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Definition of Broadband Could Pit Rural Versus Urban, Market Forces Against Public Interest

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.

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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.

5G

Innovation Fund’s Global Approach May Improve O-RAN Deployment: Commenters

The $1.5 billion Innovation Fund should be used to promote global adoption, say commenters.

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Illustration about intelligent edge computing from Deloitte Insights

WASHINGTON, February 2, 2023 – A global approach to funding open radio access networks will improve its success in the United States, say commenters to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

The NTIA is seeking comment on how to implement the $1.5 billion appropriated to the Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund as directed by the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022. The grant program is primarily responsible for supporting the promotion and deployment of open, interoperable, and standards-based radio access networks. 

Radio access networks provide critical technology to connect users to the mobile network over radio waves. O-RAN would create a more open ecosystem of network equipment that would otherwise be reliant on proprietary technology from a handful of companies.  

Global RAN

Commenters to the NTIA argue that in order for O-RAN to be successful, it must be global. The Administration must take a “global approach” when funding projects by awarding money to those companies that are non-U.S.-based, said mobile provider Verizon in its comments.  

To date, new entrants into the RAN market have been the center for O-RAN development, claimed wireless service provider, US Cellular. The company encouraged the NTIA to “invest in proven RAN vendors from allied nations, rather than focusing its efforts on new entrants and smaller players that lack operational expertise and experience.” 

Korean-based Samsung Electrontics added that by allowing trusted entities with a significant U.S. presence to compete for project funding and partner on those projects, the NTIA will support standardizing interoperability “evolution by advancing a diverse global market of trusted suppliers in the U.S.” 

O-RAN must be globally standardized and globally interoperable, Verizon said. Funding from the Public Wireless Innovation Fund will help the RAN ecosystem mature as it desperately needs, it added.  

Research and development

O-RAN continues to lack the maturity that is needed for commercial deployment, agreed US Cellular in its comments. The company indicated that the complexity and costliness of system integration results from there being multiple vendors that would need to integrate but are not ready for full integration. 

Additionally, interoperability with existing RAN infrastructure requires bi-lateral agreements, customized integration, and significant testing prior to deployment, the comment read. The complicated process would result in O-RAN increasing the cost of vendor and infrastructure deployment, claimed US Cellular, directly contrary to the goals of O-RAN. 

Several commenters urged the NTIA to focus funding projects on research and development rather than subsidizing commercial deployments.  

The NTIA is already fully engaged in broadband deployment in unserved and underserved areas through its Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program, said Verizon. The Innovation Fund will better advance its goals by funding projects that accelerate the solving of remaining O-RAN technical challenges that continue to delay its deployment, it continued. 

US Cellular argued that the NTIA should “spur deployment of additional independent testing and certification lab facilities… where an independent third party can perform end to end testing, conformance, and certification.” 

The Innovation Fund should be used to focus on technology development and solving practical challenges, added wireless trade association, CTIA. Research can focus on interoperability, promotion of equipment that meets O-RAN specifications, and projects that support hardware design and energy efficiency, it said. 

Furthermore, CTIA recommended that the Administration avoid interfering in how providers design their networks to encourage providers to adopt O-RAN in an appropriate manner for their company. Allowing a flexible, risk-based approach to O-RAN deployments will “help ensure network security and stability,” it wrote. 

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CES 2023: NTIA to Address Broadband, Spectrum, and Privacy, Says Alan Davidson

Alan Davidson asserted that marginalized communities are harmed disproportionately by privacy violations.

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Photo of NTIA Adminstrator Alan Davidson

LAS VEGAS, January 7, 2023 – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s 2023 priorities will include the funding and facilitation of states’ broadband deployment programs, the development of a national spectrum policy, and actions to protect the privacy of marginalized groups, said Administrator Alan Davidson at the Consumer Electronics Show on Saturday.

The NTIA’s most high-profile task is to oversee the operations of the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program, a $42.45 billion slush fund for broadband-infrastructure deployments which will be divided among the governments of states and U.S. territories. Those governments will administer final distribution of the BEAD funds in accordance with the NTIA’s guidelines.

“This is our generation’s big infrastructure moment,” Davidson said. “This is our chance to connect everybody in the country with what they need to thrive in the modern digital economy, and we are going to do it.”

Davidson reiterated his agency’s stated intention to develop a comprehensive national spectrum strategy to facilitate the various spectrum interests of government and private industry. To allocate spectrum in a manner that fulfills federal needs and stimulates the growth of innovators, largely in the sector of 5G, the NTIA – the administrator of federally used spectrum – must coordinate with the Federal Communications Commission – the administrator of other spectrum.

Calling for a national privacy law, Davidson asserted that marginalized communities are harmed disproportionately by privacy violations. He stated that the NTIA will, possibly within weeks, request public comment on “civil rights and privacy.”

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NTIA

NTIA Recommends Partnerships and Engagement to Address Workforce Obligations

NTIA recommends states develop relationships with labor organizations.

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Screenshot of webinar with moderators Scott Lively, Sarah Salgado, and speaker Lucy Moore

WASHINGTON, December 13, 2022 – An NTIA policy analyst said earlier this month that states should develop relationships with labor organizations and invite telecommunications companies and federal officials to its workforce training sites to fulfill their obligations under its Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program.

Lucy Moore, an NTIA policy analyst, was discussing at an industry stakeholder webinar how BEAD applicants to the Commerce agency’s $42.5-billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program can fulfill their obligations under the NTIA’s Workforce Planning Guide, published in October.

Moore recommended state entities applying for BEAD money to develop relationships with partners to gain insight into workforce training and development on a state or local level. These partners could include industry groups, community advocates, union organization representatives, educational institutions and workforce intermediary organizations.

She also suggested state entities for BEAD funding invite federal program officers to training programs to demonstrate strategies currently being practiced for training and workforce development.

She also urged industry to conduct early and proactive engagement with the state broadband offices and workforce teams to obtain a clear understanding of workforce requirements for subcontractors and subgrantees. Stakeholders include equity-focused organizations, community-based organizations, workforce boards, schools and community colleges, she said.

Verizon and GenerationUSA say they offer free technical training, which is an example of a training program that teaches technical and soft skills to adults. Another is the Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship program, whose goal is to expand the safety and productivity of the telecommunications workforce. It offers 15 occupational apprenticeship programs recognized by the Labor Department.

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