News | NTIA-RUS Forum | Day 4, Session 3
WASHINGTON, March 20, 2009 – Debate about the broadband divide in America resurfaced at a Thursday afternoon public roundtable about how the federal government should spend $7.2 billion in broadband.
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, and the afternoon discussion, about rural and unserved areas, was the final panel focus on the broadband “have-nots.”
Other topics – including interconnection obligations, the role of the states, and broadband mapping – will be considered in a public forum in Washington on Monday. Tuesday, the final day of public hearings, will raise the subjects of compliance, selection criteria and community economic development.
In his second appearance in the public forums, Geoffrey Blackwell of Chickasaw Nation Industries, Inc., and chairman of the National Congress of American Indians’ telecommunications subcommittee, said broadband technology needs an “evolving” and “scalable” definition.
Blackwell said the government and non-governmental organizations have a historic and strategic chance to meet the needs of unserved and underserved areas.
Eric Peterson, executive director of the Rural Cellular Association, said broadband technology should be advanced so as to leapfrog rural and unserved areas into a future of development. He urged a highly granular level of broadband mapping, including the use of data from the Census Bureau.
John Rose, president of the Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunications Companies, said rural and unserved areas need broadband so as to complete globally.
Consumer education would be necessary, he said, even as he warned some areas might require computers before even access issues are addressed.
Tracey Steiner, senior corporate counsel with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, said broadband is an urgent need for electric consumers. “Definitions based on population are restrictive and less than ideal,” she said.
Jocelyn Tate, a communications expert and chair of a rural broadband working group, said that penetration in rural areas is over-accounted for: it does not reflect reality on the ground in the way of service and adoption.
In addition to sparse availability of broadband in rural areas, she said that race, language, and poverty can also hinder broadband deployment. And she urged that unserved urban areas not be neglected in a rural broadband buildout.
“The digital gap between rural and urban areas must be bridged,” she said.
Blackwell warned that historical challenges and the geopolitical terrain must not be overlooked, because “one size fits none.”
Speed, Steiner added, is a way to measure service but it is not all, “since service is relative.”
The panelists agreed that the definition of “unserved” should not be reduced to statistical analysis of individuals or areas. Rather, broadband should encompass all possible variables.
Existing realities, they also warned, cannot be reduced to the bare minimum of a report from one government agency.
Members of the public commenting at the end of the meeting raised concerns about broadband speeds, costs, sustainability and continuity of coverage.
Senate Confirms Davidson as National Telecommunications and Information Administration Chief
Bipartisan vote confirms Davidson atop the Commerce Department agency. It has a large pile of money to spend on broadband.
WASHINGTON, January 11, 2022 – In a bipartisan vote of 60-31, the Senate confirmed President Joe Biden’s nominee to head the National Telecommunications and Information Administration: Alan Davidson.
Davidson, a former public policy director at Google, will become the first Senate-confirmed head of the NTIA since mid-2019.
Several members of Republican leadership voted against Davidson’s nomination Tuesday afternoon, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Whip John Thune, R-S.D., as did Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., who had both been recorded as opposed to advancing Davidson’s nomination out of committee.
As the new head of the agency tasked with advising the president on telecommunications and information policy issues, Davidson will be responsible for overseeing the distribution of billions of dollars in broadband funding across the nation made available by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
On Friday, the agency released its request for public comment on the act.
Early reactions from industry groups to Davidson’s confirmation were positive, with the NCTA, the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions and Public Knowledge all praising the Senate’s approval.
In light of the funding the NTIA must help distribute, organizations emphasized the magnitude of Davidson’s confirmation, with ATIS saying the agency’s mission has “never been more important” and Public Knowledge called the NTIA’s role as a “critical position at an important time.”
Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel also praised the vote, saying that in working with Davidson’s NTIA she is confident that the FCC “can make progress on delivering innovative, modern communications that reach everyone, everywhere.”
Public Knowledge also said in their statement that Davidson’s work on funding alone will not close the digital divide without a fully appointed FCC.
They advocated for the confirmation to the FCC of their organization’s co-founder and former CEO Gigi Sohn– whose nomination has recently stalled in the Senate and would break the 2-2 partisan deadlock at the agency upon confirmation.
NTIA Publishes Report Calling for Better Data Aggregation Methods
The report notes need for separating broadband access data from other consumer stats.
WASHINGTON, December 29, 2021 – Year-end analysis by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration found that the agency is constrained in its data collection abilities by a lack of software that can separate broadband access data from other consumer statistics.
In its Access Broadband Report, released last Thursday, the agency proposed promoting consistent standards for data reporting that can separate this data from confounding variables and increasing data reporting requirements for entities it interacts with.
Additionally, significant lag times between broadband projects and intended outcomes was identified as an obstacle to the agency’s work, the report said.
The inaugural report, a produce of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, looks at agency accomplishments this year as well as investments in both federal broadband support programs and Universal Service Fund programs.
Specifically, the report focused on highlighting the achievements of the NTIA’s newly established Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth.
The report is consistent with ongoing NTIA efforts to improve broadband data availability, increase coordination between federal partners and be transparent about government spending.
Additionally, “the report summarizes the federal broadband investment landscape, details the current state of measuring investments and connection across federal broadband support and USF programs, and provides key recommendations to improve efforts to track broadband spending and outcomes,” including leveraging open data initiatives and identifying data sources and alternatives.
The NTIA is in the process of reviewing applications and making awards for three programs established by the Consolidated Appropriations Act: the Broadband Infrastructure Program focusing on rural connectivity, the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, and the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program.
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.
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