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Industry Reactions to NTIA/RUS Broadband Meeting Generally Positive

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2009 – Despite a packed-to-capacity auditorium, long lines and occasionally unanswered questions, reactions to Tuesday’s unveiling of the Obama administration’s $7.2 billion stimulus program were generally very positive among attendees and industry observers.

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WASHINGTON, March 11, 2009 – Despite a packed-to-capacity auditorium, long lines and occasionally unanswered questions, reactions to Tuesday’s unveiling of the Obama administration’s $7.2 billion stimulus program were generally very positive among attendees and industry observers.

An informal survey of attendees after the event generated generally enthusiastic responses to Tuesday’s program by attendees – but also several notes of caution.

Most were optimistic about the prospects that the broadband stimulus program would generate economic growth – and opportunities for their bottom lines. An additional theme in responses was pleasure at the Obama administration’s stated commitment to transparency.

The program was unveiled by Commerce Department Acting Chief of Staff Rick Wade, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and acting Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Copps.

Comptel CEO Jerry James said he was pleased by the transparency showcased by the event, which accommodated numerous people in overflow rooms and was webcast over the Internet. The event was a “positive meeting,” presenting “good insight…with a diversity of interests,” he said. Jones called the process further advanced than he had expected.

Temple Strategies partner Joel Bernstein acknowledged that there were “lots of questions that needed to be answered. But he praised the “very measured responses” from the panel.

The panel included NTIA Senior Advisor Mark Seifert, tapped to head up administration of the agency’s broadband stimulus program; NTIA Associate Administrator Bernadette McGuire-Rivera; David Villano, Assistant Administrator for Telecommunications Programs, USDA Rural Development; and Scott Deutschman, Acting Senior Legal Advisor to Copps.

The NTIA said it was planning to issue grants for its $4.7 billion in three windows of time: between April and June 2009, between October and December 2009, and between April and June 2010. The RUS hasn’t determined when it will issue grants from among its pool of $2.5 billion, but it will also do so in three windows, said Villano.

The agencies involved have a “herculean task” ahead of them, said Bernstein. He praised the three-round approach to grant-making by allowing the agency to pick the “low-hanging fruit” first.

“I am optimistically pessimistic,” said Peter Tenhula, vice president of regulatory affairs at Shared Spectrum Company. The NTIA is “seeking a lot of comments, but there are a lot of unknowns, a lot to be determined.”

Tenhula said the process could go wrong if the agency “focuses to much on laying technology that is on the shelf now – and not future-proofing deployment” with next-generation wired and wireless services.

The agency officials were “not able to give any answers to most questions,” added Vince D’Onofrio, president of Radio Frontier, an Arlington, Va.-based consultant. “From my perspective, I believe the whole process is still subject to influence.”

“There is a long road ahead in defining the process,” added Tom Peters, a partner at the consultancy Wireless Strategy, which is based in McLean, Va. He referred to the fact that the program is requiring the government to distribute all funds by September 2009, and for all monies to be in the pipeline for spending within two years.

“Both of those concepts are admirable, but aggressive and bordering on unrealistic,” said Peters.

Dow Lohnes Government Strategies chairman Kenneth Salomon said that broad-bush criticisms of the meeting were incorrect. “I thought the meeting was quite informative” and substantive, he said.”

Salomon, once deputy chief counsel to NTIA, compared the broadband grants program to NTIA’s former Technology Opportunities Program (“TOP”).

“If you look at the [stimulus] statute…and the rules and procedures for the TOP program, you could get a running start on your application,” said Salomon The TOP process includes many of the same “key parts” in the stimulus grant application process, Salomon said, adding that McGuire-Rivera highlighted these facts in her presentation.

Salomon said that while NTIA will certainly meet its statutory obligations, he “wouldn’t be surprised if NTIA didn’t follow [the traditional rulemaking format] by looking for ways to speed up the process.”

– Drew Clark, Editor, BroadbandCensus.com, and Cody Williams, Special Correspondent, BroadbandCensus.com, contributed to this report.

Andrew Feinberg is the White House Correspondent and Managing Editor for Breakfast Media. He rejoined BroadbandBreakfast.com in late 2016 after working as a staff writer at The Hill and as a freelance writer. He worked at BroadbandBreakfast.com 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.

Funding

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.

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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

NTIA Publishes Report Calling for Better Data Aggregation Methods

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

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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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FCC

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.

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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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