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Lawmakers Want Stimulus Funds Getting To Rural America; 'Remoteness' Definition Raises Concerns

WASHINGTON, October 27, 2009 – Members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation raised concerns Tuesday about getting broadband stimulus funds out to remote areas and how these areas should be defined. The discussion took place during an oversight hearing on the process of awarding out the $7.2 billion provided to the federal government by Congress to expand broadband deployment and adoption.

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WASHINGTON, October 27, 2009 – Members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation raised concerns Tuesday about getting broadband stimulus funds out to remote areas and how these areas should be defined.

The discussion took place during an oversight hearing on the process of awarding out the $7.2 billion provided to the federal government by Congress to expand broadband deployment and adoption.

The agencies responsible for administering the stimulus funds are the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s and the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Sen. John “Jay” Rockefeller, D-W.V., both raised concerns about defining remote areas and making sure the funding is getting to the underserved areas in need. Jonathan Adelstein, administrator of the Rural Utilities Service at the Department of Agriculture, outlined the problem in his prepared testimony.

“[W]e have seen applicants struggle to comply with the requirements of the “remote” definition for last-mile rural remote programs,” Adelstein said.“We are contemplating major revisions that will continue to target highly-rural areas that are difficult to serve while making it easier for applicants to comply with any new definition we may establish.”

He added that they have seen “some applicants encounter challenges with our program’s rural definition” and “some applicants have found it difficult to comply with the loan requirement for middle mile and last mile non-remote projects.”

Adelstein responded to frustration expressed by Kerry and Rockefeller by saying that “we have everything on the table” and RUS is actively looking at new ways to define remoteness to get out funds to those in need.

“We do need to think about this,” said Adelstein. “I hope you just take note of what I’ve said,” responded Kerry.

The problem of defining remoteness and getting funds out to underserved areas was not the only issue raised during the hearing.

“NTIA and RUS face scheduling, staffing, and data challenges in evaluating applications and awarding funds. The agencies have taken steps to meet these challenges, such as adopting a two-step evaluation process, utilizing nongovernmental personnel, and publishing information on the application’s proposed service area,” said Mark Goldstein, director of physical infrastructure issues for the Government Accountability Office.

Still, “the agencies lack the needed time to apply lessons learned from the first funding round and face a compressed schedule to review new applications” so may “risk awarding funds to projects that are not sustainable or do not meet the priorities of the Recovery Act,” said Goldstein.

Adelstein said “concerns have prompted us to consider alternative approaches for the second round of funding that would simplify the application process and support our efforts to fund high-quality projects.”

NTIA Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information Lawrence Strickling said the agency’s goal is to improve the application experience. He added that the agency will have the time to “adjust those aspects of the process that need to be improved.” Strickling said NTIA going forward will enhance its auditing and monitoring responsibilities.

“I believe that to be fair to applicants, we need to find a way to simplify the process going to forward,” said Rockefeller.

Going forward, Adelstein said “It continues to be our belief that we should move to compress the planned-for second and third [funding] rounds [to applicants] into a single round in order to give applicants additional time to create strong proposals and to ensure that we are able to meet the goal of obligating all funds by Sept. 20, 2010.”

RUS and NTIA plan to seek formal written comments on ways to better meet the requirements of the Recovery Act and will be releasing a request for information soon, he added. “We will make necessary changes based on these suggestions and our experience.”

About BroadbandCensus.com

BroadbandCensus.com was launched in January 2008, and uses “crowdsourcing” to collect the Broadband SPARC: Speeds, Prices, Availability, Reliability and Competition. The news on BroadbandCensus.com is produced by Broadband Census News LLC, a subsidiary of Broadband Census LLC that was created in July 2009.

A recent split of operations helps to clarify the mission of BroadbandCensus.com. Broadband Census Data LLC offers commercial broadband verification services to cities, states, carriers and broadband users. Created in July 2009, Broadband Census Data LLC produced a joint application in the NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program with Virginia Tech’s eCorridors Program. In August 2009, BroadbandCensus.com released a beta map of Columbia, South Carolina, in partnership with Benedict-Allen Community Development Corporation.

Broadband Census News LLC offers daily and weekly reporting, as well as the Broadband Breakfast Club. The Broadband Breakfast Club has been inviting top experts and policy-makers to share breakfast and perspectives on broadband technology and internet policy since October 2008. Both Broadband Census News LLC and Broadband Census Data LLC are subsidiaries of Broadband Census LLC, and are organized in the Commonwealth of Virginia. About BroadbandCensus.com.

Winter covered technology policy issues for five-and-a-half years as a reporter for the National Journal Group. She has worked for USA Today, the Washington Times, the Magazine Group, the State Department’s International Visitor’s Program, and the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. She also taught English at a university in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

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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