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Perspectives on Selection Criteria Reflect Views on Stimulus Program's Purpose

WASHINGTON, March 24, 2009 – NTIA and RUS broadband stimulus grant recipients should be selected in a way that honors the intent of the stimulus bill itself, a large group of stakeholders said at Tuesday afternoon’s roundtable on selection criteria.

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News | NTIA-RUS Forum | Day 6, Session 2

WASHINGTON, March 24, 2009 – NTIA and RUS broadband stimulus grant recipients should be selected in a way that honors the intent of the stimulus bill itself, a large group of stakeholders said at Tuesday afternoon’s roundtable on selection criteria.

The second of three panels on the last day of public meetings on the broadband program by the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service dealt with how grant-making authorities should choose which programs to fund.

Stakeholders had widely differing views on how to determine a proposal’s worthiness.

The statutory guidelines provide a good start in determining standards, said National Cable and Telecommunications Association Associate General Counsel Steve Morris. Morris invoked President Obama’s call for a transparent process, and said it be governed by a merit-based system of seven objective measurements to be shared between NTIA and RUS.

Job creation and preservation should be first and foremost among the selection criteria, Morris said. Preference should also be given to those applicants that can complete build-out within the statutory time periods, and that are able to maintain projects afterwards.

Infrastructure should be built out first the “last mile,” Morris said. And programs that target schools, libraries, and other “public interest” institutions should be ranked ahead of those that don’t, he added. Further considerations could be cost per capita and relative expense compared to other forms of communication, he said.

Morris’ theme of job creation was echoed by M2Z Networks CEO John Muleta, who emphasized the fiscal stimulus law’s direction to award grants to small businesses if possible. Small businesses are “the heart of the American economy,” Muleta said, noting that the Small Business Administration says that they account for 70 percent of American economic growth.

Programs should also promote job creation by encouraging “affordable and sustainable” adoption, which he said would fulfill the overall congressional intent behind the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the official name for the law.

Affordability should be the prime motivator in awarding grants, said Richard Murgon, president-elect of the Association of Public Safety Communication Officials International.

Many organizations can’t afford the $60 per month a wireless connection costs, he said. Selected programs should use off-the-shelf components and open protocols to keep costs down. “You gotta have standards,” he said.

Free Press research director Derek Turner called the afternoon’s topic “the most critical and challenging” of the discussions so far. NTIA and RUS have “an unenviable task” in turning legislative language into a system of picking winners and losers, he said.

The programs selected should promote adoption and affordability, Turner said. And selection criteria should turn an eye towards “civics,” or common benefits that can arise from building out a project.

Selected programs should focus on serving older Americans as well, said National Council on Aging CEO James Firman.

Only a minority of seniors have access at home, said Firman. Successful programs should focus on adoption and expansion of senior centers, he suggested. “It’s not just about getting pictures of your grandchildren,” he said. “It’s about helping people stay independent.”

And while some panelists, including M2Z’s Muleta, called for some sort of “peer review” process in lieu of state “rankings,” Turner said NTIA should have simply be able to defend its decisions.

“Peer review is great,” said Turner, but cautioned against allowing too much public input as opposed to a single accountable agency. He warned that some groups “hold themselves out to be representatives of the public when they represent the interests that fund them.”

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

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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