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NCTA White Paper: Focus Broadband Stimulus Funds on Unserved and Adoption

WASHINGTON, March 18, 2009 – A White Paper released Tuesday by the National Cable and Telecommunications Association recommends broadband stimulus grants prioritize built-out to remote, unserved areas. Remaining monies should be used to fund programs to promote and encourage use of broadband services.

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WASHINGTON, March 18, 2009 – A White Paper released Tuesday by the National Cable and Telecommunications Association recommends broadband stimulus grants prioritize built-out to remote, unserved areas. Remaining monies should be used to fund programs to promote and encourage use of broadband services.

“Broadband is a crucial driver of economic recovery and global competitiveness,” said the report, “Moving the Needle on Broadband: Stimulus Strategies to Spur Adoption and Extend Access Across America.”

The paper acknowledges that the grant programs established by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act can help bring broadband to the “small percentage of the nation’s homes” that have no physical line connecting them to broadband networks, “to ensure that broadband fulfills its full promise as an engine of job creation… educational and healthcare opportunities.”

But the grant program must follow the Hippocratic principle of “first, do no harm” to existing industry efforts, some of which dwarf the $7.2 billion allocated in the stimulus, said the report.

This can be accomplished by making competitively and technologically neutral grants to reach the approximately 10 million households without broadband, said the report. Once it is determined where most of these homes are – a task made more difficult by the lack of publicly-available data about broadband, and the two-year timetable for the NTIA’s national broadband map – the focus should be to reach those homes: “[A]gencies should distribute grants so that new infrastructure is constructed in areas where none exists.”

The next, and equally important challenge will be to facilitate adoption and “digital literacy” among the 35 million households that choose not to subscribe, the report says. “Demand-side stimulus investment programs that promote the use of broadband… serve an important purpose.”

Congress has set no upper-limit on demand-side expenditures, the report notes. The report goes on to note Congress’ finding that Americans with low income and low education suffer a “double-whammy”  with regard to broadband: “lack of interest and lack of resources.”

And while the lack of interest can be attributed to different cultural views of technology’s impact on productivity, the report points out the lack of resources may only be a perception, since broadband is 4 percent cheaper today than in 2003, while dial-up is 9 percent more costly. Based on survey and price data, the report says researchers have concluded that “the decision to not obtain broadband service is due to perceived value, not the inability to pay.”

Grant programs should be targeted towards educational programs that promote broadband adoption and technology use, the report suggests.

Further grant funding should provide “targeted subsidies” similar to the FCC’s Life Line and Link Up programs: “Programs that support an increase in computer ownership are very promising and should be supported extensively.”  Such grants, the report says, will be “one of the most effective and appropriate ways to stimulate broadband adoption and use.”

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.

5G

Innovation Fund’s Global Approach May Improve O-RAN Deployment: Commenters

The $1.5 billion Innovation Fund should be used to promote global adoption, say commenters.

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Illustration about intelligent edge computing from Deloitte Insights

WASHINGTON, February 2, 2023 – A global approach to funding open radio access networks will improve its success in the United States, say commenters to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

The NTIA is seeking comment on how to implement the $1.5 billion appropriated to the Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund as directed by the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022. The grant program is primarily responsible for supporting the promotion and deployment of open, interoperable, and standards-based radio access networks. 

Radio access networks provide critical technology to connect users to the mobile network over radio waves. O-RAN would create a more open ecosystem of network equipment that would otherwise be reliant on proprietary technology from a handful of companies.  

Global RAN

Commenters to the NTIA argue that in order for O-RAN to be successful, it must be global. The Administration must take a “global approach” when funding projects by awarding money to those companies that are non-U.S.-based, said mobile provider Verizon in its comments.  

To date, new entrants into the RAN market have been the center for O-RAN development, claimed wireless service provider, US Cellular. The company encouraged the NTIA to “invest in proven RAN vendors from allied nations, rather than focusing its efforts on new entrants and smaller players that lack operational expertise and experience.” 

Korean-based Samsung Electrontics added that by allowing trusted entities with a significant U.S. presence to compete for project funding and partner on those projects, the NTIA will support standardizing interoperability “evolution by advancing a diverse global market of trusted suppliers in the U.S.” 

O-RAN must be globally standardized and globally interoperable, Verizon said. Funding from the Public Wireless Innovation Fund will help the RAN ecosystem mature as it desperately needs, it added.  

Research and development

O-RAN continues to lack the maturity that is needed for commercial deployment, agreed US Cellular in its comments. The company indicated that the complexity and costliness of system integration results from there being multiple vendors that would need to integrate but are not ready for full integration. 

Additionally, interoperability with existing RAN infrastructure requires bi-lateral agreements, customized integration, and significant testing prior to deployment, the comment read. The complicated process would result in O-RAN increasing the cost of vendor and infrastructure deployment, claimed US Cellular, directly contrary to the goals of O-RAN. 

Several commenters urged the NTIA to focus funding projects on research and development rather than subsidizing commercial deployments.  

The NTIA is already fully engaged in broadband deployment in unserved and underserved areas through its Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program, said Verizon. The Innovation Fund will better advance its goals by funding projects that accelerate the solving of remaining O-RAN technical challenges that continue to delay its deployment, it continued. 

US Cellular argued that the NTIA should “spur deployment of additional independent testing and certification lab facilities… where an independent third party can perform end to end testing, conformance, and certification.” 

The Innovation Fund should be used to focus on technology development and solving practical challenges, added wireless trade association, CTIA. Research can focus on interoperability, promotion of equipment that meets O-RAN specifications, and projects that support hardware design and energy efficiency, it said. 

Furthermore, CTIA recommended that the Administration avoid interfering in how providers design their networks to encourage providers to adopt O-RAN in an appropriate manner for their company. Allowing a flexible, risk-based approach to O-RAN deployments will “help ensure network security and stability,” it wrote. 

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CES 2023: NTIA to Address Broadband, Spectrum, and Privacy, Says Alan Davidson

Alan Davidson asserted that marginalized communities are harmed disproportionately by privacy violations.

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Photo of NTIA Adminstrator Alan Davidson

LAS VEGAS, January 7, 2023 – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s 2023 priorities will include the funding and facilitation of states’ broadband deployment programs, the development of a national spectrum policy, and actions to protect the privacy of marginalized groups, said Administrator Alan Davidson at the Consumer Electronics Show on Saturday.

The NTIA’s most high-profile task is to oversee the operations of the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program, a $42.45 billion slush fund for broadband-infrastructure deployments which will be divided among the governments of states and U.S. territories. Those governments will administer final distribution of the BEAD funds in accordance with the NTIA’s guidelines.

“This is our generation’s big infrastructure moment,” Davidson said. “This is our chance to connect everybody in the country with what they need to thrive in the modern digital economy, and we are going to do it.”

Davidson reiterated his agency’s stated intention to develop a comprehensive national spectrum strategy to facilitate the various spectrum interests of government and private industry. To allocate spectrum in a manner that fulfills federal needs and stimulates the growth of innovators, largely in the sector of 5G, the NTIA – the administrator of federally used spectrum – must coordinate with the Federal Communications Commission – the administrator of other spectrum.

Calling for a national privacy law, Davidson asserted that marginalized communities are harmed disproportionately by privacy violations. He stated that the NTIA will, possibly within weeks, request public comment on “civil rights and privacy.”

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NTIA

NTIA Recommends Partnerships and Engagement to Address Workforce Obligations

NTIA recommends states develop relationships with labor organizations.

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Screenshot of webinar with moderators Scott Lively, Sarah Salgado, and speaker Lucy Moore

WASHINGTON, December 13, 2022 – An NTIA policy analyst said earlier this month that states should develop relationships with labor organizations and invite telecommunications companies and federal officials to its workforce training sites to fulfill their obligations under its Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program.

Lucy Moore, an NTIA policy analyst, was discussing at an industry stakeholder webinar how BEAD applicants to the Commerce agency’s $42.5-billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program can fulfill their obligations under the NTIA’s Workforce Planning Guide, published in October.

Moore recommended state entities applying for BEAD money to develop relationships with partners to gain insight into workforce training and development on a state or local level. These partners could include industry groups, community advocates, union organization representatives, educational institutions and workforce intermediary organizations.

She also suggested state entities for BEAD funding invite federal program officers to training programs to demonstrate strategies currently being practiced for training and workforce development.

She also urged industry to conduct early and proactive engagement with the state broadband offices and workforce teams to obtain a clear understanding of workforce requirements for subcontractors and subgrantees. Stakeholders include equity-focused organizations, community-based organizations, workforce boards, schools and community colleges, she said.

Verizon and GenerationUSA say they offer free technical training, which is an example of a training program that teaches technical and soft skills to adults. Another is the Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship program, whose goal is to expand the safety and productivity of the telecommunications workforce. It offers 15 occupational apprenticeship programs recognized by the Labor Department.

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