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States Seek Best Strategies on Obtaining Broadband Stimulus Funds Close-to-Home

WASHINGTON, March 16, 2009 – As the Obama administration on Monday begins poring over the nitty-gritty details about how they will be spending $7.2 billion in broadband stimulus funds, individual states are grappling to find their own best strategies to tap the funds.

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WASHINGTON, March 16, 2009 – As the Obama administration on Monday begins poring over the nitty-gritty details about how they will be spending $7.2 billion in broadband stimulus funds, individual states are grappling to find their own best strategies to tap the funds.

At the public meeting on March 10, officials at the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration made clear that the broadband grants – unlike the past several decades’ trend toward “block grants” – will not be channeled through states.

Rather, with the exception that at least one grant be awarded within each state, the NTIA’s broadband grants will up for grabs by the most qualified applicant.

But that hasn’t discouraged representatives from states and state groups.

In fact, many are quite pleased with the way the broadband stimulus program is taking shape, and are eager to have their voice heard in the next phase of the broadband stimulus process.

Among their grounds for optimism:

  • States and their political subdivisions are themselves eligible to receive grants through the various broadband programs of the NTIA and the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service.
  • States have the on-the-ground knowledge about particular communications needs that positions them to play the kind of coordinative and facilitative role that will be necessarily in an expedited process of broadband expenditures.
  • States’ engagement with economic development officials allows them to work collaboratively with both public- and private-sector partners.
  • States have been among the principal players in the attempts to map out broadband deployment.
  • States have filled what many regard as a leadership void in the field of broadband policy over the past several years.

Almost immediately following the March 10 public meeting, for example, broadband officials in the state of Illinois held in a conference call to consider statewide strategies to tap into federal dollars.

Prior to assuming the governorship, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn had assumed the cause of broadband, saying that “We have to be the modern-day, 21st century Johnny Appleseeds, planting good technology projects all over the state.” He did so as part of the state’s Broadband Deployment Council.

Massachusetts, another state leading the broadband drive, announced that it, too, would hold a conference call on Thursday, March 19th, from Noon to 1:00 p.m., to discuss broadband stimulus in Massachusetts.

The conference call is being organized by the Massachusetts Broadband Initiative, a non-profit with $40 million in state funds seeking to ensure universal broadband within the state.

That next phase of the broadband stimulus debate begins on March 16 with a six-day series of public meetings of the NTIA and RUS. Meetings on March 16, March 19, March 23 and March 24 will be in Washington. The meeting on March 17 will be in Las Vegas, and March 18 will be in Flagstaff, Ariz.

These state actors believe that states are poised to play an important and influential role in the process.
“The states bring a good deal to the table” when it comes to broadband policy, said Indiana Utility Regulatory Commissioner Larry Landis. “This is going to be a huge undertaking for NTIA, and the states can help them get up to speed relatively quickly.”

Landis, co-chair of a joint board proposing broadband actions by both state regulators and the Federal Communications Commission of the NARUC, points to the way that states stepped in over the past several years to fill a perceived void in federal policy-making with respect to broadband. At least 39 states have taken some steps toward creating statewide broadband policies and better access, he said.

In addition to Massachusetts and Illinois, California conducted a detailed census of broadband availability and speeds, which it released in January 2008. Over the past 18 months, Virginia directed money from a tobacco lawsuit settlement to provide the best-quality broadband possible to its rural industrial parks. And the Minnesota legislature, in passing its broadband legislation last summer, toyed with the notion of requiring broadband on the order of 1 Gigabit per second, or more than three orders of magnitude higher than what currently passes for “broadband” under the FCC’s definition.

BroadbandCensus.com has been profiling the state of broadband, and of broadband, within each state at http://broadbandcensus.com/blog/2008/09/broadband-census-in-the-states/.

Several state-level officials – including D.C. Public Service Commission Chairman Betty Ann Kane, New York State Public Service Commissioner Maureen Harrison, and National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners President Frederick Butler – will be featured during the NTIA/RUS events.

Chairman Kane, for example, is a featured speaker at Monday’s first panel, a panel of private sector eligibility. Kane has been working with the NARUC/FCC joint board on broadband, and has been focusing on creating a web site in which the efforts of the states may be showcased and coordinated. Butler and Harrison are scheduled for subsequent meetings.

Kane is also a confirmed panelist at BroadbandCensus.com’s Broadband Breakfast Club event on Tuesday, April 14, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., at the Old Ebbitt Grill. Registration for the event is available at http://broadbandbreakfast.eventbrite.com.

In the lead-up to Congress’ passage of the federal stimulus legislation on February 13, states were actively lobbying on the issue. “States have intimate knowledge of the communications environment, geography, and demographics within their boundaries,” said Butler, president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissions.

Further, said Butler, “states can assure efficient utilization and targeting of stimulus monies and states have every incentive to make certain the money is not wasted.” Of particular concern to Butler was that “early adopter states should not be penalized,” according to a NARUC policy statement.

In other words, a state like Massachusetts shouldn’t become ineligible to recoup broadband funds spent out of its own treasury prior to the enactment of broadband stimulus legislation.

Massachusetts and a group of six other states made similar points in their own position paper, “Broadband Investment for Economic Recovery: Perspectives of an Ad-Hoc Group of State Broadband Entities,” (PDF) submitted to the administration and to Congress on February 9.

The states, including Arizona, Georgia, Maine, New York, North Carolina and South Carolina, called themselves “a small sample of the many states that are well positioned to make quick use of federal monies to partner in the effort to build out much needed broadband infrastructure.”

They argued for the full $7 billion in funding, for ensuring that the bulk of funding was made available through grants and not through loans, and that in-kind contributions by states be allowed to meet the 20 percent matching requirement called for the stimulus law.

Editor’s Note

4/2 – The preceeding story has corrected to the name of the President of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. It is Frederick Butler.

Breakfast Media LLC CEO Drew Clark is a nationally respected U.S. telecommunications attorney. An early advocate of better broadband, better lives, he founded the Broadband Census crowdsourcing campaign for better broadband data in 2008. That effort became the Broadband Breakfast media community. As Editor and Publisher, Clark presides over news coverage focused on digital infrastructure investment, broadband’s impact, and Big Tech. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Clark served as head of the Partnership for a Connected Illinois, a state broadband initiative. Now, in light of the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, attorney Clark helps fiber-based and wireless clients secure funding, identify markets, broker infrastructure and operate in the public right of way. He also helps fixed wireless providers obtain spectrum licenses from the Federal Communications Commission. The articles and posts on Broadband Breakfast and affiliated social media, including the BroadbandCensus Twitter feed, are not legal advice or legal services, do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client privilege, and represent the views of their respective authors.

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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