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.
Senate Advances Legislation Creating Office of Internet Connectivity Within Commerce Department’s NTIA
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.”
Panelists on NTIA Broadband Webinar Say Smart Buildings Boost Civic Resiliency and Public Health
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.
Speaking at Commerce Department Symposium, Federal Agencies Doubt Benefits of Spectrum Plan
WASHINGTON, September 10, 2019- Federal agencies speaking at radiofrequency symposium hosted on Tuesday by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration Symposium expressed doubts that any kind of a national spectrum strategy would be useful.
Addressing speculation that the Commerce Department’s NTIA might unveil such a national spectrum strategy, the officials each seemed focused on their doubts that such a strategy would be beneficial for their respective agencies.
Spectrum management needs to meet constantly changing demands, said R. J. Balanga, senior regulatory and policy adviser at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Increased spectrum usage and higher data-rate transmissions are required for human and robotic operations in space.
NASA’s main objective, he said, is to enhance interoperability by further cooperation with the commercial space industry and its international partners.
The Department of Defense occupies a great number of spectrum bands, said Colonel Frederick Williams, director of spectrum policy and programs at the Pentagon. He said spectrum has becoming increasingly congested.
Agencies must work together to combat spectrum issues, he said. The Citizens Broadband Radio Service, for instance, was established by the Federal Communications Commission as a way for shared wireless broadband use of the 3.5 GHz band.
Karen Van Dyke, principal technical adviser for Global Positioning Systems at the Department of Transportation, said that spectrum affects all modes of transportation. Therefore, it’s important that GPS are protected from harmful radio-frequency interference.
Furthermore, she said, close cooperation with private industries is required to best utilize spectrum innovation.
The government has so many layers of spectrum management that it’s difficult to determine the exact process, said Ian Atkins, director of the Federal Aviation Administration spectrum strategy and policy.
The FAA is committed to utilizing the least amount of spectrum possible, he said. However, what the agency is looking for is a return of investment to make sure that valuable spectrum programs are enacted.
With 5G approaching mass deployment, efficient spectrum management is key.
Dynamic spectrum sharing as well as extended range millimeter waves are going to dramatically increase 5G deployment, said Dean Brenner, senior vice president for spectrum strategy and technology policy at Qualcomm.
The hype surrounding the deployment of wireless 5G technology demonstrates that the public often gravitates its focus on a single set of technologies, said Christopher Szymanski, director of product marketing and government affairs at Broadcom. But there needs to be focus on the backhaul and wireless aspects of spectrum as well.
Cisco has projected increased usage of unlicensed spectrum in the coming years, said Szymanski. However, the U.S. lacks enough channels of spectrum to keep up with demand.
Hence why spectrum and infrastructure policies are necessary on both the state and federal level, said Hank Hultquist, vice president of federal regulatory for AT&T.
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