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NARUC Ratchets Up Call for State Involvement in Disbursement of Broadband Stimulus Funds

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.

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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

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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