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Legislators See 'Underserved' Definition as First Step for Broadband Stimulus

WASHINGTON, April 5, 2009 – Proper oversight of the $7.2 billion Broadband Technology Opportunities Program can only take place if key terms are defined properly, a panel of agency officials and policy experts told a congressional committee on Thursday.

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WASHINGTON, April 5, 2009 – Proper oversight of the $7.2 billion Broadband Technology Opportunities Program can only take place if key terms are defined properly, a panel of agency officials and policy experts told a congressional committee on Thursday.

The broadband stimulus programs can succeed only if the eventual definition of “unserved areas” is “sensible,” said Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet.

Boucher is concerned that areas that have a “smattering” of broadband service might be excluded from the definition of “unserved” areas. Agencies must also exercise care when defining what constitutes an “underserved” area in order to maximize market competition, Boucher said.

“Uunderserved” should also encompass areas with low available speeds, Boucher said.

But Boucher cautioned that the stimulus program should not be confused with a national broadband strategy, which the Federal Communications Commission is tasked with designing. The FCC is scheduled to take up the task at its April 8 meeting.

Such a strategy could include expanding universal service fund support to include broadband, he said, and indicated his subcommittee would continue to be “actively involved in looking at ways to achieve universal broadband deployment.”

Ranking member Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., said that focusing first only on unserved areas would prevent “another wasteful government program,” and worried that distributing funds without a national broadband map in place would lead to a “ready, fire, aim” approach that would only encourage waste, fraud and abuse.

Stearns suggested first distributing funds to states that have already begun mapping efforts. “It’s common sense that we should know where to best spend the money before the money is actually spent,” he said.

But full committee chairman Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., disagreed with Stearns’ “re-characterization” of the stimulus bill’s requirements.

Waxman noted that the committee had rejected an amendment codifying Stearns’ presumption of priorities into law when it considered the bill in February.” I expect that NTIA will not be distracted by these efforts,” Waxman said.

Developing definitions and a national broadband plan is the FCC’s “most important responsibility since implementing the 1996 Telecom Act,” said Scott Deutchman, acting senior legal advisor to acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps.

But the most important task in developing the plan will be to make sure broadband is available to all Americans, “whether you are rich or poor, live in a rural or urban area or on tribal lands, have a disability, are a small business, are a senior citizen or a high school student,” Deutchman said.

California Public Utility Commissioner Rachelle Chong agreed that mapping should be a prerequisite for receiving broadband grants. Chong noted that California’s program mandated that carriers provide mapping entities with “granular” data down to the street address level. Public-private partnerships could be a successful vehicle for mapping, but only if conducted through a trusted, neutral third party, Chong said.

Such partnerships can be successful in stimulating the “demand side” of the broadband economy, said One Economy Corporation Vice President Nicol Turner-Lee – but only if they are “intentional” in creating a “culture of use” among low-income communities that have the lowest adoption rates for broadband services in the nation.

“If the allocation of broadband stimulus funding does not make a considerable difference among this demographic, we have failed,” said Turner-Lee.

Also testifying during the hearing were Jonathan Large, Dan River District Supervisor in Ararat, Virginia; Brian Mefford, CEO of Connected Nation; Mark Seifert, senior policy advisor, National Telecommunications and Information Administration; and David Villano, assistant administrator of telecom programs at the Agriculture Department.

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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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