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Satellite, Broadband over Power Lines and Microwave Technologies Contend for Stimulus Funds

WASHINGTON, June 9, 2009 – A diverse “undercard” of broadband technologies is being largely overlooked in the battle for stimulus dollars, a panel of industry representatives said Tuesday at the June Broadband Breakfast Club.

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WASHINGTON, June 9, 2009 – A diverse “undercard” of broadband technologies is being largely overlooked in the battle for stimulus dollars, a panel of industry representatives said Tuesday at the June Broadband Breakfast Club.

Though often ignored, broadband over powerlines (BPL) is a reality and moving fast – with help from existing Rural Utility Service loans, said International Broadband Electric Communications government affairs coordinator Alyssa Clemsen. Many rural electric cooperatives are choosing BPL and funding build-out with RUS loans, she said.

An initial deployment has allowed co-ops to roll equipment and service out over thousands of miles — enough to reach hundreds of rural consumers who would otherwise have no other options, Clemsen said.

“We’re a last mile provider,” she said proudly. Roughly 80 percent of households the co-ops reach have no other broadband options, she said: “They don’t have a choice.”

BPL has been more successful in Europe because its 220 volt system is more amenable to transmitting data, she said. But comparing European countries, some of which are smaller than many American states, to the U.S. market doesn’t account for many incommensurables, she saaid.

BPL can reach five homes per mile that would otherwise have no service, she said. The co-ops currently deploying BPL hope to have 300,000 subscribers over the next 18 months – to symmetrical 5 Megabit per second (Mbps) connections consumers demand from fiber, she boasted.

Satellite internet service is not the same one-way pipe sold ten years ago, said Jeffrey Carlisle, vice president of regulatory affairs for SkyTerra Communications.

The industry now boasts capabilities that have advanced by an “order of magnitude,” and are competitive with wireline connections, he said.

SkyTerra plans to have two new satellites in the air by the end of 2010, he said. The new “birds” would allow a new generation of satellite phones and internet access devices to flourish – a far cry from the “bricks” of years past, Carlisle said.

In addition, SkyTerra has obtained ancillary terrestrial licenses from the Federal Communications Commission that will allow them to offer more robust coverage over a larger area, he said.

The company’s goal is to no longer be considered a “niche player,” Carlisle said, but rather to offer a “set of services that can compete with terrestrial systems.” SkyTerra hopes to offer speeds on par with today’s third-generation wireless services, he said.

And the real utility of next generation satellite will be to drive more efficient use of spectrum by answering questions, he said. “What is out there, how are we using it, and are we using it properly?” he asked.

GigaBeam Vice President Don Peck said his company’s point-to-point and point-to-multipoint fixed wireless radio technology is more focused on speed than range. It’s a “backbone type of technology,” he said.

“If you want a gigabit, there’s no need for fiber in the ground,” he said. Although GigaBeam’s equipment can reach both residential and business customers, Peck said the marketing focus has been on businesses.

Peck didn’t directly address whether other companies have made investments in his fixed wireless-based backbone technology. When asked whether wireless carriers that rail against high “special access market” charges had investigated GigaBeam, Peck demurred. Such companies are “fiber bigots,” he quipped.

Some panelists were cautious on the need to spend the $350 million called for legislation on a national broadband map. Both satellite and BPL can be universal in coverage, they agreed. “Maps don’t matter when service is ubiquitous,” Carlisle said.

The more important function of the map will come in the future when examining underserved areas, he said. By contrast, unserved areas are a less of an issue in the long run, he said.

Editor’s Note (6/9, 6/11): This story has  been modified to more properly explain the nature of GigaBeam’s technology.

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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