News | NTIA-RUS Forum | Day 4, Session 1
WASHINGTON, March 20, 2009 – Experts and citizens split words at the NTIA/RUS Thursday morning public roundtable seeking to define broadband – an essential element to determine what projects receive federal funding under stimulus spending.
Thursday was the fourth of six days of public hearings by the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service on how to spend $7.2 billion in broadband funds.
The discussion will continue in Washington on Monday and Tuesday.
Mark Lloyd, vice president of strategic initiatives at the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, said the definition of broadband should be centered around speeds and how broadband can serve as a means of communication. He said the debate has its source in the legal frameworks adopted by Congress in the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
“New definitions must focus on hard speeds,” said Lloyd. “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. We cannot manage what we cannot measure.”
Stagg Newman, principal of Piggah Communication Consulting, said definitions should center around understanding what the service is, acceptable network infrastructure, and a series of metrics by which to measure both.
“A backbone network from central and surrounding areas is needed across the nation. Infrastructure is also needed for emergency responders, and a satellite back-up for geographical cover,” he said.
Newman added: “Let us consider trade-offs to affordability. I know that is controversial but let us put it out there.”
Fred Campbell, president and CEO of Wireless Communication Association, said that “the definition should be viewed as a gating mechanism, not a measure of evaluating grant eligibility.”
Dave Malfura, president and CEO of ETC Group, LLC., said broadband should be defined as “a service which allows users to access the world’s resources and its inhabitants without Encumbrances.”
The components must be defined at granular level too, he said. Speed, he said, is a moveable target, and market forces will keep changing it.
“By supporting at a minimum level as laid down in law, we would fulfill the Hippocratic Oath, ‘Do no harm,’ first,” he said.
Tom DeReggi, vice president and legislative committee director for the Wireless Internet Providers’ Association (and founder of Rapid DSL & Wireless internet service provider), said the speeds will be determined by market forces and the environments of operation.
“We could do so much more if we were empowered and none of us left to do anything alone,” he said.
DeReggi continued: “We’ll need technology that does not require permits in order for us to implement and engineer. We’ll need to stand by people who have vested interests in helping their communities and nurture relationships with stakeholders.”
Daniel Mitchell, vice president for the legal and industry division of the National Telecommunications Corporation, said the crisis of definition was both “elusive and evolving.”
“The definition must meet existing and emerging needs. Unserved ought to mean no service at all, and underserved to mean anything below standards set up by the Federal Communications Commission,” he said.
Chris Vein, chief information officer of San Francisco, said the underserved people need video, voice and data. Broadband speeds, he said, might need to be symmetrical.
“We need fiber-optics and high speed wireless. Let us go for the greatest speed possible. Let us pursue public-private partnerships. And let us not forget that communities vary across the country and even within cities,” he said.
Leroy Watson, legislative director for the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, said the crisis of definition won’t be wished away, and that both short and long-term goals must be determined.
“There will be various technical issues to be ironed out. Active and passive applications on the web should be supported, including interactions with third-party players,” he said.
The United States, he added, is a large continent and broadband is just be one of the many steps required to meet the needs of neglected peoples and areas in the country’s 200 year history.
During the public comment phase, the audience expressed concern over the tension between market forces and the public interest, about eligibility guidelines, and about the viability of relying on market forces in view of recent economic setbacks.
They also raised issues about the broadband stimulus funds pitting rural and urban areas, about broadband reliability, redundancy and security in the context of public safety.
Eighty Civil Society Groups Ask for Swift Confirmation of FCC, NTIA Nominees
The groups sent a letter emphasizing the need for internet access expansion ahead of Wednesday confirmation hearings.
WASHINGTON, November 16, 2021 – Eighty civil-society groups have penned a letter to Senate leadership requesting a swift confirmation process for President Joe Biden’s nominees to the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
Groups representing interests spanning civil rights, media justice, community media, workers’ rights and consumer advocacy highlighted to Senate leadership the need for the agencies to shepherd internet access expansion on the heels of newly signed bipartisan infrastructure legislation.
Biden last month nominated Jessica Rosenworcel as chairwoman and Gigi Sohn as a commissioner of the FCC, as well as Alan Davidson for director of the NTIA. Rosenworcel and Sohn’s confirmations would make a full slate of commissioners at the FCC, ending the potential for 2-2 deadlocks.
Key Senate Republicans have since expressed concern over the nomination of Sohn, citing her liberal views on communications policy.
Signees of the letter emphasized that an ongoing global pandemic and “worsening climate crisis” raise the stakes for FCC and NTIA action, and that connectivity access issues are even further exacerbated among poor families and people of color.
Organizations on the letter included the American Library Association, Color of Change, the Communications Workers of America, Greenpeace USA and the Mozilla Foundation, among others.
The Senate Commerce Committee is scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing for Rosenworcel on Wednesday.
National Telecommunications and Information Administration on Minority Community Grant Applications
The more detail, the better, NTIA officials said of program.
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.
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.
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.”
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