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Lots of Questions, No Easy Answers on Stimulus Funds at Tech Policy "Town Hall"

SAN MATEO, CALIF, May 11, 2009 – Familiar faces gathered and familiar arguments on the best way to spend $7.2 billion rang out Monday at the San Mateo Marriott as the 2009 Tech Policy Summit kicked off with a Broadband Innovation mini-conference, with an opening “town hall” on the “state of the stimulus.”

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“Town Hall” Moderator Geoff Daily (Photo: Andrew Feinberg/BroadbandCensus.com)

SAN MATEO, CALIF, May 11, 2009 – Familiar faces gathered and familiar arguments rang out Monday at the San Mateo Marriott as the 2009 Tech Policy Summit kicked off with a Broadband Innovation mini-conference, with an opening “town hall” on the “state of the stimulus,” with various attendees exchanging ideas on the best way to spend $7.2 billion.

Moderator Geoff Daily, editor of App-Rising.com, called broadband stimulus “one of the hottest areas of tech policy today.” And there was no shortage of agreement from the heavily west-coast crowd. The stimulus is opportunity for “an amazing attempt to reboot America’s broadband policy,” Daily said.

Fixing America’s broadband problems will not be easy and will take time, Daily said. But it will take cooperation across various industries and stakeholders. Implementing the stimulus “needs to be an all hands on deck kind of effort,” he said.

Digital Village Associates founder Don Means suggested that expanding access to libraries was the best use of stimulus funds. Fiber to the library “extends the physical infrastructure,” he said. Libraries should be used as early adopters of emerging technologies to stimulate demand for new applications and move beyond a “digital divide” type solution, he said.

California libraries are taking this approach with a demand-side pilot program, Means said. With sixteen thousand libraries nationwide, even California’s system of eleven thousand is already “shovel ready,” he noted. But one attendee noted that many communities are losing libraries.

Wireless projects are already the most “shovel-ready,” said Scott Stevens, founder of Aspen Wireless. The stimulus goal is to deploy infrastructure as quickly as possible, he said. “Wireless can execute [the goals] in a time sensitive manner.”

Public safety organizations can also benefit from quick deployment of wireless broadband from the redundancy it would provide, backstopping traditional communications systems. Stevens said that fiber shouln’t be ignored, but wireless can fill the gap until it can be built out. “Wireless will deploy the system today — and right away,” he said. “It’s time to take a revolutionary standpoint.”

Wireless has been used successfully for almost two decades, and could be used to succesfully increase penetration quickly, said Brett Glass, CEO of Lariat.net — one of the first wireless ISPs in the country.

Free Press general counsel Marvin Ammori announced his group would release a report Monday calling for more use of wireless in broadband deployment. “I don’t think Brett Glass and I have ever agreed on anything,” he said. But wireless could be a real solution, he said.

Andrew Feinberg is 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

Senate Confirms Davidson as National Telecommunications and Information Administration Chief

Bipartisan vote confirms Davidson atop the Commerce Department agency. It has a large pile of money to spend on broadband.

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Newly-confirmed head of the NTIA Alan Davidson

WASHINGTON, January 11, 2022 ­– In a bipartisan vote of 60-31, the Senate confirmed President Joe Biden’s nominee to head the National Telecommunications and Information Administration: Alan Davidson.

Davidson, a former public policy director at Google, will become the first Senate-confirmed head of the NTIA since mid-2019.

Several members of Republican leadership voted against Davidson’s nomination Tuesday afternoon, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Whip John Thune, R-S.D., as did Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., who had both been recorded as opposed to advancing Davidson’s nomination out of committee.

As the new head of the agency tasked with advising the president on telecommunications and information policy issues, Davidson will be responsible for overseeing the distribution of billions of dollars in broadband funding across the nation made available by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

On Friday, the agency released its request for public comment on the act.

Early reactions from industry groups to Davidson’s confirmation were positive, with the NCTA, the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions and Public Knowledge all praising the Senate’s approval.

In light of the funding the NTIA must help distribute, organizations emphasized the magnitude of Davidson’s confirmation, with ATIS saying the agency’s mission has “never been more important” and Public Knowledge called the NTIA’s role as a “critical position at an important time.”

Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel also praised the vote, saying that in working with Davidson’s NTIA she is confident that the FCC “can make progress on delivering innovative, modern communications that reach everyone, everywhere.”

Public Knowledge also said in their statement that Davidson’s work on funding alone will not close the digital divide without a fully appointed FCC.

They advocated for the confirmation to the FCC of their organization’s co-founder and former CEO Gigi Sohn– whose nomination has recently stalled in the Senate and would break the 2-2 partisan deadlock at the agency upon confirmation.

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NTIA

NTIA Publishes Report Calling for Better Data Aggregation Methods

The report notes need for separating broadband access data from other consumer stats.

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Acting NTIA Administrator Evelyn Remaley

WASHINGTON, December 29, 2021 – Year-end analysis by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration found that the agency is constrained in its data collection abilities by a lack of software that can separate broadband access data from other consumer statistics.

In its Access Broadband Report, released last Thursday, the agency proposed promoting consistent standards for data reporting that can separate this data from confounding variables and increasing data reporting requirements for entities it interacts with.

Additionally, significant lag times between broadband projects and intended outcomes was identified as an obstacle to the agency’s work, the report said.

The inaugural report, a produce of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, looks at agency accomplishments this year as well as investments in both federal broadband support programs and Universal Service Fund programs.

Specifically, the report focused on highlighting the achievements of the NTIA’s newly established Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth.

The report is consistent with ongoing NTIA efforts to improve broadband data availability, increase coordination between federal partners and be transparent about government spending.

Additionally, “the report summarizes the federal broadband investment landscape, details the current state of measuring investments and connection across federal broadband support and USF programs, and provides key recommendations to improve efforts to track broadband spending and outcomes,” including leveraging open data initiatives and identifying data sources and alternatives.

The NTIA is in the process of reviewing applications and making awards for three programs established by the Consolidated Appropriations Act: the Broadband Infrastructure Program focusing on rural connectivity, the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, and the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program.

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FCC

Eighty Civil Society Groups Ask for Swift Confirmation of FCC, NTIA Nominees

The groups sent a letter emphasizing the need for internet access expansion ahead of Wednesday confirmation hearings.

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Photo of Alan Davidson from New America

WASHINGTON, November 16, 2021 – Eighty civil-society groups have penned a letter to Senate leadership requesting a swift confirmation process for President Joe Biden’s nominees to the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Groups representing interests spanning civil rights, media justice, community media, workers’ rights and consumer advocacy highlighted to Senate leadership the need for the agencies to shepherd internet access expansion on the heels of newly signed bipartisan infrastructure legislation.

Biden last month nominated Jessica Rosenworcel as chairwoman and Gigi Sohn as a commissioner of the FCC, as well as Alan Davidson for director of the NTIA. Rosenworcel and Sohn’s confirmations would make a full slate of commissioners at the FCC, ending the potential for 2-2 deadlocks.

Key Senate Republicans have since expressed concern over the nomination of Sohn, citing her liberal views on communications policy.

Signees of the letter emphasized that an ongoing global pandemic and “worsening climate crisis” raise the stakes for FCC and NTIA action, and that connectivity access issues are even further exacerbated among poor families and people of color.

Organizations on the letter included the American Library Association, Color of Change, the Communications Workers of America, Greenpeace USA and the Mozilla Foundation, among others.

The Senate Commerce Committee is scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing for Rosenworcel on Wednesday.

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