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Panelists at Las Vegas Broadband Forum Seek Local 'Skin in the Game'

March 19, 2009 – A leading official at the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration pled with panelists in Las Vegas as he urged them to provide constructive selection criteria for the agency’s evaluation of broadband grant applicants.



News | NTIA-RUS Forum | Day 2, Session 3

March 19, 2009 – A leading official at the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration pled with panelists in Las Vegas as he urged them to provide constructive selection criteria for the agency’s evaluation of broadband grant applicants.

Speaking at the Charleston Heights Arts Center on the May 17 public meeting on broadband grants – the second of six days of such meetings – Mark Seifert, senior advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Commerce made sincere and passionate pleas for ideas that would allow NTIA to sort out a pending deluge of grant applications.

In his role as panel moderator of the “Selection Criteria” panel on Tuesday, he compelled the panel and audience to engage.

”You tell us how we should judge all these applications,” he said, nothing that was “one of the most important panels we’ll have [and] the most difficult because we have so many different things that we have to try and figure and achieve.”

For example, he asked: “How would you in a competitive way rank proposals one over the other to decide how we should spend the money?”

As with the Monday meeting in Washington, the Tuesday public meeting in Las Vegas was conducted jointly with the NTIA and the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service. It was also webcast on the Internet, with as much as 143 viewers registering on the system’s counting mechanism.

The panelist represented four so-called “middle mile” service providers and a representative of the Nevada System of Higher Education. Middle mile providers provide high-speed internet connections between residential neighborhoods and the high-capacity fiber backbones that traverse the county and the world.

”When we originally put this panel together, I thought we were going to have a much more diverse kind of background,” Seifert said, “which underscores the difficult task we have before us.”

Jason Lazar of Keyon Communications offered the following “guiding principles that will help with the task at hand:”

•    Creation of a comprehensive grading scale that measures both quantitative and qualitative characteristics across applications.
•    An evaluation of the applicant itself. Is this applicant credible? Can it do what it says?
•    Speed. How quickly can this project be deployed? Projects that can be completed swiftly should be prioritized.
•    Is a particular proposal broad or narrow in scope? While neither should be precluded, the criteria need to address both types.
•    This is about broadband deployment, broadband penetration, and job creation. Make sure that this is where the funds are going.

Ed Anderson of the Nevada System of Higher Education offered the following observations on selection criteria:

•    Viability and sustainability
•    While desirable, partnering with commercial service providers should not be a requirement.
•    Open and competitive access with strict guidelines and severe penalties for denial or delay of equal access.
•    The projects demonstrate a greater contribution to the overall good.
•    The number of jobs potentially created has to be factored in here somehow.
•    The last priority would be blanket broadband. It’s inefficient and it’s very hard to monitor success.

Don Jackson with tri-county telephone in Basin, Wyoming, answered the question with more questions:

•    For consumers, how many people are going to be affected by what we’re doing here? Whether dealing with he the provision of broadband service to a group, or to individuals, how many people will be affected?
At what cost? What’s it going to cost? As Jackson reads the statute, cost should probably be woven into the equation.
•    What bandwidth is going to be provided?
•    Public benefit: to what degree will the project that’s being proposed impact hospitals, education, public safety, and the low income community?
•    To what extent will this particular project contribute to economic development?
•    We need to make sure that recipients can and will deliver.

Having summarized some successes in Wyoming, Jackson stated with confidence: “build it, and they will come,” a mantra met with skepticism throughout the entire public hearing.

Cathleen Moyer of Pioneer Communications had a longer list of proposed selection critera:

•    Applicant’s financial stability, especially where grants and loans are concerned.
•    Local presence, or a promise thereto.
•    The degree to which upgrades cost less than new build-out
•    Total number of end users impacted per geographic unit.
•    The implementation time table with preference for “shovel-ready” initiatives
•    Emphasize middle mile infrastructure.
•    The degree to which access is guaranteed to middle lime trunks
•    The degree to which the solution is expandable
•    Other benefits impacting education, economic development, and purchasing American-made services and goods.

Moyer repeatedly said that Pioneer had made good use of universal service funds for sustainable capital investments.

Mark Feest of CC Communications in Fallon, Nevada, jumped in and stayed focused on the notion of recurring cost, a constant undercurrent in the public meeting.

Feest’s message was less scripted. ”As opposed to one-time costs…, the criteria for making grants needs to take [into account] the sustainability of the business model.”

The public comment session was spirited, as questioners probed the language of the statute, drilling-in on the minimum critical specification as shaped by the verbs “shall” and “may.” Feest admonished to “find something that’s reputable, that’s open, that meets all of the requirements of the statute…. The statute is your best guidance. I would go very carefully by the words in it.”

After this comment, Seifert said, “I think Congress is going to be very happy to hear that they always like us to do exactly what they say.”

Two of the speakers were very concerned that large business interests might simply come to town, install some equipment, collect their pay, and move-on. Those observations caused the panel to reiterate what had been said about “local presence” in markets benefiting from grants.

Seifert followed up by commenting that the 20% matching contribution is intended to ensure that awardees have some “skin in the game.”


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.



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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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.



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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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.



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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