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In Arizona, Urging Broadband Stimulus Spending For the Benefit of All

March 19, 2009 – Arizonans and native Americans at a public forum in Flagstaff, Ariz., urged a broadband buildout that puts connectivity of disadvantaged groups at the heart of the federal stimulus spending.

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News | NTIA-RUS Forum | Day 3, Session 1

March 19, 2009 – Arizonans and native Americans at a public forum in Flagstaff, Ariz., urged a broadband buildout that puts connectivity of disadvantaged groups at the heart of the federal stimulus spending.

The discussion was the first of three panels on Wednesday’s field hearing of the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service.

On Thursday, the fourth of six days of NTIA/RUS public hearings on how to spend $7.2 billion in the federal broadband stimulus, heads back to Washington. The forums will continue in Washington on Monday and Tuesday.

As with Tuesday’s field hearing in Las Vegas, the digital divide between America’s wealthy bicoastal techorati was contrasted with the wide open, and often offline, regions of the American west.

The first of three panel discussions during the joint meeting of the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service Wednesday focused on the state of “vulnerable populations” within the United States, the need to drive demand for broadband, and the role of strategic institutions.

Sara Pressler, mayor of Flagstaff, said the unserved and underserved peoples of Arizona still need broadband for health, education and other pressing needs.

“Serving and protecting vulnerable populations is important. Rural and tribal communities without either broadband or electric power need to benefit, too,” she said.

She continued: “Rural communities have great potential because we know what it means to work with limited resources and to get things done.”

Broadband development, she said, would be vital not just for neglected tribes and lands but wider America’s “national health and security.”

As with renewable energy, broadband could go a long way in transforming the lives of individuals in congressional districts that still do not have power.

Fred Estrella, chief information officer at the Northern Arizona University, said broadband technology would help rural and tribal communities “access educational resources and opportunities.”

“Tribal and rural communities in unserved and under-served areas could benefit from our university’s online offerings and utilize the opportunity to educate themselves and their children in ways that are not available today,” he said.

Maureen Jackson, information technology director with Coconino County, Ariz., said there exist 18,000 miles of land in the state that need broadband technology, particularly for “emergency responders.”

“We still don’t have infrastructure to meet the needs of emergency responders,” she said, adding that such infrastructure would need to be located both centrally as well as within surrounding communities.

Loris Taylor, executive director of Native Public Media, said broadband will be needed for the inclusion of neglected tribes and rural areas into the media economy, and other services.

“We need broadband so as to stream content, and foster political and electoral participation,” she said, before asking: “Whose democracy is it when so many voices are left out?”

Indian tribes, she said, have both been unserved and underserved, even as she said their socio-economic and political potential would be unlocked by broadband to their benefit.

Internet education and other services from broadband would be a boon, she said, but warned that such must be accompanied by neutrality of source and destination.

Gary Uhles, assistant general manager, San Carlos Apache Telecommunication Utility, said his company wants to reach Arizona’s outlying communities.

“We want to expand beyond boundaries of known tribal reservations,” he said.

Carroll Onsae, general manager of Hopi Telecommunications, said there will be need to replace copper wires with fiber optic wires to expand the speed and capabilities of broadband.

She said the new infrastructure will require massive capitalization, and that with increased knowledge of technology on the part of the population there would be increased demand for related services.

“Fiber optics is obviously the way to go; no doubt it would cost everyone more,” he said.

Rosalyn Boxer, director of workforce policy with Arizona’s Department of Commerce Economic Development, argued that “without broadband, businesses will lose their market share.”

“Businesses in rural areas need to know how broadband can drive demand, that we can telecommute, and so much more,” she said, adding that rural and immigrant communities would need greater confidence in using the new technology.

During the public comment session, the panelists argued that tribal and rural areas need to “grow their own broadband.” Many also decried what they considered the practice of “red-lining,” or limiting the build-out of telecommunications infrastructures to wealthier areas.

A member of the audience expressed worry that public libraries, in most instances the only reliable source of internet access, are under the threat of increased cuts in their budgets.

Yet another audience member said that scarce resources, the definition of “unserved” and “under-served,” preferential treatment towards current and former borrowers could negatively impact the NTIA/RUS application process.

Others said draft guidelines are needed for writing broadband grant application proposals, and that citizens must agree on priorities so to blunt the influence of “special interests.”

Taylor counseled that traditional areas of disagreement ought not be allowed to interfere with making progress on broadband deployment. Concepts and passions should triumph over divisive territorial agendas, she said.

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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