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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 was 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

After FCC Map Release Date, NTIA Says Infrastructure Money to Be Allocated by June 2023

The NTIA urged eligible entities to submit challenges to the FCC’s broadband map by January 13, 2023.

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Photo of NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson, in January 2015 used with permission

WASHINGTON, November 10, 2022 – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration said Thursday its intention to announce allocations from the $42.5-billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program by June 30, 2023.

The announcement comes on the heels of the FCC announcing Thursday that a preliminary draft of the commission’s national broadband map will be released and available for public challenge on November 18, which was required for the NTIA to begin moving the broadband infrastructure money out of the door to the states. The challenge process is the primary mechanism to correct for errors in the map’s data.

Don’t miss the discussion about “What’s the State of IIJA?” at Digital Infrastructure Investment–Washington on November 17, 2022: Nearly one year into the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, what is its state of implementation? How are state broadband offices feeling about the pace of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration? What are they doing to prepare for it? How big of a jolt to the broadband industry will the IIJA be?

“The next eight weeks are critical for our federal efforts to connect the unconnected,” said NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson. “The FCC’s upcoming challenge process is one of the best chances to ensure that we have accurate maps guiding us as we allocate major…awards in 2023. I urge every state and community that believes it can offer improvements to be part of this process so that we can deliver on the promise of affordable, reliable high-speed internet service for everyone in America.”

To ensure public input is considered in the allocation process, the NTIA urged eligible entities Thursday to submit challenges to the FCC’s national broadband map – the dataset that will shape the distribution of BEAD grants – by January 13, 2023.

To promote a robust challenge process, the NTIA said it will offer technical assistance to state governments, informational webinars to the public, and regular engagement with state officials to identify and resolve issues.

Clarification: A previous headline said the NTIA would “finalize” money by June 2023. In actuality, the NTIA will initially announce BEAD “allocations” by June 2023, then eligible entities must submit proposals to the NTIA for approval before the money is fully disbursed, which could be sometime after June 2023. 

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NTIA

Speaking at AnchorNets, NTIA’s Alan Davidson Touts Role of Anchor Institutions

‘Community-anchor institutions have been and are the connective tissue that make delivering high-speed internet access possible,’ he said.

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John Windhausen and Alan Davidson (right) at AnchorNets 2022.

CRYSTAL CITY, Va., October 14, 2022 – States will be required to work with local communities on broadband programs as unprecedented funding initiatives roll out from the federal government, said Alan Davidson, head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

“It’s critical that the states are being guided by as many local voices as possible,” said Davidson, addressing the AnchorNets 2022 conference Friday morning. The NTIA, an arm of the U.S. Commerce Department, will ensure state broadband plans are informed by community input, he added.

Davidson also emphasized the role local institutions can play in boosting connectivity and the importance of federal adoption and affordability initiatives, such as the Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Project.

“Community-anchor institutions have been and are the connective tissue that make delivering high-speed internet access possible,” Davidson said.

The NTIA’s broadband policies are “about more than just a connection, more than just access,” Davidson argued. “A wire to somebody’s home… doesn’t help them if they can’t afford to get online.”

The NTIA will administer the rollout of tens of billions of dollars in broadband funding, the majority of which – $42.45 billion – is from the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program. BEAD funding will be granted to each state government based on relative need, and the states will distribute sub-grants to contractors.

John Windhausen, executive director of the SHLB Coalition – the host of AnchorNets 2022 – praised Davidson’s remarks.

“Alan Davidson’s comments really recognized that the anchor institutions can play a role in several different aspects of solving the digital divide,” Windhausen told Broadband Breakfast.

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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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