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White House Official Kicks Off Broadband Stimulus Town Hall Webcast, Decries U.S Networks as Inadequate

WASHINGTON, June 6, 2009 – Because today’s broadband networks are inadequate, the government needs to play a role in helping bridge the high-speed internet divide, Jim Kohlenberger, Chief of Staff in the White House’s Office of Science and Technology said Thursday.

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WASHINGTON, June 6, 2009 – Because today’s broadband networks are inadequate, the government needs to play a role in helping bridge the high-speed internet divide, Jim Kohlenberger, Chief of Staff in the White House’s Office of Science and Technology said Thursday.

Kohlenberger, speaking at the Thursday’s Broadband Stimulus National Town Hall webcast, highlighted the efforts of the Obama administration in increasing broadband access in the United States.

“We all do better when we are connected together, and broadband is now this critical infrastructure challenge for our generation,” Kohlenberger said. “It’s about our future, and we’re lucky to have a president who’s focused on the future and really gets it on broadband.”

Kohlenberger’s speech opened the town hall meeting, which was streamed live online on Thursday, and is available for free upon registration. The webcast was co-hosted by Drew Clark, Executive Director of BroadbandCensus.com, and Marty Stern, a partner at the law firm of K&L Gates.

The event will be followed by a national town hall broadband workshop – also co-produced by BroabandCensus.com and TV Worldwide – on Thursday, July 9. That date is shortly after the June 30 deadline by which NTIA and the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service are scheduled to release their final rules for broadband grants and loans.

The webcast included panel discussions on scoring grants by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, on private financing for broadband projects, and on the role of public-private partnerships in broadband applications. Deswood Tome, Executive Director of the Navajo Nation Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, also spoke during the webcast.

In his remarks, Kohlenberger said that the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) at the NTIA represented a critical domestic infrastructure investment. The U.S. has “fallen behind in our ability to harness our potential” in internet development.

Further investment in broadband technology will create opportunities for education, data, and communications development, he said. “Today’s broadband networks are far from ubiquitous.”

“Only 57% of Americans have broadband at home, and even that isn’t homogenous,” Kohlenberger said. ”We’re at thus juncture where we can and must do more to bridge this opportunity gap.”

President Obama’s reliance on technology, Kohlenberger noted, indicated his dedication to increasing broadband accessibility.

Obama “was propelled into office by new and enabling technologies…. Even today, the President is 5,000 miles away and he’s still connected in Egypt,” he said, referring to the President’s recent trip to Cairo.

“If you look at [International Telecommunications Union’s] digital opportunity index, it lists the US as 21st, right behind Estonia and tied with Slovenia. The President has looked at these rankings and called them ‘unacceptable.’ That’s why he’s made broadband access for all a national priority.”

The webcast, which included major figures from the broadband industry, the NTIA, and technological policy think tanks, debated major parts of the BTOP’s execution and definition.

During the first panel, on scoring grants, Scott Wallsten, vice president of research for the Technology Policy Institute, said there were three key problems in grant proposal evaluations: the BTOP’s unclear objective, lack of criteria to base a judgment upon, and the “sheer” volume of grant applications.

Wallsten proposed a competitive procurement auction, in which the government would bid for services and allocate them depending on certain communities’ needs. The fact that companies are writing advocacy plans, he said, “shows the failures in the plan so far. You would hope that these decisions wouldn’t promote advocacy, but the way everything’s been set up shows that everybody who’s going to submit a proposal is going to need help.”

5G

Innovation Fund’s Global Approach May Improve O-RAN Deployment: Commenters

The $1.5 billion Innovation Fund should be used to promote global adoption, say commenters.

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Illustration about intelligent edge computing from Deloitte Insights

WASHINGTON, February 2, 2023 – A global approach to funding open radio access networks will improve its success in the United States, say commenters to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

The NTIA is seeking comment on how to implement the $1.5 billion appropriated to the Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund as directed by the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022. The grant program is primarily responsible for supporting the promotion and deployment of open, interoperable, and standards-based radio access networks. 

Radio access networks provide critical technology to connect users to the mobile network over radio waves. O-RAN would create a more open ecosystem of network equipment that would otherwise be reliant on proprietary technology from a handful of companies.  

Global RAN

Commenters to the NTIA argue that in order for O-RAN to be successful, it must be global. The Administration must take a “global approach” when funding projects by awarding money to those companies that are non-U.S.-based, said mobile provider Verizon in its comments.  

To date, new entrants into the RAN market have been the center for O-RAN development, claimed wireless service provider, US Cellular. The company encouraged the NTIA to “invest in proven RAN vendors from allied nations, rather than focusing its efforts on new entrants and smaller players that lack operational expertise and experience.” 

Korean-based Samsung Electrontics added that by allowing trusted entities with a significant U.S. presence to compete for project funding and partner on those projects, the NTIA will support standardizing interoperability “evolution by advancing a diverse global market of trusted suppliers in the U.S.” 

O-RAN must be globally standardized and globally interoperable, Verizon said. Funding from the Public Wireless Innovation Fund will help the RAN ecosystem mature as it desperately needs, it added.  

Research and development

O-RAN continues to lack the maturity that is needed for commercial deployment, agreed US Cellular in its comments. The company indicated that the complexity and costliness of system integration results from there being multiple vendors that would need to integrate but are not ready for full integration. 

Additionally, interoperability with existing RAN infrastructure requires bi-lateral agreements, customized integration, and significant testing prior to deployment, the comment read. The complicated process would result in O-RAN increasing the cost of vendor and infrastructure deployment, claimed US Cellular, directly contrary to the goals of O-RAN. 

Several commenters urged the NTIA to focus funding projects on research and development rather than subsidizing commercial deployments.  

The NTIA is already fully engaged in broadband deployment in unserved and underserved areas through its Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program, said Verizon. The Innovation Fund will better advance its goals by funding projects that accelerate the solving of remaining O-RAN technical challenges that continue to delay its deployment, it continued. 

US Cellular argued that the NTIA should “spur deployment of additional independent testing and certification lab facilities… where an independent third party can perform end to end testing, conformance, and certification.” 

The Innovation Fund should be used to focus on technology development and solving practical challenges, added wireless trade association, CTIA. Research can focus on interoperability, promotion of equipment that meets O-RAN specifications, and projects that support hardware design and energy efficiency, it said. 

Furthermore, CTIA recommended that the Administration avoid interfering in how providers design their networks to encourage providers to adopt O-RAN in an appropriate manner for their company. Allowing a flexible, risk-based approach to O-RAN deployments will “help ensure network security and stability,” it wrote. 

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Funding

CES 2023: NTIA to Address Broadband, Spectrum, and Privacy, Says Alan Davidson

Alan Davidson asserted that marginalized communities are harmed disproportionately by privacy violations.

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Photo of NTIA Adminstrator Alan Davidson

LAS VEGAS, January 7, 2023 – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s 2023 priorities will include the funding and facilitation of states’ broadband deployment programs, the development of a national spectrum policy, and actions to protect the privacy of marginalized groups, said Administrator Alan Davidson at the Consumer Electronics Show on Saturday.

The NTIA’s most high-profile task is to oversee the operations of the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program, a $42.45 billion slush fund for broadband-infrastructure deployments which will be divided among the governments of states and U.S. territories. Those governments will administer final distribution of the BEAD funds in accordance with the NTIA’s guidelines.

“This is our generation’s big infrastructure moment,” Davidson said. “This is our chance to connect everybody in the country with what they need to thrive in the modern digital economy, and we are going to do it.”

Davidson reiterated his agency’s stated intention to develop a comprehensive national spectrum strategy to facilitate the various spectrum interests of government and private industry. To allocate spectrum in a manner that fulfills federal needs and stimulates the growth of innovators, largely in the sector of 5G, the NTIA – the administrator of federally used spectrum – must coordinate with the Federal Communications Commission – the administrator of other spectrum.

Calling for a national privacy law, Davidson asserted that marginalized communities are harmed disproportionately by privacy violations. He stated that the NTIA will, possibly within weeks, request public comment on “civil rights and privacy.”

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NTIA

NTIA Recommends Partnerships and Engagement to Address Workforce Obligations

NTIA recommends states develop relationships with labor organizations.

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Screenshot of webinar with moderators Scott Lively, Sarah Salgado, and speaker Lucy Moore

WASHINGTON, December 13, 2022 – An NTIA policy analyst said earlier this month that states should develop relationships with labor organizations and invite telecommunications companies and federal officials to its workforce training sites to fulfill their obligations under its Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program.

Lucy Moore, an NTIA policy analyst, was discussing at an industry stakeholder webinar how BEAD applicants to the Commerce agency’s $42.5-billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program can fulfill their obligations under the NTIA’s Workforce Planning Guide, published in October.

Moore recommended state entities applying for BEAD money to develop relationships with partners to gain insight into workforce training and development on a state or local level. These partners could include industry groups, community advocates, union organization representatives, educational institutions and workforce intermediary organizations.

She also suggested state entities for BEAD funding invite federal program officers to training programs to demonstrate strategies currently being practiced for training and workforce development.

She also urged industry to conduct early and proactive engagement with the state broadband offices and workforce teams to obtain a clear understanding of workforce requirements for subcontractors and subgrantees. Stakeholders include equity-focused organizations, community-based organizations, workforce boards, schools and community colleges, she said.

Verizon and GenerationUSA say they offer free technical training, which is an example of a training program that teaches technical and soft skills to adults. Another is the Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship program, whose goal is to expand the safety and productivity of the telecommunications workforce. It offers 15 occupational apprenticeship programs recognized by the Labor Department.

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