News | NTIA-RUS Forum | Day 1, Session 3
WASHINGTON, March 17, 2009 – Broadband adoption is widely viewed as spurring innovation, but $7.2 billion had stakeholders gathered at Monday’s public meeting on broadband funding to offer comments on what sort of “innovative programs” could make best use of the funding.
American Telemedicine Association CEO Jonathan Linkous said his organization was pleased that the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service were “taking the lead” on an issue he said had previously been spread between about a dozen federal agencies.
Telemedicine, which Linkous said could be “very broadly defined,” has potential to expand broadband services not just among health care facilities, but to homes of unserved and underserved populations as well. With the fiscal stimulus legislation providing money not just for broadband, but specifically for telemedicine, Linkous predicted a boon for his industry.
Telemedicine is traditionally associated with applications like remote links between rural clinics and major medical centers. But Linkous suggested that broadband should be brought to the home to enable better in-home care as a growing elderly population “ages-in-place.” That will require assistance that overwhelms current nursing facility capacity. “I suspect… you will see an even broader variety [of applications] than you have ever seen before.”
But those applications must coordinate with existing programs at the Health and Human Services Department and other agencies in order to be built into deployments, and not simply be “taped on,” he said. It’s important to not duplicate services or approve projects that “work against each other,” he urged, but to “bring all of them together.”
While Linkous argued for a diversity of connection endpoints for the network, American Library Association Executive Director Emily Shekatoff urged greater investment in public capacity at libaries, which she called “the premier public computer centers in America’s communities.”
Libaries are the sole source of free access in 73 percent of America, she said. And as librarians are among the most “highly trusted” groups in America, Shekatoff said they could effectively implement training programs.
Even with the access provided by the FCC’s e-Rate program, libraries still have too little bandwidth – despite needing far more than an average residence, she said. Of libraries, 60 percent report that their connections are too slow. Shekatoff said the lack of bandwidth deprives patrons of the “information hubs in [their] communities.”
The advantages of broadband to libraries only multiply with well-connected community colleges, said Jim Hermes, senior legislative analyst at the American Association for Community Colleges.
AACC agrees with most of ALA’s positions, he said. But community colleges are as much of a “crucial institution” as libraries, since they provide a link “back into the educational fold” for people during economic downturns. Also, distance learning programs for rural areas can create a “multiplier effect,” he said, as more people can take part and acquire new skills, allowing for entrepreneurship.
But OneEconomy Corporation CEO Rey Ramsey was skeptical of these claims. “It’s important to be intentional about what we’re trying to achieve,” he said. If America wants every citizen to have access to broadband, Ramsey offered a simple solution: bring it into their homes.
Americans in low income, “underserved” areas will readily adopt broadband if a deployment program focuses on “Access, Awareness and Affordability.” If Americans can access relevant content, are aware of the advantages of broadband and the services available to them, and they can afford access devices as well as service, Ramsey said there would be no question adoption would increase.
Ramsey took issue with the focus on schools and libraries. Many Americans work jobs and can’t make it to a library before closing time, he said. If the point of the stimulus program and programs like it are to get connectivity “to those who need it most,” the best way to “move the meter” on adoption is home deployment. “There’s no place like home in terms of making those connections,” he said.
When asked about the definition of an innovative program, Sheketoff cited distance learning applications, which she called “tremendous bandwidth suckers.” Schools and libraries need more bandwidth to handle the capacity, she said. “As a society, we need to make these resources available to everyone – no matter where you live or how wealthy you are.”
But Ramsey, who took care not to attack libraries in general, took issue with Sheketoff’s comments. “All studies show ‘moving the meter’ with adoption occurs at home,” he said. The two are not mutually exclusive, he conceded. But “we don’t want to create second-tier citizens [who only have access at libraries],” he cautioned. “Kids who have access at school need it at home.”
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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