition of human subject research.” Thus, no work can be taken for research involving human subject until a federal grants officer approves of the research.

Consortiums

NTIA leaders also addressed questions about consortium-based applicants. “The lead application is the entity entering into the grant agreement with the NTIA and assumes primary operational and financial responsibility for the project.”

A consortium allows Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities and minority-serving institutions to partner with local governments on their application. Each consortium partner must provide a letter of a commitment to the project, including the detailed role of each member of the project and the specific commitment of each member of the project.

Finances and Budgeting

Applicants are also required to include financial documentation that details how the funds will be used and how the funding plans to meet the projects’ intended goals.

Additionally, applicants’ budget narrative should serve to explain how the costs were estimated and justify how the budget items are necessary to implement project goals and objectives and accomplished applicant’s proposed outcomes.

“We encourage out of the box thinking with regard to applicants putting together their projects,” said Hughes.

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NTIA

Senate Advances Legislation Creating Office of Internet Connectivity Within Commerce Department’s NTIA

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Photo of Sen. Maria Cantwell by Lance Cheung of the U.S. Department of Agriculture

WASHINGTON, March 12, 2020 – The Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday voted to advance a version of legislation creating a new office with the Commerce Department, and  re-authorizing the Federal Trade Commission’s authority to protect consumers from deceptive internet marketing.

One bill would establish an Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth within the National Telecommunications and Infrastructure Administration of the Commerce Department.

While senators approved both the reauthorization of the US SAFEWEB Act and the Advancing Critical Connectivity Expands Service, Small Business Resources, Opportunities, Access, and Data Based on Assessed Need and Demand Act by voice vote.

The ACCESS BROADBAND Act requires the administrator of NTIA to establish a new Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth within 180 days of the bill’s enacting date, with the aim of coordinating and streamlining the process of applying for various federal broadband support programs.

However, the amended version of the bill includes language authored by Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., which specifically excludes the Universal Service Fund’s programs from the office’s mandate.

The bill would also require the new office to create a single application for the various federal programs under its auspices, as well as a website which would be a one-stop shop for individuals and institutions seeking to learn more about federal programs for expanding broadband access.

In her opening remarks before the committee began consideration of the bill, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., the committee’s ranking member, praised the “good bipartisan work” that went into drafting it.

“Closing the digital divide that so many communities particularly in our rural communities face is a priority for many members on this committee, and this bill is an important step in addressing that challenge,” she said.

“And I would I would say that this coronavirus is also a very strong learning lesson for us, as it relates to the gaps in broadband because you certainly need it as it relates to so many aspects of delivering on education and healthcare during this time period.”

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., later added that the bill, which she co-sponsored, will be helpful to Arizonans living in rural areas who may need help accessing better broadband services.

“Nearly 25 million Arizonans living in rural areas do not have access to high speed internet, so it’s crucial for Arizona that rural communities are afforded the same opportunity to stay connected as our urban areas, and the ACCESS BROADBAND Act moves us in the right direction,” she said. “It’s an essential step to help us close the digital divide and ensure everyone in my state and across our country can access quality, high speed internet and the opportunities that come with it.”

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NTIA

Panelists on NTIA Broadband Webinar Say Smart Buildings Boost Civic Resiliency and Public Health

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Photo of London skyline by PXhere used with permission

WASHINGTON, January 16, 2020 – Speakers advocated civic resiliency and better public health through smart building infrastructure in a webinar discussion hosted by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration on Wednesday.

Limor Schafman, senior director of Smart Buildings Programs at the Telecommunications Industry Association, said as buildings digitize, human experience will improve.

“A smart building uses an interoperable set of technology, systems and infrastructure to optimize building performance and occupant experience,” said Schafman. Smart buildings are not just for megacities. Rather, everyone shares resiliency and wellness concerns, and smart buildings are the answer, she said.

The purpose of a broadband-focused smart building is to digitize the infrastructure while maintaining occupants’ needs at the forefront of the innovation. Smart building infrastructure includes a focus on basic infrastructure, connectivity, power and energy, data, interoperable systems, and intelligence and cognition, said Schafman.

Smart buildings function through wireless or fiber connection and streamline data sharing across departments, combating or inter-departmental stagnation.

Wireless infrastructure also solves the problem of spaghetti wiring, said Benny Lee, Councilman and Director of San Mateo County Public Wi-Fi, in Northern California.

While wired building need dozens of switches on every floor, wireless buildings only need one or two.

Most 5G deployments using higher radio frequencies pose problems because such signals cannot travel through walls, said Lee. The “FCC has been discussing adding 6 [GigaHertz] spectrum to Wi-Fi, which promises connectivity speeds upwards of 5 [Gigabits per second]s,” he said.

Jiri Skopek, of a group called 2030 District Networks, argued that smart buildings save money while improving occupants’ quality of life. Speaking of smart buildings, he said, “we expect them now to respond to our needs, and even our wishes.”

Productivity increases, he said, because users can control the environment: lighting, air quality, temperature, occupancy sensing, shade control, white noise control, etc. These factors foster health and convenience.

Because smart buildings operate through microgrids, Skopek said, they run on direct current, which can integrate renewable energy.

In the case of natural disasters or emergencies, first responders can arrive quicker and know where the exact danger area is.

Schafman said municipalities can view the status of the building’s infrastructure because it has a virtual image. The buildings can also be run remotely, added Skopek.

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