WASHINGTON, April 2, 2009 – The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners on Thursday ratcheted up their call for greater state involvement in disbursement and use of the $7.2 billion broadband stimulus funds with a letter to top Commerce and Agriculture Department officials.
NARUC’s positions on the way Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration and USDA’s Rural Utilities Service should approach broadband grants were detailed in the letter, signed by 87 state utility commissioners representing 38 States.
“Both agencies face incredible challenges,” read the letter, which was signed by Frederick Butler, president of NARUC and Commissioner of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, and the other commissioners.
“NTIA has limited staff and must focus on the [digital television] transition during the most critical period for disbursements. RUS staff is fully occupied disbursing funds from previously authorized programs. Neither can possibly complete the tasks assigned under [fiscal stimulus legislation] without a very significant staff expansion,” the commissioners wrote.
They continued: “Even then, given the incredibly compressed timeframe, it will be almost impossible to review the anticipated thousands of applications most predict both will receive, much less rank the proposals according to American Recovery and Reinvestment Act-specified criteria, disburse the funds, and monitor grant specific implementations.”
The commissioners said both Congress and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) had in effect recognized the invaluable role of states, because the latter have “an intimate knowledge of their communications environment, geography and demographics along with every incentive to make certain the money is not wasted and is properly targeted.”
“Rather than contracting with Washington, D.C., consultants that lack both the states’ in-depth knowledge about the areas covered and inherent incentive to do the job right, both agencies should structure the program to insure state involvement,” the letter said.
As an incentive for states to participate in the screening process, NARUC said NTIA and RUS should establish, for the first round of funding, a “use or lose” minimum standard allocation for each state.
Under this approach, states would have the opportunity, assuming enough qualified proposals were submitted, to assure up to that allocation is disbursed in-state, in addition to federal agencies making minimal funding available to allow short term hires to assist State experts in screening applications and in monitoring grant implementation.
The commissioners said: “The advantages to this approach are obvious. It saves resources, puts the people with the information needed to make reasonable and rapid decisions in a strong advisory role, provides an additional layer of accountability, and significantly increases the chances that the money will actually get disbursed as States will have proper incentives to both opt-in and complete the task.”
NARUC General Counsel Brad Ramsay acknowledged that the state regulators’ proposals might not be “a perfect solution,” although it was necessary.
“If this money is to be spent wisely, states will have to be involved. Congress has been very specific in making this smart call,” he said.
Ramsey said the fiscal stimulus bill’s legislative history points to a role or states that could be identified as being both “monitoring and evaluation” of grant applications.
No insider Washington experience and any special intelligence would be necessary to grasp that, he said.
“We are talking about an impossible task that must be accomplished in a very short while – 18 months. It is akin to asking the federal government to do in a minute a 48-hour job. I do not see a better way than to involve states. This is extremely good advice,” he said.
Ohio and Kansas have also released letters which endorse key aspects of the NARUC proposals.
Broadband Breakfast Club
Don’t miss the opportunity to register for the April 14, 2009, Broadband Breakfast Club at the Old Ebbitt Grill. The theme of the April meeting will be, “Spending the Stimulus: Can States’ Front-line Experiences Expedite Broadband Deployment?” Register at http://broadbandbreakfast.eventbrite.com.
Confirmed speakers include Karen Jackson, Office of Telework Promotion and Broadband Assistance, Commonwealth of Virginia; Betty Ann Kane, Chairman, D.C. Public Service Commission; and Sue A. Suleski, Technology Investment Specialist and Program Manager for the Pennsylvania Broadband Initiative.
Broadband Census Resources
- NARUC Letter to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and Acting Commerce Assistant Secretary Anna Gomez, April 2, 2009 (PDF)
- Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Letter to Locke, Vilsack and Gomez, April 1, 2009 (PDF)
- Kansas Corporation Commission Letter to Locke, Vilsack and Gomez, April 2, 2009 (PDF)
Senate Advances Legislation Creating Office of Internet Connectivity Within Commerce Department’s NTIA
WASHINGTON, March 12, 2020 – The Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday voted to advance a version of legislation creating a new office with the Commerce Department, and re-authorizing the Federal Trade Commission’s authority to protect consumers from deceptive internet marketing.
One bill would establish an Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth within the National Telecommunications and Infrastructure Administration of the Commerce Department.
While senators approved both the reauthorization of the US SAFEWEB Act and the Advancing Critical Connectivity Expands Service, Small Business Resources, Opportunities, Access, and Data Based on Assessed Need and Demand Act by voice vote.
The ACCESS BROADBAND Act requires the administrator of NTIA to establish a new Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth within 180 days of the bill’s enacting date, with the aim of coordinating and streamlining the process of applying for various federal broadband support programs.
However, the amended version of the bill includes language authored by Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., which specifically excludes the Universal Service Fund’s programs from the office’s mandate.
The bill would also require the new office to create a single application for the various federal programs under its auspices, as well as a website which would be a one-stop shop for individuals and institutions seeking to learn more about federal programs for expanding broadband access.
In her opening remarks before the committee began consideration of the bill, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., the committee’s ranking member, praised the “good bipartisan work” that went into drafting it.
“Closing the digital divide that so many communities particularly in our rural communities face is a priority for many members on this committee, and this bill is an important step in addressing that challenge,” she said.
“And I would I would say that this coronavirus is also a very strong learning lesson for us, as it relates to the gaps in broadband because you certainly need it as it relates to so many aspects of delivering on education and healthcare during this time period.”
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., later added that the bill, which she co-sponsored, will be helpful to Arizonans living in rural areas who may need help accessing better broadband services.
“Nearly 25 million Arizonans living in rural areas do not have access to high speed internet, so it’s crucial for Arizona that rural communities are afforded the same opportunity to stay connected as our urban areas, and the ACCESS BROADBAND Act moves us in the right direction,” she said. “It’s an essential step to help us close the digital divide and ensure everyone in my state and across our country can access quality, high speed internet and the opportunities that come with it.”
Panelists on NTIA Broadband Webinar Say Smart Buildings Boost Civic Resiliency and Public Health
WASHINGTON, January 16, 2020 – Speakers advocated civic resiliency and better public health through smart building infrastructure in a webinar discussion hosted by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration on Wednesday.
Limor Schafman, senior director of Smart Buildings Programs at the Telecommunications Industry Association, said as buildings digitize, human experience will improve.
“A smart building uses an interoperable set of technology, systems and infrastructure to optimize building performance and occupant experience,” said Schafman. Smart buildings are not just for megacities. Rather, everyone shares resiliency and wellness concerns, and smart buildings are the answer, she said.
The purpose of a broadband-focused smart building is to digitize the infrastructure while maintaining occupants’ needs at the forefront of the innovation. Smart building infrastructure includes a focus on basic infrastructure, connectivity, power and energy, data, interoperable systems, and intelligence and cognition, said Schafman.
Smart buildings function through wireless or fiber connection and streamline data sharing across departments, combating or inter-departmental stagnation.
Wireless infrastructure also solves the problem of spaghetti wiring, said Benny Lee, Councilman and Director of San Mateo County Public Wi-Fi, in Northern California.
While wired building need dozens of switches on every floor, wireless buildings only need one or two.
Most 5G deployments using higher radio frequencies pose problems because such signals cannot travel through walls, said Lee. The “FCC has been discussing adding 6 [GigaHertz] spectrum to Wi-Fi, which promises connectivity speeds upwards of 5 [Gigabits per second]s,” he said.
Jiri Skopek, of a group called 2030 District Networks, argued that smart buildings save money while improving occupants’ quality of life. Speaking of smart buildings, he said, “we expect them now to respond to our needs, and even our wishes.”
Productivity increases, he said, because users can control the environment: lighting, air quality, temperature, occupancy sensing, shade control, white noise control, etc. These factors foster health and convenience.
Because smart buildings operate through microgrids, Skopek said, they run on direct current, which can integrate renewable energy.
In the case of natural disasters or emergencies, first responders can arrive quicker and know where the exact danger area is.
Schafman said municipalities can view the status of the building’s infrastructure because it has a virtual image. The buildings can also be run remotely, added Skopek.
Speaking at Commerce Department Symposium, Federal Agencies Doubt Benefits of Spectrum Plan
WASHINGTON, September 10, 2019- Federal agencies speaking at radiofrequency symposium hosted on Tuesday by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration Symposium expressed doubts that any kind of a national spectrum strategy would be useful.
Addressing speculation that the Commerce Department’s NTIA might unveil such a national spectrum strategy, the officials each seemed focused on their doubts that such a strategy would be beneficial for their respective agencies.
Spectrum management needs to meet constantly changing demands, said R. J. Balanga, senior regulatory and policy adviser at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Increased spectrum usage and higher data-rate transmissions are required for human and robotic operations in space.
NASA’s main objective, he said, is to enhance interoperability by further cooperation with the commercial space industry and its international partners.
The Department of Defense occupies a great number of spectrum bands, said Colonel Frederick Williams, director of spectrum policy and programs at the Pentagon. He said spectrum has becoming increasingly congested.
Agencies must work together to combat spectrum issues, he said. The Citizens Broadband Radio Service, for instance, was established by the Federal Communications Commission as a way for shared wireless broadband use of the 3.5 GHz band.
Karen Van Dyke, principal technical adviser for Global Positioning Systems at the Department of Transportation, said that spectrum affects all modes of transportation. Therefore, it’s important that GPS are protected from harmful radio-frequency interference.
Furthermore, she said, close cooperation with private industries is required to best utilize spectrum innovation.
The government has so many layers of spectrum management that it’s difficult to determine the exact process, said Ian Atkins, director of the Federal Aviation Administration spectrum strategy and policy.
The FAA is committed to utilizing the least amount of spectrum possible, he said. However, what the agency is looking for is a return of investment to make sure that valuable spectrum programs are enacted.
With 5G approaching mass deployment, efficient spectrum management is key.
Dynamic spectrum sharing as well as extended range millimeter waves are going to dramatically increase 5G deployment, said Dean Brenner, senior vice president for spectrum strategy and technology policy at Qualcomm.
The hype surrounding the deployment of wireless 5G technology demonstrates that the public often gravitates its focus on a single set of technologies, said Christopher Szymanski, director of product marketing and government affairs at Broadcom. But there needs to be focus on the backhaul and wireless aspects of spectrum as well.
Cisco has projected increased usage of unlicensed spectrum in the coming years, said Szymanski. However, the U.S. lacks enough channels of spectrum to keep up with demand.
Hence why spectrum and infrastructure policies are necessary on both the state and federal level, said Hank Hultquist, vice president of federal regulatory for AT&T.
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