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NTIA

Coordination Between NTIA and RUS Spurs Talk of Common Broadband Application

WASHINGTON, March 17, 2009 – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Rural Utilities Service should keep the application process for broadband stimulus dollars as simple as possible, a group of panelists said on Monday.

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News | NTIA-RUS Forum | Day 1, Session 2

WASHINGTON, March 17, 2009 – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Rural Utilities Service should keep the application process for broadband stimulus dollars as simple as possible, a group of panelists said on Monday.

Speaking at the second panel of the March 16 public meeting, “Coordination between NTIA and RUS on Broadband Initiatives,” the message imparted was simple: coordination ought “not be buried in detail,” as expressed by J. Bradford Ramsey, general counsel of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.

Ramsey was one of five panelists discussing the intricacies of the way in which the Commerce Department’s NTIA’s $4.7 billion for broadband will interact with the $2.5 billion that will flow through the Agriculture Department’s RUS.

Monday marked the first day of a six-day series of joint hearings between the agencies.

The $7.2 billion total in broadband stimulus funds was allocated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which authorized $787 billion in total spending in an effort to boost the economy.

“Let us keep the application process simple,” said Ramsey. “Let us broaden our definitions of what we are doing too,” he said.

Echoing a theme also expressed by the other four panelists, he said there ought to be a common application for everyone interested in the funds, and that details of the process and outcomes be made available in a public database.

Jeff Arnold, legislative director at the National Association of Counties, warned that major challenges exist in applying for the grants at the local level.

“Let us have a standardized process and database cutting across both NTIA and RUS,” he said. He also urged a standardized application.

Derrick Owens, director of government affairs at Western Telecommunications Alliance, and a former NTIA official, also urged coordination between NTIA and RUS. But a single application procedure may not be viable because of institutional differences between the two agencies.

Additionally, RUS has the authority to stretch its $2.5 billion in funding into more resources by turning a portion of the funds into loans, instead of grants. Over the past half-decade, RUS has primarily given loans, and not grants, for broadband projects.

The differences between an application for a loan, versus an application for grant, may frustrate the quest for a common application.

Simplicity is also going to be vital to deal with an expected on-rush of applications for broadband stimulus funds.

Arnold, Owens and Mark DeFalco, a member of the board of the Appalachian Regional Commission, all surmised that the two agencies will be flooded with “thousands” of applications for the federal dollars.

“There will also be need to develop a notification system so that applicants know the status of their grant or loan applications,” said Owens, adding that the applications should processed in a “rapid and efficient manner.”

One debate among the panelists emerged over whether broadband stimulus funds should be driven primarily to expand coverage over a wider area, or to spend more to ensure higher-speed connections.

Mark Cooper, director of research at Consumer Federation of America, said there is need to establish “overreaching principles” to coordinate stimulus spending across agencies.

“Let us also set threshholds and standards to meet basic connecting needs,” said Cooper. “Let us also target maximum coverage rather than maximum functionality.”

DeFalco stressed that building “good coverage in all rural areas” should not take the place of ensuring that super-fast fiber or coaxial connections are built out more widely. Otherwise, he said, “these rural areas are again left behind.”

Arnold also warned against being satisfied with a definition of broadband speeds that were too low. “We need to be careful that we don’t design broadband needs based on residential users.”

During the question and answer session, Ramsey said that states should play a coordinating role among their own applicants on where broadband funding decisions stand.

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Funding

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.

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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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FCC

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

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

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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

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

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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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