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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.

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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