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Grant Program Must Balance Competing Interests and Remain Transparent, Experts Say

WASHINGTON, March 9, 2009 – Soon to be released FCC data will help balance the interests of public need for expanded networks and industry needs for financial incentives while implementing the goals of the Obama broadband stimulus package, a triumvirate of telecommunications experts said during aMonday conference call, less than 24 hours from NTIA’s release of broadband grant criteria.



WASHINGTON, March 9, 2009 – Soon to be released FCC data will help balance the interests of public need for expanded networks and industry needs for financial incentives while implementing the goals of the Obama broadband stimulus package, a triumvirate of telecommunications experts said  during a Monday conference call, less than 24 hours from NTIA’s release of broadband grant criteria.

The group was headlined by by former Rep. Charles “Chip” Pickering, R-Miss., who was joined by Free Press policy director Ben Scott and Markham Erickson of the Open Internet Coalition. The trio spoke in advance of Tuesday’s joint FCC-NTIA-RUS stimulus kick-off meeting, which begins at 10:00 am at the Department of Commerce.

While each represented a different perspective on broadband issues, all agreed that fully achieving the short and long term goals of the stimulus package requires a careful balance between public interests and private market incentives.

Tuesday’s meeting is the beginning of “an extraordinary period, in which the government is investing in broadband infrastructure,” Scott said. Scott compared the broadband stimulus program to previous public investments in highways and electrification. But Scott was clear to emphasize money alone won’t solve the nation’s broadband infrastructure problems. “It all hinges on getting the policy right,” he said, invoking President Obama’s inaugural address: “It’s about government that works.”

Scott outlined three goals for the stimulus program in order to ensure its success: The program must be “data driven” to give priority to projects that give taxpayers “the biggest bang for the buck.”  This will require all available government resources, Scott said.

Scott specifically referred to an FCC-commissioned study on broadband availability to be released March 16.  The new data, which replaces an old set that measured availablity by ZIP code, will allow the FCC to link broadband information to census bureau data, Scott said. This link will allow the government to direct money to “truly unserved and underserved areas,” Scott said.

Grant applicants must make the case that they are providing “future-proof” service to eligible areas, Scott added. Among the idea he proposed for this goal were minimum speed requirements and disclosure of business plans to ensure grantees can provide both affordable rates, and a cost model showing effective use of taxpayer dollars. The network must not become obsolete, Scott emphasized: “If we’re building a rural network, we have to make sure we’re not recreating a digital divide.”

And grantees must recognize the public sector as a partner, Scott said. Grant applicants should take into account benefits to schools, libraries and public safety in designing their programs, he said.

And stimulus funding shouldn’t stop with build-out, he said. The program could easily use stimulus dollars to help fund the proposed expansion of Universal Service Fund Life Line and Link Up programs, he suggested.

Open Internet’s Markham said he was “thrilled” that Congress mandated compliance with the FCC’s Internet Policy Statement neutrality principles. The network “must be open to all speech and commerce,” he said — a “common sense” principle that has allowed the Internet to feed job growth for over a decade.

The “exciting opportunity” presented by the stimulus should be targeted not only to fill gaps in the network, but to fund economically and commercially viable entities that will be “sustainable for the long term,” said Pickering, who represented a rural district in Mississippi and was an active member of the House Telecommunications subcommittee.

And while public-private partnerships “maximize the leverage” of stimulus funding, Pickering cautioned that the public funding process should be transparent. A well-implemented NTIA program “can give the country addditional investment growth…and the opportunity to see a more vibrant marketplace,” he said.  “Matching public interest and a private investment, free market model are not mutually exclusive.”

Andrew Feinberg is the White House Correspondent and Managing Editor for Breakfast Media. He rejoined in late 2016 after working as a staff writer at The Hill and as a freelance writer. He worked at from its founding in 2008 to 2010, first as a Reporter and then as Deputy Editor. He also covered the White House for Russia's Sputnik News from the beginning of the Trump Administration until he was let go for refusing to use White House press briefings to promote conspiracy theories, and later documented the experience in a story which set off a chain of events leading to Sputnik being forced to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Andrew's work has appeared in such publications as The Hill, Politico, Communications Daily, Washington Internet Daily, Washington Business Journal, The Sentinel Newspapers, FastCompany.TV, Mashable, and Silicon Angle.


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.



Newly-confirmed head of the NTIA Alan Davidson

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.

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NTIA Publishes Report Calling for Better Data Aggregation Methods

The report notes need for separating broadband access data from other consumer stats.



Acting NTIA Administrator Evelyn Remaley

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.

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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.



Photo of Alan Davidson from New America

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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